Your Middle East picks the brain of Mahmoud Mansi, founder of the Forgotten Writers Foundation, which, inspired by the Egyptian revolution, is aiming to encourage writers to present different perspectives of controversial topics.
Can you tell us about the Forgotten Writers Foundation?
The Forgotten Writers Foundation is a non-profitable initiative started by me, Mahmoud Mansi, in 2011, inspired by the spirit of collectivism after the January 25 Egyptian revolution. Art in general and writing in particular is an individualistic action, and the author likes to see his or her name on the cover in the end of the long writing journey but I thought, why not apply the concept of collectivism, as many authors can write about the same topic from different views? Different views create the perfect material for anyone; whether an academic researcher or just someone curious.
“Different views create the perfect material for anyone”
The idea sounded interesting, but I am a man with a business background and I thought what would make for example a Canadian writer participate in an anonymous competition from a start-up initiative called “The Forgotten Writers” from a third-world country? What would be my “competitive advantage”?
Many competitions ask for submission fees, but I decided to put money aside, it will not be a part of the equation. Thus I decided I will not gather funding and will not offer monetary prizes to winners, because I do not want to attract “mercenary writings.” I decided that my competitive advantage would be the “theme” of the competition. I will have participants because writers are actually interested to write about this topic, and want to have their names and stories published under the title of this theme.
For instance, the theme of the first competition I ever launched was “Resurrection of Ancient Egypt” in December 2011, and it was launched on my personal blog. The idea was to ask writers to be inspired by the era of Ancient Egypt and write any possible fictional story where history can be merely a background.
What kind of initiatives do you do?
Our number-one focus is releasing writing competitions that are a challenge to the writer, and that will represent new and interesting reading material. We also try to provide rich content for academic researchers.
Why is this important to you? What are you hoping to accomplish?
As a writer I have hundreds of ideas on my mind, but I have a limited time to write them all. Instead, I launch them as competitions and have the pleasure to read them all and the world always surprises me. There are many cliché books in the market, what I am trying to do is assist in the production of unique books with independent themes, an addition to the realm of literature.
For me 2012 was the year of “pregnancy.” On the International Women’s Day I launched the “Women’s Domination” short story competition on my blog, which lasted for one year. Luckily, many movements regarding feminism started to bloom in different countries, for instance “the uprising of women”, thus the media in this competition was very supportive and various collections of articles worldwide were published upon this project. The book is currently under publication. Then came 2013, which was the year of birth, and 2014 is the first year of growing.
5 international competitions have been launched:
Motherhood Story Competition
(Deadline 1 September 2014 – English Submissions, Translations Accepted) CLOSED
Partners: Being Feminist Blog from India, 90 submissions from 27 different countries.
The Messengers’ Writing Competition
(Deadline: 25 October 2014 – English Submissions)
Idea: To inspire writers to write about other figures from the Holy Books instead of the common figures: Muhammad, Jesus, Mary and Moses and support unity between religions.
Unsold Stories Writing Competition
(Deadlines: 1 December 2014 – English Submissions)
Partners: Rowayat Literary Journal.
Idea: To write about the struggle of underground artists who seek to prove new streams of art in a capitalistic world.
The 7 Dictators Play/Drama-writing Competition
(Deadline 1 January 2015 – English Submissions, Translations Accepted)
Partners: Democracy Chronicles Online Newspaper (New York).
Idea: To inspire writers to write about contemporary dictators in a fictional and creative way through a drama/play. Imagine 7 contemporary dictators from different parts of the world gathered in one scenario! For example cooking, demonstrating against their people! Watching a game, being gladiators in one arena… etc. To change the perception that all dictators are only in the field of politics and that all dictators are evil.
The Umm Kulthum Story Competition
(Deadline 1 January 2015 – Arabic Submissions):
Partners: Alef Bookstores and Kayan Publishing House.
Idea: To globalize the usage of Arabic Language. To prove that musicians and singers do have a deep effect in literature.
Want to know more? Visit The Forgotten Writers Foundation.