Site offers an open forum for creative writing and criticism
Many people dabble in creative writing, but few in the region have the chance to be criticized in a professional manner or take part in a writing workshop. However, thanks to the Internet, a solution is now available.
The Cultural Workshop is a radio show supported with online through a Web site that aims to discover talent and discuss writing. The idea for this program has always been there in my mind. The idea of listening and reading without prejudice, Sahar El-Mougy, the host of the show and a professor of literature at Cairo University, tells The Daily Star Egypt.
The show started 18 months ago and now has 277 registered members who all have the right to publish their work on the Web site as well as criticize the works of others. My aim is to help some talented writers publish their work, El-Mougy says.
In the early 90s, Sharkeyat publishing house published a book [written by] eight amateur writers. It was a success. I wish we could do the same with the young talented writers who have contributed to the show, she adds.
The Cultural Workshop is on its way to publishing its first book, which is expected to introduce a different style of writing than that currently available in the Egyptian literary field.
The show discusses both Arabic and English writing and yet many differences can be seen between both sections. The Arabic section is a little better than the English one and the ideas are fresher, not to mention the good experimental techniques used, El-Mougy says.
The development of the Web site and the show has been remarkable. El-Mougy comments, many writers started poorly but soon improved and have written some really good texts. Writing for some people on the Web site was a method of inner development and self discovery. They were able to find their way to maturity and that is clear in their writings. But other writers have not developed yet. Eighteen months is not enough to judge them, all I can say is that I have difficulties in believing in writers who do not develop, El-Mougy said. The soul is an endless space. Writers should not stay in the same place; they should discover the other parts of their soul. When the soul develops, a different writing shows up. I can t force myself to speed up this process but I can feed my soul by thinking and meditation to make it happen, she explained.
Most of the writers on the Web site are between 15 and 25 years old. The idea of accepting differences in opinion are a bit hard to apply at such an age but the Cultural Workshop of writers has some how made a difference.
I like the discussion ability of the group. Most of them receive criticism in a very good way and they learn from it, El-Moughy says. There were some nervous, stubborn debates on the Web site though and this bothered me. Some people had judgmental attitudes towards others and were dogmatic when their opinions were challenged. They defended their opinion as if they were defending their land or country. But the rest of the group overcame these problems by not responding to these provocative stimulants, she adds.
Another observation on the Cultural Workshop group is that most of the writers are females. El-Mougy has an explanation for that, Girls are closer to their inner selves than guys because of the cultural restraints on women that limit their interaction with the outer world.
Yasmine Adel, one of the Cultural Workshop writers, says, Cultural Workshop was a turning point in my life. It helped me develop my writing style and I also learned how to read texts written by others. I used to say this text is good or bad without saying why. Now I can easily dissect a text and point out its strengths and weaknesses, she said.
The radio show is transmitted on the European Local Service of Radio Cairo 95.4 FM on Sundays 11:10 p.m. Its website is: www.culturalworkshop.slangonline.com