I just had my business cards made. For the first time in my history of possessing business cards, they say that I am a writer. This is not because I only started writing yesterday, but, for the first time, I am finally acknowledging that I am a writer and I want others to know me as one, too.
If you are a ridiculously funny writer you will say you knew you wanted to write from the first time you held a pencil. Others will say that the urge or need to tell stories bubbled inside them from when they were little, but unlike wanting to be a doctor or engineer, wanting to be a writer was never that dream you said out loud.
And so you turned to diaries and wrote your little heart out and got lost in other worlds that those who had been braver had created for you, but still, it was not that dream that you said out loud.
And if you were born in Uganda like I was, there was no school to go to to perfect this storytelling skill of yours. There were medical schools, law schools, institutes of technology, schools of education, and fortunately a mass communication class that came close to what you wanted to do, but writing remained that dream you could not quite say out loud. And if your President, like mine, believes that the arts are useless, writing remains that dream you cannot say out loud.
I did not understand a word Lars said but he seems very passionate and his delivery is good. I have been to a couple of poetry slams in Kampala by Open Mic Kampala and Poetry In Session and quite often I am inspired by both the poems and the delivery. Sometimes it is just pure entertainment and other times very thought—provoking.
There is actually an upcoming poetry reading the day before Valentine’s Day. It’s being organised by Babishai Niwe Poetry Award. Basically poets have been invited to write poems on love, romance and they will read them that evening. I am really looking forward to that.
We do not have slam competitions though. None that I know of anyway. In the competition, what criteria do they use to determine the winner? The content or the performance? Because a lot of writers cannot perform their own work so I am curious to know how that works.
Thanks for sharing your experience on the creative writing workshop. Thankfully, I will be facilitating with someone else so I am going to concentrate on the things I am good at and share those. I will tell you all about it. I worked as a Sub-Editor for a newspaper and later as Magazine Editor but my work with Sooo Many Stories has given me an opportunity to work as a fiction editor. I am learning so much and teaching myself quite a lot.
Before I go into the Kampala writing scene I thought I should tell you about my writing club that has helped my growth as a writer this past year. Also because in your last post, you mentioned that you would love to be a part of a writers’ club such as Femrite’s. You can start with a small group like my writing club.
In 2012 I was selected for the Caine Prize workshop that was held in Uganda for the first time. I found myself in the company of Harriet Anena, Davina Kawuma and Lillian A Aujo. I had seen them before (the writing scene in Kampala is quite small and you end up bumping into the same people) but we were not that close. Garuga, where the workshop was held, brought us closer and we began with just talking about books and commenting on different conversations about writing.
We have been talking about how to write, in terms of inspiration and craft however it seems many of us know the general process of getting one’s work published which a few of us do not. I do not mean publishing on own blogs rather publishing to a form that can be bought in a bookstore.
Here’s a few things I learned from an editing workshop that was held by Nyana Kakoma and Glaydah Namukasa a few weeks ago at FEMRITE.
Publishers usually have a kind of writing they publish and will periodically make calls for submissions on that theme. Some make calls once a year, twice a year as their plan dictates.
Some publishers will not restrict their calls for manuscripts on theme. Therefore it is helpful to know what kind of books they publish to increase your chances of being published. This is especially important when publishers do not make calls, when you’re approaching them outside their publishing plan.
As promised, below, my friends Harriet Anena, Lillian A. Aujo and Davina Kawuma talk about belonging to a writing club and critiquing other writers’ work.
L-R: Davina Kawuma, Harriet Anena and Lillian A. Aujo, members of my writing group
Would you advise someone to join a writing group?
Harriet Anena: A writing group with members that are dedicated to growing your art and not just tearing your work apart is a must join. Group members help you see the good and bad you may not have noticed in your work.
What do you think has helped your particular group work?
Lillian A. Aujo: Hard work, dedication and earnest critique. All these mean rewrites and drafts of drafts so we are all usually working on something.
Should writers critique other writers’ work or should that be left to readers and critics?
Davina Kawuma: Because I am both a reader and a writer, I suspect that there’s more than one way for me react to the written word. The reader-me approaches writing less as a critic and more as someone who wishes to be edutained. I won’t deny that I occasionally succumb to the despicable practice of reading to ‘spy’ what effects other writers are creating, and to attempt to demystify why and how and for what purpose these effects were created. However, I find, still, that I read mostly because I enjoy reading.
Mariya: Good morning, Tom, let me start our dialogue (to follow Fromm here in his claim that the best thing in life is to begin). After reading the stimulating discussions up to now, I thought we might offer an exchange on the other side of the battle field, namely, what are our modes of reading, how do we read (to counter the dialogues of how these authors write), what are our danger zones, where do we pause, how do we attempt (be it often to no avail) to reflect our blind spots (as readers). Let’s talk of situating ourselves, of disloyalty, dissociation, problematic readings and too, impossible ones. Of Glissant’s ’Nous réclamons le droit a l’opacité’ and the ethics of silence; the desire to know and unknow; politics of reading, its perils, vulnerability and possibilities, too. Let’s talk of questions that leave us restless and too, those which stand at the borderline between us and the text.
