Creatives Academy: Grand Finale

Creatives Academy: Grand Finale

Creatives Academy was a great opportunity of traveling the world of the arts from the confines of a classroom; a remarkably subsidized gateway and backstage pass set out for those who have not yet embarked on their careers, as well as those who have, to sit and mingle with personalities that set the pace for the industry. My highlight was sharing a cup of tea and some maandazi with both Oyunga Pala and the faceless Biko Zulu. I still cannot believe how soft spoken Zulu is. They were very inspiring and eager to impart knowledge to those reaching out to them. Honestly, I am still stifling a scream. Ha-ha!

The academy was thorough enough to realize that beyond fanning their inspiration, creatives should be informed about their rights as intellectuals. Marisella Ouma, Executive Director of the Kenya Copyrights Society and a lawyer by profession spared the time to educate us on this topic. That which speedily clung to my mind was that I automatically own copyrights of everything I scribble down, and that the copyrights expire fifty years after the date of my death. I thought that that was sufficient allowance in the practical sense. Supposing I would want my grandchildren to taste of fortune brought by my works, they will be of sufficient age to address the legalities required to safeguard their interests in the estate by the date of expiry.

The downside of copyright laws is that they are structured to be reactionary, such that the owner of intellectual property cannot do much but register trademarks, and then be on the lookout for works fraudulently published so as to sue, as opposed to hindering the crime beforehand. I however appreciate the fact that legal restitution exists at all.

Engineer Peter Mangiti, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Devolution and Planning graced us with his presence on the day of graduation. We challenged him on the availability of public spaces for book fairs and launches. The government has been keen on empowering the youth and sustaining former president Mwai Kibaki’s legacy of free primary education, even venturing on providing free laptops, but left out allocating funds for arts in public schools. On the other hand, there are loans provided for artistic entrepreneurship like films of up to millions of shillings. The sad news is that Kenyans are so accustomed to being let down by the government that every good news feels like yet another cry of wolf.

Alexander Nderitu is a pioneer in digital publishing in Kenya. He and Stan Gazemba, author of Calloused Hands, decided on taking publishing in their own hands after being disappointed by publishing houses over the years. Being an IT professional helped Nderitu in this endeavor. He is now the author of several digital books including When The Whirlwind Passes. He challenged us all to try digital self publishing since it costs next to nothing.

In a preceding class, CEO of Longhorn Publishers, Musyoki Muli, introduced us to the world of publishing in his organization, and had a hard time tackling rebuttals from fellow panelists that included Nderitu and Gazemba, as well as Zukiswa Wanner. David Ndavi asserted that writers should be like rockstars, in that they are producers of great artistic works just as the everyday celebrity musician, yet are barely known in Kenya. I wondered why Coast province is devoid of book fairs and writing clubs. I learnt they do exist. I look forward to the day that such events are widely celebrated.

Shiro Marima, an editor at Phoenix Publishers, gave a few pointers on what to look for when submitting manuscripts to a publisher.

For instance, writers should follow submission guidelines. They include input of details like addresses, and signing acknowledgement forms.

Generic titles are discouraged. Also, take minimal time to introduce the character in the story.

Be sensitive about gender.

Have a healthy balance between narration and speech, and let the characters speak naturally. There is too much shouting in writing nowadays, too many exclamation marks used.

Conflict must not always include bloodshed.

Write about familiar things to avoid too much need for research.

Be appropriate when approaching Phoenix. It does not mess with religion.

Keep your demographic in mind and that the language is suitable for them. Let children be the heroes of their own stories.

Read your work out loud after you are done. If you find a segment that feels boring, it probably is.

All characters must be connected to the main character. Look for unique things to describe about the characters and avoid the ordinary.

Lastly, watch out for punctuation errors.

I cannot bring an end to my reflections on the academy without mentioning Muthoni Garland, the tenancious and phenomenal author of Tracking The Scent Of My Mother, and founder of Story Moja book publishers. She took Mangiti to task on funding and public spaces. She also gave several pieces of advice similar to Marima’s, adding that writers should avoid passive language. Sentences with ‘is’ ending with ‘ing’ are usually passive. She said writing is rewriting, in that we should avoid editing our work the first time we write because it puts us at risk of getting stuck in an editing loop and stops us from developing the story. She also insisted that each story should have a hook. Punctuate, be specific and concise, and remember to proof-read work before submission.

Creatives Academy 2016, here I come!

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