Magunga Williams a blogger and creative writer from Kenya will attend the #Babishai2016 poetry festival in Kampala, from 24-26 August. He was nominated for the 2016 #BAKEAWARDS-Bloggers Association of Kenya Awards and runs a large online bookstore.
1. The Magunga online bookstore is thriving and making a large difference regarding accessibility of literature, how did this idea emerge?
It is one of those things I have always wanted to know. It stemmed from a heartbreak I had when I was a kid when a neighbourhood library was shut down after its owner passed away. I cannot even remember his name. But I remember how much I loved going to that place. It was my refuge. When we were sent home due to unpaid school fees, my brother and I would visit that library. It had so many storybooks.
Time passed. That heartbreak healed, like very few heartbreaks usually do, but like many heartbreaks, it was not forgotten. Fast forward to 2014-15 and my partner and I are walking around Nairobi bookshops trying to get her poetry collection into bookstore unsuccessfully. Then I realized many self published authors, and many other authors had trouble distributing and marketing their books. I saw a vacuum and nature did the thing it does with vacuums. Now here I am, managing an online bookstore from the comfort of my house. One step at a time, because that is how I was taught to do things.
2. How may we support this fabulous invention of yours?
How can you help? I throw that question back to you. You read books. You consume them with so much relish. Tell me what challenges you experience and then we can have a conversation about how you think we can solve them. I want to reach as many Africans as possible with this venture. Put a book in as many hands as possible.
3. Which are the most popular books so far, from the Magunga online bookstore?
Oh! Elnathan John’s book, Born On A Tuesday, lasted all of two days and they were gone. Same with The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma.
Then there is Den of Inequities and Last Villains of Molo by Kinyanjui Kombani.
Ooooh! Any book by Zukiswa Wanner rarely stays for long. See, Zukiswa and Kombani have learnt that books are products like any other; you have to market them aggressively, and that is working very well for them.
(Do not tell my competitors, hehehe).
4. What kind of poetry do you like to read?
I like easy to read poetry. The kind that affects you without your mind being forced to understand whatever is going on. Think Warsan Shire, Amu Nnadi, Abigail Arunga, Sheila Okong’o and Eric Onyango Otieno.
Woi! This chap called Saddiq Dzukogi is phenomenal.
I still do not know what the difference between poetry and spoken word is. Because Peter Kagayi is amazing.
5. Were you surprised by your invitation to the Babishai Poetry festival last year and why?
Yes. I was surprised. Because I do not consider myself anyone of note in these literary circles, much less in poetry circles. I am a pretender. I know as much as Jon Snow.
6. What do you expect from the festival this year?
I expect more fun. Last year was so well organized and so informative. Guests were treated well, the classes were just as good as they can get. Beverley is an angel. I can say that given the success of last year’s festival, then I am hoping to see a bigger crowd.
7. Where would you place Christian literature in this secular world?
Hehehehe. You know everything has its own space, yeah? People who like stories will enjoy it regardless of whether it is Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Legion Maria, Polo Piach or Atheist. Remember that book, My Book of Bible Stories that we used to read as kids? Loved that book. Not because it was Christian, but because I was entertained by the stories. Left to Tell by Imaculee Ilibagiza is a sublime story about a woman finding God in the midst of the Rwandan genocide. But regardless of it’s religious inclinations, the story is well told. But of course there are material that I do not see people other than those of that faith buying. For instance, many people will not read The Hand of God simply because they have no interest in it.
Am I making sense?
8. Congratulations on your 2016 #BAKEAWARDS nomination, who are some of your favourite Ugandan bloggers?
Soooo Many Stories
But you have to agree with me that Ugandans have not really taken to blogging like we Kenyans have. Your internet keeps getting shut down every time the Leopard wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.
9. What food in your opinion, is best for writers?
The edible kind
10. Any parting remarks?
Be a good sport and buy books. Sharing is caring with other things, but not when it comes to books. So go to www.books.magunga.com and make an order now. Haven’t you been told that the best place to be is in between the pages of a good book?