The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is well and truly underway and I’ve got books on the brain this week. I must admit, my reading habits have changed significantly since leaving the traditional publishing industry, and with a job in ecommerce, I am more inclined towards the speedy digital reads, but give me a good paperback with a decent plot, and we can certainly be friends.
I studied literature throughout university and began my career in the London publishing scene, so books were very much my thing. Since moving to Dubai, I have found the book scene a little less vibrant, so I was excited to hear about The Dreamwork Collective – a boutique media house based here in Dubai, specialising in the publication and distribution of print books, online content, and trainings for writers in the Middle East. I caught up with company founder, Kira Jean to hear all about the dream behind the collective, the story so far, and where the plot is leading.
Kira grew up in a rural town on the island of Tasmania, Australia – so very much a life surrounded by nature and a lot less high rises. As a young girl and woman, Kira was a performing artist, until she took a detour into traditional education, pursuing a degree in Psychology, and qualifying as a child and family therapist. Having started her career young, Kira found herself at the stage of burnout, looking for a way out. And then she discovered yoga. Now I am not a yogi myself, but I love when people tell me about their experience of yoga, or any activity for that matter, as something tangible and transformative that digs them out of a hole, gives them space to breathe, to recalibrate, to find their happy. Kira tells me that “yoga quickly transformed my life and I went on to become qualified as a yoga teacher within nine months of starting my practice. I continued to teach in Australia until 2012, when I reached another definitive moment in my life, and my heart’s longing led me to sell everything I owned, pack up what little was left, and head to LA to embark on a year-long journey.”
This was one of those ‘go left, go right’ moments – when at a crossroads in life and you don’t quite know which way to go. Kira spent three months teaching yoga in LA, before moving on to teach in Mexico, her next step being a move to Dubai. She says, “It is in Dubai that I met my now husband, two weeks into my stay, and then, never left. I became a life coach in Dubai and now combine my skills as a coach, yoga teacher, writer, and spiritual teacher to mentor high-achieving creatives, entrepreneurs, visionaries and leaders. I founded my own publishing house, The Dreamwork Collective, at the end of 2016, just over a year ago.” Which brings us to present day, 2018…
1. How did the idea for The Dreamwork Collective come about?
The Dreamwork Collective started as an idea around five years ago. As I moved my coaching practice online I had the title ‘The Dreamwork Collective’ come through in one of my morning journaling sessions. At the time, I thought it might be the name for a membership programme or a book; however, none of those seemed to fit, so I wrote it down and forgot about it. Then in 2014 a very dear friend of mine, who was a very gifted writer, passed away suddenly. In her last messages to me, she spoke of how she regretted having not used her time to pursue her personal ambitions and publish her own work, and instead had been working as a writer for other companies. When she passed away, it lit a fire in me to not delay on fulfilling my own ambitions, so I self-published my own book, which I wrote furiously and without sleep, in 21 days. It was then that it became a personal mission of mine to see no-one else die with a book still inside them. As I wrote out a dot point business plan in my journal, the name: The Dreamwork Collective, came rushing back to me and I knew that it was a fit this time. The Dreamwork Collective was born, and born through me, a woman who had no background or experience in business or publishing.
2. Describe yourself in 3 words
Rebellious. Wise. Free.
3. What would you say are 5 key qualities of a successful entrepreneur?
– Stubbornness/Wilfulness. You have to have a ‘never say die’ attitude or you won’t make it. Harsh, but true. That doesn’t mean you don’t pivot, or can’t change directions, but entrepreneurship is not a get-rich-quick kind of thing, it’s a way of life.
– Patience. Similar to the first quality; building a legacy of any kind takes time.
– Compassion. Compassion enables you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This is how you can see gaps in the market and respond to the market’s needs and desires, rather than thinking you always know best.
– Self-worth. Your net worth is equivalent to your self-worth. So to be at the helm of a successful business endeavour you need to believe in yourself and know your worth.
– Self-awareness. This is the greatest quality any entrepreneur can have. The more you know yourself, the more you will win in life and in business. There’s no doubt about that.
