Beatrice Lamwaka is a Ugandan writer who was born and raised in Alokolum, Gulu.
The title story of her short story collection Butterfly Dreams and Other Stories is a beautifully narrated tale of Lamunu, a young girl abducted by rebels during the war in northern Uganda.
The narrator, a sibling of Lamunu, paints a poignant picture of the grieving process her family undergoes and how even upon her return, Lamunu couldn’t fit back into her family or community.
Butterfly Dreams, just like Lamwaka’s essay in the creative nonfiction book Safe House, is autobiographical, for Lamwaka’s own brother was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels as a child.
Lamwaka, who has written numerous articles, short stories and poetry is currently working on a novel. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Italian and French. She is a recipient of 2011 Young Achievers Award and has been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, the Caine Prize for African Writing and the South African PEN/Studzinski Literary Award.
Which one book do you hold so dear that it can’t possibly be lent out?
I don’t lend anthologies with my stories published around the world where I have supplementary copies only. I do not because I can’t afford to buy them.
Your favourite childhood book?
A book written in Acoli, Wot pa Ojuk written by an Italian priest about Ojuk’s travels around the world. Now that I am older and read so many books I think it was written in a condescending manner.
Who is your literary crush? (Not a book character but a real person you admire in the lit world).
Warsan Shire. I wish I could write beautiful lines line like her ‘no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark’. Such lines give me goose pimples.
What’s your greatest fear?
Fear of dying and leaving my manuscripts unfinished. I am sure nobody in my family can send them out to publishers and deal with rejection letters the way I do.
Most embarrassing writing mistake ever?
Typos and contradictions kill me softly.
If you were to dine with three writers, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
I would like to dine with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Okot p’Bitek and Shakespeare so they can tell me how to write unforgettable stories.
Most unforgettable character from a book?
Lawino from Wer pa Lawino by Okot p’Bitek; she is unforgettable.
Which book do you wish you had written and why?
Harare North by Brian Chikwava. It is an intelligent novel and as one reads it, it becomes clear that the writer is confident and very smart.
Greatest craft sin you have committed?
I once killed a character I shouldn’t have killed because I didn’t know where else to take him.
If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you?
Color Purple by Alice Walker, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and Wer pa Lawino by Okot p’ Bitek so I can savour every bit of the writing.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Now that I have a young son, I would have been a paediatrician so I can treat him when he needs medical care.
Any other interesting thing you’ve always wanted to tell readers?
Writing is fun, creating interesting characters and killing them when I want is a lot of fun.