Mawazo Africa Writing Institute Creates an Organic Space for Your Characters to Live and Grow

By Nana Nyarko Boateng

In my writing experience, characters enter my head uninvited, staying or leaving at times of their choosing. And for however long they stay, they tell their stories. A character will wake me up in the middle of the night and say, “let me tell you about the day my father ate his own vomit like a dog.” The character hardly cares that I have no interest in this father-vomit story as sleep spreads throughout my body. She goes ahead with the details and I’m compelled to get up to the pleasure of my character, writing as I watch a father eat vomit.

Until a few weeks into the Mawazo Africa Writing Institute’s “Writing the Novel” workshop, I thought I had very little control over what my characters said and did. I would often say that my stories were written the way they were written because that’s how the characters told the story to me. Our tutor, the writer Jennifer Makumbi, however did not buy into any of that. She explained that there is a place to lose yourself in your work and there is a place to take control and be deliberate about what you are creating. This was a difficult lesson for me to take, because initially, I thought she was asking me to be mechanical about my creative process. She wasn’t really asking this but it took me a while to appreciate what she meant.

The introductory class was fun and I was excited to share my work and learn from Jennifer as well as the other five amazing writers for the twelve weeks we had together. Then week two came, demanding attentiveness and intention and hard work. The tutor and the other writers in the class raised questions that I hadn’t even bothered to ask about my own work. In the beginning, I felt lost, I thought “God, do they even know how much time and energy has gone into writing this novel? Why are these people trying to make me look stupid?” But they weren’t trying to make me look or feel stupid, I just hadn’t yet done all the work my story required. I had invited them into a world I had created and yet, I didn’t even seem to know this world well enough. The more their interest in my work grew, the more questions they had; and here I was, looking for a place to hide.

By the fourth week, I had completely gotten over myself. I understood perfectly, that this idea that my characters control me and I do not control them was not entirely true. I began to learn how to take control of my story, writing and rewriting synopses and plot outlines and chapters. I began to allow my characters to live in a space larger than my head. The Writing the Novel workshop provided a community of real people who were willing to see and interact with my characters; questioning, empathizing or disliking them, but at all times following their every word and action. Through the reading and writing assignments, discussions, critiquing sessions and laughter, my imagination was stretched. My writer’s muscles were strengthened. Today, I know my characters better, I am more aware of the world I am creating in my novel and how this world may affect the larger world around me.

There was openness, safety and a genuine sense of care in the environment Mawazo Africa Writing Institute shaped for writers to create and learn from each other. Our course tutor, Jennifer Makumbi, and of course the other writers in the workshop, were selfless in critiquing and laboring to make my work better every step of the way.

There was mutual respect and warmth from both the administrators of the program and my fellow writers. I would consistently get emails from, Rebecca just checking if I was okay whenever there seemed to be an issue at my end. At some point, I got ill and one of my colleagues, Sunny Ekhalume, sent the kindest email to check if I was recovering nicely. I’ve never met any of my colleagues in the workshop because it all happens online but I now genuinely feel that there are at least ten people in the world who want me to succeed as a writer and can’t wait to read my work. The directors of Mawazo Africa Writing Institute, Doreen Baingana and Farida Bagalaaliwo, are adamant about creating the best learning experience for participants, and I couldn’t thank them enough for pursuing this vision; it has changed my writing life.

Second Writing the Novel workshop with Yewande Omotoso

Mawazo Africa Writing Institute this month announced a call for submissions for its second writing workshop: Writing the Novel, led by award-winning author Yewande Omotoso. The aim of the workshop is to provide advanced training and support to African writers who want to complete full-length novel manuscripts (normally of 80,000 words minimum). The workshop will be held online, is free and is part of a pilot program.

Workshop Description:

The workshop will be held over four months, from October 2018 to January 2019, and will consist of weekly 3-hour group sessions with the facilitator by video conference, and individual sessions. Thereafter, participants will be given three months to revise their drafts, and then will be assigned editors/mentors to work with to produce final drafts.

The workshop is limited to six African writers selected on the basis of their submissions. The workshop will focus on the discussion and critique of the participants’ writing and the study of craft through the reading and analysis of published novels. The goal is for participants to complete their books by the end of the workshop project.

Submission Deadline:
The submission period is from June 1st to July 31st 2018.
Successful applicants will be informed in the week of September 17th 2018

Eligibility:

The workshop is open to:

  • Writers based on the African continent (living in an African country) with at least one parent who is a citizen of an African country.
  • Writers who have not yet published a full-length novel with an established publisher (self-published authors may apply).

