Young African Authors to Watch: Ace Moloi

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Our promise, at Nunnovation, is to bring you Africa’s best and this young author is definitely one of the continent’s finest writers. The talented wordsmith recently launched his second book, Holding My Breath, a memoir he describes as a graveside conversation with his late mother.
Moloi recently sat down with Sisathi Nomatye to talk about his latest book, his upbringing and his successes as a writer.

Nunn: For those who don’t know yet, who is Ace Moloi? Take us through your childhood years
I was born in a village called Sekgutlong, found in Qwa-Qwa, Free State, where I was raised by a single mother. I finished my basic education in the village, before coming to Bloemfontein to further my studies with the University of the Free State in the area of communications and marketing.

Nunn: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I really can’t attach a specific period as it was more of a gradual interest than an eruption. I grew up reading a lot of newspapers and books, which I suspect played a role in exposing me to the world of wordsmiths. When I came to Bloemfontein I joined the UFS’ student newspaper, IRAWA Post, as a journalist. That’s where my writing career was sharpened

Nunn: You’ve just written your second book, Holding My Breath, is there a connection between this one and the first book?
The first book, which I regard as a demo of sorts, helped me to define my writing style and purpose. I think that sense of purpose comes out sharply in the second book.

Nunn: Tell us more about Holding My Breath. What’s it about?
It’s not easy to explain Holding My Breath, but the book is a conversation that most of us have had with our loved ones who left us. This conversation has often taken the form of poetry, or journal entries, or brief letters. It has taken place in graveyards between the living and the dead just as it features in prayer items. In unfortunate cases, we come across this desire to connect with those parts of our lives that have gone missing in suicide notes. Holding My Breath is a book written as a note to my mother who passed away a decade ago. In it I tell my story within my mother’s experiences as a single, uneducated working class woman who had to raise two boys in a village with poor services. By virtue of it being a letter to my late mother, it is quite an emotional book.

Nunn: What has stood out for you since launching this book?
The biggest highlight of this book is that it has created first time leisure book readers (people who had only read prescribed books) first time book buyers (people who had never bought any book outside the academic curriculum), first time book finishers (that is, those who had never read and completed any book except for academic purposes). What’s important to note here is that these are young people who had been written off as non-readers. Basically, my work has increased the reading market size. I’m proud of that fact more than I am about the overwhelming support my book is receiving nationwide, or the testimonies flooding my mailbox.

Nunn: What, according to you, are common traps for young writers?
Writers at large are victims of the psychology of our nation as expressed by attitudes towards books. We are really fighting against mentalities. Books are rarely featured on popular radio stations or on television. This means lesser awareness about reading, which then hinders the growth of writers and the literacy of the nation.

Nunn: What is the one thing you would like people to remember after reading your book?
My prayer is that the information in this book will lead to a transformation of the readers’ spirit. Whoever needs closure should find it in the pages of the book, those who lack understanding of black pain should be enlightened as they encounter this book.

Nunn: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Young writers struggle with asserting their identity in the market. It’s impossible to make a name for yourself if your writing style is not unique. So it’s important to stay true to yourself. Also, some writers tend to think that a work of literary quality is a complex one. That’s not really true, hey. Simplicity doesn’t mean artistic mediocrity just as there’s no relationship between quality and complexity. So as young writers we ought to write for the reader and forget a bit about the panel of judges or our own peers in the industry. I think I should also add that writing is not a money-making enterprise. So you have to be motivated by a greater sense of purpose which will outlive royalties of any size. Perhaps lastly, young writers are faced with serious marketing challenges. Truth of the matter is that your publisher doesn’t exist ONLY for you. Once your book is out, many other books also have to be released. Young writers need to be creative in selling their work.

Holding My Breath is now available on all bookstores across South Africa.

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