Friday, April 4, 2014

Reflections on 17th Time of the Writer

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 life.)

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 writer".

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 website. I just thought they were fab! really entertaining.

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. :)

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