Meet the Long-listers Part IV

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 fourth part, we talk to Gloria Mwaniga Minage from Kenya, Acan Innocent Immaculate and Doreen Anyango from Uganda. Enjoy.

 

Amka amplifies women’s voices – Gloria Mwaniga Minage 

Gloria Mwaniga Minage is a high school teacher in Baringo where she also runs a children’s reading club. She is also a freelance writer of literary pieces for The Saturday Nation and The East African newspapers as well as coordinator of Amka, a literary workshop that meets monthly at the Goethe Institut in Nairobi to critique works by budding female writers in Kenya. This is her first attempt at writing a short story. We asked her about Kenyan writing and Amka.

GloriaSome younger Kenyan writers have declared that their work is greater than Ngugi’s. What do you think of Ngugi’s influence on contemporary Kenyan writing?

Ngugi chose to write about two essential things; Kenya’s past and the politics of his day. That alone makes him a terribly important writer because Kenya is a nation that suffers from national amnesia. Contemporary writers can learn the importance of documenting our history and that artists shouldn’t shy away from the politics and social undertakings of their  day.

Where did the story that you submitted for the prize emanate from?

There was an article in The Standard newspaper in 2015 about how the Sabaot Land Defense was regrouping. I went to query a colleague who had witnessed the war and she told me everything she remembered from how her mothers’ house was burnt down with all their documents to the way the army brutally dealt with the militia. The details were so shocking I felt I had to share them.

What do you think of the idea of labels for writers? Would you prefer any of the following labels, i.e. Kenyan writer, African writer, Woman writer, Black writer etc?

I find labels rather prescriptive. A writer’s theme could be universal but because they are labeled ‘African’ or ‘woman’ a reader might approach the text with a particular expectation in mind. Therefore, I’ll be very happy if I could do without labels.

What are your most enjoyable African reads? And why?

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Season of Crimson Blossoms is superb prose-poetry. Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus excellently brings to life a girl’s coming of age conflicts. I go back to Yvonne Owuor’s Dust a lot lately as I watch Kenyan politicians spew out hatred while seeking their tribesmen’s votes. The list is endless, Elnathan John, NoViolet Bulawayo, Grace Ogot, Helon Habila …

Would you call AMKA a feminist space for writers? Why? Or Why not? 

I am disinclined to label the literary arm of Amka feminist. I’d rather term it a forum interested in amplifying women’s voices and ensuring that they occupy their rightful space in the literature world. Our focus is critiquing and circulating texts written by women, that doesn’t make us feminist, or does it?

 

I love fantasy and sci-fi – Acan Innocent Immaculate 

Acan Innocent Immaculate is a 20-year old Ugandan pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery. Writing has always been her first love and she looks forward to a literary atmosphere where African stories will break the mould even more than they do now. We asked her a few questions about Ugandan writing.

Acan ImmaculateChimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Chinua Achebe dropped out of Medical School to pursue writing. Would you consider the same path?

No, I wouldn’t. While I accede that both writing and Medical School require high levels of commitment, I don’t believe that they are mutually exclusive. If anything, I believe that Medical School exposes me to situations and knowledge that improve the quality of my writing.

Who, of the various established Ugandan writers, if any, has had a big influence on your writing? And how have they influenced you?

Tumusiime Rushedge, aka Tom Rush, who wrote The Old Fox column. From him, I saw that Africans represented in literature could be interesting without having to be bogged down by the usual stereotypes. It influenced me to focus more on the average middle class Ugandan in my stories.

What do you find most exciting about the contemporary Ugandan literary space?

It has to be the way more and more Ugandan writers are showing off the uniquely African blend of a modern but also traditional character. I’m seeing more stories creating superheroes from our traditional myths and legends and, as a lover of fantasy and sci-fi, it really excites me.

From the previous Writivism long-listed stories, which one did you like the most, and why?

I loved Dayo Ntwari’s Devil’s Village. Like I earlier mentioned, I am a big fan of the fantasy and sci-fi genres, and in his story, Dayo Ntwari seamlessly blended Africans into a genre that is widely considered non-African without compromising the emotional impact of the story.

Do you belong to a writers’ group, network? If you do, which one? If you do not, why not?

I am a member of a few Facebook groups that focus on writing although the group that has fostered my writing the most has been Dennis Asiimwe’s Notes. In that group, I’ve found many writers and non-writers who are eager to provide constructive criticism and support to budding writers.

 

I am excited about seeing my story in a different language – Doreen Anyango 

Doreen Anyango is a Ugandan writer. Her short fiction has appeared in several online publications such as Wordrite, Lawino and Kalahari Review; as well as in print in the latest FEMRITE anthology Nothing To See Here. She is currently working on a collection of stories and her first novel. We talked about her writing and other issues.

AnyangoWhere did the idea for the short story you sent come from?

The idea came from an actual house I know that floods in the rainy season. And wondering why anyone would continue to live there.  And thinking about how we ascribe value to things in totally different ways. To the mother in the story, the house is a refuge, to the daughter a symbol of hardship.

To what extent has the FEMRITE Readers and Writers Club contributed to your growth as a writer?

The FEMRITE readers writers club is a place to meet fellow writers, to give and receive feedback on work and discuss important literary questions all in a carefree informal environment. You learn a lot that way in my experience. My writing has improved greatly because of it.

What are you most looking forward to, during the editing process?

Editing is refining. So I look forward to seeing what comes out at the end of the process. And of course I am excited about the translation. I think it will be very exciting to see my story in a different language. Weird too probably, but mostly exciting.

Which writer would you want to re-incarnate into, in the afterlife? Why?

Toni Morrison. Because she writes with unflinching honesty about hard subjects.  She does not just skim the surface of things or package the pain in safe little packages. She doesn’t coddle the reader. I aspire above all else, to be as honest as possible in my writing.

What do you find most exciting about the contemporary Ugandan literary space?

I think the recent emergence of indigenous publishers like Sooo many stories that exist primarily to publish Ugandan poetry and fiction is a giant leap in the right direction. I hope it is the beginning of an exciting transformation of the literary scene- our stories, our way. I can’t wait.

 

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