What you need to know:
- I worked with wonderful editors but finding people who would wish to go through the manuscripts for reviews and critiquing proved to be very difficult.
- That said, I must also acknowledge our readership; eventually I noticed Kenyans prefer the book to the manuscript which is still a great approach to literature.
Amondi Ochieng is a teacher by profession. She’s into ICT and teaches Swahili as a foreign language. She loves reading fiction because they come from a place of creativity – to think and create has since been the most amazing thing she has ever done in addition to innovation.
What was going through your mind when you decided to write Kito Chenye Doa?
Safety of the youth and teenagers through that age where they become. I loved reading renowned plays Mstahiki Meya and Kifo Kisimani. I explored quite a number of book written in English and the gap was in telling teenagers or youths how to stay safe from untimely pregnancies or lawlessness.
Kito for example highlights the choices we have like adoption rather than abortion. It also gives us a dive into having a support system when facing issues that will affect young people’s mental health.
It also gives girls in particular – the glaring responsibility that mostly stays with them from body changes to making decisions on how to go about fundamental issues in life.
Kito Chenye Doa has an array of issues highlighted amongst its major themes like politics, love, relationships, education and bad governance which eventually affect how we turn out.
Most authors would admit that writing a book in fluent Swahili is an uphill task. How was the process for you?
Language was not a problem. The roller-coaster however swayed me through the sea of publishing. I love Kiswahili and English alike, having hinted a gap before – there is too much English on the shelves; I felt it was time to change perceptions, rouse the rubbles and do my writing differently.
I worked with wonderful editors but finding people who would wish to go through the manuscripts for reviews and critiquing proved to be very difficult.
That said, I must also acknowledge our readership; eventually I noticed Kenyans prefer the book to the manuscript which is still a great approach to literature.
Would you say your main character’s lifestyle- Nakshi depicts the life of many university girls today?
Having gone through campus, yes, the protagonist presents the life of reckless abandon and a level of lack of preparedness with the consequences of sex and drugs. I love how the play ends; she finally owns the consequences in a sudden twist of events.
What dictated your decision to make your book a play instead of a short story?
First, a short story would mean I have to add it to another anthology (Diwani) to make a book worth the look, I wished to have an individual touch for my first. Secondly, plays use direct speech which is way easier to read.
I also had a look back to when I was a student and what captured my attention faster was always a play.
They give the reader a peek into what was said verbatim and how it was said unlike writing from a third person perspective.
Is there a time you’ve ever felt greatly discouraged as an author? What happened?
Yes, writing is like being pregnant. Sometimes you are happy, sometimes you stash your manuscript into some corner for months and sometimes you may experience ‘Postpartum Depression’.
Sometimes after the process, there is an emptiness that comes with lack of a formerly existing process.
I felt discouraged particularly when seeking editors.
Editing is what gives the book a face – it was very expensive to get editors with experience and a background in Kiswahili.
Which Swahili author do you look up to for inspiration and why?
Ken Walibora lived my dream. I would wish to live the remaining parts of his dream but I would also not wish to miss out of the ‘Swahili and English’ writer bracket. However the person who peaked my urge to write a play was Kithaka Wa Mberia, the first Swahili play I ever read was ‘Kifo Kisimani’ and I looked forward to spinning out such creativity.
Is it okay for your readers look up to you as the next Walibora?
Everybody has a journey. Role models are limiting when they are what we want to become. Ken Walibora’s sentiments are ‘Kito Chenye Doa’s foreword and he made a great streak in the world of pen and paper; I would wish to deviate and have every bit of Arege, Mberia, Walibora, Chimamanda and Elechi in me.
A good child listens to all the elders around the brewing pot.
Your parting shot to budding writers?
Love the art. Love the process. Make it a passion; not number of words in a day nor what the ‘Kenyan Publisher’ accepts - with social media and technology; you have the world right on your palms with good editors. Let your narrative unfold in the best way possible, the world is always waiting.