Obviously, Hawra’a Khalfan– the founder of Kuwait Writing Club (KWC) – is not an unseen force in Kuwait, because her voice is a potent one, pushing the envelope of what is deemed the norm in our region, and pushing others to write in the process. In fact, her desire to extend her passion for writing to others is also evident in her choice of profession as a Language Arts teacher. Here, I make an attempt, hopefully not a feeble one, to demystify this enigmatic soul.
When and how did the idea of a Kuwait Writing Club spring to life?
The Kuwait Writing Club is a sister club to the one which was initially founded in Riyadh in 2010. Hala Abdullah and Mashael Al-Blehed founded the Riyadh Writing Club to have a place to unleash their pens and throw their words out in the world. Hala then reached out to me in April of 2012 and helped me bring the KWC to life! The idea of the club is to create a safe haven for writers of English in the Middle East to freely express themselves.
As with many clubs, sometimes, unfortunately, you have to reject writers. That must be very difficult. What criteria are you looking for exactly in a writer?
There are two major pillars that keep our small community of writers standing; the first being a good grasp of the English language, which is imperative as members are also asked to provide feedback to one another during our meetings. The second and most important is the passion, the drive, the love for writing. This love is the fuel that pumps in our veins and pushes us to break down the walls our surroundings have built; it is the thirst that thrives within our entire being and drives us to write, write, and write.
These two pillars work together to keep our club afloat so, at first glance, we ask applicants for samples of their writing. We prefer that their samples consist of both poetry and prose, as it gives us a better idea of the applicants’ writing abilities. We evaluate applicants based on their English writing skills and the way their words are weaved together. If the applicant is a good contender, we then send over the rules of the club- which is what indicates whether an applicant has a drive to write. Our club rules are quite strict and if the applicants agree to them, that shows us that they have a drive to write and are willing to work hard to build up their skills and be a part of our small community.
Tell us a bit about what to expect if someone is accepted to the club.
After initial acceptance, they are informed of the upcoming meeting details and the topic that it will revolve around – during which we just win them over with our exquisite charm so they’ll keep on comin’!
You write both poetry and prose. Are you thinking of publishing a book one day?
I have been thinking about publishing a book since I was twelve. Every time I walk into a bookstore I think about having my book on a shelf and daydream about a stranger picking it up and taking a step into my life. The only thing that holds me back is the perfectionist in me. It. Has. To. Be. Perfect.
What are the themes you explore the most in your writing? And is it a case of art imitating life?
I like to focus on themes that I have a personal attachment to feminism being one of the most prevalent in my writing. I focus on social issues and comment on them indirectly (or sometimes blatantly). I think of my writing as a way of holding up a magnifying glass to our society.
So, before I set you free, tell us… Would you ever give up everything to write full-time one day?
I would never be able to do that as I have two major inclinations in life: the first being to teach and the second to write. I don’t see either of them above the other. If anything, I think I’m at my best when I’m doing both at the same time, as they nourish different parts of who I am.