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The Young Writers’ Program In the fall of 2014, Sadia Mir, assistant professor of English in the Liberal Arts & Sciences Program at VCUQatar, was given a unique opportunity to foster English language acquisition amongst Qatari youth through creative writing. Initiated by a partnership between the American Embassy in Qatar, VCUQatar and the Supreme Council of Education, Professor Mir and Julia Kirby, the Embassy’s English Language Advisor, worked together to develop the Young Writers’ Program (YWP). The aims of the program are far-reaching: to promote writing culture in Qatar; to contribute to the nation’s goals of educational development; to engage with and support Qatari and regional communities; and to further build relationships between various partners. In service of fulfilling these goals, Professor Mir assumed a number of roles. Beginning in the fall of 2014, she directed two teacher-training seminars on creative writing for local teachers of grades 5, 9 and 10. The seminars focused on the instruction of conventional essay writing and creative writing (poetry, short stories), while also providing guidance in regards to grading, fostering a creative writing culture in the classroom and dealing with plagiarism. Having taught English in Qatar for over six years, Professor Mir pos-

Eighteen winners, selected by a jury in March 2015, met in a workshop

sesses an in-depth view of language instruction in the country—both in

designed to help them prepare their work for publication. The result was

terms of its progress and its potential for growth. Of the YWP’s place in

the “Young Writers’ Journal”—a print anthology of the winning entries

this conversation, she says, “I see a need to support both written and

accompanied by student artwork and released in June 2015. The journal

spoken language education and to provide concrete avenues where

was edited by Professor Mir and designed by VCUQatar GDES alumna

students can use their language skills in real-life contexts. In regards to

Leila Natsheh, who was awarded a contract for the project.

this particular program, teaching writing as a creative form of expression has the potential of strengthening language education in Qatar […] It takes it away from sometimes disconnected study of grammar and sentence structures in the classroom, for example, to understanding language holistically, and to using language in specific contexts for specific purposes.” Teachers brought the YWP seminar training back to their classrooms

For the 2015–2016 edition of the YWP, Professor Mir and Ms. Kirby plan to expand the program’s scope. They hope to present additional teacher-training seminars,a writing workshop series for at-need schools and to further bolster competition and publication components. Professor Mir intends to strengthen the direct connection between VCUQatar and the YWP by continuing to make the graphic design contract for the journal available to VCUQatar alumni and by opening

and in November 2014, the inaugural Young Writers’ Writing Competi-

the next writing competition to VCUQatar’s student body. Plans for a

tion was announced. Held over the following three months, the com-

celebratory event at VCUQatar for YWP participants are underway as

petition’s success was indicated by its high level of participation: over

well. It is hoped that through these initiatives, a generation of young

250 students representing 104 schools across Qatar submitted entries.

writers will be exposed to the rich intersect of language and arts educa-

Success wasn’t just in the numbers alone, but also in the experience,

tion and the creative opportunities available at VCUQatar.

as one participant said, “Writing is important way to communicate. It puts pieces together to become one picture. The writing competition helped me in my skills, whether they were in grammar or style. A writer's mind is full of thoughts […] the competition helped me pour them out, and learn from others. I got the honor of participating in this wonderful opportunity, to inspire or be inspired.”

70 — Issue 4

Profile for VCUQatar

Context Magazine 2014-2015: Issue 4  

Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar's annual magazine

Context Magazine 2014-2015: Issue 4  

Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar's annual magazine

Profile for vcuqatar