Q&A with Juan Carlos literary award winner: The prize was a surprise

Writer Soad Suleiman, who won the Juan Carlos Spanish award for short stories, said the prize was a surprise to her, in an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm, pointing out that the prize she won was competed for by 25,000 writers from 120 countries.
Q: First, we would like to know about the Spanish prize you won.
A: The King Juan Carlos Prize in the short story is a literary award offered by the Queen of Spain, to four writers. The literary works should be written in five languages, namely Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Hebrew. I knew about the contest from a website and I applied for it in August 2014. I was not expecting to be the winner. After one year and a half, I received a phone call from the contest's management saying I won the prize and would travel to Spain.
Q: What was the piece of writing you submitted for the contest?
A: It was a short story of 28 words titled "Tashaboh" (Resemblance). Short stories for the contest should not exceed 100 words.
Q: Only 28 words?
A: Yes. And I can recount it: "Panic crushed me when the vehicles passed over her little body, as if she were an upstanding smiling cartoon character who did not attempt to escape, awaiting more stuns. When I crossed her, I looked back and scrutinized her features, which quite resembled mine."
Q: What is the importance of the prize?
A: The literary award has moral and material importance, as it emphasizes that real talent is bound to win. The competition was fair and transparent, and was competed for by 25,000 writers from 120 countries. This award gave me a huge boost for my career and gave me a chance to visit a foreign country and meet its queen.
Q: What about your other literary works?
A: I have three collections of short stories and two novels. My novel, "The Impermissible", won the 2007 Writers Union award.
Q: What about the role of the Culture Ministry in supporting writers?
A: The Culture Palaces Authority issued my collection of short stories in 2007, "The Dancer", but unfortunately the Chairman of the authority at the time, Ahmed Nawar, gave a number of literary works to university libraries, and I could only get 20 copies of my collection, not enough to make a signing ceremony. I submitted more than 20 requests to the General Egyptian Book Organization to issue my "The Impermissible", but in vain.
Q: Has the Culture Ministry congratulated you for the Juan Carlos prize?
A: Yes, the minister called me, which was a nice gesture.
Q: Does the atmosphere in Egypt help with creativity?
A: The situation in Egypt is difficult, but I think that real talented writers should be able to withstand it.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm 

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