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The 10-day retreat led by Algeria’s Wasini Al Araj and Libya’s Najwa bin Shatwan

Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Vice President of International Publishers Association (IPA) and Head of the Sharjah World Book Capital (SWBC) Advisory Committee, has inaugurated the Creative Writing Retreat, a new project taken up as part of the yearlong Sharjah WBC celebrations.

Taking place at the recently-opened luxury eco-retreat in Sharjah, Al Badayer Retreat, the literary project has been launched by ‘1001 Titles’ and seeks to upskill young Emirati and Arab writers aged 18–40, and thereby empower them to advance creative production in the UAE and the region. The programme will feature a series of intensive creative writing workshops and other literary exercises, which will be led by Algerian author Wasini Al Araj, and Libyan academic and novelist, Najwa bin Shatwan.

Welcoming all participating writers to the retreat, Bodour said: “Writing is an essential, difficult, yet wonderful experience. The relationship between writers and their pen must be nurtured. Sharjah is an incubator of all creative industries — mainly writing. Our broader aim is to strongly contribute to the cultural, scientific and literary renaissance being experienced in the Arab region. These ambitions can be successfully achieved only when the great efforts of writers like yourself are supported and the power of your imagination is carefully nurtured. I hope the retreat will be a great opportunity for you to hone your craft and be worth your while.”

Majd Al Shehhi, Director of 1001 Titles, underlined the retreat’s objectives, saying: “The Creative Writing Retreat allows aspiring writers to gain insights into the creative experiences of two veteran Arab authors. The project’s ultimate goal is to enhance the creative and professional capacities of new and emerging Emirati and Arab talents, as well as enrich Arabic libraries with new, outstanding titles.”

Al Shehhi noted that the retreat is sponsored by Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature and held in collaboration with the Sharjah World Book Capital (SWBC) Office, adding that it aligns with 1001 Titles’ mission to empower Emirati and Arab writers; support the publication of quality Arabic titles; promote the local and regional publishing sectors; and address challenges faced by the Arab world’s book industry.

Emerging writers offered an opportunity to get published The retreat started with its participants putting their signatures on a pledge, which entails that 1001 Titles will support the publication of the works they start developing during the retreat, provided the writer completes the manuscript and submits it to 1001 Titles within eight months after the retreat.

The programme’s first day included a series of workshops on the process of writing. Upcoming workshops will focus on the basics of freestyle writing and creative writing. Attendees also tell their stories at a special workshop, ‘My story with writing’. The retreat also includes group discussions, one-on-one coaching and field trips.

Themed ‘Nurturing Talent to Enrich Content’, the 1001 Titles is a cultural initiative launched in February 2016. The first phase of the initiative successfully achieved its goal of supporting the publication of 1,001 first-edition Arabic books, which signalled a big step forward in enhancing the UAE’s collective intellectual product. Through subsequent editions, the initiative ultimately seeks to ensure the growth and sustainability of the publishing industry in the UAE and beyond.