Tom: Bam Bam BAM! That’s not a start, that is an overwhelming mass of possabilities, no it’s not, but a realistic statement of what is already given (we don’t need to (re-)start things that are already in a ‘state’ of flux, in progress, in a progress of flux, or something like trans-streaming…). I think about our session last Saturday (our Bremen-Kampala-Blog-Group), when we talked about Nikolas’ first chapter (Joseph) of his novel in progress. We stated, that an opening of such a text, that overcharges the reader with a naturlaness of a story (no traditional, or easy accessible introduction where you get to know the charecters, places and else on a dinner tray like in an encyclopedia) and leaves one behind with a situation in which you have to deal with (and in a certain way to accept) a mode of not-knowing (“what’s going on?” and “what exactly is this about”), while simultaneously constructing a minimal, fractional access, to get hit by an influx to get soaked into the text (somehow being rejected by a text and getting caught in an undertow at the same time) – that such a beginning can be the literary translation to a/the concept of transculturalism. Transculturalism as a way to describe reality – social reality as given and grown structures that are influenced by various streams (each one for itself a highly dynamic formation) and directions. Both, transculturalism as a way to describe … world(?)/ a way of perception and the opening of (such) a text (currently I’m thinking that ‘beginning’ is simply a wrong term for handling such texts) alike, are dodgy situations, or better, require a sense for dodgy situations – one simply has to deal with the never wholly knowable background of structures and influxes of a cultural happening, one has to accept the never wholly bridgeable or fillable gap between the given and the/my/ones perception, but one has to create a walkable/walk-on-able bridge, in order not to get entirely lost.
Have you felt, on your shoulder of late, an impatient literary truth that needs to be heard? It’s not the elf with the pitchfork or the angel with the halo, it’s poetry. It’s poetry from Africa. 2015 is the year to be a poet from Africa. If you haven’t been submitting poetry yet as an African poet, do so today, do so now. I would like to hear sentiments on this particular affirmation from the readers of this blog. Do they also feel that with the advocacy surrounding poetry, that 2015 is going to be a somewhat explosive and enjoyable poetic party?
Every day at 6 in the morning, my alarm goes off and before I head out of my bedroom, I do my “morning pages” This is a writing discipline that I learned from creative facilitator Ife Piankhi a few years back. I like morning pages because I basically have to write; write anything that comes to mind. However, it is surprising that my morning pages have given birth to some of the stories I later come to develop. There are two challenges however with my morning routine, first, because I am on the move most times, I sometimes find it impossible to write because I cannot locate my notebook or because I worked late in the night and I have to wake up really late. The other coincidence about my morning pages work is that it tends to take on a certain pattern and theme. For some reason, sunrise has a big impact on me and most of the emotions I can master in the morning are related to nature. It is quite unlikely that I will wake up one morning and pen a political piece.
As I have said before, I guess I am not so centre right disciplined as writer and my writing routine varies with environment, season or event. There are weeks and months when I have generated a lot of work and then there are those weeks and months when my brain is literally blank. I am literally always struggling with writers’ block. However, with my professional work of running and organizing writing classes and workshops in East Africa with Kahini and Writing Our World, I have been able to put myself in an environment which enables me to develop new content. I met various writers and often in these classes, I do a lot of in depth writing.
Coffee, juice or water are the best companions to my writing table or desk. I have a special brand of coffee that I buy from Rwanda and since last year, my life has been rotating around it. The mere smell of the coffee in a room gives me a good feeling and I feel relaxed, able to think and have my creative energies hyped. With such an environment, I could write for an hour. That is realistically the biggest time I can spend writing, unsupervised. I sometimes listen to music when I am writing but most times, I prefer a quiet calm environment to think and concentrate. Writing in nature id by far the most ideal for me.
So tell me Nikolas, how is your writing discipline?
This must be a very interesting but intense week for because of the literature week. How was the reading on Saturday? How was it for you as a moderator? I hope it is a huge success. Can not wait to hear all about it.
Thank you so much for “taking me around” to the literature house, the Literaturkontor and the city library. It is now very apparent that Bremen has a huge respect for literature what with all these platforms for writers! It is really nice to see where you get to do what you truly love.
Have I told you about the Lantern Meet of Poets in Kampala? I think I mentioned them when I linked Peter Kagayi’s interview on Sooo Many Stories. Well, The Lantern Meet Of Poets has a recital starting tomorrow till Saturday.
I have attended their poetry recitals since their very first recital and I have always been curious about the process of putting together a recital. They allowed me to join them for one their rehearsals. We met in the Green Room at The National Theatre in the evening and the session began with one of the members asking how our day was. Patrick Massa, the Director/Producer of the recital walked in at around that time and asked the members to gather around for some games. All phones were to be in silent mode so as not to interrupt anything.