“Whenever a thing is done for the first time, it releases a little demon.” – Emily Dickinson
For as long as I can remember I have been a storyteller in one form or another; always attracted to the nuances of weaving words, and the complexity of an engaged audience. Torn between the desire to create and the crippling fear of failure in execution, or an indifferent reception to my art, but always cognisant of just how less inadequate I feel whenever I am seated somewhere…playing with characters and names and worlds I can control.
My mother started this; she believed in my writing long before I knew what writing was. I just liked making her happy with my Enid Blyton knock-off narratives. I loved that light in her eyes whenever she read my little notes. Anything for a little attention from the woman I wanted to become.
Not many people know this about me, but in high school I wrote a Sweet Valley High cum Mills&Boon knock off series for my peers. The main characters looked nothing like me or the girls that I was growing up with. They didn’t have parents who whispered about the dreaded Nyayo House. They didn’t go to high schools hidden in the greenest part of Central Province, where the air is perfectly designed for award winning tea growing, and where adolescence was supposedly tamed using a daily dose kerosene flavoured githeri and early morning baths from inside a bucket with water that formed icy top layers overnight. They didn’t go through secondary school resigned to the knowledge that their future was dim because they were average C students with exceptional artistic affinities (art was a hobby not a career).These characters in my early works didn’t struggle with grief, or varied forms of personal crises. They didn’t have wide noses and knees that knocked. Instead they were mixed race, with hair that spoke the language of softness without relaxers, travelled to exotic places and came back to their homes in quiet suburbs where 16 year olds drove convertibles, spent afternoons in swimming pools in their backyards, talked back to their African parents and lived to see another day. I did all this writing in hardcoverA4 books; all in longhand. Neatest handwriting of my existence, with different coloured headings and chapters and everything. But it was a wonderful time in my destiny. A possible footprint for my future work. I don’t think I have since ever committed to anything with as much passionate energy as I did those (they were called Counter books for some reason) amateur knockoffs.
As the years went by, writing may have taken a back seat so I could pay the piper that is adulthood, but I wrote still. Just little posts here and there…letters to invisible souls and inaccessible lovers and so on. And slowly writing became the way that I made my living.
Last year I realised that although I write for a living, I also write to live. The SSDA theme of Migrations appealed to me on several levels. I was at a turning point emotionally, physically and also artistically. In my transitional state I knew I had to challenge myself to grow into the potential I was so afraid of. It was a great honour and shock for me, to have one of my stories accepted in the anthology.
I hope that you grab a copy as soon as possible, because in the words of SSDA Mentoring Editor Helen Moffet, “These stories, by both seasoned and emergent authors, offer an invigorating sample of the talent, imagination and energy of contemporary writing from Africa.”
This is a humbling, exciting moment for me. I am looking forward to a future as an emerging author where I can continue to create stories for souls like me, and souls who love to read and write and who believe there is magic, and there is redemption in storytelling.