AiW note: As part of our annual AKO Caine Prize coverage, we’ve been running AiW Guest reviews of each of the 5 stories shortlisted for the award, and this week, as we lead up to the winner announcement on Monday 18 July, we are very pleased to be sharing a new set of AKO Caine Q&As – with each of the authors on the shortlist, and with the publishers of their stories, as well as judges who read and selected the shortlist from all of the stories entered – so broadening our conversations around the Prize for its 2022 iteration.
In the second of our author Q&As (following yesterday’s with Hannah Giorgis), Idza Luhumyo (Kenya) talks with us about the “pre-lives” of her AKO Caine Prize shortlisted story, “Five Years Next Sunday”, as well as her other work, “book arranging” and bookshelves, and what’s been most heart-lifting of late…
“Five Years Next Tuesday” was published in the Short Story Day Africa Prize anthology Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa (SSDA / Catalyst Press, 2021), having won the SSDA award that year.
AiW: Congratulations on being shortlisted for the 2022 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, Idza. Thank you for your story.
~ Could you tell us a bit about the pre-lives of “Five Years Next Sunday” and/or how it came about? Any stories of your story that you can share – perhaps something that our readers might not yet know about (or that they should or need to know)?
I’d been thinking about the practice of witch hunts along the Kenyan coast for a while. I was also fascinated by the idea of someone “having the rain,” which is the term people in my community use for those suspected of witchcraft. And then from there the ideas just started coming together. But the process wasn’t as linear as I’m making it seem.
~ Could you tell us a bit about your (other) work — your writing and/or other kinds of work, roles, or more general and different sorts of professional hats you wear? (If anything here has particular relevance to your shortlisted story, could you share that with our readers?)
I’m in an MFA program at the moment [Idza is currently a Rose Fellow in the three year MFA graduate Creative Writing program at Texas State University], so that’s the main hat I’m wearing.
~ What is the best investment you’ve made in your creative self?
One of the best investments was pursuing work opportunities – as a screenwriter and a copywriter – that still allow me to have writing right at the center.
~ Tell us a bit about your bookshelves – how they are arranged vs. how you would like them to be arranged.
I’m away from home now so I don’t really have a bookshelf worth talking about. But I used to have all kinds of fun with my collection – I think arranging your books is a great way to procrastinate, or pass an afternoon. So far I’ve tried arranging by country, gender, and genre. But this never works; ultimately, I think arranging them in alphabetical order may be the best bet.
~ Finally, as a writer, reader, and/or otherwise in your working life, what are the most ethical and/or heart-lifting practices you’ve seen happening recently in your industry, perhaps particularly given our experiences over the last few/couple of years?
There are so many practices I could mention. But I’ll quickly shout out the Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award that supports African women writers with an interest in African lit with a scholarship to study at SOAS University of London. What’s really special for me is that the award – of which I was the first beneficiary – was made possible thanks to the generosity of the 200-plus contributors to the New Daughters of Africa anthology who decided to forego their royalties just to make it happen.
Note: Idza’s AKO Caine Prize shortlisted story was published in Short Story Day Africa’s Prize anthology, Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa, co-published by SSDA and Catalyst Press. Check out our accompanying post today, a Q&A with SSDA founder Rachel Zadok, who opens up the “story of the story” from the publisher’s point of view, and offers insights into SSDA as a platform for writers from the continent.
Images and text below c. of the AKO Caine Prize website…
Idza Luhumyo is a Kenyan writer. Her work has been published by Popula, Jalada Africa, The Writivism Anthology, Baphash Literary & Arts Quarterly, MaThoko’s Books, Gordon Square Review, Amsterdam’s ZAM Magazine, Short Story Day Africa, the New Internationalist, The Dark, and African Arguments. Her work has been shortlisted for the Short Story Day Africa Prize, the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, and the Gerald Kraak Award. She is the inaugural winner of the Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award (2020) and winner of the Short Story Day Africa Prize (2021).
Idza’s short story, ‘Five Years Next Sunday’, has been shortlisted for the 2022 AKO Caine Prize. Read ‘Five Years Next Sunday’ here.
AiW Guest, Malawian writer, blogger and environmentalist Yamikani Mlangiza’s reviewed Idza Luhumyo’s “Five Years Next Sunday” for us last week.
Please follow this link to read it, our other reviews of the 2022 shortlist, plus more Q&As from our AKO Caine Prize series this year (as well as more coverage from (way) back, olden times circa 2013…)
The 2022 AKO Caine Prize winner will be announced on July 18th. Head to the AKO Caine Prize website – http://www.caineprize.com/ – for more, and for details of the line-up of related events and author/publisher appearances.
Tomorrow, Idza will appear in a virtual event at alma mater SOAS University of London, where she studied as the inaugural recipient of the Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award that she mentions in the shout out to ethical and heart lifting practices of her Q&A (see below for more on the Award):
The Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award
A project by: SOAS University of London
The Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award will be awarded to a black, female African student taking an MA in African Studies, MA Comparative Literature or MA Translation (in African Languages) at SOAS University of London. This award is for a student with a particular interest in African Literature with the aim to support a new generation of African female writers. This scholarship will cover the fees, accommodation and living costs.
The Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award
To recognise the publication of this anthology, SOAS, with the support of Myriad Editions, has set up an award in Margaret Busby’s name. The Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award is an inspirational way to honour her work and her positive influence on the literary world.
Categories: Conversations with - interview, dialogue, Q&A