I was published last Saturday. The Saturday Nation. Page 22. Following last week’s post, it was as if the magic and miracle of attraction had worked in my favor, revealing itself to me in a way I had hitherto taken with a pinch of salt. A small win, it is to me this publishing. A small win. It called for me to remember where I was when those events which wrote the pages of our history happened. Because my own history, on both those events, was written in its own unrelated and unanticipated manner. I take two of those events. One is announcing the president-elect. The second is his inauguration four weeks later.
9 March 2013: Saturday, hot day. That Saturday when the streets of Nairobi were tumbleweed-deserted. The roads were so clear that mirages turned up at every stretch of the highway. It’s on days like these you realize driving in Nairobi can actually be pleasant. The wiser and more cautious Kenyans like you were indoors; content in the strength and safety of their locked doors. I, on the other hand, was listless and fidgety in the constraints of the digs. Bored out of my wits. On this Saturday afternoon, when Issack Hassan made his way to the podium at the Bomas of Kenya to deliver the final tally, I was at a bookshop at the Yaya Centre. The one on the second floor. The one with the dreary and weary staff who, I’m certain, were cursing under their breath for being at work. BookStop Limited. I was browsing the used-books section with a wild chance of stumbling on a bargain. I had two books in my hand already: A 200-puzzle Sudoku challenge (for my ol’man) and Strunk Jr. and White’s, Elements of Style (for me). I stopped to look up at the screen when Isaack Hassan announced the final tally: Uhuru’s 50.1% had earned him the win.
I left the bookshop as the crowd at the Bomas cheered on at the news of a winner. We had a president-elect.
9 April 2013: Our president-elect was inaugurated at the sports complex in Kasarani. I was at the Nation Centre waiting to see a man who would later be my boss Editor. I was an hour earlier than we had agreed. Calling the punctuality eagerness would be a dire understatement. I waited at the second floor with two female askaris – a pregnant cross-eyed chirpy bird who laughed too loudly for my liking. The other was her accommodating colleague who invited me to follow the inauguration with them on TV. I could tell that she was a closet diva from the way she patted her weave instead of scratching her scalp senseless. She nodded to her chirpy pal’s stories and laughed only when she needed to. She was a diva alright.
In my bag was the book I was currently reading. Binyavanga Wainana’s memoir (ironical, right?). I followed my bookmark and opened the page from where I had last left off. I broke the monotony of the read by casting a glance to the inauguration proceedings every few minutes.
I was at my Editor’s desk a few minutes after 1.30pm. Just as President Uhuru drew that double-edged sword from its sheath to cheers of Kenyans in the stadium, and at home. My Editor told me they had a long day ahead; “Events like these are a nightmare to the newsdesk”, he said. I gave him a blank stare, expressing no empathy.
When we got down to it, he spoke of things that had never crossed my young mind. “How about you join us and write for the paper?” he said. I got my notebook out and furiously scribbled.
My writing career had just begun.
15 June 2013: Two and half months later. Two and a half months of preparation and attitude-change later. Several weeks after the meeting with my Editor/the inauguration. I remember that moment I turned to page 22 of the Saturday Nation and saw my name in print. Reviewer: Florence Bett. Standing there in my sleeping gear, I remember my eyes water. I remember my heart melt. I remember what it felt like to finally get a win. I remember being humbled. I ran my fingers over the neat columns tenderly, as if the words would disappear from the pages if I rubbed too hard. These words were my words. Lord, I prayed, You are wonderful.
I called my mum. Then my ol’man. Then, I alerted my six siblings. Then, I got on whatsApp and text to make the announcement to my pals, one by one in no particular order. A one-liner. Then, I put together this piece with the ease of a published writer, ahem. Somebody pinch me, I am a writer. I. Am. A. Published. Writer.
I am about to get into a paragraph of preachy and unending clichés about not letting anyone but yourself stop you yada yada yada. My version of all that drag self-help books teem of. But I shall save that for the soliloquy which will find me many a time for the rest of this week. Look, I am on a high. It has been days since yet I am still floating around in a bubble full of fickle and personalized excitement, humility and triumph, disbelief.
Smile with me though; I just completed a stage. I just completed the publishing stage.1