Robin Barratt is the founder of Bahrain Writers Circle which came to fruition back in 2011. As an author of six non-fiction, true crime titles, a biography, two Bahrain travel anthologies and more, Robin aspired to form a close-knit community of writers such as himself, to encourage all wordsmiths of Bahrain no matter what stage they’re on in their craft, to continue doing what they’re doing, and to benefit from the members’ critiques, advice, networks, etc. He was successful in drawing in scores of writers, journalists, bloggers, publishers, and poets to the group, some of which we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing for this blog already!
NQD: Thank you, Robin, for being here with us. Let’s start off by asking: What’s your origin story? How did writing find you?
Robin: It is kind of a longish story, but briefly before I started writing and publishing, I was in the security industry for many years; I started working as a doorman in clubs and pubs around the UK. I then went on a six-week close protection course and then became operational as a bodyguard with Fortune 500 companies in Moscow, as well in the Balkans during the conflict. Around the same time, I also started a small security training company; traveling to Russia, Iceland, and Sweden (and other places), training others to look after people.
I met a publisher of a friend's book, who was on the lookout for people with interesting backgrounds and careers, and, because of my career and the things I had seen and done, I certainly had quite a unique and colorful background. He suggested I wrote a book. I was always interested in writing, even as a child, but life took me on a different path. In 2002, I sold my security training company and thought why not? I had a little money, enough to take a year off and began writing my first book. This became a genre best-seller, and I've writing and publishing on and off ever since.
NQD: Talk to us about the inspiration behind “My Beautiful Bahrain.” and where one can one find it and your other books.
Robin: Although I am now back in the UK, I was lucky to have spent four glorious years in Bahrain and loved every second of living there. I have traveled a lot in my life, and have lived in lots of different places around the world, but I immediately fell in love with Bahrain. I had already had a few books out, and I wanted to tell other people around the world about the Kingdom, so what better way than with a book about life and living in the Kingdom? However, I didn't want it from a Bahraini's perspective, but from expats living and working there; it is a much more powerful message for foreigners to tell others about the country, than countrymen and women about their own country.
Originally it was available from Miracle Publishing, but they no longer print it, but I have self-published it via the Amazon platforms! Simply search ISBN: 978-1507774427 or via my website.
While I was in Bahrain I also compiled, edited and ghostwrote a book for the Kanoo family titled: 'A Tribute to Abdulla Ali Kanoo'. Working with the Kanoo family and visiting and interviewing colleagues of Abdulla and learning how he built the company up from its early beginnings to where it is today, was both an honor and very, very interesting.
NQD: You not only bear the title of published author, but you’re a mental health advocate and counselor. How has that contributed to who you are as a writer?
Robin: Yes, having had a very challenging and difficult childhood and, as a consequence, experienced sometimes profound mental health challenges, helping and supporting others with mental health issues has always been a real passion. In 2016, I started studying various disciplines within this field, with the intention of both practicing privately and educating others to understand and be more aware of these issues.
My intention is to set up a mobile mental health support unit, providing mental health first aid at public events, concerts, festivals, etc. This is so very important now, especially with what is happening around the world. And as a writer and publisher I try to empower people to put into words their thoughts, feelings, and emotions; to use words and creativity as a form of therapy. I publish them as a way of empowering and supporting others. I have done this in a number of anthologies, for example, SUICIDE, a collection of poetry and short prose on suicide and self-harm, LOCKDOWN 2020, which is about living in isolation and surviving the coronavirus, and LONELINESS. I am planning anthologies on the themes of bereavement & loss as well as on addiction.
NQD: What has been your favorite part about writing and publishing so far?
Robin: Writing and publishing is something I adore, so I don't have one favorite part, but lots. I love connecting with writers and poets around the world, and have made friends with some incredible, talented, amazing people. I love empowering people to write and in then helping them get their work published and words read.
It is still such a joy for so many, whether a poet laureates with many titles to their credit, or a poet or writer having their work published for the first time, and I love being part of that joy. And I love reading works of poets around the world and seeing a book I have been working on for months drop on my doorstep. Lots of things to love!
NQD: Since founding BWC in 2011, what would you say has been the most surprising aspect? And what are some of the lessons you’ve learned that have shaped how the organization is currently managed?
Robin: One of the most surprising aspects is seeing how many amazing, talented writers there are in the Kingdom. There are so many for such a small country, and that is wonderful. But outside of the Kingdom, they struggle to get noticed, and so one of my ambitions, while I was in the Kingdom, was to set up an international publishing house, publishing and promoting Bahrain based writers, poets and authors in the UK, USA and into the global arena. Being British, I could have easily done this, but just didn't get the funding. But I think the BWC, as well as The Second Circle and The Colours Of Life, and Confluence, still does such a really great job of uniting the island's writing community. It continues to be a significant feature for the writing community.
NQD: Could you give us one quote you live by as a wordsmith?
Robin: Not really a quote... but a word; TRY! Even if I get things wrong, or make mistakes, even if things fail or don't work out as I hoped... at least I have to try. Most people don't. So as a poet or a writer just TRY, and try and try, and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
NQD: To those who suffer from writer’s block, what is your suggestion to them?
Robin: Good question... and I don't think there is one answer, as we are all different; some people write every day even if they are suffering from writer's block, and because they do, eventually the block fades and they get their creativity, inspiration or motivation back, yet for others, they can't force it and just have to wait. The trouble with waiting though is... for how long? A week? A month? A year? Ten years? Waiting I think is not the answer... just TRY.
NQD: You’ve published your own books but you’ve also published articles for newspapers and magazines worldwide. What would you say are the core differences between these two publishing platforms and which would you prefer and why?
Robin: I like doing both; I enjoy writing concise articles for newspapers and magazines. I enjoy the challenges of getting as much relevant information as possible structured within a specific word count while keeping it interesting. And I also enjoy the longer process of writing tens of thousands of words for a book, with more detailed descriptions and more complex structures. Both have their own separate challenges but are equally just as enjoyable.
NQD: We think it’s incredibly impressive that you’ve published over 10 collections of poetry and prose! Talk to us about some of your favorite poets.
Robin: Actually, I have compiled and published a lot more than ten. I published ten titles in the Collections of Poetry and Prose book series and five in THE POET's quarterly collections. I have also compiled the collection titled 'SUICIDE', as well as a collection from poets in Bahrain titled Poetic Bahrain. I do like my poetry collections! I don't have any particular favorites though; I love all my poets and their poetry, otherwise, I wouldn't put them into my books.
NQD: Do you have any upcoming books that we can tell our readers about?
Robin: I have just released 'ON THE ROAD' with over 250 contributions, from 121 poets in 28 countries (Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Kurdistan, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Republic Of Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, USA, Vietnam and Wales), and over two volumes.
'ON THE ROAD' is probably one of the largest international anthologies of travel poetry ever published. And I will shortly start work on 'A NEW WORLD: Rethinking our lives post pandemic', again a poetry collection from writers around the world. On top of that, I am publishing a book of my own poetry, and am working on the next in my mental health series titled 'Addiction'. Oh, forgot to say... also just started on a fiction book too... about a bodyguard, of course!