Botswana’s youngest published authorshares her journey of fame and success
It all started when she wrote about her classmates and their lives in and outside school.
And before she knew it, One Matlapeng who was then 14 years old and doing form two had written a novel. Nothing could stop the young girl who made history as the country’s youngest published writer. Now 23, she has finished her third novel.
To add cherry on top of the cake, Matlapeng’s book was not only published but was in 2006 chosen as a set book for Setswana studies for form four students, a development that saw the young author smiling all the way to the bank, a thing which she still does as she gets her royalties every year.
The trend will continue for as long as her book is used as a set book.
The writing journey
Matlapeng started her novel- Phuduhudu ga e tlhatlhelwe while she was doing form two. When she started she however did not know that what she was writing would shape into a novel.
“I love writing but I did not know that one would day I would be counted amongst Botswana’s published authors. The funny thing is that it started as a joke when I was writing about my classmates and their lives both in school and outside,’’ she said.
Matlapeng who did her junior secondary at Borwa CJSS and senior at Molefi Secondary School however did not finish her book until 2005 as she had to concentrate on her studies first.
She thus submitted her book in early 2005 for possible publication and could not believe it when McMillan Publishing Company showed interest and published the book.
“My late uncle encouraged me to submit the book and I am sure he had seen its potential of making it into the market, a potential which I had not realised myself as the author,’’ said the now 23 year old author.
While Matlapeng was still celebrating the publication of her book, she got the shock of her life when she was told that her book had been chosen as a set book for form fours with effect from 2006.
This meant that her book would be used by form four students throughout the country for their Setswana lessons.
“It gives me great pride to know that my work was given such an important status and this has also given me more courage to work and write other novels which will hopefully also be chosen as set books,’’ said a surprisingly shy Matlapeng.
Besides the book being highly recognized, Matlapeng who is now working on her second Setswana novel having finished an English one revealed that what is also motivating her is the money that she receives as royalties for her book being used as a set book.
“Money is not the biggest motivator but it pushes one to work more harder. My life has greatly improved since 2006 and I have been able to assist in supporting my siblings,’’ she revealed adding that she has since bought her first car.
Phuduhudu ga e tlhatlhelwe is set in Gaborone and is about the lives of four teenage girls. Two of these teenagers are good girls who are obedient, hardworking and serious about their school work while the other two are the complete opposite.
They run away from home and school to be with their boyfriends, one of them dies while trying to abort and the other ends up living with HIV.
“The lessons from the book are meant to show the consequences of some of the choices people especially young people make and I hope that the students using the book as part of their studies will learn one or two things about life.”
Becoming the country’s youngest publisher writer opened doors for Matlapeng as in 2006 she was approached by Btv to work in the Educational Broadcasting Lessons where she was writing radio lessons for the primary schools.
She worked for the broadcaster for two years before moving to Limkokwing University as an office administrator in the Faculty of Communication, Media and Broadcasting.
“I got these jobs due to my new found fame because instead of me looking for the jobs, the jobs were looking for me,” she says with a smile.
She has however quit her job to pursue her Journalism studies.In terms of writing she has just completed her English novel which she hopes would be published beyond borders as she says there is no market for English novels in the country.
“With my Setswana novels I know can go far here in the country but the future is not very bright for the English ones,’’ said the author who revealed that she is inspired by international renowned writer, Danielle Steele.