"The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail" was born out of my love for my daughter and our shared experience learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu together. Not wanting to wake up my wife early on Saturday mornings, my 5-year-old daughter and I decided that I (gulp!) would have to take on the seemingly insurmountable task of tying her ponytail for jiu-jitsu practice. It was a hugely daunting task for both of us. In fact, tying her ponytails has been no less challenging than a martial art for me: Grappling with unruly hair, figuring out how to stretch those little, elastic hair-tie-thingies without popping them off my fingers, struggling to sweep together all those loose hairs…! And God forbid, I pull a hair…! The little yelps of pain from my baby girl are enough to make my heart stop! Eventually, I learned. I'm still no black belt in tying ponytails, mind you, but maybe at least a blue belt? Nevertheless, this experience gave birth to “The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail.”
Our "pony-tale" (sorry, couldn't resist!) begins with Noor getting ready to leave for her first jiu-jitsu tournament ever. She’s a very competitive girl, and she wants to win. However, her ponytail refuses to cooperate. It sprawls out lazily and simply will not let Noor tie it up tightly or hold it down with some bobby pins. Talk about a bad hair day! The exasperated girl must finally resort to some desperate measures to try and get to the jiu-jitsu tournament on time. However, Noor’s troubles are far from over…!
On the surface, this is a simple, fun story about a girl struggling with her unruly hair. It’s a story that is meant to be funny and enjoyable for children. Yet, it is also meant to speak to adults because it relates to a predicament many people — both women and men — can empathize with: The fact that our hair can often feel like it’s got “a mind of its own.”
However, there is also a deeper theme here, namely of empowering girls and the role men can and must play in it. Noor has to make some important decisions that will affect the outcome of her performance in the jiu-jitsu tournament. Meanwhile, her Baba must play a key role in enabling her success.
I set out to publish this story as a hardcover, children’s picture book, and I am incredibly fortunate to have found a talented, up-and-coming artist, Taahira Halim, to help bring the story to life. After nearly a year of writing, re-writing, editing, and countless sketches, we’re ready to hit print! I hope we can count on your support to make "The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail" book a reality!
Dimensions: 10" width x 8" height (landscape)
Illustrations: Full color with over 2/3 of the book consisting of full-page illustrations
Target Readers: Primarily intended for ages 6 to 10, but kids of all ages and adults are sure to enjoy the story and the expressive illustrations as well! :)
We’ve come a long ways from when I first put pencil to paper and sketched out the very first draft of the “The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail.” Here are some pictures from that journey:
Once I had gone through several drafts of the story and tested it out with my guinea pigs (i.e., my son and daughter) to great success (my daughter loved being the inspiration for it), I decided this was worth pursuing more seriously. So my wife stepped in and put her vast social media savvy to use to find me Taahira Halim, an up-and-coming artist, who really helped step up the quality of the illustrations:
It took several rounds of sketches before we got to the “right” look for Noor. She is a confident, competitive girl, and that needed to come through. At the same time, she has her moments of self-doubt (like we all do), and we needed to sprinkle that in as well.
We got to a look for Baba very quickly. I had a pretty clear idea in my head what I wanted Baba to look like, and Taahira hit it right out the park:
Baba is a serious but loving father, and he is very actively involved in Noor’s jiu-jitsu training. His time with Noor, however, isn’t limited to just jiu-jitsu; he also helps her with her homework and puts her to bed at night.
We had the most insanely difficult time figuring out the ponytail’s look. Whereas with the other key characters, it felt like Taahira and I were on the same wavelength from the very first sketch, when it came to the ponytail, it felt like we were on totally different planets! She and I got into some pretty deep, existential discussions trying to sort this one out! ;)
We finally got to a look we liked in the pencil sketches, but moving to color threw things off again! After many, many, MANY iterations, we finally got to a look that we liked: playful, fun, and “emotionally connected” with Noor.
Should you choose to join us in our mission to publish "The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail" (and we really hope you do!), great riches -- by which we mean "cool schwag," copies of the book, and the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from seeing an awesome idea come to life -- all await you! Following is a summary of the various rewards you can choose.
