Monday, March 2, 2009

First Ever Literary Festival in the Middle East

Hi Everyone,

I thought this week I would put together a post about the first ever literary festival in the Middle East. Since I'm witness to it, it's quite a fun bit of history to be living! It's in Dubai, and underwritten by Emirates Airlines.

(Ms. Spitfire will return next Monday with juicy tidbits from her side of publishing!)

Here's a blurb:

The inaugural Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature will take place between 26th February and 1st March 2009 and will be launched at the London Book Fair. The festival will be directed by Isobel Abulhoul, director of Magrudy’s, the region’s leading chain of bookshops, and Bill Samuel, vice chairman of Foyles.

For schedule/author information about festival, click here.

A sampling of authors:

Anthony Horowitz's life might have been copied from the pages of Charles Dickens or the Brothers Grimm. Born in 1956 in Stanmore, Middlesex, to a family of wealth and status, Anthony was raised by nannies, surrounded by servants and chauffeurs. His father, a wealthy businessman, was, says Mr. Horowitz, "a fixer for Harold Wilson." What that means exactly is unclear — "My father was a very secretive man," he says— so an aura of suspicion and mystery surrounds both the word and the man. As unlikely as it might seem, Anthony's father, threatened with bankruptcy, withdrew all of his money from Swiss bank accounts in Zurich and deposited it in another account under a false name and then promptly died. His mother searched unsuccessfully for years in attempt to find the money, but it was never found. That too shaped Anthony's view of things. Today he says, "I think the only thing to do with money is spend it."

His mother, whom he adored, eccentrically gave him a human skull for his 13th birthday. His grandmother, another Dickensian character, was mean-spirited and malevolent, a destructive force in his life. She was, he says, "a truly evil person", his first and worst arch villain. "My sister and I danced on her grave when she died," he now recalls.

So how did an unhappy boy, from a privileged background, metamorphose into the creator of Alex Rider, fourteen-year-old spy for Britain's MI6? Although his childhood permanently damaged him, it also gave him a gift — it provided him with rich source material for his writing career.

Alex Rider is unwillingly recruited at the age of fourteen to spy for the British secret service, MI6. Forced into situations that most average adults would find terrifying and probably fatal, young Alex rarely loses his cool although at times he doubts his own courage.


Terry Brooks was born in Illinois in 1944, where he spent a great deal of his childhood and early adulthood dreaming up stories in and around Sinnissippi Park, the very same park that would eventually become the setting for his bestselling Word & Void trilogy. He went to college and received his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, where he majored in English Literature, and he received his graduate degree from the School of Law at Washington & Lee University.

A writer since high school, he wrote many stories within the genres of science fiction, western, fiction, and non-fiction, until one semester early in his college years he was given The Lord of the Rings to read. That moment changed Terry's life forever, because in Tolkien's great work he found all the elements needed to fully explore his writing combined in one genre.
He then wrote The Sword of Shannara, the seven year grand result retaining sanity while studying at Washington & Lee University and practicing law. It became the first work of fiction ever to appear on the New York Times trade paperback bestseller list, where it remained for over five months.

During the spare time he could afford from his law practice, Terry wrote The Elfstones of Shannara, which followed in 1982 and once again brought the literary world an epic novel of wonder and adventure in the eagerly awaited sequel to The Sword of Shannara. The Wishsong of Shannara, published in 1985, finished the remarkable trilogy.

(I met Terry, who is btw so incredibly fun and approachable and chats with every single person as he signs books, and of course I am trying to get him over here at the Book Roast! We'll see what happens!)


Qaisra Shahraz was born in Pakistan and brought up in Manchester, England, from the age of nine. She studied English and Classical Civilization at the University of Manchester and went on to gain two Master Degrees at the University of Salford - in English and European Literature and in Scriptwriting for Television and Radio. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a director of Gatehouse Books, publishing books written by students for Skills for Life classes. She is an advisor for the University of Lancaster for a three-year writing project entitled 'Mediating Marginalities', and has hosted and led many workshops and seminars in creative writing, abroad and in the UK.

As a freelance journalist, she has contributed features and articles to various magazines and newspapers and has also had several short stories published in the UK and abroad, in particular in schools anthologies in Germany. One of her short stories, 'Perchavah', won the Ian St. James Award in 1994. She has also written plays for radio and television, including a screenplay adaptation of her first novel. Her award-winning drama serial Dil Hee To Hai (The Heart Is It) was broadcast on Pakistani Television and on Prime Television in 2003. A second serial, Tauheen (Insult), is in production.

Qaisra Shahraz is the author of two novels, and is working on a third. The first, The Holy Woman (2001), is a powerful love story, introducing the reader to the traditions of a vibrant world of four Muslim countries. It was awarded the title 'Best Book of the Month' by Waterstones. Her second novel is Typhoon (2003), a sequel set in the village of Chiraghpur.


Jung Chang was born in Yibin, Sichuan Province, China, in 1952. She was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen and then worked as a peasant, a "barefoot doctor," a steelworker, and an electrician before becoming an English-language student and, later, an assistant lecturer at Sichuan University. She left China for Britain in 1978 and was subsequently awarded a scholarship by York University, where she obtained a Ph.D. in linguistics in 1982, the first person from the People's Republic of China to receive a doctorate from a British university. Her award-winning book, Wild Swans, was published in 1991. With her husband, Jon Halliday, she is also the author of Mao: The Unknown Story (2005, nonfiction).


