Director of DIWC Ranya Doleh: ‘In our heart, we want people to fall in love with words’

From organising book clubs, workshops, masterclasses, book launches and even visits with international writers, the Dubai International Writers' Centre is still going strong after its launch in 2015. We catch up with the centre's new director Ranya Doleh.

Dubai International Writers’ Centre’s director Ranya Doleh. Courtesy DIWC
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It’s been six months since Ranya Doleh took over as director of Dubai International Writers’ Centre, which was established in November 2014 to support ­aspiring writers, organise inspirational literary events and celebrate the written word in all its forms.

Located in two traditional courtyard homes in Dubai’s historical Al Shindagha ­neighbourhood, the centre was created by the Emirates ­Literature Foundation and hosts a year-round programme of literary events, seven days a week.

Leading the centre is a “dream job” for Doleh. The Emirati – who has a master’s degree in Shakespearean literature – is relishing the challenge of taking the home-grown organisation and building the audience for it. “You have this very ­successful literature festival that takes place once a year, but what happens for the rest of the year?” asks Doleh.

“To keep that momentum going, this centre is a hub, a real centre for the community that is supportive of literature and literacy everywhere – which couldn’t be a greater passion for me.”

The centre offers a haven of support for local writers, who have access to its wide network of support.

“Let’s say someone has completed a draft of a novel or short story,” explains Doleh.

“We have access to someone who can edit it, someone who can review it, someone who can advise on how to take it a step further through a mentorship programme. “This is the place to ask, ‘What has to be done next?’ We don’t publish and distribute but we know what are the steps you are required to take and who to reach out to – we are a great resource of information and guidance.”

From organising book clubs, workshops, masterclasses, book launches, school support and events with visiting ­international writers to simply offering a place to read and write, the centre is all about words.

“Not just the written word,” says Doleh.

“Whether it’s ­performing or screenplays or poetry or acting, whether you are a writer or a lyricist or a teacher or a parent eager to form a habit of reading in your children and want to learn just how to do that – we deal with all of that. Where do you pick up the pen and how do you start? We’re here to help answer that.”

The centre’s focus, says Doleh, is simple: “In our heart, we want people to fall in love with words.

“You need words for every-thing. Even if you’ve done an ­abstract painting, at the very least it has a title.

“We are the one medium that actually transcends everything, because you pretty much have to attach a word to everything. You might as well love the words you choose.”

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