Sunday, November 27, 2011

[Interview_2] Mark Adam Kaplan

Mark Adam Kaplan is a school teacher, a novelist and a screenwriter.

His first novel, A Thousand Beauties, was published by BeWrite Books in 2009. His second novel, Down, has just been picked up by Bewrite Books, and will be released soon.

In this interview, Mark Kaplan talks about his first picture book, Monsters Do Ugly Things.

How would you describe Monsters Do Ugly Things?

Monsters Do Ugly Things contains 36 illustrations about all things monstrous. It is a satire of social norms and common behaviors. Most of all, it's fun.

It is about inappropriate social behavior. Our monsters pick their noses, eat when they talk, make messes, etc. They also do 'pretty' things, like have friends, and share.

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

This book has been gestating in my mind for years. After the birth of my children, it just gelled. But the book is nothing without Glenn Scano's brilliant illustrations. I'd written the book and it sat in a drawer for a long time. Then I found one of Glenn's old pieces, an etched mirror, that I'd bought from a crafts show. The minute I thought of Glenn for this book, all the lights went on.

The book began even simpler than it ended up. Glenn's art inspired me to expand on the original idea. The book grew organically from our work together.

I wrote the book fairly quickly, then worked with Glenn's illustrations to hone the idea and craft the entire piece. Glenn worked every day, 12 hours a day for 10 months, stopping only for bodily functions and doctor's visits.

Where and when was the book published?

Monsters Do Ugly Things was published on November 15, 2011. Several issues (on the publisher's side) pulled the book from the shelves for a few days. Then it reappeared, all issues resolved.

We had been rejected form about a dozen agents and a handful of publishers. When we investigated self-publishing, we discovered how expensive it would be to print out high-gloss, hard cover books. Add that to my constantly seeing women baby sit their kids while shopping by stuffing an iPhone in their faces... it just made sense to go eBook. But we found there were no established outlets for new Children's eBooks. ePublishing houses also did little or no promotion for the books they published. It didn't make a lot of sense to give the lion's share of the profits to a company that wasn't really working for it.

One big disadvantage is that we have to market the book ourselves. Neither Glenn nor I are marketing experts. Because we are selling a picture book, many people want a hard cover to read at night with their children, and are thrown by the fact that we aren't offering one. But the future is electronic, and many people I know let their children play with their iPad. Why not have something specific, safe, and fun to give the kids to look through?

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

The most difficult part of this was preparing the book for ePublication. Glenn spent hundreds of hours tweaking the illustrations and the text, adjusting the coloring and the sizes, formatting the files and refining the edges

My favorite part was opening the files to see Glenn's artwork. Glenn's favorite part was creating the monsters. We spent more time laughing than doing just about anything else. We've known each other for 35 years, but this is the first project we've ever done together. We plan to do many more.

What sets Monsters Do Ugly Things apart from the other things you've written?

I normally write American tragedies, screenplays, avante garde plays. This is my first picture book, and is an entirely different world than I am used to building.

The book is similar to my others works only in as much as it is a different view of a somewhat accepted part of our society.

What will your next book be about?

We are working on Monsters Grow Up, a sequel to this one.

Related books:

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

[Interview_2] Tahlia Newland

Tahlia Newland writes young adult and adult urban fantasy.

Her books include The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice (Catapult Press, 2011); A Matter of Perception (Catapult Press, 2011) and Realm Hunter (Catapult Press, forthcoming 2012).

Newland is giving away a limited number of ebook copies of her short paranormal romance, The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice while the e-book version of her anthology of urban fantasy & magical realism, A Matter of Perception is available at the special release price of 99c until November 14. On the November 15 the price for A Matter of Perception goes up to $1.99.

In this interview, Tahlia Newland talks about A Matter of Perception:

How would you describe your latest anthology?

A Matter of Perception is an unusual collection of urban fantasy and magical realism that will make you wonder what’s real and what’s not. The stories are thematically linked by various supernatural beings, a touch of romance, a bit of humour, and a smidgen of philosophy. There are gods, aliens, ghosts in the service of sirens, sorcerers who battle each other with magical light, a dream of a future past, a pair of rose-coloured glasses and Norris.

Norris?

Yeah, he’s a really sweet, shy, rather pedantic guy who would like to be a knight in shining armour.

How long did it take you to write the stories that appear in this anthology?

I’m a very creative person. Ideas fly around my mind all the time. I wrote these stories just to try some of them out, but it wasn’t until about a year afterwards that I thought about publishing them. I worked on these and other short stories for about three months initially ... writing, revising or editing every day. I sent some of them into competitions and to magazines, and one got to the semi finals in a big competition, but they’re really different.

It took another three weeks to get feedback, fine edit them and prepare them for publication.

The anthology was published by Catapult Press on November 2, 2011 and is available on Amazon, Smashwords & will soon be in other major outlets.

Catapult Press is the publishing arm of Centrepiece Productions, a company owned by myself and my husband. We set up the publishing side to publish my shorter books while my agent still chases a print deal from traditional publishers for my longer works. The advantage is that I have control over all facets of the production. The downside is that I have responsibility for all facets of production. I’m handling it by being very organised and allotting just a few tasks to do each day.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

I hadn’t written short stories before, so it was a new game for me.

The hardest thing is finding a really snappy story and giving it a bit of a twist at the end.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I didn’t have much trouble with the stories in A Matter of Perception. They came easily. It was just the right time, I guess.

I like finding great endings and several people commented on the clever and often humorous, or tragic endings in the stories, so I’m happy about that. I also love great characters and there are some good ones in this collection. Norris is my favourite. He’s terribly lovable.

What sets A Matter of Perception apart from other things you've written?

All my writing has unusual ideas and a mix of humour, action and romance. All my themes encourage readers to look more closely at the nature of their world, their mind and their perception.

A Matter of Perception is the only collection of short stories I’ve ever written.

What will your next book be about?

Realm Hunter is coming out in December.

The book revolves around Nadima, a philosophy student, who becomes infatuated with Aarod, a handsome shadow slayer. Their relationship jeopardises the success of an important mission in the hidden realm where he lives. When Aarod’s master orders him to leave the mundane world for ever, Nadima is determined to penetrate the veil between the worlds and follow him. But will he be waiting?

