Doha, Qatar: Due to popular demand, Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press held, on 22 March 2018, a literary workshop titled Hakaya Maraya, which was open to the public as opposed to those held exclusively for educators and librarians from cooperating schools. During the workshop, experts in the field of children storytelling advised attendees on the best practices to follow when constructing tales for children.
Over 25 participants from various backgrounds who all share a love for children’s literature attended the workshop which was organized as a part of HBKU Press’s community outreach campaign to help promote local literature, literacy, discovery, scholarship and learning.
“We aim to engage the public and promote a love of literacy through the consistent outreach events that HBKU Press offers to the community,” explained Muneera Al-Romaihi, HBKU Press’s Community Outreach Officer. “These workshops are very popular and the waiting lists to attend are significant. As experts in the field of publishing, HBKU Press gives aspiring local Qatari and Arab authors insight into exactly what makes for a successful piece of literature. Ultimately, we are helping to contribute to the knowledge economy by supporting local authors in honing their talents and helping to produce more works of literature that are published in Qatar, and well-received around the world.”
Basma Al-Khatib, a children’s author and the Children and Young Adult Editor at HBKU Press, led the workshop held at the Student Center in Education City. The workshop aims to help participants understand that the best stories for kids are inspired by real-life experiences that they face or that they may face. When stories mirror life, children are apt to relate to them and also identify with them and enjoy them as well. Additionally, writers can also ensure that they are teaching children important life lessons.
“The aim of the workshop can be explained in the title,” explained Al-Khatib. “‘Hakaya Maraya’” is that concept that stories can be mirrors in which readers see themselves within the content and enjoy the book; but also, that stories are mirrors which reflect back to the readers’ important messages.
“As authors, it is important to understand how to do this in a way that engages children: using language for their age levels, choosing images that appeal to them, etc. The worst thing a writer can do is have a great message but fail to convey it because they don’t understand their audience. These are all things that I address in the workshop.”
Dr. Amira Ahmed Hamzi saw the advertisement for the workshop on HBKU Press’s social media pages and signed up immediately for the chance to learn more about writing for children from a professional editor.
“I love writing generally,” she said. “But I am especially interested in writing for children. I know that there are some specific qualities for children writing that are different than writing in general so I thought it was a good idea to come to this workshop to get professional advice from someone in the publishing industry.
“I really like that HBKU Press has opened [these workshops] to the public,” she continued, “because it is not every day that people other than educators have access to professional writers and people in the industry of children’s books available to learn from.”
Ahmed Al-Saygh, an Entrepreneurship Advisor at Bedaya Center, enjoys storytelling and hopes to one day publish his original works as a children’s book.
“This workshop is really helping me understand the elements of a good story and how to organize and give meaning to a story,” said Al-Saygh. “I often tell stories to my nieces and though they love hearing them, they are often without purpose; they are just for fun. So it is great to learn from an expert how to refine my stories into a meaningful and publishable work.”
Al-Saygh goes on to explain the importance of such outreach programs by HBKU Press in light of the blockade as well.
“In every sector, Qatar is learning how to be self-sufficient. So even in publishing and in writing, it is important for local authors to have support and have services like those provided by HBKU Press to help them reach their full potential.”
HBKU Press plans to host several more literary workshops for various audiences in the future.