Interview with Kanengo Rebecca Diallo, Winner of the 2013 Rising Writer Prize

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“Why do I write? I write to inspire other people and to create my own characters and bring them to life.” – Kanengo Rebecca Diallo, Winner of the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers.

Kanengo Rebecca Diallo is an incredible twelve year old writer  who lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with her parents and two siblings. She is a seventh grade student at the International School of Tanganyika (IST). Her story, Pieces of Africa, is about four children with diverse backgrounds who come from different parts of Africa. They have been chosen to find all the magical puzzle pieces scattered around Africa in order to save the world. 

We had the opportunity to chat with Kanengo and find out how she developed her passion for writing at such a young age. Read our interview with her below!

What is the first thing you remember writing and how old were you?

I wrote a story about how lying had consequences when I was ten years old. That is the story I remember vividly. I started writing stories when I was as young as seven.

 At what age did you realize you wanted to write?

I realized writing was what I wanted to do for a long time when I was in fourth grade. I was about the only person in my class who would write pages and pages of stories when our teacher handed out writing assignments. Not only did I like writing the stories, I would admire them when the teacher put them up on the wall. The best compliments I treasured were the ones people would give me about my stories. I didn’t realize I liked writing so much until the day my teacher read out one of my stories to the class and every one said I should become an author.

 How did you find out about the Golden Baobab Prizes and why did you decide to enter?

I found out about Golden Baobab when I was in the sixth grade. An announcement about the competition was posted on the school bulletin board. I was actually late to school that day and my friends told me I should enter a story. I thank a lot of people for encouraging me to enter the competition. I also decided to enter because I wanted to finally get a chance to fulfill my dream of becoming an author. Now I'm one step closer to that dream! 

 What does winning the Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers mean for you?

It is the greatest honor to be Golden Baobab’s winner for the 2013 Rising Writer’s award. I will never forget this day. Winning the competition means a lot to me! Having had my story read and evaluated by so many incredible people is a huge plus. I am also very excited to be one of the judges on the panel for the 2014 Golden Baobab writing competition.

 What inspired you to write Pieces of Africa?

I was inspired by a previous story that I had started to write in fifth grade. It was about the four seasons instead of the four elements of earth. I thought this would relate more to African children. The stories had very different characters and settings but the central idea was common to both stories. One day I hope to turn the story I wrote in fifth grade into one of my series.

 What is the most important thing you’ve learned about life so far?

Life is a gift from God. It is very valuable because it is short and we should use that time to do great things that will leave a mark on this planet and in people’s lives.

 What is your favourite local meal?

 I have so many! I quite like chapatti and choroko (green grams). I usually like eating it on a cold day to warm my belly.

 What is the last book you read and liked and why did you like it?

The last book that I read and liked a lot was the Winnie Years series. I liked it a lot because it was told in a child’s perspective and it talked about the challenges of growing up. Another reason I liked the book was because I could relate to the main character when she was twelve years old as I am also twelve years old.

 What are your writing ambitions for the future?

 I will write the second book of the Pieces of Africa series and hopefully get it published. After that, I am hoping to start a new series and draw comics too. I think I will write five books in all for the Pieces of Africa series.

Thanks for chatting with us, Kanengo. We know you will go on to write amazing African children's stories!