An hour’s conversation

The literati of Nairobi hopped about with geekful glee all of last week. Kwani was celebrating ten years of growing the creative industry and had invited two writers – two female African writers – to share in the public space: Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (winner of the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing. Author of two novels) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (we all know who she is, yes?)

Kwani lined up a string of events for each of the five days of marking the anniversary. The events culminated with a book party at the Marshall’s Service Warehouse on Friday night, hosting the two writers and other artists. All enjoyable stuff.

As one of the literati, I wanted to meet both writers. And it wasn’t until I wormed my way into one-on-one interviews did I realize just how easy it was to.


I met Yvonne on Wednesday. Mid morning. At Kwani Trust office off Riverside Drive. We met in the room right at the top of the stairs.

Yvonne sat in an overstuffed wicker chair opposite me; a coffee table separated us. The window was wide open behind her, letting in a sporadic breeze that ruffled further the ruffle of her afro. It gave the her even more character.

Yvonne spoke in bursts and phrases, never quite completing a sentence. And when she did, question marks replaced the full stops. And she used my name as a punctuation point too often. Peachy.

There were moments when Yvonne would stammer to find just the right word, and she’d close her eyes, hesitant to use a lesser one. Words which would seem gaudy in anyone else’s conversation – like ‘alchemy’ and ‘impetus’ and ‘renaissance’ – fit hers with such sophistication. Such precision. Such finesse.

Occasionally, she’d throw her head back in a boisterous laugh; the type that reverberates through your body and ends with a dramatic wave of the arm. I laughed. Not at the wry humour in her responses, but because she was laughing so hard. A woman who laughs herself, and at her own jokes, is a woman to admire, don’t you agree?

We talked. We talked about how she has taken such a long time to admit she is a writer. We talked about her first novel Weight of Whispers; about how she took five days only to write it. About her (now launched) novel Dust; about the relationship she had with it in the seven years she was writing it. “There were two years when we were not talking to one another, the novel and I.”
We talked about style and craft. Briefly, about her siblings and about growing up. We talked about how unprepared she felt after winning the 2003 prize; when international publishers asked her to submit manuscripts for work she did not have.

All through, my head rested in my left hand captivated. My eyes glowed with admiration for everything about her and everything she represented in those moments.

Thirty-five minutes into the interview and Yvonne turned the tables around; she asked me questions about me.

“So do you write as well?” she said.

“Yes. I do write,” I said.

“What do you write Florence?”

Good question Yvonne. What do I write? I am still trying to incorporate my passions into my work. There’s stuff I write which pays but those are neither here nor there. Then there’s this blog, this silly little blog with its absent tagline whose essence of its existence I have not quite captured. Sigh. What do I write?

“I write creative non-fiction,” I said.

“Good. Good. OK. OK.”


“So what are your own struggles as a writer Florence?”

“Voice. Finding my voice has thus far been my biggest struggle.”

“You actually have it.” Yvonne said. “Even as you speak, there is a reflective poignant space within everything you are saying, and in your questions. I am interested in that gap between the said and the unsaid because it’s such a compelling gap. And within that gap, you know your voice. And you will find it.”

By this time, my head has tilted and my eyes were in a comma of emotions.

Her chaperone walked in to announce it was time for the second interview of the day.

I had spoken with Yvonne for 45 minutes.


Thursday. Thursday was a reading day; I didn’t leave the digs. At noon, curled up in my reading chair with a magazine open in my hands, the possibility I could meet Chimamanda (Chima) crossed my mind. So I sent a text message with the request to shadow the interviewer. The response was simple, “Excellent. Be at the WestHouse. 615PM sharp. Don’t be late.”

I was late. Twenty minutes late; the hotel isn’t the easiest to find for a first timer. Thankfully, the princess wasn’t ready so the interviewer and I sat around in the hotel lobby engaging in misplaced small talk for ten minutes. Then without warning, she appears. We scrambled to our feet to shake her hand.

Chima and I, we met at eye level, but not at girth level – she is slender, bordering on petite. She had her kinky hair done up in loose matutas. Looking at the ones at the back of her head, I could tell she had divided the sections of hair using her hands then plaited it herself. This hairdo would have been tragic on any other person. But on Chima, it bore an Africanly elegance.

She had on a peplum top that was separated into two colours at the bust area – courgette green for the top half, peach for the bottom half. Her skirt, pale yellow with a lace overlay. It ended right above her knees. The skirt fit a tad too snag forcing her to walk in a Penguin-like drag up the ramp to the conference room on the first floor. On her pedicured feet, a pair of uncomplicated black sandals that gave a hint of the long day she had had.

Upstairs, the four of us sat in a semi-circle at the edge of a polished mahogany table. She and I yet again met at eye level. Chima had her Doctor Husband to her right. I had my Doctor Interviewer to my left. And for those fleeting moments before the start of the interview, those fleeting moments, Chima and I were equals.

I was scared to speak though. I worried her sentences would strong-arm mine. Worried my nervousness would cause my voice to come forth in a timid high-pitched stammer. So I shadowed the interviewer as I said I would and I observed Chima instead.

I observed how she rubbed her red lips together and took a few moments to think before she spoke. How she coiled the loose hairs at the back of her head around her index finger then flattened them back into place, as she listened. Her fingernails were trimmed right to the finger tips, as do most writers

How she seemed to not want to talk about Pan-africanism or jaded African politics. And her impatience to whether the ‘overpowering feminine spirit in her work’ pointed toward her being a feminist.

How, when the interviewer asked her about the craft of writing, her voice softened to explain that when the writing is going on well, it was as if “the spirits are speaking to me. I don’t do anything else: I pull out of bed. I don’t shower. When I’m eating, I eat in front of the computer. I don’t pick up my phone. I feel as though I don’t want to miss a minute of it. And the thing that’s so wonderful about it is that I get so absorbed – when I look up to realize how much time has passed.”

How she threw a line, in her native tongue Igbo (the ‘g’ is silent), to her Doctor Husband. And they chuckled with the intimacy of a private joke shared between lovers.

I wonder what she saw when she looked at me: sitted with my back straight, eyes open in big circles behind my glasses, grin pulled across my face like a Chesire cat. Whatever she saw was confirmed when I asked her to autograph my copy of her novel on our way out.

I spoke with, sorry, stared at Chima for 15 minutes.

My head was pounding from a terrible headache
His memoir

Comments (8)

  1. Juma Bahati Ali

    Nice. How did Yvonne write her first novel in five days? Would be interesting to read it.

    • fra

      Yvonne said, and these are her words, she said the story wrote itself. That it was one of those that was just waiting desperate to be born.
      I got a copy of the book online, skimmed through it in preparation to meet her. What can I say? There’s a reason these guys win the Caine Prize: it isn’t your regular read.
      Happy New Year Juma.

  2. Wairimu Gikenye

    I loooove. Still in awe and thats all i can say. Loove it :) :)

    • fra

      Cheers to that.
      We missed you over the past several Fridays. I pray you have been keeping well.
      Happy New Year Wairimu.

  3. Savvy Kenya (@savvykenya)

    I didn’t get to meet her.. but I know I will.. Yvonne as well.

    Let the others ask the questions, I will listen to the writers’ answers

    • fra

      You will.
      Happy New Year Savvy.

  4. Judith

    I am awed by your writing

    • fra

      Thank you Judith.
      Happy New Year.

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker

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