One Of Ghana’s Finest Writers, Samelia Talks On Writing

Samelia Bawuah

Samelia Bawuah

Q1. First of all, tell us a bit about yourself? Who is Samelia?

I am a Christian, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. My relationships mean a lot to me. I was born in the late 70’s in Accra to Vivian Serwaa Adu, an industrialist and Dr. Samuel K. Osei, a doctor. I have 2 sisters and a brother. I was raised in Dansoman where everyone on our street was seen as a family extension. I grew up as much in my own house as the neighbours’ houses.

….We walked to and from school, on most days. Everyday was an adventure waiting happen. And in Dansoman, as big as it was, everyone knew each other. I went to Holy Child School in Cape Coast, Oxford Media and Business School, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and University of Missouri – Columbia.

I loved school, some of my happiest memories are from school. I had a great childhood, full of laughter and great memories. I am a home body, I love people but I enjoy my own company.I am married to Kwaku Bawuah, a businessman.

Q2. Did you always wanted to be an author? What sparked your interest in the writing business?

Did I always want to be an author: Never. I always thought I would do something that involved travel. I thought I would probably end up a lawyer. My degree is in Hotel and Restaurant Management. I ended up in writing because it was challenging. It was not easy and that challenged me to start, go through the process and complete it, somewhere between the beginning of writing and completing it, I fell in love with it.

Q3. How many books do you have to your credit?

How many books: 12 story books for children and Young Adults and 10 activity books for nursery and Kindergaten.

Q4. Who influences you in your career?

Who influences my writing: I would say God and my readers. I am a vessel of God and I know I was born to write. Life is easier once we find the purpose for which God created us. How long I will write for, I don’t know. But for now, I am loving what I do. My readers also influence what I write. They send me feedback on what they want to read and as much as possible, I oblige them.

Q5. What would you be doing if you were not an author?

If I were not an author, I would be a farmer. I love pottering about in the bush. I like to see things come out of nothing, maybe that is why I write, something comes to mind, a word at a time, a sentence, a paragraph, a page and before you realise it, you’ve birthed something special

Q6. What else are you known for apart from writing books for children and young adults?

I am a part time writer and a full time business woman.The Dubai China trips are my hustle, I import and sell stationery items. I also work at Rose Aluminium. That is where I report to every morning at 7.30 a.m. It is the family business so I get to take time off, when I need it.

Q7. What are you working on now and what should Ghanaians expect from you?

I am working on introducing a spunky character who starts off as an underdog and rises to the top through hard work and sheer determination. This book is for younger readers 7 to 10-year-olds.

Q8. How do you view the writing business in Ghana? What do you think could be done to make it much better?

Here in Ghana, the writing business is not for the fainthearted. Very few people can live off it. Every one has to have a second job, I speak for myself, I have always kept a second job to supplement my income. The reason is that our distribution network is poor coupled with dishonest people who have no qualms about not paying you for what they have sold. You learn very quickly who to deal with and who not to deal with.

Q9. What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I am hoping to go beyond our borders and reach an international audience, tell them our stories and show them there is more to the Ghanaian way of life

Q10. Which writers inspire you?

The writer who has had the greatest impact on me has and will always be Enid Blyton. We grew up with her through her books.

Q11. Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?

No! I have not done any writing collaborations yet, I think its a matter of writing styles. If I meet an author whom I click with, why not?

Q.12 At what point in your life did you decide to become a writer?

I moved back to Ghana from the States in 2005, It was my godson’s birthday, I wanted to get him a book. I roamed a lot of bookshops and slowly realised, most of the books were the same books I had grown up with. The Enid Blytons, the Sweet Valleys. Books like that, and the variety was not that great. If children are not given age appropriate books to read, they graduate to the romance novels to early for their own good. I started experimenting with writing a book, early 2006 and have not stopped since.

Q13. Do you write full-time or part-time?

I am a part time writer.

Q14. Where do your ideas come from?

Ideas! From everywhere. Inspiration can come when I am crossing the street or in having a chat with a friend. I told you earlier I enjoy my own company, that’s because there’s a movie constantly playing in my head. I can make up stories of anything, when the mood suits me.

Q15. How long on average does it take you to write a book?

On average a month to three months to complete a book

Q16. Do you read much and if so who and what are your favourite authors and books?

I read a lot, I constantly have a book I am reading. I read whenever I have any prolonged wait. I go through two or three books a month now because of time constraints. My all time favourite books

Sundowners – Lesley Lokko; Quentins – Maeve Binchy; Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie; The lemon suitcase- Peggy Oppong; The Inheritance of loss – Kiran Desai; The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan

Q17. Do you think writers have the power to transform how we do things in Ghana and why?

I think writers can influence our thinking, we bring up topics that encourage discourse. I write for children and hope to influence them positively, let’s take my book ‘Miss Fresher’ the main character suffers from bulimia, that is eating and purging, in an effort to lose weight, I got a Facebook message from a reader who had the same problem, she identified with the character and because of the book, decided to get help. I got goose pimples when I read her message because I was naive of the impact, sentences I had written, could have.

Q18. There is an adage that says “the best way to hide something from the black man to keep it in a book”. This shows how poor our reading habit is. What do you think can be done to change this?

I think that adage is quite myopic, yes, Africans and people of African descent are not reading as much as our Asian or Caucasian brothers, but we do have some reading nations like Nigeria and Kenya.

Reading should be encouraged at a very young age, parents should read to their children. Spend 30 minutes a day with your child and see the results in three months or less. That 30 minutes should be a comforting time, laugh with them, gently correct them when they go wrong and praise them when they do right. In time they would gravitate towards a book themselves. Choose schools that are serious about reading. Some schools have reading tents, one hour reading time every day, book reports etc.

Q19. How do you think the internet has impacted the reading habit of students?

The Internet is a double edged sword, on one hand it has brought us all kinds of information readily, on the other hand it has made us lazy. I can research on just about any topic I want, but I also know that just because its on Google does not make the information sacrosanct. Because of the different search engines, I think its made people lazy to read from an actual book

Q20. What will be your advice to younger men and women who aspire to become great authors in the near future?

An author has to be reader, there’s no shortcut to writing. Reading teaches you what good writing is and what bad writing is. Writing is a craft, just like any craft, the more you practice the better you become. I read somewhere that writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. There are days when you are not inspired but you have to write, days when your editor will give you grief because of one word, days when nothing you write makes sense to even you but write anyway. And because our environment is only now recognising and appreciating writers, you will need another job to support your passion. Gaining recognition in writing takes time and perseverance. Don’t give up when everything around you in conspiring to make you forget.

Samelia Bawuah

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