On the occasion of International Youth Day, which is celebrated on 12th August every year, Sharjah World Book Capital Office (SWBC Office) hosted a panel discussion featuring an interactive session with young Emirati author Salha Obaid. During the session, held in collaboration with NOT Space and Youth Councils, Salha Obaid shared her experiences in creative writing with a young audience.
Salha Obaid narrated her experience of becoming an author and talked about the need to develop a relationship with the characters one writes about. She highlighted the unique Emirati traditions and the country’s social diversity that has played an important role in her works. Obaid is famous for her books namely Postman of Happiness, An Implicitly White Lock of Hair, and Maybe It’s a Joke. The Emirati author underscored the role of newspapers in developing language skills, and in nurturing the passion for writing at an early age.
She said: “As a child, I used to read the newspaper daily. Stories attracted me, so I started to rewrite the news in order to improve my language skills and vocabulary. Soon I discovered that my narrative skills were improving dramatically.” Salha Obaid further explained that although society is a key driver of creativity, a writer should always make some efforts to nurture and develop his creativity on his own. Pointing out at the connection between an author and his characters, she noted that the Arab and international literature has been a unique source of knowledge for her.
She shared how Spanish painter Salvador Dali inspired her and how she visited his city to explore his creative world closely. Naguib Mahfouz, Victor Hugo, and Fyodor Dostoevsky also influenced her imagination and literary career, she noted. The author called on Emirati youth to read various literary works to stimulate their imagination, with a focus on research. She underpinned the importance of learning from others’ experiences, setting goals, and working on achieving them with confidence and determination.
Marwa Al Aqroubi, Project Manager of SWBC, stated that International Youth Day is an opportunity to showcase Sharjah's vision to invest in youth by encouraging them to channel their creativity and innovation and to support them in turning their ideas into reality.
Marwa Al Aqroubi added: "As young leaders who can shoulder responsibilities and excel at work, UAE’s young generation has today become a role model for their peers in the Arab region and the world. This achievement reflects the UAE’s vision to nurture the youth’s creativity and provide them with all sources of knowledge because they are the real wealth of our country. The International Youth Day is an ideal platform to highlight the role of youth and explore ways to help them become more involved in making positive contributions to their communities.”
Najla Al Ansari, CEO of NOT a Space Cafe, commented: “The International Youth Day is a great occasion to reiterate the importance of nurturing youths’ talents and catering to their needs, in addition to activating creative and cultural programmes that invest in their talents. It is our duty to provide an enabling environment and support for them to achieve their goals and dreams because they are the cornerstone and leaders of the future.” The session culminated with Salha Obaid distributing signed copies of her latest novel Maybe It’s a Joke.
The committee at UNESCO named Sharjah the World Book Capital 2019 in appreciation of its vital role in supporting books and promoting reading. The year-long celebration programme was inaugurated on 23 April 2019. Since 2001, the World Book Capital’s international committee, which comprises representatives from the International Publishers Association (IPA) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), receives and evaluates entries submitted by cities to select the World Book Capital City for a one-year period.