READERS' CORNER: Writing is addictive; you can’t stop once you begin

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. If you see great writers like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ken Walibora, and Collins Odhiambo, among other renowned authors, ask them how they manage it. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • If you see great writers like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ken Walibora, and Collins Odhiambo, among other renowned authors, ask them how they manage it.

  • Even the ancient writers like William Shakespeare would have told you that it was not a walk in the park.

READERS' CORNER: Writing is addictive; you can’t stop once you begin

By Joseph Agunja

 Many a time, people ask where writers get time to write, or perhaps if it is a full-time call. I also had similar questions in my mind way back before I discovered the passionate path of writing.

Indeed writing is a passion, and you cannot venture into it without a heart for it.

If you see great writers like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ken Walibora, and Collins Odhiambo, among other renowned authors, ask them how they manage it. Even the ancient writers like William Shakespeare would have told you that it was not a walk in the park.

It requires sacrifice, zeal and determination. Imagine it has been centuries but Shakespeare’s books are still like cake fresh out of the oven.

I remember a few years back The Merchant of Venice was a set book examined by the Kenya National Examinations Council.

Most writers do not practise this course on a full-time basis but are also engaged in other formal employment that requires their prime time.

A writer such as Ken Walibora, who has authored several Kiswahili novels and plays, serves in different capacities.

Most university professors, such as the late Thomas Odhiambo, William Ochieng’ (I happened have been in his history class at Maseno University), had a multitude of books.

Dr Margaret Ogola could manage to juggle between the scalpel and the pen while serving as a paediatrician at the Kenyatta National Hospital Hospital.

Some teachers are active writers. They come up with excellent writings.

Way back, I had never imagined that I could become a writer.

When my book, Masterpiece History & Government, was published, my interest in writing was stimulated. But when my very first article appeared in the Saturday Nation, that interest was more than doubled.

As a teacher, I feel delighted that today some school principals have also begun to embrace this noble course, like the author of The Daughters of Destiny, Mrs Florence Okut, the principal of Ng’iya Girls High School. In spite of her demanding responsibility, she managed to sacrifice and pen down a gift to the girl child.

Meanwhile, there are others who kill the spirit of writing, especially to the neophyte writers like me in the name of looking for results.

These kinds of heads promote intellectual dwarfism among their colleagues.

I also appreciate that most of the contributors to the ‘Literary Discourse’ corner of this paper are usually teachers. I salute such people as Oumah Otienoh, Triza Atieno, Cosmos Mogere, Frankline Mukembu and a few others.

You will all bear me witness that once you are into this act, it will always revolve around you.

When my first book was published, that is Masterpiece History and Government revision book, my zeal for writing was more than tripled.

This passion was taken to the highest level when my first article titled ‘Young job seekers beware of sycophancy rife in schools’ appeared in this paper (Saturday Nation, February 7, 2015).

I know it’s not easy to juggle between formal employment and writing. Writing is so addictive, like liquor, that to come out of it one needs spiritual intervention.

It is high time all stakeholders in various sectors embraced writing because I believe it is one of the factors that will help Kenya out in the struggle towards the achievement of the much awaited Vision 2030 and Millennium Development Goals.


The writer is the author of Masterpiece History and Government and tutors at Kisumu Academy. [email protected]



Want to be an author? Be ready for leg work

By Vincent de Paul

Would-be writers who want to wade through the murky waters in the valley of writing have to do their homework.

Apart from the ‘how to write’, ‘how to present/submit your work’, and ‘how to get published’ guidance that many writing fora offer to upcoming writers, the bulk of the work lies with the writer.

The young writer should not wait for somebody to come out of the blue to tell them that a publisher awaits them somewhere, as Joe Kibui thinks in his article ‘Go beyond teaching us how to write and show us the willing publishers’ (Saturday Nation, May 16, 2015).

It is not up to publishers already stung by the writer’s incessant whining like John Mwazemba to tell writers that they should go out there and ‘Know the different kinds of publishers’ (Saturday Nation, May 16, 2015) that can publish their work.

There are publishers for all kinds of material, from children’s books, general interest and trade books to religious and text books.

As John Mwazemba pointed out, it is up to the writer to do market research for the kind of work they want to write, the audience and market share before embarking on the ‘daunting task of writing a manuscript.’

This information is available from the Kenya Publishers Association’s website, and for those who are not tech-savvy, they can visit the publisher’s premises physically.

Moreover, we have platforms like PEN Kenya Centre, Kwani?’s Sunday Salon, Kenyan Poets Lounge, and others are platforms where ‘any serious aspiring writer’ can ‘show off their already polished skills’.

The writer is taught how to write, how to submit the manuscript, and how to publish either the traditional way or to self-publish; what more does a writer need? Writers need not be lazybones waiting to be spoon-fed and expect to earn a living from writing.

From personal experience, writers should do even more marketing of their work than the publisher, all the more if one is self-published.


The writer is a freelance writer, blogger, poet and author based in Nakuru



Prof Bukenya’s column a great gift to lovers of language and literature

By Collins Odhiambo


Austin Bukenya’s column ‘Reflections of a Scholar’ is now a year old. It has brought Prof Bukenya down to the common readers. I have since acquired an ordinary picture of him, a man engaged in existential business.

