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Amaal Fawzi, Senior runner-up of the QCEC 2022, shares her experience of entering the competition



What’s your favourite book and why?

My favourite book has to be ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak. I’ve read it four times and it only gets better and better every time I read it! The writing style is absolutely stunning and I think Zusak is a genius for picking the personified character of Death to narrate the story. There are so many layers of complexity to all of the characters, plot and motifs, and I would love to write a book this beautiful one day.


Who’s your favourite writer and why?

My favourite author is Patrick Ness. He wrote my favourite book series of all time, ‘Chaos Walking’ but also other beautiful books like ‘A Monster Calls,’ and the reason he is my favourite boils down to his excellent characters. He captures humanity in such a poignant, relatable, shocking, yet sometimes even humorous way, and I always feel so challenged when finishing his books. His writing really makes me feel things.


What inspired you to enter the competition?

One of my legendary English teachers, Mrs Whyte, was the one who got me to enter the competition. She sent me the flyer for it and I actually ignored it at first because I was in the middle of my exam revision! But then she emailed me again and I submitted my poem because she thought I had a chance, not because I thought I did. The surprise of coming runner up was absolutely wonderful, so never underestimate yourself!


What inspired you to write your piece?

The prompt I chose was obviously my first inspiration (what life would have been like for a front-line covid worker), but my grandmother’s experience in a nursing home during lockdown was my other inspiration and what I based my piece off of. I wanted to capture the experience of the workers caring for my grandmother during that time. My personal experience with nursing homes was incredibly helpful for this.


What was your writing process like?

My writing process is quite hard to pin down because it can be quite haphazard. I often start on a blank piece of paper and write a first draft the old-school way, but I also use the notes app on my phone a lot and type out my first draft there. For this poem, I think I wrote it directly onto my laptop and edited it on the same computer document. It took a couple of days to draft and another couple of days to edit.


Your experience of Winners’ Week

Winners’ Week was a surreal experience in the best way possible. The days were intense but so rewarding, and it blows my mind that I’ve met so many famous people as a result of this competition. What I enjoyed most had to be the Buckingham Palace experience. Seeing Geri Horner read my poem to a room full of people including The Queen Consort, Dame Susan Hill and my parents was indescribable. My favourite activity during Winners’ Week was the House of Commons trip. For one thing, meeting Mr Speaker was nothing how I expected considering we ended up playing with his cat Attlee and chatting like friends! The tour was phenomenal and honestly, every activity was perfect, but if I had to pick one, that would be it. The experience has had a massive positive impact on me, specifically in terms of my confidence. I was never proud of the work I did before the competition. I felt like I could always do better, which is true in a sense, but my thought process made me unsatisfied with everything I did, even the beautiful writing I should’ve been proud of. The competition gave me so much validation, and it was the first time I genuinely recognised that I am a writer, and a good one at that. It was such a development in my character because it’s extended to other things as well. I no longer feel ashamed of being proud of things I’ve done! Since the competition, I’ve written bits of poetry here and there, but I’ve mostly been writing for my university degree (BA English with Creative Writing at QMUL). We’ve done poetry, performance writing and now longer fiction, which has been such an educational and fun experience because I get to experiment with genre. I’ve also started writing a blog for my university’s School of English and Drama which is both a source of income and a great outlet for my creativity. However I wouldn’t have been confident enough to do this without the competition!



 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amaal Fawzi is an 18-year-old girl who was born in Egypt, raised in Lebanon, and now lives in East London. She has an Iraqi father and a British mother, and because of the education system in Lebanon, she has started university a year early! She studies English Literature with Creative Writing and has been writing poetry for many years, though she wouldn’t say she’s been writing poetry well for all of them.

Most of the poetry and prose she likes to write is concerned with culture and identity. Her years in Lebanon formed the majority of her character and cultural experiences, so learning to interact with that in the UK has been a very interesting season. It makes for a lot of writing material, and she’d say that the way she writes is always personal and drawn somehow from her own life.

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

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