PEN-Kwani?-SLS Kenya 2016

About the Program: SLS is partnering with PEN-Kenya and Kwani? to offer a literary program in Kenya in December 2016. The program emphasizes cultural immersion, offering a unique opportunity to engage with the lively and ever-growing local writing and arts community in Kenya, one of the world’s most fascinating countries, and see it from within. We’ll spend the first week in Nairobi and then travel together to Lamu, an island off the East African coast, for the second week of the program.

Writing Seminar/Retreat: The two-week program will include both group seminars and ample time to write. We will all write a lot, whether from scratch or continuing old works in progress. Unlike in what’s become the standard workshop, where nearly all the time is spent discussing work submitted in advance, we will practice what we preach without the preaching.

Four days a week, for at least 3 hours, we will hold group sessions where we will write together in various locations. We will write sketches, testing ourselves in various genres (literary, mystery, ghost, western, crime, comedy, etc.) and forms. We will play, using writing prompts and stylistic exercises in voice, POV, description and word choice, permutation of plot possibilities, and other aspects of craft. We will read some of the results out loud for impromptu feedback. In the end, you will have many beginnings, and perhaps some endings, but anyhow, you will generate much work to take home and continue. The workshop will give you a chance to accelerate your creative endeavours in an altogether stimulating and fascinating environment.

The workshop leader will provide you with some exemplary literary paradigms as well as guidance and feedback. Workshop instructors will also be available for individually tailored consultations. There will also be opportunities to engage and collaborate with local participants and other Kenyan writers, and evening sessions with readings by participants and workshop leaders.

Lamu sunriseProgram Dates: December 7-22 2016 

Workshop leaders: Mikhail Iossel, Josip Novakovich, Ariana Reines. Further details here. Leading Kenyan writers such as Billy Kahora and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor will also participate.

Program Cost: $1011 USD (flight and accommodations not included). Our goal is to make this program as affordable as possible. Note that airfare to Nairobi is currently relatively low compared to the past, and the overall cost of living in Kenya is lower than in North America or in Europe.

Payment Schedule: We require a $150 USD deposit by September 15th, 2016 in order to guarantee your space in the program. The balance of the program fee ($861 USD) must be received by November 15th, 2016.

Accommodations and Meals: We’ll provide directions and assistance with booking affordable accommodations. Accommodations in Lamu will be considerably less expensive than in Nairobi. Breakfasts will be included in the cost of accommodations, both in Nairobi and Lamu. We’ll eat lunch and dinners in small and large groups in local restaurants, and organize some group dinners while on Lamu. The cost of an average meal is significantly less expensive than in North America.

Schedule: The schedule is left flexible by design. We will hold group sessions and optional consultation sessions. You can choose whether to write on your own, participate in group activities, consult with faculty members to discuss your work in general terms, or go out exploring. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in the life of the community by attending readings, lectures, and craft talks, and by visiting local artists. Once on Lamu, you’ll also have the option of taking local tours around the island.

About the Host Organizations: PEN-Kenya is the Kenyan branch of PEN International, the world’s leading association of writers that promotes literature and defends freedom of expression around the world. The Kenyan centre organizes meetings for visiting writers and works closely with a number of other literary organizations, including Kwani!.

Kwani? is a Kenyan-based literary network dedicated to the growth of creative industry through the publishing and distribution of contemporary African writing. Founded in 2003, they offer training, produce literary events, and establish and maintain global literary networks. Their vision is to create a society that uses its stories to see itself more coherently.

Lamu Island: A 14th-century Arab stone town and Kenya’s oldest living settlement, Lamu is a place of great serenity and equally great excitement. The island fosters a heightened state of writerly inspiration. With that in mind, we will be organizing participant readings and group dinners, while during the day boat trips and other excursions exploring this fascinating place will be available to those interested.

Maasai Mara lion

Safaris: Participants may opt to visit one or several of Kenya’s world-famous national parks. Typically, these safaris last three to six days and are based out of Nairobi. Whether individual or in groups, these safaris can be arranged at special SLS discounted prices through our on-site agent. These parks (Masai Mara, Tsavo, Amboseli, for example) are National Geographic staples; think the paradigmatic African savannah of everyone’s dreams and imaginings, the “big five,” the sun, the sky, the eternity.

Participants in SLS writing seminars typically include individuals of all ages and all levels of accomplishment — gifted beginners and writers who have already begun publishing; undergraduate and graduate students of creative writing and people turning (or returning) to writing relatively late in life. All are treated with equal respect by our faculty and staff. Please bear in mind: One does not necessarily have to be an accomplished writer to attend Summer Literary Seminars: an abiding love of literature, intellectual curiosity, openness to new artistic and cultural experiences, and the sincere desire to deepen one’s understanding of the creative process while being immersed in one of the world’s most fascinating locales are the only prerequisites.

Applications: To apply, please click here or contact the program co-ordinator at In addition to an application form and the deposit, we ask for a writing sample (10-15 pages of poetry; no more than 20-25 double-spaced pages of prose).