Oh, the things we will learn!
Profile photo of Nyana Kakoma
Profile photo of Jens Laloire

Dear Jens,

It’s so nice to hear from you. I loved watching The Bremen Town Musicians of The Brothers Grimm. Thanks so much for sending that.

I look forward to learning about the literature scene in Bremen especially the Bremen Literature Week as we do not have anything like that. We do have a book week later in the year usually organised by Uganda Women Writers’ Association (Femrite) and it would be nice to see how different it is from the Bremen Literature Week.

Femrite

Femrite is an organisation you are going to hear me talk about quite a bit. The most consistent activity that happens in Kampala is the Monday Readers/Writers Club that is organised by Femrite and happens at their offices. Every Monday. Rain or sun shine. Readers and writers gather together to critique pieces of writing that are submitted anonymously. Once every month they also host an author that people get to interact with and learn from. I often attend these and will send some more photos and videos from the Club this month.

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10 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Mariya Nikolova
    Mariya Nikolova 7. January 2015 Reply

    Dear Nyana, please forgive the wrongfully inserted comment above (I hope the admins will be kind and remove it). It is great to hear that writing has rolled its sleeves up and is eager to push, keep it up and steaming! Of course, all of us will be happy to know which experiences stick to your heart during the Writing Workshop, do let us know

  2. Proud to be associated with those poets! :D

  3. Good stuff Nyana, looking forward…

  4. I am excited about this potential writing project (if realized) between Uganda and Deutschland. I hope a writers’ conference is held in Kampala to encourage upcoming writers like myself.
    I hope this is the beginning of the journey to creating and motivating capable writers in Uganda.

    • Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe
      Nikolas Hoppe 10. January 2015 Reply

      Hey Josiah, it seems there is a Kampala writers festival in 2015: http://kahini.org/africa/

    • Profile photo of Nyana Kakoma
      Nyana Kakoma 13. January 2015 Reply

      Hi Josiah,
      The Writivism Festival will take place in June this year and it is wonderful place to meet writers. Please look for them on Facebook so that you can get updates. But rather than wait for a big conference, why not try out the Femrite Readers/Writers Club? It is open to men as well. You will meet like-minded people who will be very happy to critique your work. Try them.

  5. Betty Kaigo 12. January 2015 Reply

    Oh yeah Femrite, Lantern Meet of Poets; there is so much going on on the Kampala Literary scene and so much exploration by Ugandan writers.

  6. Profile photo of Katharina Mevissen
    Katharina Mevissen 12. January 2015 Reply

    The Lantern Meet of Poets community seems both impressive and outstriking to me. From my German perspective and experience, poetry tends to be the forgotten child of literature: in school, in urban landscapes of literature events, and in bookshops poetry receives only marginal attention.
    In my city (Bremen), poetry disappears mostly in public, although poetry slams, which push mainly a certain type of poetry, and two annual festivals, called “poetry on the road” and “zwiesprache lyrik” (two-tongued poetry), take place. In most bookshops I find only classical poetry anthologies, squeezed into one shelf. And when I remember my years in school, dealing with poetry meant to find as many stylistic devices as possible in a baroque or classical poem. Discovering the diversity of recent poetry, which is essential to me as a poetry-loving and poetry-writing person, mostly depends on my individual research.

    With this background, I would love to hear more of the projects of the “Lantern Meet of Poets”. The interview on your blog tells of a successful “poetry-education” and empowerment work with student writers.
    Would it be possible to read some examples of this young poetry?
    Now, as you made us curious, would some of these poet like to share their texts with as by posting “some of the most thought-provoking” poetry here?

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important literature institutions of Bremen & the start of the literature week
Profile photo of Jens Laloire
Profile photo of Nyana Kakoma

Dear Nyana,

Today I´d like to introduce three important literature institutions of Bremen: the virtual Literaturhaus Bremen, the Bremer Literaturkontor and the city library (Bremer Stadtbibliothek). The Literaturhaus and the Kontor have both their offices in the Villa Ichon next to the Bremer Theater am Goetheplatz.

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The Villa Ichon

To get an impression about the work of the virtual Literaturhaus please start the audio and listen to the manageress Heike Müller:

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3 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Nyana Kakoma
    Nyana Kakoma 22. January 2015 Reply

    Wow, the virtual Literature house is so brilliant and I am so jealous! I love that it has all these programmes from published writers to schools! We do not have anything like that really.

    Last year, Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation launched a poetry library in Kampala. It is the only one I can think of that is quite similar. The Africa Poetry Fund is a collaborative venture to establish accessible and user friendly small poetry libraries in Africa to support aspiring and established poets giving them access to contemporary poetry in books and journals, and serving as a resource for poets interested in publication in Africa and around the world.Reference

  2. Profile photo of Nyana Kakoma
    Nyana Kakoma 22. January 2015 Reply

    So the Bremer Literaturkontor are literary agents as well?

    How are the workshops and mentoring of the writers and publication of anthologies funded?Reference

  3. Profile photo of Jens Laloire
    Jens Laloire 23. January 2015 Reply

    The Kontor does not really function as a literary agent, but it´s a place where you can go if you are a writer looking for an orientation, opportunities there are for publishing, publishing houses that could be interested in your writings or where you could go to do a reading. Also, it helps with a small financial support, if you are an author of Bremen and you want to present your new book in a reading (Bremer Buchpremiere). It´s more of a network for writers, an institution who supports the local literature scene and organizes projects, workshops and events – and for sure there would be much more to tell about the work of the Kontor.

