Dubai, 3 February, 2016: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (1-12 March) is poised to inspire the next generation of authors, following its amazing success in recent years in uncovering the huge amount of untapped writing talent in the UAE.
A host of new writers have credited the Festival with putting them on the path to becoming published authors with career-building workshops, masterclasses and sessions. Amongst the roster of success stories are 2016 Festival authors Rachel Hamilton (Unicorn in New York: Louie Lets Loose!) and Annabel Kantaria (Coming Home) who got their starts at the Festival through the inaugural Montegrappa Writing Prize competition. Both have become bestselling international writers with new books out this year. 2014 Prize winner Lucy Strange will also release her first book in 2016 with Chicken House, the publishing house founded by Barry Cunningham, the man who discovered JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
In January of this year, 2012 Taaleem Award winner, Kehkashan Basu, became the latest Festival success story when her illustrated book, The Tree of Hope was published by Voices of Future Generations International Children’s Book Series Trust for Sustainable Living. On the importance of the student competitions for aspiring writers like herself, she said: ‘The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature continues to provide a fantastic platform for young people to express their literary creativity. As an avid reader, I have benefited immensely interacting with the many authors who grace this event, encouraging me to become a writer myself. As one of the past winners of the Taaleem Award, I can say with conviction that my writing skills were honed as a result of my regular participation in this event. It also gave me the confidence to pen my own book – The Tree of Hope.’
Last year visual art teachers Julie Brunelle and Peter Wood attended the popular Quick Pitch session with Luigi Bonomi, international literary agent and founder of Luigi Bonomi Associates (LBA), to pitch their non-fiction children’s book on the great artistic movements, The Artist in You. The book offers enjoyable and accessible projects that lead to a comprehensive understanding of art. It has now been taken on by Hachette Children’s Books and will be published as a classic reference book for schools and families.
Peter Wood said the Festival had been pivotal in achieving their success. ‘We are so excited to sing the praises of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Whether it was networking with brilliant authors or learning from fascinating workshops, the Festival was first rate. Of course, the highlight was our pitch with Literary Agent, Luigi Bonomi. This has been a game-changer for us. After that brilliant first meeting, we took Luigi’s suggestions, made revisions and then (as if we won the lottery), an offer of a contract happened. Without the Festival and meeting Luigi Bionomi, we would not be getting ready to sign a book contract.’
April Hardy, a long-time supporter of the Festival and frequent patron of the Festival’s sister organisation the Dubai International Writers’ Centre, recently signed a three-book deal with Accent Press, a young imprint for romantic comedies. She said that the Festival had played an enormous part in her journey to publication. ‘The 2014 Festival gave my writing career a huge shove in the right direction. With both Luigi’s Quick Pitch sessions and the very first Literary Idol Competition in mind, I wrote the opening chapters for two romantic comedies… After pitching Kind Hearts & Coriander, Luigi asked me to come and meet with him and his lovely wife, Alison. Later that day my other rom-com, Hazard at the Nineteenth, was chosen as the winner at the Literary Idol session by both the legendary Judy Finnegan (Richard & Judy’s Book Club) and Francesca Main (Editorial Editor at Picador).’
April’s debut novel Sitting Pretty is due out on 7 July and she has completed the manuscripts for both Hazard at the Nineteenth and Kind Hearts & Coriander.
The Quick Pitch returns at the 2016 Festival, along with several other editing and publishing panels and workshops. In addition there will be tips to polish up your manuscript from Flora Rees, former senior editor at Headline Publishing Group and the woman behind Victoria Hislop‘s bestselling successes, including The Island.
Insights on the publishing industry can also be found at the Getting Your Book into Print and onto Shelves panel featuring authors and industry experts Sean Fay Wolfe, the 17-year-old author who self-published Quest for Justice, an unofficial Minecraft fan adventure that was later published by HarperCollins; Jonathan Lloyd, Chairman of the Literary and Talent Agency Curtis Brown; Alexander McNabb, self-published author of several books including his latest A Decent Bomber and Selina Walker, Publisher at Century and Arrow and the woman who launched the global smash-hit Fifty Shades of Grey.
It’s not only the next generation of writers who are encouraged by their Festival experiences however. Established writer, Kathy Hoopmann, author of several books and a Festival author herself, had a life-changing encounter at the Festival last year: ‘One of the highlights of the 2015 Festival for me was to meet David Mitchell (author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks) who apart from writing literary masterpieces, also translated into English the writings of a 13-year-old autistic boy. I write on Asperger’s Syndrome which is on the autistic spectrum and we shared a passion for revealing the insights of the autistic mind and to highlight positives whilst not ignoring the difficulties experienced by those who are autistic. I was hugely honoured when David reviewed my latest book, Elemental Island, that I co-wrote with JS Kiss, and gave it a glowing endorsement. I will be forever grateful to the Festival for the opportunity to meet David and to share our mutual interests.’
Kathy Hoopmann’s words will resonate with many a writer, aspiring or published, ‘To listen to an author reveal writing secrets and bring an inner humanity to a book is a marvellous thing, sometimes a life changing moment, and this is what the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature facilitates year after year. As an author myself there is nothing quite as uplifting as mingling with people who understand the blood, sweat, tears and isolation of writing.’
The Festival’s all-inclusive approach means that children can also get a head start in their writing careers with a range of workshops to help them hone their skills. This year Christopher Edge, renowned children’s horror writer, will be holding two sessions on his intricately illustrated non-fiction book How to Write Your Best Story Ever. Winnie the Witch illustrator, Korky Paul will also be instructing youngsters on how to create their own illustrated books. And there will be several writing workshops for children and adults conducted by locally-based and international authors.
Additionally, the Festival will also be holding several social media, self-improvement and lifestyle workshops with international thinkers Mai El Khalifa, Jo Simpson, Joe Wicks (The Body Coach), Ammar Mohammed and Liz Keaney.
Ticket prices for Festival events start at AED 50 and can be purchased via the Festival website or at select WHSmith stores across the UAE.
All information about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is on-line. Check for updates at litfest-archives.com/2017. Join us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/emirateslitfest), Twitter (www.twitter.com/emirateslitfest), Instagram (http://instagram.com/EmiratesLitFest) and YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/EmiratesLitFest) for competitions and more updates.