Meja Mwangi

The Kenyan Readathon was hosted at the Alliance Française Nairobi on September 10, 2022. Prolific author Meja Mwangi sent an address that was read on his behalf by event founder Lexa Lubanga.  

Meja Mwangi made a huge impact when his debut novel, Kill Me Quick (1973) received the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for literature the following year. Some notable works from the prolific author have been Going Down River Road (1976), The Cockroach Dance (1979), Bread of Sorrow (1987), The Return of Shaka (1989), Weapon of Hunger (1989), Striving For the Wind (1990), Little White Man (1990), The Last Plague (2000), and The Boy Gift (2006). In total, he has produced 22 works for children and adults and won three Jomo Kenyatta Literary Awards.

The author shared his opinion on the future of Kenyan writing at an event that was shared by Lexa Lubanga.

Enjoy.

Literary Methods and the Future of Kenyan Writing

By Meja Mwangi

I started writing long before I heard of literary methods. My one and only method then, was to sit down with pen and paper and write my story. That was, and still is, my entire method.

I have since learned of literary methods, and even understood some of them. I can’t say I use any of them.  I know only one method when it comes to the serious work of writing a book. My method may be considered a “bush method” today, but back then it was the only method, and it still works for me. Paper and pen and hours of toil.  You must find a method, that works best for you, but I challenge you to find that differs substantially from mine.

In a literary gathering such as this, you can learn a lot about literary methods, and creative writing in general, from people who have understood and made it their mission to pass on the knowledge. Those who come for that here will probably leave satisfied. But those who come hoping for a sure method to get their writing started may very well be disappointed. Whether you use pen and paper, or a word processor, you still must sit down for hours and hours to write your book. The “bush method”.

It is not going to be easy. A writer is a worker. His books may sometimes be referred to as his creative works, his literary works, or literary collection. Writing is hard, hard work, but there is no more gratifying feeling than, having finished a manuscript, to hold it in your hand and say – there, I have done it. And that is before you see it in a bookshop, inside a beautiful cover with your name on it.

Many years ago, a group of renowned academics, fathers of East African creative writing, lamented East Africa’s literary bareness. Kenya is no longer a literary desert. So many writers are stepping out to the challenge of writing their story, creative or otherwise, and having it printed by themselves or by someone else. Though only a handful of those who start get to finish their literary journeys, we can soon expect an output of literary works such as was unthinkable when the pioneers of East African writing referred to us as a literary desert.

In conclusion – to those who came to learn a method, or perhaps just to be inspired to start their literary journey, the future of writing in Kenya is in your hands. Don’t waste another moment. Sit down and start writing. Don’t waste time looking for a method or waiting for the right time. The “bush method” has been tried and tested, time and again, and found to work, whatever you think of it.  And there is never going to be a perfectly right moment to get started. Take the time you have now and use it well. Get your story written.

 An editor once said to me – If your goal is to be a writer, not even God can help you. But if your intention is to write, no one can stop you.

Go for it! And have a great readathon today.

Meja.

Please check out the following recaps of the day below;