Motswana wins African Writers Trust Publishing Grant 2020

Botho Lejowa’s winning manuscript titled “Meetings with Death,” that explores the themes of spirituality, magic, taboo, ritual and supernatural entities cleverly woven into a modern fantasy, writes GOSEGO MOTSUMI.

As if landing an opportunity to be a part of the African Writers Trust’s (AWT) Fellowship Programme that was held in Uganda in March this year was only a precursor to even greater things to come, local scribe Botho Lejowa was last week announced the winner of the AWT Publishing Grant 2020.

In January, the Trust that focuses on the professional development of rising talent in African publishing called out for the 2020 Fellows who participated in the week long mentoring and training workshop to apply for a publishing grant worth €4200 (around P55 000). Lejowa emerged victorious out of 30 candidates across Eastern, Southern and West Africa who were targeted.

“It’s an incredible moment of validation for me as a writer to think that this organization believes so much in my work to back me financially,” Lejowa said in an interview. “The literary landscape in Botswana holds so much potential. We just need more organizations that can help our development financially. It’s not a career to go into at home if you want financial stability. However, I believe this nod of acknowledgment will open new doors of opportunities for me.”

Lejowa’s first book is a fantasy fiction novel titled “Leah: A Seer’s Legend” that was published in 2015 in the United Kingdom. For the novelist, the AWT victory means she will be publishing her manuscript project titled “Meetings with Death,” which will adhere to international publishing standards. The manuscript explores the themes of spirituality, magic, taboo, ritual and supernatural entities cleverly woven into a modern fantasy that is set in both the streets of everyday life and the realms of ancestral beings.

The author, who is also a marketing professional, said: “The money is specifically for publishing and marketing my book, nothing else. The manuscript that won is ‘Meetings with Death’ and so now I have to start the work of getting it published.”

Speaking of Lejowa’s win, the Director of African Writers Trust, Goretti Kyomuhendo, described the writer as “dynamic.” “We are excited to be working with Botho Lejowa, a fresh, dynamic and highly-promising voice from Botswana with a broad range of talents suitable for this award,” she said. “With few fantasy writers on the continent, this is a novel with the potential of galvanizing more writers to follow in the fantasy genre and create a whole new audience of readers.

Lejowa is also the founder of Write Me Free, a creative writing group aimed at helping develop the writing potential of aspiring writers in Southern Africa. “I just want to keep writing,” she said. “This will be my second published novel, and although it’s slow going I think my writing career is headed in the right direction. I hope that the support that I’ve received so far from Batswana will translate into them buying the book once it’s been published.”