What you need to know:
- He has just finished editing his second novel, The Visitation of Room Seventeen.
- In 2017, he was the only Kenyan and African to receive the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award.
He recently co-published a book titled Changing the World While Changing Diapers. He has just finished editing his second novel, The Visitation of Room Seventeen.
In 2017, he was the only Kenyan and African to receive the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award. He is also a past fellow of the Ebedi International Writers Residency.
1. Tell us about The Visitation of Room Seventeen...
It is a novel set in Nairobi where the spirit of a strange woman reunites an orphaned boy called Emmanuel with his long-lost sister. Emmanuel, a young writer fighting his own demons, is struggling to write The Visitation of Room Seventeen, a novel commissioned by Heaven. The first draft was a little over 104,000 words long, so the second one - at around 81,000 words - was more about cutting and tightening things.
2. Does rejection help one become a better writer?
Over time, my rejected manuscripts have made me develop thick skin, and enabled me to be keener while writing. I do a lot of meticulous self-editing. More importantly, every story I write has a home. For instance, Before Sunrise, the story which was recently accepted by the Anthology Magazine in the US, had been rejected many times. It is important to note I wrote the book’s first draft two years ago!
3.You’re so lucky. What made you become a writer?
Thanks. I've come to believe I'm indeed a very lucky person. I don't know what really made me pursue writing as a career but I have always been withdrawn and introverted and I felt it was only through writing that I could communicate.
If you wait for me to express myself verbally, you might wait forever. I think writing is how I communicate best. And of course, fictionalising mine and other people’s worlds is so much fun.
4.What are you reading right now?
The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. I am 117 pages in and I like it so far, especially because it is majorly set in an interesting and well described haven called Pate.
5.What do you say to younger writers who tell you they want to write better and do more?
I tell them to keep writing. Consistency is very important and perfection comes with continuous practice. Reading books is also key. It is important to always carry a notebook and a pen for writing those interesting ideas. You can't always rely on your memory.
You can't teach someone to be curious and to derive story ideas from their environment. It is good to write from your mind, because there aren’t really any new stories, how you tell it is what will set the story apart.
Experience is also important. The more you see of the world (and this doesn't necessarily mean going abroad) the more exposure you get and the more accommodative you become especially to new cultures and languages. Writers are human beings first.
Attending writing workshops is also important. It is advisable for writers, especially the budding ones, to have peer groups for editing, and to submit stories for publication in writing journals, magazines and competitions.