writing tips

Winner of Umoja Writing Competition announced today

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Winner of Umoja Writing Competition announced

Umoja writing comp winner, Disha Raval
Disha Raval the winner of Umoja Orphanage Writing Competition 2016

It’s with great delight we announce the winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2016 is Disha Pankaj Raval with her essay entry ‘Peace Essay’. This entry took us by surprise with its maturity, especially after judging when we realized how young Disha was (she was born in 2004) in Nairobi Kenya. We think it’s a wonderful unexpected bonus that our winner was born in Kenya. She is proof what a good education, particularly literacy, can do for young children.

Here’s a little bit about our winner Disha.

Disha started school in kindergarten at Braeburn Imani International School, Thika, Kenya (a small place north of Nairobi) in September 2007. She finished her Kenyan schooling at Braeburn Imani International School in August 2015.

She has some interesting hobbies including:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Poetry (reading and writing poetry)
  • Swimming
  • Debating
  • Playing the Piano
  • Singing
  • Learning new Languages
  • Travelling
  • Cooking
  • Working with tools and wires
  • Art
  • Drama
  • Exploring Technology

And her achievements so far are impressive:

  • SATS award 2012
  • SATS award 2014
  • National Level Swimming 2014
  • School Math Champ Title Holder 2014
  • School Math Quiz Finalist 2014
  • Highest SATS results in the School 2014
  • Dance award 2015
  • 56 Certificates since 2007

Disha’s Dream Career:

Flying Service Doctor

Favorite Subject:

Mathematics  (and we thought it was English)

How did Disha come to Australia?

(As told by Disha)

In 2010, my family decided that Migrating to Australia will prove to be a better and brighter future for me. After a couple months of extreme thinking, we decided to apply for Immigration through my dad’s educational skills. We were granted the Immigration Visa in around late 2011 and this was a very exciting time for me. We came to Australia for the very first time and I really liked it. Finally, in 2015, we decided that that was the time to move and in February 2016 we came to Australia, to stay for good. The move was pretty hectic because we had to pack up the whole of our house in Thika into boxes and travel about 20 hours to a brand new and developed place with a time difference of 7 hours! It took almost 4 months to get everything packed and ready to go but I am really enjoying it here.

My biggest inspiration is my paternal grandfather. I never got to see him as he passed when my father was 16 years old but I have heard lots of stories about him from my grandmother and I am fully inspired by the way he thought and the way he lived his life.

Disha’s favourite place to write

My favorite place to relax and write my pieces of writing are in the park and on my brown couch.

What an inspirational young woman. Congratulations Disha. Disha’s entry with be posted to the next post. Please read it and comment. We hope this inspires people of all backgrounds and ages to write. 

Please note that judges do not know who wrote what entry. All entries are judged on merit alone. Thank you to all entrants for taking part and helping us to raise much needed funds for Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

Disha Raval winner 2016 writing comp
Disha Raval winner 2016

Writing is lots of thinking but it’s also doing

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Lots of people think writers live in a dream world, constantly thinking up stories.

It’s not really like that because there’s a lot of thinking that never turns into a story. Ideas twist and turn around a writer’s brain a bit like clay in a sculptures hand, until those ideas turn into actual writing.

Sometimes getting a story down takes years, like a researched novel or life story. Sometimes a story takes moments of scribbled ideas.

Get those ideas out of your head and onto paper or computer and tell your story.
Get those ideas out of your head and onto paper or computer and tell your story.

It doesn’t matter where your thinking goes as long as you don’t procrastinate. If you procrastinate you can kid yourself that you will write that story one day (and never actually do it).

So even if your thinking hasn’t got you to a full-formed story, just start writing. If you don’t put pen to paper or start tapping on the keyboard your ideas will forever remain in your brain and you can never share them that way.

It’s just like this competition. If you have been thinking you had plenty of time to start and you’re still thinking about it – start your writing now.

And on that note – get your entry in before it’s too late.

Remember this competition is about encouraging writing but it’s also a fundraiser for Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Please help them by entering.

ENTER HERE.

It’s time to get your entry into our writing competition written

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Time is slipping away. Tick, tock ticking away.

Have you started your entry yet? How long do you take to draft a story, edit and polish it? Weeks? Days? What about months?

There’s just two months left before our 26th August closing date. Stop reading this and get writing.

To give you some inspiration here’s another writing quote:

writing quote

I hope this has encouraged you to enter but if you’re not convinced, think about the children of the Umoja Orphanage Kenya where all funds raised from this competition go to. Cathy and her team have done a wonderful job so far and will open the doors to the children very soon. Though of course, more money is needed for their ongoing care and to create their sustainable orphanage.

ENTER HERE

Are you writing anything?

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Are you writing anything?

Anything at all? It could be a letter to a friend (probably not snail mail these days), but at least a long message on Messenger or via email. It could be a report for work. It could be a blog post. It could even be your entry for Umoja Writing Competition 2016.

