Warsan shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth because, truth be told, she has a way with words, my goodness. Picture this: ‘…his cheek a swollen drumlin, a vine scar dragging itself across his mouth…’.The first time I read it I felt I wasn’t doing much as a writer. Warsan will do that to you. She is gifted!

If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you?

First, the thought of prison scares the hell out of me, but if I ever was to find myself in Robben Island, I’d probably want to have Shire’s Teaching My Mother To Give Birth, Naked by David Sedaris (I think it would be a hilarious read in a place where one cannot run naked across the yard) and You are a dog by Terry Bain, probably because Robben Island is a depressing place and seeing life through the eyes of man’s best friend would be refreshing.

Do you think book festivals, literary prizes and writing workshops are important to a writer’s growth?

Yes they are. For me, I developed a new perspective from Writivism Fest after meeting all these amazing African writers like Chuma Nwokolo, Summaya Lee, Panashe and others.

Emerging writers also get terrific exposure. Workshops are a good place to hone one’s writing skills and you just become better after every workshop.

Literary prizes are a good thing too though I wouldn’t encourage anyone to write for prizes: write because you can and if you get awarded for that be grateful and keep up the hard work.

I do believe that no amount of money or prizes can fully compensate a writer but this acknowledgement in form of prizes is a huge inspiration.

Plus, money earned from something you are passionate about is singular in its sweetness!

Tell me about the last book that made you cry?

Boy Interrupted by Saah Millimono almost made me cry. The narrative is so poignant.

Among your contemporaries, who do you consider the most exciting newcomer in the writing world and why?

Thomas Mlanda  is a promising literary theorist who brings on board a refreshing, insightful way of looking at literature. I learn something every time we meet.

Dr Acan Immaculate is another promising writer I’d love to read more from. She helped me work the medical problem of a character in my novel in progress.

Idza Luhumyo is a gifted writer too, one of my favorite writers whom I readily mention in conversations with other writers from Mombasa. Farrah Stoner is another amazing new comer. Her writing is, as we termed it in the 2015 Kwani? workshop, unexpected! Her style closely resembles JD Salinger’s.

What are you currently writing?

Between editing for Hekaya Initiative and working a demanding day job, I’m also reworking my short story anthology after which I’ll proceed with a novel I started late last year. I’ll also resume my weekly column, ‘Swahilific: Diary Of A Campus Girl on Jamila El-Jabry’s blog lifeinmombasa.com


BY THE BOOK is a literary series that covers authors, bloggers, actors, academics and poets of note in the African continent. For comments or inquiries, e-mail: lifeandstyle@ke.nation.co.ke


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