“If you are looking for money, please get a job.”
“Now, you can send stories and manuscripts via email and receive rejections the same way. Back then, I had to send via letters and buy stamps, had to wait patiently for the mailman.”
“Rejection is part of the process”
-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2016 Farafina Workshop
I applied four times for the Farafina Workshop, or was it five? I am not sure, so let’s stick with four: each year since 2013. I think I got the rejection mail once.
I discovered that the workshop is a safe space. And like all safe spaces, it is sacred. I cannot risk polluting its safety by sharing everything I learned. Sorry. But I will share enough to let you smell it. We met Chimamanda today, held our breaths when she came in.
She is still beautiful today; yesterday was not a mirage. She has a wicked sense of humour, and she knows names already. Aslak teaches us how to write non-fiction — Aslak Sira Myrhe. The other two names are best sung. He looks a little like Jesus, and by the end of the day, I know I can write good non-fiction.
We have settled into a routine. Breakfast at 9. Class at 10 or 11. Lunch at 3 or 4. Class ends at 7 or 8. We get assignments each day, stay up late at night doing them. We are learning how to pronounce each other’s names, learning how to hug each other and smile. Stay up in each other’s rooms and discuss assignments and classes.
I think today is Aslak’s last day. It hurts to see him leave; we have fallen in love with the Norwegian Big man, who sometimes stumbles over English words and cannot sit for long periods, because his neck aches. He has taught us to ‘do the switch’ and that ‘normal is enough’.
Now he has to return, we take millions of pictures and tease him about his blond hair.
Wangechi Mutu. Binyavanga Wanaina is like a force of nature. He is so honest, I wince several times, it is an honour to hear him say ‘I like your story’. He teaches us fiction and originality of voice. Today, we read stories, we have written based on Wangechi Mutu’s art. It is craziness. Saturday is also Karaoke Night, and Mortal Kombat games.
Sunday is for sleep, church and long walks on the bridge. We talk about everything and anything. We make a short film: Kuku Kill Me. Twenty or so takes later, we have two minutes of film we are utterly proud of.
12am. We are awake trying to write about a night gone terribly wrong. GOT spoilers. A story like a dictionary. Wangechi Mutu’s art is bringing out the craziness. Sleepy class. Movie Night.
Hemingway stories. Dialogues writing. Bestfren Bestfren. We write and rewrite dialogues, analyze the life out of Hemingway. Eghosa keeps us going with cans of Power Horse and witty pidgin remarks. Bogobiri plans. Just plans. Cards and Charades.
Happy birthday Nneoma. A day for second chances, rewritten stories are better, always. Thank you cards signed with so much love. Monye finally dies. We resurrect her just to tease Chioma. Thank you Biyanvanga! We take plenty of pictures. 11pm. Charades in room 216. Hotel reception has to call for us to keep down the volume. I want to be like Monye, I want to cook with stove.
Good Night Elechi Amadi, Rest in Peace. We read stories we want with Chimamanda and Eghosa. Long stories. Gifts are given, tears in every eye. #Farafina16. Charades in the conference room. How do you describe ‘Temptation’? Or ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?
We eat breakfast like it’s the last supper, mope around in rooms. 2pm. The glamming up begins. Party, certificates, hugs, drinks, food. We get back to a dinner worthy of Kings. Movie screening night. We hold hands, hug, take pictures. A secret is revealed. 3 am. Sleep.
This story first appeared on Praxis Magazine