Get great writing ideas from Australian Writers Center Instagram.
Get great writing ideas from Australian Writers Center Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/writerscentreau/

If you’re not writing, why not? You are a part of this writing community of over 500 followers if you’re reading this. You are a writer aren’t you? Writers need to write.

I try to write every day, be it at work or at home. If I’ve done a lot of marketing and social media at work I’ll take a break at home and perhaps read a good book instead, but I am writing every day in some form (or writing these and other blog posts).

Writing every day hones your skills as a writer. Here’s some tricky ideas to get more writing into your day:

  • Get up earlier. You can even go for a walk first to clear the head (exercise is known to boost creativity). That way you’ll have time to write before you head off to work or get the kids to school.
  • Get a job involving writing (journalism, web editing, marketing – just some).
  • Start a blog. You can write about the things you are passionate about.
  • Join a writers group. Like-minded souls encouraging each other in their passion for writing.
  • Doodle a poem on your desk pad while you’re waiting for someone.
  • If you’ve read a book that had an ambiguous ending write your own.
  • Write letters to your loved ones and leave them around the house so they can find them and enjoy them.
  • Write a thank you note to someone who has done something kind to you.
  • Volunteer at your local club to be the newsletter editor.
  • Enter this competition.

Now all you have to do is choose one and get writing. We’ll give you more writing tips next week and if you have any great ideas to get people writing please COMMENT below.

If you chose to enter this competition. Get your entry form at ENTRY FORM.

 

The Tiny Teacher by winner Kirsten Leggett

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The Tiny Teacher

by Umoja Writing Competition 2015 winner, Kirsten Leggett. Congratulations Kirsten who lives and writes in Tasmania.

It was her hair that caught my attention, carelessly tossed about in the wind, locks and tendrils whipping her face. Her eyes were the colour of mine, like the turquoise waters surrounding my island home. They were not cold like these waters but glistened with the warmth of the sun that turns the sand a bleachy white, much like the colour of her hair. She reminded me of the ocean, free spirited and full to the brim with an inner knowing, as though the tides themselves ebbed and flowed within her being. I am caught in this image until a gentle tugging brings me back to the hustle and bustle of the village market. I am standing in it, amongst it. She pulls me by the hand.

“Come, come quickly,” she urges me in a desperate small voice. “There is a place I need to show you.”

How did she spot me in this busy crowd, bustling with colour and noise? I must stand out, as she does too, my blonde hair shining in the sun within a sea of raven haired souls. Yet I do not feel so different from those around me. Was it the way I held myself in the crowd, the way I sheltered my eyes just so from the blazing sun, or perhaps it was the light in my eyes as I smiled and laughed at the antics of the market crowd. Yet she spotted me, as I did her, and came to me with such purpose that I was not surprised and could not say no to her gentle plea.

This child, she captured my heart in a moment, with a voice like a bird and a tiny hand with a claw-like grip sinking into the rhythm of my soul. She felt part of me, yet not. Perhaps she was from another world this ghost child? Yet she felt real, the skin on her hand so soft, the telling of a life yet to be lived. Mine felt rough in hers in comparison, weathered and worn from a life of work, the planting of things, harvest time and the raising of children. A story itself etched in the palms of my hand. So I follow her lead, keeping in time with small yet determined steps, for I am compelled to know more. Her grip on my hand loosens as we enter a dark alleyway.  Her steps slow and she glances briefly behind her to see that I am still there. I smile as an acknowledgement that I am open to this journey. There is a sense of trust that I cannot explain. She will show me great things this child.

There is a little sun here and the smell of damp rises from the cobbled streets, the noise of the markets all but a distant hum. Soon, all that can be heard are our footsteps, the markers of our journey. We come to a sudden halt outside a red door, so bright it looks out of place in the greyness I find myself in. A gentle push and we are in. She looks at me knowingly and I catch the spirit in her eyes, the purpose in her mission. The door closes softly behind me, a candlelit hall extends before us and there is the smell of something maternal in the air. Is it perfume? Or is it the smell of something familiar cooking in the oven? I cannot place it, yet something stirs deep inside me, a chord of familiarity and warmth.

I step slowly down the hall, one foot with caution, the other with readiness. A zigzag of emotion. The door at the end of the corridor looms. I sense love oozing from these walls, a certain childlike playfulness, and as I draw closer to the end I see the light coming from a gap beneath the door. It grows brighter as I draw nearer, the child still one pace in front of me. We reach the end and her small hand reaches up to turn the knob, seemingly too big for her small hands. She turns to look at me but I can barely see her eyes in this low light.

“Wait,” I cry out. “What if I’m not ready?”

“I have waited and waited for you,” she tells me, her voice soft and tinkering on the edge of tears. “You did not come, and so I came for you.”

Her eyes glisten with emotion and as the door swings open I step through, without further thought, guided only by instinct, for at last I am here, in the home of the inner child.

Did you enjoy Kirsten’s story? Please let her know by commenting below.

Of Nice and Mean by Nancy Lindah Ilamwenya

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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.