One of the perks of living in this bustling city of Dubai, is that something is always happening. Especially when winter rolls around, or rather our version of winter rolls around. And the options increases as winter is preparing to say farewell, like February and March. One of these events is the Emirates Lit Fest. Held at the Intercontinental Festival city, it’s a 7 day event with authors’ talks, symposiums, panel discussions, kid’s events and book signings. Most people show up on weekends which is exactly what I did. Blame it on my brain as it is these days, I had excitedly bought tickets to see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of Americanah a few months in advance. I had counted the days leading up to it and then woken up on a Saturday to realise her talk had taken place on Friday. What a disappointment! And I later discovered it was a sold out, wildly popular event with people standing at the back in the auditorium. I’m sure she was fantastic.
But on Saturday, when I did surface, I managed to make it to a talk with David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, and Lauren Oliver, author of Panic. It was a fantastic 1 hour filled with entertaining anecdotes, playful banter and interesting insights. The talk was titled ‘Writing Other Worlds‘ which is what made it really interesting for me. Both writers are known for writing dystopian fiction, a genre that is quite fascinating for me. The way they weave worlds, create rules and regulations for it, set the ambiance is just amazing.
Some of the interesting bits to be were when the writers gave tips or rather their own methods for writing. Lauren Oliver spoke about the hurt one feels when you need to write and you can’t, whereas Mitchell talked about how privileged writers are, to be able to practice their passion day in and day out. One point that resonated with me was when Mitchell said, and I am just giving you a gist of it, that the compost we collect which later manifests into ideas for our writing, is collected during our 20s and 30s. He mentioned that where we live affects our stories and our ideas greatly and in these two decades you are most influenced and inspired by your surroundings. This point hit me a lot because at the risk of sounding flippant or cavalier, I do get very affected by my surroundings. And that is one recurring problem I have with Dubai. I sometimes feel so stifled by it and the rush to get things done and on the move that I feel the ‘slow down and take in the air’ part of me is just getting left behind. Is that a consequence of my surroundings or maybe I’m just lazy? The fact remains that I feel artistically stunted here sometimes. Like I have words within me, but I don’t know how to put them together or how to tell the story I’m trying to tell. I do have moments of lucidity where I feel I can write for hours, but mostly I’m distracted.
The Literature fest does shake you out of this complacency though. It makes you feel the urge to write, to finally get going on this mission you set out for yourself so many times. You meet these inspirational people and you’re like, come on, they managed, why can’t you?
It’s over for this year, but I do suggest giving it a go next year.
Some not-so-fantastic iPhone pictures I took of the event to get your appetite going for next year:)