Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sharjah International Book Fair...a panel 'A Sense of Self in Writing'

HH Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi opens the book Fair
I'm just back from Sharjah International Book Fair. As happened last year, I am in awe of the scope of this event. Yes, it's about selling books - selling them in many ways...to publishers, to stores, to other countries and to ordinary people but it's so much more. I love the way they bring the book world alive with events for everyone but especially for kids...
Children enjoying the book fair

A cookery demonstration
I was lucky enough to be an invited author this year. I was both apprehensive and excited about being on a panel to discuss 'A Sense of Self in Writing'...what a fantastic topic but what were they looking for??? Having lived in Dubai in total for about ten years I have learned that what I may understand by something may very well not be what others do. This makes life interesting and makes a panel interesting too. It is also the scary part....

Liz Fenwick, Tahmima Anam, Marwa Al Agroubi (hidden) Said Kafrawi, Inaam Kachachi
So on this panel discussion was joined Inaam Kachachi, an Iraqi writer who lives in Paris. Her novel The American Granddaughter was shortlisted for for the IPAF in 2009. The was the esteemed Egyptian short story writer Said Kafrawi and Tahmima Anam from Bangladesh , who lives in London. Her first novel A Golden Age was shortlisted for both the Guardian and Costa First Books awards.

The chair of the panel was Marwa Al Agroubi and I wondered how she was going to lead four very diverse writers through the discussion but she did....

Here are a few of the notes I made...

Said and I agreed on all stories have been told but it what you the writer bring to them that makes the unique.
He also said that writing is about expressing passion of the old truths and dreams
Think of transforming real life into art and making more interesting

Tahmima spoke of
as a writer we get to live many lives through our characters
no characters is limited by her experience yet all have a part of her in them
be a chameleon

The question that kept coming back to was why as writers were we afraid to show ourselves in the writing...

I argued that we weren't...our choice of themes showed clearly what we were thinking, feeling and who we are. And like Tahmima each character had some part of me in them.

I spoke about the need to have characters who did things that went against our own beliefs...as that adds extra conflict to the story and we must be true to story. We read fiction to learn about others and about ourselves and that is true for the writer too....in writing the stories...

I'm afraid I was so busy trying to listen to the translations to note down more of what was said....

However I did when asked speak of the assumption of some readers ... readers never expect a crime writer to have committed a murder, but some readers assume that a writer of women's fiction will have done almost anything in the book that they have written.... especially if it deals with sex.

It's clearly not safe to let me out at night to talk about writing. However the room came alive after that comment and the chair quizzed me on this topic several times!


1 comment:

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

How interesting to have attended such an event.