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Elnaz Moghangard: “Believe in your work and promote yourself”

That the pursuit of self is a life-long commitment and one that is to be nurtured. Love in its various forms, the accomplishment of our goals, our understanding of the world — all these things rely on a healthy sense of self. I use flowers as symbols throughout the story to illustrate the importance of being willing […]

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That the pursuit of self is a life-long commitment and one that is to be nurtured. Love in its various forms, the accomplishment of our goals, our understanding of the world — all these things rely on a healthy sense of self. I use flowers as symbols throughout the story to illustrate the importance of being willing to unearth ourselves and build on that discovery with compassion and zest. I also use the concept of lighting and music to illustrate the stages of the unknown, clarity, and the rhythm of life. True growth and transformation are not easy; they call for a level of honesty with ourselves that requires care and attention. I divided the book into three sections — shadows, shade, and sunlight — because all three are important. To achieve some sense of wholeness, it helps to understand where we have been, to accept where we are now, and to look forward to what is to come with hope.

I would actually love to ask readers what they thought was the most empowering lesson!


As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elnaz Moghangard.

Elnaz Moghangard makes her author debut with the novel, Roya — a coming-of-age story about a young Iranian-American woman navigating love, loss, identity, family, and the pursuit of dreams. She is also the founder of Millennial Nomaad and host of the “MN Coming Alive” podcast series — a creative empowerment movement sharing the voice of the “wandering generation.”


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

Of course! Thank you for featuring me.

My career path is not a straightforward one. I’ve always been fascinated with storytelling and communication. I see everyone as a walking story — some we have the privilege to hear. My friends and family joke that if you leave me with anyone for ten minutes, we somehow end up talking about the meaning of life.

The first story I remember writing was a short fictional piece in elementary school. In high school, I started blogging. In my undergrad, I had launched my website Millennial Nomaad — a creative empowerment movement where I interview young visionaries about their 180 life shifts, inner transformation, self-actualization, and the pursuit of life itself. Around the same time, I began writing my novel Roya, a personal dream of mine to complete.

I originally planned on becoming a broadcast journalist and writing on the side. I loved watching Oprah style interviews — casual, conversational, and insightful. During my sophomore year of undergrad, I took a class called “Transitional Justice,” which introduced me to post-conflict resolution and international peace-building. That class was a wake-up call in my life. Hearing about the tragedies that have occurred and the injustice that still exists really hit my heart. I ended up changing my major to international relations and minored in journalism and business law instead. Attending law school seemed like the next natural step. I’m a very concept-driven person, but I knew law school would give me practical training.

The funny thing is you always return to what you’re meant to do, and everything in-between builds your foundation. So, I completed law school and realized I now want to apply my education in my own unique way. I also realized that the arts and storytelling have a big influence on social policy and the law as well. The arts often envision where society can go, or they reflect where we are as a collective. So many powerful ideas can be expressed through the arts. In my opinion, if the law is part of a social contract, then reforms in law can depend on what the collective is ready to accept or reject.

A quick story to share: I literally bumped into my professor (shoutout to Dr. Restrepo!) who taught that undergrad transitional justice class while I was on campus at GW Law. That conversation leads me to teach a guest class on the intersectionality of the arts, storytelling, policy, and law. It was one of my favorite moments where I felt like life came full circle. My career path is currently shifting, but I plan on continuing to combine creative expression and multi-media storytelling with a positive social impact.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

