The Power of Memory

by Patrick Nzabonimpa

When Eric Ngalle Charles recited his poem, “My Mother’s Kitchen”, my senses were mesmerized. I didn’t know that one could beautifully write creative non-fiction through poetry; stanza by stanza, highlighting his culture and language as well as portraying strong and relevant imagery that aroused my thoughts. Since I was interested in both genres: poetry and creative non-fiction, I didn’t hesitate to seize a challenge hence crafting my poem reflecting his. It turned out to be easier and it revealed that I could develop each stanza into an entire story. Currently, I am developing a story from a poem about my childhood memories.

That highlights the essence of the African Writers (AWT) Trust Emerging Writers Workshop. It was eye-opening and influential in terms of understanding creative non-fiction. In 2020, I attended another workshop about the genre, but there are some aspects I didn’t get to explore. That includes how notable using figurative language in a story is, how to give your readers a significant pause as they read a story, and how you can write a memoir starting from a place of familiarity and develop it into a full-length book. I was able to explore all these during the workshop.

I enjoyed Ngalle’s exercises and feedback. They were thoughtful enough to help me learn something new every day. When I was challenged to write about an accident as a bystander — describing what I was seeing, what I would take with me if I were to leave, and what I would leave behind, I realised how significant these elements are when someone is developing a personal story. I have learned to reflect on that every time I write.

On Day Two, I learned the power of research and how it makes the readers relate to a story and find it factual. From Ngalle’s session about research and facts, I also learned that by researching, one can write a story that is expansive or universal. Moreover, the session lent a hand to the novel I am working on. I figured out that I needed to do further research about the issue of rape it highlights. The evening after the session, I forged ahead with my research. Thanks to Ngalle.

During the editing session, I learned about different types of editing and how an editor can specialise in any of them such as proofreading, copy-editing and developmental editing, among others. I have also realized the difference between editing and revising and how the right editor beautifies a story. The session bolstered my skills as well as my passion for editing.

Learning about preparing a manuscript for publication was effective too because I was looking for a way to publish my book that I intend to finish this December. I got to explore different ways and was able to choose one — considering how its pros comply with my wishes. Thanks to the facilitator. 

Reading Eric Ngalle‘s I, Eric Ngalle: One Man`s Journey Crossing Continents from Africa to Europe helped me understand the power of childhood memories as he allows his mind to travel back to them but also tells us about his journey — crossing different continents after being trafficked. Clementine Wamariya‘s The Girl Who Smiled Beads portrayed some memories of home mainly because she talks about the places I know and narrates her struggles during the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi and after it. The books were well selected and fit for the workshop. Exploring styles, traditions, languages and cultures in my colleagues’ works was also valuable since I am passionate about it.

I would like to thank AWT and its partners for organizing this workshop which I benefitted from. Please keep up the good work. African literary industry needs you, especially emerging writers.

I would also like to extend my appreciation to Huza Press for connecting me with AWT so that I can taste these blessings. I look forward to blessing other emerging writers, writing more creative non-fiction stories as well as a memoir. Let me take a cup of chai for this.

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