Highly Commended goes to African entrant Nancy Lindah Ilamwenya.
Nancy is a Kenyan living in Ethopia and is just 26 years old. Here is Nancy’s entry: Of Nice and Mean
“Do you think George and Lennie’s friendship was genuine or was it based on convenience?”
Uncomfortable silence, occasionally interrupted by officious rustling of John Steinbeck’s, “Of Mice and Men” novels in oblivious fingers, searching for what is not only an elusive answer, but more so, a fantastical idea, especially for our teenage minds….true companionship.
“I would like one of you to please justify this relationship.”Miss Amweno begins again, determination in her voice.
“George is a strikingly witty fellow whose charisma casts spells wherever he goes. He is self –driven and agreeable.” My mind wanders off to the movie version; Channing Tatum should have played George. I wouldn’t have any problems answering Miss Amweno.…his eyes…Channing’s eyes…
“Lennie on the other hand, well juxtaposed to his best friend George. At 6 feet and change, his gargantuan mass dwarfs most average men.” Miss Amweno continues with unadulterated vigor, clearly unconscious of the fact that most of her words are too big for us.
“His thunderous voice emerges to clearly proclaim his mental handicap…an epitome of awkwardness. So boys and girls…How can these two contradictory personages be best of pals?” She pants as if never to speak again.
Painful silence lingers. We notice her left eye begin to twitch. Signs of frustration. She mumbles to herself, anger slowly sneaking to her face. She bites her lower lip and we gear up to receive outbursts of why we are better off on the streets and our places taken by those unfortunate street children, how we should be banished to rural Pokot where we can learn to appreciate some paltry beans accompanied with yellow ugali, listening to the omniscient voice of the Almighty self-contained teacher, seated on parched ground, under an ancient teak. But like most of what she says, gets in through one ear and leaves through the other. Hers is a tough job.
Thing is, Miss Amweno is a great teacher. Admittedly, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to eavesdrop on my other teachers’ out-spoken frustrations about their meager stipend and how on the first chance to leave the profession, they would. I have to say, nothing kills learning than the knowledge that you, the student, are but a bridge, not a destination. But Miss Amweno loves us. We know it and that is why we readily forgive her outbursts. We love that she screeches birthday songs to all of us at random times of the year. We love that she walks around with a tear-stained blouse after mediating teenage scuffles. We love that she would know if we had a rough night. We love that she knows our pets by name. We love that she scribbles proverbs at the corner of the board every morning. We even learnt to embrace the Feelings Jar. Miss Amweno makes school, home.
You see, my parents split up as soon as I turned seven. A few months later, my mother was arrested for fraud and all her assets frozen. Predictably, my father immediately re-married and promptly forgot about us. As fate had it, I was left in the young but capable hands of Bwire, my eighteen year old genius of a brother. “Genius” is not to be used lightly, as he went on to win a scholarship to an Ivy League university in the USA after innovating something I regrettably don’t have the capacity to describe. Worth mentioning( to emphasize his brilliance) he made a living concocting some hallucinogen in our house which he peddled to supplement the little allowance collected from reluctant relatives.
On my brother’s departure, I went to live with my aunt, who only accepted to host me in the hope that Bwire’s pursuit of prosperity would thrive and she would have a legitimate claim, on my account.
So as I watch the all too familiar transformation of Miss Amweno’s furrowed face to her sympathetic look, I am reminded of Mama. Not in a way that compares. No! In a way that conjures up feelings of foul rejection, constant absenteeism, and numbing loneliness. I have to say that her incarceration was of no consequence to our relationship, because we didn’t have any.
Miss Amweno is it! I don’t think she knows it but most of us count on her presence for our daily dose of affection. Miss Amweno is it! The semblance of a mother we all wish we had.
“Hallo? Akisa! Are you with us?” I hear her say. Suddenly, an epiphany so real, a divine intervention through I, a humble medium.
“Yes, Akisa… Kindly enlighten us.” She responds with apparent pride.
“Well Miss…it indeed is tempting…in fact natural, to choose the negative aspect, seeing that we live in a skeptical world.” I begin. “Skeptical, meaning doubtful of each other’s inherent goodness,” I look around, silence of a church.
