A talented children’s book author has been hiding in Jane Makena, 35, a practicing lawyer and managing partner of a law firm.
While people were figuring out what to do with their free time, she was figuring out how to publish her first books.
Many people, she notes, have asked her why she did not instead choose to write legal journals and books regarding the law.
“I know people might have expected that it would be easier to write a book detailing legal challenges as lawyers or those inspired by courtroom drama. Most did not expect that I would step down and look at the world through the lens of a child,” she says smiling.
When the pandemic hit and the courts closed to prevent further infection, it was a blessing in disguise. Ms Makena found herself with a lot of free time, so she retrieved her manuscripts and got to work.
“I had accumulated a lot of manuscripts that I wrote while in college. Even before then, when I was in primary school, I read every book I could get. When I could not get more storybooks, I borrowed my siblings’ set books,” she says.
When the Health ministry urged people to stay home, she did, staying indoors with her young daughter. As a mother, she observed her daughter’s and estate children’s reactions to the Covid 19 prevention measures.
“I noted that the children were frustrated when they could not go out to play. Some, whose parents are medics had a hard time, which was exacerbated when some medics started dying.
That’s where the storyline for the book, My Dad My Hero came from. In the book, the protagonist, Angel, a seven-year-old girl, is in distress. She not only misses her father who works as a nurse in the United States, she worries about him. Medics are dying, her father cannot travel back due to ban imposed on flights. She cannot talk to him, and when she does, it is so brief it saddens her.
Closer home, she is unable to talk to her mother, who is panicking about her own and her husband’s safety. But her mother is better, she thinks, at least she vents to her friends on phone.
When her mother stops going to work, Angel is jubilant that she will get to spend more time with her. Her father finally returns as well.
Her second book, Happy at the Market is about a little girl, Happy, growing up in a village and who is bullied because of her tattered school uniform. She tries to figure out a way to buy new school uniform to stop the bullying. She is bright, and eventually scoops herself a scholarship. Now, a bright future is assured.
“These two books have happy endings, which is exactly my goal because I want to inspire young children, especially girls that there is hope and that they can actually overcome.
Even though the story about Angel is close to her heart, as it demonstrates the stark reality that children have had to face during this pandemic, the book Happy at the Market is even closer to her.
“I was born and raised in Kairiene village, Meru County. I have overcome my own obstacles as a girl to become the second lawyer from the village, preceded by Kiraitu Murungi, the current governor of Meru County,” she says.
She is very passionate about girls and their empowerment, she explains, which probably explains why the protagonists in her two books are girls.
“Looking back, I realise that the manuscripts I wrote in college also centered heavily on the female gender. I think I have a calling or a purpose that leans heavily on empowering women. However, I am working on a book series that will also shed light on the issues faced by young boys. The protagonist will be a little boy called George.”
The most incredible thing she has experienced as an author is getting feedback from her young readers, which is delivered through their parents.
“Some parents have sent me screenshots on WhatsApp saying how their children feel sorry for the protagonists, or expressing joy that they both finally got what their hearts desired. It makes me happy, and challenges me to deliver more content for them,” she says.
As she grows better as an author, she plans to write and publish more books for children by the end of this year.
“Books for children are easy to write because they have less pages, have simpler plots and language as compared to novels. If I focus on writing a kids’ book, I will be done with the manuscript in a fortnight.”
In the future, she plans to have her books converted to audiobooks some time later.
“To write better, I am reading more. I am currently reading Den of Inequities by Kinyanjui Kombani. I intend to read more books written by African and Kenyan authors. Since they base their stories on Africa’s geographical setting, I am able relate with most of them, they inspire me, but I like Barbara Kimenye’s writing the most,” she says, adding, “When I am gone, I want to be remembered as an author who gave hope to children. Hope and inspiration will be my legacy.”