The main objective of this Kickstarter campaign is to raise the funds to print and distribute "The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail," and as such, the majority -- nearly 70% -- of the money raised will be used to pay for those costs. Other costs include the cost of designing and illustrating the book, Kickstarter fees, publishing costs (e.g., cost of securing an ISBN), and some nominal marketing costs. Here's a full breakdown of how the funding is estimated to be split across these different items:
With regard to fulfillment timing, we will submit the book for production within two weeks after the Kickstarter campaign ends. It's a 3-week process to print and bind the book and another 6 to 8 weeks to ship it over from China. This puts us at delivery to you around early to mid-February 2019, depending on where you are located.
Of course, we will do our best to expedite the process wherever possible!
About the Author
Mir Khalid Ali is an avid traveler, blogger, and foodie. He is the husband of an outstanding woman and father of two amazing children (a boy and a girl). He immigrated to the US from Pakistan as a 7-year-old and grew up on a farm in a small town in western Pennsylvania. He currently lives with his family in Philadelphia. He and his children have been taking Brazilian jiu-jitsu lessons since 2017. In the author’s own words:
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved to read. I devoured books of all shapes and sizes. Pizza Hut’s “Book-It” program was made for me, and man, those “one-topping personal pan pizzas” were a boy’s dream come true! I’d pretty much read anything I got my hands on, including my female cousins’ The Baby-Sitters Club series. At some point, I started to write my own stories, secretly aspiring to emulate my heroes: Roald Dahl, Sid Fleischman, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Gertrude Warner, Lynn Reid Banks, R. L. Stine, and a whole bunch of others. Over the years, I’ve written several short stories, blog posts, some spoken word poetry as well as some regular poetry. My writing has never been anything more than a hobby though, shared only with family and close friends. I believe, however, that the “The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail” is a story worth sharing more broadly. So I launched this Kickstarter campaign to see if we can get it published as a children’s picture book. Yes, I admit, it’s a big dream, but like they say, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take ;)
About the Illustrator
Taahira Halim is a young artist living in Wilson, North Carolina with her husband. She is trained in early childhood education and took the full leap into children’s book illustration in 2017. “The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail” is the first full-length book featuring her work. In the illustrator’s own words:
The power to convey stories through artwork is one that has always fascinated me. I love getting lost in beautifully illustrated books and attempting to delve into the whys and hows of the artist’s mind when he/she crafted the details of an image. So naturally, my fascination became admiration, and I wanted to become that artist — to wield the ability to turn a story into artwork. I am new to children’s book illustration, although I have been producing other types of art for many years. So far, illustrating is a lot of fun! Especially when I run into a challenge that I must problem solve, like trying to figure out the best colors and composition to convey the emotions of a scene. I am so excited to have done this project, and I look forward to further learning and developing this amazing craft.
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Risks and challenges
After nearly a year of editing and revising, "The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail" is completely written, illustrated, and ready to be printed! Now we just need your help to cross the finish line! Please note when backing this campaign that as with any such effort, there are some inherent risks, even if minimal:
1) Insufficient Funds
If we do not reach our funding target, we will not be able to print the book or produce the supplementary rewards. In such a scenario, Kickstarter will not charge you for your pledge amount.
2) Printing Delays
I have locked in the terms and conditions with an offset printer in China for the duration of this campaign. There does exist the risk, however, that due to unforeseen circumstances, the printer is unable to print and ship the books or is unable to do so in the expected time frame. The printer is a reputable company, so I expect this risk is minimal. Nevertheless, I will be working very closely with the printer to monitor and mitigate any challenges that may arise. Moreover, I consider myself 100% accountable and will share detailed reports and updates in a timely manner. I will do everything I can to honor my commitment to you.
3) Product Variation
The final look and dimensions of the book or other rewards may change slightly versus the photos and mock-ups I have shared here. This could be due to variations in printed colors versus screen colors or to other adjustments that may be required during printing and manufacturing.
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