Falling isn’t dying: Interview with Uganda poet Betty Kituyu

Betty Kituyu is a Ugandan writer who marries science and art. She is the author of theBetty Kituyi  closeup award-winning poem, Falling. MAI Trainer Lawrence Darmani interviewed Betty about her writing journey at our recent workshop with the Uganda Faith Writers Association in Kampala. 

Here is Falling:

The rain is gently
clapping at the rocks
outside my kitchen.

Its music
my desert.

A new song forms,
the sound of raindrops
washing my face.

The rain is steadily
taking me home
by twilight.

I am learning
from the weeping clouds
that falling isn’t dying.

Q: What is the story behind your poem Falling
I wrote this poem when I was down with a migraine and in a lot of pain. The rain kept pouring steadily and gently the whole of this day. It was perfect weather for my condition. As I stood at my kitchen sink to watch it, I found I liked the way it fell – gently – and how it was received by the rocks. There was music in all that, and I liked it. It healed me. Then I heard a knock on the door, and Moses, my fiancé, stood tall before me. The rain had steadily brought him home. I cried.

But it is the last stanza that surprised me–I am learning from the weeping clouds that falling isn’t dying. Those words just came to me after much editing of the poem. They resonated with me and stood strong and powerful in meaning.

Later at the Beverly Nambozo 2012 Awarding ceremony, everybody was talking about Bududa, the rain and mudslides (a natural disaster that hit the area). Then it occurred to me that my poem was prophetic. As I stood up to give my speech as a third-place winner, I told the audience that I came from Bududa.  They were so surprised. I also told them, “The rain fell in my village and my people died, yet my poem said that falling isn’t dying.” At that moment I began to believe that the poem had a personal message for me and my people. “Maybe there was a meaning to this death in my village, maybe dying is not the end,”  I told the teary audience.

(See Betty’s remarks at the awards ceremony)

Q: How has the success of this poem affected your attitude toward writing?
I have learnt to pay attention to the small moments in my life.  My poem which began at the kitchen sink has traveled vast distances across the world and is being read by students and people from all walks of life.  This has both humbled me and uplifted me to write and share my work more.

MAI encourages creation of literature not only for Christians but for the general reader.  We also focus attention on publishing for other oft-neglected audiences, such as children, youth and the poor.

Purpose Driven Publishing in Uganda, an Interview with Author Lillian Tindyebwa

Author Lillian Tindyebwa of Uganda shares about her writer journey with MAI staff intern Meaghan Zang. Last month MAI Trainer Lawrence Darmani led a writer workshop in Kampala with Lillian and the Ugandan Faith Writers Association (UFWA). Pray for UFWA as they lay foundations for launching a publishing house. 

When and how did you know that you wanted to become a writer?Lillian
I was influenced through reading, and I grew up reading many books at home. My late father was a teacher of English and, although he never wrote, he read a lot. When I was in primary school, I particularly remember coming across an old copy of Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress among his things and reading it.

I had often thought that I could be a writer, especially during my secondary school. For some unknown reason, possibly due to lack of role models, I did not get around to putting pen on paper until much later in my life.

Are there any challenges unique to being a female Christian writer in Uganda?
As a woman, I have to balance many roles which hardly leaves me with enough time for writing. I still do not have role models of female Christian writers, but I know I am called to be the role model, so I am at peace now with this issue.

Describe one or two of the books you have written.
I have written one full-length novel, entitled Recipe for Disaster, which mainly deals with the dangers of peer pressure in secondary school and also tackles problems of HIV/AIDS.  Although it does not quote verses in the Bible, it still shows the wrong decisions leading to disaster. A publisher in London rejected it, saying it was too moralistic, but it was published by Fountain Publisher in Kampala and is now used in secondary schools.  Teachers tell me it helps them communicate with students about the problems they face and how to avoid them.

My other works are mainly short stories, and my most successful one is titled Looking for My Mother.  It deals with problems of rejection and teenage pregnancy.

