AWT’s vision is to promote an environment that nurtures writing, reading, publishing and promotion of African writers. Under this mandate, we run programmes that boost and support writing and publishing in Africa, through creative writing and editorial skills development workshops, internships, conferences and mentorship:
- Creative Writing Workshops:
Since 2010, AWT has organized three creative writing workshops in Kampala, Uganda, for emerging and established African writers and poets, and university students. Renowned African writers in the Diaspora facilitate the trainings.
- February 2010: Eighteen university students participated in a five-day creative writing and mentoring workshop facilitated by UK-based Nigerian writer, Sade Adeniran, whose first novel, Imagine This won the Commonwealth Writers Prize – Africa region—in 2008.
- May 2012: Twelve emerging poets participated in a ten-day performance poetry workshop led by Ghanaian-British performance poet and novelist, Nii Ayikwei Parkes.
- November 2012: Twenty independent writers participated in a week-long creative writing workshop facilitated by Allen Banda-Aaku, Zambian writer based in the UK, whose debut novel, Patchwork won the inaugural Penguin Prize for African writing in 2010.
- Editorial Skills Development Workshops
The role and input of a professional book editor is as important as the writer’s in ensuring the success of a good book. Editing is a vital element in the book development and publishing process. In the majority of African countries, however, there are hardly any professional book editors, partly because there are limited institutions that offer professional editing courses. As a result, writers in Africa lack the crucial input of a professional book editor, which limits their potential to create good literature.
In 2012, we embarked on editorial training workshops aimed at equipping book editors and proofreaders with practical editorial and publishing skills. The workshops were led by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, a book editor with over fifteen years experience at Penguin, Random House and Granta in the UK.
- May 2012: Twelve selected Ugandan book editors and publishers participated in this training. The course was specifically tailored to suit the participants’ needs holistically, taking them through the whole editing process including production, marketing and publicity.
- June 2014: Ten book editors and proofreaders from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda participated in this workshop.
- Editorial Internships
Building on the great success of the editorial training workshops, an internship programme was launched in 2013. The main objective was to create sustainable interventions to address the shortage of professional book editors in Africa. Starting with Uganda, Three Ugandan book editors and proofreaders would be placed with established publishing houses in Africa, where they will spend six weeks each as apprentices. The first intern was placed with Modjaji Books in Cape Town, between November and December 2013.
- Online mentoring scheme for Ugandan writers
The scheme started in 2012 and paired sixteen emerging writers and poets from Uganda with four established UK-based writers. The main objective was to challenge and inspire the participants to produce good literature by focusing on professional writing skills development and offering practical creative writing guidance. Our first group of mentees was able to develop strong portfolios, which culminated in an anthology of short stories and poems published in E-format, titled SUUBI. Based on the strength of their writing, three writers from this project were selected and offered places on the Caine Prize for African Writing annual workshop, which was held in Uganda in April 2013. Others continue to have their works published online and in anthologies.
We plan to scale up this project by connecting African writers with established writers from other parts of the world in order to create more writing and publishing opportunities for emerging African writers.
- The Uganda International Writers Conference First Edition
Twenty-five African writers participated in the First Edition of the ‘Uganda International Writers’ Conference,’ in March 2013. The conference was themed: Dialogue Across the Diaspora, Across the Continent.’ It offered two activities: panel conversations which provided rich, stimulating discussions, and training sessions on digital writing and how to use social media as a writing development tool. Participating international writers came from Malawi, Liberia, DR Congo, Kenya, Ghana, The Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom.
The second Edition is planned to take place in March 2015 under the theme: Memoir and Truth. For details and updates, please check our website.
- Website/Blog and Digital Writing
Since 2010, AWT has maintained an active and up-to-date website/blog as a platform for African writers to interact, share information and other resources on writing and literary activities in Africa and the Diaspora. Several social media networking tools have been created including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to facilitate further interactions between writers. We also share literary news, announcements, and commission articles on book reviews and translations into French. We invite contributions in form of articles, essays and book reviews.
While our training workshops have been effective in imparting writing and editorial skills, the time dedicated to craft development is not sufficient. We are keen to extend the impact of the workshops beyond the week-long trainings. The plan, therefore, is for the creative writing and editorial workshops to evolve into the Uganda Writers Centre, with courses designed to last an extended period.
The aim of the Centre will be to offer formal, professional writing, editing and social media skills to writers and poets in Africa, and to develop a teaching programme that will stand on its own merit and attract upcoming writers from across the African continent.