“Why is it difficult for us to conclude that one can love without expecting something in return? Lennie is mentally challenged. He is a child in a man’s body. He can barely make sense to save his life. He cannot remember who he is, let alone what he is supposed to do. He has irrational tendencies further exacerbating his isolation.” I pause and look around. Everyone is listening.
“Why is it difficult to believe that George could find a true friend in Lennie? Couldn’t have George searched and found Lennie’s soul? An ability that few humans possess.”
I look around again. Eyes opening up to my truth. Minds consuming my revelation.
With the confidence of a pundit and humility of a priest, I rested my case, “Miss Amweno, there is no better example than our relationship, you Miss Amweno with us. You symbolize George, us Lennie. You love us, in spite… It is like questioning your fondness for us.”
Miss Amweno smiles, eyes gleam behind a curtain of joyful tears, and then she clinches my point so accurately, “Only one who can dig beyond physical differences will to justify the relationship.
Thank you Nancy for a story reflecting the wonderful roles of teachers. We hope your placing will encourage other African writers to craft their writing skills. Readers please comment below.
The shortlist for Umoja Orphanage Writing Competition 2015 has been announced.
Congratulations to these entries and thank you to all participants. Your entry fee goes a long way in helping Umoja Orphanage Kenya.
Our shortlist (in no particular order) with comments from our judges:
‘A Cup of Water’ by Judith Howe.
“It had a great use of descriptive language and a good use of vocabulary.”
“I liked the use of viewpoint. Engaging.”
‘The Tiny Teacher’ by Kirsten Leggettt.
“The beginning of the story engaged me as a reader. The vocabulary used created visual images and was highly descriptive. Tension was tightened as the main character entered the house. I loved the twist at the end. Very cleverly written.”
“Well-written and descriptive.”
‘Winter’ by Denise Krklec.
“I loved the simplicity of this story. I was connected to the moral of the story. The vocabulary again was descriptive and painted visual images in my mind.”
“Sad but poignant story with wonderful language.”
‘How do different cultures express their values and beliefs through children’s stories (essay)’ by Siena Hemra.
“I enjoyed reading this writers perspective on children’s literature.”
“A well-researched, well-written essay of merit.”
Hit our FOLLOW button to make sure you don’t miss the big announcement. Our winner will be announced in the coming weeks.
Only a week to get your entries in to Umoja Writing Competition 2015. To make this a successful literary competition and fundraiser for Umoja Orphanage Kenya, we desperately need more entries. Please let all your writing friends know about us and encourage them to enter, please.
The theme is ‘Child’ but anything can inspire you.
- The above picture perhaps (baby animals and children).
- Your own children.
- Children in your area.
- The children of Africa.
- A baby who impacted your life.
- A toddler’s world.
- The inner child.
Hurry. Entries must be post-marked 6th August 2015 or arrive in my inbox before midnight on that day.
Here’s another writing quote to inspire you to write.
I hope you get your entry in to Umoja Writing Competition and test your writing. Entries close 6th August 2015. We need as many entries as possible to make this competition a success for the Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Please pass on to all your writing friends.
Here’s some more writing tips to help you in your quest to write:
- Membership in a national professional writing group can help you establish a professional image
- Write often, even if it’s just notes and scribbles
- Writing competitions build writing skills and test you against other writing styles Enter
- Inspiration often comes from nature. Look around you.
- Keep a notebook and don’t let any of those brilliant ideas slip away
- Set writing goals you can reach. Once reached expand them further.
- Attend workshops and conferences to enhance your writing craft
- Encourage other writer
- Write, write & write (edit re-write, edit re-write, edit re-write) polish
Good luck with your entry in this unique writing competition.
by Guest Blogger – Lauren Dionysius
Things I have learned:
- jamming people into the back of a ute is an acceptable means of transportation
- the average cactus makes for a perfectly functional clothesline
- red dirt turns to red mud in the rain
- car maintenance is overrated: 8 breakdowns in 3 days between 4 Land Cruisers is a lot, even for Africa!
- urgency does not exist: no-one is in a hurry and nothing happens quickly
- and the quicker you can adjust to (and accept!) the previous point, the easier life will be!
