EDINAH MASANGA | Zimbabwe
Zim debut author Chiedza Makwara, also a communicator and speaker, believes ‘everyone has a powerful story.’
Makwara’s debut book, Bongile, was launched at the beginning of this month at a glamorous event in Harare and starts when the main character, whose name is the book’s title, is on a bus, holding a new born baby who has suddenly died but no one in the bus knows the baby is dead and from there the book unravels a story all too familiar in her home country – how disadvantaged girls like Bongile end up in such an unfortunate position.
“The book is really about perceptions, how we as the human race judge too quickly without hearing the full story especially from women who come from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Makwara said.
From Bongile’s incident on the bus, the story takes us back in time, retracing the protagonist’s journey to that point, making an intriguing and captivating read. But what inspired this engaging plot?
“It’s inspired by real life events. I heard a similar story in real life and it completely broke my heart and I began to imagine what she could have done better and from there the plot of the book came to life. I wanted to tell the story of this young woman so I took real life events and created a fictional story.
I am also inspired by the many beautiful stories from different people I meet in my life journey from boardrooms to the ladies selling tomatoes on street corners to rural women and scholars etc. Everyone has a powerful story, life experience, lessons and wisdom all of which are so inspiring.”
Writing a book is one thing and publishing it another. Almost every author has a story to tell regarding their publishing journey. Makwara is no exception.
“Getting published was difficult for me because not a lot of information is out there regarding publishing so I struggled but I still went out and looked for it. Sometimes you just need to be aggressive in meeting your goals and achieving your dreams. I stalked my publishing consultant on Facebook, approached her and here I am now. A lot of people don’t know this story but the first time I tried to get the book published at a reputable publishing house it was rejected by a 20 something-year-old boy, I think, who didn’t even read the book because I wasn’t a reputable author. It took my friends, a lot of them, pushing and saying this is a damn good book, to get me interested in trying again. And when my publishing consultant read it 7 years later (after I sat on it for 7 years) she said to me, Chiedza this is a best seller”
Similarly, 32-year-old Makwara is no exception to the general hurdles that women face in their careers: “I have faced challenges being a young career woman. I have experienced being overlooked for growth/promotions; sometimes it’s hard to get potential clients’ attention because you are deemed to be too young/modern regardless of your experience and qualifications. My advice to aspiring authors is; please don’t give up. Write. Look for publishers. Be aggressive in the pursuit of your dreams. Also be excellent and how you become excellent is by refining and cultivating your writing.”
But how does this vibrant young woman live her day to day life?
“A typical day for me is my daily workout, prayer and meditation in the early hours, then getting to the office in the morning, checking emails, having meetings, then going out visiting and servicing clients.
When I get home I watch TV, but I always read before bed. During weekends I have a more relaxed routine which involves family and friends, game nights and sometimes binge drinking (wink wink)”
Surely a life being lived to the full like this must need a nourished body. On the food front, Chiedza likes to eat mac and cheese whenever she can.
“I actually cook a lot and I do host monthly dinners/game nights where I make all these elaborate dishes for my friends and then we play games afterwards. This also helps us connect and speak on issues that are affecting us as friends and family. It’s too much fun.”
Makwara, who mentioned earlier on that she reads a lot, loves the legendary Maya Angelou and fellow Zim writers Petina Gappah, Tsitsi Dangarembwa as well as motivational writer Cynthia Hakutangwi.
“I am also a big fan of JK Rowling, of her Harry Potter series. Her standard is so high, she is so imaginative and the consistency and quality of work are just up there.
At the moment I’m reading Rotten Row by Petina Gappah which is a collection of stories. I’m also reading Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and it focuses on dealing with grief. In addition, I’m reading A Father’s Heart by a Zimbabwean author Tendai Ndoro and lastly, am re-reading the Alchemist Paulo Ceolo. Yes, I’m reading 4 books at once. Reading is like watching TV for me.”
Chiedza Makwara, who is born and bred in Zimbabwe, a country known for having one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, thinks that her home country is an underestimated reader society.
“I was so negative and opinionated about it thinking people here don’t read but when 200 people showed up at my book launch and after that phone calls came pouring in, sales soared and I realised people are looking for more material to read – stories novels etc”
But does this make Zimbabwe a thriving book market?
“I dont think we are there yet. We need to grow this industry. There’s one book fair a year and it’s hard to find publishers; and equally hard to sell so there’s some work that needs to be done.”
Lastly, Chiedza shares some tips on writing and finding what works for you in order to complete that manuscript.
“I’ve always been writing so it comes as second nature to me but I have a busy schedule and had to set aside time to write. 5am worked best for me.”