How many books have you written so far?

The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice(Catapult Press, 2011). Are you willing to stake your future on a butterfly’s shampoo preferences?" Julia’s not sure. She knows that relationships made in heaven can end up in hell, but if she can avoid having her memory wiped, she just might end up with a god of her own.

A Matter of Perception (Catapult Press, 2011). Do you see what I see? Take a bunch of supernatural beings, a battle of magical light, a mysterious hole in the pavement, a dream of a future past and a pair of rose-coloured glasses, mix them with a little romance and a smidgen of philosophy and you might be left wondering if it isn’t all just a matter of perception. This thought-provoking collection of urban fantasy and magical realism stories includes "The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice" and "The Boneyard", a semi finalist in the Aussiecon 4 Make Ready fantasy/scfi competition of 2010.

Resources:

Author's website
Author's facebook page
Author's Goodreads.com page

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

[Interview] Fungisayi Sasa

Zimbabwean poet and author Fungisayi Sasa lives in Milton Keynes.

She is the author of the children’s book, The Search for the Perfect Head (Eloquent Books, 2008).

One of her short stories was published in the anthology, Writing Free (Weaver Press, 2011) while her poems have appeared in places that include the Poetry International Web and Spilt Milk Magazine.

In this interview, Fungisayi Sasa talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

My dad unwittingly led me to writing during my early childhood years. He was very firm about studying and, as children, we weren't allowed to watch television during the week. And he would often take us to the local library.

At first, I didn't like these visits to the library because reading felt like work to me. But eventually I started enjoying it and through reading, my passion for writing grew and I started writing poems and short stories about my family and the annoying things they would have done to me. Instead of ranting and raving at them when they made me angry, I would write a story about them or write an angry poem. Writing was therapeutic.

When I was in Zimbabwe, writing was simply a hobby, I didn't think I could go anywhere with it. Even though I read many books, my mind didn't grasp the concept that I could be a writer.

When the political situation in Zimbabwe forced my family to flee to the United Kingdom, I found loads of career opportunities that included writing. I studied creative writing at the University of Bedfordshire and with guidance and support from my lecturers, I sharpened my skills. I gained the confidence to send my work out and I found that the thing with writing and becoming published is that you have to push and persevere.

I used to spend hours trawling websites and writing down their details, sending work by post or e-mail - hoping that somebody would be interested. I even used to write work specifically tailored for particular magazines and websites. I sent my work out to so many places and received so many rejections but I didn't let this deter me. I was motivated because I knew that my work was of a suitable standard. If I was asked to make changes, I would.

Have your experiences influenced your writing in any way?

My personal experiences are everything when it comes to my writing.

Some of my characters have my personal traits. They talk the way I do.

My writing flows more easily if it comes from my own personal perspective. For example, in the short story, “Eyes On”, which was published in Writing Free, the idea of stalking came from the fact that when I am on Facebook, I cannot randomly go on a person's profile and check out what they are doing because, to me, it feels like I am stalking them.

However, it would also appear that one of the wonders of modern technology and social networking sites is they appear to have normalised stalking to such an extent that we are not disturbed when we are followed around. It is probably because of this 'miracle' that the main character in “Eyes On”, isn't alarmed when he realises that he is being followed.

What are the most difficult aspects?

Starting writing anything is always difficult. The first sentence is always important to me. It has to make the right impact. If it doesn't, I can't continue.

I can write three pages but if the first sentence of the story or book isn't quite right, I will delete it all.

I don't start writing until the sentence sounds right in my mind. And while I wait for that, I plot the story in my mind and concentrate on characterization.

The moments I enjoy most come after I have finished the work because while I am writing, I can't quite see the piece as a whole. The great thing about finishing a piece is that I can dive back into it and start editing and tweaking it.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Is every word relevant and important? This is what I keep asking myself. This is because as I write I can see a word repeated over and over again. When I see this happening, I remember the time, in my primary school, when my Grade 4 teacher said, “So, then and got are barred from society.” And there was this picture of a man behind bars and that phrase was written underneath.

I usually overcome repetitions like these by reading my work out aloud. If the writing flows well and each word sounds right, I am happy. If not, I tweak it a little bit.

Also, sometimes, motivating myself to write is really difficult. Some days I look at the computer and I think, “No, not yet..” It's not writer's block because the ideas are there, always buzzing in my mind.

What will you write about next?

Baboons … I am working on a re-write of a children's book that I completed sometime ago. I am doing this because I realised the story would work better if it was about humans. I am not saying the baboons evolve into humans, but that when I first wrote the story, I could see humans in my mind but I forced the story into being one about animals.

This conversation was first published by The Zimbabwean

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Friday, October 28, 2011

[Book Launch] Mad, Hopeless & Possible



On October 27, 2011, the Adult Education College in Leicester was the venue of the launch of Siobhan Logan's latest poetry chapbook, Mad, Hopeless & Possible: Shackleton's Endurance Expedition (original plus, 2011).

The title of the chapbook comes from Sir Ernest Shackleton himself who rated applicants for his legendary 1914 Antarctic Expedition as "Mad, Hopeless & Possible". The chapbook also weaves in the hidden shadow-story of the Ross Sea Party, his supply team, who were marooned in the white wilderness just as war consumed Europe.

Leicestershire author Mark Goodwin says, "Siobhan Logan's Mad, Hopeless & Possible lifts the reader out of their warm armchair to place them among the stubborn men of Shackleton's 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

"This history of polar exploration is at once effectively informative and dramatically powerful: smooth, economic prose offset against haunting poetic soliloquies. It's as if Logan has pulled desperate men's voices out of sub-zero winds."

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

[Interview] Octavia McBride-Ahebee

Octavia McBride-Ahebee lives in Philadelphia in the United States.

Her work has  been featured in journals and magazines that include  Damazine: A Literary Journal of the Muslim World; Fingernails Across The Chalkboard: Poetry And Prose on HIV/AIDS From the Black Diaspora; Under Our Skin: Literature of Breast Cancer; Sea Breeze: A Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writing; The Journal of the National Medical Association (Art in Medicine Section) and the Beloit Poetry Journal.

