Highlights of the Emirates LitFest 2019
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature really is the highlight of the year for any book-lover in the region, weaving together as it does voices from all over the world to enjoy a unique environment of talks and cultural events over two action-packed weekends.
The Desert Stanzas evening, featuring Zeina Hashem Beck, Talal Aljunaibi, Selina Tusitala March (the New Zealand poet laureate), LionHeart, Anis Chouchene, Frank Dullaghan and the wonderful Afra Atiq speaking under the stars in the silence of the desert, was a particular highlight for me.
Here’s what I got up to:
Luigi Bonomi (agent), Flora Rees (editor), Karen Osman (Montegrappa winner 2016) and myself (Montegrappa winner 2013)
Luigi said publishers are still looking for psychological thrillers despite the market being saturated because readers are still buying it. Publishers are also looking for ‘uplit’ – stories with happy endings.
The 2019 winner of the Montegrappa Writing Prize was announced as Polly Phillips: a graduate of the Montegrappa workshop Jessica Jarlvi and I ran last November! Good luck Polly!
‘Is the Future Social?’ panel:
Ty Tashiro (psychologist), Katharine Osmerod (author) and myself
Ty revealed that ‘popular’ people and ‘likeable’ people use social media in different ways. While popular people, with huge followings, tend to use it for personal gain, people considered to be ‘likeable’ use it to lift up others by ‘liking’ their posts and posting encouragement.
The consensus on the panel was that social media is now a part of the fabric of our lives, so learning how to use it responsibly; limiting time wasted on it; and protecting our data (from companies as well as from individuals) were things everyone should be looking at doing.
‘How to Write a Novel in 30 Tips’ Masterclass
As this was a 90-minute class, I decided to deliver 50 ‘tips’ instead of 30. Aimed at people who were either struggling to start a novel or who had got stuck after started, my tips covered everything from hooking in the reader to preventing a ‘soggy middle’ and leaving your reader satisfied at the end.
As it was, I created my own tension by nearly running out of time – thank you all for coming! If you were in the class and would like a copy of the tips, please email me on email@example.com
Win tickets to my social media panel!
What does social media do for us? Does it help us feel more connected to others, or is it just white noise – a distraction from the things we really should be doing? Is it fanning the flames of narcissism and creating a generation of youngsters who measure their worth by the sum of their ‘Likes’ or is it an invaluable tool for a global population?
After a brilliant first weekend, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature continues apace, and I’ll be discussing these and other issues on Thursday 7 March at 7.30pm with online dating expert Ty Tashiro, and Katherine Ormerod, whose book Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life is a must-read for everyone in the digital age. You can get tickets here, or…
Win a free ticket!
For a chance to win one of five tickets, follow me on Instagram (@dubaipix), and leave a comment under the relevant pic, or ‘like’ my author Facebook page and tag yourself in the comments under this entry. Winners will be notified by 6pm on Wednesday 6 March.
Meanwhile, massive congratulations to the 2019 winner of the Montegrappa prize: Polly Phillips! I can’t wait to see you become a published author!
Annabel at the Dubai LitFest
Long post alert!
The 2019 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature runs from March 1-9 and tickets are now on sale. This festival has a special place in my heart, for it’s there that I won the Montegrappa Prize and took my first step on the path to becoming a published author. This year I’ll be returning to the festival for three events:
How to Write a Novel – A Masterclass in 30 Tips
Sat 9 March, 4-5.30pm. AED 200. InterContinental Dubai, Festival City.
I can see I’m going to be busy over the next few weeks getting my tips lined up! But when I look back over the last five years, from winning the 2013 Montegrappa Writing prize as an unpublished author, to today, when I’ve four novels out in the shops and have just submitted my fifth manuscript to my editor, I realise how much I’ve learned.
Before I won my publishing contract, I attended as many Masterclasses at the EAFOL as I could: Greg Mosse, Mark Billingham, Marina Lewycka, Tony Parsons, Louise Doughty, Alexander McCall-Smith and Peter James to name a few. I learned that every author has a different style of writing and a different approach to writing a novel, and I learned something valuable from each and every one of those authors.
Since publication, I’ve learned even more about writing through working with the talented editors at my publisher, HQ Stories, and with my agent, Luigi Bonomi, who has an uncanny ability to cast an eye over a synopsis and tell me in a sentence exactly what’s wrong with it.
