Beirut’s Biggest Writing Marathon Event Review

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As the picture shows, the event was Beirut’s Biggest Writing Marathon and it took place on the 5th of April in AltCity in Hamra.
It started at 10 and ended at 7, with 6 different roundtables you could attend, in which you could learn 6 different skills.
However, I only had enough time to visit one of the sections, from 1-4, thus attending 3 roundtables; Online Writing, Short Story Writing and Screenwriting.

Experiencing those 3 roundtables was interesting. I got to AltCity a little later than planned due to the unfamiliarity and getting lost. Once I had entered, and registered and got my number (which was completely useless) I was rushed to Online Writing, and unfortunately missed most of it. However, the speaker, Hasmig Bayodjian, insisted that I sit close by and I managed to get the basics out of a measly 20 minutes what others had learned more extensively in an hour.

Next was the short story writing roundtable, and we started off by the blow of a whistle and constantly writing a story we had just made up for 5 minutes. After severely getting writing cramps and unfinished stories, the new speaker, Ahmed Danny Ramadan, told us to stop. Next he gave us 5 questions to answer about the piece we had just written, including what our protagonist wanted, what the first significant moment of the story was, what made our story complicated, the background, and, finally, the climax. After answering all these questions, and having a clear plot in mind, Ahmed gave us another 5 minutes to rewrite our story, and I immediately saw the changes. He then told us a few more details. Like the importance of the first line. You have to grab the attention of the reader. Also, you have to understand your characters and let them do what they want. And once again, 5 minutes to completely rewrite our story from scratch. I had to shake out my hand a couple times to regain the feeling. But, once again it was totally different and better!
As the short story writing roundtable came to a close, we began to share our stories. Some were interesting, some were… less interesting. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to read each story.

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The last (and in my opinion, the best) roundtable was Screenwriting with Nadia Tabbara (pictured above, I’m the one under the harsh spotlight in the red cardigan). Once again we were required to write a story, but not allowed to stop. The story had to start with “The door opens” and if we couldn’t think of anything, we had to rewrite the last word we had written until we had gotten a new idea. Having ideas was sort of my forte, so I never stopped and never rewrote. After 5 minutes, she stopped us. She proceeded to tell us the difference between writing and screenwriting, like on a screen you can only see and hear, so you had to take into consideration that your viewers cannot feel, smell or taste what you’re presenting on the screen. After explaining more about “story vs. plot” and scenes and dialogue, Nadia has us write a dialogue between person A and B. The catch was, they couldn’t speak more than 3 words to each other. I tried as hard as I could, but it was… challenging. I don’t think anyone besides me would understand my dialogue. After the “three words or less exercise”, she spoke to us some more about dialogue, showing and not telling, and about your characters wants. What do they want, and how do they get it. After that we shared our stories. I got enough courage to stand up and tell my “The door opens” story. I got applauded by my peers and Nadia herself and received very good feedback. And then my time was up, so I left with a newfound knowledge and more self-confidence.

But this fabulous, amazing writing marathon was not without its faults. Yes I’ve been singing its praises, but there would be a few things I would change. For example, why was everyone in one room? With the speakers yelling over one another, I could barely hear everything. And perchance there were more people for this “biggest writing marathon” (although there were no more than 30 people at most) there would be no place to put them! They would be left without a place to sit and skills to learn. Also there were almost no breaks between the roundtables. Believe me I understand what a “marathon” is, but the muscles in my hand don’t. A 10 minute break to relax, find our bearings, and mentally prepare for the next round. Other than those main details, it was enriching. A definitely new experience, and maybe something I could look forward to next year. We’ll see!

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