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Call for Applications: Pilot Online Creative Writing Workshop


‘Every time I felt the impulse to throw myself off my balcony, every time I found myself lying on the kitchen floor in a depressed stupor, I would think of the sentences that needed to be rephrased, the paragraphs that needed a particular cadence or rhythm and I would get back to my computer and comb these kinks out. The obsession with detail, the palpable passion and sadness on each page was fuelled by my desire to transform destructive emotions like mania into something purposive, beautiful even.’ -- Diriye Osman on mental illness and writing Fairy Tales for Lost Children

Saseni!, Huza Press and University of Exeter are pleased to announce a new creative writing project that seeks to explore the possibilities of fiction and creative non-fiction for disrupting, sharing and highlighting narratives of mental health and well-being in East Africa in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Akwake Emezi’s autobiographical novel Freshwater highlights, creative writing can open up possibilities for understanding the self in ways that make more sense than ‘mental health’ descriptions. While as Diriye Osman powerfully describes, in very real ways creative writing can be part of a process of finding agency and recovery.

Recent posts from BookShy and Brittle Paper show the nuanced ways in which contemporary African fiction has engaged with narratives of mental health, yet East African voices have been strikingly absent. How might new fiction and creative non-fiction from East Africa productively disrupt and extend existing narratives of mental health and mental illness? How can we practice self-care as writers and as literary communities through this global pandemic, enabling new creative forms and texts to emerge?

Saseni! and Huza Press are launching a pilot online creative writing workshop for ten writers based in East Africa (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda), interested in exploring questions of form, genre and voice in relation to narratives of mental health and well-being. The pilot online workshop will run asynchronously over September 2020, sharing readings and writing exercises, alongside offering opportunities for one-to-one feedback on your work and to shape future workshop and publication plans.

Please click here to share a short expression of interest and apply to be part of the workshop. Deadline: 6th September 2020.

If you have any questions, queries or suggestions about this new creative writing project or the workshop application process, please email us at

This pilot forms part of Exeter's UNESCO City of Literature project African Literary Production: Exchanges and Networks and is a collaboration with University of Exeter's Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health.

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