Submission Guidelines:

Please send the following attached as WORD documents to submissionsmawazo@gmail.com, with the subject head: Novel Workshop Submission

  1. An 80,000-word excerpt or full draft of a novel manuscript in English.
  • Adult literary or genre fiction (not children’s fiction).
  • Unpublished in book form.
  • Include a title page with name of author, contact address, email and phone number.
  • Include name, title and page number on each page.
  • Format: Times New Roman size 12 font, black, 2.0 spacing.
  1. A synopsis of the novel of not more than 500 words.
  2. A biography of not more than 150 words.
  3. A 500-word rationale on why you write and why you want to participate in this workshop.
  4. The selected applicants will pay a $50 registration fee for the course.

About the facilitator:

Yewande_02Yewande Omotoso is an architect, with a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. Her debut novel ‘Bomboy’ (2011 Modjaji Books), won the South African Literary Award First Time Author Prize and was shortlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Literature. She was a 2015 Miles Morland Scholar. Yewande’s second novel ‘The Woman Next Door’ (Chatto and Windus) was published in May 2016. It was shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, the Aidoo-Snyder Prize, the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize, and the UJ Literary Prize. It was also long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Literature Prize.

Mawazo announces second Writing the Novel workshop

We at Mawazo are excited to be launching our second online novel-writing workshop, having just finished the first one. It has been an invigorating four months as our six budding writers engaged with Jennifer Makumbi, who brought such vibrancy to each session; it did not feel like they were tens of thousands of miles away from each other but rather, were in one cosy room, working together on their novels.

We were impressed by the variety of themes, plots, writing styles, and genres the writers had, and it confirmed for us the vast diversity and depth of African story-telling that is still largely untapped. We are re-committed to our mission to help get these stories out.   

Having gained a solid craft foundation and a better perspective on their draft novels, the six writers are now busy revising them on their own for a couple of months. Once the first full drafts are ready, we will match them with editors/mentors to work with them to polish the drafts to a shiny final draft ready for submission to agents and/or publishers. Our goal is completed, published books at the end of the whole project.

The second workshop will provide the same opportunity to six other African writers based on the continent. One of our aims is to refine the whole process based on what we have learnt from the first workshop so as to better serve our writers’ needs. We are extremely pleased to have Yewande Omotoso as the facilitator of the second novel-writing workshop. Our conversations with her on her approach to teaching creative writing make us certain that her workshop is going to be as useful and stimulating as the first one. So polish up your manuscripts, writers, and don’t miss this free opportunity! 

Find the Call for Submissions here.       

Tutor Jennifer Makumbi wins Windham-Campbell prize!

We at Mawazo are extremely excited by and proud of the huge award our current workshop instructor, Jennifer Makumbi, won last week. The $165,000 Windham-Campbell prize was set up to “provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns”.

[Read Makumbi’s interview with the BBC]

Writing fiction can be a lonely and badly-paid task, especially for African writers, and so it is hugely encouraging to see that one of our own has been recognized and rewarded for her labor, skills and creativity. It makes us feel that we too can attain literary success at an international level without abandoning our particularly African themes, concerns and stylistic approaches.

I’m sure each of our participants in our current Writing the Novel workshop feels a fresh urge to keep pushing on with their novels-in-progress.

We asked Ms. Makumbi what she would like to say to aspiring African writers, in light of her award, and this is what she says:

“Write what you are dying to read rather than what you think people want to read. Make sure you enjoy writing it and, believe me, readers will enjoy it too.

Write /right on!

Writing the Novel Workshop: Meet the Participants

We were excited to receive over 30 manuscripts in response to our call for submissions for our very first course, Writing the Novel. But we only had six spots for Africa-based authors.

After several meetings and the help of readers across the continent who volunteered their time and expertise, we were able to narrow down the list. And for the last month, we have had a great start with our great mix of writers — a bio-technologist, editors, a pharmacist, and a lecturer — who sign in from different corners of the continent every Monday evening to critique each other’s work and learn together, led by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, sitting at her desk in Manchester, UK. Here they are below.

MoraaAnne Moraa is a Kenyan writer, editor and performer. She is the Managing Editor of Nia Teen magazine at ZanaAfrica and co-founder of Oil Creatives, a storytelling consulting company. An Amplify Fellow and founding member of Jalada Africa, her writing can be read in Jalada, KikeTele, Bakwa, Brainstorm and Short Story Day Africa among other publications. She has a Masters degree in Creative Writing (Distinction) from the University of Edinburgh. Follow her on twitter @tweetmoraa.

