I arrived at the airport when the program was just about to start so I really did not mind that the taxi was going a bit fast. At the Nyayo stadium round about, the driver took the wrong lane and most foolishly tried to evade the traffic policemen when they waved him down. They seemed more livid that he did not stop when he was waved down than the fact that he was breaking traffic rules. Anyways, the guy needed to be ‘booked’ and so of to the police station we went with one of the police officers. The driver tried to bribe the guy to no avail, mainly I imagined, because he did not know who the person in the back seat was. At the police station, the driver got away with the bribe but had kept me waiting for what seemed like an eternity, twenty minutes. Then we joined a beautiful traffic jam on Ngong Road.I finally got to Impala Club and got my complimentary ticket (I was second in the on-line short-story competition….but do I say!) and dashed to listen to African authors at the British council pavilion. I was so late that I only got to listen to Toni Kan. I was fleeting about all morning trying to be everywhere. I wanted to see everything and in the end saw nothing. Lesson: greed does not pay. I was going to decide on only one thing at a time and sit through it like a good girl.
I came to the Storymoja-Hay festival with several aims: Get my manuscripts critiqued, meet published authors to listen to their experience and learn as much as I could about writing. My fears were that published writers would have their noses in the air, consider themselves more special than mere unpublished mortals and talk in ways I could not relate to. What a joy it was to find that not only did the festival fulfill all my expectations but that all the authors I meet were super encouraging. I left the festival with ideas streaming out of my ears and feeling very positive about the potential of being a writer at this moment of time in Kenya, despite the hurdles.
The first pages of my manuscripts were scrutinized by John Mwazemba, the Publishing manager of Macmillan Kenya and Stephen Partington; a teacher and poet. There comments were a great boost and are already being put to good use.
The ‘writing for children workshop’ run by Doreen, Faith, Edwin and Joan was packed with practical advice on how to go about writing for children. We learned about plot, character development, and setting. Each section was accompanied by an exercise which we, the participants, shared among ourselves. We all agreed that it is a niche that badly needed to be tackled but I imagine with more of these workshops, we shall cease to say this.
Listening to Vikram Seth and Hanif Kureishi at the British council Pavillion was pure entertainment. Seth talked about the way his obsession to know how his stories would end have kept him going, claiming that he was ‘lacking in both determination and discipline’. He joked about taking eleven years ‘not to finish his Phd’ and seven years to finish ‘A suitable boy’ which he wrote while sponging of his parents. Being successful as a writer he said, was also a matter of luck. Honest and refreshing. I found Kureishi’s talk very stimulating as his son was there and asked some insightful questions for one so young, which Kureishi answered with the same earnestness that he answered the other questions from the floor. I cannot lie that I appreciated that bond, such a fine example of how the craft can be passed so seamlessly within the family.
I can fault the festival with only one thing. Too many good things packed in at the same time. How were we to choose? I don’t know how many people were like me on the first day, helter-skelter, wanting to be everywhere at once. I can not exaggerate the value this festival has had for all budding writers. The place may not have been packed, but everyone there was just truly crazy about writing and it was so good to be immersed in that rich broth if only for a few days. Well done Storymoja! You have no idea what good you are doing for this nation.
Go here for more pics on the KenyanPoet’s site