Where many budding authors dream of publishing their own book, Maya Rifaai, Grade 9 student at American International School in Abu Dhabi, is not only a published author at age 13, but also a community organizer and app creator. This issue’s high flier talks to Strides about her journey and aspirations, in her own words.
By: Maya Rifaai, Grade 9 student, American International School in Abu Dhabi
My name is Maya Rifaai, I am a Grade 9 student at American International School in Abu Dhabi. Originally from Egypt, I am a published author and an innovative thinker.
When I was 10 years old, I discovered my passion for reading and writing, especially during the Covid-19 quarantine. I read many books to pass my time, especially those by Jacqueline Wilson, one of my first favorite authors. Her books and writing style influenced me to start writing my own book. Then my parents encouraged me to try writing for fun and see how it turned out. When I was done, I showed them my work, and they loved it! So we sent the book for feedback to editors in the US and Egypt, and everyone encouraged me to publish it.
Having started writing at age 11, I published my first book, “The World of Yesterday,” at 13 years of age in 2022. The book was part of the Cairo International Book Fair the same year. I was thrilled to be honored with the title of “Youngest Egyptian Author.” I also held a book-signing at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in May 2022. My journey was featured in many newspapers and articles, and I was interviewed by many of Egypt’s top radio stations, such as the Voice of the Arabs and Mega FM.
This has inspired me to further explore my passion for Creative Writing. I have performed my own written poetry at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) many times as the youngest poet. I met Mr. Bill Bragin, the Executive Artistic Director of The Arts Center at NYUAD. I also visited the Department of Mass Communication at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), where I had the opportunity to stay for the day, and take classes with college students, a first for the university, too! I met the Head of Department, Dr. Sohail Dahdal. At AUS, one of my classes was Digital Storytelling and Magazine, where I collaborated with fellow college students to complete assignments.
I also met with Journalism students who showed me around the university, department, activities, and clubs. I also took a Columbia University course on Poetry, Screenwriting, and Short and Long Stories. I started my own newspaper club at school in 2022, where I began AISA’s first newspaper. I interview professors from universities about their work and life, and organize meetings and trips for my club. I have also started my own blog, "Maya Writes", where I spotlight influential women. I recently created an app called “Teenchers,” where high-schoolers tutor middle-schoolers in Literacy, Science, and Math. I hope to inspire younger generations to explore their passions, and provide them the same encouragement that started me on my journey!
I held a book-signing at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in May 2022. My journey was featured in many newspapers and articles, and I was interviewed by many of Egypt’s top radio stations, such as the Voice of the Arabs and Mega FM.
Submitted by Maya Rifaai, edited for clarity and conciseness.