#DubaiLitFest Media Award Winner Speaks


Winner of the English Media Award – Anand Raj OK of Friday Magazine

The inaugural Media Awards have been announced and we would like to extend our gratitude to our winners, Rasha Al Maleh from Al Bayan and Anand Raj OK from Gulf News Friday Magazine, for their ardent support covering the 2017 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

The Festival has enjoyed being centre-stage in the UAE media’s publications with countless interviews with Festival authors and staff and we would like to bring those behind the scenes into spotlight. The interviewers now become the interviewees!

Hear from the English language winner below:

  • Congratulations on your win. What does this award mean for you?

It’s an absolute privilege to be winning the first EAFOL media award. The Festival itself is one of the most respected literature festivals in the world and to be chosen for this award is truly an honour.  I feel completely overwhelmed.

  • Can you tell us a little about how you got into writing?

Writing – and reading – have been my passions since my school days. I must thank my parents who never stinted when it came to buying me books to read and offered constant words of encouragement even when I wrote what in hind sight appears to be some terrible pieces of verse. I was also blessed to have had a fabulous set of teachers in school and college who coaxed me to read varied authors and were always at hand to hone my writing skills.

So after graduating in English literature, I had no doubts about my career choice when I enrolled for a Master’s degree in Journalism so I could pursue what I loved – writing.

  • Who is your favourite author and what is your favourite book?

Oh my gosh, that’s a tough one. It might sound strange, but my reading varies depending on my mood but I generally prefer humour (which is almost always) and non fiction. If I have to choose one author it would have to be William Dalrymple because of the engaging and descriptive style he uses when writing about what could be a dry subject – history. Equally, I enjoy the early works of P J O’Rourke. If I had to choose one book, it would be Dalrymple’s Nine Lives. Why? Because I wish I had written it!

  • Could you share one of your favourite encounters at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature?

I was unlucky in that I did not have time to meet ALL of the authors who attended the EAFOL but of the few I met, Eric Van Lustbader was the most interesting simply because his energy and sheer joie d vivre of being at the festival were contagious. Completely down-to-earth, he had a wealth of experiences which he was willing to share with me for the feature, including the time when he was a budding writer in the US. Some of it, sadly, I could not include in the feature due to space constraints. Eric also offered me a few writing tips; the most important one was, to quote him, ‘Write every day. Just. Don’t. Stop. Writing’.

  • Who would be your dream guest author for the Festival?

Unfair, because there are too many! But if I have to choose one, it would be PJ O’Rourke (I’m not saying Dalrymple because I met him at a lit fest a couple of years ago). Ruskin Bond is another writer I would love to meet because I grew up on his works.

  • What are your thoughts on the importance of literature and reading in the UAE?

That literature and reading are crucial for a progressive society is clear from the fact that the previous year was declared as the Year of Reading. Also, the fact that there are at least three major literature/book festivals in the UAE every year is evidence of the popularity of books and the importance reading is given in the country.

Anand Raj is the Features Editor at the Friday magazine supplement of Gulf News newspaper.

Publication Profile: Friday Magazine – Friday is a family magazine supplement issued with the Gulf News on Fridays. First published in May 1997, it includes fashion, beauty and travel, along with interviews with business leaders and ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help others.

Take a look at our winners’ entries here.