Her poetry collections include Assuming Voices (Lit Pot Press, 2003) and Where My Birthmark Dances (Finishing Line Press, 2011).

In this interview, Octavia McBride-Ahebee talks about her concerns as a writer:

How would you describe your latest book, Where My Birthmark Dances?

My newest collection of poetry, Where My Birthmark Dances was published this past summer - 2011 - by Finishing Line Press. In it I present various human relationships within the context of global inequality. Never are my subjects victims. They seek to be victorious despite great odds.

"Where My Birthmark Dances", the lead poem of this collection, exemplifies the tenor and intention of this project. Told through the voice of a Haitian child, whose mother has left him and Haiti to seek a some fortune in North America as a nanny, this poem invites the children the Haitian nanny is now caring for to consider her, to consider where she has come from, what she has left behind and what physical journey has brought her to them. "Where My Birthmark Dances" is the direct appeal of a small boy, a son, to the children now being cared for by his mother; it is an appeal to them to know who she is and to love her in his absence.
… my mother battled waves
as tall as a thousand ice-cream sundaes piled high
to be there with you
to push back the hair from your face
so your eyes - unobstructed - could dream big

wearing a pink dress, patterned with rainbows
smelling of moth balls, she left me
under the guard of a mosquito net
perfumed with insecticide and the salt of her own tears
in the month of May when the ocean felt young and full of itself

from the harbor named peace she boarded a boat
with the madness of the history of Haiti holding her hand
with its Boogie pushing her to you
with her fear eating the ocean’s confidence …
What is your next project?

I am working on a collection of love stories set in Cote d’Ivoire because I was so in love when I lived there and I was surrounded by so many stories of love.

Who influenced you the most as a writer?

A few days after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, the French-Algerian writer Albert Camus wrote a letter of gratitude to his former elementary school teacher-Louis Germain. Camus essentially stated that it was Germain’s recognition of his humanity and the nurturing of his intellect that had left an indelible impression on Camus and paved the way for his literary successes.

I taught for nine years as a fourth grade teacher at the International Community School of Abidjan, in Cote d’Ivoire. As a gesture of thanks and in recognition of my influence on her daughter, at the close of a school year, a parent gave me a copy of Camus’ letter to his beloved Germain. To say I was touched would be an understatement. But, I, too, as a writer, know so intimately the profound influence a teacher can have on his or her student.

I share all of this as an oral libation to Rose Martin and as recognition to those first educators in our lives who ignited those passions that would come to guide our existence. Martin, now deceased, was a teacher at the Overbrook Elementary School, in Philadelphia. Each year she organized the Black Poetry Panorama, in which just about every student, from kindergarten to sixth grade, had to learn and recite several poems for this huge and anticipated event.

Imagine a community of about 400 households filled with African-American children learning poems by Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Nikki Giovanni, Claude McKay, Robert Hayden, James Weldon Jonson, Gwendolyn Brooks and Countee Cullen to name a few.

This was more than 40 years ago and even my mother, who now has Alzheimer’s, can still recall and recite Langston Hughes’ poem "The Negro Mother" because of the time she helped me to memorize this very long poem.

I came of age in a school setting and a neighborhood community that saw magic in words knew the power of a poem to inspire and respected the writer as one who could be part of a vanguard.

At this time I was also very much influenced by my father and his passion for learning about the African continent. As a boy, he had spent many summers with his aunt, who lived in Oxford, Pennsylvania, the home of Lincoln University, where many African students attended, like Nigeria’s first president Nnamdi Azikiwe; Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah and Namibia’s SWAPO Chairman Mose Penaani Tjitendero. There was a clear affirmation in my early life that the world was big and I could be a part a vital player in it.

All of this marked my literary awakening as a young student, but not yet as a writer. It was when I entered junior high school and attended a small, very progressive all-girls Catholic school that my political awakening was sudden and intense. My teachers were nuns, who did not wear habits, had spent years in Central and South American countries working with displaced, landless farmers and using the philosophy of liberation theology as their guide. They were radical women who introduced me to the art of Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco and David Siqueiros as well as the writing of Ernesto Cardenal, Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz. These sisters with their wide view of the world fused my literary and political passions to make me want to write.

At age 18, in 1981, I visited China as part of the Williams College’s Winter Study Program and then that summer I went to Lesotho, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, which had just gained its independence . Later I would visit Kenya.

At this point, in addition to my beloved African-American poets and other writers from the Americas, I came to adore Audre Lorde, June Jordan and I was now taken with writers from Africa and its Diaspora. I read Maryse Conde, Eric Williams, V. S. Naipaul, Bernard Dadie, Nadine Gordimer, Bessie Head, Breyten Breytenbach, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Mariam Ba, and Ama Ata Aidoo.

When did you start writing?

I always wrote as a teen, but I consciously assumed the identity of a writer after my trip to China, in 1981, right when the Middle Kingdom was just reopening itself to the world. I was 18, African-American, female, traveling with an almost all-white American group and yet I had never consciously explored my perception of myself as an American.

Being the product of all-girl schools from 7-12 grade, I really had, unlike many African-American girls, a strong sense of allegiance to my female self, which would later be heavily reinforced by my reading This Bridge Called My Back (Kitchen Table Press, 1983), Where and When I Enter (Bantam Books, 1985), and the writing of Bell Hooks and Angela Davis.

But one evening in Shanghai, when I had long grown tired of my traveling companions and I wandered the streets on my own, an old man called out to me saying, “Please stop, you, the American.”

I was transfixed and surprised by my own vulnerability that his identification of me as an American created.

I did stop and asked how did he know I was American.

For the most part, the people of color that one saw then in China were a few African students and Africans affiliated with the diplomatic corps. He - Mr. George Lee - said it was the way I moved, the way I carried by backpack, the way I held my head.

He invited me to his home, a very humble apartment that he shared with his wife, son and daughter-in-law. They served me a feast, probably using most of their rations for the month and they, especially the son, told me of their lost years, of what had happened to them during the Cultural Revolution. The son had been a promising violinist and had his musical education interrupted and was forced to abandon his studies, leave the city and work as farmhand.

