Wame Molefhe is one of Botswana’s most successful writers and is currently one of the few full-time creative writers in the country. She has won writing prizes both here and internationally. Her short story collection for young adults, Just Once and Other Stories (Medi Publishing 2009) has been prescribed by the Ministry of Education for junior secondary schools in the country. She also writes for television and has been part of creating the popular series Morwalela and the soon to be aired Re Bina Mmogo II. She is currently the scriptwriter and researcher for First Issues, the BTV show on financial matters produced by FNB.
I thought it was time for us to find out a bit more about this talented writer.
IAW: Tell us a bit about your writing career so far.
It’s only in the last two years that I’ve been comfortable calling myself a writer. I’d say my journey has brought challenges, excitement and a hunger to do more, to do better.
I’ve always enjoyed writing and reading. And although I say I wish I had started early, the reality is that I’ve been practising all along. Many good things have happened and there have been disappointments of course–but a writing friend once said ‘rejection is a writer’s friend’ and so that is the attitude I have adopted now.
IAW: What do you like most about being a full time writer?
I like that I’m doing something that I really enjoy. Although I have deadlines to meet, I like that I’m not in an environment that values showing up for work, more than being productive. It doesn’t matter where and when I work, just that what I need to do gets done. That’s a good thing.
IAW: What do you like least?
I don’t like that writers are undervalued–but that will change. Writing is a skill like any other. It needs to be developed and nurtured and appreciated. The rates that writers are paid are laughable but you need to be strategic. Sometimes it’s not the Pula figure that matters—sometimes it’s the exposure that is more important.
Enough of the dislikes though, because they are few compared to the likes.
IAW: Fiction writers often struggle with the concept of writing for art or money. Are they mutually exclusive?
I think writers should not be confined by these distinctions. When I started writing, I thought I would live off writing short stories. That is not possible. The reality is that there are many talented writers all over the world and so there is a lot of competition and only a few writers make it big.
I don’t believe writing for art and writing for money are mutually exclusive. If you’re going to make a decent living from writing, especially in Botswana, you need to use the skill you have in different situations. Writing is about telling stories that appeal to the reader.
There was a time when I said, I can only write stories for adults and that I cannot write for children. That wall had to come down. Then I said, well, I can only write short stories but I’m working on a novella now. I said I know nothing about writing for TV. That wall came down with ‘Morwalela’ and ‘Re Bina Mmogo II’. Then I said I can only write TV dramas. Well, that wall has come down too because I’m now writing business documentaries-and I remember when I started, the first thing I said was, I’m not sure I can do that and the person I was talking to laughed and said but ‘I thought you said you’re a writer?’
And so for me, I’d like to define art as the result of a creative process.
IAW: What is the most important advice you would give an up and coming fiction writer in Botswana?
Please read. Reading flexes your muscles. It helps you develop your own voice. It increases your vocabulary–and I’m not talking about using big fancy words or using tired cliches.
And write. Find your own voice. That is so important and people say it all the time. Don’t try and sound like someone else. Why choose to be a clone when you can be you? Find your own way of saying things and expressing them so the reader or listener doesn’t think ‘but that sounds like so and so…’ Keep yourself informed about writing world and find out about getting published. Enter competitions. Share your work with other writers.