UN SDG Book Club Interview Series

Q&A with author Christopher Okemwa

Okemwa's Sabina the Rain Girl, was selected for the UN SDG 2 Zero Hunger reading list and is fast becoming a popular novella among young people in Africa

Christopher Okemwa is an author and editor of several literary works in Africa and beyond. He self-published his first book in 2004 and in 2015, his novella, Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre, won the Canadian Burt Award for African Literature. Its sequel, Sabina the Rain Girl, was selected for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Zero Hunger reading list, is fast becoming a popular novella among young people in Africa.

Okemwa has written ten books of poetry which have been translated into 15 different languages including Armenian, Chinese, Greek, Norwegian, Finnish, Hungarian, Arabic, Polish, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Serbian. He has translated four literary works of international poets from English to Swahili.

The UN SDG Book Club African Chapter sat down with Okemwa to speak on his beginnings as a writer, the importance of his Abagusii heritage and his novella, Sabina and the Rain Girl.

How long have you been writing and creating images for children’s books? 

I have been writing since the age of 15. My English teacher came to class one day and called me out. She was concerned whether I was the one who had written my composition or whether someone else did it. She was amazed when I answered in the affirmative. She praised me and assured me that I was going to be a writer.

What inspired you to take up the challenge of submitting to the African SDG Book club?

To have people know and read my works.

The main focus of the SDG Book Club is to inform and educate the children about the principles and themes of the UN sustainable development goals. Can you briefly describe how you were able to create a fusion of entertainment, education, and information?

I taught in Standard One as a primary school teacher for close to ten years. During that time, I created stories, skits and songs for my pupils. It is from that exposure that I acquired the art of story-telling for children. I am now able to derive materials and skills from my past experience. The entertainment, education and materials for my novels come naturally to me because of that lower primary school teaching experience.

How do you carry out research for your book?

I first gather sufficient facts around my subject. I will also talk to people to get insight and more information. I relate my characters to the information and facts that I have gathered. I create my setting and storyline alongside the information and facts I have been given.

What has it been like being a writer?

It is not easy to be a writer. Sometimes you experience writer’s block and you brood for days, weeks and months without inspiration to write. When the muse visits, you have to seek time for inwardness and find a conducive atmosphere in which to write. With family at home and students waiting for you on campus, those moments of meditation are elusive.

What was your dream job when you were younger? 

From a young age, I used to love words. I started writing a novel while I was in Form One. My former classmates say that I carried a huge novel around all the time. Poems and stories I found in novels amazed and enthralled me. I knew I was going to be a writer or a poet or a playwright or something.

What do you like to do when you are not writing/ drawing images?

When I am not writing, I teach drama and poetry at university level. I also nurture young up-coming poets, journalists, novelists, actors and actresses, etc.

Invitation to Sharjah Children's Reading Festival 2022.

Okemwa has been selected, together with Lorato Trok (South Africa), to participate in Sharjah Children's Reading Festival in UAE, 11th – 22nd May, 2022.

Okemwa has been picked by UN SDG on the basis of quality of his short stories in Chubot the Cursed One and Other Stories, a collection of stories published by Nsemia Inc. Publishers in 2011

The SCRF and UN SDG look forward to wonderful testimonials from Okemwa and Lorato about their works and experiences in creative works. Olatoun Gabi-Williams (Founder, Borders Literature for all Nations) writes as follows: “As stellar SDG Book Club Africa authors Okemwa and Lorato will participate in panel discussion(s), talk to students either at the event venue or be part of the outreach program that includes but is not limited to schools visits to different emirates in the country, book signings and media interviews.

 The two authors’ books will also be arranged for sale and shipments will be done via UN SDG book dealer based in the UAE.

Sharjah Book Authority offers a round trip business class ticket, five star hotel accommodation in the emirate of Sharjah, free transportation for the events scheduled by the organization and a social program that includes group dinners, desert safari trips and visits to some amazing tourist destinations in Sharjah.”