    The workshops, the mentoring of the writers, and publication of anthologies are funded with the money that the Kontor gets every year from the government as a cultural institution. Also, the Kontor is a club, if you like you can be a member, then you have to pay a small contribution every year (but you don’t have to be a member to use the offers of the Kontor). The contributions the members pay is also a part of the budget, which the Kontor can use for their work. So, if you are a member of the Kontor, you support the local literature scene with your contribution. Beyond that, sometimes there are private sponsors who like to support the work of the Kontor with a donation. The MiniLit publication for instance is completely funded by a private sponsor.Reference

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Performance on everyday-racism in Germany
Profile photo of Carolin Falke

headerFoto

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”.

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Talks on Writing Prose
Profile photo of Nora Bossong
Profile photo of Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja

FINDING A BEGINNING

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NORA In your writing, how do you find a beginning? How does a story start for you?

RONALD I believe that stories are always around and within us, I would even go so far as to say that we are actually made up of stories. For me stories are in the nature of humanity – they help us to deal with all aspects of our lives – social, political and economic.

NORA I like the idea that stories are imbedded in the nature of humanity. I think they help us to arrange our lives by putting the chaos of impressions, feelings, damages, and interactions with people close to us into some kind of form, allowing us to see a development, a storyline. Probably most people do this. The work of a writer might then be to find the moments that stand for more than themselves, that go beyond, and to arrange them – to find stories that are in a believable way extraordinary.

RONALD I would say that for me a story always starts with my own life experience. My mind is always ready to slip into ‘story mode’. Yesterday, for example, my brother officially asked his future in-laws for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage. This made me think about our culture and traditions and how they transition over time. I also thought about human relationships because they talked a lot about our origins and how our people have been living over time. My head was buzzing with ideas. Usually, I have a notepad or my phone on me where I can jot down these ideas. Sometimes I come up with what I would call a punchline which, when I revisit it later, will give me the same feelings I had when I developed the idea. Yesterday, I wrote down: “You have spoken well” – a statement that an elder kept saying to people who expressed their opinion.

NORA For me, it is not only my own experience that builds the base of my writing, but also the experience of people around me, people I listen to, people whose inner conflicts make a deep impression or have an impact on me. The issues I deal with in my writing are often not closely connected to my everyday life, but I have to find a feeling that correlates with the feelings of my protagonists to make a story work. Strangely enough, the characters that seem very distant to my own life with respect to age, sex, lifestyle etc. are sometimes closer to me than those that are much more similar to me.

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21 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Mariya Nikolova
    Mariya Nikolova 8. January 2015 Reply

    Thank you for this interview! I will use the space to ink an anecdote here which I guess relates to both Roland’s comment and your meditations on writing ‘the other’.
    I took with me a German family (not as a mafia present) to Bulgaria this Christmas and apart from the horrified looks at (and away from) our countless stray dogs, street holes and piles of garbage, there was another moment/land mine that exploded all of us. It was when this quite frankly open-minded and tolerant to great extent German family went shopping and returned with expired goods. An outrage! They simply couldn’t believe that someone can and did sell old food, an imagination impossible with their bio and fair-trade ethics and all that. I guess what helped us overcome the crisis (their shock and our shame for not being able to conceal poverty and its chopped off limbs pointing at all directions, on the one hand, and for being those who eat out-of-date/and too weren’t we out-of-date ourselves!) food, on the other) is a notion underestimated: disloyalty. Disloyalty to what we thought and felt, to modes of thinking, perspectives, things taken for granted, and things not. Disloyalty towards (German) idealistic concepts on quality and towards our own take on hunger; and too, towards the presumption that such a ‘meeting’ would leave us all intact, unchanged. And we did, surmount I mean, the frictions but it wasn’t without an amount of disloyalty towards ideals, points of view, and whole cultures, too. If we can approach ‘the other’, or each other, with an open heart, tabula rasa, and courage too, shouldn’t we be ready to forsake our seal on certainty?Reference

  2. Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe
    Nikolas Hoppe 8. January 2015 Reply

    paintings by Philip Barlow: http://www.philipbarlow.com/paintings/

  3. Profile photo of Carolin Falke
    Carolin Falke 8. January 2015 Reply

    Funny. I thought that, too, wehen I read it today. I was a bit surprised, when the first female pronoun appeared. But I would have to look into it again to find out, what gave me that subconscious impression.Reference

  4. Profile photo of Carolin Falke
    Carolin Falke 8. January 2015 Reply

    I lived in Nairobi for some time and as I tend to read a lot (and obviously couldn´t bring a library =) ) I was constantly on the lookout for literature that interested me. I noticed three things: There were a lot of 50-shillings books available on the street/at markets, but that were mostly horrible looove-novels, or criminal stories from (approximately?!) 1960-1980 uk and usa -AND- the nice books, let´s say, contemporary literature of African or other authors or so-called classics of European literature were available, however (compared to everything else) at horrendous prices -BUT- the people I interacted with, mostly young ppl from less favourable financial circumstances had about the same average amount of interest in books as my peers at home, only that they hardly had access due to forementioned reasons.Reference

  5. Profile photo of Carolin Falke
    Carolin Falke 8. January 2015 Reply

    Thanks for publishing you conversation. Was it your intention to post it here from the beginning or was it more of a spontanious decision? I really liked the format!
    As I am a not a writer of stories I usually ask myself if you -writers- have your special ways or rituals to put words on paper/screen or if you just pour it out of your mind?
    @ssekandi-ronald-ssegujja, you wrote that you “would even go so far as to say that we are actually made up of stories” but how do you cross the bridge from a (spoken word) story in your mind to a written one? This question does not go exclusively go to Ronald though, as there are many writers among us I would be happy to read various comments!