‘I Met a Thief’ was the product of his creative genius that had evoked in me such awe, back in secondary school.

Shall we then say that familiarity has since bred contempt? No! As a matter of fact, getting to ‘know’ the poet has added to the marvel. That an ordinary mortal should be endowed with such extraordinary creative capacity.

Actually, Bukenya’s speaking of the many years he has lived, once even forgetting that he had lived in a certain place (Saturday Nation May 16, 2015), brings upon me poignancy.

The girl that fascinates the persona in his poem ‘I Met a Thief’ is one of poetry’s greatest personages, in the same league as Okot p’Bitek’s Clementine, Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee, John Keats’ La Belle Dame sans Merci and, yes, Lapobo, she who is short but not too short.

In his article ‘Of Mayweather, Paquiao and my short-lived boxing career’ (Saturday Nation, May 9, 2015), Bukenya’s poetic faculties pour forth the following lines: “…the verdant glee of a May landscape fills the heart with an insouciant, carefree trust in nature…”; “…the dew-drops imperceptibly dry off the plants and morning dissolves into steamy noon…”; “…as we effuse about the bucolic radiance of the May fields, or marvel at the manicured lawns…”

These are the evocations that issue only from the world’s finest, such as from W.B. Yates, who gives us ‘…I hear lake water lapping with low sounds…’, in his masterpiece ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, or from Wole Soyinka, who once characterized criticism from certain quarters as mere ‘…monotonous aria of deprivation’s lament orchestrated by those who dye their mourning weeds a deeper indigo than those of the bereaved.’

Bukenya must know that lovers of words hold him in great esteem. He must not say “I would like to delude myself into believing that you, dear reader, might have found a few instances of this technical facility and felicity…” (Saturday Nation, May 16, 2015). The splendour of his giftedness, the easy touch of his communication, the fastidiousness of his sentence construction — these things we do hold dear. Evermore must the poet feel inspired to do what he does best: capture realities in sublime expression.


The writer is the president of Alyp Writers Organisation and author of Miss Pheromone



Degrees are not any better  than diplomas

By Claire Munde


This is in response to the job-seeking, trained journalist – Ali Endere — who argued that employers have high demands and only look for candidates with degrees, overlooking diploma and certificate holders (Saturday Nation, May 16, 2015).

Ironic as it may sound, there are a number of employers who prefer hiring candidates with diplomas rather than degrees, and it has nothing to do with looking for candidates with “less-than” stellar qualifications in order to offer them less-than attractive pay packages. Rather, the simple reason for this is that some recruiters feel that the training received when studying for a diploma is specific and intense as compared to that offered in some degree programmes.

These recruiters feel that the knowledge passed on in degree programmes sometimes tends to be wishy-washy, which leads to situations such as what we are currently seeing in Kenya where employers are complaining that the graduates being churned out are half-baked. If you take a look at the requirements for several professional jobs, you might find that they ask for candidates who have higher diplomas and not necessarily those who have degrees.

With this in mind, it would be best not to complain about how employers are demanding and how they want this or that but rather to keep a positive attitude as you keep searching for a job and sooner or later, you will find a job that utilizes your skills and knowledge.


The writer is a human resource practitioner and a columnist with one of the dailies based in Nairobi



Highridge to host forum for writers

By Francis O. Odipo

Saturday Nation has distinguished itself as a paper for real players in the literary world. The battles that have been won or lost on the literary pages are legion.

Within the short time it has been on, the literary discourse has attracted a myriad of heavyweights, which has certainly expanded the nature and scope of the ‘fighting’. Kudos to our referee (the editor) for managing the weekly matches well.

The most interesting catch however, is the latest inclusion of ‘The Writers’ Clinic,’ moderated by my teachers Prof Austin Lwanga Bukenya and Prof Egara Kabaji, and Mr John Mwazemba, chief executive of Phoenix Publishers. I know that given the type of direction this space provides, better and resourceful manuscripts are on the way.

In his article ‘Go beyond teaching us how to write and show us the willing publishers’ (Saturday Nation, May 16, 2015), Joe Kibui rightfully lauds the latest developments, especially the work done by the two professors. He, however, points out one glaring limitation. Although he appreciates ‘The Writers’ Clinic,’ he painfully asks: ‘After the guidance, then what?’ What, in his view, is the value of showing one how to write when there is nowhere to present the written work? How do you get to the publishers? Where should one find them and what do they expect?

It is because of this apparent disconnect between writers, especially school teachers who may not have the financial muscle to own publishing firms, and the established publishers that Bridgeline Trainers will hold a two-day residential National Tutor/Teacher Writers’ Conference in August at Highridge Secondary School, Parklands, Nairobi at a minimal participation fee of Sh2,500 to offset accruing costs.

All those who contribute to ‘The Readers Corner,’ ‘Literary Discourse’ and ‘My Favourite Book’ are invited. The conference is meant to bring together teacher-writers, editors, up-coming and mainstream publishers. Those interested are requested to contact the writer for further details.


The writer is a The writer is a teacher of English, an author, motivational speaker, facilitator in national workshops and seminars and a drama adjudicator. [email protected]