It’s the Caine Prize season, and plaudits to my fellow compatriot NoViolet Bulawayo for becoming the first Zimbabwean woman writer to win the popularly dubbed “African Booker” for her short story entitled ‘Hitting Budapest’, published in The Boston Review. She has recently finished a novel, We Need New Names, written as part of her MFA at Cornell University where she is currently a Truman Capote Fellow. The shortlist composed of writers from Botswana, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Interestingly the shortlist elicited quite angry responses and sometimes unnecessary vitriol. However, this raises questions about authorship, readership and representation in contemporary African writing. Who does the African writer or writer from Africa write for? Who is the primary market for African writing? Are western publishers doing service to African literatures or killing it?
I receive a lot of work-in-progress submissions, which unfortunately fails to appear in our publication. Perhaps I ought to thank the hundreds of writers who send in submissions, especially the Creative Writing graduates from all over. I am certainly chuffed by their drive and ambition. A few years ago, I left Zimbabwe, to become a graduate of such a programme. Some of my former lecturers said to me, ‘Why go and do a useless degree?’ In defence of Creative Writing degrees and workshops I will say that they do have some value. Though I hold strong and ambiguous feelings about ‘teaching’ writers, perhaps these courses help add finesse to one’s skills and techniques. Writers can improve if they learn certain things, e.g. How to read? How to edit themselves?
We pride ourselves as an eclectic publication open to writers from anywhere and everywhere, so long as the stories and the poems are captivating and challenging for our readers. Our ambition is to encourage a culture of reading, to promote exciting and unheralded writers and to be a forum of interesting literary debates. And this is what SLQ aspires to. In line with that vision and starting with the October issue, SLQ will be undergoing some radical changes. The forthcoming issue on the theme of Identity is being guest-edited by a Caine Prize winner E.C. Osondu. Then more changes from January 2012, which will be announced in due course. We are responding to the rapid changes in which good literature is produced and read.
Read. Read. Read. Read. And read. Then, write and write. Afterwards, edit and edit and edit and edit and edit. And continue to read and write and edit and one day you will produce that great work we all ought to be reading.