Thanks to a generous donation from Diamond Educational Publishers, the Bessie Head Heritage Trust (BHHT) has expanded its programme for writers this year. The plan is for the events to culminate in a prize giving ceremony celebrating stories on the theme “independence” (in the very widest of meanings) to celebrate Botswana 50th anniversary of independence late in the year.
The programme begins with a short story workshop that any writer wanting to improve their craft should not miss! To get a place in the workshop you will need to submit your best piece of flash fiction (of 500 words or less, word counts will be strictly adhered to— a story of 501 words will be disqualified! This was not followed last year and I know this because I was the one who collected the submissions.). Stories and contact information for all applicants must be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 May 2016. The story should be attached to the email as a Word document, double-spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman font. All successful applicants will be contacted before 7 May 2016. Complete details are available on the website www.bessiehead.org.
The workshop will be run by University of Botswana lecturer, past Bessie Head winner, published writer, and all around humorous fellow, Wazha Lopang, and one of my favourite locally based writers, Cheryl Ntumy, also a past winner and author of the scrumptious Conyza Bennet series of novels set in Gaborone- if you haven’t read them you’re missing out. Any participant able to win a place in this workshop will certainly go home more skilled than they arrived.
According to the press release, the workshop will cover the basics of short story writing, including understanding what “show, don’t tell” really means, writing credible dialogue, techniques for building dramatic tension, the importance of reading in any writer’s life, understanding and using point of view, and the guidelines for the Bessie Head Short Story Competition.
Adding the workshop to the literary competition seems to have been a step in the right direction for the Trust. Trustee Mary Lederer commented that, “The judges were impressed with the quality of last year’s stories, and we believe that this results from having first held the workshop to help writers understand what they need to do to compete.”
The short story competition is scheduled for later in the year, the deadline for submissions will be 8 July 2016. Detailed submission guidelines will be announced after the workshop at the end of May and will be posted on the Bessie Head website. Again an international panel of judges has been secured to adjudicate the stories, they are: Brazil based, award-winning writer Karen Jennings, Kenyan based— but truly Pan African in nature and structure—writer and literary activist, Zukiswa Wanner, and Joburg writer Fiona Snyckers, author of the creepy social media based thriller, Now Following You.
The Trust is also hopefully planning a “How To Get Published” workshop later in the year that will be open to the public. Considering the nearly daily messages and emails (and even phone calls- please no phone calls!) I receive from folks wanting to know how to get their work published, I suspect this will draw huge crowds—at least it should! Keep your ears open for the dates and I will certainly tell you about it here as I’ll be one of the presenters.
So writers, if you’re serious, get writing and send in your flash fiction to grab your space at the workshop. Good luck!