It was a brief, polite email. One sentence long. “Kindly let me know when you will come over to our offices to sign your contract for the above book as you pick your author copies.” ‘Author copies’. I smiled when I read that. They’re calling me an author now. And a contract, how adult!
I never anticipated any of this when I walked in late for a writing workshop that was part of the Storymoja Festival in 2013. Storymoja was holding some of their September festival events that had been interrupted by the tragic events of Westgate over several weekends in November. I had signed up for this writing workshop thinking it would be a one-time here-are-several-tips-to-make-your-writing-better sort of thing. It wasn’t. We were learning how to write fiction for an adolescent audience. Everyone was seated in front of a laptop or tablet or iPad looking oh so serious and writerly, quite unlike me, scribbling in my palm-sized notebook with a pencil.
The workshop carried on for two more weekends. We learned about plotting, character development, dialogue, descriptions… the works. The end goal was that we would all produce creative fiction that would impart life skills to an adolescent audience. Such lofty goals, I thought. I couldn’t possibly do that. I would attend the workshops and all but I probably wouldn’t end up with a written book. At least not now. I have a job, internships and a Master’s degree to think about. Also, procrastination, among other creative problems. It couldn’t be done by me.
December 2013. First draft done. 4338 words. I receive great feedback and promise to refine my work.
January 2014. Half of second draft done. The deadline for our final drafts is almost up, they say. Pretty sure I will not meet it. Could I defer my work to the next publishing year? I’m not even sure I’m on the right track. You’re on the right track, keep going, they say.
March 2014. My second draft hasn’t budged. They’re extending the final drafts deadline to sometime in April. I think I can make that. I’m about to finish my second internship. I might have some time to work on it. I could actually do this!
May 2014. A few additions and revisions to the second draft that’s about half-way done. The editor is hoping I can make the 2014 publishing year (wow, I’m beginning to sound like a real author). I may have given up on that but I won’t tell her this.
26.5. 2014. The editor is getting concerned. My manuscript is due for KICD (Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development) submission (so it can be used in schools) on July 17 and it needs to be reviewed, copy edited and illustrated. Do I still expect to send it in? She asks. Sigh. Why did I commit to this? I don’t say this. You will have it by tomorrow. I say this.
29.5.2014. 1.21 a.m. I email my second draft.
1.56 a.m. Thank you, she replies. Editors don’t sleep, do they?
9.6.2014. My final draft is ready after incorporating the editors’ recommendations on my manuscript.
24.10.2014. They’re asking for a dedication and author bio. Whoa! This is big. “To my dear parents… who have always believed in me.” Too cliché? I don’t care. It’s true.
17.12.2014. I email next of kin details. Serious stuff.
17.3.2015. 1 p.m. I’m battling the afternoon heat and my limited lunch hour to rush to the Storymoja office to pick my author copies and sign my contract. Minutes later, I’m smiling to myself as I exit their office, author copies and a copy of my contract in hand. I have a published book. I can’t believe it! I keep looking at my name on the cover. It doesn’t feel real. I’m smiling at the illustrations. Even better looking than the characters in my head.
“Every story of success is a story of community,” said Jeff Goins, a writer I look up to. I obviously did not do this on my own. Many thanks to Juliet Maruru, the ever patient, ever gracious editor, Ian Arunga and Mellitus Ogana Ogana for the design, layout and illustrations which I love, Muthoni Garland who was such a great teacher during the workshops, and Storymoja at large for this wonderful opportunity to do something I never thought I could. Thank you to my fellow workshopmates for their support and encouragement, and everyone who read my drafts and urged me on or gave me feedback. Most of all, I’m unashamed to say that I could not have done any of this without God, my dear heavenly father without whom I am nothing.
If you’d like a copy of the book, please email me – firstname.lastname@example.org – and I’ll be happy to arrange for you to get one or three. The bookshops listed here should also be stocking it by now.