    • Profile photo of Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja
      Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja 12. January 2015 Reply

      Carolin,

      When we started this conversation with Nora, we knew it would be published but however, we did it spontaneously. Well, maybe because we thought the reviewer/edit would change it much but as it looks, the text still has its raw form.

      Now to your question; how do I cross the bridge from spoken word to written word? Well, Nikolas and I are talking about our writing Rituals and the tools we use and herein lies for the transition from what first comes as an idea to a structured story. It always begins in the raw format, writing down all the crazy ideas that come to mind, letting my mind wonder freely and then afterwards, I start making sensing of what I have written. I give my text a structure, I look out for themes and organize my plot.

      However, I am also a spoken word artist so in case a story does not cross that line, I let it be a spoken word piece :)

  6. Profile photo of Mariya Nikolova
    Mariya Nikolova 9. January 2015 Reply

    (the comment regards the beginning of this wonderful interview; due to technical reasons I cannot insert it on the right side of the text, sorry) Thank you for this remark, Nora. As for storylines, here is an ironic take on them by Vonnegut https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP3c1h8v2ZQ . On another note, I agree that stories are embedded in the way we construe the world, yes, in its perception, interpretation, physical formations. I would like to know whether you are trying to throw away a novel ( mention further down in the interview) with the appreciation of the incredible work by authors such as Saidiya Hartman ( relevant for the discussion at hand: ‘Lose Your Mother’; the essay ‘Venus in Two Acts’ which appeared in smallaxe) or NourbeSe Philip (whose entire ‘Zong!’ blows away not only white history and its violent and blind writing but also interrogates the impossibility of uttering some stories at all). My question is then, is your remark part of a larger discourse, one of un-seeing perilous fantasies with the critique against white hallucinatory potency for all knowing; do you see your work in the light of contemporary debates about anti-narratives, impossibility and incomprehensibility? And if so, which philosophical winds howl through your creative woods?

    • Profile photo of Nora Bossong
      Nora Bossong 12. January 2015 Reply

      It’s not part of a larger discourse we had – but it’s part of questions that I deal with a lot. I just write a novel about Antonio Gramsci who is well-known for his thoughts on subcultural power – and powerlessness; the questions didn’t begin with this novel for me, but I probably chose a personage like Gramsci because I dealt with these questions already.

  7. Profile photo of Tom Schroepfer
    Tom Schroepfer 9. January 2015 Reply

    This reminds me of some variations in improvisational theater, where actors don’t try to generate ideas by planing a dramatic composition for a happening by creating well conceived characters or a story arc, but by giving themselves rules they have to abide by. A performative setting to increase the probability to get covered by an idea or story that was already given and only needs to be presented through the actors bodies.
    Nikolas and Philipp wrote about a quite similar phenomenon as they were talking about their writing spaces and places, which seemed to me like transportable ritual-arrangements…Reference

  8. Thanks for this inspiring conversation. On Americanah, I completed it two days ago and must write a review. I absolutely enjoyed the characters, their personal touches, loves and losses and Chimamanda became poetic in many instances like the nostalgia, love-making, regret. I think it was well-told story. I’m also interested in writers who are popular outside the continent but whose works may not be well received here.

    • Profile photo of Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja
      Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja 12. January 2015 Reply

      Bev,

      I led an online Book Discussion in December for “Americanah” and I loved it. It was yet another well told story… After NoViolet’s “We Need New Names”

      I guess I am setting the record straight.

  9. Profile photo of Jens Laloire
    Jens Laloire 10. January 2015 Reply

    Hey Ronald, that´s interesting. I like Poetry Slams too because of their creativity and vitality. The real brilliant Spoken-Word-Performers make poetry vivid when they perform live. Unfortunately, most of the Poetry-Slam-Texts lose their quality if you read them. I had that experience a few month ago, when I had to review a book of a Slammer, who is very popular at the moment. She had a big you-tube-hit. Her name is Julia Engelmann. She struck a chord with people in their twenties, I guess. To be honest, as I saw her live in the theater of Bremen I was impressed, but then I read her book and it disappointed me. If it´s written down, the texts lose a lot of their magic. Some of them now seem to be just like bad poems (sorry). Anyway, there are quite a lot of excellent Spoken -Word-Performers in Germany like Bas Böttcher, Lars Ruppel, Dalibor Markovic and many more.Reference

