1. Why do you write children’s/young adult’s books? Tell us about the attraction of this genre.
As someone who regularly engages with children, I found it incredibly important to contribute to the compendium of Ghanaian, and by extension, African books. I am passionate about telling culturally relevant stories. This is what drew me to this genre. I really can’t wait for the world to see the magic I create!
Talk to us about your book in the context of relevant SDG(s). How does it address SDG concerns?
Project Pinkaso heavily draws on SDG 2(Zero Hunger) and SDG 8(Decent Work and Economic Growth). There are countless children who go hungry daily. We cannot expect a hungry child to concentrate in class. I wanted this book to be the start of a conversation about malnutrition, child wasting, and hidden hunger. In terms of SDG 8, we all see how jobs are created when the characters’ school starts a farm. Many SDGs are inextricably linked. Sometimes in solving one problem, others are also solved.
Tell us about the research process for your books in general, and for Project Pinkaso in particular?
Research is incredibly important for me as an academic. I love to pore over research articles, pictures and videos that are relevant to what I’m working on. Then I start saving ideas I want to work with. I work through the plot, characterization and the setting of the story and go back and find any other details that may be necessary for what I’m working on. As I write, I come back to my research and tap into it as necessary. I am also passionate about verisimilitude, and so I like to work with editors who help me achieve this.
How do you work with your illustrator? Walk us through the process.
I share both the text and illustration briefs with my illustrator. I always like to set up a quick call after emailing my work, just to make sure everything I need has been effectively communicated.
Now, what works best is the illustrator sharing the sketches for us (myself and the designer) to match with the text. That way, he makes the changes before going ahead to colour and finish up.
What are the advantages and disadvantages in modeling characters after people you know?
I don’t see this in terms of advantages and disadvantages. What I usually do is ask for permission to use people’s names. If I absolutely have to model my character after someone, I will most likely pick a trait or something small, and connect it to another trait, just so whatever I end up with is unique to my character.
What in your opinion are the most important elements of good writing?
A great plot, characters with depth, great use of verbs, and a great style (in terms of diction).
In view of your book’s status as a UN SDG Book Club Africa book pick, what would you like to see in terms of impact and reach?
It would be great if my book travelled across countries and continents, if those who engage with it do so in all sorts of ways, create activities from it, illustrations and posters, or just use it as a conversation starter.
If you could meet any of your characters from any of your books, which would it be? What kind of conversation do you envisage having?
It would most likely be the children. I love the curiosity of children, and I would anticipate being asked so many questions. I love questions because they sometimes bring up more questions, they challenge you and keep you on your toes, and they make you think critically and brainstorm.
Finally, what words of wisdom do you have for today’s children, growing up in our social media and screen-dominated world?
Create without boundaries—creating should not be limited to words in books. You can create games and song lyrics and posters and comics. Oh, and read, you really can’t do one without the other. Have fun while you are at it!
Akua Serwaa Amankwah Profile:
Akua Serwaa Amankwah is an interdisciplinary creative artist from Ghana with research interests in Children’s Literature, Creative Writing, African Literature, Food, and Photography. Her stories have been published in Tampered Press, The Mirror, and Flash Fiction Ghana. She has been published in the Kenkey for Ewes, Resilience, and A Mind to Silence anthologies. She won the Worldreader Inspire Us Writing Contest in 2019, and the Imagining Early Accra Competition in 2021. She is an alumna of the 2021 Tampered Press Fiction Workshop and the 2022 AKO Caine Prize Writing Workshop.