I remember being asked by a colleague and friend at a meeting “Have you applied to attend the African Writers Trust (AWT) Editorial and Publishing something…Something?” No. I adamantly responded because I barely knew what she was talking about. She plainly told me that I had to apply for the AWT 4th Editorial and Publishing Training Workshop and she stressed that I had to do it so quickly because the deadline had passed. It wouldn’t hurt to apply, I thought, Moreover, it would be good to attend such a workshop owing to the fact that I am a publisher- Editor/writer. For me, it would be a refresher course.
Having been in publishing for over 2 decades, I thought I had the basic skills to call myself an editor in all aspects.
I made a call and spoke to the African Writers Trust (AWT) Kampala office, which told me that I could apply but as a late entrant. I applied anyway. I was at a loss to imagine and write a story that would win me a place into this training workshop. I knew for sure that I had to compete with people who are well placed in terms of writing stories. I thought of countries like Zimbabwe which has a high rate in literacy levels, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi and Zambia itself.
“Congratulations Agnes, you have been selected to be one of the participants to attend the AWT 4th AWT Editorial and publishing Training workshop” a voice announced on the other end of the line as I received the call. I had been shortlisted. I was short of words but I composed myself so that the other end should not think I was being irrational with my celebration. Uganda here I come!
I wondered what type of people I would meet. I thought it would be the same serious, so academic individuals who are immersed in writing on scripts with red pens and fill them with editing and proofreading marks.
Getting to know my fellow participants was marvelous. Each one had a way they expressed themselves that was so unique. There were intellectual capabilities being displayed in the room.An eminent change was inevitable with the kind of crowd at this workshop.
The most significant change that I experienced at the workshop is the profound way story book writing and editing was laid down. To me this was an enormous postmortem of my entire career as a writer/editor. It brought to light what I knew and what I did not know in the 22years I have been in publishing. The workshop exhumed the hidden writer in me that was yearning to come out.
I barely took time before to think that a story needed escalation points to the extent to which I now know. Or, there should be a trigger point, let alone a hierarchy of senses in writing. To me a story was a story and I used my sense of judgement to tell a good story.
But now, I know way beyond an average person’s way of understanding, scrutinising or writing a story, be it novel, novella, fiction non-fiction.
Editing a piece of writing with editing marks was my way of editing. The editing I learnt at this workshop was in another lime light. Learning to look for characterization, premise, process, places, plot, in a story as you edit it was astounding. This brought to light that editing isn’t just looking for errors but also enjoying the piece of work being edited.
This change in my life marks a whole new wide world of excellent writing and editing. I feel as though I am already on cloud nine. Inasmuch as it is about how many books I will be able to sell, I feel it is also important to enjoy my writing as well as try to edit and transform a bad piece of work to an excellent readable one. The change has transformed me into a publisher who is able to train others in writing and editing because I have been equipped with the right tools to work with.
I am really thankful to Goretti Kyomuhendo, Director African Writers Trust, for coming up with such an enormous selfless contribution to African writers. I pay tribute to her because she did not think of it as a ‘Ugandan thing’ but for Africa as a whole. Yes we belong to different ethnicities but we all are Africans, borders are but imaginary lines that are a hindrance to our development. Thank you to the AWT team, for harnessing this concept – Carole, Diana, and Mark.
Jacob Ross, our phenomenal trainer with a Caribbean-British accent, brought into the workshop a sense of African belonging that resurrected the appreciation of the African art of writing. I was encouraged to look at our languages as medium that can be infused into our writing to authenticate our social and economic lives. He taught editing in a profound manner that made me realise how much I did not know about how to approach a piece of work. I extend my heart-felt gratitude to him for the in-depth training – he had me ‘making ting a merry’. Thanks to Ellen Aaku Banda, for selflessly sharing her experience in self publishing and for echoing the challenges of a writer and eventually addressing them in a more subtle way. It was a clever and intelligent presentation. To my fellow participants, well done