  10. Profile photo of Philipp Boehm
    Philipp Boehm 10. January 2015 Reply

    Thank you for this input. I found the part about “writing the other” particularly interesting because from my point of view your reflections are connected with the broader problem of representation. For me “Authenticity” is an issue which needs to be perceived very closely. The question is: What kind of authenticity are we talking about? In a text all authenticity it so some degree “simulated”, even if it connects directly to our own experience. Knowing this, you have to choose the subject and this is where the difficult questions appear, which you mentioned. I think the questions concerning writing about “the other” are of two types. There are the ethical questions, like Nora asked: “Who am I that I am allowed to speak for other people? Or: Is this some form of appropriation, some form of overbearing manner? And there are the technical questions: Am I able to write about this?
    An answer to the second type of question may be profound research, to avoid stereotypes and to approach for example a historical distant position. It’s also a good way to question the images in your head. An answer to the first type of question is much more difficult to find. One possibility would be to avoid difficult material, to stick to your own social context, but this solution is deeply dissatisfactory for me. Another possibility would be to mark the writing process and its difficulties in the text itself. Thomas Stangl did this for example in his novel “Der einzige Ort”, which deals with colonialism. At the end he emphasized the fictionality of his own text by changing the perspective from the characters of his story back to his own writing process (sitting in the library, researching and so on). That way he was able to reflect in the text about the production of the text, about his point of view and the problems, which arise from this. I think during the process of writing you always have to reflect on the fact, that, no matter how hard you try, there is always some element that stays unavailable, especially when dealing with experiences that aren’t your own. I prefer texts which are “aware” of this, to the ones, which try to conceal it. I’d like to hear your opinion on this.

    • Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe
      Nikolas Hoppe 10. January 2015 Reply

      Philipp, I like your post and the distinction between ethical and technical questions concerning “writing the other” a lot. In Deborah’s Input she and others and I talk about the ethical question: http://kampalawritesbremen.com/753/#more-753

      Maybe you can find some opinions concerning the issues you are raising in the end of your post.

    • Profile photo of Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja
      Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja 12. January 2015 Reply

      Phillip,

      Yet again another insightful input. Thanks.

      I like your classification and I believe it draws the line and deals with the elements of “writing the other” that we grapple with each day. From the example of “Der einzige Ort” your idea that it is always better for the writer to draw back and show the origin or source of his or her ideas is legit. In fact, I think it puts one in a position to be understood better or if one disagreed, to appreciate the fact that it is an opinion of the writer which of course everyone is entitled to.

      But on the question of authenticity, my view is that we all write and read different “truths” or “realities” from different situations and therefore writers should be accorded the freedom to express their “truths” Of course,I assume that as writers, especially when we tackle difficult or sensitive topics, we ought take care not to ridicule or hurt others intentionally.

  11. Profile photo of Deborah Asiimwe
    Deborah Asiimwe 12. January 2015 Reply

    Nora, thank you for sharing your experience about developing stories. There is something in this paragraph that has made me reflect on an experience I had. Some years back, there was a story I was working on, and the protagonist was a young woman who was about to make a seemingly “dangerous” decision that everyone else was completely against. I was having a very hard time making her decision believable, and my writing mentor at that time mentioned something that raised my antenna. He said that characters closest to us are the hardest to write. Do you think that is true? If that has been true for you, how do you deal with it? Thanks.Reference

  12. Profile photo of Nora Bossong
    Nora Bossong 14. January 2015 Reply

    I would agree – though that would mean you really have to know who you are and who does know that exactly? Sometimes we find ourselves (or part of our character, part of our problems, worries and thoughts) in characters that seem to be quiet far away from us. It might be just true that we can have the closest, most honest look at our fears, failures and hopes when we don’t see ourself in first place, when we have a character in between, that shields us.Reference

  13. Is it true then, that our stories are reflections of us?Reference

  14. This is a good question. It seems those writers appeal more to the readers in the literary world out there than here at home.Reference

  15. Yes. Lately I feel I need to express restraint when writing creatively for Facebook because it seems I am giving my work away for free. I ask myself what if this was published?Reference

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Creative Writing Workshops & Poetry Slams
Profile photo of Jens Laloire
Profile photo of Nyana Kakoma

Dear Nyana,

Thank you so much for all the information, links and photos. I would love to join the Monday Readers/Writers Club someday. I miss that: Coming together with other authors, readers, journalists and other literature enthusiasts to read and discuss our own texts. I was already thinking about organizing something similar in Bremen for a long time. It would be nice to have an open space with a similar nice atmosphere, as it seems to be in the Club that is organized by Femrite. And yes, sure, I´d love to hear you talking more about Femrite.

Concerning teaching creative writing: I´m sure you will do a great job, because there is so much you know and have to tell about poetry. I´m very impressed by your blog, there is so much to discover, all these exciting interviews (Unfortunately, I have only read three or four till now), brilliant poems and short stories. I have to read more of them in the next few days and I´d like to know more about the tradition of fireplace tales.

Also, I´m very impressed by the work and success of Peter Kagayi Mutanga in teaching, which he describes in the interview on your blog. It sounds as though he is doing very important work in the schools and is having astonishing results. I love to teach creative writing at schools, universities or anywhere else. At university I just taught a class that I have a lot of experience with. I´m working as a prose-writer and as a journalist so, I decided to do a lot with observing and describing in the seminar. Many times the students had to go out to look for something to describe. So, the first step was to watch and the second was to describe what they have seen, preferably (as much as possible) without evaluating, just describing for the moment. The third step was to work with these descriptions. I wanted them to play with and to modify these texts. For writing variations I worked with a book I admire – “Exercices de style” by Raymond Queneau; also I worked a lot with a book, that is written by one of Nikolas teachers in Hildesheim: Stephan Porombka. The book is called “Kritiken schreiben – Ein Trainingsbuch” (“writing reviews – a training book”. I´m sorry, it´s not translated till now).

