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Convening the Maiden Edition of Jewel Writing Workshop

This piece outlines Adamu Usman Garko’s experience convening the maiden edition of the Jewel Writing Workshop.

Two years ago after the realization of the need to publish one of the manuscripts I wrote, I published my debut book “When Day Breaks.” After its publication and the attention of the literary circle, it had generated: first, being listed  by the award-winning newspaper house–Dailytrust Newspaper, among the 15 best published books in Nigeria; and also being recommended the same year 2018 for 400 level English University students of Gombe State University, demands for it by the general public became so intense that I had to organise a Book Presentation/Launch to mark the official release of the book in 2019.

Immediately after the Book presentation, I received requests from many young people asking me to provide my time to mentor them. With tons of young people already on my hands being mentored the best way my little ability could take me, I felt it would be sheer impossibility for me to accommodate another set of young people for the mentorship.

However, afraid to disappoint them and scared of showing a lackadaisical attitude to their requests– I thought they might feel discouraged and that my negative response to their requests could dampen their new-found interest–the art of reading and writing, I made up my mind to find a way to come up with an initiative that would be favourable to their yearning, and that was how the idea of organizing a workshop event annually, drawing teenagers from different parts of the country–Nigeria, under the auspices of the name “Jewel Writing Workshop” for free mentoring services came up.

Selection Process for the Jewel Writing Workshop

Because it was the maiden edition holding in the year 2020, we only targeted 50 teenagers in Nigeria. We believe that young people, most especially our target, hardly get themselves stuff like free mentoring services, workshops, training and a host of other capacity building opportunities. Hence our motif for targeting them.

Application for entries was open for a period of one month, and later, was extended due to our quest to cover as much entries as we could, and to be able to also reach out to those who are offline. The target was/is teenagers who live in Nigeria.

Thereafter, a team was instituted with myself as the head, and a host of other professional writers, including our facilitators for the workshop to come up with a list of best 50 entries. After rigorous assessments and careful consideration and verification, we came up with the exact number of participants we wanted to host for this year.

Schedule Venue, Date, and Time

Since it was the maiden edition, we chose Gombe,  my hometown, to be our venue for the 2020 maiden edition.

We were graciously hosted as our venue-by the National Library, Gombe Branch, where the whole segments of Jewel Writing Workshop 2020 held.

The workshop held on Saturday, 19th of October 2020.

Partners of Jewel Writing Workshop

For the first edition, Jewel Writing Workshop partnered with three organizations in order to make the actualisation of the workshop reality. The organizations are:

A non-governmental organization founded by, and, under the leadership of Dr. Yunusa Zakari Ya’u, Center For Information, Technology And Development; an ICT-valued service provider, Fombina Imprints; and a content production company based in US, Applied WorldWide.

The above-mentioned organizations/initiatives graciously offered their hands of support to Jewel Writing Workshop, out of their relentless passion to see more brighter change-makers rising up in every nook and cranny of the country.

Opening Ceremony

In the morning of the day, 19th of October, 2020, at exactly 7am, I and my team arrived the venue of the event carrying along with us: customized jotters, pens, sound system, banners and refreshment, etc. We arrived very early because, participants were ordered to arrive by 9am, so we had to sort out everything and put them at the right perspective before their arrival.

Immediately after done with arranging seats and sorting out everything in the right direction and also sharing of roles and responsibities among volunteers, we bagan to wait for the arrival of the participants. Not very long after, they began to arrive one after the other. Obviously anxious and eager, more than half of the fifty participants arrived at one hour to the time assigned to them to arrive.

As all participants had arrived at exactly 9am, the volunteers in charge of verification processes ordered that all the 50 participants should stretch in a long que at the back door of the hall to hold the opening ceremony. One after the other, all the participants were duly verified, registered and ushered in to the hall with well-arranged seats. Once a participant had been verified and registered, a customized jotter, a pen and a tag would be given to him/her.

Opening Ceremonies

For the opening ceremony and the workshop segments, attendance was only restricted to the team members and participants of the workshop.

