Screenwriter, Author, Creativity Coach, Mentor, Beirut, Lebanon
Travelling to Lebanon is an “all senses on deck” experience. The people, the cuisine, the traffic, the nightlife. It took several days to get my bearings but once I did, it was all rush to reach out to interesting women in Beirut. It turned out to be an incredibly rewarding (and in some instances emotional) experience involving cold calling several fantastic individuals, all in different fields.
Nadia Tabbara was featured as one of the “women to watch” in Beirut. Her story is that of returning, to her roots, to her culture and to mentoring Lebanese writers through a self-discovery journey. Incredibly warm, sharp and sassy, Nadia felt like a ball of energy that never stopped processing and shooting off two or three follow up questions at any given moment. She is what I think a writer must/should be - inquisitive, present with a killer sense of humour. Her words flow beautifully, concisely and ring true for women of Lebanon, and all of us at large. I’d like to take her ingredients to a good life, and frame them for myself.
Why is she my WOW WOMAN? This: “I wanted to show them (students) that if they had something to say, they could say it using their own voices - just as I had learned with my own mentor.” - Nadia.
2. Where is your hometown?
Born in Beirut, Lebanon and grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts.
3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?
Screenwriter / Author / Creativity-coach / Mentor.
4. What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career-wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of, and what was the turning point to set you on a current path in life?
I realized early on that a "normal" job was not for me - the routine 9-5. There are some 9-5s that I would kill for, but they are in the creative field and usually end up being 9-whenever-I'm-done. In order to set up a life where I could use my creative writing skills on a daily basis while still being able to make ends meet, I knew that I had to create a job for myself; but it wasn't until I moved to Lebanon that I found myself and my calling. After college, I went to New York City and worked as an assistant on Hollywood movie sets. This taught me so much - including how to be on my feet for 16 hours a day while juggling egos and personalities. I didn't know it at the time, but this would make me a better manager in my future endeavors. Even though this life was exciting albeit not glamorous, there was something missing.
I had been writing since I could pick up a pen, but I wanted to reignite my passion and so I joined an intro writing class where I met my mentor Jake Krueger. Over the next 2 years, he showed me how I could follow my own creative process to succeed at telling stories in any form I wanted. At the same time, being a writer is a constant study in defining and understanding yourself, so part of me wanted to know where I came from. And it wasn't just that. I wanted my work to come from Lebanon - and I wanted to share my knowledge so that more writers in Lebanon could succeed in finishing their own work.
In 2011, after living most of my life in the States, I packed my things and moved to Beirut. A few years later, I opened FADE IN:, a boutique workshop space that specializes in creative-writing and creativity training. I wanted to give back to my community. I wanted to show them that if they had something to say, they could say it using their own voices - just as I had learned with my own mentor. Through FADE IN:, I was able to train hundreds of new and seasoned writers, many of which went on to be published, and all of which have had huge successes in their personal growth and self-expression.
For the next 5 years, I molded, reshaped, grew and expanded my creativity-centric methodology and then, I trained other trainers so that they could adopt this coaching strategy. In 2018, I wrote a book about it called HARNESS YOUR CREATIVITY, that not only helps writers, but is geared towards enhancing every single person's natural creativity so that they can live their fullest life.
As a writing and creativity coach, I need to continue to work on myself and my creative process (as I continue to grow and gain new experiences, as does my work); so over the last 4 years, I was simultaneously running a Writers Room, where I hired screenwriters that had trained with me at FADE IN: and together, we built two TV shows, with the aim of making a change in the Lebanese media industry and getting noticed globally. The first show titled "Beirut City" is airing on local stations, and my next show, "Awake" is a 15-episode drama that takes visual storytelling to the next level in the Middle East.
5. What did you study in school?
At Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, I double majored in Film and Writing - with an emphasis on classical poetry.
6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?
I think at 20, I was a bit more self-centered. My daydreams consisted of me holding an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and I had several drafts of my acceptance speech. This changed a lot when I was empowered through my writing to express my truest self - I wanted to give this gift to others. Happily, my life is not as I pictured at 20, it's better, because I get to coach new writers, write stories for film & tv in the middle east that I believe in, and affect people's lives through both of those things.
