Dec 13, 2010

Q&A with Austin Kaluba

Austin Kaluba is a Zambian writer whose work I came across during my internet wanderings. After reading his short story offerings, I went on a hunt to find more of his work. As luck would have it, during my phone interview with Theresa Lungu (author of Twilight in the Morning) I happened to mention my interest in Austin’s work, and she forwarded me his contact information. 

Austin graciously accepted my request for a Q&A, and here it is! I would encourage you to read his short stories -
Maria’s Vision (Africa Writing Online); An African Attends St George’s Day (Maple Tree Literary Supplement); The Hate That Hate Produced (New Contrast literary journal).

I am eagerly anticipating his work to be published, and hopefully you will be too.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born on 9th April in Kasama Zambia. I am fourth in a family of 10. I went to two primary schools Misolo and Henry Kapata. I later did my secondary education at Kasama Boys before doing a one year journalism course at Africa Literature Centre.

What inspires you to write?
I started writing in my early teens. I was a voracious reader. Reading was like a possession which culminated in writing. I read African writers in the Heinemann African Writers Series. I think Bwalya you remember the orange covered novels. Well, I devoured most of those books together with James Hadley Chase. I thought Chase was American. Later I discovered that he was English though he set most of his novels in America.

When did you start writing, and why?
You might not believe this. I made my first attempt to write a story when I was in grade 7. I can’t remember what the story was about. I found the experience satisfying. With no creative writing school in Zambia, I thought of doing journalism which I found was closest to my career.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I am experimenting with several types of writing which are not conventional. I have written two published pieces in an epistolary form. This is writing a story in a letter form like the Colour Purple by Alice Walker. I am also working on stories written in a stream of consciousness and magic realism.

What themes or genres are you most comfortable writing?
I am more comfortable writing about race especially how blacks in the diaspora live in alien societies of their former colonial masters who ‘created’ or distorted their new cultures which they either love or hate. Most of stories are about rootless characters confused in their new environments. They include illegal immigrants, prostitutes, asylum seekers and women living with abusive husbands.

What do you enjoy the most about writing?
Creative writing like journalism is hard work than most people think. I hate the actual writing process but love to have written. I mean when I start writing it is really hard developing characters, setting, the voice and several technical aspects to make the story come alive.

What are your current projects?
I am working on a novel to be entitled White Shadows. It has a Somalian protagonist who escapes violence back home just to become a terrorist in Britain. The novel will tackle racism, cultural shock and self discovery. A publisher, Ayebia, is looking at my short stories which they will publish soon. The publisher is a former editor with the defunct Heinemann Africa Writers Series.

What books and/or writers have most influenced your life most?
I have been inspired by several writers and novels. I can single out Peter Abrahams, the South 
African writer among my first love. Then there is the Godfather of African literature Chinua Achebe, Soyinka, Ayi Kwei Armah,Ferdinand Oyono, Ben Okri and Dambudzo Marechera.

Most people write part time. What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I am not writing, I play my guitar or read poetry. I also like going to the pub.

As an upcoming author, what are the unique challenges you face?
One major challenge is to revolutionise Zambian literature so that we can compete favourably with writers from countries like Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. Zambia has been rightly called a literary desert. It is high time we made it an oasis of creativity in the field of writing.

Do you correspond with other Zambian or African authors to discuss marketing
strategies, story ideas, writing challenges, etc?

I correspond with my good colleague Theresa Lungu who is one of the greatest story tellers I have ever met. She has read a number of my short stories and okayed them for publication. I also communicate with a fine Zambian poet Wampembe Lukonde. The other writer friend is Leonard Koloko who is on the Copperbelt.

Where is your work available? Online magazines, journals, etc?
My work is available both online and in literary journals like New Contrast. People can google some of my stories online :
Maria’s Vision (Africa Writing Online ); An African Attends St George’s Day ( Maple Tree Literary Supplement ); The Hate That Hate Produced ( New Contrast literary journal )

What are your thoughts about Zambia’s publishing industry -the writing and reading culture?
At the moment there is no literature worth studying in Zambia. Creative writing is still in its infancy. There is work to be done to establish creative writing at the University of Zambia, colleges and online. I remember writing an article in the Times of Zambia entitled Zambia Fails Literary Test. The article was written sometime in the 1990’s. Not much has changed since that time. A scholar of African literature some Obi Nwokolo wrote an article that was published in the Times of Zambia about the changing trends citing myself Theresa Lungu, Agatha Zaza and Ellen Banda as pioneers of the change.

Any last words, thoughts, ideas? How can you be reached?
My last word to UNZA school of humanities is to establish a creative writing course in the English department. I would also advise budding writers to do creative writing courses online to improve their writing. I will soon start a creative writing course for Zambian writers online. I can be reached on
akaluba (at) yahoo (dot) com


Hello! My name is Ashley Davidson and I work for the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa in the United States. I wanted to share some information about two FREE 7-week online poetry seminars we’ll be offering this summer through our Distance Learning program that I thought might be of interest to poets in Zambia, as the creative writing infrastructure there continues to develop.

The IWP is located in Iowa City, a UNESCO world city of literature, also home to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the top creative writing program in the United States, but the courses are taught online: all students need is an internet connection. This summer (May 20-July 1) we are offering two free virtual poetry seminars: an Advanced Poetry Seminar (for strong, emerging poets) will be taught by Micah Bateman and a Poetry Masterclass (for poets with a strong publication track record) will be taught by Nick Twemlow. The courses, which are capped at 15 students each, meet once a week, and are a great opportunity for students to discuss poetry and get feedback on their work from writers from around the globe.

Applications, including a cover letter, resume, and a writing sample (5 pages of poems max) are due by May 8th. Full details are available here:

Anything you might be able to do to help us get the word out to interested poets in Zambia would be most appreciated!

Thank you for your time.

Ashley Davidson
Program Coordinator for Outreach and Special Programs International Writing Program Shambaugh House | 430 North Clinton Street | Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2020

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