There was a violin in the apartment and I asked him to play and he was so ashamed, because he thought his skill level was subpar.

Well, I had played the violin throughout my school years and I showed him what subpar was.

He laughed and he played and that was one of the most memorable evenings of my life and it inspired my first short story, "The American and Mr. Lee".

How would describe the writing you are doing now?

I am fascinated by different cultures and what happens when cultures converge as well as why and how people move throughout the world. My two books of poetry are very much influenced by these interests.

My poetry, for the most part, is narrative vignettes that are dense and emotionally difficult, but they are honest. Just a few lines from, "The Welcome", my narrative poem that conveys the fear, the loss and the desperation of a woman fleeing her homeland exemplifies this point.

The Haitian narrator states:
… I fled home with 42 bodies of hope
in a boat built with none
a boat unfamiliar with the magnitude of sustained desire
spooked by the weighty fears
of those riding in it
and the moon's promise of crazed retribution
if it failed to move to the cruel rhythm of the lunar beat.

We held on with our dread and our vomit
and the death grips they gave
when we thought of home
and heads of lovers
- faces full of lashes and hyssop-stained breath -
without bodies
that rolled
with no wind behind them
down hills that hollered even when the sun was hanging …
In "In Defense of Flowers", I juxtapose the beauty of nature with the brutal nature of human beings. A Liberian woman, a victim of a horrific civil war, flees her fellow countryman and finds protection and sustenance from a flowering bush:
... I run to hide in the voluminous fury of a jasmine shrub in
bloom
its pale butter blossoms shield me
from the bloodletting
bathing its roots
I snort, in silent gulps, which claim my dignity
the calming splendor of the jasmine’s bouquet
I am rescued
for an instance
from a hunter high
on the dizziness of his own deprivation
I am rescued
from my brother
by a perfumed bush.
I am emphatic about the narrative, especially concerning the African continent, not be a singular one; one of only doom and gloom. There are many narratives to be told.

My time spent in Cote d’Ivoire was rich and exhilarating and truly celebratory. My daughter - Sojourner - was 7 when we left Cote d’Ivoire. Fluent then in English, French and making great strides with her Baoule and a student at a school where more than 70 nationalities were represented, Sojourner came to know the world with many hearts. So when we left Cote d'Ivoire due to its civil strife and landed in Philadelphia, my hometown, Sojourner was decidedly unimpressed.

It was not my city that was as disappointing as it was the general value system held in esteem here, in the States. Kids laughed when they discovered she spoke other languages. They, as well as adults, cringed when she shared what foods of the world she loved. On dress down, when students could shed their uniforms for less formal wear, Sojourner insisted on wearing clothing made of material with intricate designs that told stories of its own. These were talking clothes that she had worn in her previous life to a wedding, a baptism, a funeral, a communion or to a relative’s dissertation defense. Her new compatriots, both young and old, were neither impressed by travel nor to listening to the way others move in the world.

Sojourner never doubted her place in world and never allowed others to shame her into smallness. She came home one day from school, not upset, but incredulous, that some classmates had laughed at the natural state of her hair and part of her response to me was, ”Mom, they don’t even have combs with names …”

Thus this poem was born - one of celebration - "Victory Threads":
Victory Threads
For Sojourner

I heard her friends laugh at her
that laugh which is square
that stops at points
never to wonder
only to breathe in
base expulsions of uncurious air

she had proclaimed
in a combined fit
of wistfulness and swaggering insolence
she had had combs in Abidjan
with names
- Akissi, Ahou, Abla, Ama , Adjoua -
who understood the temperament
of each day’s hair story
who could dress your head
while weaving choruses of victory threads in your brain
preparing you to meet the day
haughty and wholly armored.
What are you main concerns as a writer?

My writing is very much informed by the years I lived in various parts of Africa.

My poetry, for the most part, gives voice to women who historically have not been heard: African women, women in refugee camps, women who are victims of civil war, isolated, rural women who battle such health challenges as obstetric fistula and breast cancer as well as immigrant women trying to find their place in their newly adopted countries.

More increasingly, my poetry addresses the environmental devastation created by corporate entities in the name of development.

What advice would you give to other writers?

I will leave you with the generous and simple advice of poet Mary Oliver:
Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
Photo Credit: The Apiary Corp

Related books:

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Monday, October 24, 2011

[Interview] Barbara Magara-Nkosana

Barbara Magara-Nkosana lives in Leeds in the United Kingdom.

She is the author of the Traditional Zimbabwean Cookbook (Lion Press, 2011).

In this interview, Barbara Magara-Nkosana talks about why she wrote the cookbook:

How would you describe the Traditional Zimbabwean Cookbook?

It is all about Zimbabwean cooking.

The book comprises of over 100 recipes of dishes that make Zimbabwe’s fascinating and diverse cuisine. The cookbook invites food lovers to taste the delicacies and flavours of Zimbabwean food.

How many books have you written so far?

This is the first cookbook that I have written, published by Lion Press.

My next book will talk all about contemporary Zimbabwean cooking, fusing the classic favourite Zimbabwean dishes with world cuisines.

I am hoping to invite food lovers to experiment with the fused tastes, hopefully bring Zimbabwean cuisine to the level that it deserves.

Why did you decide to write the Traditional Zimbabwean Cookbook?

I believe that knowledge is for sharing and that we cannot rely on oral tradition alone to preserve and maintain our culinary tradition.

I frequently got requests to share recipes for various dishes. In response to these requests, I made notes, e- mailed or gave cooking instructions over the telephone. With the advice of a friend, I started to compile recipes for the cookbook.

Was it difficult to write up the recipes?

Yes, definitely.

Generally, when cooking, I tend not to measure quantities of ingredients because I have cooked the dishes for so long, and know what quantities to use from the top of my head. However, to test and write up the recipes for this book, I had to measure and time everything. This process was very time-consuming and challenging.

What did you enjoy about the process?

I enjoyed every step of creating the Traditional Zimbabwean Cookbook. I met wonderful people who welcomed me into their kitchens and shared their culinary skills.

Lasting friendships and a lot of lessons have been learnt in the process.