7. Was there a time when life knocked you down or out and how did you get back up on your feet?
Yes. The experience shook the confidence I had in myself as a person, a coach, a friend, a businesswoman. But from the ashes of this, I learned the meaning of friendship, understood that even the most successful people need to know how to ask for help and I realized my true inner strength.
8. Advice for other women?
Sounds trite - but be true to yourselves. And help each other.
9. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it, for "feminist values"?
I have always seen "feminist values" as the right to choose. Be honest with yourself and choose the life you want. That is to say, don't be afraid to ask yourself for you what want, then make a plan to achieve it. "Today's world" is a difficult concept for me, because it ties into socio-economic status, gender, race etc, and I recognize my privilege. One woman's "world" is vastly different than another woman, depending on their circumstances - so maybe what we can do is continue to recognize our own privilege and empower those who don't have as much of it as we do. This could be in small ways, but even the smallest ways pushes us to be "all that we can be".
10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?
In the glowing support of my husband is where I feel the absolute tallest.
In the presence of unconditional love that I feel from my family and closest friends.
At the moment when one the writers I'm coaching has an "ah-ha" breakthrough in their own creative process, it lifts me up.
And, in the incredible instances of writing fiction - when everything in reality melts away and I'm simply in my own imagination, creating worlds.
11. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?
I'm really proud of the times I can be there for my family. Especially Sundays with my Grandma where we go out for coffee, play backgammon and talk about movies, writing and what it means to be creative. Maybe that's not a hobby; but it's so important to me and I'm proud of it.
12. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?
I want to be writing :) Always.
13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?
The fear that I'm not good enough or that I don't belong in the circles of successful women. I write about it often so that at least I can stare it in the face as it mocks me.
14. Anything you'd do differently, if you had another go at life?
No. Everything that caused me joy and pain has brought me where I am today. Every choice I made was led by an intuitive drive to foster happiness and inspiration wherever I go. I wouldn't change it.
15. What inspires you?
Hearing people's life stories. They are so different than each other, and yet somehow, we all share the same humanity; and this moves me.
16. What are you hopeful about?
I'm hopeful that storytelling can change minds.
17. What are some ingredients to a good life?
Putting a value on well-being, personal happiness and growth, finding purpose and going after it - these are ingredients to a good life.
18. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
Define your own success. And keep redefining. It doesn't match anyone else's version - it can only be yours.
19. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)
Currently I'm reading "Conversations with Friends" by Sally Rooney and I'm hooked!
A book that has changed me and I always gift: "Fall on Your Knees" by Anne-Marie McDonald.
A book that helped me as a writer: "On Writing: A memoir on the craft" by Stephen King
My favorite poetry Anthology: "The Rag & Bone" which I have carried around since I was 18 years old.
20. Who is a WOW Woman in your world who inspires you and why? Can you nominate three (or more) women you know who perfectly fit WOW WOMAN description?
Dina Harb, Egyptian producer.
She's amazing. She knows her work inside and out and is always giving back to others. She grows people's talents instead of competing with them. She listens in a way that makes you feel protected and then finds solutions that fit who you are.
Pauline Korban, entrepreneur, Lebanon.
Inspires me to no end. For Paula, nothing is impossible. She runs the show where she goes, she dreams big and always achieves with elegance and fierce know-how. She's a Mom that leads by example. She's a hero and for me, I think of her when I think of success.
Deana Nasser, media/filmmaker/actress, Los Angeles. Egyptian-American.
This woman is an advocate for Arab voices across the world through the media industry - and I'm not just saying that. It's the truth. I want to be like Deana when I grow up. Not only is she a leader in every sense of the word, she leads with compassion and kindness; somehow transforming them into strengths. Most recently, she became the Director of the Middle East Media Initiative - connecting Arab TV writers with Los Angeles writers/producers. But really, she does so much more.
21. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?
FADE IN: Beirut website
FADE IN: Beirut blog
my Book “Harness Your Creativity”