Aspiring women writers: A Tariro workshop with author Cai Emmons

Aspiring women writers: A Tariro workshop with author Cai Emmons

Writing workshop with author Cai Emmons

One of the reasons I’ve been posting less frequently on the blog during the past few weeks is that I’ve been busy hosting a Tariro visitor here in Zimbabwe.  Today, I’d like to tell you a bit about her visit.

Cai Emmons, a published author and professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon, is deeply involved in supporting Tariro’s work, and has been visiting to get to know our girls and see our programs in action.  This past Sunday, five Tariro students, accompanied by two other young women participating as guests of the program, took part in a creative writing workshop facilitated by Cai.  After reading excerpts of work by Sandra Cisneros and Charles Baxter, the girls discussed what goes into developing a fictional character, and practiced writing short excerpts which they then presented to the group.

Tariro students Pauline, Rachel, and Melody at the writing workshop

The girls invited to participate in the workshop included Tatenda and Daphine, who recently finished their A levels and plan to attend university this coming year, as well as Pauline, a Tariro student working toward her degree at the University of Zimbabwe.  These three university level students were joined by Rachel and Melody, two of our more advanced O level students, in addition to two invited guests, Lillian and Chiedza.   Tatenda and Melody have both been profiled in previous posts, if you are interested in reading more about these two individual girls.

Today, I’m including four of the seven pieces written by the girls during the workshop for you to read.  I’ll post the other three sometime early next week.  I’ve left the pieces written by the girls unedited, so that you will get a feel not only for their individual voices as writers, but also for the level of their writing.


From the way she looked, one would tell what sort of a person she was.  Getty was a very hardworking woman who looked after her two daughters well.  She was also a widow.  She was very strict and sometimes said to her daughter, “when you are sharpening your pencils, the pencil is the one which is supposed to turn around and not the sharpener.”  She always had to go to other people’s fields to work so as to earn a living.  Getty’s mother was old and she was the one responsible for taking care of her mother and her two daughters.

One day, she became sick.  She did not have money for the hospital bills and her first daughter, Melody, had to take care of her, clean up all the messes.  She had T.B. and had a big ulcer at the back of her leg.  The doctors could not find the cure for her wound or ulcer.  Day after day, she continued to be worse and finally she died, living her daughter with no one to look after them.

Maybe if I was a doctor, I would have helped her.

NB. This made me think f becoming a doctor so as to save other children’s mother’s lives.


As she walked into the kitchen, there was silence.  The only sound that could be heard was that of a clock tocking on the wall, and as usual the annoying sound of the metal spoon hitting the dhaga plate coming from little Zanile.  Mrs. Tubili strolled to her usual place and dragged the chair so she could sit.  It was time for dinner.

She had black short curly hair that she liked to maintain.  She was tall and dark and that evening she was looking stunning in her grey outfit which was probably one of her favourites.  Mrs. Tubili tapped her fingers on the table as she looked at her empty plate.  Everyone knew what that meant.  Melissa who was younger than Karen stood up to dish her food.  It was mufushwa and sadza.  She didn’t finish dishing the last of the relish as she had noticed the facial expression on her difcicult mother.

“Well, what do we have here my dear?  If its not those dried greens again that your father keep bringing from the village all the time.  She drew her chair from the table and stood up firmly.  “I shall have spaghetti and plain sauce for dinner and I want it in 10 minutes.”  Mrs. Tubili walked away leaving everyone speechless.


When I have a problem, I don’t hesitate, I just rush to Rosinah, Why? because she is so caring; politely, “are you okay” she always ask me.  She is also someone who is down to earth, she never boast about herself though she is capable of boasting, rather she is an incourager, “I know you can do it!” those are always her words whenever we are together.  She even incourage me to work hard, “sweat for sweet dear, and this is the most reason why I like her.

What else can I say about this nice woman, she is nice more than the word nice itself, I would like to believe that she is a gift from heaven to her community and family, and I am sure everyone who saw her will confess the words “ichi chipo chedenga.”  Aa-ah she is my role model.


Its dawn everyone is in the house, except one.  “Do we want this person to come home tonight?” I asked myself as I say relaxed in the our sitting room.  The back door opened, we looked at each other with our eyes wide open.  Within a second we had everything in order- “Bang,” the door shuts and the ocrridor floor makes strange sounds.  We here footsteps like those of an elephant getting closer.  I feel like crying, running away, “What do I do?  I hate this time of the day, worse still, ‘today.’  Jane is worse, she has drawned herself in the left porch near the French door, with her pal face.  I knoe her heart is pounding very hard, I am afraid she might find it in her arms.  We broke the Mazda 203 window and now the boss is here.  Daddy will kill us.  Evening we all said, He sits down opens his newspaper and says manheru as if we didn’t welcome him first.  anyway, “that’s him” a serious man indeed, we don’t even remember a second we saw him smile, do we know the color of his teeth, I don’t think so.

The group at the writing workshop


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