Monday, 17 October 2016

Seven-year-old Author

At seven years old, Michelle Nkamankeng from South Africa has just become the youngest African author for her novel Waiting for the Waves. She has also joined the list of the Ten Youngest Authors in History. Congratulations!

According to @InterestingLit: In 1964, Dorothy Straight became the youngest ever author when she published How the World Began, written when she was just four years old.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Reading the World

Interesting lady. You can find her blog: A Year of Reading the World here. There's also a nice little article, which explains more about her project. I wrote a while back about how lack of access to PayPal and the digital market is crippling for authors in many economically developing countries. Here in Rwanda, it doesn't matter if you write a book. You can't sell it internationally as there's no way to take the electronic payments integrated with Amazon, Smashwords and other online book dealers. Not without a third-party UK, US or Kenyan PayPal account. You can make payments, so you can buy things online, but you can't receive them, so you can't sell your own work. It's really limiting for all countries in this position (Chad, Marshall Islands, Republic of Congo...). Imagine We just published a children's book authored in Rwanda, but for the time being, their market is limited to Rwanda, unless international buyers wish to faff about with Western Union, bank transfers, and all the extortionate charges those carry. Hopefully this is a situation that will change soon.

Friday, 14 October 2016


After being adopted by my feral, I thought my job here was done, but I've just had kittens.

I've started a Kinyarwanda course twice a week. Went to the second session on Wednesday and, halfway through, the manager of the venue walked in with a sack of kittens. Someone had dumped them on the road outside. 

I have plenty of space, and cat food, so I offered to take them in.

It's turned into a full-time job. They're very little, about four weeks old. There's four in total. Two larger ones who have already got the hang of self-service and are happy to eat mushed up solids. Two smaller ones, one of which is happy to follow the others' example but still likes a little milk.

I did a mad dash across town early yesterday morning to collect a donation of kitten formula from a very kind expat. She also gave me a feeding syringe. Then received an offer of a hot water bottle from WAG, an organisation doing fantastic work with abandoned animals in Rwanda. I only just found out about them.

I'm going to rear them until they're old enough for rehoming, then try my best to pass them on in pairs. The littlest one is really noisy. He wouldn't stop crying out for the first twenty-four hours, but he's starting to settle. 

Today was a good day. We sat on the porch whilst the house was being cleaned and they all started playing, which I take as a good sign. There were a couple with gammy eyes yesterday. I washed them out and they're all open today. 

First time I've raised abandoned kittens so it's a massive learning curve. Thankfully, I have loads of friends who have done it before and have been offering great advice. I'm completely knackered though. Not much writing going on. I've never washed so many clothes, cloths and blankets in my life. Kitten formula stinks to high heaven, and I have Felix down my bra (chicken flavour, I think...).

Just so relieved they're all so active and eating. Fingers crossed for a happy ending for this little lot.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Forty Wolves

Yeah, I skipped a Wolfish update, just because so many other interesting things have been going on.

Just crossed the 40,000 word count on this one. Was hoping it would come in at 50,000, but now I reckon around 60,000. Still a novella-length piece. It's tripping off my fingers so easily. I think partly because it's the only story I have ever written with no basis in history, science, or the real world. This means absolutely no research required. It's amazing how quickly you can get through your word count when you don't have to read a dozen Wiki pages to get there.

I say it comes easily - all except for today. Had a monster night out last night. Started with quite sophisticated cocktails, ended with far too much gin at my friend's nightclub in town. Made it to another friend's house around half-five. We took a mattress out into the garden and lay watching the sunrise. Fell asleep for a couple of hours then crawled home.

Most of today I've felt like my brain is about to leak out of my eyes. Writing was a little tough. Still got through it though.

Going back to bed now.

