The Art of Soliloquy

It’s 2354hours. Tuesday the 31st. I keep throwing a cursory glance at the clock on my laptop, five minutes to beating the January 1st deadline. Cut-off, that’s what they call it. I fear that if I don’t publish these pieces before 2014 finds me, the words will magically disappear from the page, or crudely expire. Either.

There’s a magazine called The Paris Review. The Paris Review runs a column called the Art of Fiction. Art of Fiction, its website says, is an ‘interview series that offers authors a rare opportunity to discuss the life and art at length.’

Art of Fiction makes for a captivating read, to see writers bare themselves so.

The interviews, scribed as a Q&A, are from as early as the 1950s. Any writer who is who has been featured in the pages of the Art of Fiction, including all the glitzy Nobel Literature Laureates.

Truth is, I am eons away from being interviewed in the Art of Fiction. Or being covered in the pages of the Paris Review, in whichever capacity. Even a mere mention would be begging for too much grace.

So in the spirit of this truth, in the spirit of the New Year, in the spirit of reflection, in the spirit of soliloquy, I will go ahead and do something I will regret in the few minutes after publishing this: I will interview myself.

Here’s to a Happy New Year.


Interviewer: Merry Christmas. How did it go?

BETT: Merry Christmas, to you too. The holiday season was terribly unusual, Jesus. This year, Christmas felt like a rude interruption to the momentum I have been building since October.

Picture this: just last Monday, on the 23rd, I am putting together my plan for the week. All my interviewees had cancelled on me and it wasn’t until wrote the day and date I realized why: blimey, Christmas Day.

Ordinarily, I am full of cheer during the holiday season. I would be signing and enveloping  Simon Elvin Christmas cards, the ones that come in a value-pack of twenty per box, with a Santa hat on and Bonnie M’s When a child is born’ looping in the stereo behind me. It’s such peachy season.

Not this year though. Between the mental fatigue, the tightened purse strings and the disorientation of the festive season, all I wanted was quiet and eventlessness. I got neither as I wanted.

Interviewer: When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?

BETT: I have been always been writing for myself. But I didn’t understand why I was writing what I was, or why I was even doing it. I suppose starting a manuscript with the words ‘Dear Diary’ has a thrill and romanticism about it. So I wrote so that I could begin with those two words.

I wrote on pages ripped off from the centre of an exercise book, remember those from primary school? Other times on plain pages of A4 paper. Sometimes on scraps of paper I neatly folded in into little squares; you know, I have a handful of such stuffed in my wallet. I have been carrying them around with me since I was 19.

I got my first journal when I was 22. It was nothing fancy, just a hard-covered blue notebook I bought from some road side supermarket in Machakos. The entries moved from starting with ‘Dear Diary’ to starting with ‘Dear Jack’. I liked the name Jack. And calling my journal Jack felt like I was speaking to a real person, a manly man. A pal, a boy. My boy.
I returned to write in that journal with the regularity of a warden in a prison’s roll call.

I haven’t yet answered your question. I know.

I realized I wanted to be a writer in November 2012. The publicly-loved and lauded Bikozulu, after leaving comments on his blog, thought I had ‘literary motion’. Such colourful words, eh? I thought so too. Thus the journey – anchoring itself on these words – began.

But the affirmation I was making tangible headway was when an Editor picked up an email I had sent to one of his publications, and asked for a meet-up. That was the big break. Me and the Editor, we now have a love-hate passive-aggressive relationship. I even gave him a secret pet name, hehhhe.

What are your parents about? And what did you learn from them? Do you come from a family of creatives?

My Moms was a primary school teacher. She taught me patience, how to care for others, and how to be a lady. The lady part (ignore that pun) didn’t quite come out as she anticipated; she thinks I am too feisty. My Ol’Man was an engineer. He taught me to read books, to see things in logic, and to have a taste for finer well-built things.

I am from a large household of ten. I am smack in the middle of that melee, but I am the bossiest bully of the others.
My brother diBinghi is an Art illustrator; I have spoken about him here before. My kid sister LaMore thinks she can dance and tailor clothing. But she really can’t (I am sorry, Love). She does bake some mean ass brownies though. Everyone else in my family is not a creative, though they are creative in their own nondescript way.

Which writers influenced your work?

Writers get that question a lot. It’s a question I don’t like because my answer is embarrassing. None; I don’t have writers who wholesomely inspired me. Those critically acclaimed African authors established writers drew inspiration from, I have none of them.

What I have, instead, are stories that inspire and influence, me and my writing. Stories are about good days and not-so-good days. And every writer oscillates between the two.

So there are stories I have read and reread, and each time I come out saying that was one piece of fine writing.

I tend to remember stories, not its authors.

A lot of ink has been spilled on the importance of reading to a writer. Comment on that.

I will tell you what has not been said about it: reading eventually stops being as chic as it used to be.

Reading becomes inevitable study, a troll for technique. It becomes a process of hunting and gathering, an exercise of collection. It’s why I read with a ball-point pen and my daybook open nearby –  to underline and enclose text in curly braces, and with smiley faces and with hash tags {like #damn, #nice, #LoL, #lame, #wah}; to collect new words, and creative phrases, and orgasmic expressions. Even entire paragraphs.

There is an innocence and enjoyment about reading I doubt I will reclaim soon.

I suppose moviemakers feel this way each time they sit down to see a movie.