4. What type of content do your clients pitch for publication?
There really is no specific ‘type’ of content clients pitch for publication. We get pitched by authors with books on poetry, fantasy worlds, biographies, photography, art, health, wellness, spirituality, business.
5. Are you seeing any particular trends for 2018 content?
The feminine voice is getting louder, and there’s more people who want to listen to it. There’s definitely a trend towards more female voices being heard and seen. The same can be said for the youth, although this is just starting.
6. What are the requirements to publish work with The Dreamwork Collective?
It might surprise you to hear we focus more on the person than the book itself. Writing a book is 10% of what it takes to become a successful author, so we look at a much bigger picture when deciding who to work with. We look at our potential clients’ work ethic, brand, motivation for wanting to publish, core message and mission, among other aspects related to the actual body of work – like the story, uniqueness of the idea, and audience.
7. How does your experience as a life coach and yoga instructor fit into this story?
I work as a coach inside of The Dreamwork Collective and also outside of it. Within it I run workshops on creativity and writing with a strong emphasis on spirituality, mindset, and psychology. As a lot of our clients are first-time writers I often coach them through the writing process, as well as in helping them transition into doing their dream work in the world, coaching them around business, success mindset, self-worth, and money mindset. Outside of The Dreamwork Collective I work regularly with high-level CEOs, entrepreneurs, and celebrities who are highly creative and doing their dream work in the world, too. Showing other ‘crazy creatives’ and ‘big dreamers’ that it’s possible to make money doing what they love, and that their dreams are completely doable, with less pushing and more ease and grace, is my motivation to do this work.
8. The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is in full swing – are you doing any work with them?
I will be taking part in the publishing day, and will be there on the 9th of March to support one of our authors, Aditi Belame Kumar, as she launches her first book. It’s exciting and an honour to have one of our books launching at the festival.
9. Who is on your list to see at the Emirates Lit Fest?
Definitely Cheryl Strayed. She’s my soul sister, although, I’m not sure she knows that yet!
10. Which local authors should we be watching out for in 2018?
Mathilde Loujayne, Yasmeen Al Naif, and Alia Al Shamsi. They’re doing some very unique and interesting things with their work this year. Linda Bonnar and Nigora Normatova are also coming out with their second books this year.
11. How have you seen the publishing landscape evolve since setting up The Dreamwork Collective? And with so much content now online?
I haven’t seen the existing industry evolve as much as it needs to. What I have seen is people like me, with a passion for the written word, set up businesses to fulfil the needs of the consumers that are not being met by the more traditional publishing houses. There’s still a strong desire in many people to be a published author, and I see no signs of this slowing down, particularly with how possible it has now become. With that though, there’s a lot of professionals and creatives seeking to work with formal publishing houses to set themselves apart from the masses who can self-publish just about anything. Our clients see value in working with a company that knows what they’re doing and can give their work the wings it deserves to fly.
12. What are the 2018 plans for The Dreamwork Collective?
Not to be too cheeky, but you will have to wait and see! But it is very exciting and is going to be the first of its kind in the region.
13. What is one piece of advice you would give the aspiring authors reading this?
Write every day, read something every day.
14. What do you think makes a great writer?
Someone who writes for the sake of it and has no outcome in mind.
15. Are you a Kindle or a paperback type?
Kindle – what’s that? I wouldn’t even know how to turn on a Kindle.
16. Name 5 top books/authors to read this year.
I would encourage everyone to support local and new authors. Among many of the people I meet and know, it’s hard to choose only five. I would say you have to keep your eyes peeled for works by: Aditi Belame Kumar, Rami AbuAmmuna, Houriya Taheri, Yasmeen Al Naif, and Zainub Bata.
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So for all the aspiring authors out there, take note. If writing is what you do, and you do it because you love it, then maybe you’ve got a novel in you just waiting to be set free. Whether it’s a book, or a business idea, the moral of this story is that you should give it a go – there are so many opportunities out there, you just need to grab them. Get in touch with Kira at The Dreamwork Collective to find out more.