Busara Blog

David H Sanders

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Finding “Busara” at Pendle Hill

David Hallock Sanders

David Hallock Sanders

Click below to see a short piece I wrote recently for Pendle Hill Quaker Center that describes my writing sojourns there. For writers in the Philadelphia area, I recommend that you check out Pendle Hill as a place for a personal writing retreat.

http://www.pendlehill.org/blog/762-david-hallock-sanders-finding-busara-at-pendle-hill

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The news from Kenya, part eight

The Galagoli

Down to the Galagoli River (then up to the Hill of Vision)

What a relief it was to start feeling healthy again!

On Thursday, the day after my reunion with Simeon (my family’s cook and gardener back in the sixties), I received another visit from Silas Vidolo, my number-one companion in Kaimosi. He stopped by to see how my visit with Simeon had gone, and told me that the next day he’d take me on another walking tour. He also told me that he had inquired about Musa (my family’s first cook), and had learned that Musa had lived for some time in nearby Shamakhokho but had since died. The news of his death, while not surprising, was upsetting.

Hesbourne, whose class I’d spoken to earlier in the week, stopped by to get contact information for me in the States, and he also asked why I hadn’t been attending morning chapel. It hadn’t occurred to me that people would notice my absence! I told him I hadn’t been feeling well, but that I’d be there in the morning.

The rest of the day I spent mostly writing up notes, reading a bit, and putting down some thoughts about my novel.

Some thoughts about my novel

A couple of realizations about my writing had started to bubble up. One was this:  my memories of the mission from 45 years ago – both factual and sensory memories – were proving to be quite accurate. Although I was learning some things about the history of Quakers in Kenya that would require some adjustments in what I’d written, to a large extent I felt I’d gotten things pretty right on.

The second realization was that my thoughts were increasingly moving beyond my current novel to ideas for its sequel.

I have long envisioned the story I’m creating as having two grand plot lines: the main character’s childhood in Kenya (the first novel), followed by 40-plus years of wandering in the “wilderness” of the U.S. before eventually returning to Kenya (the second novel).

Now…I need to stress that these novels are NOT about me or my own story. The main character is not based on me. The other characters are not portrayals of real people. The locations, situations, actions, encounters, conflicts, resolutions, are all fabricated. It’s FICTION.

That said, however, the novel’s premise – of a young American boy coming of age in a young African nation – certainly holds echoes of my own childhood experience.  And the writing of that novel has inspired ideas for its sequel – an odyssey, in effect, that follows the adult character’s efforts to return to the remembered home of his African childhood.

Again, NOT MY OWN STORY. A work of fiction. Yet I was finding that the deeper I immersed myself in Kenya on this trip – both its modern-day reality and its reality within my memory – the more deeply I felt the pull of a second novel that might draw from this same source. Considering how much the first novel has already demanded of me, I don’t take the idea lightly.

Okay, enough about novels – let’s watch some movies!

Before I left for Kenya, Nancy surprised me with a wonderful present: a little Flip video camera. I won’t bore you with the many two-second bursts of nothingness I shot as I learned to use it.

Instead, I’ll bore you with a couple of long segments I shot while on a walking tour of Kaimosi Road!

On Friday, Silas invited me to join him for another guided stroll. The videos below were a way for me to start getting on tape some of Silas’s memories of Kaimosi Mission from when he and I were boys there. These are the first of a small number of video segments I shot while in Kaimosi.

I’m sure that many of you will find these videos distinctly uninteresting. They are long and so poorly shot that you may get seasick watching them. I’m also confident, however, that at least three people will find them utterly fascinating: my brothers John, Rob, and Erin. They walked this very same road with me 45 years ago, and they continue to walk it with me every day in spirit.

These, then, are for my brothers:

Next: a walking tour up the Hill of Vision

Down to the wire with IndieGoGo!

Image representing IndieGoGo as depicted in Cr...

I’m posting this just hours away from my IndieGoGo deadline, and I’m thrilled to have met my goal – thank you, thank you, one and all! Keep spreading the word, too – even after the deadline, information about my novel and the Kenya trip will be on the site HERE:

My new Kenya plans are finally coming together. Here’s the latest:

I leave for Nairobi on Dec. 6, and through a freelance writing job (thank you, Nancy!) I’ve met Chris Steele with USAID in Nairobi who VERY kindly is providing me with transportation and a place to stay while there (the profile I wrote about him is HERE). Speaking of the kindness of strangers, Eden Grace with the Kisumu office of Friends United Meeting will meet me at the airport on Dec. 8, host me in her home, and drive me out to Kaimosi on the 9th! Extraordinary generosity. And Ann Riggs, principal of the Friends Theological College, has very warmly welcomed me to stay a full three weeks at Kaimosi Mission until I return to the U.S. at the end of the year. Thank you, all!

Other news, I’ve made contact with Bill Kahora, editor of Kenya’s main arts journal, Kwani?, and director of the Kenya writing program I was supposed to attend, and I’m hoping to meet with him and other Kenyan writers while I’m in Nairobi. I’ve also offered to write about Friends work at Kaimosi for U.S. publications, and have been in touch with the editors of Friends Journal and Quaker Life, so something may come of that.

