‘I have stories to tell’: La Jolla author Zoe Ghahremani encourages others to know their value

La Jolla resident and author Zoe Ghahremani has found success in knowing her worth, and she hopes to impart the same to other writers during the San Diego Writers Festival on Saturday, Oct. 8, in Coronado.

Ghahremani, author of “Sky of Red Poppies” and “The Moon Daughter,” along with many short writings, will lead a workshop called “Dare to Dive from the Highest Board” at 2 p.m. in Room 503 at Coronado High School. She’ll be teaching writers not to take themselves for “little value.”

“Let them discover you at your height,” she said.

Ghahremani grew up in Iran before leaving to become a pediatric dentist and then leaving that career for writing, a hobby she couldn’t give up and had to translate into a career, she said.

“I never stop writing,” Ghahremani said. She often posts short pieces on her Facebook page, facebook.com/zohreh.k.ghahremani.

Her third book — tentatively titled “The Basement,” about the servant class in Iran around the time of the Iranian Revolution — has been tangled in pandemic-related publishing delays, which gave her time to write three more books, all of which are nearly finished and set to be published soon.

One is a children’s book called “Garden of Memory,” which Ghahremani said she wrote at the request of her agent and daughter, Lily Ghahremani, also a La Jolla resident.

Pictured are Zoe Ghahremani’s first two books. She has four others about to be published.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

“Lily said, ’Mom, you’ve been a pediatric dentist all your life and you are now grandmother to four. You have to write a book for kids,’” Ghahremani said.

The unfamiliar genre gave her pause, but she eventually gave in, and the book sold to a publisher in 15 minutes.

Serendipity played a role in finishing the book. The editor called and said an illustrator had been found but had the same last name as the author; would Ghahremani mind?

The illustrator happened to be Susie Ghahremani, the author’s other daughter, who lives in Normal Heights and didn’t know she was being asked to illustrate her mother’s book.

“Is that a story or what?” Zoe Ghahremani said.

The children’s story, which aims to teach children about immigration and different cultures, centers on a grandmother relaying stories of her Iranian garden to her grandchild as they garden together in the United States.

Ghahremani also finished “The Other Half,” which is aimed at middle school students and is about a different Iranian grandmother (“I always keep that part, that only I can write about,” she said) who asks her family to take half her ashes to Iran after her death. The story tells the family members’ ensuing experiences.

Another book is a young-adult novel, a funny story about “busy, rich Iranians who … settled in Beverly Hills,” she said.

Much of her writing is related to immigration, the essence of which Ghahremani said is blending the best of multiple cultures.

“When you belong to one country, you have chosen from a menu you’re stuck with,” she said. “When you’re an immigrant, you have a buffet; you can pick and choose. So you pick what is the best. And if you don’t like it, you drop it [and] go pick a better one.”

Ghahremani, who left Iran many years before the revolution, said “that is what I do culturally. I have picked the best of my American culture and the best of my Iranian culture and kept them together to make me and my children better people than we would be otherwise.”

Those values, she said, are “what we pass to our children,” who include her son Cyrus Ghahremani, who lives in Los Angeles.

The workshop Zoe Ghahremani will lead at the Oct. 8 festival will try to help fellow writers build the confidence she said she found when she left dentistry and became an author.

“I was an unknown writer with a very difficult name, speaking with an accent,” she said. Yet her first book, “Sky of Red Poppies,” found great success in 2012.

“Who would even imagine?” she said.

She said she hopes to advise workshop participants to convey their conviction about their stories to publishers without being cocky.

“Just say this: ‘This story came from my heart, and I have a feeling it’s going to get into yours,’” Ghahremani said.

As for herself, Ghahremani said she’s less concerned these days with the publishing than the writing; she has faith that the former will follow the latter.

“I have stories to tell,” she said. “And they need to be told.”

For more information on the San Diego Writers Festival, visit sandiegowritersfestival.com. For more information on Ghahremani, visit zoeghahremani.com.



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