First Chapter: ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship
It’s time… to take your writing to the next level!
First Chapter is the only global standard writers’ fellowship in the region for aspiring locally-based fiction writers, giving unprecedented access to renowned authors, literary agents and publishers across the world.
- Learn how to craft a novel from best-selling authors and industry experts.
- Develop and nurture your skills with one to one mentorships and workshops.
- Meet editors and agents to give your work a boost to reach an international audience.
This year-long writing programme is free, so apply now and take the first step towards writing stardom now.
About the Fellowship
The First Chapter ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship is a year long programme and accepted writers, or fellows, will take part in:
- Six 60-minute one-to-one mentorship sessions (at a mutually agreed time and date)
- 40 hours of talks and workshops from experts spanning the whole of the industry and encompass all stages of writing, publishing and promoting a book. (These will take place monthly on Saturdays in person, and occasionally online.)
The group sessions may include readings of the work that the group members are working on, with peer feedback.
You will become a part of a mutually supportive writing community that will continue to support and nurture the writers after the programme has been completed.
Workshops topics will be chosen by our resident mentor or the visiting author, and can include, Plot, Structure, Character, Voice, Dialogue etc. There will also be sessions on editing, re-writing, and how to pitch, with agent pitch opportunities.
As the project grows, a mutually supportive writing community for alumni will develop that continues with ongoing support to nurture the writers after the programme has been completed.
As part of the programme, writing fellows will receive a voucher to join one of the short writing classes held by partner writing institutions such as Gotham Writers Workshop and Faber Academy. This will allow successful applicants to tailor the programme towards their particular interests, by taking a class in crime writing, historical fiction, or any other specific writing-related subject.
The writers who have reached the required standard in their writing which allows them to benefit, will be taken on a ‘writing trip’ to a festival or a writing course/retreat (this may require overseas travel, where circumstances allow).
First Chapter is aimed towards serious writers who are on their way to publishing a novel (adult fiction, YA, and Middle Grade), but want to elevate their work to a global standard. However, if you are just beginning your writing journey, and think you have exceptional potential, we would love to hear from you too.
Applications are open to anyone who calls the United Arab Emirates home. However selected writing fellows must be residing in the UAE for the duration of the programme.
There will be 10 successful applicants for the 2024 intake, which will be a mix of Arabic and English writers. However, all applicants will need a high level of understanding of English as many workshops by international experts will be in this language only.
How to Apply
Fill out the online application form below to submit the following:
- A cover letter, in English only, detailing your background, why you’re applying to the Fellowship, and why you should be selected
- A 400-word synopsis of your manuscript, in whichever language you are writing in (Arabic or English).
- 2000 words of the almost-completed manuscript, in Arabic or English. (Please use font type Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman in font size 12. The manuscript must be double-spaced with pages numbered consecutively, and the title must follow this format: ‘Manuscript Title – Your Name’)
All genres of fiction are welcome, including adult and YA. Applications for children’s fiction, memoir and non-fiction categories are not able to be considered.
Applications open on 11 October and close on 4 December, 2023. Any applications submitted after that date will not be accepted.
The names of all the successful applicants will be announced at a special event during the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in February 2024.
Cycle 3 Mentors
Ali Sparkes began her writing career as a journalist before moving on to writing and performing comedy columns. She tried her hand at children’s fiction and not long after, the first novel in her bestselling Shapeshifter series was published.
With more than 40 books now published, Sparkes is renowned for her high comedy, interactive, energetic presentations. Her first stand-alone novel, Frozen In Time, won the prestigious Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2010. The final book in her most recent fantasy adventure series, Night Forever, reaches its heart-stopping conclusion at the top of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
Sparkes lives in Hampshire, England with her husband and sons and a large, lively labradoodle called Willow.
Alwyn Hamilton was born in Toronto and spent her childhood bouncing between Europe and Canada until her parents settled in France. She left France for Cambridge University to study History of Art at King’s College, and then to London where she became indentured to an auction house. She has a bad habit of acquiring more hardcovers than is smart for someone who moves house quite so often.
Alwyn’s New York Times-bestselling debut, the YA fantasy Rebel of the Sands, was published by Viking Children’s Books in the US and Faber Children’s Books in the UK, and in 14 other territories. The trilogy continues in Traitor to the Throne and Hero at the Fall. Alwyn was named the 2016 Goodreads Choice Award winner for Best Debut Author.
Annabel Kantaria won the inaugural Montegrappa Writing Prize at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and went on to secure a three-book deal, followed by a second three-book deal with HQ Stories at Harper Collins UK. She now has five novels published, with the latest, The House of Whispers, written under the pseudonym Anna Kent.