Immediately the registration was over and everyone happily seated, the opening ceremony started, as sheduled for 10am-11am.

Starting with opening ceremony, workshop sessions and even the Closing Ceremony, our moderator (Master of the Ceremony) who also happened to be one of the key facilitators of the workshop was Sadiq Yahaya, a linguistic and one of the great literary enthusiasts in the state.

At the Opening Ceremony, Sadiq led us to sing the national anthem. Thereafter, as the convener of the event, I was called upon to offer talk on the motif behind initiating Jewel Writing Workshop, a free mentoring platform for young people in Nigeria. During my talk, I reinstated that this great idea was borne out of the need to offer my contribution to quality education in Nigeria, encourage young people with interest in reading and writing, so that we can have a better talents-rewarding society.

Our host, the head of National Library Gombe Branch was thereafter called on to the stage to offer a few words on the importance of reading as a tool to better one’s craft as a writer. With his encouraging and challenging words, Muhammad Gaude, the president of Gombe Jewel Writers’ Association came on to wrap up the opening ceremony with a speech on why the workshop came at the right time when free mentoring platforms are hardly heard of, most especially for teenagers.

Workshop Session

The participants were divided into three groups.

The first group were the most matured ones who were also better at the craft. In order to expose them to hands-on experience on the creative writing processes, Uzairu Uba, an all-around literary giant got them through as their facilitator for the whole workshop time.

The second group were participants not as good as the first group, but they were also excellent in their own capacity and their passion to enhance themselves was genuine. In order to give them two distinct experiences, Sadiq Yahaya took charge of them through the poetry writing process, and Ibrahim Sambo, an intellectual and a highly gifted story writer put them through the prose writing session.

The last group were the youngest in age and in grasping of knowledge as it relates to the writing processes. Muib, an educationist who is also an astute writer took them through-introducing the writing to them like fresh bones, and instigating them to wholeheartedly embrace reading, dearly.

Closing Ceremony

The closing ceremony started at exactly 4pm on that very day. Attendance at this stage of the event wasn’t restricted. It was open to everyone.

Dr. Y.Z Ya’u who happened to be the key sponsor served as the keynote speaker. He spoke extensively on the topic: “Digital Opportunities for Young Writers. The participants, and even the general public were so surprised by his presence. They were amazed that a great person like him, despite his tight schedules, could offer his time for us, meant so much.

Other speakers who made the event colourful were: Dr. Yunana Ahmed, Ahmed Musa Hussain, Muib, Usman Muhammad and Muhammad Gaude. We were also gifted with the presence of four bright minds who came from far to grace the Closing Ceremony: these were Mujahyd Ameen, Ali Mamman, Ali Chiroma and Nasiba Babale, all from Kano.

At this juncture, certificates were given to all the participants and facilitators. Along with the certificates was also my book, When Day Breaks, which was given to all the participants. Thereafter, the event was wrapped up with my closing remarks, and then after photographs were taken.

Final Considerations

As a write this, I have been receiving messages of passionate and unadulterated appreciation from the participants for the platform I’ve provided to them. Some parents too have started expressing their deep happiness over the kind gesture from Jewel Writing Workshop. I don’t know how it feels, but I could sense from their feelings and emotions, this is to them and to many, something big, something these younger minds could hardly have imagined they would be exposed to.

The next edition for the year 2021 is scheduled to hold in Bauchi state, set to target 100 participants from the whole of Northeast. Read the Full Report of the Maiden Edition of the Jewel Writing Workshop, linked here!

Adamu Usman Garko

Adamu Usman Garko is a short story writer, an essayist and poet. He is the author of When Day Breaks, a collection of poetry, which was listed among the 15 Best Published Books in 2018 by DailyTrust newspaper; also, the book is a recommended text for 400l English students of Gombe State University in 2019. He is the 2020 winner of the Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors He is the convener of Gombe Book and Arts Festival, an in-coming literary festival in Nigeria to kickstart in 2020. You can connect with Adamu Usman Garko on Twitter.