21 questions

Hey, can I ask you something?

How do you do that?

Do, what?

Like, how do you know that something could turn into a story?

I don’t know the precise answer. I guess, sometimes I ask myself what if, and then I see where it leads me.

Is it easy?

No.

Why do you do it?

What?

Why do you write?

I always find “whys” to be quite the bullies. They always get you going into the defense mode.

Why?

Every ‘why’ has to be followed by a ‘because,’ don’t you feel as though you are cornered?

You haven’t answered my question.

What question?

See, there you go again, why do you always do that?

Do what?

Answer a question with a question.

I do that, do I?

You are doing it again. Look, if you don’t want to answer me, just say so and I won’t push, besides I have come to understand that you do not like it when I ask about what you are writing.

You seem to have arrived to a lot of conclusions.

Not conclusions, but I am right, aren’t I?

About what?

You do not like it when I ask about what you are writing.

What are you doing this Saturday?

I’m sleeping in, are you working on something?

Yes. Would you mind coming with me to see Prof?

The old man at Maseno, why?

He’s finished reading my manuscript and he wants to have what he calls the ‘unraveling.’ It is his way of determining my growth or simply put, his way of telling me how much he hated the book.

Okay, but, I don’t know what you were writing about and you know it takes me years to finish reading a book. Why do you want me there?

 

I see

“To each their own.”

You said it. I nodded.

It’s what I do best. I nod. I say “no worries” and watch you.

“So, do you drink?”

“Yes, I love coffee,” I said. You laughed, shook your head and said, “do you take alcohol?”

“No thanks.”

“Well, I do once in a while when I’m in the company of my friends. When we are celebrating.”

whisky alcohol drink on the rocks glass ice cubes coaster
stocksnap.io

We attended your friend’s birthday party and I found myself doing what I do best at parties- disappearing.

One drink.

Just one Hun. I smiled and kissed you on your cheek. “Go and have fun.”

It was a delight. Watching you. Not being at the party. It always delights me that I can see in you what I choose to. You often say “don’t overthink, it’s not good for the kids.”

Your friends immediately turn their gaze to my stomach. Too flat. What kids? Are you having kids? Congratulations! Boss! You finally did it!

“No, we are not having kids. It’s just something we tell each other, you know like you tell your wife you love her and stuff like that, isn’t it right hun?”

“Yeah, no kids here people!”

We laugh. You laugh with your soul. I laugh with my heart, we’ve never laughed with both but you know we will, I see it in how you struggle to let me in.

One drink. When I settle to a cup of coffee before going to bed, you reach out for one drink. You call and say “I just wanted to hear your voice.”

We talk about an episode you saw on National Geographic. You say you are worried about your Dad. He’s not himself. You wonder where I’d be if you attained his age. You ask me about home, the work I’m doing and you sip your drink. Each word I utter is washed down with a sip and you say “It gets lonely, this world I mean.”

I do not overthink our conversation. I do not overthink what I feel and I spit it out. When I’m done you say “I see…and you know what, it’s one of the things I would always love about you. You say it as it is and sometimes, I wonder what you are doing with a guy like me.”

Well, honey, sometimes I think of how I’m going to write a story that it slips my mind.

December updates

Hello, how’s your Saturday coming along? If you are like me you are probably lounging with a cup of tea or looking forward to a relaxing day, but chances are you are not. In fact, you may be at work thinking why?

  • It’s been quite a ride. November was really kind to me, because well, I aced NanoWrimo and now I’ve had back to back editing sessions with Prof and you know most of the time he wants to hit me over the head with pages of my manuscript!
  • I also read some very good books in November.

This month has started on quite a high, but not the positive one, because I’ve had a recurring fever and headache that’s left me feeling unsteady. It doesn’t help that I started my reading list by picking up this book that shattered my heart!

Lale’s account of the cruelty and torture they suffered at the hand of the Germans in a concentration camp reminded me of the horrific accounts I’ve read, heard and seen of the World Wars I & II. (Read his Obituary here, get the book- here)

Since I am on medication and recommended bed rest (that I’ve disregarded) I’m looking forward to reading less books this month due to more work commitments. Here are the few titles that are on my to-read list:

Which books are you looking forward to reading this month?

