Learning Never Stops

by Ann Agwang

April 27th to May 2nd 2021 has been the best week of my life yet.  I arrived at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday 27th April to a cosy room, excellent hotel service and a glass of juice for the African Writers Trust (AWT) Writing and Reading Residency at HotSprings Villas. I knew I was home. The organisation was great, the food excellent; till date, I wonder what seasonings the chef added to the fish we had on Thursday.

Ann Agwang

Goretti and Racheal were incredible hosts graciously guiding us and providing a comfortable environment for the discussion of The First Woman by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Arrows of Rain by Okey Ndibe, and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Peer reviews and interactions with the authors was no doubt the biggest learning platform.

I would do it over again.

Among the sessions that stood out for me were; the peer reviews. I liked the honest criticism of my novel, The Washing Woman. I clearly saw the challenges I had with creating conflict, having too many adverbs and adjectives, unclear setting and plot. I am working upon conflict, getting the main verb instead of using too many adjectives and adverbs, getting an apt setting, structure and plot for my novel.

The interactions with the authors most definitely got me hooked. I liked the session with Okey Ndibe.  His description of the setting and structural dynamics in Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart and Arrows of Rain prompted me to work on my own in my short story, Apio. Also, the discussion with Mildred Barya on plot was an eye-opener for me. She evidently defined the elements of plot in An American marriage. (I have read the book three more times and I can now see where exposition should play out the escalation and resolution.) They say learning never stops, it doesn’t indeed. I was able to write a short story, Without Remorse, clearly defining the elements of plot i.e. exposition, escalation and resolution during the session with Mildred Barya.

Jennifer`s writing journey inspired me. Her level of acquaintance with the characters for years, the research, characterisation in The First Woman –keenly marking out each character with such detail helped me to restructure my characters and pay attention to each.

The editing session with Otieno Owino was a punch in the face. I thought I would hand in my messy work to the editor and it would be up to them to make it great but I know now that I should work on my manuscript first to save the editor and me time and money.

Through the residency, I discovered that the particular writing time that worked for me was 3:00 a.m. I slept quite early and woke up to write. I made new friends at the residency. My reading got better from book references by the other writers. I have also been able to make changes in conflict, character and characterisation, setting, structure and plot in both my short stories and novel which I certainly have to credit my time at the residency for.

In the future, I am going to put a lot of hard work into, The Washing Woman, Satan lives here, and Apio. My focus will be on plot, setting, structure, character and characterisation and hopefully go into publication. I will be writing other stories too and looking out for opportunities around the globe and I hope to develop my blog and post as much reading material as I can.

Ann posing with her certificate standing between the AWT director, Goretti Kyomuhendo (L), and Susan N.Kiguli (R), AWT board member.

I would like to convey heartfelt thanks to the International Writing Program, University of Iowa and African Writers Trust for the sponsorship. You’ve made my writing journey easier and more exciting!

Photo Credit: Fred Mubiru


ANN AGWANG is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Development Economics from Makerere University.

Her writing journey started as early as 10 years. She used to leave notes for her parents and siblings. She was an ardent member of the writing club in Primary and Secondary school. The most notable of her works is an article, ’what’s on the other side.’

She started pursuing writing more seriously in 2015 after attending a writing workshop with MEBO THEARTRE. Under the guidance of Dr. Mercy Mirembe Ntagaare, she was able to write a novel, ‘The washing Woman’. She is also working on publishing her short stories, ‘Apio,’ and ‘Satan Lives here.’

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