Kantaria is currently the resident writing mentor for the ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship. She also works as an editorial coach, teaches workshops on writing and editing, and speaks at various literary festivals. In 2019, she worked on a ground-breaking project with best-selling author Clare Mackintosh, in which the two authors worked as writers-in-residence inside Dubai Central Prison, coaching inmates to write their own work, which was published as an anthology Tomorrow, I Will Fly.
Kantaria has a BSC Hons in psychology from Warwick University and worked as a non-fiction book editor in London before moving to Dubai in 1998, where she took on the role of editor of the region’s leading woman’s magazine, Emirates Woman. Between 2010 and 2015, she wrote the popular Dubai-based Expat blog for The Telegraph.
With over 2 million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016. Both Clare’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers.
Her first three thrillers were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and together have been translated into forty languages. After the End was published in 2019 and became an instant Sunday Times bestseller, and in 2021 Hostage flew straight into the top ten. Her new crime series, featuring Welsh detective DC Ffion Morgan, has been critically acclaimed, with both The Last Party and A Game of Lies hitting the Sunday Times top ten. Together, her books have spent more than sixty-five weeks in The Sunday Times bestseller lists.
Curtis Sittenfeld is the internationally bestselling author of seven novels, including Prep, American Wife, Eligible and Rodham, and one short story collection, You Think It, I’ll Say It. Her latest novel, Romantic Comedy, was published in 2023. Her books have been selected by the New York Times, Time, EW, and People’s Best Books of the Year lists, picked twice for Reese Witherspoon’s book club, and translated into 30 languages. Her short stories have appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and The Best American Short Stories anthology, of which she was the 2020 guest editor. She lives with her family in the United States, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A theatre director, playwright and actor, Greg Mosse is the founder and director of the Criterion New Writing programme at the Criterion Theatre in London, running workshops in script development to a diverse community of writers, actors and directors. Since 2015, Mosse has written, produced and staged 25 plays and musicals.
Mosse set up both the Southbank Centre Creative Writing School – an open access program of evening classes delivering MA level workshops – and the University of Sussex MA in Creative Writing at West Dean College which he taught for four years.
The husband of the bestselling novelist Kate Mosse, her hit novel Labyrinth was inspired by a house that Greg and his mother bought together in the French medieval city of Carcassonne, where the couple and their children spent many happy summers. Following the success of Labyrinth, Mosse created the innovative readers-and-writers website MosseLabyrinth. The first of its kind, MosseLabrynth was the world’s first online accessible 3D world, and the inspiration for Pottermore – the popular Harry Potter website.
A multilinguist, Mosse has lived and worked in Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Madrid and has worked as both an interpreter at a variety of international institutions and a teacher in the UK.
Mosse and his family live in Chichester, where his in-laws founded the Chichester Festival Theatre. They have two grown up children.
Written during the 2020 lockdown, The Coming Darkness is Mosse’s debut novel.
She has 5 published novels Like A House Like Beirut, Wild Berries, Other Lives, 50 Grams of Paradise, Songs for the Darkness published by Al Saqi. Her novel 50 Grams of Paradise won the Katara award and was shortlisted for the Arabic World Novel Institute in 2017.
Her novels were translated to multiple international languages.
She taught creative writing at the University of Iowa in the United States of America from 2007 to 2014, and at the University of Paris 8 between 2015 and 2022. She contributed to lectures on Arabic literature at several European universities, including the University of Basel in Switzerland, The Hague University in the Netherlands, Saint Paul University in Chicago, and McGill University in Canada.
She is currently teaching (remotely and via Zoom technology) creative writing within the International Creative Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
A researcher in social affairs of post-war societies. Her academic research on the families of missing persons in Lebanon in 2006 received a “very excellent” distinction from the American University of Beirut. A founding member of the Lebanese PEN Club “PAN” Beirut, she headed the club for 6 years between 2016 and 2022, during which she launched the Literature for All initiative through literary programs in secondary schools in which she invited writers to visit high schools and universities to present their works. She is currently a member of the club’s administrative body. She is an active member of the Women’s Writers Committee at the International PEN Club, London.
In 2021, the writer was selected to be a member of the 2022 jury for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (Arabic Booker). In 2023, she was chosen to be a member of the jury for the Mai Ghassoub Prize for Novel, which is organized and sponsored by Dar Al-Saqi Beirut.
The writer resides between Paris and Beirut.
