We have been talking about how to write, in terms of inspiration and craft however it seems many of us know the general process of getting one’s work published which a few of us do not. I do not mean publishing on own blogs rather publishing to a form that can be bought in a bookstore.
Here’s a few things I learned from an editing workshop that was held by Nyana Kakoma and Glaydah Namukasa a few weeks ago at FEMRITE.
Publishers usually have a kind of writing they publish and will periodically make calls for submissions on that theme. Some make calls once a year, twice a year as their plan dictates.
Some publishers will not restrict their calls for manuscripts on theme. Therefore it is helpful to know what kind of books they publish to increase your chances of being published. This is especially important when publishers do not make calls, when you’re approaching them outside their publishing plan.
I just had my business cards made. For the first time in my history of possessing business cards, they say that I am a writer. This is not because I only started writing yesterday, but, for the first time, I am finally acknowledging that I am a writer and I want others to know me as one, too.
If you are a ridiculously funny writer you will say you knew you wanted to write from the first time you held a pencil. Others will say that the urge or need to tell stories bubbled inside them from when they were little, but unlike wanting to be a doctor or engineer, wanting to be a writer was never that dream you said out loud.
And so you turned to diaries and wrote your little heart out and got lost in other worlds that those who had been braver had created for you, but still, it was not that dream that you said out loud.
And if you were born in Uganda like I was, there was no school to go to to perfect this storytelling skill of yours. There were medical schools, law schools, institutes of technology, schools of education, and fortunately a mass communication class that came close to what you wanted to do, but writing remained that dream you could not quite say out loud. And if your President, like mine, believes that the arts are useless, writing remains that dream you cannot say out loud.
Have you felt, on your shoulder of late, an impatient literary truth that needs to be heard? It’s not the elf with the pitchfork or the angel with the halo, it’s poetry. It’s poetry from Africa. 2015 is the year to be a poet from Africa. If you haven’t been submitting poetry yet as an African poet, do so today, do so now. I would like to hear sentiments on this particular affirmation from the readers of this blog. Do they also feel that with the advocacy surrounding poetry, that 2015 is going to be a somewhat explosive and enjoyable poetic party?
Katharina With our Critical Whiteness and Cultural Studies background, and our experiences and reflections during our anti-racist performance work in 2012, Carolin and I are curious to continue the talk on „Writing the Other & Authenticity“, held by Ronald and Nora on 8th January.
To give you just a few impressions of our performance Black/white. Strangely mine/ The Other Self, we posted some of the photos and a short explanation below. For our two-months group process from which we developed the performance, one idea was most central: Each one starts from and speaks only for his or her own experiences of being Black, white, „normal“, different, male, female, German, European, African etc. Our first condition was not to speak for or even define the Other, because we found that the Other is a product of our own relationships to the outer world, and it is always tied to our own identities.
To open this discussion, we would like to point out some aspects of Nora’s and Ronald’s talk. But before – to stay with our opinion that speaking for and about ourselves comes first – we want to make our own reflections on and experience of our whiteness visible. I should rather say, my and Carolin’s whitenesses, as they are not identical, although we grew up in the same white dominated German society.
Caro, how did you discover your whiteness and how did it change during the years?
When I visited Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, two years ago, I met a parliamentarian to talk about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the governmental way of dealing with the brutal civil war that had shaken the country in the 1990s. It was quite early on a Tuesday morning in December; my driver had to wait in front of the bungalow in which the parliament was situated. After we were allowed to enter the grounds, we had to wait again in the parking lot, until finally I was guided by an employee to an office with thick leather sofas and a couch-table with bottled water on it.
‘My’ parliamentarian, let’s call him ‘A.’, entered the room, a well-dressed and very polite man in his mid-thirties. He was a member of the CNDD-FDD, the leading party in Burundi. The CNDD-FDD dominates the parliament, the country, and it controls most of the little money that circulates in the seventh poorest country in the world. A. told me how glad he was that I was willing to talk to him. Others, I learned, refused to talk to his party, preferring to make up their mind about the country by talking only to the NGOs, the ‘other side.’
