Mirrors & Doors in Publishing: Jessica Smith, Sadia Anwar & Shahd Alshammari
Date/Time: Friday 3 February 2023 15:00-15:50
Session No: 34
Inclusion in publishing is a topic that has been much discussed yet rarely acted upon. There’s a new focus on making the industry more accessible for both writers and staff – but is it working? While authors struggle with the economic challenges of building a self-sustaining writing career, publishing houses continue to face accusations of perpetuating inequality and failing to support marginalised authors.
When new authors can face one-star reviews and social media backlash before their book is even out and the small presses and independent bookshops who would usually be the champions of outsiders are struggling to keep the lights on, what does it take to break through? Our outspoken panel examines the challenges and shows us where to look for hope.
The conversation will be chaired by award-winning author Kit de Waal, author of My Name is Leon and editor of working-class memoir Common People. Much of her writing draws inspiration from her 15-year professional experience in adoption and foster care, and she is committed to pushing for more inclusivity in publishing. She founded the Kit de Waal Bursary for careers and the Kit de Waal Creative Writing Fellowship to help improve working-class representation in literature and the arts.
Jessica Smith is an Australian Paralympic Swimmer, public speaker, children’s author, and the Chief Operating Officer at TOUCH Dubai, an inclusive talent agency and disability consultancy which aims to educate society about the importance of inclusion, both from a professional and a social model. Since retiring from her swimming career, Smith has gone on to become an internationally recognised advocate for positive body image, diversity & inclusion, and disability awareness.
Sadia Anwar is a children’s book author, entrepreneur and a mom of two. She is passionate about exploring notions of identity and diversity in literature. Using the power of stories to shift perceptions and build connections is the driving force behind her ventures. Starting as a self-published author, she is the founder of two children’s books brands: Bismillah Buddies and Storically. She has recently launched Uhibbook Publishing, an independent publishing house based in the UAE. It is aimed at building new pathways within the sector and supporting regional authors.
Dr. Shahd Alshammari is a Kuwaiti-Palestinian author, academic and researcher of illness narratives and disability studies. Her work is focused on addressing disability and gender in the Gulf region, evident in her body of work which includes Notes on the Flesh and The Secret of 50/50. Her writing has appeared in international journals, both academic and literary. Her most recent work is Head Above Water, a personal memoir on Dr Alshammari’s experience with Multiple Sclerosis and society's stigmatization of disabled bodies.
As you plan your day at the Festival, please take into consideration that it takes between 30-60 mins to commute between the Intercontinental, Festival City and Mohammed Bin Rashid Library.