So I've been back from Durban now for about two weeks, enough time to
reflect back on my experiences at the 17th Time of the Writer. (that up there
was the view out my hotel window in Durban, by the way. Yeah, I know, tough
1. I met lots of new writers I never knew before. People like: the
child prodigy, Chibundu Onuzo author of The Spider King's Daughter
Satyajit Sarna, a beautiful, young writer from India, Niq Mhlongo- the template
for crazy men everywhere ; Kgebetli Moele, who may have the driest sense of
humour on planet earth; the beautiful Hawa Jande Golakai who enjoys digging
about in dead bodies, the writer with the loudest laugh in the world-
Prajwal Parajuly; a new friend I hope to visit next time I'm in Kenya the
beautiful storyteller Mshai Mwangola, and the intimidating-ly girly Angela
Makholwa (if you get past the scary perfect girl outside- she's fabulous). I
also got to spend more time with writers I knew a bit, like Sarah Britten and
Zukiswa Wanner. A fun time was had by all, especially by ME!!
2. I visited a prison where I listened to juvenile offenders read their
writing and I gave them a few pointers. It was amazing how quickly they went
from being "juvenile offenders" to boys in a classroom. I couldn't
help thinking how adults let these boys down, that somewhere in their past was
a young toddler learning to walk, a boy riding a bike for the first time, off
to his first day of school. Just a boy with hopes and dreams and then what went
wrong? Okay, yeah, people have personal choice, but why do some people's
choices seem to be between two bad things? Why are there no good choices? And
for kids who decides those choices? Who creates the conditions that put them in
places where only bad choices are on offer? It's us, it's adults, but they're
paying the price.
3. I went to a government secondary school, Adams College, and had my belief
that all a school needs is motivated teachers to be successful confirmed again.
The experience re-filled my spirit. I loved the school, loved the staff, and
adored the motivated kids. The only down side was my continued sadness that in
Botswana I never get invites to speak at government schools. I saw how much the
kids enjoyed it and how much it matters to them to meet a "real
4. After our talk (I was with another writer new to me- Praba Moodley) at
Chatsworth Education Centre, two young girls came up to me. They are both
writers and they gave me the addresses to their blog/ website. There are some
seriously good writers coming up if these two are anything to go by- which is
great to know. Here's the blog
and here's the websit
e. I just thought they were fab! really
5. My panel discussion (each writer has one during the evening sessions) was
on Friday with the lovely Khulekani Magubane, one of the kindest, loveliest
people I've had the pleasure of meeting. It was on children's literature. My
fear of public speaking which I have been battling since I entered this writing gig,
is slowly dissipating so that's a relief. I think the discussion went well. I
was lucky to have one of my publishers, Helga from Oxford University Press, in
the audience, and she thought it went well, so I think it did.
6. Time of the Writer is the best literary festival I've ever attended.
First it is organised like a military operation. Second, they treat writers like
kings and lastly, there is no hierarchical structure. I've been to
festivals where the big names are all that matter and the rest of the writers
are just the plebs in ther wings. Sort of made me decide I was done with lit
fests. Being a writer mostly published in Southern Africa and not known much
outside here, I fall into the pleb group which can be a problem for your mental
space when you live in a tiny country like Botswana where you are used to being
a slightly big fish in a very miniscule pond. But I'm back to liking lit
fest- thanks for that, TOW!
So now I'm home and life goes on. Ups and downs and in-betweens.
The writing life, the writing life. :)