Written by Zihan Kassam
The talks at Storymoja Hay Festival, or the Lit Fest as I call it, were so engaging that for some of us, when that whistle blew, it was quite hard to pull away and attend the subsequent sessions – quite literally. For the talented group that was present, I’m sure that with an opening statement like that, you’ve already deduced what session I’m referring to; The “Writing about Whistleblowing” seminar.
As I analyzed the conversation from the point of view of an aspiring writer, I couldn’t help but pay closer attention to the questions that Author, Michela Wrong was asked by members of the audience and her responses to them. I found myself focusing on the nature of the questions posed to her. The consequence of my experience was a harsh wakeup call regarding the responsibilities associated with writing professionally. Passion, I believe, is at the root of the writing but the writing itself has to be ‘more than a feeling,’ more than just articulate. For non-fiction writers, a lot of intense research is required. You have to know your subject matter in detail, especially when your content takes on a political disposition. When you write about the affairs of state, even when your work is Historical Fiction, you can anticipate dire scrutiny from the public. Consider this a reminder that anything less is just good fortune.
The questions posed to Judy Kibinge and Michela Wrong pulled away from the specificities of their work as the audience almost obliged the two to take on the role of politician. How do you think the new constitution will affect corruption in Kenya moving forward? What do you think of Wiki Leaks? Do you expect John Githongo to involve himself in politics in the future? Why do people remember Githongo whereas almost Munyakei seems forgotten? These kinds of questions require you to reach outside of the books content and have a significant scope of knowledge regarding Kenya’s political framework. Lucky for Michela, her experience in Kenya and as a journalist means that she can answer these questions quite effortlessly. Actually, I was impressed and inspired by the assured manner in which both of them answered the questions raised.
The interview really confirmed to me the importance of accountability. Be prepared, you may just be liable for every point you make. It forewarned of the harsh critiques, the judgment and the potential aftermath of intense interviews that may follow political stories set in countries as interesting as ours.