“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ―Maya Angelou
Growing up, Mother’s two youngest sisters, both only a few years older, were our icons. Trendy, bright, and attending top girls’ schools, they loved and lived the good life. They introduced us to the emerging entertainment scene in Nairobi. The seventies and eighties saw its explosion and our youngest aunt, Jo, took us to discos, movies, and parties. With the emergence of karaoke, she showed us how to create our own entertainment. My attempts to mimic the late Barry White’s magnificent baritone voice amused my listeners. In contrast, when Auntie Jo sang, my whole being trembled.
My aunts were also voracious readers. Their appetite for reading created an enthusiasm for books in my brother and I. During weekends and holidays, we would lie on opposite ends of a bed, read and complete a book each, and then switch the books before we picked another set with the aim of finishing reading by the end of the following day. Some books we bought; others we borrowed from the library. Yet others, we exchanged or loaned from friends.
Loosing myself in an engaging book has always been one of my pastimes. Sometimes, long after I have completed reading a book, I find myself continuing with the story in my imagination. This is what first triggered the thought of writing a book a few years ago.
I set time to write but I struggled to construct the opening sentence. When I finally managed to write a few paragraphs, they were uninspiring. I realized that writing a book is no walk in the park. I enlisted the help of a friend, an established author, to guide me in shaping my idea. Within a few months, I had a draft. I sent it off to an editor for critiquing, asking her to be brutally candid. I wasn’t ready for the kind of feedback I received, the 22-page report made me cringe. She had burst my bubble. It took almost nine months for me to gather the courage to get back to the manuscript.
I took a break to rewrite and traveled away. It was then that I felt the full weight of my editor’s incisive critique. Rewriting was going to be hard work. It’s like I was beginning all over again. I finished the draft, the third one, in three months and decided to send it to another editor. Her recommendations required me to dig deeper and deliver a story that would touch the reader’s heart, which meant changing the storyline and therefore rewriting substantially… again! By now, I was feeling weary. I was faced with a decision:
- Be discouraged and give up altogether, or
- Be determined and press on
I chose the latter and ended up rewriting the manuscript not just one more time, but three times! Although all my editors were supportive in their critiques, I however started wondering when I would get that pat on back and hear the words, “well done!” Nonetheless, I soldiered on, refining my idea bit by bit.
It took four-and-a-half years, from the time I started writing, for my book Champion to be released. I would have been proud to present an autographed copy to Aunt Jo for stoking the fire of reading in me, and for putting me on the path to scribe-dom. Sadly though, she passed away in Italy before I could make her proud. Cancer took her away. Her legacy, nonetheless, lives on.
©2015 David Waweru