In Summary
  • A class of 10 to 20 is manageable in creative writing, but when you have fifty and above the workshop model becomes impossible, and you can’t pay individual attention to the writers.
  • Some of them end up not finishing the work they started. Another challenge is passion without effort.
  • You can love songs very much but if you don’t practice 24/7, you will never be a good singer. The same applies to writing.
  • You don’t become an accomplished writer overnight. It is, as they say, 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.

Tobias Otieno, a senior lecturer in the Department of Literature, Theatre and Film Studies at Moi University, talks about his experience teaching creative writing.

For 22 years, he has taught creative writing, Oral Literature and Literary Theory . Among his publications are Emerging Patterns for the Third Millennium (drama), The Missing Links (a novel), poems anthologised in (among other publications) Echoes Across the Valley, Counterpoint and other Poems and Journey into Madness and other Poems. His short stories have been anthologised inThe Doomed Conspiracies and other Stories. Tobias is also the Lead Editor of Ngano: The Journal of Eastern African Oral Literature, published by Kenya Oral Literature Association (KOLA).

What is your favourite thing about teaching creative writing?

I’ve taught more than 200 undergraduate and post-graduate students, some of whose M.A Thesis - like mine – was a work of fiction. The best thing about this course is that the student does all the work, and the lecturer just supervises.

There is no formal lecture – we are always having workshop sessions.

Is there a way you have been able to keep a track of the creative writers you have ‘created’?

I don’t necessarily keep a track; some of them send me their published works, some of them are senior professors in various universities all over the world, others joined the NGO world, and some are teachers in secondary schools who apply their creative knowledge in producing plays, narratives and verses that compete in the National Schools Festivals.

How often are writers nurtured than born, or born than nurtured?

Nobody is born a writer, just as nobody is born a singer, or an engineer, or a doctor. Rather, children develop passion for certain crafts when young, so when they get the right nurturing at an early age they excel in whatever it is they are talented in. If they don’t get, this talent dies.

That is why we are hopeful the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) will be able to identify and nurture all the talents, and nothing will be lost.

Do you have a particular approach to teaching creative writing?

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