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 last part of the English series, we talk to Idza Luhumyo from Kenya, Aito Joseph from Nigeria and Megan Ross from South Africa.
My voice comes out during rewriting – Idza Luhumyo
In what ways has being a member of Jalada contributed to your growth as a writer?
Jalada has given me the gift of community. Community is legitimacy, is safety, is possibility.
Your writing has been described as highly innovative. What is the secret behind your unique style?
I’ve found that my voice comes out during rewriting. So I try to be patient by putting one foot in front of the other and working sentence by sentence. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. When it works, I buy myself wine. When it doesn’t work, well, it doesn’t.
Of the previous Writivism winning stories, which one appealed to you most, and why
‘Caterer, Caterer’ by Pemi Aguda. There was some kind of minimalism in the story that I really liked.
Which African writer would you love to meet in your lifetime and why?
I have met Taiye Selasi before – enough for her to sign my copy of Ghana Must Go -but I would like to meet her again. She’s absolutely fantastic.
To what extent is being a ‘Kenyan’ as an identity important to your writing, if it is at all?
It’s important only in so far as it colors some of the ways in which I navigate the world. I mean, when I wake up in the morning I don’t think “I’m Kenyan” but when I submit my writing to places, my bio reads: “Idza is a Kenyan writer.” So, there.
I enjoyed all the 2015 Writivism shortlisted stories – Aito Osemegbe Joseph
Aito Osemegbe Joseph works as a Sales Professional during the day and at dusk, writes horror stories and psychological thrillers. His short stories have appeared in ‘Brittle Paper’ and ‘Kalahari review’. He is set to publish a collection of short stories and is currently working on his debut novel. We asked him about sales and his writing and reading tastes.
What do you think made your story outstanding enough for the judges to select it?
I think the judges found that my story addresses a significant societal issue and did this in a creative way that depicts diverse views and opinions while showcasing the traditional Ibo identity in the unwavering conviction of the protagonist.
Who, in your opinion is the most exciting writer out of Nigeria, apart from yourself, and why?
Nnedi Okorafor. She dares to explore the less charted regions of African Literature-Speculative fiction, Sci-fi, Aliens in Lagos, Nigerian superheroes.
Of the previous Writivism winning stories, which one did you enjoy reading?
All of them. The transformation of the protagonist in Adeola Opeyemi’s ‘Being a man’ was perfectly done. I love that. ‘Devil’s village’ gave a good go setting itself in a future Nigeria. ‘Social studies’ and ‘Dream’ gave me thrills. ‘Caterer Caterer’ with its dark humour, was flawless.
What are you most looking forward to during the translation process of your story?
Are there French expressions that convey certain feelings better than their English counterparts? How close will translated figurative expressions be to the original? I look forward to discovering these.
Does your writing talent in any way contribute towards your performance as a sales professional?
Yes. Who is my reader? How do I tell my story to her understanding? I had to answer these questions with my writing first so it wasn’t difficult to answer similar questions when they came during sales – Who is this customer? What motivates him to buy?
We need art that draws the peripheral experience into the centre – Megan Ross
Megan Ross is a writer, journalist and book cover artist from the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Her fiction has been nominated for the PEN New Voices Award, and she has been shortlisted for the Short Story Day Africa prize, among others. She is also a first-time mother, and avid traveller. We asked her a few things about writing.
What was the writing process from which your long listed story came?
It was a caffeine-fueled story, built on lack of sleep and my desperation to get words on paper. It flowed rapidly; within an hour I had the bones. I suppose (temporarily) living in East London, where I grew up, has brought certain stories to my attention. This one wanted to be told.
From previous winners of the Writivism Prize, which story did you enjoy most and why?
Saleeha I Bamjee’s Out of the Blue was lyrical, disturbing and, being both a mother and lover of water, myself, easy to identify with. I also loved last year’s winner, Caterer Caterer by Pemi Aguda, which was an expertly-crafted tale.
What in your view separates journalistic writing from fiction writing?
While they both involve storytelling, fiction is introspective, inward-turning. I lose myself in the worlds of my imagination. Whereas journalism, which is freeing in its own sort of way, is constrained by facts, the necessity of the story, and time constraints.
Do you think South African literature needs to be decolonised? If you do, how should it be?
Of course. We need to craft new images from frames of reference that are overlooked or undermined. We need stories in new languages. We need art that no longer marginalizes or others; writing that draws the peripheral experience into the centre. Writing that envelopes unexplored narratives and exposes us to them.
Apart from your own designed book covers, what African book covers do you find exciting?
I love the Short Story Day Africa book covers, the SSDA creative team are doing an amazing job. And of course, I love so many covers by Modjaji Books. Without even knowing it, Colleen Higgs makes the creative process so inclusive, allowing so many different artists to contribute to the literary landscape.