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9 Comments

  1. Hi, am a writer majorly in academic writing and I would like to join the team.

    Nambula Isaac
    BIT
    +256773390207

  2. am impressed and I would like to join. how can I do?
    Nambula Isaac from Uganda-kampala.

    thanks!

  3. Profile photo of Gloria Kiconco
    Gloria Kiconco 12. January 2015 Reply

    Jens, thank you for this post. It looks like there is a lot of good energy at these slams. The poetry scene in Kampala is growing all the time. But there are possibly no poetry slams (that is with the competitive format). Instead there are poetry events where local poets recite or perform. Check out the link on this blog for Poetry in Session.

    What I love about your post is that it reflects the interaction and support writers give to each other at such events as poetry slams or workshops. It is exactly what we are doing on this blog and reminds me again of the importance of having such spaces with that creative energy where we can even challenge each other and stimulate creativity.

    One thing I do miss about the poetry slam format is the competitive aspect and the format really push the development of performance poetry because poets are forced to think of how to improve their performance every time to stay ahead of the game.Reference

  4. Peter is very inspiring. His vision when it comes to Literature and Art is something else. I don’t know how well I could teach come to think of it.Reference

  5. I guess something I learned today is that when we write, we are not writing merely to amuse ourselves, we are writing in a way as teachers. I wonder if all writers have that in mind or is it something I am just sensing on this exchange?

    • Profile photo of Nyana Kakoma
      Nyana Kakoma 13. January 2015 Reply

      Joel, I don’t think writers should add that responsibility “writing in a way as teachers” to things they have to do. Our responsibility as writers is to just write. If people can learn from our writing then well and good but if you write with the intention of teaching it will affect your work greatly. Unless you are a motivational writer. Just write and let your work do that for itself.

      I do believe however, as in any line of work, that you reach a point when you want to pass on the knowledge you have picked along the way. Things you wish you had known perhaps when you were starting out. Whether on a bigger stage as a Professor of creative writing or the school outreaches by Lantern Meet or a one-on-one. That is great but even that is not mandatory.

  6. First I’d like to apologise to everyone for not responding to your comments for a while, but I’ve been very busy indeed. One of the reasons is that I’ve been preparing a reading I’m sharing tonight with Bremen authors Heidrun Immendorf and Jörn Birkholz on the topic of the internet and the “see-through” human being – 1984-type control by multis and intelligence agencies. It’s in the Villa Ichon, by the way, a photo of which Jens has just posted (thanks, Jens). What I actually want to add is that writing groups are not always sweetness and light, but rather we weak humans often bring in our own vanity and other not-so-wholesome qualities. Has anyone else experienced what the Americans call “cut and slash” in such groups, especially groups where you didn’t know the other writers beforehand? After a few bad experiences in such constellations, I have now decided to have two separate “first readers”, both very good friends and Bremen authors in their own right, with whom I can discuss my – and their – work privately, i.e. “one on one”. One of the problems I had with groups is that they tend to hand out a “homework” topic (or form) for next time, which completely paralysed me. But maybe that was my problem. So I’d say: yes, join a group but be prepared to leave if it turns into a hassle; and maybe it’s better to start one up with people you know already. Any ideas?

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Writing Tools
Profile photo of Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja
Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe

Hello Nikolas,

I should first say that your software has intimidated me :)  Wow! Those are really great tools and I am planning on trying them out or better still looking out for some online tools that will suit my style.

You say that the hardware bit is not so interesting but well, here is a young man who is pro Old school. I do most of my writing on hardware and especially the whole faithful Notebook which is always packed in my bag and belongings wherever I travel. I also have a small Notepad where I jot ideas and pen the starting lines to most work I intend to create later on.

DSCN2442  DSCN2438

I have for the past 2 years been a proud owner of Samsung Galaxy Tablet which I use for the software bit of my writing. I installed Kingsoft Office which is basically a mobile Word document application. I have a lot of my stories penned and stored here just as they would ordinarily be stored on a computer. I also have a NOTES application which gives me small leaflets on which I can write up to about 500 words. I have written poetry, created characters and brainstormed story opening therein.

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  1. Profile photo of Katharina Mevissen
    Katharina Mevissen 15. January 2015 Reply

    Wow, I am kind of relieved to read Ronald’s confession to be an Old School writer, when it comes to writing tools and text-supporting media. Scrolling and clicking me through Nikolas’ presentation of his writing tools, I started feeling like conservative fossil regarding the instruments I use for writing and building thoughts. Although I am young and born to this hyper-digitalized new-media generation, I am happy with my email programme, open office and simple foldering of texts and documents, and first of all my paper notebooks. I am depended of analog media, I need to materialize my thoughts and words on touchable substance. For writing poetry I like using an old type-writer, because the feeling of putting words and sentences together with this heavy machine fits to the precise work of composing a poem. Often I feel that a screen is squeezing my mind, while I can spread sheets all over my floor.

    • Profile photo of Carolin Falke
      Carolin Falke 15. January 2015 Reply

      It is not the first time here that I find myself thinking, I wish there was an I-Like-button. So I´lll just put it straight out there: Kikki I like your comment and it made me smile because even in English it is original you!

