A short story by: Zuhura Seng’enge

Participants of the 3rd Editorial and Publishing Training Workshop.

OCTOBER 26th-31st 2015

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

~ George Bernard Shaw
The first step
Some moments can change the direction of one’s life when they happen at the right place, at the right time. Such change has happened to me after attending the 3rd Editorial and Publishing Training Program, organized by the African Writers Trust in Kampala, Uganda this October (from 26th-30th Oct.) 2015.
Before the Workshop I was a performance poet with the La Poetista group. I was used to writing and performing in festivals and social events. I had attended some poetry sessions with fellow poets from WAKA Poetry Consortium Tanzania, to nurture my skills as a performance poet, and I was lucky to be able to attend one poetry workshop at a readership called SOMA Book Cafe.
These efforts and activities helped me to grow as a performer and as a writer and had made a name for me. However, I never had a real professional experience of learning directly from those whozuhura 1 have been in the industry and have experienced the whole process; from creating an idea, to publishing it.
This Workshop in Kampala felt to me as the perfect chance to get to achieve that, especially because the opportunity was brought to my attention by my colleague at Culture and Development East Africa (CDEA)- the institution where I volunteer- when I had just made a collection of poems that I wanted to publish.
At first I did not much believe that this opportunity was for me, and I feared that my application would not be successful because the directions indicated that it was for editors and writers (either fictional or non-fictional), and I was only a poet.
The managing director of CDEA (also my superior) madam Ayeta Wangusa, encouraged me to apply even though it was not indicated that poets can apply. Surprising enough when the replies came back, I was one of the successful applicants. This alone was life changing to me because it made me believe that I was good enough and I could stand a chance in the world of writers.

Lessons carried
The most positive change that I experienced from the workshop organized by the African Writers Trust was learning practical editing skills form our trainer Mr. James Woodhouse, who has worked as an editor and publisher since 2003. He shared with us his experiences and challenges that he faced through his journey, from which I learnt how to make my work as a poet, more presentable, attractive and reader friendly, to earn a demand in the market where poetry is the hardest to publish and sell. I also got to learn from another trainer Mr. Innocent Ouma, and guest speakers and facilitators; Otieno Owino, Crystal Rutangye, Nyana Kakoma, and Melisa Kyeyune, the ins and outs of digital publishing and e-marketing, which were eye opening to me since we live in a world today where digital life has taken over, and with it I have learnt how I can make a massive impact in my society, through my work.
This change was so significant to me because it helped change my mind set, which is the most important change in the journey to success. I used to think editing was only a game of checking spells and grammar, arranging structure of work, but from this workshop I realized that editing is a profession, big enough for one to actually study for a degree, masters and PhD and make a real carrier out of. It made me realize that we can also make an impact in our societies in terms of materials people read, by working with our publishing houses to shape the way books are written, edited and even published. By taking initiative as writers to improve our writing skills, we can set a different course for our literature to gain more demand. This can mostly be achieved through attending workshops like these, or taking courses on writing, editing and even publishing.
The extra factor
This experience was more than class sessions and assignments, there were engagement activities in every lesson, which kept everyone active and focused. Apart from that, there were evening outings that gave every new comer, a little taste of Kampala. I personally enjoyed the food, the weather too was refreshing. It was nice to break away from the heat of Dar es Salaam city. Strolling through the streets of Kampala was my favorite thing, each time selecting a different restaurant to dine in.selfie One moment that in particular stood out for me, was when I performed at a poetry shrine, at the Uganda National Theatre.
It was indeed a true pleasure.

In the gift bag

The best gift from this very inspirational and mind nurturing process, is the transformation. It has allowed me to create an amazing piece of work, which I consider my greatest achievement. This is the first piece of narrative poetry I have ever composed. Here is an excerpt from the story;
She kept coming at the lake at night
When the moon was full on the sky
She kept singing those moving songs
That spoke to my heart
She sang about the seasons, like she was born in a farm
She sang about family, like she knew mine
She sang about unity, she sang about peace
She looked me in the eyes, and she sang about love.
She looked me in the eyes, and I was locked in her gaze
Her gentle eyes hypnotized me
Stopped me from thinking clearly
Every time she wore a smile
I lost my breath, my tongue was tied
She got me in loss for words
Slowly sweeping me in her world
and with time even she, was immersed in mine.

She asked me to teach her
How to milk the cows
She wanted to learn the ways of the farm
I was always in awe of her enthusiasm
With me she let her wild side show
Her fun spirit was never fading
She enchanted me
Every time we were together
I loved when we climbed hills when the sun set
Time seemed to stand still
When I was around her
She said I made butterflies dance in her stomach
and when she was gone, she made me count seconds
Until I could hold her in my arms again
In my heart it was clear, she was the only one
From the first day it was clear, she would be the only one.

For future Workshops
The Editorial and Publishing Workshop is one of the very essential tools for young writers and editors to grow and become more creative and current on the production of their works. We all know how important books are, so in order to keep and increase the impact stories make in our communities, these tools for growth need to be accommodating.
Therefore, the following are my recommendations for future workshops;
More practical work. This is so that participants may have more practice of the skills they learn.
Have more engaging and fun activities between trainers or facilitators and participants, and among participants. These would bring enthusiasm and build interpersonal relationships, as well as increase active participation in the learning process. Example; having debate sessions, participants editing/ ‘doing terrible things’ to each other’s works and so on.
Include poetry category in calls for application so that more poets may come forward. In the last call for application, it was not specified if poets could also apply for the workshop, and after attending this workshopfuture workshops I learnt that poetry is hard to publish because of the market. It still needs more work so it can gain momentum in the market. In order to achieve that, more poets need to learn the ins and outs of editing and publishing. Therefore, through workshops like this, such poets will have a chance to become better, and to be able to make an impact with their work.

Closing the curtains
This whole experience would not have been amazing, if not for the amazing people that made it happen; my family, for supporting my passion from day one and contributing to the success of my trip, the CDEA team for showing me this opportunity and helping me through the process of getting my passport, the whole African Writers Team for organizing the workshop and accepting my application, making this my first trip on a plane and outside my country, the trainers and facilitators for their great input, as well as the keen participants and my dear friends; the graduates of the 3rd Editorial and Publishing Training Program 2015.

This experience has indeed helped to boost that mental progress for me. Now I am ready to share the knowledge I was offered, with others, so we can keep creating better literary works. I’m thankful to everyone here at home and in Kampala for their hand in making this happen for me. Thank you for being so kind and for making this visit one to remember for a long, long time.

~ END ~

closing the curtains



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