Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020…

credit: GIPHY

Last year was quite a year. It was long, emotional and arduous. Even though I achieved a lot, I was tested in more ways than I could have ever imagined. While I am proud of the woman that emerged, I have to say that there are some realisations that truly broke my heart in 2019. In fact by the end of the 1st quarter, I felt burnt out and emotionally drained. Between a career plateau, a health scare and lots of relationship (family and friends) drama, I decided to take a step back and evaluate my life decisions.

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Binyavanga Wainaina 1971 – 2019

Photocredit: Kalamu

Award Winning Kenyan Author, Journalist and Activist Binyavanga Wainaina has passed on.

Wainaina was a celebrated author who made significant contributions in the field of Literature through works such as; Discovering Home , which won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Literature and Kwani, one of East Africa’s first literary magazines.

In 2003, he was recognised by the Kenya Publishers Association for his contribution to Kenyan Literature while, In 2008 he served as a Bard Fellow and Director for the Chinua Achebe Centre for African Literature & Languages at Bard College.

In 2014 TIME Magazine named him one of the “Most Influential People In The World”.

You can read more of his work here: Planet Binya .

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THE FREEDOM CONVERSATION: AN EVENING OF LITERATURE

Photo Credit: Jalada Africa

Mark your calendars! Kenyan Author Yvonne Owuor and Award Winning Scottish Author Kapka Kassaboya will be doing a reading from the Freedom Papers, a special collection commissioned by the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The reading will be moderated by Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. There will also be a live music performance by Tetu Shani.

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Morland Writing Scholarship 2018

Credit: MMF

The Miles Morland Foundation is offering scholarships for African writers. The Morland writing scholarship exists to provide writers the financial freedom to complete an English-language book. Fiction writers whose scholarship applications are successful, will receive a grant, paid monthly over the course of 12 months.

The Scholarships are open to anyone writing in the English language who was born in Africa, or both of whose parents were born in Africa.​ Check out the links below to find out more about the award and How To Enter.

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Kinyanjui Kombani On Winning The Prestigious 2018 Burt Award For African Young Adult Literature, Building A Career In Banking & Finding Time To Write

Photocredit: Kinyanjui Kombani

Congratulations on winning the 2018 Burt Award for outstanding African Young Adult Literature. How does it feel having won such a prestigious African Literary Award and where can we read your winning story, Finding Colombia?

Thanks! Of course, I am very excited. While I have won several awards (e.g. Top 40 Under 40, Kenyatta University Outstanding Young Alumni), I have never won one directly for writing. So this is a special one for me. The Burt Award is one of the most prestigious in Africa. The book ‘Finding Columbia’ will be ready for the market in the next few weeks.

Your career in Banking is quite impressive and it spans almost 12 years, yet you studied Education in English and English Literature at University. What made you shift and pursue a career in Banking?

It was a twist of fate that made me join banking. I was sitting at the Kenyatta University Creative Arts Centre with the chairman of the department, Prof. Emmanuel Mbogo, and my late friend Shibi. We were working on the KU Culture Week and were waiting for budget approvals from the university administration. Without the approvals, our hands were tied, so I borrowed the day’s newspaper. There was an advert for Graduate Clerk jobs. Prof. Mbogo urged both of us to apply. He reasoned that since banks (then) normally closed at 3 pm, it would be possible for us to go to the bank job, close at 4 pm and be back in KU for rehearsals by 5 pm. That is how I got the bank job! Neither of us knew then that when the bank doors close at 3 pm, is when the work starts!

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A Conversation With Veteran Journalist Joe Khamisi On Establishing A Career In Journalism, Travelling The World On Diplomatic Assignment & Tracing His Ancestry

Photocredit: Joe Khamisi

You got your start in Print Journalism as a trainee reporter at the Standard Newspaper in the early 1960s. What made you want to pursue a career in Journalism and was it difficult for you to get into the field?

My interest in writing started early in primary school. I would read stories in newspapers and magazines and rewrite them from memory using my own words. My father Francis Khamisi was an avid reader of newspapers and magazines. He was also a writer and often contributed articles to the Mombasa Times and other publications. He was the first African Editor at the East African Standard in 1939. After spending time in politics, he was called back by the Standard to be the Chief Editor of Baraza, its weekly newspaper in 1961. It was while there that I got a breakthrough into Journalism. I applied and was employed as a proof-reader at the Standard newspaper. After about 6 months, I became an intern at Baraza dealing mostly with Letters to the Editor.  I eventually moved across to the white-dominated newsroom of the Standard as a cub reporter. The rest, as they say, is history.

In your memoir, Dash Before Dusk: A Slave Descendants Journey In Freedom you talk about experiencing racism in the newsroom as a trainee Journalist and earning your first byline by sheer luck because there was no white reporter available to cover a press conference that particular day. What was it like cutting your teeth in that environment and has what you learnt in those early days, had an impact on your writing style today?

Initially, my job as a junior reporter at the Standard was to receive by phone, stories sent in by reporters and correspondents from the field. Most of the time I had difficulty understanding the spoken English of the white reporters. After all, I was a Form 2 (high school) drop-out. However, there is a saying that you fake it until you make it. One day, a big story broke out and the more experienced reporters were all out on assignment, so I was dispatched to cover it. At the end of the day, it was not a perfect piece of writing but it helped get my feet in the door.  From thereon I was assigned to the courts to report on minor criminal cases. Working alongside those experienced journalists gave me an opportunity to learn the basics of turning out a clean written copy. It was certainly a stepping stone that got me to where I am today.

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What If…

 

I remember when I used to do things purely out of love. I grew up in a small town that was mostly agricultural and on weekends there wasn’t much to do. We had a large backyard and on sunny days, I would lay out in the grass and get lost in a book.

I went from Thumbelina and The Pied Piper of Hamelin to the midnight feasts and sweetened condensed milk of Mallory Towers to The Sweet Valley and Sierra Jensen series as a pre-teen then on to classics like Little Women and Pride and Prejudice as a young adult.

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