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Writing Tools
Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe
Profile photo of Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja

Hey Ronald…
since you talked about your writing tools last time – here comes an overview of mine.
Let me talk about my software only since hardware can change from time to time and is – in my opinion – not that interesting for the writing process.
First of all there is Evernote.

I use the small green elephant to collect and organise my writing research, my private notes, my projects (“Bremen & Kampala” has it’s own folder, too). I have it on my mobile device and on my laptop. It’s everywhere I go, ready to clip everything – notes, photos, videos, articles, cooking recipes – out of my daily digital and analogue routine.
My writing tool is Scrivener.

Unlike most writing software Scrivener brings folder organization, text editor and notes on one screen. The binder binds together every possible content of your project, including text files, websites or photos. My character notes, my plot, my research (coming from Evernote) and the paperwork of three years of writing – it’s all in Scrivener. The possibility of infinite folder divisions – without losing overview – provides a comprehensive archiving at material level, a more flexible relocating at plot level, a structured section after section writing at writing level. And there is a full screen mode. So you can forget everything else and just focus on your writing. Honestly, I would be lost without this tool.
I once attended a literary exhibition and produced a small video, trying to give an atmospheric inside of the use of my writing tools. Here you can see Evernote and Scrivener (and me) in action:

How do you organise your material? What are your tools to put some words on paper?

2 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Nyana Kakoma
    Nyana Kakoma 13. January 2015 Reply

    Oh My Goodness! How is it we are just finding out about Scrivener?! It is brilliant!!!! Let me study it more and download it! Thank you so so much for this! You may have just saved my career!

    I use Evernote on my phone but I have a feeling I do not use it to it’s full capacity. Will see how much more I can do with it.

    Out of curiosity, Nik, is that the music you listen to while writing?

  2. Profile photo of Nyana Kakoma
    Nyana Kakoma 13. January 2015 Reply

    P.s: On “Kampala, Kampala, Kampala yaffe” -Nice touch!

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Writing Spaces
Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe
Profile photo of Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja

Hey Ronald!

homeless

I start this “Getting to know each other” by showing you my writing spaces. First thing you need to know: I move. A lot. Last year I finished my BA in Creative Writing – and left my home in Hildesheim, left my constant writing space, lost this perfect view:

hildesheim2   hildesheim

Since then I´m always on the go. I was trying to save some writing time (and money!) by applying for residence scholarships in order to finish my first novel. Here´s a stream of my last year’s working spaces, each linked to googlemaps:

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8 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Mariya Nikolova
    Mariya Nikolova 4. January 2015 Reply

    To start off, let me just express my delight to participate in this project and tag it with a welcoming enthusiasm to read and hear from all of you.
    I would also like to thank you for sharing with us images of your writing spaces albeit their inevitable link to the privacy (and intimacy, for that matter) of writing itself.
    I must admit I viewed Nikolas’ pictures quite quickly at first (with the brevity of registering only a few empty rooms). Yet, I returned to them this morning (I would like to think that it was not because of mere curiosity but rather due to a process of reflection which happened overnight).
    The first thing which surfaces in my mind now (in a more attentive second review) is that apart from the first and last one (which relate to each other on their own terms), all other images have something in common: spaciousness, openness, exits (accomplished through the presence of those large windows). This said, I would like to pose my question with regard to both private and public positioning (and what this would mean for the process of writing), namely: do you need a certain neutrality (a way out in the vein of Goethe’s If I knew myself, I’d run away’) in order to extract yourself from the place and its multiple meanings (and stories). Do you escape the claustrophobia of familiarity through this ‘moving a lot’ and the openness of your choice of writing places? What is (and what is not) in these pictures that we fail to see?

    • Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe
      Nikolas Hoppe 4. January 2015 Reply

      Hey Mariya,
      thank you so much for your comment. I like the idea of needing spaciousness in order to run away from the “claustrophobia of familiarity” – I think in my case thats just true. My writing (and living) room back in Hildesheim was very open too. White walls, a writing desk, a mattress, basically. So in way I was looking for this “moving a lot” environment even though I wasn’t on the move. It’s like you say: The lack of familiarity, the lack of stories around me helps me to create stories. For the same reason I prefer morning hours to write – since the day isn’t full of stories yet. I don’t know about Ronald. Maybe I’m just the type of writer for whom “moving a lot” just works out fine. Tomorrow Deborah Asiimwe will talk about “Writing in changing places” – I have the feeling she will be on my side. But there are other writers, other needs and writing places. There is a Tumblr Blog: http://writersatwork.pfauth.com/ It shows the diversity in this case and – more interesting to me – that the question of working space, equipment and ritual for writing stories already tells a story on it’s own.
      How do you work? Which one of the writersatwork spaces looks closest to your own?

