The Things We Carry

I’m packing away some things in a box; books, beautiful cloth I can’t decide how to sew, purses, beads. These aren’t everyday items, in fact they’ll be put away for months. But I can’t get rid of them. They’re my talismans, and each tells a story of the friend or stranger who sold or gifted them to me.

What We Carry We can learn a lot about ourselves, and our characters, by looking at the talismans of the times. In writing non-fiction, what tangible items stay with you over the years? In fiction, what do your characters cling to like safety blankets, or albatrosses? Having in mind the great losses suffered during the Accra floods, what items leave an absence when they are lost, destroyed or taken away?

For non-fiction writers; pen a list of 10 meaningful items. Pick two and in 10-minute free-writes, tell the story of how you acquired each item and why you keep it. Then, write about something you no longer have.
For fiction writers; use a character from a work-in-progress and describe the items in their purse, bag, or pockets. Why does the character carry each item, what is its usefulness (or uselessness)?

The title of the post comes from an extraordinarily different work of fiction, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.  

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Writing Weekend

Take a character from a work-in-progress and transport them to a location that’s different from their normal setting. Research your new location and write 150-200 words on how your character reacts to being in the new setting.
Writing prompts are great exercises to get your mind working and putting characters out of their comfort zones can help you discover more about them. Then, submit your flash fiction for publication on Akwantuo! akwantuo@gmail.com.  

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3 Literary Things to Love About… Kenya

June 1st is Madaraka Day in Kenya, marking when the East African nation regained self-rule. Here are three things to love about Kenya’s rich literary tradition:

1) Wangari Maathai, The Challenge for Africa

This piece of non-fiction should be required reading for anyone who wants to know why roots planted in the past still invade the continent. Maathai, an environmentalist, political leader and activist, was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

2) Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Wizard of the Crow 
This boundless novel is a cracking, magical satire with a sweep of the familiar, characters that are closely drawn even in their absurdities.

3) Kwani Trust
It’s hard to think of an organization that does more to develop and promote writers than this Nairobi-based group, with the Kwani? journal, readings, open mics and more.

What’s on your Kenyan reading list on Madaraka Day?

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