Writing and coming up with a brilliant story idea may seem like an easy task to many, but many renowned writers and publishers beg to differ. Many writers and publishers claim that the secret to getting a winning story line that will leave a lasting effect on readers is through discipline, dedication and mostly spending years researching on that specific story idea.
Although Wahza Lopang is one such writer who has published materials in his name, how he ended up falling in love with pen and paper is rather a funny story. Never in his life did he think that one day he will find peace and enjoy being a writer. Lopang’s thirst for writing began at a tender age of 13 years when he was in tertiary school in Zimbabwe; little did he know that years later he would wish to thank those who drove him in this path he adores. “We were an all male boarding school. I developed my creative writing skills by writing love letters on behalf of my classmates for a small fee. When the girls responded favourably I was cheered, when they did not respond favourably I was threatened with a beating! So each time I wrote I had to outshine the last letter,” he said.
It was during this time that he realised that he was good in writing as he got more cheers from his classmates. The then young Lopang continued to express his ideas and thoughts by writing and soon, pen and paper became his best friend. “Each time I went into my little corner to come up with a story, I would for that moment forget all the life challenges I was facing, writing became my escape place and the more I did it the more I became good at it,” he said.
Lopang added that what inspired him to write were the books by Tom Clancy donated to him by a Peace Corps volunteer during his Tirelo Sechaba experience in Tsabong in 1992. “I eventually completed a manuscript I did based on my tirelo sechaba experience, The Colourblind Chameleon. I wrote about all the happy and sad encounters i came across as well as all the lessons I learnt. The script will be published by Botsalano Press,” he said.
The University of Botswana literature lecturer has now released a book online called The Guardian of the Spirit stone which is a story about an orphan who has a confrontation with a witchdoctor, a vegetarian chief and an alcoholic priest over an ancestral relic. “When I wrote this story I was basing my observation on Botswana culture which although progressing tends to live side by side with the absurd, many readers can relate with my story as how the underdog can make a success out of his life,” he said.
He added that he believes what makes a good writer is the ability to communicate with readers. He believes you have to make a story that is not far from real life and one that many readers can relate with. “The story has to come alive in a reader and they have to picture the characters in the novel as they read,” he said.
Although the reception that this book is receiving is encouraging, Lopang however said, his upcoming book that he is working on will show his maturity as a writer and hopefully get positive feedback. He is currently working on a novel about the stress (and joys) that maids in Botswana bring upon their employers. The book is entitled That Thing which eats Men.
With Tiro Sebina, Lopang is now patron of the UB Writer’s Workshop that is geared to getting students to unleash their creativity in all genres of writing in order to publish their works in the departmental journal. “I have also developed a Facebook page with secondary school teachers to share ideas on approaching literature in the classroom and I am currently working on a short story collection with Cassim Mazibane which should be ready by June,” he said.
He listed problems of creative writing being publishers in Botswana giving priority to school textbook material and this creates a lot of delays and frustrations in getting things done. This at times forces one to publish online which is not always ideal as it can cost you more to actually buy the hardcopy book.