Have a great weekend!

T.M.I

Currently drinking: tea 

Listening to: Particula by Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa ft. Nasty C, Jidenna, Ice Prince and Patoranking 

Currently reading: Unspoken and turns out Peaches does understand and can relate to what the author says.

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It’s raining

I thought the clouds had a torrent to say,

It seems they really could not sway.

Remember, last week, on Thursday? You were trying to balance some accounts and I was seated across the table, stirring my coffee, acting like it did not matter.

“Just give me a minute, okay?”

“Sure.”

You asked for one but took ten minutes.

My anger could not be swayed.

You said, “you’re like rain, if you decide to fall, you fall and I am the fool who forgets to carry an umbrella.”

It is raining now. It is half past seven and I am brewing tea. I wonder, do you know how right you always are?

Do you know how annoying it is to have to like you?

It’s raining. You are probably watching National Geographic so you can tell me all about animals in the wild.

It’s raining.

You’ll need an umbrella for I fear that one of us will be drenched and I have a feeling that it will be worth every drop. 

Writing and reading updates

Hello Monday! Is there any #NanoWrimo2017 participant freaking out because it’s three days to the end of November?

So, yesterday I went to the market and got my favorite things: Tamarind ( I used it to make some sauce for the fries), mangoes, lemons and of course the irish potatoes for making the fries! I had a laid back Sunday afternoon and when the sun was up, I managed to bask in it for a few minutes before making some calls.

On writing:

  • I am past 40,000 words on the project I’m submitting for NanoWrimo. It has been a very difficult week because my writing schedule has seen me waking up at 1 A.M. to write till 4 A.M. I’d admit that an hour of it was spent listening to drunkards argue on their way home, like the guy who lost his car keys on Friday and he had to let his friends flag down a tuk tuk for him 🙂 I wish I got the whole conversation, but the man kept shouting “my wife will think I sold the car!”
  • I started working on a new novella. Can I do my happy dance now?

On reading:

I have found myself drawn to a couple of titles this weekend and I am looking forward to reading these four titles this week:

On traveling:

My feet are itching to go backpacking and now that I have completed the 31 Day Fitness Challenge (by totally ignoring the planks and abdominal crunches) I can safely say that I’m ready for some adventure.

I have been listening to JP Cooper‘s album “Raised Under Grey Skies” when I write. This album has kept me company for almost 20,000 words of the NanoWrimo challenge!

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Google Images

Have a lovely week!

Little truths

I know a couple of things. I call them little truths.

These are the friends that fill the void, the never ending affirmations of who I am, and what I do. They listen. When my words echo in the night, they always find comfort in the depths of my uncertainty.

I do not tell the world.

I do not show them these little truths.

“What are you working on?”

“Something,” and I leave it at that.

I learned to protect what I know to be fragile.

I learned to forge what the world sees not, into something that once seen, can never be forgotten.

stocksnap.io

Kenyans: We need to talk about the new education curriculum

Kenyans, we need to talk about the new education curriculum!

There’s a lot happening in Kenya right now. While I’m at it, congratulations Zimbabwe, though I’m keen on knowing how Mr. Emmerson Mnangawa would take up his role, because if you have a military that’s powerful enough to propose a leader, then chances are the same military is in-charge. He’s got time to prove himself and his cabinet and I sincerely wish the people of Zimbabwe the very best!

Where was I, yes, the education curriculum with a pilot phase commencing January 2018. Here’s a tabular summary of the curriculum:

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The education reforms started as early as 2000 and over the years experts have been looking into enhancing not just the sector but also ensuring that students get the very best out of the system. The C S Rotich, tabled a budget  for the education sector,  in the National Assembly on 30th March this year. Some of the funds proposed in that budget included: 10.1 billion shillings for HELB, 83.8 billion shillings for University Education, 14 billion for free primary education, 33 billion for free day secondary education, 2 billion for recruiting teachers and so forth. I know not whether he was aware that the ministry of education would roll out the pilot phase of the new curriculum(2-6-3-3-3) in January next year with the hope of 2018 being the last year pupils would sit KCPE exams.

The budget is an ambitious one and now that the government keeps borrowing money that we do not comprehend where it goes, there’s a lot that could hinder the implementation of this curriculum and I for one, I’m already hurt just by thinking about it.

