Africa Book Club returns this month after a break over the summer. We are grateful for the support of our readers and contributors. It’s hard to believe that it’s now been four years since we launched the site. In August, we marked another important milestone – the first anniversary of our monthly writing competition, the Africa Book Club Short Reads Competition. Next month, we will release our first anthology featuring over 30 stories from the competition.
This month, we interview two past winners of the competition, Nicola Coady from South Africa and Mark Mngomezulu from Swaziland. Coady, (pictured), won our September 2013 competition with her short story, Obio, about a man who embarks on a journey to the town of Boje in search of a cure for his ailment. Mngomezulu’s story, The Village Breadman, won the competition in October 2013.
How long have you been writing?
Coady: I’ve written letters since I was little and this is how I started wanting to share stories. In Canada I took a few night classes on writing and in South Africa I have joined a writers group -which I strongly recommend.
Mngomezulu: I have been writing seriously–that is, with the intention of getting my work out to the public–since 2008. Back then, I wrote only poetry. In 2009, I wrote my first short story. I can remember it’s title, it was called “A Question of Reticence”. Ever since that time, I have never stopped.
Why do you write?
Coady: I enjoy stories.
Mngomezulu: Writing gives me joy and satisfaction that no other hobby has ever given me. I enjoy seeing the words come out of me, on to the paper, and listening to the things that the characters say in the story. It is a fun process, but at the same time, one that I take seriously because I don’t write for only for writing’s sake. I aim to drive a point across and of course, for people to enjoy the story.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Mngomezulu: I was told by my father to read good books and write as much as I can. So, it’s write, write, write!
You are a recent winner of our monthly Africa Book Club Short Reads competition. What was the inspiration for your winning entry?
Coady: My story was inspired by Nigeria. I lived there for two years and loved it. The best book on writing I have read is Bird by Bird. The book is inspiring and funny as it tells the reader to sit down and write.
Mngomezulu: The story, ‘The Village Breadman’ was inspired by a real man in my father’s parental home Mafutseni, whom, I was told, used to deliver bread around the homes there. I am not quite sure whether he delivered on bike or what because I was very young when I heard about him. The story of this man came to my mind about a year ago, and after a while of thinking about it, I decided to write this story. This is how it came out.
Are you a published author? Have you considered writing a book?
Coady: I want to write a book of short stories set in Nigeria. I have been published in magazines in both Canada and South Africa.
Mngomezulu: I have published two poems with Forward Poetry in the United Kingdom, and I haven’t been able to publish my short stories, save for the ones I sent to the Africa Book Club. I have recently finished my novella, and I am currently on search for publishing houses that are likely to accept it. There are virtually none in the country, so I have to look in our neighboring South Africa. I hope I will find something there.
Are there African writers that have inspired you, or whose work you admire and would recommend to anyone interested in exploring African literature?
Coady: I love Lauri Kubuitsile’s short story In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata and now that my box of books from Africa Book Club has arrived I look forward to reading the rest of her book.
Mngomezulu: Yes. There are African writers that have inspired me. To this day one of the best novels that I’ve read (my opinion, of course) is Ngugi was Thiongo’s “Grain of Wheat”. I’ve read more than once and the story continues to move me. These works by other African writers I would highly recommend; Chinua Achebe (Arrow of God), T.M Aluko (Chief, The Honorable Minister), Ezekiel Mphahlele (Chirundu), Alan Paton (Cry, The Beloved Country), Uwen Akpan (Say Your Are One Of Them), Njabulo Ndebele (Fools and Other Stories). The list goes on and on.