Short Story Day Africa 2013; The Interview

The team at Short Story Day Africa has compiled twenty one questions their followers want to know about writers in Africa as part of the Short Story Day Africa 2013 celebrations.

The amazing Rachel Zadok sent me the questions to answer and post on my blog. I will duly pass on the questions to other writers, to also do the same and continue the chain until 21 June, the shortest day of the year. My answers to the twenty one questions follow.

Do you actually enjoy writing, or do you write because you like the finished product? I choose to interpret the ‘enjoy’ quite liberally. And so, yes, it is quite important to me to express emotions when they are still raw, which is what happens when I am writing.

What are you reading right now? And are you enjoying it? (No cheating and saying something that makes you sound like the intelligentsia). Augusto Boal’s ‘Games for Actors and Non-Actors’ is quite enjoyable. At one level, because I have been part of some of the games he describes, at the second level, because I am seeing games I will apply in various settings, from the university classroom to strategic meetings. The more I find out about Theatre of the Oppressed, the more I wonder why some people still think Literature and Art are separate from real life, reality.

Have you ever killed off a character and regretted it? For some reason, what happens to characters in my work I love telling myself is not out of my doing, but the story’s doing. So, if I am not responsible for their fate, why regret something I have not done?

If you could have any of your characters over for dinner, which would it be and why? Jim, the character in ‘The Goat That Eats Meat’. I wish to know how people whose sexual identity is a subject of a public debate that they refuse to participate in, think about the whole thing. I know that would be attempting to get what he does not give to the public, but I do not mind trying over dinner.

Which one of your characters would you never invite into your home and why? None. 

Ernest Hemingway said: write drunk, edit sober. For or against? For

If against, are you for any other mind altering drug? Pass

Our adult competition theme if Feast, Famine and Potluck. Have you ever put food in your fiction? If so, what part did it play in the story? In one of my very short stories, but part of a longer fiction project, Mitego and his step-mother are harvesting sweet potatoes and Mitego chooses to eat them raw, provoking the mother to reveal aspects of the conflict between urban upbringing and rural parenthood.

What’s the most annoying question anyone’s ever asked you in an interview? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

If you could be any author other than yourself, who would you be? NoViolet Bulawayo

If you could go back in time and erase one thing you had written from your writing history, what would it be and why? Some embarrassing poetry about the politics of the early 2000s in Uganda. The personalities that inspired those poems have since changed. My naivety at the time, and the quality of the poetry generally. Thank God the publisher I sent it to, took long to respond, giving me room to change my mind, which was just two years.

What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told? I am such a bad liar, my memory is not the best.

If someone reviews you badly, do you write them into your next book/story and kill them? Oh No. Write them into my next work, yes, but not kill them. They contradict themselves in the story. I am so kind – (wink).

What’s your favourite bad reviewer revenge fantasy? None

What’s the most frustrating thing about being a writer in Africa? Some readers are unkind enough to tell you that they will read your work only when it is published ‘internationally’, which is supposed to mean outside Africa. It is frustrating that one can’t live in Africa all their life and be regarded international, yet many live only on their continents and their works are called international.

Have you ever written naked? Yes. Many times.

Does writing sex scenes make you blush? Not at all.

Who would play you in the film of your life? Denzel Whitaker.

If you won the Caine Prize for African Fiction, what would you do with the money? If this happened this year, the money would obviously go to The Writivism project. Unfortunately or fortunately, my writing has taken second place to the management of and fund-raising for various initiatives of the Center for African Cultural Excellence (CACE), among them Writivism. Probably this is why when money is mentioned, I immediately think of a CACE project that needs money to run effectively. Binyavanga Wainaina‘s investment of his Caine Prize money in Kwani also inspires this sentiment.

What do you consider your best piece of work to date? I do not have a lot of work out there. My best piece of work is still in my mind. The second best is on my laptop. Out there in the public domain, there are snippets of a longer work in progress and those compete for best. Since we are talking of Short Story Day Africa 2013, I will reference one of the snippets published in celebration of Short Story Day Africa 2012. The real bomb is the longer work, which I have not yet finished.

What are you doing on 21 June 2013, to celebrate Short Story Day Africa? To start with, I will be hooked to Short Story Day Africa Facebook page the whole day, all the twenty four hours of the day. Something will happen and it will consume all my time that day, and yes, it is intimately connected to the short story day.


I am now handing the baton to Zukiswa Wanner, Jackee Batanda, Dilman DilaUkamaka Olisakwe Evelyn, Emmanuel Iduma, Nick Twinamatsiko, Onyeka Nwelue, Dami Ajayi, Judith Adong, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Richard Ali, Okwiri Oduor, Beverley Nambozo, Harriet Anena and Ernest Bazanye. I will be monitoring their blogs and Facebook timelines before 21 June 2013, so that I read from them and also spread their answers around.