Emirates Literature Foundation champions local and regional writers with new prizes

The foundation has announced the winners of three literary programmes aimed at budding writers in the UAE and Gulf

Recipients of First Chapter, the ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship, were awarded at a ceremony during the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Photo: Emirates Airline Festival of Literature
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The Emirates Literature Foundation, the non-profit behind the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, has announced the winners of three different literary prizes aimed at supporting local and regional talent.

Now in its ninth year, the Emirates LitFest Writing Prize has been shedding light on unpublished novelists living in the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

The selection process for the 2022 award involved three judges, namely Luigi Bonomi and Sheila Crowley, literary agents from the UK, and UAE publisher Kira Jean. Each judge chose an entry from the bank of submissions.

See photos from the 2022 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature's opening day:

This year’s winners are Nicole Asinugo, Angela Hundal and Zahra Alabandi. Asinugo, who currently works at Expo 2020 Dubai, was chosen by Bonomi for her novel This Land is Not For Sale, which centres on a mother and daughter trying to keep their home in Nigeria.

Honey Tiger by Hundal has 11-year-old Mala as its protagonist and follows the fallout of a life-changing event that takes place in Sri Lanka around 2004. The author, who has lived in the UAE for 13 years and has worked as a journalist and editor, was selected by Jean.

Alabandi’s Chasing Grasshoppers, chosen by Crowley, tells the story of a Saudi-American healthcare professional, Zahra, who is navigating the challenges of societal norms and family pressure as a woman living in the Emirates.

Meanwhile, the Emirates Literature Foundation also announced the recipients of First Chapter, the inaugural ELF Seddiqi Writers' Fellowship. The mentorship programme, a partnership with Seddiqi Holding, will include regular workshops, meet-ups and talks with experts from the publishing industry, helping authors to understand the stages of producing a book, from writing to promotion.

The writers will also be paired with published authors who will mentor them throughout the programme.

From 120 applications, both in Arabic and English, 10 were chosen and the fellowships were awarded to Moxie Anderson, Sara Hamdan, Yi-Hwa Hanna, Mustafa Alrawi, Zana Bonafe, Reem Hameed, Kate Tindle, Huda Al Rawajfa, Mona Al Ali and Sara Al Abdullah.

Finally, the winners of the Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition have also been announced. The prize has been specifically crafted for young writers as a way to spark literary pursuits in the UAE’s younger generation. For 2022, the theme of the competition is “Here comes the sun”, focusing on ideas of optimism, hope and overcoming hardship.

This year, more than 3,700 students across the UAE submitted their work in Arabic and English, divided across four age-specific categories, ranging from 11 and under to 18 to 25-year-olds. More than 20 students were selected as winners. The young writers will receive a book with their original stories and plaques.

Now in its 14th year, the festival began on Thursday and is taking place until February 13 at the Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City.

Updated: February 06, 2022, 8:46 AM