Cooking has been part of my life and my passion since childhood. A lot of my culinary skills were passed to me by my parents and extended family. I am very proud of the many fabulous cooks in my family. They have encouraged me to bring pleasure and enjoyment into my cooking.

Why is home cooking so important?

It is a way of bringing families and communities together. Sharing food is at the heart of Zimbabwean social life, be it in festive celebrations or commemorations.

What are your favourite foods?

Freshly picked wholesome horticultural produce which, in Zimbabwe, is seasonal. I also enjoy cooking dishes with sun-dried preserved foods, they add a distinctive flavour to the dish.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

[Interview] P. J. Hawkinson

P. J. Hawkinson lives in Kansas in the United States.

She is the author of Half Bitten (Trafford Publishing, 2010).

Working with Karen Wodke and writing as Wodke Hawkinson, P. J Hawkinson is also the co-author of books that include Catch Her in the Rye: Selected Short Stories Vol. I (CreateSpace, 2011) and Blue: Selected Short Stories Vol. II (Smashwords, 2011).

In this interview, P. J. Hawkinson talks about her concerns as a writer:

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

Karen describes our writing as "a fictional smorgasbord." I agree with her and would like to add that readers can sample our variety of genres in both Catch Her in the Rye and Blue.

Who is your target audience?

Betrayed will be for mature audiences while our short story books and Tangerine would make good reading for readers from young adult to senior readers.

The audience we write for is the one we ourselves fit into. However, in the near future, we plan to write some short stories for older children and possibly even put out a most unusual novel.

In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most?

I like to think that the influence comes from within; from personal experiences and observations. Then, of course, Karen and I take these and twist them beyond recognition. But, after reading too many authors to record here, I will admit that many ways of writing twine together to become my way.

No matter what a person reads, experiences, or sees, something stays behind to become a part of you. It may not be something you would ever believe, but everything we do and say was learned from someone or something.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

Actual events from my own life rarely enter my writing.

I did, however, take a house that Karen, I, and another friend of ours had the opportunity to explore as teenagers and slip it into Half-Bitten. It went through quite a metamorphosis but it began from my memory.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

We are working hard to build an audience, a following, but even if it never comes, I can’t imagine not writing.

Do you write everyday?

Rarely does a day go by that I don’t write something. When not actually writing, I am observing. I have a recorder that I make notes on so as not to forget ideas that might formulate themselves into a masterpiece.

My sessions can begin at any time and any place. I work on a laptop, usually at the dining room table, where I can gaze out the patio doors and watch the birds at my hand-painted bird houses, the rabbits frolicking in the yard or being chased by the big yellow cat from next door, and even an occasional hummingbird.

How the session proceeds really depends on what project needs attention. It never ends; things simply get put on hold until I can step back into the time and place I left earlier.

How many books have you written so far?

In Half Bitten (Trafford Publishing, 2010), teenager Trudy Purdy, a self-described 'plain Jane', is attacked by the boy she considers her boyfriend and three of his buddies. They leave her for dead on a deserted beach where she is found by a roving band of vampires. Trudy begins to feel a new power growing within and decides to use this power to exact revenge on Tray and his friends. She wields her newfound strength, gained by drinking the blood of others, to plot the 'accidental' deaths of the boys who had brutalized her. As she systematically destroys her attackers, she realizes she is changing and seeks answers to the unsettling questions surrounding her new powers and how it will transformation the rest of her life.

And, writing as Wodke Hawkinson, I co-authored Catch Her in the Rye, Selected Short Stories Vol. I (CreateSpace, 2011) and Blue: Selected Short Stories Vol. II (Smashwords, 2011).

When did you start writing?

I never really wrote anything, other than helping Karen with silly stories while in high-school, until I wrote Half Bitten in 2010.

After reading the True Blood and Twilight series, I had the idea to write a different type of vampire book and found writing easier than I would have imagined.

I contacted Trafford Publishing and they published Half Bitten for me.

What advantages or disadvantages did your choice of publishers present?

I received 40 soft covers and 40 hard covers along with a number of bookmarks, business cards, and postcards. I was provided no list as to who to send the postcards to and found the prices of their promotion packages to be beyond my means.

After beginning to write with Karen we tried to get traditional publishers but met rejection after rejection, usually due to the fact that we had no agent.

Karen discovered self-publishing options that met our needs and we went live with Catch Her in the Rye a few months ago.

Promotion remains a problem, but Karen is the perfect co-author and plugs our book in as many places as possible and as often as possible. Working full time, I can’t contribute as much time as I’d wish, but I try to do my share.

We decided to initially publish with CreateSpace and first released Catch Her in the Rye as both a soft cover and a Kindle version. Karen next discovered SmashWords which will format e-books for many e-readers and we released Blue on SmashWords and then also on CreateSpace for the soft cover version.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

[Short Story] Ophelia

By Ambrose Musiyiwa*

I am my Beloved’s but my Beloved is not mine.

We were sitting on the edge of the road when she asked me: “What do you think about my Beloved?”

I didn’t want to think about her Beloved.

“Well?” she probed — big, bright, brown eyes looking up at me as if I were a genii about to grant a wish.

“Well, what?” I asked, looking away.

“Well, what do you think about my Beloved?” she insisted.

“You might not want to hear what I have to say,” I said.

“I want to hear it,” she insisted.

“I don’t think I am the right person to ask,” I said. “I can’t be objective.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I want to here what you have to say.”

“You want the truth?” I asked.

She nodded.

“I don’t like Simba,” I said. “I think he is childish and mean and I think he is using you.”

My Beloved’s face darkened the way earth darkens when rain clouds gather around over it and a glint appeared in her big, bright, brown eyes.

“How can you say that about him?” she asked.

“You asked for the truth and I gave it to you,” I said.

My Beloved loved Simba. I could see it when the two of them were together. She had a special look she reserved for him. She looked at him the way a child looks at a favourite, loved, trusted uncle. She looked at him the way she looked at me when she asked: “What do you think of my Beloved?”

She got up and went indoors and I got up and went home and read William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.

The hollowness remained.

I put Blake back in his place on the bookshelf.

