Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Narratives in Action

It was a sunny, warm day yesterday so I cannot, sadly, attest to whether the rain in Al Ain stays mainly on the plain, but there's a brand new multi-carriageway lump of blacktop replacing the 'old' Al Ain road that spirits you straight to the airport and, if you know what you're doing, the 'crescent' building at the heart of the United Arab Emirates University's Maqam campus. UAEU is a big university, people, very big. And brilliantly well equipped, at that.

I was there to speak to an audience of students (and a smattering of faculty members) as part of a two- day workshop organised by the Department of Philosophy, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Deanship of Libraries of the United Arab Emirates University, in collaboration with Université Paris Sorbonne Abou Dhabi, titled 'Narratives in Action'.

I attended the morning session and was glad I did. A fascinating talk by philosopher Dan Hutto explored how we use language and narrative to guide our interactions and behaviours within a social context. Steve Bird examined how language 'primes' us and outlined a fascinating new research project he and colleague Sami Boudelaa are undertaking to explore the relationship between language and  cognition. Further examinations of language, narrative and their effect on human behaviours came from Massmimiliano Cappuccio, Hosny Mostafa Al Dali and Fama Zohra Sai.

And then, after lunch, it was my turn. Given the event was billed as an 'interdisciplinary workshop' and I clearly have no discipline to offer, I outlined to a hearteningly full room how to write a book. As I pointed out, writing books is easy - all you have to do is put together 100,000 words. The order you put 'em in is, of course, the kicker.

My advice was loosely based on this here post over at Fake Plastic Souks, 'How to Write a Book' which I wrote as a follow-up to my earlier 'How to self publish in the UAE' post on that self-same blog. I was delighted to come across at least one young lady who is attending UAEU's creative writing course, which is held in Arabic. I did all I could to exhort the students to take up writing for themselves and publishing for themselves - there's never been a more exciting time in publishing as writers can now find their own outlets for their work as I, indeed, have done myself - and very glad I am that I done it.

I had fun, although I'm not sure how the audience processed all. I had to skip right afterwards and return to the devastation that is McNabb Mansions now the AC men have been in for the past three days. But that, as they say, is quite another narrative...

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