Coming from a Psychology background, I understand the eight theories that informed this reform ranging from Instructional design theory( Perkins, 1992), Visible learning theory (John Hattie, 2012) to Constructivism theories like Dewey’s Social Constructivism, Gardeners Multiple Intellegence theory, Piaget’s Cognitive theory, to Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development- just to name a few. But, you are not here for the theories, or to hear me go on about them, rather you are here to know how this break down works. So, I’ll try and explain it 2-6-3-3-3 will be as follows:

  • Two years in pre-primary school. The learners will start pre-primary at the age of four, not three or two, but four.
  • Six years in primary school. This is broken down to three years in lower primary (Grade 1, 2, 3) and three years in upper primary school (Grade 4, 5, 6). They’ll have some competency tests and then proceed to lower secondary school at age 12.
  • Three years in lower secondary school ( Grade 7, 8, 9). They will study 12 subjects in lower secondary: English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, Integrated Science, Health education, Agriculture, Business Studies, Social Studies, Sports and Physical Education, Religious Education, Life Skills Education, Pre-technical  & Pre-Career education. They will have the option of choosing 1 or 2 of these subjects too: Visual arts, Performing arts, home science, computer science, foreign language, indigenous language, Kenya sign language.
  • Three years in senior school. Here there will be three pathways that the learner can pursue. This system has been in place in countries like Canada, Malaysia, India, New Zealand and Sweden. It’s an attempt to introduce vocational, technical, talent and general academic pursuit in secondary school. How does it work? The three pathways are: Arts & Sports Science| Social Sciences| Science Technical Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). If a learner opts for the first category, they can pursue Sports, Performing Arts or Visual Arts. If they pick the second, they can pursue Language and Literature, Humanities or Business Studies. If they pick the last category, they can pursue Pure Sciences, Applied Sciences, Technical and Engineering careers or Technology studies. How will their competency be measured/ assessed? Teachers will assess the progress of learners during their three year study. The learners have to complete a mandatory 135 hours of community service, submit a project paper on their pursuit and duly filled journals that track their learning progress. They will also have short quizzes or assessment tasks as overseen by their teachers.
  • Three years in the university or a technical institution.

If you’re with me thus far, then you understand how involving this curriculum is. It cannot be solely placed on the shoulders of the ministry or the school management. Teachers will have to be fully immersed in this but even more so, the parents, and that’s where my concern lies. If you are a Kenyan and a parent and you are reading this, then know that for this curriculum to be effected you have to involve yourself in your child’s education 100%. At the moment, following the highly politicized Free Primary Education, most public schools are overpopulated, understaffed and parents do not contribute any development fund fee because they say “the government says it’s free education.”

Well, it is not free, it is subsidized.

Which begs the question, what about the promise to roll out subsidized fee for secondary school students next year?

I’ll take you back to the curriculum I have shared above, in secondary and senior school, the focus is on more practical, visual and hands-on learning and this costs a tonne! I know most secondary schools face budget cuts especially during the music festivals because the first term spending is on sports, and come the second term, the schools have to focus on drama and music and then there is also the education trip or trips which set the school back in terms of funding. Now, the pathways system, is ambitious, but it is also important, my concern is that schools will provide one or two but not three because of staff, infrastructure and funding. Take for example, STEM, how many secondary schools have fully equipped labs? How many Chemistry/Physics teachers are recruited per year?

I could write a whole paper on my views on this new curriculum, but the first step is talking about it and being fully informed about what’s going to take place. I’ll state this again: I am fully for this new curriculum. I am also aware that it’ll need lots of funding and parental involvement.

On the other hand, it will create opportunities for those who are skilled in the Arts, Technical engineering and more so, it will ease on the pressure students feel leading up to exams.

Finally, the proposed grading system for this curriculum is:

  • 80% and above| Grade A| Excellent| Student is deemed competent.
  • 60%-79%| Grade B | Very good | Student is deemed competent.
  • 50%-59% | Grade C | Good |Fairly competent
  • 40%-49% | Grade D | Sufficient pass | Competent
  • Below 40% | E | Not sufficient/ Fail |Not yet competent

I’d love to know your thoughts on this because it’s 37 days to 2018 and there’s a lot going on and before you blink, your child will be taking on classes that you need to be aware of and to support him/her.