Born: Brighton, Sussex, England

Educated: Charterhouse, then Ravensbourne Film School.

Animals: Bertie, Phoebe, a German Shepherd with a gorgeous temperament, unless you are unfortunate enough to have been born as a rabbit... (see photo at right - with the late Bertie on left) or a burglar, and Oscar, a rescue labrador/border collie cross, who is so chilled out at times we think he secretly does drugs... And our latest addition, Coco.

Mother: The late Cornelia James, Glovemaker to the Queen

Home: In Sussex, formerly a Georgian manor house, near Ditchling, built on the site of Roman ruins, haunted by four ghosts. Now on a historic site between Lewes and Glynde. Was occupied until recently by a whole bunch of ghosts of victims of the Battle of Lewes, but they have now been politely evicted. In Notting Hill, London, an apartment on the site of a former cinema. No spectral screenings yet during the night, but always hoping...

(A best-selling author with too many awards to list. Please drop by his site if you like thrillers. And it looks like he blogs.)


Lies and Loyalties is the title of my latest novel which was published in paperback in December, 2008. It’s about a family of four brothers and one sister, an MP, a QC, a Catholic priest, a brother who suffers from mental problems and his wife who at the beginning of the novel is resident in Her Majesty’s Prison Holloway. I’ve always been interested in the gap between the haves and have nots, between the comfortable and the disturbed. I may have caught that interest from my father, Lord Longford (see Longford Trust) who spent most of his later life trying to help prisoners. Now I’m involved with my work for Inside Time, the national newspaper for prisoners.


There are many talented authors at the festival, but I picked a random few to illustrate the diversity being represented here.

What's also nice (in my opinion!) is "Education Day" which is discussed below:

Day 4 (Education Day) - 1 March 2009

A unique part of the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature is Education Day, a first both for Dubai events and for literary festivals.

In line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Vice-President of the UAE, of the eradication of illiteracy in the Arab World, an integral part of EAIFL is to bring authors into schools and colleges and into direct contact with students of Dubai.

The founders of EAIFL believe that educational success is intrinsically linked to reading, and that literacy is therefore the key to knowledge. In a city such as Dubai, where many different languages and cultures sit side-by-side, reading becomes a vital way of accessing our neighbours’ cultures – and indeed our own.

An Author in Your School
What does this mean to the teachers and lecturers of Dubai?
It means that every author who attends the festival has agreed to visit one institution and speak directly to the students in order to kindle an interest in the vitality of language and literature. We have contacted educational institutions throughout Dubai, and will be making arrangements for an author appropriate to the age groups and language of teaching to speak to your students on a mutually-agreed topic. In return, we are encouraging schools to become involved in the fringe events surrounding the main festival dates on the 26-28th February.
Ms. Spitfire will return next week. Meanwhile, would love to talk about anything related to literary festivals and not Middle-East politics. :-)


Chris Eldin said...

Good Morning, ya'll!!

Hope this post wasn't too long, but I did want to give a good picture, and thought you'd skim if you wanted.


Julie Schoerke said...


This is great! After reading so much sad news on Shelf Awareness and the SIBA list serve this morning about the book industry, this is a real boost to my spirits:)

Chris Eldin said...

Julie!! Nice to see you over here, de-lurking.

And thanks for the nice comment!! It was quite a treat, meeting Terry Brown. And I didn't know about the agreement for the authors to go visit schools.

There was an author visit last year at my kids' school, and nothing against self-pubbed, but, well, the author was self-pubbed. Sold hundreds of books....
kids just don't see authors in these parts.

Hint, hint for authors wanting to sell books.


Michelle H. said...

Please, please oh please get Terry Brooks. One of my all-time fav. authors.

Chris Eldin said...

Thanks Michelle! I hope we can too!! After Dubai, he's touring around the Middle East seeing the sights.... so it wouldn't be for another month, if he agrees. But I'm trying!!

laughingwolf said...

sounds great, chris... wonderful artists line up

should be a major success :D

Sarah Laurenson said...

I have mixed feeligns about this festival since they decided to exclude an author because of a gay character.

But it's also good that this is the start of a new book festival.

Thanks for the peek!

Chris Eldin said...

Hi LW!

Hey Sarah, You are up on your news!!! Ah, this is a long story. But, basically, there was a rumor that she would be censored. And it was actually all over the papers here....but it was just that. A nasty rumor that gained foothold. She attended the conference via video cam because by the time it was all figured out, it was too late for her to attend in person.

There's more detail, but I'm off to bed....

Sarah Laurenson said...

Thanks for the update, Chris. Can't wait to hear the rest of the story (RIP Paul Harvey :-( ).

Nighty nite!

McKoala said...

It's all very multi-cultural, as is Dubai, I suppose. But as far as I can see there is no local author represented? Is that right?

Chris Eldin said...

Hi McKoala,

There are regional authors here, but I don't know if there were any UAE authors--great question! The most famous regional author is the woman who penned "Girls of Riyadh."

Thanks for stopping by, all!