The Annual writers’ competition is becoming a flagship activity of the Quiet Garden Publishing House in Uganda. The first one was held in 2021, and nine manuscripts were received. The award-winning book, the memoir Woven in Spirals by Rev. Canon Diana Nkesiga, was published by Quiet Garden as part of the prize. This exciting activity carried out in partnership with Tyndale House Publishers is currently open, and the winners for the current year will be announced in May 2022.
Rev. Diana Mirembe Nkesiga receiving her award
The publishing house was founded in 2016 by the Uganda Faith Writers Association (UFWA). The journey to a full-fledged publishing house can be said to have started twenty years before when Lilian Tindyebwa and Betty Kituyi, both prolific writers, met at FEMRITE, an Uganda Women Writers’ Association that promotes women writing in Uganda. They had both contributed stories that were published. Upon realising that they were both Christians, the question of necessity formed in their minds, “Why not show our identity as Christians who are writing?”
They went ahead to found the UFWA in the year 2009 with the desire to help other Christian Writers to write and also to contribute Christian content. The group started meeting once a month to write, encourage, and critique each other’s work. Their first writers’ training workshop was held in June 2010 under the eminent writer and trainer Lawrence Darmani with Media Associates International (MAI). The writers attended subsequent LittWorld conferences in Nairobi, Singapore and Ghana and grew in their craft. The next natural question was, where or who would publish their work?
The Christian publishing industry in Uganda was not well developed, and their work was not very welcome to general publishers. With the obvious gap in Christian publishing, Ramon Rocha, MAI Director of publisher development, threw the challenge to the group, “Why not start your own publishing house?” He offered much-needed support, convening a publishing workshop in 2015 and training this group of writers on best practices in Christian publishing.
In 2016, the first three titles published by the Quiet Garden Publishing House rolled off the presses in India. The publisher has released at least two new titles every year since, except 2021 (the covid year) when one book was published. After the first two years, all the printing is done in Uganda. Quiet Garden received start-up funds from a global partner that helped establish an office. UFWA has 18 members who meet regularly, and among other services, they offer manuscript editing to self-publishers, and the Wandiika online magazine is a forum to showcase writing coming out of the association
The UFWA and Quiet Garden Publishers continue to battle valiantly to grow Christian publishing and are not discouraged in the face of poorly written manuscripts. They acknowledge the challenges of mother tongue interference when Ugandan authors write in English. They do not yet have plans to publish in other languages and are focusing on building their training programmes. The Annual writing competition accepts original manuscripts with Christian themes written by Ugandan writers 18 years of age and above in the four categories of novels, biography, autobiography or inspirational. The aim is to draw out talented Christian writers in Uganda and empower them in their writing with cash prizes and publication of the winner’s work, and a writing workshop for all shortlisted writers.
“There is a need to encourage people to read for pleasure as well as for knowledge. People seem only to buy textbooks. There seems to be little disposable income available for other books after buying textbooks,” says Lilian Tindyebwa, the Executive Director of UFWA, a published author whose first book, A Recipe for Disaster, published by Fountain Publishers Kampala, has been used as a reader for secondary schools. She sees reading competitions as a way forward to improve the reading culture. “When people read and share what they read, they are encouraged, and these can be hosted to encourage young people, especially through the churches.”
There is a need to encourage people to read for pleasure as well as for knowledge.
UFWA is particularly proud of one of its members Precious Collette Kemigisha, first-place winner of LittWorld Writing Contest #2, in December 2021. They see a great need for training in writing and publishing – no writing courses are offered in local universities – people are mainly self-taught. The writers are interested in growing their readership beyond their country, and the top of their questions is how to market their books across borders beyond Uganda.
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