We were very saddened to hear of the passing of Shereen Akhtar last month and extend our condolences to Shereen’s family, friends and fellow writers.
Shereen was a winner of a London Writers Award, having completed the development programme in 2022. She was in one of the literary fiction feedback groups, working closely with five other writers while writing her novel Something in the Wind. She was a popular member of the cohort, dedicated to her craft and supportive of her peers.
We asked two members of her feedback group – the writers Sukh Brar and Victoria Cano – to share their memories of Shereen:
Shereen’s death is a devastating loss. She was brave and brilliant and had so much more to give to the world. I am so very, very sorry for all those who loved and cared for her.
I met Shereen in 2021 through the London Writers Awards and was immediately taken aback by her fierce intelligence. She was knowledgeable about politics, art, nature; you name it, she knew it. She was an epic storyteller. And she read voraciously! The classics, for sure. But creative writing manuals too, the size of shoe boxes. Translated fiction. Memoirs. Political biographies. Anthology after anthology. She had this hunger to consume absolutely everything. You could just see it: learning, language, literature brought her tremendous joy.
I remember being struck by her remarks during our first feedback session. She was an incisive critic; thoughtful and thorough. I wanted to impress her in our next session. She made me a better writer.
Shereen cared about the environment and social justice. In her novel, she wrote of those fighting for a better world. Brave people out on the streets during the Arab Spring. I am so sorry that we won’t get to read more of her work. She was a rare talent with a unique voice who deserved to be read widely.
But what was most special about Shereen was her kindness. She was good, caring, gracious. She’s going to be missed by so many.
Shereen was about the loveliest person I have ever known.
She was funny and she was quiet and she had an imagination abundant with delight.
She was awesome, a word she always liked to use herself and made everyone smile with how much she meant it when she used it.
She wrote epics and she was so kind.
I used to tell her, the way she wrote reminded me of Hemingway but that wasn’t fair because she had far more heart and hope in her work than Hemingway ever did.
She was a person I looked forward to trading calls and drafts and drinks with for the rest of our lives.
And I find myself mourning twice over: for my friend and for her writing. I wish the world had known them both more. She deserved it.
It was a privilege to spend time in her world and to be in the world with her.
We are all better writers, and better people for having known her.
My god I wish she knew how loved and wanted and missed she is.
Thank you for being such a treasure my dear dear friend.
“There were cornflowers growing amidst the grass, their bold powder blue just about visible in the terminal light – and behind a low brick wall, rows of rose bushes and wooden stalks decorated with climbing jasmine plants protruded into the night.” From a draft of “The Bird” by Shereen Akhtar
Shereen was a supporter of these two charities, please click on each of them to find out more and make a donation:
Published 22 November 2023