The Beginning: Writing Workshops and MFAs

By Amatesiro Dore 26 July 2013

In 2009 I had no talents. I couldn’t rap, dance, or play football. Then I began to explore my natural advantages: modelling didn’t agree with law, debating wasn’t commercial (at the time), and pornography wasn’t considered because “Y has a long leg and two branches”.

I loved books, I had read more literature than anyone in my literary circle; I was the son who had book titles on his “shopping list”. I grew up with a writer but I preferred eating words to cooking them. I never considered writing, I was a happy consumer. All my first dates ended up in a library or bookshop. If I didn’t sell an author to you, be very afraid, I probably didn’t like you.

Seun Kuti @ the Farafina Dinner

Seun Kuti @ the Farafina Dinner

I patronised the art scene on the island. Book readings at Silverbird Galleria, drinks at Jazzhole, plays at Terra Kulture, intellectual chats on Facebook, and all other activities artless artists undertook to feed their muse. It was during my waka-about that I met Respected Writer who told me about the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop. Then I wrote my first meal (for eyes other than mine). RW and I discussed point of views, tenses, punctuation, and if my story was “working”. After many editorial tinkering, and force-feeding of family with sentences, I sent my entry a few days to the closing date.

I was in Abuja, Drumstix, enjoying free Wi-Fi on a friend’s laptop. That was when I saw it: I was one of twenty applicants who received that email. The mail was a few days old; I had forgotten about my talent quest. But there it was, an email saying I had talent…a promising propensity to be read.

I became very suspicious of my new talent, but if “they” said I could write, what did I have to lose? My friends didn’t care much about my selection, they were into Law. I envied my friends, they were normal, I was abnormal.

Adichie, Binj, Funmi Iyanda, Chika Unigwe,

Adichie, Binj, Funmi Iyanda, Chika Unigwe et al

I returned to Lagos for the workshop and I met other abnormal people at the workshop. I had never been in the same room with creative writers; ONLY creative writers – the Farafina Class of 2009. I moved through the haze and after ten days, it was over. I can’t remember what happened (I refuse to write about it), it was nine months in a womb and I was born again. I had so much to think about and consider, I didn’t write another sentence for over a year.

There was a memory tattooed in my head: I standing at the parking lot with Chimamanda and Mr Fine Boy, we were chatting about post workshop options, and I said something about going on to get an MFA in Creative Writing. And Chimamanda said: “Tesiro, go and live life”. I regurgitated those words after a year; they became my launch pad into creating sentences.

In 2012 I became sure. I had lived life and I was ready to write. I invaded the Farafina Class of 2012 with a pillowcase full of my favourite books, and I gave all away. That was how I began.

Last week, emails were sent to the 2013 participants. Where were they when they read their emails? What lives were they leaving behind? When time and talent battle for their soul, what will they do?

Congratulations to the Farafina Class of 2013, wishing you a good beginning, you’ll never know how it ends, until you start writing.

Next week, the list of participants for the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop 2013 will be published on this blog. The selected applicants have been contacted via email.

22 thoughts on “The Beginning: Writing Workshops and MFAs

  1. I congratulate all those that make the list. We all cannot be accommodated in the workshop due to limited space. Next year my be my year!

  2. Some say they don’t have talents, some say they are not good writers but I am saying that I got it- the best talent in creative writing. But, for those who layed all their hope in Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop, let me ask you a question, just one….. Is Farafina the only thing that will say who you are? Besides, Farafina didn’t say you don’t have talent or you are not creative enough . This is the survival of the fittest where only twenty applicants were picked among thousands whose write-ups were read.

    As they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder- the picking was according to the taste of the picker not on talents because everyone created by the Maker has talent.

    I know some of you will be thinking “probably, I was picked.” I wasn’t picked either but I have talent and I must not be at Farafina to make it. “It is God who makes “Heros” from “Zeros”, “who are you” to “how are you”, “nobody to somebody” and I must give Him credit for that.

    Thanks for Farafina anyway for it encouraged me to put down in ink and white papers, about fourty thousand words which I know one day it would be in print. You may call it rubbish but I call it “my novel.”

    Thank You, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for what you do in the lives of Nigerians. God will reward you effectively. I must not be a partaker to appreciate you but you may not know you have motivated me a lot- without you, I may not have taken the first step in writing. One day, I will tell my story in the eyes of my forefathers, in the eyes of my fathers, in the eyes of this generation and in the eyes of generation yet unborn.

    As for this year Farafina Creative Writers, I mean the participants, “Good Luck” and please, don’t be carried away. Make judicious use of this little CHARITY work effectively.

    See you all at “Literary Evening” open to us- the public which I have grace to attend except if there would be “BOUNCED”.

  3. Sometimes artists just romanticize things. What is abnormal about wanting to write or sing or dance? Abeg if you have dreams and think you have a talent just pursue it and see where it takes you. All this talk of being abnormal or crazy is just the way we tell ourselves we are special with false humility.
    Not being chosen means nothing. Being a writer means being rejected lots and lots of time. It does not define your writing. Lots of the stories we celebrate today were rejected before they were accepted.

  4. I think it might be nicer to atleast tell those that didn’t get in that they didn’t. So they aren’t checking their spam a hundred times lol.

  5. I was depressed too when I didn’t get the e.mail, but @StNaija sent this…. “To the grieving writer” […]Not making the cut means we should work harder. Cheer up guys.

  6. I officially have no talent. I thought writing was my talent, but I am wrong. I am not a writer. I am a talentless being.

    • Chommy, you have got talent even more than the well known writers. It is a matter of hard work. Let me tell you my story in few words. Do u know, my parents were illiterates and pennyless? But today, I’m a graduate not just a graduate but have moved to post graduate. You will ask who trained me? It is hardwork only. Please, Dear, there must be winners and vanquish. One day, you will win. Good luck!

  7. Didn’t get the e-mail.
    Hope to get it next year.
    I won’t lose hope, I know how much love I’ve got for writing, it will never die.
    I will keep striving towards becoming a better writer.
    Congrats to those who made the cut.

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