Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On being Listed

It was on a narrow stretch of road, some time in January, somewhere between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, that my phone connected to Wifi out of nowhere and vibrated. I was surprised, having grown accustomed to a silent phone over the last two weeks. It was an email. It started with the word: Congratulations. As a serial non winner of competitions, I was amazed.

I needed to present myself in Cape Town for a one Day workshop that would be conducted by Whitbread Shortlisted Writer, Rachel Zadok (of course, at the time I didn’t know this), since my ‘application to the Writivism 2014 Creative Writing Workshop had been accepted.’

The application had been carelessly sent. Something done on a whim, without too much thought given, to which bits of myself I would bare to the organisers. It was simply, a story taken from my blog, pasted in the body of an email, with a short introduction to myself. I knew that had I agonised over what to send, I’d have gotten cold feet and just forgotten all about Writivism.

Cape Town turned out to be nothing short of enchanted, the only blight on an otherwise idyllic weekend being The Workshop. I sucked at it. Really sucked.  I wasn’t  made for these exercises. I couldn’t write with an audience. I especially couldn’t share my icky first draft (written in pen, as opposed to on my computer) with a roomful of polite strangers, all trying to find something good to say, in the hope that I’d return the favour when their turn came. Had it not been for my doppelganger, Saaleha who’d also been successful with her application, I’d have died a zillion deaths by the end of that day, as opposed to just a dozen.

But, it was when I got home, that the real work began. I was introduced to my mentor, Nigerian poet (doctor too), Dami Ajayi. He was a prickly man. I was suitably intimidated. I penned my flash fiction piece which you can read here.

This was the easy part - though, wondering how people would react to this piece was less easy.

That behind me, my next task was to write a short story.

Anyone who knows me, knows that short stories have always been ‘my thing’. I wrote them (rather poorly) in one sitting, often without too much thought. But with Dami, I learnt how to count my words. How to tighten my prose. He was a harsh critic and for that I am thankful.  

Once my story had been submitted, I got on with baking and caking. The memory of the talented writers I’d met during the workshop was still very fresh. Writers who, unlike me, didn’t collapse at the sight of an audience. Writers who could turn clever little phrases, and write glowing prose under pressure. So, when another email, beginning with the word ‘congratulations’ landed in my inbox, I was stunned! Really pleased, but completely stunned. Delighted too, that my doppelganger had made the longlist along with me. The 14 longlisted stories will be published in an anthology, Fire in the Night, and launched on Friday , 20 June at the Writivism Festival in Kampala. This was more than I could ever have hoped for.

 I could now throw myself into the task of preparing for Ramadhaan, knowing that with all its soul sapping fracas, 2014 had finally redeemed itself. So, when another mail arrived on the 27th May, beginning with the word (you guessed it!) ‘Congratulations!’ I was shocked into silence. (Yes, incredible, I know.)

I had made the shortlist. One of five writers. I’d be attending The Writivism Festival in Kampala and thankfully, so would my doppelganger. (Can you imagine how terrifying this would be if I was doing it alone?!)

I don’t think the enormity of what has happened has sunk in. The last few weeks have been a blur of chicken fillets, kids’ homework, and worrying about how my mum will deal with my absence.

This week will be crazier yet, since I leave on Sunday.
There is a week’s worth of meals to prepare, along with shopping to be done and kids to assist with studying for exams.
There is anxiety to face and a dream to embrace.
There is disappointment to swallow too. It’s not only hard times that reveal our friends, see. Our successes expose them too.
There is insecurity to brave. I CAN write.
There is a meeting with an agent to prepare for. I MUST write.

Thank you. I wrote, all these years, and you read.  And that always gave me one more reason to write even when there were a hundred others not to.

Most importantly, Alhamdulillah. All praises are His alone. Writing is sometimes, an act of faith.

Say a prayer for me :)

p.s. See the name of the editor on the cover? It was the most bizarre quirk of fate that saw my dear friend, Sumayya, edit my final copy.


umm-abdillah said...

Alf Alf Mabrouk! ❤

Princess said...

This is such awesome news :) Congrats and all the very Best...May Allah (swt) make it easy for you, Aameen

Saaleha said...

in the final tally, I finished second. oddly, that didn't really matter (much). It is time though, that I started submitting things.