Wanjeri Gakuru on Making A Living As A Writer, Globe Trotting & Writing Critically Acclaimed Film: Supa Modo

Photocredit: Mutua Matheka

When did you start writing?

I started boarding school at an early age (9 years) so letter writing was my first exercise in reporting and storytelling. When I wasn’t begging to switch schools or drawing up a comprehensive shopping list, I was sharing stories of my day-to-day life, about school friends and great big plans for the holidays.

What did you study and was it difficult for you to find work after school?

A love for composition then English literature paved the way for a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies at the University of Nairobi. I majored in print journalism with a goal to focus on arts & culture.

I got my first by-line while still in University. It was in Adam Magazine’s “Travel Misadventure” segment. I wrote about an impromptu midnight drive to Subukia that ended at a bonfire in Nakuru. I wrote two more pieces and had hoped to intern at the publication, when they announced their closure. That’s when I heard from UP Magazine, they had just put out their first issue. I interned there as a fourth year and for about two and a half years after graduation.

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Journalist Lydia Matata On Working At A National Newspaper, The Importance Of Taking Risks And Her Transition Into Film Making

How did you get into Journalism?

“Real’ Journalism began when I was hired by The Star Newspaper. For three years I worked with this amazing team on the online desk and wrote articles for another amazing group of people in the Features department. Prior to The Star, I did some reporting when I was in University but I think the real journey began with books. I’m a book dragon (I refuse to call myself a ‘bookworm’).

The natural progression of that, I think is wanting to be a writer. I wanted to be as good a writer as the one’s I had read. So at first, my goal was to be ‘Lydia, the best-selling novelist.’  Then I realized that before I get that huge book deal, I should probably find a way to feed myself, hence Journalism school.

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A Conversation With Nyashinski About Songwriting, His Hiatus And Making A Successful Comeback

You came into the limelight as one third of the rap group Kleptomaniax. How did you guys meet and what made you decide to start making music together?

We were school mates. We went to Nairobi School together and we became friends. We were friends for quite some time and we got to know each other even outside of school.

You and your group members got your first record deal while you we’re quite young. How did you get the attention of Ogopa DJ’s? 

At the time Ogopa DJ’s were a bubbling record label opening up on the scene, so we reached out . We presented our style of music to them, they liked it and they signed us.

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Abigail Arunga Talks Quitting Her 9 -5, Freelancing and Publishing Her First Book

How and when did you get your start in Journalism?

When I was 19 some guy broke my heart. I wrote a poem about it; as I tend to do with most major events in my life. I sent that poem to the editor at True Love. They edited and published it. Does that count?

Where did you study and did you find a job immediately after school?

I was at USIU. I studied Journalism and graduated cum laude. Yes, I have to keep reminding my parents about this when they complain about my solitary degree. I started working, kind of, as an intern at Storymoja, which is a local publisher. It was my dream at the time. All writers want to publish books – or at least, the ones I know do, and working at a publishing house was pretty much the ultimate dream. I did that for a bit, started a blog and kept bothering people with the URL until Dorothy Ghettuba, the founder of Spielworks Media read a link I sent her and hired me as a scriptwriter. So yes, less than 6 months after graduation, I had a job.

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2018 Reading Goals + Studying My Favorite Writers

To be a good writer you have to read. Reading helps you sharpen your vocabulary and teaches you the fundamentals of story structure and plot development.

This year, I made a resolution to read a book a month as well as to study my favorite authors – not just to read their books for leisure, or to pass exams, as I have done in the past but to study their narrative style.

The first book that I’ve chosen is The Art Of Fiction by David Lodge. It is a book about literary criticism for the general reader. I’ll write more about the book and about David Lodge in a subsequent post but so far, I love it!

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