The first chapter of the ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship in preparation


Browse books at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

Muhammad Yusuf, report writer

The first global standard mentoring program in the region for aspiring writers in the United Arab Emirates was launched by the Emirates Literature Foundation (ELF), in partnership with Seddiqi Holding. Called the First Chapter, the ELF Seddiqi Writers‘ Fellowship will be offered free of charge to successful applicants. It aims to identify and nurture emerging writing talents, elevating them to an international level and bringing them to the attention of the world.

Writers will have access throughout the year-long program to industry experts, with one-on-one mentorship from international writers such as top criminal writer Mark Billingham; Yrsa Siguroardottir, the Nordic black queen; Shahad Al Rawi, the youngest writer to ever make the list of Arab Booker Prize finalists and one of Kuwait’s most famous writers, Taleb Al Refai.

There are exclusive workshops from a range of master storytellers, including internationally renowned authors Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith. The program will provide introductions to international agents, editors and publishers. Successful applicants can personalize their writing journey with vouchers to participate in short writing courses offered by global partner writing institutions, such as Gotham Writers Workshop and the Faber Academy.

Ahlam Ahlam Bolooki, Festival Director, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

“This is a truly unique opportunity – a world-class mentoring program – which is a dream for any aspiring writer,” said Ahlam Bolooki, director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (EAFL), which is held is held under the auspices of ELF. . “Our hope is that over the next five years this scholarship will create a notable group of UAE-based authors with audiences around the world. “The writing scene in the UAE and the Arab world is not as developed as in many other parts of the world. We know there are many in the region who have compelling stories to tell, but just need to find their voice and the right way to tell their stories. “Seddiqi Holding considers the preservation of Arabic literature and the development of the cultural sector to be essential for their contribution to society,” said Hind Abdul Hamied Seddiqi, Director of Marketing and Communications, Seddiqi Holding.

“Over a period of five years, it aims to strengthen the regional literary community, as part of its heritage. The program is designed to nurture talent in the UAE and help develop their craft, connecting them to the pillars of the global literary sphere. There will be ten participants chosen to be part of the inaugural course – a mix of Arabic and English writers. As the project develops, a community of mutually supportive writers for alumni will also develop, which will nurture the writers after the program ends, with continued support. Each participant will benefit from a six hour one-on-one mentorship. It will be amplified by a regular series of workshops, meetings and lectures from industry experts, encompassing all stages of writing, publishing and promoting a book.

The program is by selection only. Applications are invited from serious writers who are about to complete a novel, but want to put their manuscript in shape. All genres of fiction are welcome. The initiative also wants to discover those who have exceptional potential, who are perhaps only at the beginning of their writing journey. Anyone over the age of 18, who calls the UAE home and will be residing in the UAE for the duration of the program, can apply. Application is made via the online form and requires a cover letter, a 400-word synopsis of the book and the first 2,000 words of the near-completed manuscript, if it is in progress.

Applications were opened on November 1, 2021 and close on January 2, 2022. The names of successful applicants will be announced at a special event during EAFL 2022. There will be opportunities to present to editors and agents literary at the end of the process, but publication or performance is not guaranteed. Successful completion of the course will be certified. For more information and to apply for the scholarship, visit ELF is a non-profit organization that supports and nurtures the love of literature in the UAE and the region, through cultural initiatives. In line with the UAE’s National Reading Policy, it has implemented several long-term projects including School Librarian of the Year Award, Kateb Maktub and From the Inside Out. It also runs student education programs throughout the year, runs book clubs and creative writing classes.

Previous initiatives of the Foundation have included the International Literary Festivals Conference 2020, the Dubai Translation Conference in 2016 and the Dubai International Publishing Conference in 2017. EAFL is the UAE’s premier literary festival, as well as the Arab world’s largest celebration of the written and oral word, featuring international and regional writers, poets, thinkers and speakers from around the world. Over the past 13 years, more than 1,700 authors from over 100 countries have spoken at the Festival. In 2021, the numbers have reached more than 117,000 people, in person and via live streaming.

Sessions included Nobel Laureate Malala, Booker Prize nominees Avni Doshi (Burnt Sugar) and Oyinkan Braithwaite (My Sister the Serial Killer), as well as internationally renowned authors Elif Shafak, Amin Maalouf and Lemn Sissay. Behavioral expert Thomas Erikson shared a stage with Sherif Arafa, and the education program featured children’s favorites Ali Sparkes, Obada Takla, Sam Copeland, Isabel Thomas, Sanaa Chabbani and Ben Baily Smith (Doc Brown). Seddiqi Holding was established in 2007 and operates Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the oldest and largest business unit of the group; Swiss Watch Services and Seddiqi & Sons Investment, which includes Seddiqi Properties and Mizzen. Seddiqi Holding is managed by four generations of the Seddiqi family, supported by a multinational workforce of over 900 employees. The development of the company rests on the foundations laid by the late Ahmed Qasim Seddiqi, its visionary founder.


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