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.
At the beginning of 2013, we decided to start a writing club where each of us would work on a story and we would meet at each other’s homes and dissect the story and give feedback to the writer. The writer sends the story a couple of weeks before the meeting to give us time to go over it. If one cannot make it to the meeting, they are supposed to send feedback by email.
You would think that because we are friends, we would hold back certain feedback or we would just shower each other with compliments. On the contrary, our friendship has made us more honest because we genuinely care about each other’s growth as writers. We have come to a place where we feel there is a place for each of us in the writing scene so it never seems like if one is doing well, the others have no chance of doing well. We are also not trying to impress each because we already respect each and each other’s work so there is no fakeness to it. There are times we leave the meetings and we have to re-write chunks and chunks of the story but if you feel strongly about something, there is the option not to change what you strongly believe in.
The other way our friendship has helped our work is that because we know a bit about each other, we can tell when our personal lives are interrupting the narrative of a story. Of course no fiction writer can ever say that bits of their lives do not make it into their work but there are moments of authorial intrusion that affect how a story comes out. So because we know a bit each other, we can tell when personal experiences and biases get in the way of a good story. A lot of times we will ask whether that has to be told, or whether it has to be told that way.
The best thing for me about the writing club itself is that we actually get to write. Sometimes as writers we get carried away in discussions about writing and actually forget to get the work done. All these discussions about theory and the future of writing and who is an African writer are important and good but sometimes all a writer needs to do is write. Having a group that you can be accountable to about your writing goals is good because then you get the work done. We are all now published in different anthologies. One of us is working hard on a novella and Harriet Anena has a collection of poems coming soon.
I cannot say for sure if there are many of these types of groups in Kampala. I belonged to one before but because a lot of the members travelled quite a lot, it was hard to keep the group together. One of us in our group is actually relocating to another country to study for 18 months and we met last week to talk about how we can continue with the club. These are challenges that we have to acknowledge and try to find solutions to. I hope the distance will not affect our club.
I asked them to share their experiences as part of the writing group. I will share their responses next time (this is already very long).