How did you become involved in founding the Uganda Faith Writers Association?
Uganda Faith Writers was born out of prayer sessions with my friend Betty Kituyi. We both had time between jobs and decided to seek God to really get to know His purpose for our lives. We read the Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren every day and sought Him. There was no doubt that the Association was what He wanted us to do.

Why are you hoping to start a Christian publishing house in Uganda?
Like I mentioned earlier, when I wrote my novel, a London publisher rejected it for being too moralistic. Yet in Uganda, it is popular. I know there are many Christians in this country with many good testimonies, stories, sermons and expositions that could help others to grow in their faith. When published, these writers could serve as role models, and a local publishing house would go a long way toward meeting these needs and pushing forward the work of God.

Do you have any advice for aspiring Christian writers?
Seek God and never give up!

More MAI articles about Lillian and UFWA:
Redeeming the Night: Youth tramautized by war write with UFWA
The writer’s call in Uganda


God is here

Laura Bonney of Canada drafted this poem in a LittWorld writing workshop led by Lillian Tindyebwa and fellow members of the Ugandan Faith Writers Association. Laura’s poem speaks of the unity experienced by participants from vastly different areas of the world.

God Is Here

The birds, God’s alarm
clock, reminded me
of the Creator’s Presence
before dawn. Yesterday on the
bus ride, children with
broad smiles waved from
the side of the road, welcomed
us offering their friendship.
Today in the workshop, as
the Ugandan team share,
I am reminded of the living
God who binds us together.
Although we come from
different countries and
cultures, we can identify
with one another. Most
of us have desert experiences,
trials in life. The common
things of nature: sand,
rain, rocks, sky, help
us process experiences
and give our souls
perspective and hope.
The team work and
beautiful faces of the
Ugandan team blesses
me – their songs, stories,
bring tears to my
eyes. God is here.

By Laura Bonney

Illustration used by permission of Didier Millotte

The smiles are warm

Author Lillian Tindyebwa of Uganda engaged participants of her writing workshop at LittWorld with a model poem on the theme, “God is here.” Her poem captures the devotion of assembled believers and the rich beauty of the Kenyan landscape.

God Is Here

The smiles are warm
Like the early morning sun
Handshakes are strong
Like the lions
Of Samburu

Windows fling open
By mesmerized
At dawn
Sounds of bird songs
Fill the rooms,
Mingle with prayers
Of saints

Under the blue and grey
Skies of Kenya
they are gathered
From the ends of the earth
He created
Leaves shake with
His breath
Whispering assurances
Of His love to us all
God is Here

By Lillian Tindyebwa

Illustration used by permission of Didier Millotte

If Christ was to write to the Church in Uganda

Submitted to the LittWorld 2012 writing contest by Rekisa of Uganda:
If Christ was to write to the church in my country, he would say little, because all is already recorded in the word of His Father. His letter is already with us, in the parables, proverbs and psalms and other accounts as recorded by Paul and the others who walked with Him before and after His shame and victory at Golgotha.
However, if Jesus Christ were to write a letter to the church in my country he would remind us of His Love, Mercy and Grace. His letter would address the leaders of His church, reminding them to spread the good news and stop fighting each other. His letter calls them to love one another and draw His followers towards Him, so that His church would unite and become the true salt and light of the nation.
His letter would acknowledge that though His followers had many troubles in this world, they should be strong because He, Christ, has already overcome the world. He asks that we tap into His joy and peace, and turn our eyes to His Holy Spirit for comfort and wisdom. His letter keeps reminding us that we are more than conquerors through His strength in us.
He ends His letter to us with a caution for us to watch and pray in these perilous times, that we take care not to trip and fall in the trap of the one who roams around seeking to devour us. He reminds us that because He is the vine and we are the branches, we should remain in Him so that He may remain in us – victorious.

Learn how you can submit articles and win cash in the LittWorld 2012 writing contest, “Blogging for Global Impact.”

Photo above: Church in Entebbe, Uganda; courtesy of Wikipedia, by June of Malaysia