Tag Archives: Travel

I Love Dubai! #DubaiLitFest

I accepted an invitation to work at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai without any preconceptions about the country. My itinerary was clear enough – a panel on contemporary women’s fiction, a couple of receptions and outings and three days teaching. With flight times of around seven hours, it was a busy schedule.

But I still had time to fall in love with Dubai.

Dubai marina Sue 2 smallThe landmark style of architecture entranced me. The sunshine was welcome and 25-27c was perfect for me. During my 7-day trip, I don’t think a single person was rude to me, everyone was warm and friendly, I didn’t see a single piece of litter or graffiti. I felt very comfortable and safe.

Dubai’s considered a global crossroads and I can see how it earned that title. It seems that every culture and religion is represented in its populace and, from what I saw, coexisting peacefully. I so wish the rest of the world exhibited the same tolerance as I witnessed in Dubai.

My first evening saw a welcome reception, which included such luminaries as Alan Titchmarsh. Everybody who worked for the Festival was warm and welcoming. They gave me food and wine, so I was happy.

Festival City smallI spent the next morning walking in the sunshine and enjoying the shore of Festival City. There’s a lot of construction in this new area but still plenty to see and enjoy. I didn’t go into the massive mall next door. Honestly. Not then …

Contemp Fic panel, April, Nadya smallIn the afternoon I was part of the Contemporary Fiction panel with April Hardy, who was launching her new book, Kind Hearts and Coriander (very good – I can recommend it) and Nadiya Hussain. Most people know for Nadiya for her triumphant win of the Great British Bake Off but she also writes for children and adults. Her views on writing collaboratively were fascinating.

The hour shot by as our panel, beautifully chaired by journalist Brandy Scott, discussed our work and whether we felt we needed the word ‘women’ in Women’s Contemporary Fiction. The audience were engaged and supplied plenty of questions for the Q&A, laughing in all the right places. A well-organised book signing followed, which was huge fun. Everyone was so willing to chat and, you know, I’m not backward in that department myself.

Saturday was my day off and Diala, a friend I’d made on Facebook, took me out to Jumeira Beach and Dubai Mall.

Jumeira Beach skyscrapers small

Dubai marina Sue 2 small

Jumeira Beach camel small

Dubai Mall small

 

And then came the Start Up Writing course, three days with a group of ten enthusiastic participants. We covered … well, we covered¬†everything, more even than I’d allowed for as the questions poured in during every session.

My teaching was interspersed with sessions from agents, editors and other industry professionals (during which I think I took as many notes as the students). My thanks to editor Charlie Scott of local publisher Motivate, as Charlie came into my room to talk for twenty minutes to my students about opportunities for writers in the Middle East.

Dinner at the Etihad MuseumWe rounded out my part of the Festival with an open-air dinner at the Etihad Museum, listening to honoured guests speaking about what Dubai meant to them. Moving and inspirational.

I’d like to end this post with extending thanks to Yvette Judge and her fantastic team at the Festival, along with the sponsors who make the event possible.

Thank you to my fantastic students.

And some to those who extended the hand of friendship to me during my stay, especially April and Andrew Hardy, Sharmila, Al, Ronita and Monita Mohan, Dial Atat and Ruba Naseraldeen.

Also to Magrudy’s bookshop, which did such a fantastic job all festival long.Sue Magrudy's books small

 

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Getting ready for the RoNAs – what do you think about my shoes?

DALD_v12.2 reviseJust in case you missed it – Dream a Little Dream is up for a RoNA in the Contemporary Romantic Novel category. What does this mean?

Party!

Tomorrow evening there’s an awards party in London’s Piccadilly where Richard & Judy will be presenting the elegant glass stars to the winners of each category. I like parties. I’m sure I’ll like a party where I’m a nominated author more than any other kind.

I’m going down to London this afternoon to stay with a friend from then till Wednesday. So here’s how my ‘do do’ list is going:

– shower. Yup, done that. In fact, I’ve already had two goes at the hair but it’s not your average ‘do as you’re told’ hair so that’s not uncommon. Wonder whether I ought to have got my hair cut. Decide that if the gods had thought that important they would have given me better hair.

– begin putting miscellaneous items on the bed ready to pack.

– think about packing. Realise I don’t possess the ideal case and need to either squash everything in the small one or let it rattle around in the large one. Will probably do the latter and then curse it when I’m lifting it on and off trains and escalators. I always feel really conspicuous when I’m wheeling a case along the streets, too. It’s one of those that you pull behind you and trip everyone up.

– put the computer on and chat on Twitter and Facebook. Answer a couple of emails from lovely friends who have sent me good luck messages. Answer a good luck text from my mum. (Bet she sends another tomorrow!)

– put my iPad on charge.

– ring for a taxi to the station. Eek! [Pause] Yup, done that.

