First Language(s): Gikuyu
Second Language(s): English, Swahili, German
Wambui Waldhauser is a Kenyan living in Vorarlberg, Austria. She recently completed a creative writing class with the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing winner, Makena Onjerika. Wambui is an enthusiastic reader and has published book reviews and essays on the online magazine Story Moja and on her personal blogs wambuiwaldhauser.at and on her social media handles under Reads And Reflections.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I did not have one favourite book. I remember reading anything and everything I could get my hands on from Ladybird Books when I was quite young to the children’s section of the Sunday newspaper, The Sunday Nation. My father used to keep it especially for me. At one time I read all the stories in the Bible. Books for leisure were not too many growing up and I simply read what I could get my hands on. I remember Enid Blyton and later, reading tons of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys series when I was between ten and twelve. With the onset of teenage I got into James Hadley Chase, John Kiriamiti, Sydney Sheldon, Wilbur Smith… generally a lot of popular crime and mystery, that is what was circulating among us young people. But it was also around that time that I started reading some of my current favourite authors: Thomas Hardy, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Nadine Gordimer and many others. Oh and C. S. Lewis. I loved C. S. Lewis.
Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
I think I have always had a special affinity with words no matter the language. My English and Swahili class compositions were always very creative, though my horrendous handwriting was frustrating to my early childhood teachers. Reading motivated me to start creating stories myself and writing them down. After that it was the reception that my writing got from my friends, my parents and especially my teachers that motivated me to continue. I remember writing a long-ish story, perhaps a novella by the time it was finished, when I was about 14 years old. My friends would read it as I wrote it and sometimes they would come to impatiently ask if I had added a chapter. Thinking back, the story was not very original but my friends and the pure joy of writing it really made me think that writing was perhaps something I could pursue later. I also had incredibly supportive English teachers all through high school.
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
I am not very adventurous, sorry to say. Though now that I think about it, it was quite daring to come to Europe alone at 21 years of age, and that for the very first time I left my family and my country. It started out as exciting, turned to scary/thrilling pretty quickly and later, all my senses were so attuned to learning a new language and a foreign culture that I pretty much forgot to be scared most of the time. My first few months, perhaps first few years in Europe were thrilling.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
I am not very choosy when reading. I can read anywhere. I do need my quiet when writing otherwise I get too distracted. If I have to write with unavoidable distractions around me, I will put on my earphones and turn some classical music on. That helps.
Issue Spring '23
Mohammed Odhiambo Oloo
Issue Spring '22