I sat there until sunrise, afraid to close my eyes in case he left me in my sleep.
When morning came, Proudfood appeared at the door, calling to me until I fetched him some fish. I was grateful to have a distraction, someone else to take care of, someone very much in the land of the living. The smell of pus remained in the air, though thankfully faded. My friend was shivering a little less, but his eyes remained closed. I set about cleaning the cottage to clear my mind.
It was an hour past sunset when the woman in the woods returned. She paused at the gate, looking at me in the doorway. When we both smiled, she knew that he was still alive and I knew that she had brought a cure.
“Banshee Root,” she told me, removing a black glass bottle from her shawl. “It doesn’t grow in this part of the woods.”
She went straight to his bedside, placing her hand across his brow.
“You have done well,” she said. “His fever is down and his breathing is steady.” She glanced about at all of her herbs rearranged on the shelf, but said nothing. “Bring me a cup of warm water,” she instructed.
Emptying the bottle into the cup, she stirred three times and raised it to his lips. The liquid left a black stain on his teeth. I leaned in a little closer to see whether I could hear him breathing, and the next thing I know I landed on my rump beside the fire. 
He began to scream louder than I had ever heard a man scream.
I looked up at the witch, who was holding her sides with laughter.
“They don’t call it Banshee Root for nothing,” she said. “Help me hold him down.”
I climbed over and took one arm whilst she held the other. The screaming didn’t last long, but the shock of it lasted a lifetime. He took in great gulps of air and expelled them as though he were casting out a demon.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Well, That's Awkward...

Just seen an advert on Twitter for The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford. Couldn't help thinking it reminded me of something... Nothing more awkward than turning up to a book launch wearing the same cover as somebody else.

Friday, 7 October 2016

First Fiction Course

Had a fabulous time at Casa Keza last night.

My friend Maia has turned her house into a local night school and I've started teaching fiction. It was a real honour to be the first course to run at the venue. The start date was delayed by a week whilst Maia and her team ran about like mad things getting everything prepared, and the classroom had that freshly painted smell. They were nailing mosquito netting to the windows minutes before the first student turned up.

It's the first time I've run a writing course. The reason for starting one is that writers are hard to come by in Rwanda. There's the Spoken Word event, Huza Press and Imagine We, but when you speak with publishers they say they find it hard to source material. Most of the international books by Rwandans in English are memoirs or in some way factually based. I want to help kick-start a fiction revolution. Find the next Chimamanda Adichie or Nii Parkes. 

I wrote my first ever novel, Lucid, in Rwanda back in 2008. I was a VSO volunteer, helping with the research and publication of the Dictionary of Rwandan Sign Language. Most of Angorichina and Rosy Hours were also completed here. Rwanda has been a very productive place for me writing-wise, and I see this as my chance to give something back.

It was certainly a dramatic start to the course. Minutes before we were due to begin, a tropical storm passed over. Water was pouring through the closed windows and we were mopping it off the floor. Even for the wet season it was unusually severe. Felt like I was in the set up for an Agatha Christie. At any moment I thought we might have a power out and my students would start to disappear one by one.

Thankfully it passed quickly and all my students remained.

A really lovely group, and positive feedback on the first session. Very much looking forward to seeing them all next week and reading their work. 

If you're interested in joining the next course, drop a line to

You can also check out Creative Kigali and join the Facebook group, where I hope to connect writers across the country.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Kigali Kitten

About a month or so ago, I found a feral kitten hiding in my garden. I started feeding the terrified sausage and it gradually became less scared. It's a she, and she has what I suspect to be a brother, but he's much more of a scardy cat and runs away at the sight of me. She never finishes all the food I give her, so he eats when I go.

My visa is up for renewal soon, so I've been very reluctant to take on cats. I had to leave two behind last time I left the country, and I really don't want to go through that again. Still, cats call the shots. She's been gradually getting closer and closer. We've played patacake with our paws over the past week, and last night she decided that she wanted a cuddle.

This is the first time she's ever let me stroke her, so it was kind of a big deal. This morning, she's back to running away and pretending I'm a big scary monster, but it is definitely progress.

If I get my visa renewed, I'll name her. At the moment they are Cat One and Cat Two. Name suggestions welcome below.