First Chapter: ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship
Take your writing skills 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 of your writing journey today.
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 (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.
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 been accepted into the programme will also be taken on a ‘writing trip’ to a festival or a writing course/retreat.
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 2023 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
All genres of fiction are welcome, including adult, YA, and Middle Grade. Applications for younger children’s fiction, memoir and non-fiction categories are not able to be considered.
Applications open on 15 September, 2022 and close on 5 December, 2022. 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 2023.
Cycle 2 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.
Elnathan John is a lawyer, novelist, voice actor and satirist. His short stories have been shortlisted twice for the Caine Prize for African Writing, in 2013 and 2015. His novel, Born on a Tuesday won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Nigeria Prize for Literature. It has been translated into German and French. His satire collection Be(com)ing Nigerian, A Guide was published by Cassava Republic Press in 2019. His most recent book, On Ajayi Crowther Street, a graphic novel, was also published 2019 and translated into German in 2022 by Avant Verlag under the title Lagos: Leben in Suburbia. Elnathan was on the jury of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize. He lives in Berlin.
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.
Haji Jabir is an Eritrean novelist born in the coastal city of Moussa. He has published five novels and won the Sharjah Prize for Arab Creativity 2012 and the Katara Prize for Arabic Fiction 2019. Jabir’s work has been translated into English, Italian, Farsi and Arabic.
He is currently working on a fiction project that highlights Eritrea and the Horn of Africa region, in human, cultural and historical terms. In addition, he works as a creative writing instructor. His latest novel is Rambo al-Habashi published in 2020.
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.
Shahad Al Rawi
Shahad Al Rawi is an Iraqi novelist with a PhD in anthropology. Her first novel, The Baghdad Clock, has been translated into several languages. It won the Edinburgh Prize for First Fiction and was nominated for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
Her second novel, Over the Jumhuriya Bridge, was recently published and topped the book lists in Baghdad for several weeks; the novel sold three editions in the first month of its publication and continues to be a bestseller.
Al Rawi has participated in many international literary festivals and conferences and has given lectures in many prestigious universities around the world. She is a regular contributor for various American and Arab newspapers.
Tiffany Murray‘s novels are Diamond Star Halo, Happy Accidents, and Sugar Hall. Her memoir, My Family and Other Rock Stars will be published by Fleet (Little, Brown) in 2024. She writes for radio, the series Hulda’s Café on BBC Radio 4, and her non-fiction has appeared in Granta, the Guardian, GQ, the Observer, the Telegraph, OxTravels, and the Sunday Times. Tiffany is a recipient of the Roger Deakin Award for nature writing from the Society of Authors, she has been an International Hay Festival Fiction fellow, an RLF fellow, a Fulbright scholar, and a Senior Lecturer.
Will Eaves is a novelist, poet, and musician. He has been Arts Editor of the Times Literary Supplement and Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Warwick.
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.
The application is now closed.
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.
- 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.
- 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 2023.
Seddiqi Holding was established in 2007 to consolidate the existing businesses belonging to the Seddiqi family into a holding group. The group operates a diverse collection of high-performing companies across various sectors. These include Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the longest standing and largest business unit within the group; Swiss Watch Services; Seddiqi & Sons Investment which includes Seddiqi Properties and Mizzen.
Seddiqi Holding is managed by four generations of the Seddiqi family supported by a multinational workforce of over 900 employees. The company’s development is underlined by an ethical approach, built on the foundations laid by the late Ahmed Qassim Seddiqi, its visionary founder, of commitment to family, community, and integrity.