Sunday, August 9, 2009

10,000 hits! Twitter & Doreen Baingana

We're celebrating 10,000 hits(almost) on the Bookaholic Blog with a twitter account, so now the latest scoop on the blog is now at the tip of your fingers. So get tweeting, get reading and while you are at it, check out the full 411 on award winning East African writer Doreen Baingana, you can check out a review of her book Tropical Fish here.

Three adjectives that best describe you:
What I think I am or want to be or what I really am? What I am reaching towards: Creative, a seeker, a mother, a sister. Those aren’t adjectives. 3 aren’t enough.

When and why did you decide to become a writer?
It didn’t happen all at once. When I first left home - for Italy, 1989 - I wrote lots of letters home and loved doing it. Started writing poetry a couple of years later, then fiction.

Why do you write?
To explore issues. Because I enjoy it. To portray what hasn’t been portrayed much: all the details, possibilities, imaginings of an “African” life.

What is the secret to being a fine writer?
Reading a lot and widely. Being disciplined. Doing it. Revising again and again.

Having been nominated for the Caine Prize in African Writing twice, what does not really hitting the mark mean to you?
They told us “we were all winners” so what are you talking about? Nomination was good enough. I don’t expect good things to happen to me so I’m not too disappointed.

Your favourite vacation spot:
Lamu island, Kenya.

Your first story written:
Can’t remember. First published: a sci-fi story about a machine that could be your best boyfriend.

Greatest achievement in writing career:
Having my first full manuscript win a prize that led to publication. – AWP Award for Short Fiction – a US prize.

Greatest regret:
Too many to count, but regrets don’t help. I still have time to make amends.

What do you think of Ugandan writing, are we there yet?
We’re getting there. Not sure where! We’ve got talent, but climate not very nurturing for writers for various reasons.

What book are you reading at the moment?
“Emergency Sex” – living the UN life in troubled spots. Not literary, not fiction but a good read about problem spots in the world and failures/successes of humanitarian aid. The title is somewhat misleading.

Favourite writer of all time:
Toni Morrison.

All the covers of Tropical Fish are very attractive who decides the choices?
The US hardcover was my choice: I sent the publisher a postcard of a painting I liked. The rest were chosen by the different publishers but sent to me for my opinion.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Ordinary people don’t get into history books.

Which gift would you most like to have?
Discipline, tenacity. 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
I prefer not to go there.

What is your philosophy of life?
Look on the bright side.

How have your stories been accepted by Ugandans and internationally?
The literary community is proud of me. Others who have read mostly say they relate a lot to the stories and enjoy seeing a world they know on the page. A review or two have focused on the book’s explicitness about sex.

In the US, where I used to live, I’d done some readings at some universities and high schools, esp. to audiences that want to know more about “Africa”. That’s better than nothing. I hear from some fans here and there in the rest of Africa, the UK, and of course here in Kenya. The nominations and Commonwealth Prize helped a lot in terms of publicity.

Is the world ready for your stories?
Yes. The world I know is hungry for such stories that reflect its existence.

What is the hardest thing to write about?
What hasn’t yet been written. To make something out of nothing.

Who is your perfect reader?
Someone like me.

What books are currently on your bedside table?
None – I share my room with my baby so can’t read in bed.

Who are your literary heroes?
Characters? Tragic heroines like Tess in “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy and Anna in Anna Karenina. The daughter (can’t remember her name) in Burgher’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer. Women who have to go through so much soul searching, confusion and suffering to achieve some semblance of inner peace.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh?
“The Witches” by Roald Dahl. Yes, I know it’s a kid’s book, but I read it last month, I’d never read any books by him – a deprived childhood! He is wicked.

What book changed your life?
“Tess of the D’Urbervilles. It was one of the first literary books I read (outside class) and was astounded that someone could write about the life of an 18th(?) or 19th century white woman and portray MY issues so acutely well. I understood really for the first time the power of fiction.

How much of Uganda is in Tropical Fish?
All of TF is Uganda. Entebbe especially, boarding school life in the bad old days of Idi Amin, The early AIDS days, etc.

What is the worth of a book?
A perfect mirror to life, but not just the surface – the interior of our lives. You get to travel through people, to any country on earth and those not even in existence. You learn, you dream, you escape. A good book is priceless.

Which of your works was the most challenging for you to write?
What I’m working on now because it’s a novel. I’m used to stories.

What are three things will you take if you’re deserted on an island?
A plane to go back home. Jet fuel. Air stewards – male.

If you could be an animal what would you be?(This question is just too cute).
a) I am the animal I want to be: human
b) A kitten

Do you write better with a pen, pencil or a keyboard?
My head.

Who is the first person to see a draft of your work?
3 writing group friends: Steph, Donna and Angel.

How did Entebbe influence your stories?
It’s the place I know best. I know it’s smells, sounds, color. I feel I have a right to it. It’s my leaping off point and refuge. I can write about it with confidence.

What does Storymoja mean (to you)?
I’m doing meaningful work – helping develop/promote African writing. My skills are necessary. My bills are paid.

What does it mean to be a writer?
Facing a blank page. Trying to make something whole out of dreams and thoughts and resolve and memories. Having the audacity to give the world your take on it.

What advice do you have for rookie writers?
Just do it. Take classes. Find a good editor. Read, read, read. Write, revise, write.

Final words on your epitaph
Peace ya’ll!


  1. Congrats on the 10,000 hits, una dey try no be small for this blog o.

  2. Congrats on the 10,000 hits! Soon we'll be celebrating 100,000? Why are you asking us to follow u to twitter ehn? I have Twitterphobia o!lol

  3. Way to go! Congrats on 1,000 hits.

  4. Congratulations on the milestone. Great interviews too.