By Kathryn Kazibwe, Uganda:
I almost signed my very first 'autograph' two weeks ago. I was at St. Peter's Secondary School, Naalya with four other Writivists for a reading of my short story, 'Together'. First of all, let me say this. Reading your own story to a bunch of strangers is much harder than I thought. And these were teenagers, the hardest group of people to please. I know this because I only recently (tragically) exited that phase of my life, and I remember all too well the fakeness therein involved. Like the random giggle-fests that used to royally piss our teachers off and the mean stuff we used to do when we were bored. Boredom to teenagers is like the plague, to be avoided at whatever cost. It always brings out the horrible imps within. I remember attending a 'func', as we used to call them, where some guy dared bore us with eye-roasting-unfunny stand-up comedy. Gradually the entire audience turned into newspaper-wielding evil beings, prompting the poor guy to walk off stage, two blinks away from tears. What causes teenagers to be so callous, I don't know, but I sure am afraid of it! And I've tasted it first hand before, with a similar on-stage occurrence that I'd obviously much rather keep under the carpet where it currently lives.
So on the afternoon of the reading, I prayed to the Lord that the kids would find that my story was anything but a drag. I set off early, since I didn't know the place, and I didn't want to arrive out of breath and sweaty, looking like a really hardworking janitor. Also, I had been firmly informed that we had to be there by 1.30pm or the sky would fall, and this wasn't Chicken Licken talking. I was in Naalya by 1.00, and had to wait in the staffroom, listening to the teachers gossipping about some S.6 kid who is apparently extra naughty, but too sharp to be expelled. Of course the organizers themselves arrived late, but I was still glad I hadn't taken any chances.
By the time everyone arrived, my nerves were quite frayed. So when they asked us if we'd come with printed copies of our stories to read from, I almost ran out screaming. Of all the things that could have skipped my mind, I had to fall to the most important. I blame the devil. He is a liar. Even his jokes are not funny. I kept it cool, though. Luckily, none of the other Writivists had printed their stories either. And double-luckily, there was a book that had been printed for the kids to read before we came, and that is what we all read from.
Reading my work out loud is not something new to me, but I usually do it with myself doubling as my audience. It is a totally different feeling when there are many eyes looking up at you with expressions ranging from blank to riveted. I read as slowly and deliberately as I could, without sounding like I was reading to retards. I put in as much emotion as I could without looking like an epileptic stage actor. It went great. There was no booing. No one chose newspapers over me. I survived the wrath of the teenage temperament! Dirt off my shoulder!
Afterwards, when we were done and I couldn't wait to get home and tell my mom what a great afternoon it had been, a cute little girl called Sharon came up to me. She shyly told me she was working on a few stories. She said how much she loved Together and how badly she wanted to be a writer and how much reading my story had inspired her to keep trying, and lots of other sweet things that made me cry (but only on the inside, because I couldn't bear to lose my freshly acquired cool factor).
It was all very uncomfortable because I am also just an aspiring writer like Sharon. I told her as much. Still, she asked for my number, email address, Facebook name, and an autograph! Whoa! It was very cool and scary at the same time. I told her I'd give her the autograph when I become as good as she thinks I already am. I left feeling like a million dollars.
I haven't figured out this writing thing yet, but that look in Sharon's eyes will keep me going if nothing else does.
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