  2. Profile photo of Mariya Nikolova
    Mariya Nikolova 5. January 2015 Reply

    Good and inspiring morning, Nikolas. Thank you for your response and the website suggestion. If I would have to choose an image from the writersatwork platform to correspond to my personal writing retreat, it would be a blend between Sartre’s and Warren’s representations. Firstly, because my cats oversee all written work and secondly, because the latter is done in great chaos and flying papers. As for the stimuli of the place itself, I have to admit that they are never connected to the way my surrounding looks; rather to the way it ‘sounds’. In this regard, I do not need the windows for any other purpose but for the sound of rain drops breaking onto them (a moment abundant in Bremen) and if I do open them it is for the distant bark of stray dogs (when I am back in Sofia). If the place is asleep I fill my acoustic needs with experimental music but would always prefer the natural soundtracks (if they come with thunder all the better).
    I am looking forward to your and Deborah Asiimwe’s comments and would like to hear your thoughts on what does the story of a place ‘say’ about the writer and their writing.

  3. Profile photo of Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva
    Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva 6. January 2015 Reply

    6 hours a day! you’re so committed. I write now much more than I did before I had children. Ironically, my novel is almost complete and I have completed many more writing projects than I ever did. Children make me more aware of time and I am able to structure my days better. I like that the permanence of your work is more important than permanence of space. I can’t remember when I was last in a room alone to write. Sigh…Smile

    • Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe
      Nikolas Hoppe 7. January 2015 Reply

      But it’s a good thing to be more aware of your writing time. You really have to work hard sometimes to stay focused and organized when there is a whole day to write. But that’s a luxury problem, maybe. I’m wondering how my writing will chance when kids are coming. Hopefully I can be as productive as you.

  4. Profile photo of Philipp Boehm
    Philipp Boehm 7. January 2015 Reply

    Hey Nikolas,
    one of the pictures looks like it was taken in the café of the Schauburg in Bremen. Looks like a good place for writing. I more or less inhabit the “Lift” in the Weberstraße right now. It’s a bit dark, but the espresso is good and I need a lot of caffeine to keep my brain working. Another point is: I have problems writing at home (in my own room). More often than not I need a separate writing space and right now a public one works out for me. You wrote: “I realised that the permanence of place is not important for my work.” But do the places you inhabit change the texts you write? Do you have the feeling, that you write differently in Worpswede than in Bremen oder Hildesheim?

    • Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe
      Nikolas Hoppe 7. January 2015 Reply

      Hey Phillip,
      no, not at all! I remember writing in Lauenburg last year, a writers residence with a window outside to the Elbe. People asked me whether I will write poetry about the river now. I think, this could never happen to me. Subconsciously maybe there is stuff going on. But I’m to much into the world of my writing project, with it’s own terms and rules.
      In Berlin I often used to rotate. Writing at home in the morning, writing in a bar or café in the evening. I liked the feeling of getting some work done in the morning, knowing: Tonight you will write again. Just with a beer on table instead of an espresso, while the night life around you is about to start. It felt positive to me, I was looking forward to each and every session. And back then it also “changed” my writing. In the morning hours I was more critical, in the evening hours I pushed words forward. To again revise everything in the morning.
      Sometimes I would love to go back to this. But Worpswede is not Berlin. It would be a total different thing.
      What’s the problem in writing at home for you?
      And yes, it actually is the Schauburg! You can click on the photo. I would love to write at Lift one day but I do not want to steal your table. Writers can be very proprietary when it comes to their writing places.

      • Profile photo of Philipp Boehm
        Philipp Boehm 9. January 2015 Reply

        Good question. I guess it has to do with the point, that I regard writing as work. And I want to separate the process from my home. I don’t generally work “outside” but at the moment I prefer to do so. So at home is where I get my ideas and take notes, but I try to write it down somewhere else. But maybe this will change somewhen. By the way: Your writing schedule in Berlin sounds good. I need to try this out sometime. And don’t hesitate to come to Lift. There’s enough tables for everyone.

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Hey Nikolas…
Profile photo of Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja
Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe

It was interesting to get to see your writing spaces. I have noticed that we have one thing in common; moving a lot. I am always on the move because of the nature of my work and interests and that means that on average, I do not get to stay in one place for a long time. For the past year 2014, I was mostly in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Germany.

Kigali streets

Kigali streets

In Western Kenya

In Western Kenya

Sunset through my window in Bonn

Sunset through my window in Bonn

In all these places, I gather experiences that I turn into stories. If you look carefully I move with a backpack which contains my notepad, laptop and books I am reading. I should then say that my writing materials are simple too. Sometimes I write short poetry in the “Notes” section of my smart phone. Other times it is just a matter of jotting down the opening lines of a story idea I have that I later work on.

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6 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Gloria Kiconco
    Gloria Kiconco 6. January 2015 Reply

    Hi Ronald, thanks for sharing about your travels and spaces. One question though. I also carry a novel/book and journal wherever I go and often write poetry on the move and as I listen to music – but I remember reading somewhere ( i think Stephen King wrote it) not to read another person’s work while creating your own because it will influence your writing and veil your voice beneath that of another writer. Do you think this can happen? I don’t feel concerned with it when it comes to poetry, but with prose, I really wonder if it is better to write in a vacuum period without other people’s work influencing me. What do you think?

    • Profile photo of Nikolas Hoppe
      Nikolas Hoppe 8. January 2015 Reply

      Hey Gloria,
      I sometimes fear that too. And sometimes I really discover other writers voices in “my voice”. This can be a good thing since it keeps my writing on the move. I can revise it afterwards to make it mine. But you are right, sometimes it can lead to a total different direction. What me always helps is to read my own text a few times before I go on writing. Trying to be a reader of my own.

