Sabaho everyone

and thanks for your interest in this madness!


Cultograph workshop ongoing

Screen Sho

First of all, here are 66 random reading recommendations in English.

Secondly, my general strategy for working with you will be to focus, in turn, on: (1) setting, plot and narration, a topic we’ll think about in relation to Italo Calvino’s version of an Italian folk tale; (2) character, voice and viewpoint, through a very short, parable-like piece by Kafka; and (3) genre, structure and form, which we’ll discuss in the context of the late Agha Shahid Ali’s English adaptation of the ghazal, a classical Farsi-Urdu poetic form.

Here is a tentative curriculum. Arabic reading material for the first three sessions can be accessed here.


Still, I’d very much like you to take part in deciding how we work together. That’s why the first session or at least half of it is dedicated to introductions: getting to know each other a little, then figuring out how to proceed. We will all present work and we will all take part in every discussion – that’s the only rule. Part of the point of the workshop is for you to build the confidence to share your work and have it critiqued – and of course respond honestly to work by other people too.


Now, before we go onto some stimulation, it’s always good to remember the words of Mawlana Roberto Bolaño:

The truth is, I don’t believe all that much in writing. Starting with my own. Being a writer is pleasant—no, pleasant isn’t the word—it’s an activity that has its share of amusing moments, but I know of other things that are even more amusing, amusing in the same way that literature is for me. Holding up banks, for example. Or directing movies. Or being a gigolo. Or being a child again and playing on a more or less apocalyptic soccer team. Unfortunately, the child grows up, the bank robber is killed, the director runs out of money, the gigolo gets sick and then there’s no other choice but to write. For me, the word writing is the exact opposite of the word waiting. Instead of waiting, there is writing.

— from BOMB magazine interview, translated by Margaret Carson

That is, it was the fear that afflicts most citizens who, one fine (or dark) day, choose to make the practice of writing, and especially the practice of fiction writing, an integral part of their lives. Fear of being no good. Also fear of being overlooked. But above all, fear of being no good. Fear that one’s efforts and striving will come to nothing. Fear of the step that leaves no trace. Fear of the forces of chance and nature that wipe away shallow prints. Fear of dining alone and unnoticed. Fear of going unrecognized. Fear of failure and making a spectacle of oneself. But above all, fear of being no good. Fear of forever dwelling in the hell of bad writers.

— from 2666, translated by Natasha Wimmer

The writing workshop with Youssef Rakha was amazing. I read a couple of interviews he’d given when I was considering signing up  and I discovered that, aside from the novels he has published, he cares deeply about literature itself and the current state of writing. It’s not easy to find such an instructor, a literary intellectual, who is willing to share his thoughts and insights on the subject of creative writing. His is a highly knowledgeable mentor who made me think differently about the craft itself.

The workshop sessions were a rich discussion on a variety of writing topics. Youssef made sure we all participated and took part in impromptu exercises that challenged us to break free from our own set ways of approaching writing.

Sitting in a room of 10 talking about your own work, especially highlighting all that is negative is not easy but absolutely essential. What you learn when your words are read and dissected by other people is amazing. Suddenly this world you’ve imagined in your head is tangible, beyond the words you’ve written, and you get to witness how others process it. Learning to receive critique and what you take from it remains up to you as a writer, but the beauty of the open criticism, advice and feedback is that it tends to spark further inspiration and motivation.

— Monda Mahmoud is a freelance marketing strategist who was part of the first Cultograph Workshop (Jan-Feb, 2019) 

Monda Mahmoud

لأني باحضر ورش كتابة باستمرار، كنت شايفة الفرق بين أغلب الورش وورشة يوسف رخا بالتحديد. دخلت معنديش توقعات تماما خصوصا إنها كانت ورشة أونلاين في أصعب أيام الكورونا على القاهرة، وأول ورشة أونلاين ليا

يوسف كان مرن في الورشة مع توقعات المجموعة وظبط البرنامج بشكل يفيد الكل من أول جلسة. ومع تجربة أول جلسة مناقشة لنماذج من كتابات زمايلي في المجموعة، بان جدا قد إيه الاستفادة كبيرة على كل الأصعدة، سواء البناء أو صلب الفكرة أو الأسلوب الأدبي المستخدم في حكي الفكرة دي. ده شجعنا نشتغل في خلال الأسبوع قراية شغل بعض ونماذج مقترحة من يوسف مع الشغل على مشاريعنا علشان لما ييجي دورنا نبقى مستعدين للاشتباك مع الأفكار سوا والاستفادة بجد من الفرصة

أنا خرجت من الورشة مش بس مستفيدة إني قدرت أخلص نص بسيط بس مهم بالنسبالي، لكن كمان خارجة بسؤال: الحكاية دي روحها عاملة إزاي؟ وعايزة تتحكي إزاي؟

تطلع غنوة ولا تطلع مسرحية؟ إيه الأحلى عليها؟

نهال الهجين مصممة جرافيك وفنانة تشكيلية فضلاً عن كونها كاتبة قصة

نهال الهجين

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