Literary Circle

I Don’t Write For Money, I Write For My Perception of The World – Troy Onyango

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Our guest on today’s show has been published in Ebedi Review, Brittle paper, Afridiaspora and Wawa Book Review.

He is none other than the amazing Troy Onyango!!!


Let’s usher him in with a round of applause, please. Hello, Troy. Welcome to the show. Nice to have you here.

Thank you.


Let’s get started. Please tell us how fulfilling it is to be a writer. If it is not, please state same.

In every way imagined, writing has been the very fulfilling. I move around every day and take the world in through writing.


A couple of my previous Nigerian guests have said writing is not lucrative. Is this also true for Kenyan writers?

This is true even in Kenya. But I don’t think we write for the money. I write because that is the way I perceive the world.

Of course, as a writer you have to eat and pay for your bills. But if your single motivation for writing is money, then the frustration will be real.


How can a writer be internationally recognized like you? Do you have a “Baba” or regimen we should know about?

Internationally recognised? Haha, I don’t have a literary “godfather” if that’s what you are asking, but one of the best writing advice I ever got was, “you have to put in the work. don’t call yourself a writer unless you write.”


Even writers who don’t write for the money, need money. How do writers create a balance between writing and money making?

Just write. if someone likes your work enough, they will pay you for it. And know your value. Once that happens, you start getting paid for your writing.

And, I think, you shouldn’t quit your day job too soon


Tell us about the @brittlepaper shortlist and the @MilesMorland grant.

Tell us how you clinch so many awards!

I didn’t win either. I am constantly surprised when I see my name on the shortlist of an award. It feels nice every time.


When I went through your website, I almost drowned! You have many stories! How do you combine writing with a job?

“If you love something, you will create time for it.”

I work in a busy law firm so I have to get up early or sleep late so I can get some writing done before work.


1 Kenyan shilling is 4 naira. Tell us in shillings or naira how much you have made since you started writing.

1 Kenyan shilling = 3.6 naira. (tongue out)


A lot of young writers seek validation from the older ones. What’s your take on this? Do you mentor anyone at the moment?

I don’t have anyone I am mentoring at the moment since I still don’t believe I am capable of that.

I have not had a mentor as a writer. However, I have reached out to writers who are more established to ask for help & they always do. Always.


Let’s talk publishing and this mad rush to publish in western journals.

Why do African writers kowtow to the West?

1. They pay.

2. They have a rigorous editing process which is valuable to a young writer.

3. Resources.

4. They offer visibility for a writer who is just starting out.

But African journals are rising and as soon as they have resources, they will be able to compare.


But do you encourage mentorship? Especially among young writers and older ones?

Not at all. Your mentors are the books you read. Read more. Read always. Pay attention to the craft. That is all really.

I think Troy Onyango just dissed African publishing platforms. Something about them not PAYING writers.

*sips tea*

Not a diss, but that’s the reality. Very few pay not because they don’t want to, but they are simply not capable. Resources are limited when it comes to this.


Let’s talk about the Caine Prize. You were called to attend or facilitate the workshop? Tell us about that.

I remember getting the invite via email from Lizzy Attree on my birthday and I felt so happy about it. The workshop just ended last week and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. Writing in that environment, surrounded by all those amazing writers is just so wonderful.


Wow! Amazing. How can young and struggling writers like us get an invite?

Write. Write. Write. Get published. Submit to the prize. You may not get shortlisted but that is one of the ways to get invited to the workshop.


You didn’t answer the question about how much you have made from writing. (side eye)

Haha I did. Check my answer again.


Two things before we leave.

-Drop a message for your editor. Something you can’t say to his/her face.

-Last words for writers


1. I wish you didn’t remove my commas or the semi-colons.

2. Read. Write. Read. Repeat.


We want to thank Troy Onyango in a special way for honoring our invitation. From all of us at @SynCityNG , we appreciate your presence!


Thank you for having me. I appreciate.


This interview was originally held on SyncityNG’s Twitter. Follow the #SyncityNGLLL to be a part of the conversation.

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