The morning began with participants sharing with the wider group their favourite and least favourite short stories (fiction and non-fiction). The selection of stories, chosen by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, were given to the participants to read prior to today’s session with the prime focus of engaging with the texts in the role of a Structural Editor. The stories were diverse in genre, style, form and themes and included:
- ‘THE ONES WHO WALK AWAY FROM OMELAS’ BY URSULA K. LE GUIN
- ‘HITTING BUDAPEST’ BY NOVIOLET BULAWAYO
- ‘THE LOTTERY’ BY SHIRLEY JACKSON
- ‘FUGEE’ BY HAWA JANDE GOLAKAI
- ‘WAR OF THE CLOWNS’ BY MIA COUTO
At the start of the critical reading exercise, Ellah challenged participants to consider (as editors): The choices that writers make and why? Another pertinent question which came up during the course of our morning session was: Should writers write about subjects that are culturally sensitive and/or taboo? And, following on from that: What is the role of an editor in assessing such work? The discussions which ensued were vibrant and enlightening. The rest of the morning was spent exploring in great depth the structural editing process, focusing on: plot, theme, characterisation, P.O.V./voice, and genre. Underpinning the group work around this exercise was the question of ‘What – How – Why’ the authors of the said short stories made the decisions they made. On a brief discussion around language, it was good to be reminded that our African languages are not deviants of the English and are equally evocative, rich, beautiful – and, indeed do have value in our writings. This is of particular import when considering our roles in the editing process of works by African writers. As editors we acknowledge writers as the ‘talent’ and we are the ‘technicians’.
In the afternoon, participants had an opportunity to engage with a short copy editing exercise. After this there were two sets of participant presentations, facilitated by Demere Kitunga. The first panel spoke about planning and processes in start-up publishing endeavors. Very illuminating! The second panel focused on ‘Expanding a Literary Culture’ and ‘Independent Publishing’. The quality and standard of the participant presentations thus far have been exceptionally high – enabling deep conversation and mutual learning. Another super day at this AWT Mentoring and Training Workshop programme!