Elevating Local Authors in Uganda Through Quiet Garden Publishing: A Conversation with Lillian Tindyebwa and Betty Kituyi

We recently talked with Lillian Tindyebwa and Betty Kituyi, founders of Uganda Faith Writers Association (UFWA) and Quiet Garden Publishing Ltd. Lillian is the executive director of UFWA/Quiet Garden and is a Senior Faculty Lecturer at Kabale University in Uganda. She is author of Recipe for Disaster, a bestselling young-adult novel, and has written many short stories. Betty is the coordinator for Sales and Programs at Quiet Garden and has published two poetry books: Falling and Between My Thoughts. She is a Spring 2021 Perennial fellow and a leading mentor of STEM teaching and learning. MAI has provided writer and publisher training assistance for Uganda Faith Writers since 2010.

 

Tell us about Quiet Garden Publishing. Where did the vision come from, and what are you up to today?

The vision to start Quiet Garden Publishing evolved from a need. The area of Christian publishing was like a dry and thirsty land where there was no water. Our souls thirsted for a way to have our Christian work published. This need and desire increased, especially after the Uganda Faith Writers Association was formed.

The question was now: How do we go about establishing a Christian publishing house? As Victor Hugo, the French poet and novelist, said, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come!”

As we were struggling to think of how to start, it was time to attend LittWorld 2012 in Limuru, Kenya. While there, we had a meeting with Mr. Ramon Rocha from MAI, and as we talked about our challenges, he suggested that we could establish our own publishing house. This was the confirmation we were looking for.

Quiet Garden Publishing was registered in 2016 and has eight publications in its short existence. This year, we are focusing on young adult writing. Our project is titled “Publishing and Storytelling for Young People: Cultivating Communities of Young Readers for Christ.” By the end of this project, we will have two more publications.

In 2019, we held a Christian writing competition and the winner was Rev. Canon Diana Nkesiga for her memoir, Woven in Spirals, which was about her difficult journey to ordination as a female priest in the Anglican Church. This year, Quiet Garden is planning to hold the second competition specifically for young adult books.

Why are writing groups so important for new and experienced authors?

Writing groups are important for a number of reasons. First, writing is usually seen as an isolated profession. Therefore, when writers meet together, they get a sense of community, share thoughts and ideas, enjoy the camaraderie, and know that they are not alone.

Second, the writer who is working alone will often fail to spot obvious mistakes and errors. In a group, a writer can share whatever is being worked on and get unbiased critique to improve the work, which helps the writer hone his/her craft.

Finally, there is the benefit of getting professional contacts and support. For example, a woman in one of our writers groups got introduced to other poets who were able to advise her about getting her work published in a small chapbook (a small collection of poetry).

What have been some of the blessings and challenges in starting Quiet Garden Publishing?

When we started Quiet Garden, we wanted potential readers to be able to pick up a Christian book off Ugandan bookshop shelves and find local content written by Ugandans. In 2021, these initial goals have been achieved with eight of our titles available in leading bookshops throughout the country.

However, the main blessing we never anticipated was influencing young people in schools to read Christian books. Through our partnership with Step Publishers in Ghana, Quiet Garden put in a bid for Lawrence Darmani’s Grief Child in 2019 to be considered as a literature text for  English literature classes. Quiet Garden won the bid, and for the next five years Ugandan students will study Grief Child as one of their required literature books. In addition, Quiet Garden is set to launch a writing competition on children’s writing, and we will hold children’s writing workshops and publish the two winning books.

Quiet Garden’s main challenge now is to cultivate a stream of readers for its books. This is what we are praying for and working toward.

What are a few of the projects your authors are working on?

Our authors are a versatile group writing both fiction and non-fiction and participating in various creative activities like audio/visual productions, TV shows, and music. One of our writers went back to music school because singing was her first love. Another woman published her chapbook of poems titled #NotesToMyself101. She had been suffering from depression and found solace and relief in writing poetry.

Another of our authors has finished a collection of short stories and is having them edited with the hope of getting them published in the coming year.

We are also encouraging our authors to step out in faith both in the secular and Christian writing arenas to let God use them through their talents and gifts. One of them is now writing a Christian romance novel in the tradition of Francine Rivers.

We want to be a space where Christian writers can learn to express themselves through the stories that God has placed on their hearts and we are committed to doing this for years to come!

Tell us what God is doing today in Uganda.

Uganda has been in a state of flux due to the just-concluded presidential elections in which some civilians lost their lives during the caustic campaigns that led to riots in the capital city, Kampala. The government switched off the internet during this time, and this disrupted not just people’s social lives but the economy as well. This compounded the stress of a tough pandemic year and nationwide lockdown that pushed us all to our limits–financially, mentally, and emotionally.

However, it seems that God has taken what was intended for evil and turned it into good. During the national lockdown, families found themselves learning to love each other again. Wives and husbands were reconnected, children saw their parents more than ever before, and siblings learned to enjoy each other’s company again rather than simply bumping into each other during the short school holidays.

As we looked to God, he met our needs and answered our prayers on every front. Even among  the church community, he did a new thing. The church buildings may have been closed, but believers across the nation rediscovered intimacy with him through worshipping in their homes and reading the Word with their families. Indeed, God knows how to make everything beautiful in his time.

How can we be praying for you?

Please pray:

  • That the vision God has given us as an organisation may remain strong and that it may be deeply rooted and bear fruit that will last for all eternity to the glory of our Lord Jesus.
  • That we may be able to serve our members with humility and that God-given ideas about how to help them fulfill their destinies as writers will be released in the leadership and in the members of Uganda Faith Writers Association as well as in the authors of Quiet Garden Publishing.
  • That we shall be knit together in love, growing in unity and success not just as a separate organization, but that our partners may also experience deeper levels of love, unity, and growth as we fulfill our calling in Christ here on earth.
  • That God may raise a community of young readers for Christ in the country who are passionate for his Word and committed to doing the good works for the kingdom.
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