I feel like the most interesting story of my career has yet to occur. But, I will say the most interesting thing I have realized is that when you work from your heart, people respond to you with a certain openness. This doesn’t mean you will please everyone, but those that connect to your work do so from the heart as well. That’s important to me. I think talent, hard work, and discipline are all important in a career, but that magical element that takes it all to the next level is a true enthusiasm for what you do. Having a goal is essential, but having a vision even more so. So, my own process of overcoming my fear and being willing to put myself out there has been interesting so far.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far was overcoming my own self-doubt and having the courage to share my creations publicly. I am not a shy person, but it was initially very strange for me to share my creative writing or even my Millennial Nomaad interviews. People who know me well aren’t surprised by my interests. But for those who don’t, I was afraid that I’d come off too sappy or just “too much.” For a long time, my initial persona was that I come off very bubbly and energetic, so my passion projects were a different side to me — more grounded and serious. Sharing that was intimidating. I overcame this fear over time as I got to know myself and built healthy self-esteem. I started writing my novel Roya when I was 20, but I wasn’t ready to finish it. I had to live, to experience, and to cultivate enough depth before I could dive into crafting a story that had some soul in it. I completed the novel in my mid-twenties and published it now in my late twenties.

Another challenge was navigating the publishing world because that is a whole other side to the journey beyond the writing. Writing is the first step, but the process of editing, publishing, and promoting is an art form on their own. So, it has been a steep learning curve.

My advice to all aspiring writers is simple: know yourself and just begin. Don’t let anyone tell you your dream is unattainable. You will hear a lot of “No” before the right people say “Yes.” There will be days where you stare at a blank page with writer’s block. Keep going. Be receptive to your own creativity, nurture those ideas, and be willing to write from an honest place. By honest, I don’t mean the story itself is necessarily true. I am referring to the practice of crafting a story in an authentic way that is true to the fictional micro-world you have built and its characters. You cannot force a scene or narrative; the story should unfold organically. I think strong storytelling happens that way.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When first publishing Roya, I accidentally uploaded the wrong file. It was the almost final draft of the novel. I didn’t realize this until a couple of days later and fixed the problem. At the time, it was definitely not funny. I panicked big time. But, I decided to turn it around and make a joke out of it by publicly announcing the mistakes as now the “OG copy” of the book. My friends made me feel better by insisting they wanted the OG copy and joked that they would take a tequila shot every time they found minor typos. Now, I laugh at it as an initial speed bump in the book release. Lesson learned: Review, review, review even if you think it’s 100% ready. Then if you’ve done all you can and things still happen, make the most of it and just move on with the lesson learned.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I recently shifted my Millennial Nomaad interviews into podcast form with a new series called “MN Coming Alive” where I explore the same topics I mentioned before but in a more conversational and dynamic style. That human connection, especially during quarantine due to Covid-19, has been fulfilling for me. I am also continuing to promote Roya and working on some derivative works related to my novel. Excited to share those in the near future!

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

It’s difficult to share a story without giving the plot of the novel away. But, I think the fact that the novel captures the inner journey and dialogue of a young Iranian-American Millennial is interesting. I describe the book as an “internal odyssey” — a theme that everyone, regardless of gender identity or ethnic background, can relate to. But, it was important to me to tell this story of self-discovery through the lens of a young, Middle Eastern woman and explore her insecurities, her desires, and her self-actualization.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

That the pursuit of self is a life-long commitment and one that is to be nurtured. Love in its various forms, the accomplishment of our goals, our understanding of the world — all these things rely on a healthy sense of self. I use flowers as symbols throughout the story to illustrate the importance of being willing to unearth ourselves and build on that discovery with compassion and zest. I also use the concept of lighting and music to illustrate the stages of the unknown, clarity, and the rhythm of life. True growth and transformation are not easy; they call for a level of honesty with ourselves that requires care and attention. I divided the book into three sections — shadows, shade, and sunlight — because all three are important. To achieve some sense of wholeness, it helps to understand where we have been, to accept where we are now, and to look forward to what is to come with hope.

I would actually love to ask readers what they thought was the most empowering lesson!

