There’s something that happens to you when you are in the presence of like-minded people. Hearing them share their experiences, struggles and triumphs does so much for your inspiration meter.
This is what it was like for me at the 4th edition of the Uganda International Writers Conference in Kampala. I got a rare chance to sit close to and glean wisdom from writers I admire such as Dr. Jackie Kay and Dr. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, among many others. I also met writers from Kenya, Ethiopia, the UK and many other places.
The “In Conversation” sessions with the authors, presentations and panel discussions were well thought out and wonderfully organized. It was almost as though I was entertaining all these amazing writers in my living room for a hot cup of tea. The manner in which they opened up about their writing processes, often drawing from their life experiences energized me a great deal. You needed to have been in the room to hear Dr. Jackie Kay talk about meeting her biological father for the first time, James Miti Luyinda relive the horrors of the Rwanda genocide or Prof. Sandra Adell describe the pain of addiction. These deeply personal experiences showed me how crucial vulnerability is in the process of creative writing.
I was honored to have been invited to share my work on the evening of literary readings and poetry performances. I read from my short story, The Flood. It was wonderful to share the podium with other talented people such as Kitara Nation, Cynthia Kyofuna and Dr. Jackie Kay, among others.
I left the conference with a renewed energy to take daily steps to accomplish my writing goals. All that I had heard, the connections I made and resources I gained are certain to help make this happen.
Lorraine Onduru is a creative writer and poet, living and working in Nairobi. She has published a collection of poems called In the Shadow, and more recently, Coffee and Love Chats. The latter is a curation of stories on the marriages of diverse couples. The book displays the highlights, challenges and nuggets of wisdom learned along the way.