Writing as a creative art, has always been a daunting undertaking for many except 31-year-old Botho Lejowa who has taken to writing like a baby to formula milk.
The Tlokweng-born woman whose love for the pen began during her early years at Maruapula School were she did her secondary education after graduating from Lesedi Primary School in Gaborone, is the recent winner of the African Writers Trust Publishing Grant 2020. She reveals how she won and explores the excitement the opportunity presents for her vocation as a publishing Author.
Winning the prize
Lejowa states that the funds that come with winning the prize will enable her to expand her vocation in the field. “The platform the African Writers Trust has given me through this win is immense and I will forever be grateful for having the opportunity to grow my network in the African literary circles,” she beams, adding that the Seed fund basically means that she will not be working on anything new as of now because getting the book published is going to be a full time job for some time.
“Another huge benefit of the win is that I have gained a lot recognition in the writing community in Africa, something, which is evidently important in my journey of becoming one of Africa’s memorable writers,” she says.
Lejowa’s journey to clinching the organisation’s funding began with a call for applications for its Publishing Fellowship Programme 2020, which she applied to and was accepted as a fellow.
She proceeded to attend the week long programme in Uganda in the company of 11 other fellows from across Africa. The attendees were then invited to apply for the seed fund to publish their projects, a difficult process that she remembers taking to heart and ending up getting awarded the ultimate prize, money to publish her latest book titled “Meetings with Death”. “It was a really tough application and I was up against some incredible writers from different African countries. It was not an easy win at all but I won. I don’t take that for granted,” she remembers vividly.
The winning script
Lejowa says “Meetings with Death” is a piece inspired by African traditional belief systems. She explains that Africans’ relationships with spirituality and their ancestry peaked her interest as well as the general belief in the realness of premonitions. The book also explores the phenomenon of superstitions in the context of the African traditional belief system. “I deeply thought about that and that is how the book came about,” she states.
Botho and literature
Her unwavering love for literature grew from a passion of reading early on. “Everywhere I go, I have a novel on hand,” she adds. The avid reader is also thankful for technology that makes her read her books on her phone screen instead of lugging around a book everywhere she goes. “Thank God for e-books because I get them on my phone,” she chuckles, stating that she is inspired by many writers of varying genres. Fantasy Authors Jaquelin Carey and Karen Marie Moning are at the top of her list as their “characters are very compelling and Carey’s world building is unmatched. I am also a huge fan of Warsan Shire poetry, she is amazing!” she swoons.
“Meetings with Death” is not Lejowa’s first book. She has another fantasy novel that she published in 2015 titled “Leah: A Seer’s Legend” that propelled her writing into the public domain.
Apart from being an Author, Lejowa is also the Founder of ‘Write Me Free’. A Group focused on developing writers in Botswana that started through a self-facilitated bi-annual workshop in 2018. The Group had to stop the workshops due to the eruption of the Covid-19 pandemic and resort to operating as a private group on Facebook. “My hope is to have ‘Write Me Free’ become a Trust that can develop the writing skills in Botswana as well as provide financial assistance to writers. I believe that assistance from the government would go a long in helping to achieve this,” she dreams, adding in the same breath that “Write Me Free is my heart baby. It has the potential to have such a huge impact on talent development in Botswana and I am super focused on making that happen,” she promises.
Despite being on her way to becoming a force to reckon with in the literary space, Lejowa had haboured dreams of becoming successful in the main stream professions such as being a Lawyer or venturing into business. She holds a Bachelor of Business Commerce in Management and Marketing from Monarsh University in South Africa from where she enrolled into a culinary school. “I have been working in the marketing space for seven years and I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing at associate level. Writing was always a spare time thing. A self-therapy sessions kinda deal,” she reminisces.