Interviews

I began writing as a child, Paula O.M. Otukile

By Alex Nderitu

Paula O.M. Otukile the founder of the Mulher Forte African Literature Awards. Born in Mahalapye, Botswana, Paula is the chief executive editor of Listen to Africa magazine, editor of Diaspora Times Global, and a literature columnist for Mt. Kenya Times. Her accolades include: Nominated for Zikomo Africa Awards Zambia (Best Book of The Year, and Best Author of The Year), 2021 Global AfriCAN Author honoree award, 2021 Advocate of The Year – Gender Activist, Monrovia, Liberia, and Best Gender Activist, Lagos, Nigeria

Can you tell our readers across the world about your writing journey?

I began writing as a child. I would write anything, my movements etc, and I kept a diary. My motivation was my grandmother. She read a lot to me.

Can you tell us about your books and what impact they have made on the lives of readers and you?

My book Overcoming Failure changed my life, transformed my motivations into life coaching. Thato Wishes to Be a Butterfly, another of my works, cemented my place as a gender based-violence activist.

Awards or Readers, what do you think should come first? Why?

People matter the most. My books are about real-life situations in order to impact readers and make a difference. Awards are a bonus.

We all know that digitalisation has conquered every nook and cranny on the earth, and it has invaded the publishing industry. However, some areas on the earth are slow in embracing digitalisation. How has the digitalisation of the publishing industry affected the African writing community and their readership?

Most people do not read in Africa -sales are poor! Everyone is a writer, so books are no longer held with a great regard.

Each writer has a unique writing process, and most of them are influenced by their surroundings, cultures and lifestyles. Can you tell us about your writing process and how Africa has influenced it?

I do not have a particular style. Maybe others can detect it. I write to deliver messages and sensitize only. 

Have you ever encountered writer’s block? How did you manage to deal with it?

Grief unlocks my brain but comfort keeps me busy writing.

Africa is the cradle of human civilisation, and it’s the most diverse continent in the world, home to vibrant cultures. It’s also the mother land of several great personalities in global literature. What is your opinion on Africa’s contribution to global literature, and how we can promote African literature on the world stage? 

By bridging the gap between theory and practice. Africans must buy books and increase sales. Other tales are theory. Few writers make a living from literature. Here, literature is a hobby. So no matter how much we talk, we must recognise literature and respect it for the talk to translate in action.

We live in a divided world in many dimensions and literature is no exception. We, as authors, still believe that literature can help unite the world and heal the planet. How do you perceive the divisions in our sphere its impact? What are your suggestions on how literature and authors can contribute to restoring unity in this world?

Love matters and love changes all.  The world is big enough for us all but without love there won’t be unity. Reading and writing with love, not stereotypes, can make things happen.

As an acclaimed author, what is your message for the budding generation of authors across genres?

Go to school first, seek alternative sources of income, books do not make a living unless one can sweat to stretch sales. 

What are your parting words to hundreds of thousands of readers of Asian Reviews?

Buy a book, share knowledge, and love thy neighbour. Teach at least one child to read and write yearly.

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