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 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.
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.
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:
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”.
FINDING A BEGINNING
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?
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:
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:
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.
In Western Kenya
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.
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.