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Hibah Shabkhez


First Language(s): Punjabi
Second Language(s): English, Urdu


Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, a teacher of French as a foreign language and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in The Mojave Heart Review, Third Wednesday, Brine, Petrichor, Remembered Arts, Rigorous and a number of other literary magazines. Studying life, languages and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her.


What was your favorite book as a child?

People who asked me this question when I was younger usually regretted it: I'd list a dozen books, and ... well. You can imagine how that conversation went, right? I read voraciously and I read the books I liked over and over again. When I wasn't reading, I was imagining myself into book-worlds, Mitty-style, sometimes revising them significantly in the process. Here are a few: “Tales of Brave Adventure” by Enid Blyton (I introduced girl-knights who had sense as well as courage), “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell (I could talk to horses and told off all the meanies mistreating them), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (I found loop-holes for all the children defeated by Mr. Wonka's horrid tests and we took over the factory) ... and so on.

Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?

I've been writing creatively since I could write at all, and I spent quite a lot of my childhood making up stories for my siblings verbally. I didn't consciously realise I was a writer until I was seventeen, however, so that's when I started writing in earnest. As for why – I don't really know, but I suppose it's because I'm not very good at saying things. When I feel something intensely or need to process a complex thought, I write it down.

What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?

Does crossing a busy double-road (not at a zebra-crossing, in the middle) on your own as a child count? I mean, I've done some fun things, from boating in a river-current to moving abroad for my studies, but that still stands out. The honking, grinding, roaring cars, the people milling about, the blistering sun, my imaginings of grisly deaths avoided by a hair’s breadth … and, of course, the fact that it was strictly forbidden lent it a particular spice.

Do you listen to music while reading or writing?

While reading, it's just irrelevant: it fades out anyway in the first five minutes, so I usually don't put any on. I don't mind if someone else is listening to it, though. Writing is a more delicate and capricious business, so it varies. In first drafts, sometimes I need total silence, sometimes a song fastens itself to the work, so I loop it, and sometimes I just need sound, pure wordless sound, so I play OSTs and classical symphonies. I read aloud as I edit, so after the first draft there's usually no music.


Flash Nonfiction
The Foreignest of Them All
Issue Spring '20

Supported by:

Land Steiermark: Kultur, Europa, Außenbeziehungen
U.S. Embassy Vienna
Stadt Graz