FEMRITE's Lillian Tindyebwa
Lillian Tindyebwa (R) with other writers from FEMRITE.

FEMRITE's Lillian Tindyebwa

There is international interest in works from Africa and African writers should take this opportunity seriously.

By Beatrice Lamwaka
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First published: February 17, 2009

Lillian Tindyebwa has a lot to say about reading and writing Tindyebwa having attained an MA Literature from Makerere University. I caught up with her at FEMRITE where works as a Programme Officer. She is one of the founder members of the organization that has seen many of its members climb the writing Career. Being one of the women of the Uganda Women Writers Association (FEMRITE), Tindyebwa has had her short stories published in FEMRITE's anthologies; A Woman's Voice, Words from a Granary, and I Dare to Say. She has also published novels for young adults Recipe for Disaster by Fountain Publishers, which is one of Fountain Youth Series, and children novels; A Time to Remember, Maggie's Friends, and A Will to Win published by Macmillan. Forthcoming publications include; My Friend Grace and Mocked by Fate real life experiences of circumcised women in Kapchorwa. These stories will be published later in the year by FEMRITE.

For almost an hour, I spoke to Tindyebwa about her writing career and opportunities for upcoming writers. From her voice, I could hear the excitement; I knew that she was in love with field of Literature.

Lillian Tindyebwa working on at desk
Lillian Tindyebwa working on at desk.

Did you always know that you would be a writer?
No, I never had the idea that I would be a writer. When I was young, I used to read a lot. My father had a library that consisted of The Adventure of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, King Solomon's Mines by Henry Rider Haggard, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Shakespeare's complete collection. We had some magazines like Drum, Leadership, and Newsweek. My father was a teacher. He loved reading and so he encouraged his children to read. I made the library my own. I spent most of my time reading books. I read each and every book cover to cover. He kept on bringing new ones and I would endeavor make use of them. I think this made him look for more books.

After I completed my Ordinary Level Examination, I wrote stories in my exercise books, which I later lost. I know this is where the seed of writing was planted. I felt strongly that I could write in the early 90's. I wrote an outline of my novel Recipe for Disaster, which I followed strictly when writing but of course some of the events changed.

What motivated you to study MA in Literature?
I'm at home with literature. I love reading books and literature is about reading and entering other people's worlds. I discover these different worlds that I have never been to before and that's what makes literature perfect for me. I always want to know exactly what the other person is thinking which I can never do in real life, but literature provides me with that space. I take it up every time I have the opportunity.

I'm so passionate about literature and wouldn't do anything else. I studied what I was very comfortable with.

Would you advice any upcoming writers to go ahead to study Literature before attempting to write?
No, different people have different luck and opportunities. There are many writers who have never had any literature education but they are doing well as writers. For me, studying literature has expanded my scope of writing. I know more than I did twenty years ago. I know that some themes have been exhausted like the post colonial themes found in Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Chinua Achebe novels, and I know better not to reproduce Okot p'Bitek's Song of Lawino or Song of Ocol (themes). I also know the history of writing.

Your novels are all into schools; was it your dream to write for education purposes?
Recipe for Disaster was published by Fountain Publishers as any other book but they realized later that my novel would suit secondary school students and so it was included in the Fountain Youth Series which have been distributed to all secondary schools in Uganda with the help of the Ministry of Education.

Lillian Tindyebwa in Kabira International School where she had gone to read from her works
Lillian Tindyebwa in Kabira International School where she had gone to read from her works.

I was commissioned to write children stories by Macmillan Publishers. That's how I was able to write A Time to Remember, Maggie's Friend, and A Will to Win suitable for primary five, primary seven and primary seven respectively. These books will be distributed throughout Africa.

So we are talking about lots of money here?
The writer only gets ten percent of the cost of the book because the publisher has got to cover their cost of production. I would say it can put food on the table for some time.

What is cooking in the pot writing-wise?
I have written about 15,000 words of my novel. The story is set in northern Uganda where armed conflict has been going on for two decades. It's about a woman who has been mutilated by the Lord's Resistance Army rebels and her struggle to recover from her experiences. I plan to travel to Gulu and Pader districts to research more about my character; where she lives, what she eats, the terrain, and other things... these little details that I have to include to make my story real.

As a writer who has been in the scene for some time; what opportunities do you think are available for writers?
There is international interest in works from Africa and African writers should take this opportunity seriously. There are also associations like Uganda Women Writers Association (FEMRITE) that promote not only women but men as well. So writers should join FEMRITE and hand in hand we can make better writers in this world. FEMRITE provides writers training and support that every writer needs.

There are also so many writing competitions that many people have been writing and submitting their work, for instance Monica Arac de Nyeko won the Cain Prize 2007, Doreen Baingana won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book in the Africa region 2006, Glaydah Namukasa won Macmillan writers Prize for Africa 2005, Jackee Budesta Batanda won the 2003 Africa Regional Winner in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition and You... Beatrice you have been short-listed for a major Prize, PEN/Studzinski Literary Award, which I hope you win. These contests give writers the opportunity to be taken serious.

What advice do you have for upcoming writers?
They should read, read, read, and read and then write, write, write, write and submit for consideration for publications. Now days, the internet has made the world a global village, Ugandan writers can get published anywhere in the world. This is the only way they can make it as writers. And of course, join writers' networks and they will help you in any way you will never know.

Many thanks Lillian and all the best.
You are welcome. Good luck.

By Beatrice Lamwaka
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First published: February 17, 2009

Beatrice Lamwaka
Beatrice Lamwaka is finalist for the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award 2009. She is the author of Anena's Vicory, one of Fountain Junior HIV/AIDS Series, a supplementary reader in primary schools in Uganda. Her published short stories have appeared in Gowanus Books, Women's World website, WordWrite-FEMRITE Literary Journal, as well as anthologies such as Words From a Granary, Today You will Understand, Aloud: Illuminating Creative Voices, Michael's Eyes; The War against the Ugandan Child FEMRITE publications. She was one of the pioneers of a British Council writing scheme that links Ugandan writers with established writers in the UK, and she is a member of Uganda Women Writers' Association (FEMRITE). She is currently working on her first novel and a number of short stories.