A couple of days before the Storymoja Festival, while registering for master classes, I threw a tantrum because all the master classes I wanted to attend were happening at the same time. In retrospect, it is good they were because I ended up choosing what I really needed. I cut out the ones I would be attending because of the people (My God Bikozulu!) and went for the ones where I needed to learn something.
I have never been to a big festival so I was bound to be impressed. My love for Nairobi is well documented but this time, she upped her seduction and was all sunny and warm and my poor heart stood no chance!
I ended up attending masterclasses on self-publishing, writing for teenagers and young adults and how to blog. I also attended discussions led by different panellists and moderators on outrageous fashion sub-cultures in Africa, Africa 39, how Africans kiss, art and democracy and of course the Wangari Maathai lecture delivered by Prof. Wole Soyinka. In between all those, I went around to take photos of Ugandan writers that were teaching master classes, were part of panels or launching books. So many new books, random new experiences, new friends, old familiar faces and I could have sworn I was in heaven.
I learnt so much from all the events that I attended. The ones on blogging by the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) were extremely relevant and informative as far as Sooo Many Stories goes. I was quite envious of not just the vibrant blogging community but how they have a body that not only just gives awards to the best ones but also trains and looks out for bloggers.
The most fun panel for me was the “How do Africans Kiss” panel. Did you know there is such a thing as an African kiss? A kiss you can describe in your novel and people will say, “Yes! That sounds like a kiss between Africans!” There was a lot of giggling and a lot of confessions about lips and what kissing means to different people!
I could never write about each and everything I learnt but there are discussions I hope to share along the way, to see how we can make them relevant to Uganda. But I will tell you want my biggest take out was.
Please note that I do not assume a lecturer’s tone when I say this because this challenged me as well. We need to do whatever we can to get published! Everywhere I looked, writers had books with their names on them! I saw writers from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, putting their hands in their bags and emerging with a novel or poetry anthology, signing autographs and getting paid for those books. There was even an eight year old Kenyan Boy talking about his book. I kid you not! Of all the Ugandans that were there, there were only four of us with books, two of them anthologies. And I am glad those four were there to make a mark but I wish we were more. As you know, Sooo Many Stories started because of my fear that we are not read and how could we if we are not published? You could argue that not all those books could have been really good books but how shall we ever improve the quality of our writing if we are not even trying? I felt such a fire to just stop sitting around and get the work done. To write and look for the many publishing opportunities I am told exist. I like that there are writers who send in work to #SmsUg and are really serious about their craft and I am really hopeful that it will get better. There were panel discussions on Nigerian writing and South African writing and I hope next year there will be one on Ugandan writing. This can’t happen with good writers being satisfied with writing Facebook notes.
Because I can’t compress my five days into a blog post , this is a peek into my notebook where I wrote random thoughts and quotes during the Festival:
With e-publishing, it does not have to be the book of the year. It should be fun because fun reads are easy to sell.
Make it easy for people to buy your book.
Why are there few people writing for teenage boys? What do teenage boys like even?
If this were a school, Bikozulu would be that shining star student that no teacher will stop talking about.
Kenyans once held a competition for a national dress. I wonder how that would go in Uganda. A Gomesi top and shuka bottom? How to represent the Karimojong?
Soyinka: Just as a tree does not make a forest, so does one gender not make humanity.
If one more Kenyan says Champala I swear to God my reaction will not be Christian at all!
Baingana: I read differently as a writer. Sometimes I look at the technical bits but if a writer makes me forget the technicalities and lets me dive right into the story, then that’s great!
The #Diaper Mentality exhibition is hilarious!
Words not to use when describing kissing in a book: Suck. Saliva. Ha ha ha!
Words most used by writers I have met today: validation. Affirmation.
What each kiss means: Hey, I missed you, Hi babe, Oh let’s do this!
No one has used the word nuances today. Are these even real writers?
Okwiri: I am a stoic and unapologetic feminist but I am not interested in making a pamphlet. I am interested in making art.
What is an African kiss? Why the labels? Did the French actually invent the French kiss? How else was everyone kissing before this French invention?
Baingana: Yes I am a female writer but I do not write with my breasts.
Yvonne Adhiambo (author of Dust) is a babe!
Auma Obama: How do we light a fire for people who are silent? Show them that they exist.
They make noise on twitter but won’t come out to protest. Will the revolution be retweeted?
Yvonne Adhambo: Get out of the way of the story!
Teju Cole: Words I have never read on Twitter: I don’t know.
Brenda from Brainstorm Kenya: The internet gives you options. If you do not like the blog, close it. As bloggers, we can ALL shine. Why do I write? To understand…
Thanks so much Storymoja for being wonderful, thoughtful hosts!
And thank you readers for reading. The rest of the photos will be up on Sooo Many Stories’ Facebook page.