Jalal Bargas is a Jordanian poet and novelist who studied aeronautical engineering and worked in aviation industry for many years before shifting to the Jordanian press as an editor in the Al-Anbat newspaper, then as a reporter for the Al-Dustour newspaper, and as a member of the editorial boards of several magazines. He then returned to his first profession. In the late 1990s, he began publishing his literary work in Jordanian and Arab periodicals and cultural papers.
His novel The Snakes of Fire: The Love Story of Ali Bin Mahmoud Al Qassad won the Katara Prize for Arabic Fiction 2015. His novel Women of the Five Senses was longlisted for the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction and his novel The Notebooks of the Bookseller won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2021.
Is the author of the YA rom-com Symptoms of a Heartbreak, and co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things duology (now a Netflix original TV series) and The Rumor Game. Her 2022 YA contemporary, How Maya Got Fierce, draws on her years as an entertainment journalist at People, TeenPeople (RIP), and, most recently, as senior editor at Parents.com. She has profiled your favorite celebrities for publications from the NY Times to Cosmopolitan and was editor of the Barnes & Noble teen blog, where she interviewed some beloved authors, too. Sona earned her Masters in screenwriting from NYU and an MFA in creative writing from the New School. She is a former We Need Diverse Books board member and co-founded CAKE Literary, a boutique book packager focused on high concept diverse titles. She lives in the New York City area with her author husband and two chatterbox kids. If Sona’s writing makes you crave Indian food, you can find her on the web sharing recipes and talking about chai, Bollywood movies, and books.
Yrsa Sigurdardóttir is an award-winning, No. 1 best-selling Icelandic crime fiction author. Sigurdardóttir made her crime fiction debut in 2005 with Last Rituals, the first installment in the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series. She has since gone on to write a number of acclaimed stand-alone thriller novels, and is to date translated into more than 30 languages. With The Legacy, the first novel in the award-winning series about child psychologist Freyja and police detective Huldar, Yrsa Sigurdardóttir has consolidated her position as one of the finest crime writers of our time, and a master storyteller at the top of her game.
Terms and Conditions
- The Writing Fellowship will not be transferable to another person.
- The Writing Fellowship is not open to employees (or members of their immediate families) of the Emirates Literature Foundation.
- All entries must be entirely the author’s own creation and should not be generated or significantly influenced by artificial intelligence or other automated means. Any violation of this declaration may result in disqualification from the competition and potential consequences as determined by the Emirates Literature Foundation.
- Applicants must currently reside in the UAE and remain resident in the UAE for the duration of the programme. Regretfully if you do not remain resident, you will not be able to continue in the programme.
- Fellows will be selected on merit as judged by a panel of mentors, and mentors will choose whom they wish to work with.
- The panel’s decision is final and mentors cannot engage with applicants or respond to any correspondence.
- Mentors will not engage in any correspondence with the writing fellows, apart from that specified in the programme.
- Mentors and mentees will meet six times for one hour, on a mutually agreed date and time.
- Please note that reading of manuscripts by the mentor may be included in this time period.
- We expect Fellows to take the opportunity of meeting with their mentors seriously. This means making the most of their opportunity by preparing for the meeting in advance and sending work for review and any notes for discussion to their mentor two weeks prior to the meeting.
- Acceptance on the programme requires a time commitment. If a successful applicant misses two workshops or does not engage with the mentor sessions, they may lose their place on the programme, and the Emirates Literature Foundation reserves the right to substitute another applicant in this instance.
- There will be opportunities to pitch to editors and literary agents at the end of the process but publication or representation cannot be guaranteed. Successful completion of the course will be certified.
- Applicants must be 18 years or older at the time of application.
- All entries must be fiction and in Arabic or English.
- By applying for the ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship, all accepted applicants agree to participate in any promotional activity and material as the Emirates Literature Foundation and Seddiqi Holding might require.
- Selected writing fellows agree to the use of their name, nationality, and photograph in relation to related publicity material and activities.
- Selected writing fellows will be announced during the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2024.
Seddiqi Holding is recognised today as a pioneer among leading retailers in the region, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons represents more than 60 luxury timepieces and jewellery brands across 51 destinations in the UAE. What started as one man’s passion over 60 years ago is today an empire that brings luxury and honesty to the hearts of watch collectors all over the world.
By partnering with the Emirates Literature Foundation over a period of five years, Seddiqi will contribute to the advancement of Arab authors and literature, giving back to society and growing the creative writing community in the UAE and the wider region, making vital support for the literary community a part of its timeless legacy.
Curating time since 1950; curating the path to the publication from 2021.