Confessions of an African Author Fan

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The weather in London was glorious, but I was firmly ensconced in the overly air conditioned environment of the British Library for three days of the 2nd annual Africa Writes Festival.

I’d come to speak at the Digital Publishing event but the real highlight – and the reason I missed Andy Murray making history – was being surrounded by some of the best writers in the world. Everywhere I looked I saw authors who I’ve long admired. I felt like a child at Disney World, hoping to meet Cinderella and Goofy to get an autograph. But here the stars were Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Nii Parkes, NoViolet Bulawayo, Leila Aboulela and dozens of other highly accomplished authors.

Hearing all five Caine Prize 2013 shortlisted authors read from their stories was truly inspirational. On Monday, I was happy to see Tope Falarin accept the winning prize for his wonderful story “Miracle.” I am so glad that I did not have to choose the winner as all the other stories were amazing too. You can actually enjoy all of this year’s shortlisted authors via the handy Caine Prize anthology called “A Memory This Size“(available for pre-order on Amazon but I was a lucky recipient of a copy at the festival).

One thing that struck me as I sat mesmerized is the fact that although it’s great to see these talented authors launched onto the global stage where they belong, they do leave behind a vulnerable audience. Most children and adults across the African continent will not have access to their amazing books and stories. All young people in Zimbabwe should be able to read Tendai Huchu’s wonderful book “The Hairdresser of Harare” and NoViolet Bulawayo’s touching novel “We Need New Names“, but with traditional paper publishing most will not. At best they may see poor quality photocopied versions on the streets.

At Worldreader we are trying to change this. Thanks to the support of The Caine Prize for African Writing we have several prize-winning authors contributing short stories to Worldreader Mobileand I am more determined than ever to continue the hunt for more. I met several of our current and future author advocates over the weekend and of course insisted on a photo to make everyone back at HQ insanely jealous!

With the tall and very handsome Nigerian writer Chuma Nwokolo. His anthology of short stories The Ghost of Sani Abacha is not to be missed. You can read a few of my favorites on Worldreader Mobile.

Sudanese writer Leila Aboulela’s Caine Prize winning short story The Museum is available on Worldreader Mobile. It was nice to be able to thank her in person.

Both NoViolet Bulawayo and Tendai Huchu will become Worldreader advocates I have no doubt. NoViolet told me she’d love to go down to our programs and conduct writers workshops with our students!