Ras Al Khaimah resident Safia Moore named winner of The National’s 2014 Short Story Competition

Meet the winner of The National's Short Story Competition: the Ras Al Khaimah resident and fiction writer Safia Moore.
Safia Moore submitted her story on the last day that entries were being accepted for The National's Short Story Competition. Lee Hoagland / The National / 2014
Safia Moore submitted her story on the last day that entries were being accepted for The National's Short Story Competition. Lee Hoagland / The National / 2014

This year’s winning entry for The National’s Short Story Competition, held in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and Kitab, is by the Ras Al Khaimah-based resident and fiction writer Safia Moore.

The mum of a 5-year-old daughter, Moore was among the 77 writers (up from 62 last year) who submitted a story on this year’s theme: Turning Point. The contestants had two weeks to come up with original and unpublished content, but Moore says she sent her entry in at the last minute.

“I submitted it on the final day,” says the elated writer, who first entered the competition in 2012. “When I saw the topic, I thought: ‘A lot of people are going to think about a turning point in their life where something changed. I thought there are going to be a lot of stories like that and it didn’t excite me and wouldn’t excite the reader either.”

Moore’s story is set in 2050 at a time when robots serve their human masters. The sci-fi story is quite telling about society’s general interaction with hired help. The robot, a soon-to-be discontinued model, narrates its observations of human nature and develops a yearning to be free to seek family and love.

“The robot character was a result of reading all these new things about Expo 2020 and a lot of students working on robotics,” says the Irish woman, who converted to Islam before moving to the UAE in 2007. “I took on the theme as somebody having to ‘turn’ when they have reached a point. And although it is about a robot, it is really about humans and the servitude. Those themes worked their way in.”

The competition’s judge, Alexandra Büchler, the director of Literature Across Frontiers, says the mature style and original handling of the genre and subject won her over: “Safia Moore has written a story which has all the hallmarks of the best examples of the genre of short fiction; carefully constructed and compact, it captures a decisive moment, engages the reader and makes him empathise and identify with the narrator until the moving denouement.”

Moore, who has a doctorate in literature, has just completed her first novel Dreams of Yasmeen, which is based in the UAE. Many of her short stories have been published by Ether Books in the United Kingdom and she was also longlisted for the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize in 2012.

“I haven’t written many short stories in the past year because I was working on my novel,” she says, adding that her winning story was a digression from her original style, which is fiction based on everyday incidents. “I was looking forward to this competition to get my teeth into short stories again. It is so stimulating, especially with the word limit.”

• Safia Moore’s story will be published in Monday’s Arts&Life section. All the winners will be awarded on Monday at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair at Adnec during a panel discussion in the afternoon

aahmed@thenational.ae

Published: May 3, 2014 04:00 AM

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