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Decide and begin. This is the most important. The idea of writing, especially if it’s a larger project, can feel so daunting. I want aspiring authors to know it is definitely attainable. I had so much time in undergrad, yet didn’t have the inner drive to complete my novel. I completed the book while attending law school, even though time was very limited because I decided that writing this novel was a priority in my life.
  2. Allow the story to unfold.Often times, we get so stuck on the technicality of writing or feel pressured to write chronologically. But, that stifles creativity. It’s okay to skip around and piece together portions of the novel later. That’s what I did. Sometimes I didn’t know what should come next after a certain passage, so I just wrote what came to me that day. Later, I rearranged and pieced the story together. A novel is not complete once you are done writing the draft. The novel is complete once the editing has fully taken place. So, I’d tell all authors to free yourself while writing and enjoy it. You can fine-tune it when editing.
  3. Create what you really want to create.It can be intimidating to know that one day people will read your work and judge it. But, you can’t write with the pressure of how others will perceive your work. As authors, we hope everyone can appreciate our work, but realistically we cannot please everyone. That is okay and part of human nature. It’s best to create from an authentic space, and you will attract the audience meant for you.
  4. Read often. When I was experiencing writer’s block, listening to music and reading helped jog my own creativity. I think it’s because the combination really allowed my mind to relax and wander, which then made me more receptive to my intuition. When I am in that calm state, my writing occurs more naturally than when I am feeling hyperactive and pressured to create.
  5. Believe in your work and promote yourself. When it came to self-promotion, I was really hesitant and shy at first. For anyone who follows my social media, this will definitely come as a shock because I do it often. The truth is I naturally feel more comfortable hyping up other people’s projects. But, one time a family friend said to me, “Don’t think of it as self-promoting. Think of it as you believing in what you have to share with the world and then taking on the responsibility of making sure that message is heard.” I know that is all semantics, but that shift in mentality helped me a lot. It taught me that you have to believe in your own work and in yourself so that others will too.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

I’d say the habit of balancing receptivity to my creative ideas and taking action towards completion. It took me a while to learn that, but I finally did. We all seem to be functioning in a flight or fight response mode in modern life, and I think creativity needs space to be felt and processed. When I’m feeling stuck, I usually dance or workout to release any stagnant energy. Then, I play music and light a candle to get myself in a calm state so I can just “be.” That’s when inspiration arrives and allows the words to be expressed through you as the writer. There’s not much thinking involved to be honest, more of a feeling. However, the next step is action. If you don’t take the action to write, you will never fulfill the potential of that inspiration. Balancing playfulness and concentrated focus is key.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I absolutely love Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. I also love Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and any book of translated Rumi and Hafiz poems. One of my favorite modern poets is Lang Leav.

The underlying theme here is I enjoy literature and work that is direct while still effortlessly poetic. Reading lyrical prose is like listening to a song as the movie plays in your head. The way words can be crafted to have that effect and the use of symbolism to create mental images inspires me a lot. I also love stories that explore existential themes and the depth of emotions.

One book I haven’t read in a long time, but I think I should reread is Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I don’t even remember what I liked about its style or plot development honestly, but I can tell you even now that book had an affect on my heart.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Well, first I must say thank you for the kind words. Second, my movement would be to encourage people to empower themselves by pursuing what makes them feel alive (so long as it does not harm others or infringe on their rights, of course). Whether that pursuit be a creative project, a hobby, a career shift, a certain relationship dynamic, etc. — the key here is to make choices that align you with the kind of life that is true to you. Life has its demands and responsibilities, but I genuinely believe we can always make time for what matters most deep down.

This all may sound self-centric at first, but I actually think that by living our truth, we attract healthier bonds, we exercise more compassion, we heal old wounds, and create space for more understanding with others. I want people to feel good about themselves and to be kinder to others. The domino effect of kindness is one of the most powerful I have ever experienced.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They can follow me on Instagram (@millennialnomaad) and on Twitter (@elnaz_mogh). I use Instagram more often!

They can also follow the novel, Roya, on Instagram (@roya.the.novel) and on Facebook (@royathenovel). Books are available online at Amazon worldwide, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, select Atlanta bookstores + more.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

Thank you! I enjoyed this very much.

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