Denyse Umuhuza: What it's like to be a Rwandan Writer

At 18 years old, Denyse Umuhuza wrote her very first published book, Uruhimbi rwa Nyanka, achildren. Her writing journey did not stop just there; her second book, the one she calls her “second baby” is ready and will soon be on sale at Edition Bakame and on different bookshelves in Rwanda. In an extended interview, Denyse said that she hopes the book Kalisawa Munyentamati will make deeper impact and touch more children’s hearts than her first book did.

The focus of this interview with Denyse is what it’s like to be an author, but most of all, the life of a writer in Rwanda.

* As a writer, do you have a writing schedule? Like how many hours do you write a day or how many hours do you write a week. And how do you stay on track?

A schedule? No. It all varies. No schedules, no rules because I write when I have inspiration. What I do is to stimulate my inspiration. I have created a magical box that I open every week, often on a Saturday evening or on a Sunday morning to get some sparkle of inspiration. As a university student who is stuck in tight schedules, I always write anything interesting that comes into my mind, be it in class or in a taxi. When I arrive home I put the one or two sentences I wrote in the box. In fact, this box has nothing extra-ordinary; it’s not fancy or any big. It’s just a small box in which I keep the small pieces of papers. At that time, I pick some pieces of papers that serve as prompts, and I let the words flow. So no schedules, no rules.

*Many authors, to keep themselves on course, they read. Which book or books are you reading at the moment and why did you choose it/them?

I am not the best of bookworms but I do read too. Not always though. The book I was reading in the last month is called “Women Who Run With Wolves” by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola. I read it because it inspires me not only as a writer, but as a person. As a woman.

* Rwanda, as a developing country, doesn’t have that many authors. And as an author, you entered into this small club of Rwandan authors. How is this life and which lenses do you view Rwandan authorship through?

I see the Rwandan authorship as a potentially growing field because of the conferences I have been privileged and humbled to participate in. Authors and writers I meet are young; many of them are in their twenties or thirties. The fact that I see that energy and that commitment in my fellow young people creates a flame of perseverance in me because I do not feel alone. I even feel challenged to always do better written pieces.

* How does your writing affect your relationship with other people; personally and professionally?

Well, I think my experience with writing is a bitter-sweet combination. When I introduce myself as an author, older people and some who are my age are like, “Wooow! You have a book? That’s great stuff!” And I am like, “Thaaanks!” I know that I still have a long way to go. However, some people come to me and are honest enough to say, “Writing is for those old people in glasses. Why would a school girl do that?”

*Do you have any plans to expand your audience from children to adults? And do you have any plans to publish an original book in English?

I love writing for children, and feel great in my comfort zone, but I would like to take on some adventures like doing poetry and I post some pieces on my social media to get some feedback. Furthermore, I have one short story originally written in English, and I have got the chance to have a great publishing house called Huza Press to accept the manuscript for publication. I am working hard on it.

* If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

Well, even though I write, I also do other stuff. I am doing my BA in Communications, and I hope to undertake a great career in Communications. This gives me much work, but I still write. So, whatever I will be doing, I can still write. Ink work is not for just bread earning. It’s a friend (and here I am not only talking about publishable pieces). On a paper, I get to empty my sack, I can say anything on a paper, so whatever I do I will still need that  friend.

* What is your favorite childhood book and why?
When I was little girl, I was in love with a comic book called “Sara.” It had that funny monkey character called Zingo, and it literally took much of my after-school time, when I was in primary school.

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