Ophelia had a hold on me and nothing Blake could say could loosen the grip. I hungered for her with a hunger that fed upon itself. Nothing I could do, nothing Ophelia could do could dispel the hunger. And when we argued and fought, the hunger grew until it became an ulcer eating away at my insides.

I read the Song of Songs and the hunger became a wound which bled.

And for the next seven days Ophelia would not speak to me.

What had I been trying to prove?

For all I knew, Simba might love Ophelia as much as she loved him, as much as I loved her. I really had no right to say anything about him. And what Ophelia did with her body was her own business, not mine.

And I missed her. Even though I saw her everyday, I missed her.

She would not speak to me.

I filled my days with things to do and waited for her to call. A week passed and she did not call.

I went to her.

We took the beer I had brought with me, as a peace-offering, into the living room and Ophelia took two mugs from the kitchen and we sat on the cold, polished floor of the living room and leaned against the wall of the unfurnished room and the hunger was like a presence crowding in on us. And Ophelia felt she had to speak to shake off the presence and she said: “I am pregnant.”

I had a feeling all this had happened before.

Last year Ophelia had gone to Goromonzi where Simba was teaching. She had stayed with him for a week. A month later she found she was pregnant and did not want to have the baby.

Rudo. We had agreed to call the baby Rudo.

I had tried to dissuade her from aborting.

“But Simba no longer wants to see me,” she had said.

“He will come back to you,” I had said. “He always comes back. And even if he doesn’t, I don’t see what the problem is.”

“The baby will need a father,” she had said.

“I am here,” I had said.

But her mind was made up. She wanted an abortion.

Simba and Ophelia raised the money and I found the doctor who was willing to perform the abortion.

It had been for the best.

I suppose.

If she had agreed to my madcap idea, what were we going to give the baby? What was she going to wear? What was she going to eat? When she got ill, where were we going to get the money to send her to a doctor? I wasn’t working. Ophelia wasn’t working. Our chances of getting jobs were slim. And my parents had all but disowned me. If her parents had found out that she was pregnant, they would have chased her away from home.

“How long have you known?” I asked.

“A week.”

“Whose is it?”

“It’s Simba’s. Who else’s can it be?”

She drank the last dregs of beer that were in her mug and refilled it.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Does Simba know?”

“Yes. I told him yesterday,” she said.

“How did he take it?”

“He wanted me to have another abortion. I told him I am keeping this one.”

It was past midnight. The station Ophelia’s portable radio was tuned to had closed and we hadn’t noticed.

We finished the remaining beer in silence and I got up to leave and she took me as far as the gate and we stopped and she asked: “Does he love me?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know.”

Ophelia and Simba are now living together.

They have been living together for the past three years.

She hasn’t written.

Or maybe she has written and the letter is still in the post.

*Ambrose Musiyiwa has worked as a freelance journalist and a teacher. His short stories have been featured in anthologies that include Writing Now (Weaver Press, 2005) and Writing Free (Weaver Press, 2011). Currently he is working on another story.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

[Interview] Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende

Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende was born in Zimbabwe. She worked in Germany for a number of years before moving to Scotland where she was a student at the University of Glasgow. Currently, she lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

One of her short stories has been featured in Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe (amaBooks, 2011).

In this interview, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende talks about her concerns as a writer:

Do you write every day?

No. I do not write every day. That is in part due to time constraints but also because I spend a lot of time reading or creating stories in my head so that when I do sit down to write, I write as opposed to thinking.

I am putting together a short story collection and working on a novel.

I create stories while I am chopping vegetables or folding laundry. Then when I have half an hour to sit at my computer, it is to put down something. The writing usually ends because I have something to attend to, like the pot of burning stew!

Often times I have a notebook close by to jot ideas down as I go about my daily activities, including grocery shopping.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

So far the biggest challenge I face is juggling family life and finding the time to write. My daughters are 10, 8 and 5 (twins) and they require a lot of energy and attention, which leaves very little time for much else.

I have learnt to be extremely efficient in my use of the little time that I do have.

When did you start writing?

I started writing and enjoying it when I was in Grade 7. I was about 12 years old.

Over the years I have written creatively and, also, as a scientist. Currently, I write literary fiction. Short stories mainly.

When I started writing seriously last year, I was doing it mainly for my friends who I went to school with and those who knew me growing up. Over the years many of them have suggested that I write and so I started a blog purely to share stories with friends and family. My friend, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, who I have known for 10 years, read some of my pieces and hooked me up with a couple of editors of literary journals and the journey began.

My most significant achievement as a writer has been to turn a personal passion into something to be shared as a way to entertain and perhaps to enrich others. This, above all else, gives me the greatest satisfaction.

My only hope is that whoever gets to read my stories enjoys them as much as I enjoy writing them. My hope is also that my stories appeal to those who are familiar with the environment and the experiences that inspire the stories as well as to those who enjoy a good, well-written story no matter what the story's context or background.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

My personal experiences have an impact on my writing in many ways. I recognize that my prose style borrows heavily on the oral, story-telling tradition that was very much a part of my childhood. My experiences living in the village provide a rich context for many of my stories.

My extensive travels and living in different countries has shaped many of my views and beliefs and this comes through in some of the characters I create, as does personal loss and challenges that I have had to face.

Being a wife and a mother also feed my writing tremendously.

Which authors influenced you most?

I draw inspiration from many writers from different backgrounds and eras. The ones that come to mind, because I read them over and over again, are: George Orwell, for his crisp uncluttered style; Milan Kundera, for his audacious and oftentimes crazy characters; Toni Morrison, for her uncanny ability to revisit the same subject matter and present it in unique ways through compelling characters and use of language; Chinua Achebe, for telling a story that would have an indelible impact on my young psyche as an African teenager in a predominantly white school; Tsitsi Dangarembga, for weaving an amazing tapestry in which I could locate myself as a Zimbabwean woman, in her book, Nervous Conditions.

There are so many more writers who have influenced my work and my desire to write and share my stories: Chris Mlalazi, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Charles Mungoshi, John Eppel, Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka, Ama Ata Aidoo, Yvonne Vera and so on and so forth.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My one major concern is the fact that there seems to be an expectation that as a writer who is Zimbabwean and therefore African, I cannot create art for art’s or write for writing’s sake. There seems to be this expectation that as a writer I have the responsibility of being a good ambassador for country and for continent.