PS: I understand the pilot phase will start with Grade 1 next year.

What six years of publishing on Smashwords mean to me.

Yes! Six years…

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It’s been six years since I started publishing on Smashwords. I am taking part in NanoWrimo this year and could not stop but look back at my writing and self-publishing journey over the years.

Here’s a break down of the titles published in each year and the number of copies that have been downloaded:

Year Titles published Downloads
2011 Dear Yellow

Dear May

1045

752

2012 Say You Love Me

If time is all I have

Ethan & Richard

The Absolutely Boring Life of Mya

Made for You

Last Heart Standing

From the Heart

The book of Abel

Dear Brian

I love you this much

Never forget me Leila

December

2652

185

648

2105

3435

1137

693

590

601

13511

710

1170

2013 Pieces

I wanted to tell you

Only time will tell

The Single Diaries

Anna

Memories

1009

619

594

995

899

542

2014 Choose me

21 Days

What happened to us?

The perfect love story

Confessions of time spent with humans

1348

779

1732

1112

490

2015 Silence & Shadows

Mist

325

604

2016 Roses and Lies

The place you call home

284

87

If you are into numbers, my basic math tells me that it’s 40,653 downloads in a span of six years and if you’d have told me that it’s the number I’d be seeing years later, I would have not believed you. 2012 was a good year for it seems I wrote and published the most!  After 2013, my ebook titles took an abstract turn and I ventured forth into other genres, taking a break from romance.

Since then I have ventured forth to Createspace, Pronoun and Amazon Kindle. 

However, forget the numbers or the numerous platforms that have since then come to the reach of authors across the globe. This is a personal milestone for me. I am nowhere near where I envision myself and I struggle with getting there.

I struggle with Grammar, punctuation and hanging clauses…and in the blogging world, I struggle with getting the right headline and traffic. I post and let it be. It is something I started doing way back in 2011 and still haven’t grasped the subtle art of marketing.

Whenever someone tells me they love reading my blog or that they enjoyed reading a book I wrote, I simply nod and smile. I leave it at that. Honestly, it’s uncomfortable being praised and one percent (1%) of me feels great when I receive a compliment but the other ninety-nine percent (99%) wants to run and hide.

Have you been publishing on Smashwords?

Do you have an online platform that you can say was your first step into self-publishing?

I mean like seriously, I went from designing my ebook covers using picmonkey to canva and adobe creative suite!

One of the greatest challenge for me has been the distribution of my books especially those that I set out to be in both print and soft copy. Most of the readers, friends, or enthusiasts here in Kenya insist on getting the print copy. Since publishing in 2015 on Amazon, 5 people have bought the paperback copies via the amazon site. The rest are hesitant to go online and get the books shipped. I do ship copies but they are booked and paid for even before they arrive, mostly by strangers. Yes, it is true, family and friends are great support, but when a stranger invests in your work and loves it, you get even more people investing in your work.

I have a long way to go and maybe come the end of this month, my next book shall be available in both print and ebook versions.

Here are six things I’ve learned about self-publishing:

  1. You’ve got to write before you publish. This is the most important thing that has kept me going. Writers write there’s no shortcut.
  2. Self-publishing is not an automatic key to millions. It may take a while o be noticed especially on smashwords because a lot of people write and publish every second.
  3. Do not give up. Cliche right? Well, it’s as old and sound as gold, you keep pressing on.
  4. There are so many options when it comes to platforms for self-publishing and you’ve got to figure out which one to take. Do your research. Read through the comments, reviews and FAQs before you pick on one.
  5. If you are on facebook, twitter, instagram, or google plus be sure to share links to your work. There is a lot of information on the internet, so save your audience the time, and make it easier for them to get access to your work. Sharing is caring.
  6. Free is not always the best option.

Today marks six years and I have no clue as to what tomorrow holds for me, all I know is that I am glad that I went beyond the class compositions and project papers and actually created worlds using words.

Happy anniversary to me and a big thank you to Smashwords and Mark Coker for taking the initiative to create such a platform. You helped a Writer out and you continue to do so!