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Female bloggers invade Egypt's literary scene
Published in Daily News Egypt on 14 - 02 - 2008

It's always been the norm for successful books to be turned into electronic form after they've accomplished a high sales run in print form. With the [email protected] project, it's the other way around.
At the Cairo International Book Fair, Al-Shorouk Publishing House celebrated a new project: A series of books collected from the writings of Egyptian bloggers.
The project comes at a time when female bloggers are enjoying an increasingly large buzz in the local online community, which has even managed to transcend the boundaries of cyber space.
"The professional publisher's role is to try and find new talents, while assessing the expected turnout, Senior Editor at Al-Shorouk, Saif Salmawy, told Daily News Egypt.
On her blog, Rehab Bassam, a 30-year old project manager of an Al-Shorouk division dedicated to translating children's books, describes herself as being born in tales and the scents of roses.
Bassam presented her writings to Al-Shorouk before pitching the idea of the project. Shortly, and after agreeing to adopt the project, she was asked to recommend other writers.
Bassam's online tales became the short story collection "Orz Belaban Leshakhseen (Rice Pudding for Two).
It may seem to Bassam's readers that all her well-written, expressive tales about everyday life are fundamentally about herself.
"Some of my writings are total fiction, while others are derived from real life, Bassam explained. "The fact that I wrote most of the stories from the first person perspective doesn't necessarily mean they are about me.
Ghada Mohamed Mahmoud, author of the blog "Ma'a Nafsi (On My Own), is now the writer of the short story collection "Ama Hazihi Fa Raqsati Ana (That Is My Dance).
During a routine check of her email, the 23-year old freelance writer and translator found, much to her amazement, a message from Salmawy asking for her consent to turn her blog writings into a book.
"I read the email over and over again and rushed to the phone, calling Al-Shorouk to make sure the person who emailed me was real, Mahmoud recalled.
She has been writing since she was 15, and most of her stories are a few paragraphs long, written in simple colloquial Arabic. She expresses her inner feelings and reflections in a highly artistic and symbolic form.
The concept behind the blog, now the sarcastic book "Ana Ayza Atgawez (I want to Get Married), came to Ghada Abdelal, a 29-year old pharmacist, about a year and a half ago when a man proposed to her. Her family, friends and acquaintances deemed him a perfect suitor. She, however, didn't and decided to tatter the potential groom online.
"I created this blog as a means of releasing my inner thoughts and opening myself up, Abdelal told Daily News Egypt. "The positive feedback and comments I received from the readers sort of pushed me forward to go on writing.
Abdelal continued writing not only on the situations occurring to her, but also about girls' pursuit to find "Mr Right.
She reflected in a colloquial, humorous style on the funny situations resulting from the social codes and conceptions of marriage to eventually become one of the most famous bloggers in Egypt's online community.
During the book signing session, many people were looking for Abdelal, "the one who wants to get married. "She looks fine, a few people said. Abdelal believes "Egyptian society should stop pigeonholing girls in the role of the bride, adding that the rest of her book should be titled "I want to get married right.
"This is what I'm basically looking for, she noted.
Young Egyptian writers have been known to recoup the financial leftovers of book sales and hardly any of them manage to receive a down payment for their efforts.
"On the contrary, Mahmoud said, "Al-Shorouk has been so fair in offering us fees for our works plus a 15 percent share of the revenue.
"The Al-Shorouk folks have been so supportive, truly feeling happy with the project and our work, she added.
The three books are now available at Al-Shorouk bookstores and several bookshops across Egypt for LE 10 each.
Meanwhile, Al-Shorouk, according to Salmawy, will continue searching for more creative bloggers, both in Egypt and the Arab World, to expand their brand new line of books.

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