What concerns me is the definition of good ambassador. Who is articulating it and the parameters that are used to define the 'good ambassador'? I live in angst over the fact that I may be accused of pandering to the west by presenting an Africa that fuels their hunger for sad stories of war, boy soldiers, famine, poverty and corruption. It seems that this is quite an issue based on the criticisms that have been leveled against contemporary writers whose work I identify with.

I think, for me, the best way to deal with this issue is to simply write what I like and to tell stories that help me make sense of my own world. Anything less than this, writing ceases to be the joyful passion through which I can be fully myself.

I also accept that inherent in the decision to get published is the risk of uncomfortable scrutiny and criticism. Not everyone will like what I write ... that is totally fine.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

[Interview] Debra Duneier

Debra Duneier is an accredited LEED® Green Associate, a certified Eco-Designer and a Feng Shui master practitioner.

She is also creator of EcoChi® and author of EcoChi: Designing The Human Experience (New Voices Press, 2011).

In this interview, Debra Duneier talks about her concerns as a writer:

Do you write every day?

I write five or six days a week.

I have three blogs. I have two columns that I write weekly. I am a guest writer for a variety of websites and, of course, there is always ... the next book.

My favorite place to write is in my outdoor office on the North Fork of Long Island. Surrounded by organic farms, vineyards and the Long Island sound with my feet firmly planted in nature, my creative juices flow! This is where my first book, EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience was written.

What would you say led you to create the EcoChi design system?

It is exhilarating and not really surprising that all the hard work and the years of accumulating knowledge in a variety of disciplines led me to the creation of the new design system I call EcoChi®.

EcoChi is built on a solid foundation of three basic, tried and true ingredients: classical feng shui, green and sustainable living, and environmental psychology.

As I studied and undertook new projects, my findings exhilarated me. I could clearly see how environmental psychology could be integrated with feng shui and green and sustainable practices to enhance and deepen the human experience in our indoor spaces and in our world. This is how EcoChi was born.

What made you decide to write EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience?

I knew the EcoChi system of design would make positive changes in peoples’ lives, projects and businesses but I had no idea how powerful and transformative EcoChi would be - not until my clients called me and shared their stories. Once the mind-blowing potential of EcoChi revealed itself to me, I decided that I wanted to reach as many people as possible and the best way to do that was to write a book. Since this is my first book I hired an editor and I was on my way ...

The book was published by New Voices Press and has been available for purchase since September 17, 2011.  The book creates awareness that life is lived the way it is designed and offers readers the tools to create indoor spaces that support their goals both personally and professionally and at the same time propagate environmental integrity.

How long did it take you to write the book?

It took me two years to complete  EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience although I feel it is the culmination of my life experiences that has brought me to this place and time.

I have been asked many times, “What kind of book did you write and who is your audience?”

I should have my elevator speech down by now but I don’t. I will affectionately say that the book is a little 'schizophrenic.' It talks about my journey leading up to the creation of EcoChi, basics about the core disciplines that make up the system and, mostly, it is about the transforming experiences of my clients.

As people shared their stories with me I knew I had to write about their revelations.

The target audience for EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience is anyone interested in the design of indoor spaces and how it influences the inhabitants of those spaces. It is also inspirational, educational, and has easy to implement tips so I guess it can be considered a self-help book as well.

How did you choose a publisher for the book? 

New Voices Press is a small publisher in New York. I selected a small publisher because I was told by other authors that a large publisher would add another two years to the process. This is the moment in time when people are ready for the concept covered in my book. I knew that the world would be receptive to EcoChi today. That created an urgency to find the fastest route to market.

The biggest challenge with a small publisher is that they offer little or no publicity - so it is up to me to get the word out about the book.

I hired a PR company for publicity and a marketing and business development professional to help me get the word out about the book.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into the book?

Sitting down to write the first chapter of my book was the most difficult moment of the process. This was because I had a preconceived idea about what the book should be, but the words flowing onto the page did not resemble my outline. The only way out of this difficult time was to keep writing and to allow the book to take on a life of its own - and it did.

I see myself as a story teller - so, the moments that I enjoyed writing most were when I told the tales of the people who experienced EcoChi first hand. Describing their faces, challenges, goals and outcomes, for me, was like creating a sculpture and having the opportunity to share it.

What sets EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience apart from other things you've written?

Most of the articles and columns that I write are focused on subject matter, tips and products.

EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience is a book is about people. It is micro because it is about specific people and their lives and about particular projects and interior spaces. It is macro because we can see ourselves, our loved ones, our friends and our neighbors through the lives of others. It speaks to residences, offices and public spaces and the planet as well.

The ribbon that runs through all of my writing to date is helping others to have a better life and, as a result, a better world.

EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience is my most significant achievement as a writer to date. As people read the book, I am told, even the most unlikely candidates are moved to action. The fact that my book has already been a positive influence in people’s personal and work lives is something I am very proud of. I am humbled by the power of EcoChi.

What will your next book be about?

My next book will be EcoChi: Recipes for a Better Life. These recipes will include step by step EcoChi instructions for interior design, creativity, work life, celebrations, loss, wellness, life crisis and turning points.

When did you start writing?

At age nine, I wrote my first poem, which I called “A Room with Four Walls.” At that age writing was a personal outlet for me. I had a difficult childhood and there was no one to talk to. A blank page was the safest place for me to express my fears and pain - it couldn’t lash out at me. I was out of harm’s way when I was in school and also the public library. Books became my first love. The novels that I read acted like a magic carpet ride creating possibilities of a better life ahead, in my mind and in my soul.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

The biggest challenge that I face as a writer is insecurity.

This is my first book and as I said earlier, I hired an editor to guide me through the process. At first, I took whatever she said as truth - after all she was so much more experienced than me. Things like, "This belongs in your autobiography not this book", or, "Save this for your novel!"

