By Omaya Daniel
“And the winner of the Best Written Short Story competition is…”
What a suspense! I held my breath and waited. This was at the closing ceremony of African Writers Trust workshop for young writers, which was held in February 2010 in Kampala. The workshop, the first of its kind, was held at the Uganda Museum and participants were drawn from three Ugandan Universities. I’m glad I was among them, and I’m grateful the organizers invited Sade Adeniran, who won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for First Best Novel in 2008, to talk to us. I had many questions as a writer, and I got the answers that I had been yearning for. I learnt better writing techniques. For instance, I’ve always had problems with setting. I wondered if it were possible to use real places for a fictitious story. This was explained well to me during the workshop. Engaging in peer group activities, getting to meet other senior writers, and being exposed to diverse publishing opportunities was such a nutritious menu for the workshop proceedings.
Each one of us had to submit a story for the competition. On the last day of the workshop, the winning story was announced. I caught myself crying when I was announced the winner. I have come a long way! My winning story, The Burden of a Son, is about a polygamous man, who one day drinks his head off the same night one of his wives gives birth. The story is set in an Internally Displaced People’s camp guarded by government soldiers. The wife has to be taken to a clinic which is two kilometers away from the camp. Some concerned women come over and suggest that Ogwang, son of the woman in labor, carries his mother to the clinic while they plan to follow afterwards. This story was extracted from a novel manuscript I’m currently working on, and takes place in the war-torn region of northern Uganda where I’m from.
My experience during the workshop was truly an eye opener. Now I feel equipped as a creative writer because I learnt a lot about the technicalities of the writing craft, especially how characterization works and how to assign character traits. Above all, we got links to other writers and literary sites. I also learnt about blogs and I have succeeded in opening one.
After the workshop, I was able to have one of my short stories, Love at Stake, Patience Strained, published in Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper. I value that workshop, and I sincerely commend the organizers for a job well done.
Omaya Daniel is a student at Uganda Christian University