Pa Gya Literary Festival: where blogging and journalism collide

Blogging – by far – is my biggest passion at the moment and so it was a great honour to be able to represent Blogging Ghana (the Ghanaian association for blogging and social media enthusiasts) at this year’s Pa Gya literary festival in Accra.

Pa Gya is a literary festival, which was jointly organised by the Writers Project of Ghana and the Goethe-Institut, and hosted by the Goethe-Institut in Cantonments, Accra between 20th October and 22 October 2017.

Bookworm’s fantasy

I would describe the three-day event as any bookworm’s fantasy – second to my deep-seated desire to be locked in a library!!! Although low key, the event brought together the cream in West African literature, seasoned novelists, poets, aspiring writers, publishers and cartoonists. It also gave attendees a chance to get up close and personal with their writer heroes.

African writers

Mine were the venerable Ama Ata Aidoo and Nii Ayikwei Parkes, who I had the pleasure of interviewing in 2015 at the London-based writers’ festival Africa Writes. I may have to add Nigerian writer Chuma Nwokolo to that list. His mesmerising recitation from his new novel ‘The Extinction of Menai’ complete with that creamy, booming voice was enough to get me buying his book.

Sharing is caring  

The event was also chance to pass on knowledge I have acquired from using my journalism training and blogging experience to secure readers and freelance writing opportunities (see here). I co-hosted the blogging and journalism workshop with fellow blogger Nesta Jojo Erskine, founder of Together, we guided attendees on how to make the most of their writing skills, the plethora of social media platforms out there and how to use multimedia more effectively to grow their readership base.

Examples I mentioned included using Meltwater, which is an advanced version of Tweetdeck and can help bloggers track their readers, gather important analytics and share content on multiple platforms. I also use iMovie and YouTube to produce vlogs, Souncloud and Wavve for podcasts.

Blogging for money

Making money from blogging was a hot topic for some of the workshop participants. But as Nesta pointed out, making money solely from blogging usually comes from adverts, and requires a large and consistent set of readers.

Having said that, blogging can result in indirect income generation with opportunities out there for bloggers to network, freelance with newspapers, and magazines, secure public speaking opportunities or even land a full time job. I have managed to secure all of these and believe it is possible for others to do too.

What I learnt

One of the biggest pluses for me was what I learnt from the whole experience. Towards the end of the workshop, we gave the attendees the floor to share their work and explain their influences. During the session I learnt about flash fiction from writer and poet Adelaide Asiedu whose piece called ‘Red’ has an unexpected twist, and her ‘Assembly’ rendition has the workshop laughing! You can hear for yourself on the embedded vblog.

Seth proved that writing can be conceived just about anywhere and can be inspired by just about anything. He wrote a rhyme within minutes, inspired by a blog reading from Nesta on the certainty of dying! The workshop was well worth the experience – not just because it gave me a chance to talk (second favourite pastime) but also because it was brilliant to see how much talent we have going on in Ghana!

Thanks also goes to Martin Egblewogbe, co-founder and director of Writers Project of Ghana, Pa Gya festival manager Bernard Akoi-Jackson who was assisted by Elizabeth Johnson, the administrative assistant for the festival and Writers Project of Ghana’s media officer. The Goethe-Institut was represented by the director Anne Eberhardt, assisted by John Owoo.

Thank you Pa Gya!

By Kirsty Osei-Bempong

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