Visiting Marjorie

Visiting Marjorie

Where authors meet at Marjorie Oludhe-Macgoyes home in Ngara and talk books.

One of the best movies I have watched in my life was Finding Forrester a movie at the turn of the millennium starring Sean Connery. Connery  acts as William Forrester a reclusive writer who lives in Harlem  and who has lived there for the better part of half a century.  He meets a young black American male who is a writing prodigy and is forced out of Harlem to defend his student. It is Connery at his non-James Bond- best in my opinion.

On Friday I got to experience our own version of Finding Forrester as a bunch of authors and friends of all things literature made their way to the home of Marjorie Oludhe-Macgoye. Macgoye is famous as an author of note and you can read more about her exploits in the literature game here. The thing that stuck with me was how her house is in between one of Nairobi’s thriving informal markets just like in the Forrester movie.

Checking in I met several people sitting around. Amidst them was Muthoni Likimani, seated next to Marjorie and telling the audience how the two older (in age but never in spirit)  ladies of literature met.  Muthoni for those not in the know,  is a force on her own. She is an author of several titles including The Passbook F47927 a book on the Mau Mau freedoms struggle, They shall be Chastised, What does a man want and a bunch of books for kids. They include The Magic Bird and The Miller Farmer, Grandmother Fireside Stories, Shangazi na Watoto (Swahili for aunt and the children)and Nyambugi and the Ogre.  The piece de resistance is her autobiography Fighting without Ceasing.

Also in the house were many members of the literati including Prof Chris Wanjala the professor of literature at the University of Nairobi, Prof Elizabeth Orchardson-Mazrui, Khainga O’Okwemba, Alexander Nderitu, Eudiah Kamonju, Jacob Oketch, Wareru Ndungu and our Moraa Gitaa. There was also Omtatah who many will remember as the man who chains himself to police stations when he wants to make a point. Turns out that the man’s hobby is writing screenplays and stories. Sweet.

In this venerated audience I was to learn a lot of things. Things that I knew and some I was only made aware of came up. That it is not easy thing getting published in this town as one gets no love from the publishing industry . Some in that group had to wait for years before their works got published. For up to 10 years. Ten years folks! How anyone can wait for ten years for some dude to accept their manuscript is way beyond me. Then even when they get published there is no distribution for the books. Ouch. You can’t get published and then when you do you can’t get distributed. That had to hurt.

There were some solutions offered though. Likimani was the one with the old school solutions. When she got the roadblocks she simply got a person to edit her books herself. Then hired a person to do layout and when done had the printer to produce the works. With the books on hand she did her own distributing. It might have seemed like a long route to get one’s book but there are some advantages to that system. You don’t have to wait for a decade for the world to see your work and when the book hits the shelves you don’t get to share royalties with anybody.

Another more new school approach was suggested by some of the assembled guests. Also offering advice especially for academics was Prof Orchardson-Mazrui who suggested that some might try Lap-Publishing.com while Omtata suggested Alexander Street Press. The most innovative was Alexander Nderitu a writer and brother to Caroline Nderitu, one of the more well known poets in town. Nderitu suggested a new media approach with authors using outlets like Wattpad.com to get readers interested in their work. He also talked a bit about print on demand which sounds like a real fine idea. He also spoke of e-books and other tips from writers for authors you download for free at his official website

It was very well spent several hours and Marjorie looked quick and sharp in her contributions to the crowd.