By Hadeel Hegazy
Egypt has inspired many artists throughout history. Its wealth of monuments, villages and neighbourhoods with longstanding traditions often served as a backdrop for storytellers. A new writing competition, the Makan Writing Award, invites new and established authors to send in short stories inspired by different iconic Egyptian locations. For this first edition of the competition, the Baron Palace in Cairo, the Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria and Cairo’s El-Hussein neighbourhood are chosen to function as the settings for the short stories.
The Makan Writing Award is a collaboration between The Forgotten Writers Foundation, the Kayan Publishing House and Diwan Bookstore. Rather than choosing different subject matters for the writers, the organisers focused on specific locations to encourage the writers to look beyond the obvious and tell the tales that these sites evoke.
Writers can enter in all three categories but can only submit one story per category, while Arabic and English submissions are both accepted.
The competition asks that writers send in fictional stories set in these places in the past, present or future and not write about the historical background of the venues. The competition aims to depict these places through different literary eyes and the author who is able to listen to the unspoken stories of these places and put them into words, will win.
The idea for the competition came from Mahmoud Mansi and The Forgotten Writers Foundation, and together with both the Kayan Publishing House and Diwan Bookstores they decided to launch the competition.
“The competition’s main aim is to give underground writers the opportunity to be read,” said Mohammad Gameel, the general manger of the Kayan Publishing House and one of the judges. This is the first time Kayan participates in a competition for writers and they welcome the idea of replicating the experience. When asked why they chose the three locations in particular, he said: “we wanted to focus on different places that characterise Egypt.”
Writers can start sending in their stories now, but “we haven’t set the deadline yet, due to the circumstances in the country, but it will be most likely in October,” Gameel said.
The competition is open for all nationalities and all ages. Three winners will be chosen per location and all the winning stories will be published in a book by the Kayan Publishing House. Besides the honour and a certificate, each winner will be granted a copy of the book.
The first judging panel is made up of a group of writers and publishers who are all experienced in the literary world. Samar Ali is a writer and dentist who published a collection of English poems and Arabic short stories, and coached a creative writing workshop in Ain Shams University. Mohammed Gameel is a co-founder and current general manager of the Kayan Publishing House, and a published writer. Ameera Fouad is a freelance writer and a journalist, and is engaged in many social activities especially with children. Her first poetry collection was published in 2013. Mahmoud Mansi, an Alexandrian writer and the author of A Journey from Darkness to Light, is also a creative writing instructor for both professional and amateur writers.