Next month, the Glen Ellyn resident will guide others in the "write" way to create such gifts through three classes offered for the first time by the Glen Ellyn Park District: Journaling for New and Expectant Moms, Journaling for Seniors and Little Shakespeares.
She is also the creative mind behind Writers Studio in downtown Glen Ellyn, where she offers creative writing workshops for 4- to 15-year-olds and journaling and writing classes for people of all ages and interests.
Writing in the New and Expectant Moms class results in a gift for the child and for the parent, YarKhan said. One aspect of the workshop might be writing down the parent's dreams for the baby. "This is 'My child: Welcome to the world. This is how we decided to have you,'" YarKhan said, "and you write a little about who you are and where you are in your own life."
Writing also becomes a relationship-building tool, she stressed, adding that her children — 7-year-old Taskeen, a second-grader at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School; and Yousef, a 3-year-old preschooler — love stories about themselves.
"In the case of an unforeseen event," YarKhan said, "I also want them to know 'This is who we were when you were little, this is how we waited for you and these were our dreams and expectations,' as well as whatever was important to us at this time: 'This was the year we went to war with Iraq; this was when we went into space.'
"Then the journal becomes a pause in time," she said. "People buy things for their kids, but more important is that you be there." Although the course title refers to moms, fathers or both parents are welcome in the class, YarKhan said. "They're going to have very different stories.
"It'd also be open to grandparents if they're really keyed into this gift," she said. "Children should have roots."
Seniors, who often feel isolated, benefit through journaling by connecting in a room full of strangers, YarKhan said. "The connection comes from things that are deep within you, such as friendships, things that are the cornerstone of who you are," she said.
Sharing writing is always optional, but expressing oneself in this safe environment can be therapeutic, YarKhan said. "It's not a critique; it's a bonding process. There's someone to listen to you even if there's no one else."
Seniors also will have an opportunity to bring a special item to class, tell the other members about it and create a poem about its meaning. "This is about how or what you are because of a time or an event," YarKhan said. The Little Shakespeares workshop for 8- to 13-year-olds develops and strengthens what children are working on in school, YarKhan said.
"All the skills you learn in writing, whether it's cause and effect or grouping together ideas, carry over to other areas of the curriculum."
And writing doesn't have to be painful.
"It doesn't have to be Shakespeare. Hip-hop is poetry," she pointed out. "It's whatever you want it to be. This country was built on ideas and imagination."
YarKhan never gives the young students writing topics because she believes they have enough assigned topics in school, but grammar and punctuation must be correct.
"It's like fine-tuning a machine," she said. "It's not an add-on."
She also stresses a goal of getting work published, something YarKhan first accomplished at age 15, as a contributor to a teen scene column in her native India. By 18, she was writing freelance features on extreme sports such as hang gliding.
Coming from "a very supportive family of letter writers," she simply always wrote, she said.
"I didn't think I would do anything else; it's what I always did," she said. "It was like 'This is who I am.'
"Some people run. I write."
YarKhan's bylines have appeared in more than two dozen publications, and two of daughter Taskeen's stories have been published in Chicago Parent magazine.
YarKhan is hoping to use her experience as a parent and a writer to become an artist-in-residence through PTAs in School District 41. She also is interested in presenting a series of workshops to play groups or homeschooled children or taking the instruction into Montessori schools.
"It fits into their concept of students leading the way," she said.
For information on YarKhan's Glen Ellyn Park District classes, call (630) 942-0463 or visit http://www.gepark.org/ . For information on classes at the Writers Studio, call (630) 915-8654 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sandy Stevens has lived in Glen Ellyn since 1984. Contact her at email@example.com or c/o The Sun, 1500 W. Ogden Ave., Naperville, IL 60540.