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.
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.
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.