“Are you sure it’s worth it?” My mother asked for the third time in a week following the news that I would travel to the neighboring country for a seminar.
“Have you done enough research about the organizers, speakers, and the venue? You know there are many scammers online.”
I had done just enough research to know how many of such seminars had been done before and how far the venue was from the airport. Anything else I had reserved for later. But I wouldn’t tell her that otherwise she would take it upon herself to research.
“How many people will be traveling from Kenya?”
I could sense that her fears doubled when I told her I would be travelling alone and would perhaps meet other Kenyans at the venue.
“Why is she so concerned?” I wondered.
Mothers get concerned for a reason I believe. They can sense when you are about to make a disastrous decision. Maybe God was warning her about the journey I was about to take and maybe because she didn’t want to tell me not to attend, she wanted to understand my thought process and see how to reverse them. Should I cancel the trip? I wondered.
“But why are you so concerned mum?” I asked.
“You’ve put in too much. You have taken a week’s leave, paid the attendance fees, booked your flight, and put your studies on hold for a week. How will you catch up on your studies when you come back? I don’t want this to be another seminar that will disappoint you and you end up regretting.”
I had no way of ascertaining if the investment I had made would bear the fruits I expected. Earlier in the year, I had made an intention of investing deeply in myself and my writing activities and deliberately immerse myself in spaces where I could be challenged and this seminar was one example.
I was green and blunt in the majority of the topics in the agenda. Why not attend?
I crossed my fingers and hoped the seminar wouldn’t be, as most Kenyans now refer to exaggerations, “hot air”
It wasn’t hot air. On the contrary, it surpassed my expectations. A number of things stood out for me. First, as a participant didn’t feel like I was just there to fill the room, listen, nod, take notes, and go home. I was truly a participant. I listened, asked questions, felt heard, discussed, broke bread, got challenged, broke into laughter, danced, made new connections, and so much more. African Writers Trust also made deliberate efforts to actively involve the participants in the discussions.
Two, the selected topics were relevant to writers, regardless of their niche or geographic location. Three, the speakers had been carefully selected. They were specialists rather than generalists in the writing industry. They were actively working in the sector and their nuggets of wisdom had been derived from a point of experience and well refined. Four, the speakers and participants exchanged ideas to learn from each other, which is rare in seminars where the role of the latter is often on the listening end. Five, the mood was very friendly. Writers engaged to learn about their writing endeavours, challenges, and how their work impacts their lives and communities. Six, we danced, a lot, to songs of different genres and origins. Writers need to move more than their arms.
I will use the knowledge shared in my daily writing engagements to ensure that my work and brand are not only protected but also legal. I learned there is a lot more in the writing industry that writers should know about and I felt immensely challenged me to educate myself and others and participate in more forums that will be hosted by African Writers Trust.
When my mother asked me how the seminar was, I didn’t have to sort through my thoughts and emotions trying to find the right words. It had met my expectations and that was what I hoped for.
CATHERINE WANJIRU is a writer with an interest in mental health and social development.