Nada Faris is a Kuwaiti writer and performance poet.
SHORT BIO (less than 50 words)
Nada Faris is a Kuwaiti writer and performance poet known as “Kuwait’s Finest.” Her book Fountain of Youth is the 2016 Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Award Semi-Finalist and is available from Vine Leaves Press. Mischief Diary, a collection of funny stories for young adults, is available from HBKU.
LONGER BIO (less than 200 words)
Nada Faris is a Kuwaiti writer and performance poet known as “Kuwait’s Finest.” She writes poetry, articles and fiction in English. Her book Fountain of Youth is the 2016 Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Award Semi-Finalist and is available from Vine Leaves Press, Australia. Mischief Diary, a collection of funny short stories for young adults, is available from Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press, Qatar. She is an Honorary Fellow in Writing at Iowa University’s International Writing Program (IWP), USA. Her article “Every Child Deserves a Home: Zeina Al-Sultan Unveils the Truths Behind Adoption in Kuwait” won en.v’s Voice of Success program in 2012. Her fiction, nonfiction and poetry have been published in The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, Economic and Political Weekly, Fanack Chronicle of the Middle East & North Africa, The Operating System, Sukoon, The Indianola Review, and more. She has performed at Busboys and Poets, Washington DC, USA, The Feminist Union, Iowa, USA, The Mosaic Rooms, London, UK, and all over Kuwait.
Photo by Mohammad Ashkanani
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE HIGH RESOLUTION VERSION
I have always loved both writing and performing. When I was younger, I would write plays, organize rehearsals, and put on shows for my aunts and uncles. I grew up reading, mostly young-adult fiction. The first “literary” book I came across was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. My Computer Studies teacher gave it to me when he chose me for an award. He might’ve gotten tired of hearing me gush about Sweet Valley High and The Animorphs. Included in the award bundle was another book: Learn HTML in a Weekend, which still comes in handy after more than fifteen years.
Introduction to “Literature”
My real introduction to Literature (with a capital “L”) came about when I transferred from the College of Engineering—where I was enrolled at my mother’s behest at the age of fifteen—to the College of Arts, which was my primary choice. I’d spent two years mucking about in science labs and classrooms, where I doodled Japanese animated characters and excruciating rap songs. I was reading Anne Rice’s series The Vampire Chronicles when my English professor intervened.
He gave me Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which I read that same day, mostly during a dark and stormy night. (That wasn’t my introduction to Literature with a capital “L”… hold your dead horses). After Dracula, he suggested other books, and by the end of the semester, he had me reading Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Milton. (Happy now?) I actually like to reread Paradise Lost every few years, always in a loud, brooding voice with a British accent, and on a full moon (preferably the bloody kind). It’s nostalgic.
When I first began writing creative works in English, I utilized a British accent in writing only: orally, I was still welding Kuwaiti and Americanized pronunciation with British vocal mannerisms. (Don’t believe me? Check out this play in verse I wrote in college, titled Holy Sacrifices. I dare you not to read it with a British accent!)
When I began writing spoken-word poetry, however, I changed the wording, the stresses, the beats, the voice, and began creating more American-sounding literature. My accent changed too. But that’s another story—one that ends with me stealing the accent of the US Embassy’s Cultural Attaché right before I flew off to the US to participate in Iowa University’s International Writing Program. (It’s funnier when I tell it in person…)
On Finding my Purpose
In 2003, I transferred to the College of Arts, where I majored in English Language and Literature. I have a journal, in which I wrote: “Wednesday 15, October 2003 – the moment where [sic] I decided to actually make something of myself.” My friends and I then hosted the first “English Day” event, where students came to showcase their talents in poetry, plays, filmmaking, research writing, music, and art. I joined the first five annual events, and I shared and won awards for my poetry and plays (remember I wrote clunky British-sounding stuff), as well as hosting the 4th and 5th English Days. That’s when I experimented with public speaking, performances, and acting in front of an audience. I also registered with Toastmasters and competed at local and regional levels.
It was during that period that my desire to transform society using literature and the arts was first kindled. I was a teenager full of dragon spirit! One who naturally assumed she’d save the world. I was also a nerd so I designed a ten-year plan to help me gain the knowledge and skills to accomplish that goal. Spoiler alert.
My First Publication
My first publication appeared in the form of a story in six-sentences, published on a blog. This was followed by articles and interviews with authors in local magazines and newspapers, serialized fiction in magazines (just so I could feel like Charles Dickens!), and then, of course, spoken-word poetry.
On Using English / “Anglowaiti Literature”
My focus has been the English language: what it means for someone like me, an Arab, specifically, a Kuwaiti, and how it helps (or hinders) creative self-expression. I published, performed, and lectured from 2009-2015 on the subject. If you’re familiar with my work, then you might have come across my self-published books over the years, which are experiments in both literary theory and modern technology. These books are now out of print, but they served their purpose: namely, to enable me to gather and nurture an Anglowaiti group of writers across age, race, and interests, as well as a diverse audience that understands and appreciates the work we do and the stories we share. For seven years, friends and I have experimented with various literary forms, mixing and matching genres, examining the limits and benefits of the new media, and offering our time and services for the love of the arts.
My First “International” Book
I am thrilled to announce that my first internationally published book, Fountain of Youth, a collection of poems and vignettes, is the 2016 Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Award Semi-Finalist and is available from Vine Leaves Press, Melbourne, Australia.
Awards / Honors
I am an Honorary Fellow in Writing at Iowa University’s International Writing Program (IWP), USA. In 2015-2017, I became a member of the board of trustees for Kuwait’s Cultural Circle Prize for the Arabic Short Story (Almultaqa), the Arab world’s first international award for short story collections in Arabic. My article “Every Child Deserves a Home: Zeina Al-Sultan Unveils the Truths Behind Adoption in Kuwait” won en.v earth’s Voice of Success program in 2012. And I have won many spoken-word poetry competitions in Kuwait. I also won a MENA Salam fellowship from World Peace Initiative Foundation’s Peace Revolution to meditate with Buddhist monks in Turkey.
Publications & Performances
In 2016, I wrote and performed “>me (greater than me)” for TEDxAl-Shuwaikh, which was hosted by the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR). And in the following year, I was a speaker at two TEDx events: TEDxAlShuwaikh’s Sparks!, which took place at Jaber Al-Ahmad’s Cultural Center (JAAC) in Kuwait, and TEDxCanadianUniversityDubai’s Inspiring Minds, Transforming Lives, which was hosted by The Canadian University of Dubai in The United Arab Emirates.
My fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have been published in The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, Economic and Political Weekly, Fanack Chronicle of the Middle East & North Africa, The Operating System, Sukoon, The Indianola Review, and more. I have performed at Busboys and Poets, Washington DC, USA, The Feminist Union, Iowa, USA, The Mosaic Rooms, London, UK, and all over Kuwait.
I also write for young adults and children. Mischief Diary, a collection of humorous young-adult short stories, is available from Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press, Doha, Qatar.
I recently started translating texts and multimedia projects from Arabic into English. I worked with Kuwaiti champion fencer Balsam Al-Ayoub, who focuses on gender equality and improving the quality of sports and athleticism in the country. Apart from providing English translations for major events, published in the Arab Times, such as the Be Strong campaign, I translated the notable documentary Between Hope and Pain, which tells the story of the Kuwaiti competitors who participated in the Olympics under the IOC flag as independent participants (since Kuwait was banned).
I’ve also worked with The Ministry of State for Youth Affairs.
I have a BA in English Language and Literature and a Higher Diploma in Comparative Literature from Kuwait University.