Writer might open shop in Dubai


Writer might open shop in Dubai

The Death of Bees author Lisa O'Donell thinks Dubai has evolved tremendously as a creative and literary destination

By Enid Parker

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Published: Sat 26 Oct 2019, 10:27 AM

Last updated: Wed 30 Oct 2019, 6:19 PM

Award-winning author (The Death Of Bees, Closed Doors), screenwriter (The Wedding Gift) and Jane Austen fan, Lisa O'Donnell, was recently in Dubai to teach Creative Writing courses organised by Emirates Literature Foundation and Curtis Brown Creative. We caught up with Lisa, who is currently working on her third novel. 
What can you tell us about your latest trip to Dubai?
I work with students from all over the world. I'm a Senior Lecturer at City London University and I tutor for Curtis Brown Creative. Storytelling is a powerful creative outlet and with support from the Emirates Literature Foundation I worked with emerging and developing writers in Dubai who want to explore writing further. It's been a lot of fun and I've met some fabulous new voices.
You are a screenwriter as well as an author. How do you juggle these two roles?
These days I am focused mostly on writing books. I adapted my second novel Closed Doors for film and recently I began work on TV idea with a friend. It's all about discipline at the end of the day. You need to find it, or nothing is produced.
What kind of literature inspires you?
I like a book that tells me something new and if it is telling me something old it needs to be told to me with real originality and colour. I love graphic novels. I don't write them, but I admire the economy in the storytelling. Less is always more.
If, as a modern novelist, you had a chance to visit the literary past, which era would you choose and why?
I would choose the late 19th century or the very early 20th century and write some decent working-class books. Not enough women writing books like this at this time.
You recently tweeted a quote from Jane Austen's Persuasion. How relevant is Austen today and how would you introduce her to a millennial?
I love Jane Austin. The original feminist. She sacrificed a great deal for her writing knowing it would never bring her riches or fame. I admire how she kept writing knowing that. It was a scandal for a woman to write professionally back then and though her books were loved and talked about, they were never reviewed. The Bronte sisters wrote under pseudonyms.  Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre under the name Currer Bell. Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice under the pseudonym "A Lady" In truth she didn't know fame until she died. Persuasion was published after her death.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Do it because you love it or don't do it at all. Jane Austen loved it and knew no acclaim until she died. It's not an easy profession, even now, and despite appearances, for many authors it's not a well-paid profession. You need to see it as a vocation, something you're compelled to do. That's how I feel about it. I cannot imagine life not writing. 
Do you have a writing routine? How do you deal with writer's block?
I don't believe in writers block. I believe it is a matter of not having a routine and sometimes fear. People are afraid to write. In my workshops no one is idle and though they insist they cannot write a word under pressure at the end of my courses I can't get them to stop writing.
How has Dubai evolved as a creative and literary destination? What are your thoughts on the city?
It certainly has. I think a true reflection of any evolving culture is how it treats literature and learning in its society. Writing is a doorway to freedom and so is reading. Think I'll move here and open a bookshop!

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