Saturday, June 30, 2012

[Interview_2] Julius Sai Mutyambizi-Dewa

Julius Sai Mutyambizi-Dewa is the author of Preaching to Priests (Timeless Avatar, 2007); Candid Narratives (i-Proclaim Books, 2010); and, Two Faces One Woman (i-Proclaim Books, 2011):

In this interview, Mutyambizi-Dewa talks about his latest play:

How would you describe Two Faces One Woman?

The story I tell in Two Faces One Woman touches on contemporary post-colonial societies, especially the crossroads that Zimbabwe finds herself in post-2000. In approaching the topic, I had to set aside my own political affiliations and sympathies and approached the topic from the position of an innocent bystander. I liked the whole idea of a Debbie Scott, a young white Zimbabwean, being the chief defender of the black government where Takubona Mapembwe, the son of a war veteran, comes out as black Zimbabwe’s chief antagonist.

What motivated you to take this approach?

I have this thing in mind that tries to get the races seeing beyond race and I believe writers have a role to play.

Readers will notice that my writing, especially where it regards the whole point of the liberation struggle and the post-colonial Zimbabwe, will be approached from this philosophy. I want to see a stronger Zimbabwe emerge which is not painted in colour and which is based on merit. We have to demistify this thing of race war in Zimbabwe. There were more blacks in the Rhodesia National Army than there were whites and we have white Zimbabweans who died fighting for the liberation cause. We also have people like Rob Monro, Professor O.T. Ranger, Jeremy Brickhill, A.V.M. Welch and others who suffered in one way or the other during UDI in Zimbabwe. Post-independence we have people like Ian Kay, Roy Bennett etc who helped black farmers in their neighbourhoods.

I am driven by this philosophy, to tell a story of integration... white, Indian, black, Kalanga, Shona, Venda, Ndebele, Tonga etc... we are all a mix of villains and saints but unfortunately we have created a society where the villains and saints are identified by race, tribe and creed not deeds. This therefore sets Two Faces One Woman apart from any story I have told so far.

The issue of racial, ethnic and religious integration will continue to define my characterisation and writing for the forseeable future.

In what way is Two Faces One Woman similar to other things you have written?

It is similar to other work that I have published and that I will publish in future because I am that same writer who never took an English literature class in high school. I believe I am original and I do not have so many literary influences speaking to me as I write. I enjoy this aspect so much as well.

How did you choose a publisher for Two Faces One Woman?

All my books are self-published. I write in genres that are very difficult to place with mainstream publishers... poetry and plays... and this has meant I have to self-publish.

I started Two Faces One Woman in 2010 and finished writing it in 2011. I then sent it to Penguin in South Africa but although they expressed interest in the idea be book, they advised that they did not publish plays as there is no market for plays. After trying two more publishers and they too expressing some doubts about a market for plays, I abandoned the project and started writing the story in the form of a novel. But something wasn’t coming out even as I tried, the idea had been a play originally and to change it would kill off the very qualities I want to maintain. I then decided to self-publish and bring the story out that way.

Some colleagues have said they will be serialising the play in an online newspaper, which, to me is welcome news.

What are your plans for the future?

I have already finished my next book, Ndimirwa, a play about a Lozwi/Rozvi heroine.

I think I have written my last play for now as I am now concentrating on the novel form.

My previous work with Mapupo Theatre Group, a drama group that I founded in 1991 in Zimbabwe may explain why I have this love for plays. However, my first piece of writing was a novel in Shona which I wrote in 1988. Those days it was very difficult to get published. It was also very difficult to self-publish. So, members of the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe decided that performing our work was the only way we were going to be heard and that’s why we had Albert Nyathi, Cynthia Mungofa, Nhamo Mhiripiri, Titus Motsebi and many others becoming dub-poets. To me drama and plays became a natural choice as I tended to write more stories than poems.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Interview _ The Coffin Factory Folks

In this interview, Laura Isaacman and Randy Rosenthal talk about The Coffin Factory, a magazine that has been described as "a nexus between readers, writers, and the book publishing industry."

How would you describe The Coffin Factory?

The Coffin Factory is the magazine for people who love books.

We acquire stories, essays, and poems from at least a handful of more-recognizable authors and publish their work alongside those of lesser-known writers, whose work we believe is as compelling and thrilling to read.

The high-quality design and content from writers and artists from around the world signals to our readers that each issue is worth reading cover to cover, just as they would a book.

What role do you play in the magazine?

We are publishers, editors, art directors, and we do the design of both the print magazine and website.

What are the most challenging aspects of the work that you do?

Publishing a printed, visually engaging magazine that features some of the best authors and artists in the world on virtually no budget.

How do you deal with these challenges?

We keep our chin up.

What do you like most about the magazine?

The white space. There's tons of it.

When was the magazine set up?

The idea for the magazine began in April of 2011. The first issue was in stores in October.

Why was it set up?

We believe that quality literature and art are essential for the existence of an intelligent society, and we want to perpetuate an intellectually engaged culture.

Who was involved in setting up the magazine?

Both of us. We also have two wonderful Managing Editors who helped to develop the idea as it grew from a baby into a toddler.

What was the nature of their involvement?

They converted us from Scotch to Bourbon.

Are all the people who were involved at the beginning still there?

Yes. Because they share the same passion for literature as we do. And we have a fun time putting an issue of our favorite authors together, and being able to share that with readers.

What were the most challenging aspects of the work that went into setting up the magazine?

Entering the publishing business without any experience in the publishing business.

Why do you think this was so?

Because we had no experience in the publishing business.

How did you deal with these challenges?

We're still learning the publishing business.

How has it been received?

Very well.

Who is your target audience?

People with good taste.

How do you find them?

They find us.

Where are your contributors coming from?

From all over the world. We're pretty sure we have the most diverse list of authors and artists in any North American magazine.

What would you say about the range and quality of submissions you are receiving at present?

We receive a lot of submissions. And the writers that are familiar with the magazine's particular aesthetic taste submit very good work.

What is The Library Donation Project?

The Library Donation Project is our effort to introduce young readers to the world's most exciting contemporary writers. We are donating 1,000 magazines to universities across the country, with a goal to raise $3,000 to help cover the cost of shipping.

What motivated The Coffin Factory's involvement in the project?

We hope that the next generation of readers will know that it's cool to be smart. It's important to try and save the younger generation from participating in the degeneration of language, which, sooner or later, will affect the level of our nation's intelligence. Can't be a superpower if you're super stupid.

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