The author holds a copy of her book

Kingwa Kamencu, Kenya’s rising star

The author holds a copy of her book
The author holds a copy of her book

As a first year Literature student at the University of Nairobi Kingwa Kamencu took up the challenge by the National Book Development Council of Kenya (NBDCK), to come up with a manuscript for a novella, and won the second prize and Ksh35,000.
That was in 2003. The same novella, now in the form of a book – To Grasp at a Star – won the youth category of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, Kenya’s most prestigious literary prize.
An elated Kingwa says winning the prize is enough testimony that her writing can actually compete with the best in the country. Looking back at the manuscript she wrote as a student, she says at the time she not quite sure it would be among the winners. “I nevertheless submitted the manuscript and hoped for the best,” she recalls.
“At that time in campus I decided to write so as to overcome the disappointment of losing in student leadership elections,” she says.
During the awards ceremony, she got to interact with many personalities in the literary world, some of whom she had only read about in her Literature class. However, one individual was to make all the difference.
In the gathering was Barrack Muluka, who was then the managing director of East Educational Publishers (EAEP). “I talked to him and he asked me to submit the manuscript for consideration at the company,” says Kingwa her face lighting up at the recollection.
She wasted no time. The event was held on a Friday evening and by Monday morning an excited Kingwa was knocking at EAEP’s offices in Westlands.
Then the good news came. She was informed that her manuscript had passed the publication test only that they wanted another novella of the same length. Luckily, for her she had written one.
Her dream of being a published author was finally realised when she was in third year. To Grasp at a Star was finally born. She says that after the book was published, there was so much excitement both from her family members and university colleagues.
“My university lecturers were very proud of me. They held a launch for me at the university and even adopted the book for use in children’s literature,” says the only girl in a family of boys.
That was just the beginning for what was to be exciting times ahead for the book. When the Kenya Publishers Association announced that they were introducing the Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize, in 2006, in honour of the late humourist, EAEP entered Kingwa’s book for the competition.
She was pleasantly surprised when her book took third position behind Stephen Mugambi’s book Wait for me Angela (Kenya Literature Bureau). Onduko bw’ Atebe’s book The Verdict of Death, also by EAEP took the overall prize.
During this year’s Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature Awards, To Grasp at a Star won the overall prize in the youth category, beating Ken Walibora’s book Innocence Long Lost (Sasa Sema) to second position. Meja Mwangi’s book Boy Gift came in third.
The judging panel led by Prof Emilia Illieva of Egerton University was full of praises of the book.
“Kingwa Kamencu tells immensely interesting stories of young female adults who, under the impact of illusive ideas of success and glamour, get caught up in dangerous situations that nearly jeopardise the bright future they so much deserve by virtue of their outstanding qualities,” said Emillia.
Kingwa, who now works as a writer at the Media Institute, finished her undergraduate studies in August last year, where she graduated with First Class Honours. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Literature, a scholarship she got from the university.
She has attended various courses on writing including British Councils’ Crossing Borders programme. She has also volunteered during the Kwani Trust organised Litfest held in December last year.
She however thinks that more needs to be done to improve the literary situation in the country. “Writers need to be more serious in their writing and publishers need to market their products more,” she says. “Otherwise we will keep moaning about a poor reading culture forever.”

  1. KK is indeed a rising star!

    She has in her own way been an inspiration to many…young writers, women leaders and all her fans.

    To know that she would like to dip her hand into politics is a glimpse into a bright youthful future!

  2. For sure, nothing aspiring than seeing what Kamenchu is really doing. From the word begin, from the various functions we have seen her performing, she is a star that would soon let the world read what is really happening in this part of the world. I must say that we have taken her as our aspiration and mentor regarding the writing world. Her books are trementours and one is left not wanting to put the book down. we would wish that she considers running for the presidency of this nation one time! Thanks Kamenchu and let the fire burning in the writing world.

  3. Indeed kingwa has done it .brilliant, beautifully written and exciting story .
    We need more young people like her to uplift the culture of reading and writing in this country Kenya….Good luck and keep striving to the end.

  4. I met KK in one of the literary workshops last year and besides being such a talented writer and communicator, i must admit i have never recieved such outstanding encouragement from a lady.
    KK is indeed someone to look out for in the literary world.

  5. K.K is indeed a star to many women.She is a gho getter and knows that the star is not the limit

  6. Go go KK……….sky can never be your limit especially now that human beings are going beyod the sky into the mars and moon!!!!!!!!!You are destined to achieve even more. you are surely a shining star.Achieve the best at your earliest age.wish you well

  7. Keep it up Kingwa. Indeed you inspire me to complete my manuscript on employment law.

  8. KK is a truly wonderkund kinda gal, brilliant, kind, clever, hard workin.’
    And now, a Rhodes scholar!! Our very own Hillary Rodham, with SOUL.

  9. I have found it challenging from lady who is as creative as kk & also hard working

  10. Hello,I’m a youth,am turning 37 and am so hppy of u,am tired of wazee’s leadershp,
    Yes u can,u can beat em all,u hav all it tek’s 2b a leader,
    U dnt nid money bt courage n we r thea 2 encourage u,we r behind u,i myslf surpotrt u,
    Pls let me knw when ur mtings r hppenin,Am nt a rich man,bt am all urs n dedicated into ur politics.
    God bless u,God b with u.

  11. Hello,I’m a youth,am turning 37 and am so hppy of u,am tired of wazee’s leadershp,
    Yes u can,u can beat em all,u hav all it tek’s 2b a leader,
    U dnt nid money bt courage n we r thea 2 encourage u,we r behind u,i myslf surpotrt u,
    Pls let me knw when ur mtings r hppenin,Am nt a rich man,bt am all urs n dedicated into ur politics.
    God bless u,God b with u.