I called my son Jamie in LA who is a writer for NBC’s Parenthood and explained to him my creative process. When I sat down to write, the words were flowing through me like a natural spring. There were stories to tell and they were at my fingertips. But I was concerned because the professional advice I was getting was that EcoChi was not the book where I should tell those stories.

Jamie listened patiently and then said, "Mom, remember to stay honest and true to your own voice."

Even today those words help to navigate me through the most challenging days of writing.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

[Interview] Ellah Kandi

Zimbabwean writer, Ellah Kandi is a chef, a wedding and events planner, and a basic worship sign language and performing arts teacher.

She is also secretary and choir coordinator of the Emmanu’-El Apostolic Gospel Academy aka De Montfort University Gospel Choir which is based in Leicester in the United Kingdom.

She is the author of El-Ellah Multi-Cultural Cuisines: Heavenly Recipes (Xlibris, 2011) and is currently working on a children’s book.

In this interview, Ellah Kandi talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

I started writing and producing short reports when l was still in high school in Zimbabwe. I remember using exercise books and arranging my work to make it look like a magazine and saying, “One day l will publish a church magazine or a book”.

When l moved to Leicester, there was a project called “As Is” that encouraged us to write. I remember a Mr Higgins asking me to translate Shona writings into English and to write what l did during the day.

Little did I know that Mr Higgins was re-structuring what I was writing and turning it into poems. It never crossed my mind that any of what I was writing would ever be published.

It was only after the project was finished that someone gave me copies of the small published book. I was amazed at seeing my work in the book and l remember saying to myself that if l had known the work was going to be published, l would have used a different approach.

How would you describe the writing you are now doing?

So far, I have compiled a cookbook and I am now working on a children’s biblical story book.

For the cookbook, my target audience doesn’t have any boundaries. The book is for all people, from all walks of life. It has recipes on meals from the four corners of the globe hence the title, Multi-Cultural Cuisine.

When I compiled the cookbook, I wanted to provide a book that gave my audience the opportunity to experience cooking from around the world and I wanted them to also enjoy food that is prepared in a circumspect manner.

The target audience for children's story book are children, schools, Sunday schools and various Christian communities. I was motivated to write this book because I believe there is a lack of books for children that contain messages that can have a life-long, real and positive impact on their lives. This story book is based on biblical events. It also explores some events in the Bible that have never been written with a young audience in mind.

In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most?

The Bible is my greatest influence. My experience of reading and enjoying the Bible fuels my desire for the children to have the same, if not more, enjoyment as I do. I thought the best way to achieve this would be to include illustrations in the story book. The illustrations will benefit English-speaking children as well as children of different nationalities and languages.

How have your own personal experiences influenced your writing?

I remember, a number of years back, we were praying and eating particular dishes and many heavenly recipes which God had revealed to me. I wanted to share many of them. l would jot them down when l received them.

I mentioned to a number of people that l was going to publish a recipe book someday and one particular brother would always ask when l was going to get the recipes published because he wanted a copy. Although he never stopped asking, it was only at the age of 29 that l decided to get the recipe book published as my birthday gift to myself.

El-Ellah Multi-Cultural Cuisines: Heavenly Recipes is based on my own cooking experience. It also contains testimony on how I was influenced by the bishop of my church who is an expert chef.

I teach children in the Gospel Academy where I am co-ordinator. This experience led me to decide to write a book for children because I noticed that with children’s biblical story books, some of the stories are not always told as accurately as they occur in the Bible. My book intends to address this and bridge this gap.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concerns are accuracy and that my readers will enjoy and be impacted by what I write.

One of my biggest challenges is time and being able, on a daily basis, to coordinate the many projects I am involved with and meeting various deadlines. I deal with these challenges by delegating some of my workload to my colleagues and peers who possess the relevant skills.

Do you write everyday?

Although I do not write everyday, I write most of the days of the week. Having a busy life means it is complex but when you get going you forget you are tired.

I start by writing new pieces and then l proof read and l always end with illustrations.

So far, I have written two books, El-Ellah Multi-Cultural Cuisines: Heavenly Recipes (Xlibris Publishing, 2011) and the children’s Bible storybook, which is still in production and should be published this month (October) by Xlibris Publishers.

I believe that El-Ellah Multi-Cultural Cuisines covers important cooking topics and themes. It includes recipes for appetizers, soups, fish and seafood, meat, rice and pastas, vegetables and salads, pies, puddings, and so much more.

Pastor Samuel Gapara, who is the Pentecostal and International Chaplin for the De Montfort University, assisted me in looking for publishers and Xlibris was one of the publishers we found.

Finding a publisher was a bit tough. I settled for Xlibris because it was one of the two publishing companies whose consultancies I had a chance to speak to.

I have had a very difficult time with the publishers. As a first timer, l would have appreciated more assistance from Xlibris, which l really expected to get.

l did not receive the assistance I expected and I was not pleased. I thought about give up many times when the publisher was not helping but God was and is on my side so l got through it. When advertising their services, Xlibris sounded so different. They made me believe l would receive the help l need but that help was not forthcoming.

At the moment I am looking for a different publisher for any of my future works.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into your books?

At times, I’ve found it difficult to add that perfecting touch to my illustrations using modern gadgets. Being new to the gadget world, it was a completely different experience compared to drawing with a traditional pencil.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

Not using precise measurements in the recipes. A different method of cooking to what we are accustomed to.

What sets the books you have written apart from each other?

Having to draw the illustrations has been a new experience and this, I believe, sets the children's book apart from the cooking book.

The children's book is very different from my first book and I am enjoying the challenge. The writing is different. The cooking book was a more technical book and involved detailing ingredients and cooking techniques whilst the children’s book calls for innovation, creativity and simplicity.

There are similarities between the two books in that both books are written based on biblical principles and are driven by moral and ethical values.

What will your next book be about?

Recipe/Cookery Book no.2

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Being able to reach nations, touching lives. For example, someone in Ghana said that my being a woman has encouraged a number of school students who were ready to give up on a hospitality course because of lack of resources. The person said that hearing my pre-testimony in the cookbook encouraged the students to stay on the course.

One organisation in Ghana has said that when they open their catering department they would like me to honour them by naming it. This has definitely been a significant achievement, being a role model to people l have never met.

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