- don’t be fooled: ‘pap’, ‘maizemeal’ and ‘sadsa’ are all the same stuff, but different countries use different names. And while it might look like chocolate pudding, it will never, EVER taste like it, regardless of how much sugar you add!
- the ticks in Africa enjoy the taste of humans and the resulting ‘tick bite fever’ is cruel, especially in the remote African bush
- every tree in Africa has a thorn of some description
- electricity is overrated, however hot showers are NOT!
- do not visit the Tanzanian coast during Ramadan – food is scarce!
- 25 children died unnecessarily in Malawi because the hospital ran out of anti-malarial and they weren’t restocked for a month
- bean stew actually looks and tastes worse than it sounds
- the ‘toilets’ in this part of the world are on a whole new level of stink! You are better off learning to squat in the bush – just look out for thorns &, um, local kids!
- when the entire mobile and internet networks are down, Africa just keeps on going. What would Australia do?
- ‘nibblies’ in Kenya are called ‘bitings’
- sleeping out under a starry Namibian sky is a magical experience
- 1000s of seals in the one place = one giant stink (though still smells better than a Tanzanian toilet!)
- the city of Cape Town is just as beautiful the third time round as the first
- seatbelts are optional in Africa
- dust gets everywhere into EVERYTHING
- don’t underestimate the off-road capabilities of the humble mini-van – those things can go up, over and through things at speed, if given the chance!
- it is possible to survive without phone reception for two weeks. I am living proof.
- a sossusvlei is a lake in the desert between sand dunes
- a deadvlei is a dried up sossusvlei
- don’t eat tuna at the beach – you will attract lots of seagulls
- it is possible to survive (many days even!) without the internet
- I am not cut out to be a makoro poler (those little dug out canoe things in Botswana)
- Namibia is the most stunning country in Africa, that I have been to so far
- every place in Namibia starts with an ‘O’ or an ‘S’ which is very confusing!
- trekking through wild Ugandan jungle in search of gorillas is no easy feat
- there’s very little in Africa that cannot be fixed with a screwdriver and duct tape.
Why not enter today and see where it takes you?
We encourage you all to spread the word about the Umoja Writing Competition. The more entries and the more benefit to Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Ask your local school if they would like to put up some posters. Ask your local bookstore if they’ll encourage their readers and writers to enter. See if your library is willing to promote us. Tell your writers’ group all about us. Thank you to everyone who gets the word out.
You can download a PDF of this poster/flyer (with the second page) at: Umoja Writing Comp 2015 Flyer
You can also download our entry form: Umoja Orphanage Writing Comp Form 2015
Everyone is welcome; school children, creative writers, hobbyists, serious writers, dabblers, newbies – anyone.
Good luck and get writing now before you miss our August 6th deadline.
By Sarah Cannata
So, we’ve all heard about the J.K. Rowlings and Stephen Kings of the world but when you’re an unknown, writing can be a hard gig at times.
At the center of every writer’s struggle is belief.
Belief in what you’re doing. Belief in where you’re going and most importantly, belief things will change.
And just when you’re down and out, you’ll get that email that rubs salt into the wound. The words are always similar, “Hi [insert your name]… Thanks for your submission but we’re sorry to inform you…”
You know the rest of the story.
At this point, every writer has two choices: To persevere or to give up and look back when you’re older, wondering what would have happened if you just wrote one more story. If you just wrote one more blog. Finished off that last email draft…
As writers, here are 3 things we all need to keep in mind:
- An opinion is just an opinion. We could all write five stories in five different ways depending on whose feedback we’re following. Unfortunately, some people’s opinions will count more than others but at the end of the day, it’s still just their opinion.
- Our line of work invites opinion and criticism. Not everyone is going to love what you do – Everyone is entitled to their little spin on things but don’t allow it to define you or your work.
- Remember why you write (Hopefully the answer is because you love it. If it’s for reasons such as making money, you picked the wrong career. Get out now!).
In a nutshell, you can choose to play it safe and continue doing your standard 9am to 5pm job because it brings in cash (and of course, we all need that).
Or, you can be game, take a risk and you never know what may happen. As they say, fortune favours the brave!
About our Guest Blogger Sarah:
Sarah Cannata is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. A couple of months ago, something snapped in her head and she decided she was done working with egos and people who weren’t on the same page. End of story.