Compiled by Wr. Linda Ogutu
Lilian Bwire is a passionate writer, poet and a mother of two lovely boys. She speaks to the Writers Guild Kenya members on the ups and downs of juggling between being a mother and being a writer.
Who is Lillian?
Smart…I call myself an activist, novelist, mother and a practical… (Disclaimer: 25+ years). In short, writing lives in me.
As an activist, what do you champion for?
Well, my life is spent observing communities around me. This includes justice, rights for the mute, for safe places to talk, green parks to sit under trees and think.
How do you manage to juggle between motherhood and writing given that the former is quite tasking?
This comes easy, as I write from the experience of mothering. Some of the characters I get are from my kids. I write spiritual poetry too. On Amazon, I dared such poetry called ‘Unconventional Messages’, which has 100+ poems. I have as well written a manuscript which is in the bakery. Very soon, it will be out and we will all be invited to drink some mursik marinated with lots of matoke.
So does Lillian perform poetry?
Aah…too shy for the glam plus I may end up moving the whole floor (chuckles).
Are you a disciplined writer?
Very, by law. I don’t sleep until I have written a thousand words. Being a reviewer at an online book club helps me read and write a lot of articles every day.
What’s your take on sharing PDFs/soft copies of books?
That is very bad unless payments are made to writers. We need to find ways of patenting soft copies too.
How did your journey as a writer begin?
It was a small mustard seed. In my high school years, my compositions were always read to the rest of my class members and that is how it all began. I didn’t quite understand why everyone found them the funniest. Back to the journey, growing up, I forgot and went to seek a livelihood, I never wrote that much but later on, I embarked on reports and office work.
Are you a full-time writer?
Not yet, but I am planning on becoming a full-time writer in the coming days. I actually have eight drafts that am working on.
It has been a learning journey, no particular guidance on where to start from. So I wrote and had people read and tell me what they found right or wrong. I am employed by an international NGO too. Sometimes back I had enough manuscripts and no links to move forward. I think Writers Guild Kenya was created by God and I found it. It is a great learning space with openings and clear direction on how to move forward in the world of writing.
What is your favorite part about being a writer?
You write smiling, crying, feeling. It is just your world! You create it, and that is the best part.
What do you think is our greatest undoing as writers? (Within or without Writers Guild Kenya)
Within: We have self-doubt and give up easily after rejection. Without: The world wants great stuff but we are not willing to put enough efforts to match the level of expectation. Writers Guild Kenya community, though young, has actually filled the void. It is still young. What I see for now are opportunities; talking, writing and mentoring, which is a great trend.
If someone gave you their work to read and you find it crappy, how honest would you be about it?
Trust me, I will be very honest. With intent to help, of course. Not just leaving it at the doorway.
What do you think is our response to the opportunities presented at Writers Guild Kenya? OR better yet, do you personally take them up?
I do and may. But I think people have a particular area of interest in writing. If it is writing business content, I might not thrive as one with interest. The distance may also hinder performance.
Do you write even when you don’t necessarily have that spark? OR on a random bad day…now that you mentioned 1000 words before the day ends?
I have drafts. So the day’s inspiration will end in the right book title. Some days it may be poetry, another day spiritual and another day politics. It’s a habit. I even read two books at the same time.
And what kind of books do you read?
When I want to laugh a lot, I read children’s book, Pace Setters, and African Writers. Outside the continent, I prefer historical fiction. A time came when I no longer found Stephen King super exciting. Choices change. But my center of unrecorded interest is the human stories. In the writing world, you can’t write about characters when you don’t know what they like or how they behave. It is a part of research too. And that brings a disconnect in our writing as Kenyans because you are removed from the situation people can relate to.
Well, how do you think WGK can be of more value to you as an affiliate?
Showcase the finished works. Help fine tune the unfinished works. Arrange meet ups with critics with the intention of bringing out the wrinkles. And also invite writers to workshops.
When do you feel most relaxed?
Floating on the backside of water and after midnight (chuckles).
What was your biggest moment in poetry?
It felt surreal to see a book with my name on Amazon. That was it.
What’s the secret behind staying afloat while writing?
Like consistency all through? Think of a story beginning and ending. In between, take those characters through a number of obstacles, you can as well stand outside alone and observe nature; you will have lots to write from observing what you always ignored.
What do you dislike about writing?
How would you convert a non-reader?
We should have libraries in every ward to grow this habit right from the countryside (ushago).Offer incentives such as reading and writing competitions, rewarding the diligent when still young. This will enable them to grow, enjoying reading and writing.
Can adults be salvaged too?
Yeah, if we organized Reading Day tents in the estates like in a week or month they’ll be curious and come along. In a crowded tent, let them know benefits of reading.Most want to read but have no time to look for the books. So bring the books to them at home. Let’s go to them. You will be surprised. I heard of a young man who moved from office to office, house to house lending out a book for a week and later collecting it. I saw people read. He had just made their journeys easier to access the right books.
Who is the person you want to be most proud of you?
If my sons will turn out into kind gentlemen, I know I will be proud of both our efforts.
Contact Lilian Bwire: firstname.lastname@example.org