    • Profile photo of Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja
      Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja 8. January 2015 Reply

      Hello Gloria,

      That is an interesting question and insight. Now that I think about it, I think the argument holds water. You just reminded me of one of my favourite TED talks “Steal like an Artist” by Austin Kleon which basically examines the concept of creativity and originality. I believe that as artists, indeed plagiarism is evil and unacceptable but borrowing ideas and copying styles is fine. I should say that I have and will continue to be influenced by what I read and experience. Actually, even when I create characters, some of them are picked up from ideas that are not my own. For me, a writer or writing experience is a mirror of society through different lens; be it through the eyes of writers I read.

      On the whole though, I think we have to develop the stamina to dissociate ourselves from that overwhelming influence. If you read my story and argued upon your life that it could have been written by such and such writer, then I feel it is imperative that as a writer, I work on my voice.

      Otherwise, I appreciate that we are all inspired or influenced by different prompts. If you find it best to write away from what you read, I feel you should keep up that because it is what works for you.

      Kind regards.

      • Profile photo of Mariya Nikolova
        Mariya Nikolova 8. January 2015 Reply

        Good morning, Ronald. I agree that writing and reading dance together; personally I would fall if the one isn’t there to leg me up. At the beginning of this interview is Morrison’s take on the inter-dependency between writing and reading https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUr_XoMCPFA As for plagiarism, Heraclitus might have said that one cannot step twice in the same river but Cratylus outsmarted him with the conception that one cannot step even once in the same river. Texts change, irrevocably if you ask me, every time they make their entrance into someone’s head; and thank God, otherwise it would be unoriginal to dream after Kafka.

  2. Profile photo of Philipp Boehm
    Philipp Boehm 6. January 2015 Reply

    Hey Ronald,
    you wrote: “In all these places, I gather experiences that I turn into stories.” That’s an interesting statement for me because I have made the opposite experience. The feeling I had during my travels through Europe was merely that of a loss of experience, that there is nothing to learn about the famous cities anymore, that you already have been there because you grew up with this never-ending flow of images, which goes straight to your head and stays there. And getting lost of these pictures is very difficult.
    There seems to be a certain set of things to expect from a journey: The people I met during the travels all told the same stories again and again. The cities look more and more the same, become cleaner and increasingly “normalized”. My impression was, that all visitors were indeed hungry for the “experience of travelling”, which actually didn’t take place. People tend to hace certain expectations but the places don’t seem to fulfill them or maybe can’t fulfill them anymore. So everybody was looking for something he or she couldn’t get. There is this big promise about travelling: of finding places with an “aura”, which means the feeling of a big farness, no matter how close you get. I guess, that’s what people are looking for.
    What actually came close to this , I didn’t find in the places I wanted to visit, but more in the places, where I ended up by chance. And it was a very rare experience. The main feeling was that of loss, that I cannot read the cities anymore, that they don’t tell me anything. And I think, that literature is able to reflect on these issues, to turn this loss into an aesthetic experience once more, to gain potential from the difference between image and impression, to see how different “configurations” of images interfere with each other and in this way constitute our image of reality.
    These are my experiences from travelling in Europe and the USA. You seem to have made different ones. I’d like to know more about the link betweend writing and travelling. How does the experience “on the road” turn into the text?

    • Profile photo of Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja
      Ssekandi Ronald Ssegujja 7. January 2015 Reply

      Wow Phillip,

      That is deep! Let me think.

      I cannot tell from your text which part of the world you come from but that is not important. What stood out for me in your observations and questions is the disparity between what we see and what others see or do not see. I am tempted to say that it all comes from our background. We move and go into places with our realities and these form a basis for our experiences or lack of it. That Europe and USA looked normal and therefore did not speak to you like random places you went to is an experience I have felted myself. To be honest, I am not fascinated by what ordinarily fascinates most travelers. Things like architecture, nature, etc are things I see but do not connect with. But again, that is beside the point I want to make. I think as writers, we are able to pen stories or text from our impressions of place, time, culture, name it. It would be interesting for example to read your stories of loss. These emotions and feelings of emptiness were inspired by the fact that you moved and experienced new environments. I do not think you have to necessarily connect or like them; all you need as a writer is the questions that come in your mind, the ideas that flood you and you cannot wait to express them.

      For me, that is the greatest link between travel and my writing. Wherever I am, I am able to generate different emotions which propel me to tell different stories, to ask new questions, to create new characters, to move my characters in different setting and so on and so forth.

      Otherwise, I am reading and rereading your text here because I feel it asks quite important questions that I can use for self discovery. Thank you.

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The first day – hello Nyana
Profile photo of Jens Laloire
Profile photo of Nyana Kakoma

Hello Nyana,

today is the first day of our “getting to know each other”. I´m really looking forward to the coming weeks. So, let me say a few things about what I´m going to do.

In the following weeks I will collect impressions of the writing scene Bremen. I will visit a lot of readings, meet writers, take a look inside of important literature institutions and will give you short reports about places, persons, networks and events, which are connected to the local literature scene. There will be many interesting events throughout the month of January, especially the Bremen literature week (Literarische Woche Bremen) from the 15th till 27th will promise a lot of exciting readings with national and international writers. Furthermore you can follow events with local authors like the presentation of the two winners of the author-scholarship Bremen (Bremer Autorenstipendium), who will read from their awarded texts on the 28th.

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