– wrap birthday presents for birthday meals I’m attending on my return Wednesday and Thursday. (One’s a box of bath bombs and one’s a toy fire engine, so I hope I don’t get them mixed up.)

– examine my nails and wish they hadn’t all broken inexplicably last week.

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Pretty sandals

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Not boring but will they ‘go’?

– feel sorry that I’ve let down the Romantic Novelists’ Association by failing to find purple shoes to match my purple evening purse. I’ll have to wear the boring black ones. Actually, they’re not boring – I love them! But now I’ve looked at them again, I’m not sure they’ll look right with my dress. So should I go for the pretty sandals?

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Slightly bondage

Or the slightly bondage ones?

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Blingy courts

Or the blingy courts?

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Shoe litter

(By this time the bedroom floor’s a little … littered.)

I’ll try and make up for the lack of purple shoes by drinking extra champagne, to show I’m still a good RNA member. Erk. If I’d booked an earlier train I could have shopped in Carnaby Street or somewhere for shoes this afternoon! Thunk.

– try on dress with all shoes (probably hate them all)

– pack

– do make up. Congratulate self on remembering to get eyebrows done. (Sorry, but these things are important.)

– get in taxi

– get on train.

I think that’s everything. (What do you think about the shoes?)

 

 

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So how was it for you?

It’s January the 2nd and I’m back at my desk. The only sound is of the birds singing outside. Dawn’s just breaking (dawn’s pretty late in my part of the UK at this time of the year – 8am) and the sky is orange and purple. My lovely Mac computer has just been upgraded and I’m content.

Why? It’s because I don’t like Christmas.

Sorry! I know it’s not a popular point of view but I’m one of Santa’s little elves who make Christmas possible for everybody else. I shop for the presents and wrap them, I shop for the food and cook (and cook and cook) it. Even when someone else is the hostess my conscience won’t allow them to shoulder the burden alone, so I spend the day in their kitchen instead of mine!

Puppy-in-law in a chilled moment on New Year's Eve

Puppy-in-law in a chilled moment on New Year’s Eve

But I’m not completely ‘bah, humbug!’ I love to see my family and it was great that my son, his girlfriend and their puppy were able to come for three weeks ‘home town time’. I enjoyed chats with my brothers and their families, who I don’t get to see all the time. I went to see ‘The Hobbit’, which was absolutely fantastic and I enjoyed every second. I managed to squeeze in two Zumba classes and attendant cuppas with my gym bunny buddies, I found two days where I snatched a few hours to write, I had a day where I refused to cook and sat by the fire reading whilst the rain poured down outside. I enjoyed the several Christmas lunches and dinners I got to earlier in December (ie cooked by restaurant personnel).

I had a pretty chilled New Year and now we’ve crossed that sacred date line I am very happy to be back at my lovely Mac without having totally lost the plot (ho ho) of my book thanks to those two days I managed to write. I’ll be back at yoga at lunchtime, on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire with the lovely Sue Dougan tomorrow and meeting a close protection officer for research purposes on Monday. I’m book in for Zumba on Thursday, Friday and Tuesday. Blissful sighhhhhhhhh …. I feel I’m in my own skin again.

Is it just me? Am I just a curmudgeonly moany guts? Did you all have a fantastic time and you’re sorry to get back to normal life? I really really hope so.

And I hope that 2013 is a healthy, happy and prosperous year for you. x

PS Dream a Little Dream came out in Australia yesterday. I’m a bit jealous it’s over there without me because I’ve always wanted to go. Maybe that’s how I ought to spend next Christmas …

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Free short stories from Choc Lit and National Express!

Love Match cropChoc Lit and National Express are giving away twelve lovely short stories with choccy recipies as downloads – Just click here.
It’s my story that’s today’s freebie!
‘Are Diamonds Forever?’ features a ring, a tattoo, a fox (in more ways than one) and a recipe for Rocky Row (which features a lot of scrummy stuff and I have selflessly tried it out for you. Several times.)

So if you’d like to treat yourself to short stories from Choc Lit’s wonderful writers, just follow the link, and enjoy.

Ebooks can be read on loads of devices, these days, from your phone to your tablet to your PC. My device of choice is a Kindle and I’ve been stocking it up ready for time off over Christmas. Here’s what’s awaiting me:

Staying Away at Christmas, Katie Fforde

Old Desires, Liz Fielding

Winter Warmers, Carole Matthews

You Had Me at Hello, Mhairi McFarlane

Tall, Dark and Kilted, Lizzie Lamb

Santa Maybe, Scarlett Bailey

The Silent Touch of Shadows, Christina Courtenay

Holiday Affair, Annie Seaton.

OK, I probably won’t get them all read, but it’s great to have a lovely big ‘to be read’ list.

So what are you going to be reading over Christmas?

 

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