Sitting in his office with the leather sofas and bottled water, A., referring to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, told me that people in his country had finally plucked up the courage to reappraise the events of the civil war. But due to bureaucratic procedures the commission had still not been finally approved, yet. The greatest shortcoming, which A. of course didn’t mention, was that it was all in the hands of the authoritarian CNDD-FDD party which ruled the country without a whisper of parliamentarian opposition.
Hello authors, contributors and readers. It has been so interesting following the discussions on this blog and engaging in them as well. I was so grateful for the discussion that started on poetry slams. I am first and foremost (if not only) a poet who writes and performs frequently.
It has been an interesting experience moving between the page and stage. I often borrow from one arena to enrich the other but unfortunately find myself compromising my vision for the sake of the platform and audience.
The writing process
I find that when I sit to write for the page, I have a more critical eye but also tend to experiment more since there is no concern with responding to physical or real time feedback. It is also more likely readers will take their time to explore the writing and reflect on it, so I do not worry the work will be misunderstood.
(At this point it becomes clear how self-conscious of a writer I am.)
In writing for the stage, I worry more about the narrative and simplifying the work. I often sacrifice the concise line for a longer, more indulgent line that I believe the audience will enjoy. When I reflect on my performance pieces, they tend towards entertainment.
I have to appreciate that moving back and forth between the two platforms gives me a heightened awareness of an audience. I am a selfish writer, usually focused inwards especially in my initial drafts. But as I develop a piece I edit with the reader or audience in mind. This is only important in that it fulfils my need to feel I am putting something out there that is of use to others.
I once asked my mentor how he defines home, and he said: “Home is where you hang your hat.” I pondered his words for a moment, and remembered that I had also read somewhere that home is where your heart is. Can one’s heart be in just one place though? Can one confine one’s heart? I think home can be the place where one lives, home may also be the place where one has lived before and has found peace and joy. Home may also be a place one longs for. Some people consider home to be a place where one can find love, protection, acceptance, security, peace, happiness, joy and a sense of belonging.
It was the end of the evening. I was the last one of twelve participants. I was 22 years old, extremely nervous, and maybe a little bit drunk. I’ve had three or four glasses of red wine, perhaps too much, but I had to calm myself down – this was my first stage appearance ever. I was standing in the spotlight which was too bright for me. I had a couple of pages with poems in my hands and a microphone in front of my face (I had never read with a mic before). The presenter introduced me and joked with the audience. I was too tense to listen. Then he addressed me directly, and from then on things were up to me. I bumped into the microphone and people in the audience started laughing, but I began reading – or rather: I tried to read. It was anything but a good performance. My voice was trembling, I was sweating, I read too fast, and (to be honest) my poems were actually really bad. But surprisingly, the event didn’t end in a disaster. I read my poems, I received my applause, and – most importantly – I survived.
This was my first experience of reading at a poetry slam. It was held at the culture centre Lagerhaus in Bremen – which was the only place in town that organized slams at that time. Nowadays there is a vivid slam culture in Bremen and these so-called ‘open mics’ are a good opportunity for authors to get out and present their texts to an audience. But, these kind of events are only suitable for specific types of texts. Where to go, if you are not a slammer? Where to go to present more complex poetry or prose writing to an audience? Why do people seem to be so much more interested in open mic sessions than in other forms of public readings? The Slammer Filet which is organized by the Tower club for instance is always crowded with students, whereas you usually don’t find more than a handful of people under the age of 60 at more conventional readings.
So, the question for me was and still is: how to create a space for local authors of all kinds of genres to present their work? And: is there a way to bring the above mentioned audiences and generations together? In collaboration with the Bremer Literaturkontor I started a reading series called Doppelpack at the culture centre Dete last spring. Each time we brought together two writers of different generations for a public reading of their works. Afterwards, we opened the stage for other writers of all age groups to participate. Almost one hundred people between the ages of 16 to 80 showed up for these readings. They listened with dedication and gave some terrific feedback after the event. I loved it, and I hope that we will continue to make this happen.
In 2012 nine students from Universität Bremen worked together over the course of two months to develop a stage performance on racism as part of a conference discussing imaginations of Africa in Germany. The title “Performance Schwarz/weiß. Eigenartig/fremd” can roughly be translated to “Black/white. Strangely mine/ The other self”.