We set off on the 18th September so we could be in time for the festival on the 19th which was to run up to 22nd September. Having signed up for the master classes, 10.00am found me seated in a session about Publishing by Kwame Dawes a renowned poet. In this session we discussed various options for a writer who wants their work published, options like journals, publishing houses, prizes and many more. Kwame’s resonating words: ‘writing is a craft, you have to keep building your craft, learn and learn all options you have the more you know the more you can easily create and improvise’ he related this to a jazz a player to be able to improvise he must have learnt a variety of cords.
The second session of my day was by Dr.Neal Hall a surgeon and writer of an award winning book Nigger For Life. In his session Dr.Neal Hall talked about voices of a poem. He emphasized that the most important voice is our inner voice, it’s what inspires us to write and we should practice to listen to what our inner voice says to us and write down and build on it.
Dr.Neal Hall’s session included readings from all the attendants of their own work, it was fun and encouraged all the writers to find their voices above anything else. ‘Your inner voice is the greatest inspiration’ he said.
My third session found me laughing my head off about how to write Non-fiction humor by Zukiswa Wanner the writer of a hilarious book the Madams she empasized to be able to write humorous facts you have to be aware of what’s around you, pay attention to everything around you and you will be able to pick small facts that can make a situation hilarious but more than ever you have to draw the line know what to say and what not to say.
That night all the writers met at a kanga party, where we all interacted, shared experiences. I had interesting conversations with some of the writers about their work like Teju Cole (Open City), Dilman Dila (a commonwealth writer) and many more. Day two found me in The short story session by Richard Crompton journalist and author of ‘The Honey Guide. He elaborated on types of a short story, structure of a short story emphasizing that the language of a short story should be economically, pertinent, concise and appropriate. A short story is an allegory for a long story he concluded by saying ‘if you are to continue writing, read read and read.
My second session of the day found me laughing my heart out as Atinuke the inspiring story teller, read from her children book No.1 Car Spotter, a hilarious book that illustrates a life of a young village boy. Good for young readers and inspiring to young writers as it tackles your sense of creativity. My next stop was in the Creative writing session by Jackson Biko a lifestyle writer and editor at Gecko publishing. He emphasized to write differently and creatively,’ learn to put faces to situations. ’the rule of creative writing is to break the rule’ he said smilingly. His session was eye opening and educative in how to write about frequent situations differently.
Koroga by Michael Onsando, an interesting workshop where we got to put words to pictures. It was amazing at how different pieces with different dimensions emerged from the interpretation of the same picture by the poets, the session showed how stories can be created by stirring together different disciplines.
Warsan Shire, Dr.Neal Hall, Mongane Wally Serote in Voicing The Unspoken. The writers each read from their books, Warsan’s work from her book ‘teaching my mother to give birth’ was about experiences of growing up from another country and the nostalgia of home, Wally shared his experience of activism in the apartheid regime and what motivated him to write he shared pieces from(Yakhal’Inkomo) that talked about reconciliation, ‘when we talk about reconciliation we look at black and white, but we black people haven’t come to terms with the wounds in our past, our societies are broken because we haven’t recovered from the injustices done to us. We have to reconcile with ourselves within communities, tribes and our past to achieve true peace’ this phrase decoded in my own understanding did make me think about our future and our past.
Dr.Neal Hall read from his book (Nigga for Life) his readings illustrated the continued struggle of black Americans not to be judged by race not to be marginalized because of their color. He made two statements that remain strung on my mind. ‘it’s not in the calling us Niggers that we should fight against but in the treating us as niggers” ‘don’t be afraid of being angry, hang on, on your pain and fear, don’t be afraid but let it inspire you positively. This session moderated by Njeri Wangari (mines and minefields) was very interactive covering topics like exploitation, reconciliation, exile and freedom.
The play I knew a man called Livingstone is a hilarious story about David Livingstone from the perspective of his African friends by Mara Menzies. I later on proceeded to a discussion by Ng’endo Mukii and Tazim Elkington on Ng’endo’s film shadism that talks about discrimination arising from our convoluted ideas around beauty and skin colour. Later that day it was my turn to hold a session, the poetry session East engages West hosted by Beverley Nambozo consisted of poets from the east, Rashida Namulondo, Pamela Orogot, Kelly Taremwa (three finalists in the BN Poetry 2013 award) and Clifton Gachagua from the west Africa we had Nii Parkes, Kwame Dawes and Fatou Were each poet read three pieces and answered questions from the audience, it was an interesting session that brought forward questions of music and its relevance in poetry.
However one of the poets from the west who was to be in the session with us, the renowned poet Kofi Awoonor was not available as he was a victim of the Westgate terrorism attack that happened that evening which brought an abrupt end to the festival. Prof. Awoonor was later pronounced dead, may HIS soul rest in peace. We returned home with the promise to return the next year.