And last, but certainly not least, amid all this craziness I’ve kept plugging away at the novel, and I’m on track to hand over the final five (rough) chapters of Busara Road to my writers group before I leave. Wahoo!

No one said this would be easy!


SLS Kenya – the writing seminar I was planning to attend in Nairobi and Lamu in December – has just informed me they are cancelling the program due to safety and security concerns in Kenya.

The news is quite a blow, since I’ve been reorganizing much of my life in order to make this trip. So…after serious consideration, I have decided to continue with the trip to Kenya on my own.

I am now in the process of figuring out transportation, accommodations, and other arrangements, and I will post details as they get finalized here and on my IndieGoGo site, where you can check my “Updates” section for more details.  You can link to it here.

My plan now is to spend less time in Nairobi, no time in Lamu (where the danger seems to be greatest), more time in Kisumu, and most of the month at Kaimosi Mission, which is actually where I most want to be and where I will have more time for research and writing. I’m now working on arranging someplace to stay in both Nairobi and Kisumu, plus figuring out transportation out to Kaimosi Mission, which is all looking quite promising and I hope to have definite news on that front soon.

Stay tuned…and thanks to all who have expressed such strong support and understanding!

The good, and not good, news

First of all, THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed to my IndieGoGo project! I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate the support you’ve conveyed with your donations and comments.

I’m already two-thirds of the way to my goal, and I wanted to take a moment to let you know where things stand with this project. It’s a dizzying combination of both good and not-good news.

Busara Road

The not-good news:

Okay, let me get the pain over with so I can move on.

Just as I launched my IndieGoGo campaign, my computer suffered a fatal hard-drive crash. A literal crash – of the drive head and disk platter, as I have since learned – destroying the drive and making it impossible for the two repair/retrieval companies I’ve tried so far to gain access to my data.

The horrible, and embarrassing, part is that I’ve not been good about backing up. Scratch that…I’ve been bad about backing up. So I have lost a lot of files, including, yes, whole sections of the novel, plus extensive notes for revisions. I’m now waiting for a quote from a data retrieval center that has a sterile room where they can actually pull the platter and try to take individual bits of data off it, although there’s no guarantee of what I might get. The initial estimate? “Shouldn’t be more than $2,000” — an amount that, at that point, happened to coincide exactly with my IndieGoGo total.  Not a budgeted expense, to say the least. Plus, now I need a new computer.

But in the meantime, I’ve been pulling out hard copies of past chapters, which I can scan if I need to, and I’ve gone through my office trash and recycling bins for whatever scraps of past notes and edits I can recover. I’ve also gone through a handful of jump drives that I use haphazardly when I’m away on writing residencies. And as a result, I’ve been able to recover some rough version of all my chapters so far, and I can use the hard copies to update older files to get them closer to where they were before I lost them. It will be a lot of extra work, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

The good news:

“It could have been a whole lot worse” – that’s definitely right up there on my good-news list. When all the dust settles and I can get back to writing, I should be reasonably close to where I was before this happened.

I think of the wonderful writer, Pico Iyer, who lost everything he owned when his house burned down, including every scrap of his manuscripts and notes. Everything.  In an interview with Iyer that appeared in the excellent online journal, Wild River Review, Iyer said about that loss:

“When I called up my very wise editor in London, after making the appropriate noises of sympathy, he said, ‘You should celebrate. As a writer, this can only be good for you.’ What he was getting at, because he was wise, was that I relied too much on notes and that being freed from them might liberate me towards writing a more thoughtful and deeply sounded kind of prose.”

I am not nearly so wise as Iyer and his editor. Nor do I feel, at least at this moment, anything resembling liberation in the wake of this experience. But I do understand what I think is his point – that attachment is not good for a writer, and that being freed from it is. I imagine, too, that intense feelings of horror, panic, shame, loss, and despair may also be useful for a writer, but I can’t say that I’m exactly glad to have experienced them so overwhelmingly all at once.

More good news

But enough about that. The real, solid good news is that the work continues, and that this project moves forward. I have another sojourn coming up next month at Pendle Hill Quaker Center for three days and nights of solid writing. I have my first doctor’s appointment next month to begin the regimen of shots I’ll need to travel to Africa. I’ve received very warm and helpful guidance from people at the American Friends Service Committee here in Philadelphia, the Friends United Meeting office in Kisumu, and at the Friends Mission and Theological College in Kaimosi.

And definitely on my good-news list is the extraordinary response so far to my IndieGoGo campaign. I’m misting up with gratitude right now just thinking about it.

So please, keep spreading the word, and keep checking in for updates! Love and thanks to all,

David

My IndieGoGo “Busara Road” campaign is now LIVE!

David Hallock Sanders

My IndieGoGo campaign, “Busara Road: An African novel and Quaker homecoming,” has launched!

Click HERE  to check it out.

I’m turning to IndieGoGo to help me get to Kenya in December for an international writing seminar and a return to the Quaker mission where I lived as a kid. On my IndieGoGo site you’ll find a video and lots of info about the project, and a bunch of perks you can get if you contribute!  You can also leave me encouraging comments in the “Comments” section. Take a look, and let as many people know about it as you can.

Here’s the YouTube version of the video:

 

THANKS, ALL!