  12. “The youth revolution is our solution”
    welcome to the world of politics

    joshua odongo onono
    Advocate for the youth 2012-kenyan chapter

  13. I dont want to appear judgemental even though I cant stand the horrible contradictions being made by this aspirant. She claims her aspirations were induced by the death of her friends at the same time she says back during her days at Nairobi Uni she vied for a post and failed miserable.
    If we may ask her, how many Kenyans have died because of the government failure , from road carnage to Kumikumi brew.
    Ladies and gentlemen, Kenya is a big country with immense problems poverty of highiest order, cancerous unemployment, diseases and tribalism instigated by narrow thinking politicking in which we must admit have destroyed our beautiful country. Kenya is like a walking dead. Lets approach the presidency issue with cool heads not love or tribal love. I can only promise the paradigm shift of tribal politics as the parnacea to Kenya’s ultimate endeavor.

  14. I think we have so many problems, however, trust me that the people do not have the guts to tackle them just like the resources which when exploited without regard to tribalism will indeed make Kenya one of the best country in the world to reside.
    -We have fertile fields for proper agriculture, the agriculture system in Kenya needs absolute overhaul, Kenya must learn to trap river & rain water for irrigation, how many cubicmetres of water does our rivers damp into Indian Ocean yearly, its amazing

    -Manpower, despite unemployment Kenya still contract to overseas company for things like road constrction, port dredging, while we have engineers, economists and etc

    Kenya Ocean extends for over 640kms and 50miles to international waters, what a gift from God, go to spain and count the number of fish trawlers in Deportivo alone
    -Available sun light
    Another gift from God, temperatures in most parts of our counties ranges from 20-35, conducive for Agriculture, come on Kingwa Kamencu
    -Game reserves
    Iron Ore, coal, titanium, Magadi Soda
    To be honest very few countries have what we have, the moment you travel around the world with no doubt one will realize our country is one of the best. So whats are the problems, the main problem is not the leadership but the intelligence of kenyans, in 21st century still people do not want to learn a simple arithmetic of distinguishing bad and good, bad leadership and good leadership. Still kenyans preffer to affiliate themselves with tribes, clans and wakwetu. If I may ask how many kikuyus have benefited from Kibaki leadership, take the upperside as the flipside of the story, make them 100,000, and how many kikuyus do we have in Kenya, over 7 millions, so what does those figures tell us. The beneficiary figure is alsmost negligable, Stop being fooled, tribal politics have made us poorer. Do you know that the ruling elites do not have tribes, they seat around one table talking about their mega deals, please wake up kenyans, why we dont have such sub-division in Russia, Germany and even in USA despite the racial tensions, look at the picture of Americans voting in Obama, what are we learning from him. Lets change.

  15. I have always treated life like a football match, a team scores two minutes later the oppossing team equalize and adds another goal after four minutes. Good coaches like Roger lamere. Benitez to name but a few hardly celebrate until the last minute, this is how we are obligged to treat life.
    In 2002 kenyans refused to reason and voted empheorically to refute to Moi project, they were right because they didnt have another alternative. I told my comrades it was absolute madness to think we were there. Moi regime as per the standards was bad but honorable president Mwai Kibaki was at one time a key player, the fact that he was a vice-president in a single party state is not something in a blink of an eye should be put it in a dust bin. To be honest no body listened, instead there those who digested and spawned different story to make me look like a boggy man, saying I was a Kanu die hard, a symapthiser of Uhuru Kenyatta and Moi project.

    Three years later, to my amazement the same guys lamented openly that Moi regime was much better, it was even wrong to go against his wishes, his Uhuru project. Kenyans dont show different attitudes at different altitudes, one of them was a political scientist from Nairobi Uni with a first class degree, another a prominent lawyer with amazing english. Why are we this way its because we dont take time to process speeches, events, status, autobiographies of our leaders. Some of our leaders dont deserve even village chairmanship if they are to be critically analysed. Look at John Kerry and Jesse Jackson during there campaigns for American presidency, what were there blunders simple contradictions. As the say goes whoever can afford to steal a small thing will never hestate to steal a bigger thing. Contradicting is lying, how many contradictions do our leaders make, without waking up Kenya will continue moving backward, unemployment will swell, desertification will engulf, corruption will rife, diseases will blow us, poverty will strcken, water will sublime, population will burst, crime will prevail, pollution damage, technology darken, development doomed. kenya will seaze, cry for seccession persist. Horibble situations indeed.
    Why am I writing this, I dont hate Kingwa Kamencu, she is a lovely lady with alot to offer in a leterature world, but she cant be an effiecient president of this country, simple because though she is youthful but she sound to be propagating the old ideologies of the current political elite, she sound deeply harnesed by the dogma. The true new brand of politics not only in Kenya but in Africa as a whole needs different style contrary to power hungry creed. People with history of quest to lead others dont make good leaders, and my dear sister is no exception, her university life tells. People contradicting themseves dont make good leaders, and people who are emotional less intelligent can easily mess up and this is how she portrayed herself before the press.

  16. Gaddafi demise a lesson to dictators, but are they learning anything. For sure not really, they dont because satan fools them. They always think they have enough chicanery to escape supplimented by false hope. Power is from God, riches and political prowes is from God, it doesnt make sense in Kenya one family owns equivalent of Nyanza province. I will continue from there, its sad, when majority of Kenyans are landless. So the question remains do you think this family will own those parcels of land forever. Think again

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