What I learnt as a participant in African Writers Trust workshop
By Emmanuel Monychol – student at Uganda Christian University.
African Writers Trust (AWT) has helped solve the dilemma of a young African writer in Uganda. I was fortunate enough to attend the fruitful writers’ workshop in February 2010, in Kampala, Uganda. I was once a distressed young writer – with no sense of direction. My frustrations could perhaps be found in my short piece, Just a whistle, a commentary I self-published in African Writers’ Forum – a writers’ discussion board.
I used to write poems back then, and I embarked on prose writing towards the end of December 2009. I finished writing THE VIGIL, a novel, within six months. Sir Epajjar, my editor, gave me a go ahead to present it to publishers but he cautioned me not to rely on only one publishing house.
So I went straight to Fountain Publishers and met Julius Ocwinyo, the senior editor. Even though it was not his duty to receive manuscripts, he politely received me. After a few courtesies, I presented him my manuscript, and he placed it among the heaps of other waiting manuscripts. He assured me that I would receive a report on the manuscript ‘as soon as possible’.
But my Manuscript rested on the shelf, sucking dust, for six months. I got impatient and withdrew it and took it with me to Juba, with the intention of meeting somebody with experience to look at it. I eventually met with Prof. Taban lo Liyong, who heads the Literature and Creative writing program at University of Juba, but unfortunately, he could not help with my manuscript because he was too busy with university work. So I returned to Kampala with my manuscript, disappointed still.
But my disappointed soon turned into excitement when I received a letter inviting me to participate in the First Mentoring and Training workshop for emerging Ugandan writers organized by African Writers Trust. Our tutor was Ugandan writer and director of African Writers Trust, Goretti Kyomuhendo, and Sade Adeniran, a Nigerian-British writer who lives and works in the UK, led the mentoring sessions. Sade’s first novel, Imagine This, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for First Best Novel in 2008.
The sessions were very fruitful and helped me understand better the processes of writing, how to decide on choice of characters and point of view. That first workshop has helped me a lot. It has exposed me to areas that will help me achieve my writing talent. At the moment, I am rewriting my first novel, THE VIGIL based on the knowledge I received from AWT first workshop. I am now a senior member in African Writers’ Forum, after learning about it during African Writers Trust workshop. I have also opened my own blog – even though I do not have followers yet. Currently, I am able to write short stories –even though they are not that very well crafted, some are beginning to gain recognition.For example, Celebrating sixteenth May was selected by Kwani?, a Kenyan-based literary organization that publishes creative works by African writers.
Right now, I am continuously writing and posting my pieces to different publications and websites. I get feed back from other committed young writers from Nigeria. I am a hopeful writer. I owe it to African Writers’ Trust.
Emmanuel Monychol is a Sudanese writer studying in Uganda.