Two writing and mentoring workshops for emerging Ugandan writers kicked off at the end of October 2011, running through the first week of November at the Uganda National Museum in Kampala. The workshops were organised by African Writers Trust, (AWT) an organisation based in the UK and operational in Uganda, that facilitates interactions between African writers in the Diaspora and writers on the continent to foster learning and resource sharing between the two groups.
The participants who gathered for the six-day training were as varied as the stories they produced. From a bank executive, who has always dreamt of writing but never found the time and space to do so; development workers who discovered their love and gift for writing when their jobs required that they record case studies and success stories of their clients; to journalists who have been told time and time again by their readers and bosses that they should consider channelling their energies into creative writing because they have the knack for it; and university students studying English literature and creative writing, who already see themselves as the future writers.
The workshops, sponsored by DOEN Foundation and Commonwealth Foundation attracted approximately forty-five writers in all, who were required to produce a publishable short story or poem around the theme A Childhood Memory or Experience, at the end of the Workshops. To lead the workshops, AWT invited UK- born Zambian award-winning novelist and children’s writer, Ellen Banda-Aaku, currently living in the UK. Ms. Aaku’s first novel, Patchwork, won the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing in 2010.
Ms. Aaku was also the -writer-in-residence for The First African Writers Trust Fellowship programme. She spent six weeks in Uganda working on her own writing projects, mentoring and training students of Kyambogo University, and leading the two-week FEMRITE (The Uganda Women Writers Association) Regional Residency for women writers from South Africa, Namibia, Tunisia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Uganda. AWT plans to offer a fellowship to a professional writer in the Diaspora each year to spend time in Africa, writing, mentoring, offering practical creative guidance and writing professional skills to emerging writers and university students.
The highlight of the training workshops was the literary evening held on 3rd November, at the Uganda National Museum gardens, which was organised in collaboration with British Council Uganda. The workshop participants read from their writings produced during the workshops to an enthusiastic audience, and later shared a light moment with guests at a reception. Looking to the future, African Writers Trust, in collaboration with its partners including British Council, will implement a mentoring scheme for emerging Ugandan writers in March 2012. The scheme will begin with a small group from the participating workshop writers, in addition to others who will be selected through a competitive process. The new writers will be linked to mentors in the UK, to further develop their writing. It is planned that the writings developed through this scheme will later be published and submitted for international literary competitions.