In 2007, I felt the urge to impart my knowledge of writing, my passion for the craft, my love of poetry and my love of daydreaming to young persons between the ages of 7-15yrs. I started a summer writing workshop “The Treasured Writers”. It was a heady moment in my writing career; the pleasure of exciting kids in a room, the beauty of innocence and the most audacious stories I have ever seen. Whoever said children are the most imaginative persons ever was not wrong. In fact, for me it was like playing back my childhood. I was fantastic at daydreaming. I used to simply float out of my classroom and be in exciting places I had read in magazines or obsessed about a word in my father’s fat book, the Encyclopedia Britannica. I have always loved words, how they come together to make engaging sentences and which words conveyed meanings better, which words were functional and which ones were just highfalutin and had little or no meaning or was useless in its very essence.
I read ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as a 12-year-old and enjoyed the many magical moments in it. I was taken in by the many unbelievable characters therein including the mad Hatter, the king and queen of hearts and how Alice kept growing and shrinking as if she were an object. It was all I wanted in my dream world, characters that fed my imagination. I was known even as a kid to be reading two books at the same time depending on my mood – ‘Aladdin and the Forty Thieves’ when I was in the mood to go; ‘Arabian Night’ and or ‘Snow White’ when I was in love with the soppy-eyed kid in my neighborhood and felt at 14 that he was going to be my knight in shining armour.
Today I still read two books simultaneously and it will depend on how I felt. It is this magical quality of books that made me a writer. For if you read as much as I do, you will want to share your joy, your tears and your cares with others.
When I gathered these 7-15 year-olds in a room for the first edition of TTW in 2007, I had no idea that it would grow to become one of Abuja’s leading summer boot camps. Our participants in 2007 were writing stories with blue cows and spotted yellow dogs. Our participants in 2008 were writing poems which drove adults to tears. We have had a student architect as a result of the one-week boot camp because an architect from Chicago joined us for two days and motivated the children. Over the years we have had beloved Nollywood actress Kate Henshaw, cerebral Guardian cartoonist Obess, NLNG shortlisted poet Diego Okonyedo, aspiring president of ANA Denja Abdullahi, two-time shortlisted Caine prize writer El Nathan John, Caine prize-nominated writer Abubakar Ibrahim, ANA-shortlisted fiction writer Theophilous Abah, and NLNG-shortlisted writer Chinyere Obi Obasi.
Others are award-winning literary journalist Henry Akubuiro, president, Centre for Leadership and Strategy Dr. Otive Igbuzor, and Africa director for McArthur Foundation Dr. Kole Shettima, among many literary and thought leaders who have been inspiring the children. Once many years ago a legislator stopped by at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre to encourage our work.
The children on the other hand have learnt about leadership, about dance, about writing, about music and creativity in general. Each year is different; but we always watch a movie in the week and give the kids book vouchers to shop for good books in a bookshop. To cut a long story short, we have a fun-filled week and at the end I am not sure whether it is those of us who facilitate that have the most fun or the kids. For me, I learn a lot from the children, I rekindle my childhood of daydreaming, of audacity, of play with words and I encounter year after year some of the most brilliant minds between the ages of 7-15.
Last year, due to some work exigencies, for the first time in seven years we did not hold the writing boot camp. Parents and children were quite upset that it did not hold.
We are therefore rearing to go for the 2015 TTW edition and the programme we have planned for the comeback edition is as exciting as it is inspiring. Starting on the 10th of August to last till the 15th at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, it is bound to give joy, knowledge and produce new stories we never know the characters until we begin to write, ending with a party on Saturday.
This has to be the children’s writing workshop to beat…fingers crossed. Our thanks to our team of facilitators who tend to the needs of the kids, love them and teach them. Our gratitude to all our resource persons who come to teach and adopt our participants; and all our partners especially the DG of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, my friend and sister Jacqueline Farris, and Mallam Abdullahi, GM of Abuja Maitaima Park. Check www.eugeniaabu.com for more.