I am where I am today because someone believed in me.
From the English school teacher who let me read a poem in class because I was too shy to hand it to a boy.
His response would be my first literary rejection.
I decided to write myself love letters instead.
(I found this little gem from a diary entry in 2002. I have since learnt to use I’m instead of Am)
When I was about 17, a journalist came to our house to cover a story about a water shortage in the area.
He rode up on a bike and asked a friend and I our sentiments on not having running water for months.
We had other concerns at the time but I was drawn in by his eagerness to help and confided my dreams of becoming a writer.
He has later gone on to become one of Uganda’s notable journalists.
(My friend and I remained close)
The journalist encouraged me to walk into the newsroom and ask for a job.
I remember feeling like I did not belong there. His editor thought otherwise.
A few weeks later, my first story (something about the experiences of teenagers on holiday) was published.
For years after that I wrote for other publications. The appeal for me was entering worlds previously unfamiliar and presenting them to the public the way they affected me.
I interviewed doctors, activists, an army general and once, an inmate on death row.
He was one of the people who told me to always fight for what I wanted.
He has since been pardoned.
I also wrote about street children and in 2013 I was asked to make a presentation to politicians about the causes and effects of human trafficking in Kampala’s slums.
Standing in that room with my PowerPoint presentation, I felt inadequate but I suppressed my fear of public speaking and told them what I knew.
I was hired as a media consultant on domestic and international human trafficking.
For the first time my writing extended to radio dramas, and live skits. I also worked with a filmmaker and realised that I had a lot to learn.
I was offered a full scholarship to study in Australia.
Initially, living so far away from home was emotionally traumatising but I met people who were willing to help. They introduced me to works by writers, filmmakers, comedians and podcasters that I would have probably never come across.
So, I read and read and read. There was no stopping me
(I even made it into the university museum)
I also met a boy who did not think my poetry was terrible.
(He pushed me to try things beyond my ability)
Just as I found ground to move forward, I was pushed back by this little hiccup.
That’s when I really understood what it meant to have people believe in you.
I felt that I could do anything and so, I applied to the University of Oxford.
I chose this MSt. in Creative Writing program because while I have learnt so much about other worlds, I want to continue telling stories from my home.
I have tried before and was shortlisted from some pretty stiff competition.
This program is the next step in my career as a writer, researcher and academic anthropologist through story telling.
Just recently, I learnt that for some 700,000 people in my country believe that God exists, he is Ugandan and lives among them.
I also recently met Gerald, a Ugandan author who goes door to door trying to sell his books.
He has been offered a film deal for his first book on condition he writes the script. With no experience in the area and no income to hire a script writer, I offered to do it for him.
Both stories will be featured on a podcast I am doing in Uganda.
No university in Uganda offers creative writing as an independent masters course. I applied to three universities in the UK: University of Glasgow, Aberystwyth University, and Kent University. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to all three programs, but none offered funding.
Oxford too did not come with funding. I looked for scholarships, grants and even contacted embassies and government bodies. I even considered taking out a loan but was told, as an international student, I am not eligible.
I have come this far because someone at some point took a chance on me.
To the many people who have contributed so far. I can’t thank you enough.
(Including my study buddy and housemate during my first degree who contributed 8 dollars)
I hope you too can take a chance on me.
I promise you it will be all the accountability I will need to make this worthwhile for me and for others.