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TAKE 5 with Troy Onyango

Thursday September 29 2016

When I wrote “For What Are Butterflies Without

When I wrote “For What Are Butterflies Without Their Wings?” it did not occur to me that I would win the Nalif prize. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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1. Is all the prize money gone?

No, the money is not all gone. It is not with me but it is not all gone.

2. What else have you entered this year?

Early this year, I submitted a short story to the Writivism Short Story Prize and when the long list was published, I was not on it. I was a bit disappointed but after getting some encouragement from friend , including TJ Benson, a writer I admire, I submitted the same story to Harvard’s Transition Magazine and I received an acceptance email. I was ecstatic about it.

Then, later on I submitted to Short Story Day Africa Prize and again, I was not on the longlist.

Those two, and Nalif, are the only prizes I submitted to this year.

3 .Did you think you had a chance at winning with your great story?

When I wrote “For What Are Butterflies Without Their Wings?” it did not occur to me that I would win the Nalif prize. There is so much talent out there and I am always amazed when I read short stories by other Kenyan writers.

The writing process for this particular work was a bit different than what I was used to. The story had been with me for months but I was scared to put it down because of the style it had come to me in.

It was a new style I was trying to work with and I had only ever used the style in one story before. I did not expect to win, but I did.

4. Where can we read that story now?

Jakki Kerubo, the founder of Nalif, informed us that the shortlisted stories and poems would be published in a Journal called ‘The Missing Slate’. Once the publication is out, the story will be available to read.

5. Do you think prizes for writers help or hurt writers?

Chuma Nwokolo, in a recent interview published on Enkare Review, mentioned that prizes do not improve our writing. Structures do. I agree with him. I think there is only so much that prizes can do and it almost always is inadequate.

What is needed are structures to develop the skill set of the writer and to enable the writer to reach a wider audience without [too much] strain.