Breaking into the local publishing industry is hard for aspiring authors, but Sandra Nadege, 18, is emerging as one young writer whose efforts have paid off despite the tricky pandemic times.
Her first novel and second book, a memoir titled Light in the Dark, was launched last month. The 160-pager is a recount of Nadege’s life - her encounters, discoveries, growth and the bold path into embracing who she is today.
She begun writing the book aged 15 but had to wait until she was 18 to sign a contract for publishing.
“We could not let her sign approval for publishing it since she was still young, and neither could we approach her parents to do it,” explained Mutesi Gasana, the CEO of Ubuntu Publishers.
The publisher says the idea not to seek consent from Nadege’s parents was in line with the bold step she had taken in sharing her personal life.
“As a Rwandan parent, I too wouldn’t have signed that book for my daughter,” Ms Gasana remarked and added, “Putting honesty out there to the public is not easy.
There was a lot of self-debate in revealing it all." Nadege's manuscript to Ubuntu Publishers caught Ms Gasana’s eye because at 15, she had opted to cra‑ a bold personal story.
“She is a good writer, determined to make it happen, and we realised how her story could be a tool to heal other youth, a path we are proud to be part of,” Ms Gasana remarked.
Work on the manuscript went on seamlessly until production when they couldn’t get a printer to deliver the quality they desired within Rwanda.
“Quality printing has in the past been done out of the country. We normally printed from mainly Kenya, but it was practically impossible to do that because of the lockdown,” Ms Gasana said.
This challenge, however, led the firm down a unique path. Through a grant from the US African Development Foundation Ubuntu Publishers bought its first-ever printer and begun the journey of in-house printing, with Nadege’s novel as its first.
Self printing helped keep down the costs. Nadege's first publised work is a poetry collecion titled First Creation available on Amazon.com.
She has also been published in Writers Space Africa Magazine, in 60 Seconds of Silence, an anthology, and in Symbiosis, a literary magazine from prominent Rwandan poetry platform, The Swala Tribe.
Nadege says she now wants to help aspiring writers.
“As a young writer, I suffered in the hands of people who would lie they would help me with writing, and they wouldn’t do it,” she says.
Ubuntu Publishers is organizing school tours in February to publicise the work. The book is available in leading bookshops for Rwf10,000 ($9.9).