Following our June 27 announcement of the 2016 Writivism Short Story Prize long list, we now bring you short Q & As with the long listers. In this second part, we talk to Sese Yane and Jude Mutuma from Kenya as well as Noella Moshi from Tanzania. Enjoy.
Dayo Ntwari’s Devil’s Village made me jealous – Sese Yane
Sese Yane lives and works in Kilifi County, Kenya. His short stories and poems have appeared in The Kalahari Review, Short Story Day Africa and Apex Book of World Fiction SF4. We ask him about his long listed story and other issues.
What inspired the story that you submitted to the Writivism Short Story Prize?
I can’t remember. I remember I wrote it at night, though. I remember thinking this is exactly the story I want to write. And the days that followed I worked hard to cut down most of the poetry that had seized me when I was writing the story.
Why do you write under a pseudonym?
I have tried putting my name against my stories and it always looked strange and disturbing. The pseudonym too is disconcerting, no doubt. But it’s not really a pseudonym, it’s what my grandma used to call me when I was little, an insult, I thought. In a way, it’s my name.
What is your best favourite African book, published in the last five years (2011 and beyond)?
I’ll have to go with Teju Cole’s Open City. It’s calmly written. No words flying out of the pages, actually I hardly saw any words; I saw a man… and I followed him to Belgium because he was great company.
From the previous Writivism long listed stories, which one did you enjoy reading most and why?
Devil’s Village by Dayo Ntwari. I was impressed with his technical ability. I thought it was not an easy story to write especially with all those scientific equipment. I was jealous.
The Tanzanian literary space is full of opportunity – Noella Moshi
Noella Moshi is a Tanzanian living in Lagos. She is a social entrepreneur, aspiring philosopher, and lover of beautiful words. She shared with us a few thoughts.
Why do you write?
I write as an exercise in empathy. I find that by recording the seemingly mundane interactions I have, in brutally honest, visceral language, I can understand the people in my life a bit better.
Have you read Lydia Kasese Nyachiro’s poetry? What do you think of it?
(I recently looked up her poems.) I admire her honesty. Lydia’s poetry is an important call for more Tanzanian women to be brave with words.
What inspired Possession, the story that you submitted to the Writivism Short Story Prize?
I wanted to explain how the search for myself can take me further from the truth. Sometimes there’s so much pressure to self-actualize, that we hurt ourselves in our haste. With this story, I tried to show the internal turbulence of forced development by comparing a girl to a garden – a peaceful place where seeds are left to grow.
How would you describe the Tanzanian literary space?
I would describe the Tanzanian literary space as full of opportunity. There is a lot to talk about, and very few people are currently sharing.
I write to Elani music – Jude Mutuma
Jude is a lover of life and a lover of books, who sometimes has a hard time telling the two apart. Currently, he is a finalist Communication student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. His work has previously been published on the Jalada-Writivism anthology ‘My Math Teacher Hates Me and other stories.
Were you surprised that your story was long listed?
I believed my story was good, so I had hoped I would be long listed. But yes, I was very much surprised when I got the news.
What music do you listen to when writing?
From John Mayer to Afrojack to Elani. It depends on my mood and, in effect, the mood of the story.
Outside Kenya, who is your most favourite African writer?
NoViolet Bulawayo! I re-read paragraphs of We Need New Names because, the brilliance!
Besides your own stories, what other stories published by Writivism have you enjoyed most?
A: Pemi Aguda’s Caterer, Caterer. When you’re reading about the eating of human parts and you still love the story, it is probably because the writing was excellent.