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On Saturday 8th March, I attended a Creative Writing Master Class organized by the African Women Development Fund (AWDF) and  Mbaasem Foundation as part of activities to mark the International Women’s Day. The Masterclass was masterfully handled by Yewande Omotoso author of Bomboy, shortlisted for the 2012 Sunday Times Literary Awards as well as the MNet Film Award. Bomboy also won the South African Literary Award (SALA) for First Time Author Prize. More recently, Bomboy was shortlisted for the prestigious Etisalat Prize for Literature, the first Pan-African literary prize created to recognize and reward debut fiction writers in Africa.

Yewande Omotoso Photography by Tolu Talabi

Yewande Omotoso

The Class took of at 9.000 am on the dot, with me being about an hour late (terrible, I know but there was unforeseen circumstance at home that morning). That one hour was used for registration, introductions, the discussion of ideas and beginning of the writing process.

Ama Ata Aidoo (yes, the same renowned icon and Ghana’s top-notch feminist writer) joined us as a Special Guest, after 10.00 am to read two of her poems dedicated to her daughter Kinna and a poignant flash fiction, Recipe For A Stone Meal  that forms part of her collection, Diplomatic Pounds.

Ama Ata Aidoo

The atmosphere was relaxed; smiling in that special way that sweeps you in as if she has known you for years, Yewande skillfully engaged the participants, about 26, in discussions on characterization, the art of staging or scene, dialogue, endings of the writing process, and how sex is presented in writings. We were made to observe each other and write out what we saw. We were also made to use the room in which the Class took place as a prompt and write out 100 words. We came up with very interesting pieces!

I was particularly intrigued when we discussed the issue of showing and not telling in our stories. (my bane) The use of clichés also came up. We all agreed that in Ghana, it’s quite a challenge not to use clichés in our work since it’s part of our vocabulary. It’s what we are taught in schools as part of euphemism. Then again, since English is our second language, we just do not have enough diction to fill our works with descriptions.  I observed that when growing up all I knew were the primary colours of red, yellow, green and blue. Today, we have ‘exotic’ colours like ecru, turquoise, beige, burgundy, sapphire, aqua marine, etc. How do you begin to describe scenes or places in these colours when you have no idea what they are. But there is no hard and fast rule; some writers give scant descriptions and others flow with it. So long as what you describe makes sense, true to form and can be visualised!

But then the point is as a writer, you have to write and write down what you have in your head. An edit! Grammar, typos and content! These are key!! Ama Ata Aidoo had stressed to us after her readings. No matter how many times you have to come back to it in your writing process, edit your work and edit your work!!

Are Ghanaians ready for sex in books? I used to serialize a romance in a popular newspaper when I was in university way back in the 90s. I was writing under a pseudonym. And I felt so shy when my friends ooohed and aaahed over the details. We are evolving and I believe yes, Ghana has been long ready for sex in books. The internet is explicit enough. Nothing is sacred anymore.

How do we then present sex in our writings? Raunchy, hot, sweet, or spicy? maybe our own personal experiences would determine that! But seriously, we agreed that would depend on the genre and how that scene drives the overall development of the plot, among others!

I really enjoyed myself; we had some good laughs and helped ourselves to a variety of good Ghanaian dishes during the lunch break. The net working was strong and I came home more confident and determined to complete all my WIPs within the shortest possible time. (what exactly do I mean here? 🙂 )

In a later development, (cliché?) The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) will be holding a creative non-fiction workshop in Kampala, Uganda, organised by FEMRITE Uganda Women Writers Association from the 21st to the 31st of July 2014. This workshop is targeted at writers and activists who wish to use the power of the written word to highlight issues around women’s rights and social justice. The lead facilitators for the workshop will be Mamle Kabu, and Yewande Omotoso.

Click herefor more details.

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