Inspiration: striving to succeed


It was in Africa that I became a professional writer. And it was writing for children like Zaina that spurred me to begin. It seemed to me, that unlike many British young people, Kenyan kids were desperate to go to school and, once there, strove to do their utmost to make something of their lives. I was cross, too, at the then lack of contemporary local fiction that showed young Kenyans as heroes, and in the kinds of situations they could identify with. Then I found that many of the stories I wrote for African children also worked for a European readership, or at least for those who were keen to find out what life was really like in the parts of African that I visited and lived in. And now, all these years later, and living back in England, these are still the things that drive me to write.





46 thoughts on “Inspiration: striving to succeed

  1. A beautiful shot of Zaina, and an inspiring account of your inspiration. You’ve written quite a library. In Australia there are an increasing number of good books with indigenous protagonists, and the indigenous voice, but that’s a fairly recent development. I think it’s important to see yourself and your life in fiction (as well as other people and their lives) – not something that happened for me as a girl in 1950s Australia either. Now the protagonist only has to be aging, and I can recognise myself!

    1. You put your finger on it, Meg – not only re aging protagonists and shortages thereof, but it IS about people’s voices being absent from the story. It’s good to hear that such voices are emerging more in Australia. There is so much to be gained from listening to what the marginalized have to say, and as the African saying goes, ‘Only stories have the power to change the human heart.’

  2. What a wonderful inspiration. I am sure that you have many friends to whom you are an inspiration yourself… I remember as a child, learning to love certain writers, and to feel a connection to them that transcended space and time.

    1. That’s just it, Shimon, being taken out of oneself and one’s own limited preoccupations, and seeing a whole new vista of possibilities. It’s opening the doors and windows onto the world.

  3. I love that you, that there is someone, anyone, writing for these kids, about their own lives and culture instead of force feeding them the “western ideal”, as if that’s the only truth, and the only way to live. Kudos!

    1. Oh not so many, Noel. How are you over there at my inspiration’s sourceland. I’ve just been reading Meja Mwangi’s Going Down River Road. Have you read it? It is not a pretty story, but it is wonderfully written. The sad thing that struck me was that in 40 years the landscapes he describes have not much changed for N’bi’s urban poor. Wondered what you thought.

      1. I have not been to the shamba in about 5 or more years. But my younger days, going to the shamba during the holiday season was not open to debate. Take a rest, maybe some uji and you should be good

    1. Yes, indeed. Most recent books are for reluctant teen readers in the UK e.g. Mantrap and Mau Mau Brother. I’m working on other stories too, albeit a bit slowly.

      1. And you still have time for blogging, the allotment and preserving all your goodies!!! Well done, I’m impressed šŸ™‚

  4. Tish- You are an inspiration. Your motivations for writing are admirable and kids all over the world need positive role models and encouragement. Thanks.

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