Last year I met an Egyptian writer called Mahmoud Mansi at WEYA and he told me about a project he was running called The Forgotten Writers Foundation. As part of the process of raising awareness of exiled writers he has developed a series of writing competitions loosely themed around oppression with the aim of gearing opinion from a global network of writers.
The first competition was for the Women’s Domination Award and I submitted a rehash of an old story called Oral Communication. It tells the tale of an Asian-British couple who decide to spice up the bedroom by introducing a bit of bondage, but the much-maligned wife only wants to tie her husband up so that she can give him a verbal mouthful. It was difficult to write as it deals with sex but it couldn’t have any explicit references due to being targeted at a more culturally sensitive readership. It was one of 25 selected stories.
The prize itself was announced at this time last year but I’ve simply been too busy to blog about it. So a year to the day seems as good a time as any to share the news. The winners were then asked to join a Facebook group to create collaborations but as I’m not on Facebook this went no further. I don’t think there are any plans for a collection to be released but if there is I will amend this blog accordingly.
I mention this as I recently attended the Writers’ Conference put on by Writing East Midlands. One of the key note speakers was Jon McGregor and he talked about writing being an intrinsically solitary process but one that also needs to be part of a community. Jon is the founder of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio which is the only writer-led organisation of its kind in England (London being a separate country). I’m very proud to be the current Chair of the Studio and one of the first things I did was to make Jon our patron in recognition of his creation of a vibrant community of writers.
Jon is a big advocate of reading and believes this is just as important as writing. He discussed how he writes for specific publications (that he reads) because he has an idea in mind of a particular community of readers. In many ways this is what Mahmoud is hoping to achieve. Given the constant upheaval in his home country brought about the Arab Springs and the endless re-elections of government, he, along with other writers in the Middle East, must crave community more than most.
The Forgotten Writers Foundation from Egypt have now teamed up with Democracy Chronicles from New York and have put a call-out for The Seven Dictators Play-Writing Competition. There is a general call-out for submissions with winning pieces published in a book. This would be a good first step for a writer looking to get their first writing credit.