Runners-up in The National’s Short Story Competition share their inspiration

The runners-up of The National's Short Story Competition tell us about their stories

The runners-up of the The National’s Short Story Competition explore topics ranging from war and family dynamics to arranged marriages and generation gap. Here’s a look at the who, what and why that make up that list.

Mays Albaik, 22


Architecture student at American University of Sharjah

About the story: For her story, Albaik draws from her background and the current struggles in Syria. A telephone conversation between brothers, one enlisted in the army in Syria and the other working in Abu Dhabi, begins with small talk and moves on to incidents they shared as teenagers, including the death of their father and issues of responsibility and leaving home.

From the author: “Growing up here I feel distant to what is happening in Syria, but I know it is affecting my extended family,” says Albaik. “I wanted to write about how war affects relationships.”

Jody Ballard, 58


Therapist and relationship coach in Abu Dhabi

About the story: Ballard explores the generation gap through the relationship between a grandfather and his children. On a family outing, the grandfather’s advice is politely ignored and his heart-warming tales of life in the desert and a time without technology registered as amusing stories.

From the author: “This piece was motivated by me wanting to learn more about the UAE,” says Ballard. “About the culture, Islam and how quickly the UAE has changed in the past 40 years. I’ve used a granddad and child metaphor to explore the turning point for the Emirates – life then and now.”

Shahd Thani, 28


Marketing executive in Dubai

About the story: Thani writes about an occurrence closer to home: how an arranged marriage can be a daunting affair for the bride and groom, equally. A bride expresses her trepidations and reminisces about her past relationship on the day she is tying the knot with a man she has never met before, only to realise that he shares her anxiety.

From the author: “Arranged marriages can be very frightening for a young lady. Imagine spending the rest of your life with a stranger. The turning point is when she notices that the groom is as scared as she is.”

Mark Shadwell, 47

South African

Advertising creative director in Dubai

About the story: In his story, Shadwell looks at the responsibilities of a single parent: looking after a daughter, attending to her needs, taking her to ballet, while at the same time battling an ant infestation at his residence.

From the author: “I do have a lot of ants in my house, so that got me thinking,” says Shadwell. “It became an interesting metaphor for fighting decay and constant erosion of life that happens. When my wife was away a while ago, I had to take my daughter to ballet lessons, which was quite a traumatic affair. So the turning point can be a small event that makes you understand that you have to do something for the sake of your children.”

Published: May 3, 2014 04:00 AM


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