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Writivism Workshop in Gaborone

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Writivism is a Pan African movement to change the face of African literature.

It is one of a few initiatives on the continent tired of our literary legacy being defined overseas and instead are taking active steps to change that.

It was started by the Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE) in Uganda.

The way it works is first people apply to attend workshops in five African cities around the continent.

We were very lucky this year to have one of the workshops in Gaborone. People sent in short stories.

The facilitators for the workshops, in our case Donald Molosi and myself, are meant to choose the ten best stories from submissions.

In our case, only Donald chose the stories since I came late into the game.

The ten chosen writers are invited to the workshop. Our workshop took place from the 2-4 January, a great way to start the new year.

We met at the National Museum’s Little Theatre, every day from 8:00 to 4:30 with an hour off for lunch.

On the first day, after setting off from Mahalapye at 5 am, I was sure I’d get to the Museum and find no one, it was the holiday in any case.

Gaborone was a ghost town, everyone was home busy enjoying themselves.

But boy was I surprised! Eight of the ten people showed up.

And they showed up every day, on time, ready to work.

They were eight people keen on their writing, willing to improve, and ready to get to work. And work we did.

During the morning sessions, Donald and I spent time going over the basics of short story writing.

We covered: what makes a story, first lines, endings, setting, writing realistic dialogue, and point of view.

These topics often had writing activities associated with them.

After lunch, we discussed the short stories the participants submitted to gain their place in the workshop.

The discussions were in-depth, and useful, and meant to improve the way that the participants approached short stories.

Now that the workshop is over, of the eight, five will be chosen to go on and be paired with published writers from around the continent for a period of mentorship.

During this time the five writers will write one piece of flash fiction which will be published in various publications around the continent and one short story that will be entered into the Writivism Short Story Contest later in the year.

When writing these two pieces, the participants will be helped by their mentor.

Their mentor will submit the work on the participant’s behalf only when it is up to the standard required.

The other people who participated in the workshop can also enter the Writivism Short Story Contest, but they will submit their stories on their own.

In fact, anyone can enter the Writivism Short Story Contest. You can find out more about the contest here: http://writivism.com/.

I’ve taught many writing workshops, but I can say, without a doubt, that this one was one of the most fulfilling for me.

Any teacher knows how exciting it is to teach to a group of students who are committed and keen to improve.

This was a class made completely of people like that. I was volunteering.

I went down to Gaborone on my own steam, had to pay for a guest house out of my own money- but I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I could be guaranteed to have such a dedicated group of writers.

One topic that came up time and again in our informal discussions was the lack of such opportunities for writers in the country.

We don’t have any formalised creative writing programmes here, although some years ago there was a hopeful scent in the air that something was coming but it seems to have moved along without us.

And we rarely have such workshops to improve our writing and to meet other writers, such an important part of this lonely business.

I always preach about prose writers, not just poets, attending The Maun International Arts Festival where annually there are usually two or three writing workshops they could be part of, but sadly few attend from outside Maun.

I know the Bessie Head Heritage Trust, which has run the very successful Bessie Head Literary Prize for many years, is trying to come up with a writing workshop to accompany the prize.

But, in the meanwhile, Writivism was here. Eight writers were trained, and I hope they will go off and improve their writing to a professional standard. I, for one, am very hopeful that they will.