Mubanga Kalimamukwento

Mubanga is a Zambian author of The Mourning Bird (Jacana Media, 2019), which was listed among the fifteen most notable books of 2019 by Brittle Paper. She won the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award, the Kalemba Short Story Prize, and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2022 Bristol Short Story Prize, Bush Fellowship, and Fractured Lit Flash Fiction Prize.

  1. Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story? 
    The Mourning Bird is a novel about how one family splintered in the worst days of AIDS for Zambia. I didn’t choose to write it as much as it chose to be written and I happened to be the vessel for its creation. I used to think it took me six months to write this novel, at least before I started submitting it seriously but recently, I’ve realized this novel has been living in me since I was about seventeen. It’s been so long now I don’t remember how exactly I started writing it, but I found a ten-page draft in an email from nearly twenty years ago. 

  2. Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?   
    I try my best to write and read every day. I write across genres so as a rule, if I’m writing poetry, I’ll read fiction, and vice versa because I don’t like to be influenced by the content or style of what I’m reading but with how much I write, if I didn’t read while writing I wouldn’t read at all. Research happens later in my creative process, at least not before I start writing the piece. The most difficult part for me is editing the work which takes the longest and doesn’t always feel creative.   

  3.  Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
    I am currently reading Ru Freeman and finding her range incredible. I have devoured every story Lesley Nnekah Arimah has written and I don’t think I’ll ever forget Uwem Akpan’s My Parents’ Bedroom. 

  4. What inspired you to start writing? What is your favorite place to go for inspiration and/or your favorite place to write?
    I've been in love with stories all my life. Telling them, reading them, listening to them. My mother taught English literature so of course we were surrounded by books. I don’t have a physical place I go to write. I don’t really need that, but mentally I’m able to crawl into the space I need to write by listening to Silence by Pompi.

  5. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time? 
    Phew, spare time indeed. I’m a student right now, so a lot of my non-writing time is spent reading. I learn a lot from the work of others, even when I am wearing my editor cap. I work for Doek! as a Fiction Editor and volunteer some time with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop too. For my family, I love baking and decorating their birthday cakes. I’ll always make time for that.

  6. Favorite place to visit in Minnesota?
    To read, my family and I go to the Shoreview library quite a lot. To eat, we are mildly obsessed with China Tiger Restaurant. And to write, I love Minnehaha Park when the waterfall is full.

  7. Where can readers find you online? 
    Twitter: @Utushimitwandi