Nidaa took part in the Young Writers Programme as a student at Nottingham Academy, working with poets Jim Hall and Ioney Smallhorne. Afterwards, she stayed in touch with the First Story group by supporting and mentoring younger students. Nidaa was one of five alumni who participated in the prestigious Rathbones Folio Prize Mentorships programme in 2019/20. She was recently profiled by Amazon and Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature.
The Rathbones Folio Prize Mentorships scheme paired Nidaa with prize-winning novelist and playwright, Lucy Caldwell. Lucy and Nidaa struck up an instant rapport. Over the course of their year working together, they visited exhibitions, attended the theatre, and explored many writing forms, as well as submitting Nidaa’s work to competitions.
Lucy has said that, “Nidaa’s work across the year shows, time and again, the enduring power and importance of the imagination. Her stories and her poems are strikingly bold, deeply felt and intensely passionate, unafraid to channel some of the dark energies of these times, or to engage with issues such as climate change, racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. It has been entirely my privilege to work with Nidaa this year. It is writers like her who are going to write us into a better, brighter future.”
Nidaa told us:
“Working with Lucy was the most inspirational journey I’ve ever taken! Having her by my side made me approach my writing with more confidence and creativity. She helped me to search for the creative ideas that I already had, but just never knew.
Lucy helped me convey the message of each poem as clearly as possible. She challenged me to write about things I wouldn’t normally write about, for example my cats, the weather, and writing in the perspectives of objects. She introduced me to postcard stories, inspired by the work of Jan Carson, which was very new to me. I hadn’t written short stories for years so this was the perfect challenge. I wrote one postcard story every day for a month, which were all written for specific people. Some were poems and some were fairytale twists. It quickly became my favourite thing.
We also decided to create a public Instagram page for my poems @worlds_to_come. This was the best challenge yet because I had never shared my writing on social media, let alone with absolute strangers! But once again, Lucy was right – it increased my confidence in my work and it felt good that others were reading them every day.
My ambitions would be to publish at least one anthology of my own poems and to inspire others through my writing. The mentorship has made me realise exactly what I want in a writing career – to be as successful as the mentors who are in this programme. Lucy has shown me how she continues her writing with a busy family life which is something I also aspire to do.
I could not have done any of this without First Story. You have given me the confidence to share my writing and go for things I would never have even dreamed of when I first started First Story. I am where I am today because of you! I started writing because you inspired me.Nidaa Raoof
Watch Nidaa perform some of her work at the Rathbones Folio Prize Mentorships celebration event, held online in July, in partnership with Arvon.