 

PASSPORT WOzimede Sunny Ekhalume is a pharmacist from Nigeria. His writing has appeared in The Missing Slate, Cecile’s Writers, African Voices, Kalahari Review, Praxis Magazine, African Writer, Café Aphra, Poetry Pacific, Winamop and Africa Book Club. His storybook for children was shortlisted for the 2016 Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Prize for Children’s Literature.
He looks forward to making his novel manuscript “print-ready.”

DoreenDoreen Anyango is a Ugandan bio-technologist and writer. Her short fiction has been published both online and in print. She blogs at doroanyango.blogspot.com. She lives in Fort Portal, Uganda where she spends her days running a plant tissue culture lab and being intrigued by this life. She is currently working on her first novel.

 

Nana


Nana Nyarko Boateng
describes herself as a writer, poet and an editor. She is CEO at Gird Center, a writing, editing, and training services company in Accra, Ghana. She has taught creative writing workshops in schools across Ghana and at the University of Lomé. Her work can be found in 13 anthologies including Lusaka Punk and Other StoriesReflections: An Anthology of New WorkSummoning the Rain: An Anthology and the New Ghanaian Poet’s Look Here You Have Gone to Sit: An Anthology.

IMG_5482Ivy Nyayieka is a Kenyan writer who graduated from Yale with a double B.A. in English Literature and African Studies. She publishes her work on her personal blog and other outlets such as the Huffington Post. She is excited that Mawazo’s workshop is midwifing her novel-in-progress. She is glad to meet other African writers with whom she hopes to continue exchanging feedback about writing after the workshop.

Moyo
Madhlozi Moyo, from Zimbabwe, has been writing since he was the 16, and his first novella was written in Ndebele. He holds a PhD in Classical Studies. His thesis was a comparative analysis of ancient Greek and proto-literate African oral traditions. He lectures in the areas of Classical Greek and Latin literature at the University of Zimbabwe. He has published some poetry, but in this workshop will be working on a manuscript he started in 2010.

CLOSED: Call for Submissions: Mawazo Novel Writing Workshop 

Call for Submissions: Mawazo Novel Writing Workshop

Mawazo Africa Writing Institute announces a Call for Submissions for its first writing workshop: Writing the Novel, led by award-winning author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. The aim of the workshop is to provide advanced training and support to African writers who want to complete full-length novel manuscripts (normally of 30,000 words minimum). The workshop will be held online and is a free pilot program.

Workshop Description

The workshop will be held online over three months, from January to March 2018, and will consist of weekly 3-hour group sessions with the facilitator by video conference. Thereafter, participants will be given two months to revise their full drafts, and in June 2018, assigned editors to review the revised manuscripts.

The workshop will be limited to six African writers selected on the basis of their draft manuscript excerpts. The workshop will focus on the discussion and critique of the participants’ writing and the study of craft through the reading and analysis of published novels. The goal is for participants to complete their books by the end of the workshop period.

Submission Deadline

The submission period is from September 10th to October 31st 2017. Successful applicants will be informed on December 15th 2017.

Eligibility

The workshop is open to:

  • Writers based on the African continent (living in an African country) with at least one parent who is a citizen of an African country.
  • Writers who have not yet published a full-length novel with an established publisher (self-published authors may apply).

Submission Guidelines

Please read the Call for Submissions and send the following attached as WORD documents to submissionsmawazo@gmail.com, with the subject head: Novel Workshop Submission:

  1. A 30,000-word excerpt of a draft novel manuscript in English.
  • Adult literary or genre fiction (not children’s fiction).
  • Unpublished in book form.
  • Include a title page with name of author, contact address, email and phone number.
  • Include name, title and page number on each page.
  • Format: Times New Roman size 12 font, black, 2.0 spacing.
  1. A synopsis of the novel of not more than 500 words.
  2. A biography of not more than 150 words.
  3. A 500-word rationale on why you write and why you want to participate in this workshop.

About the facilitator

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a Ugandan novelist and short story writer living in Manchester, UK. She has a PhD from Lancaster University and has taught Creative Writing and English for the last ten years at British universities. Her novel, Kintu, won the Kwani Manuscript Project in 2013. It was published in 2014 in Kenya and the US and was long-listed for the Etisalat Prize 2014. Jennifer’s short story, Lets Tell This Story Properly won the regional (Africa) and overall Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2014.

With support from the Miles Morland Foundation and the Department of English, University of Bristol.