I can’t get you published, but I hope my masterclass will push you a little further along the road toward finishing your novel, getting it in shape for submitting, or even to winning an agent and a publishing deal. You can buy tickets here.
Is the future social?
Thu 7 March, 7.30-8.30pm. AED 75. InterContinental Dubai, Festival City.
I’m really looking forward debating the pros and cons of social media with Katherine Ormerod and Ty Tashiro on this panel. As expats, many of us rely on social media not just for work, but to stay in touch with friends and family overseas. But is it all good?
My fourth novel, ‘I Know You’, is about a woman who’s a little naïve, a little careless about what she posts on social media, and the trouble it gets her into; I did a lot of research in order to write it. I’m generally a fan of social media for the reasons above, but I can’t stand all the showboating and fakery you see on Instagram so I can’t wait to discuss this with Katherine, whose book is called ‘Why Social Media Is Ruining Your Life’.
Ty’s an expert in the science of relationships and online dating (something I’ve never done – yes, what a dinosaur!). One of his books is called ‘The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome’ – as one who often hides behind the written word, I love the sound of that and will definitely be reading it before the Litfest.
As social media affects so many of us, I think this will be a lively and interesting debate – come and join us! Tickets are available here.
The 2019 Montegrappa Prize
Sat 2 March, 12-1pm. AED 75. InterContinental Dubai, Festival City.
This is the event every budding writer will be attending! As the winner of the inaugural Montegrappa Prize back in 2013 I’m delighted to be sharing the stage this year with my agent, Luigi Bonomi, who judges the competition, and my friend and fellow author, Karen Osman, who won the prize in 2016 and has gone on to have two books published.
Before Luigi announces this year’s winners, Karen and I will be discussing with him what winners will need to do after the competition in order to turn their brilliant success into a writing career. Clue: lots of hard work! Tickets are available here.
Win the Montegrappa Writing Prize!
On Saturday, I got together with one of my fellow Montegrappa prize-winners, Jessica Jarlvi, to present a two-and-a-half-hour workshop for those entering the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature’s Montegrappa Writing competition this year. This competition was the springboard to success for both of us, gaining us the attention of top London literary agent Luigi Bonomi, and paving the way for us both to sign up with him as an agent and gain our book deals.
The workshop was called ‘How to write a best-seller’ but I would have titled it ‘How to win the Montegrappa Prize’ as the advice we gave was very specific to the competition entry.
For that, you need to submit a 400-word synopsis of your story, plus the first 2,000 words of the manuscript, so we covered topics such as: what is a synopsis and why you need one; how to write a synopsis; how to write an elevator pitch; how to hook the reader with your opening sentence; where to start your story; how to ‘show don’t tell’; common mistakes; and things we wish we’d known when we entered the Montegrappa Writing Prize. We also read the participants’ entries (in advance, not on the day!) and gave individual feedback on them.
We were impressed with the originality of the stories people have to tell: if this is you, and you’re thinking of entering the competition, head over to the EAFOL blog for our specific tips on writing the synopsis and the first few pages so you can maximise your chances of winning.
And, speaking of the EAFOL, the author line-up for 2019 was announced yesterday. Tickets don’t usually go on sale till around January, but I don’t think it’s ever too early start planning the best two weeks of the year – do you?
When I won the Montegrappa Prize for First Fiction at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature back in 2013, no-one knew how things would turn out: it was the first time a competition of this nature had been run in Dubai and, unlike in similar competitions in the UK, no book contract was offered. What I had won, though (aside from a marvellous trip to the London Book Fair thanks to Emirates Airline and The Inter-Continental Park Lane), was a toe in the door of top agent Luigi Bonomi in London.
Over the next year, Luigi helped and encouraged me to get my first draft of Coming Home ready for him to sell. I had a tense few weeks while we waited to hear the publishers’ verdicts – and quite a few rejections – before I was offered a three-book deal with Harlequin MIRA.
Since then, many new writers have got their start thanks to the Montegrappa / Emirates Airline Festival of Literature competition, and Luigi has seen much success bringing new writers to publication. A nice spin-off from this has meant that we now have a lovely group of authors living here in Dubai. Here are a couple of pictures of various Montegrappa winners and runners-up taken at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2017.