Sharjah: The Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) continue to see a brisk turnout on Day 11.
A Thriller Fest for one at the 41st International Fair at Expo Centre in Sharjah saw a panel of science fiction writers including American dystopian novelist Marie Lu, best known for her Warcross and Young Elites series, and Syrian expat writer and novelist Islam Abu Shakir.
Lu said: “We use science fiction as a way of interpreting and reinterpreting what is happening in our reality. I find it comforting even, as we can find solutions to what’s happening in our world, allowing fictional characters to solve these huge problems we face today.”
Shakir agreed that science fiction has an increasing relevance in today’s rapidly transforming world. “In the past, the kind of instant communication technologies that we enjoy today was part of a science fiction. So was the idea of travelling between planets, but today they are becoming a reality,” he said.
Lu said: “It is heartening to see that many elements of science fiction in the past are now part of our reality. They say fantasies are stories that cannot happen, but science fiction is stories that just haven’t happened yet. Science fiction can be a tool through which we can find solutions to real-life problems. We can also do it in a way that empowers people to think they can make a difference.”
Workshop on signature scent
A workshop was held to ‘Create Your Signature Scent’ at the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) is leading visitors into the exclusive world of perfumes where Batool Sajwani, founder of Dubai-based Eternity Lifestyle Coaching, introduces participants to the art of creating personalised fragrances. “Like music, perfumes have notes. You cannot just mix anything and everything together. You have to observe carefully what smell goes with which fragrance,” said Batool Sajwani to the participants at the one-hour workshop.
Open for children 13 and older, as well as adults eager to learn the art of making perfumes, the workshop proved to be an eye opener for attendees in more ways than one.
Sajwani said: “Most perfumes are either alcohol based or oil based. Oil based perfumes are extremely expensive. Ninety per cent of perfumes on the market are alcohol based while the cheapest ones use methanol alcohol. This is flammable, bad for skin and may cause problems. So we want to educate them to read labels and know what ingredients are used in perfumes they buy.”
Acclaimed Arab critic and academician Dr. Mona Al-Sharafi Tayim shed light on the preferences and changing tastes of new age readers in a discussion at the SIBF.
New Century Reader
At a session titled ‘New Century Reader’, the novelist and writer said young readers are looking for subjects that help improve their lives. “The emotional value of books are personified for the 21st century readers, who look at books as treasure houses of knowledge that can improve themselves. Simplified philosophies are in huge demand,” said the Arab critic.
She said, today, new readers are more attached to digital versions, who believe that although readers may shift entirely to on-screen in just a couple of years, the culture of reading is here to stay.
The author also shared her concerns on the limited availability of reading content in Arabic, especially for those aged between 11 and 15. “We do have a lot of translated content, but I would like to see more original content that reflects our culture to cater to that age. It is the age where the young absorb everything around them and it is vital we build our strong values and culture within their minds,” she concluded.
Meanwhile, international writers of the thriller genre shared their experiences of creating enduring characters and gripping plots. The session on this, moderated by Dr. Lamya Tawfik saw three writers from Italy and Egypt share insights on their styles of writing suspense and crime thrillers.
Alessia Gazzola, Italian author of medical thrillers, said she has clear ideas about the character before she gets an idea of her story. “I think the characters in my plots have strong personalities and they lay down the rules to create the story. I also tend to choose the longevity of my characters when I write a series or a standalone book.”
Noted Italian journalist and crime writer, Paolo Roversi, who specialises in writing urban noir said: “Rooting your story in a strong concept is the key to writing a good thriller.
Roversi, who has published more than 20 books and has collaborated on screenplays as well as scripts for television and podcasts, added: “An intricate and complex plot is essential to write a thriller series. Start with an idea and create a credible protagonist in an authentic setting, and let the readers react. If things go well, we can stretch and pace the action in the right manner.”
Egyptian journalist and writer Mostafa Obaid said that in his personal experience, the writing can originate in either of the two ways. “At times, the plot strikes first, while at other times, the character portrayal leads the writing path. The most important thing is to write in a way that characters are firmly etched in the readers’ minds and they get attached to the protagonist. Readers always want something different from what they are used to,” he said.
The Egyptian writer added that the rational structure of crime writing is fascinating. “Writing in a suspenseful manner with an intriguing storyline is not that hard for talented writers. But having to be rational to grip the reader’s mind is where thrillers make all the difference,” said Obaid.
A live cooking demo session at Cookery Corner saw celebrity Italian chef Damiano Carrara prepare some gluten-free versions of an irresistible pastry called mirtillina, which means ‘small blueberries’.
“This is a very difficult recipe. It has many layers, but I always say, if you go out to eat and order a dessert you could just cook yourself, what is the point?”
Carrara gave useful advice to the audience about keeping their ratio of gluten-free dishes made with wheat alternatives at 70:30 respectively.