About M.O. Yuksel

Of Uzbek heritage, M.O. Yuksel was born in Türkiye, raised in New York City, and now lives in New Jersey with her three kids, two cats, and one husband.

She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Fordham University, and a master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in the education field in the U.S. and overseas for over twenty years as an administrator, manager, and teacher. 

Passionate about research and learning, she enjoys sharing her discoveries through her writing, focusing on little-known historical figures and diverse cultures. When she’s not writing, she’s usually on the soccer field cheering for her kids or traveling to exotic places and immersing herself in the local culture. She loves nature, bike riding, and indulging in shameless amounts of chocolate. Occasionally, she’ll venture to teach her friends how to pronounce her real name – Munevver (Mar-vel-ous). But her friends never make it past the “Mar,” and prefer to use her nickname – Mindy.

She served as a juror for the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, and was a member of the planning committee and a mentor for the Highlights Foundation Muslim Writers Fellowship Program.

 She is also a member of the powerhouse group of writers and illustrators, KidLitSoul and the Story Songbirds.


Fun Facts

1. She lived on three continents and crossed two multiple times in one day! (Hint-hint: Istanbul, Türkiye, the city that spans two continents).

2. She speaks three languages – English, Turkish, Uzbek, and understands several – Spanish, Azeri, Kazak, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Uyghur.

3. If she had her way, she’d eat dessert first at every meal (but don’t tell her kids!). 

FAQ

Did you always want to be an author?

As a child, the idea of becoming an author never crossed my mind because it felt like a dream too big to reach. I never met authors or people who worked in publishing, so it was a mysterious career for me. Moreover, characters resembling me were absent from the books I read.

Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere! I try to stay curious wherever I am and usually like to ask, what if?

What is your best writing advice?

Persistence and perseverance are key. Writing is hard work but if you’re passionate about your story, don’t give up. Keep honing your craft, read lots of books especially in the genre you’re writing in, and keep writing. One of my favorite quotes is, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

How did you get your start in children’s publishing?

Serendipity! My son’s preschool teacher, Mrs. V, invited me to read a picture book about our holiday, Eid al-Adha, to her class and when I couldn’t find one, I decided to write it. Receiving this invitation to share our stories in a school setting made me realize that there’s a need and space for our stories too.