by 2017 Festival volunteer Rythma Ekanayake

There’s nothing better than a good book and a cup of coffee and possibly writing a book yourself. Or so I thought until I attended the 9th Emirates Literature Festival and was among hundreds of people who enjoyed the same thing I did. Literature. What drew me in at first was ‘Authors! Lots of books!’, but what I left with was immeasurable in its value.

I’ve always loved a good fantasy book along with sci-fi and contemporary fiction. But I volunteered at the Festival and discovered authors and genres I couldn’t imagine I haven’t read before. Their stories drew me in so quickly, so effortlessly, that I spent all my twelve hours volunteering a bit wide-eyed and amazed.

Patrick Gale in conversation

A session that will stay with me for a long time was with author Patrick Gale who has written numerous novels that I later discovered are the epitome of emotionally gripping. During the session, I remember him saying ‘The whole thrill of writing is the loss of self. I really enjoy that sense of leaving myself behind’. As a budding writer, I scraped up inspiration from these authors like oxygen and I realized that night that he was the kind of writer I wanted to be.

Every author brought in a layer of excitement to the festival. I got to meet Frances Hardinge who I’ve loved since the age of fourteen. She lovingly offered to draw a goose on my book. And Lucy Hawking, who reawakened my love of one day becoming an astronaut.

The two-day Dubai International Publishing Conference also gave me invaluable information about the world of publishing and I now have more clarity on what I need to do if I want to get published someday.

Dubai International Publishing Conference 2017

My favorite part of the festival was working with the Social Media team to give our online audience live coverage of the festival. I was learning, and I was sharing. My most enduring memory will be all the people. The staff, the authors, the guests, and the friends I have made. We were one dedicated unit, working together to spread our love of literature. I think it’s safe to say I’ll be a permanent attendee of the festival for many years to come.