Speaking of movies, which is your favourite of all time?

Catch Me If You Can.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Steven Spielberg. From 2002.

The movie is about a guy who impersonated a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer and cashed over 2milli in phony cheques, all before his nineteenth birthday. Leonardo gave a stellar performance. As always.

One of my favourite quotes from the movie: “Dear Dad, you always told me that an honest man has nothing to fear, so I’m trying my best not to be afraid.”

What are you reading now?

The Harvard Business Review. Online though, I must really like it to preserve a digital read. The magazine isn’t sold off the streets of Nairobi; the only stockists I have seen are those magazine vendors who navigate Uhuru Highway in traffic. Who buys stuff in traffic anyway? Not me. I have an unwritten rule to never buy things through a car window.

I have been forbidden from reading The New Yorker and the Sunday Times magazine.

Novels? I no longer have the patience to sit through a novel. The last one I read was Binyanvanga’s memoir. And that was back in April.

You mention April. It has been nine months since you left yet you continue to speak about your previous audit career and experience. Why is that?

Guilt. First it’s the guilt. I left when a majority of my assignments were afoot. Not to come off as self-important, but it is a big blow to the team when a senior member leaves. Aside from that, I abandoned my office kids. This made me feel like a horrible mom. And it gnawed at my conscious for a long time afterwards.
Then there’s the guilt of the notion that I took from it more than I gave back. You know, they cherry-picked up straight from campus and smoothed out our rough edges: taught us the difference between woollen suits and non-woollen ones, between a red wine glass and a white one. What professionalism is and what it isn’t, what cufflinks are for and what they aren’t.

I feel that I owe them, as one does a first lover.

So I carry this burden of guilt and of indebtedness. Writing about it ad nauseum lessens this burden.

Then, there are the people I worked with: brilliant chaps, simply brilliant. Committed to the practise with their sober work ethic and their relentless pursuit for excellence. Goodness. The professional services my ex-colleagues provide keep corporate and industrial Kenya on its best behaviour. And that’s no lie.

Then, walking away from it all was the single-most bravest thing I have ever done for myself. I have immortalized everything about that day in one forum or another: this blog, my memoirs, my journal, scraps of paper, a video clip. I even wrote a song about it.

Plus I miss the tea of my old office. The milk-to-water ratio of the office tea I take these days is ridiculous. Let’s not even get into the choicelessness of the tea menu or the tightness of the tea schedule. I miss the tea and the tea area, man.

I am letting go though. If you read keenly, you will notice I stopped referring to it in the fond manner its little club of industry geeks do: it’s no longer ‘bashers and bashing’, but ‘auditors and auditing’. That’s progress, innit?

Style and voice. Where are you?

I have neither.


Despite their absence, let me underscore this: if someone reads my work and says I sound like so and so, then I will know I have not yet found my unique identity and voice. It means I am still channelling a writer I admire and bringing his energy to my work. It means I am back to square one. It means, essentially, I have to write more. It means I have to rewrite more.

It means I don’t know who the bloody hell I am.

What is the place of fiction in your work?

I consider fiction such mastery of prose. To see the world through the eyes of another and tell it as they perceive it begs for mastery.

I am not there yet.

Do you have a reader in mind when you are writing? Do you think of artfullyContrived? Or of JB Ali? Or of Aditnar? SavvyKenya? MIMI? Cawiti maybe? What about Pablo West? The Real G? Pez?

No, I don’t have a reader in mind when I’m writing.

As I mentioned earlier, I wrote to Jack. And Jack is a faceless man. What you start off with remains for a long time.

When I went public, the image I had of a reader was of a sexless silhouette. This image has been morphing since then. To what, I can’t quite tell.

Let’s continue with the readership. You seem to have plenty to say about it.

Do I now?

Yes, you do. What’s the place of readership in the grand scheme of things?

It’s a wonderful thing to have someone other than yourself read your work. Wonderful, my goodness. It gets lonely writing. Having someone on the other end, waiting, hopefully, to read your work lessens the intensity of that loneliness.

Readership, however, needn’t be the reason to write. Unless yours is a commercial inclination, then growing readership isn’t the reason to write.

The journey to write is one taken alone. You struggle alone with your insecurities, with your fears, with your demons, with your creativity, with your stories. You muscle your way through it until you get it right.

Growing readership is the successful consequence of this struggle, this journey. But it is never the aim of it. Ultimately, the true writer plays to an audience of one.

What is your definition of sexiness?

What has that to do with this interview?

Nothing. That’s why I ask.

In a guy, sexiness is in the Intellect. Nothing beats a stimulating conversation. I mean, the biggest sexual organ is the brain.

Then there’s the nape of the neck. Right between where his shaven hair ends and the collar of his tee/shirt begins. When he bends his neck, and the nape stretches, and his shoulder blades push against his top, the entirety of that reflex is a moment of raw sexiness.
Or, when he has tucked his shirt into his pants and the belt is settled right above his bottom. And when he walks, it sways ever so slightly. That’s sexy. The sway especially is sexy.
I am also drawn to clipped fingernails and a firm grip.

In a gal, sexiness is when she can hold her own. Forget the boisterous laugh, or the twinkle that comes from a real smile, or when she struts around balancing her hips in her pumps. Put that aside.
Sexiness is a woman who can hold her own.

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

Right now, I fear that the logical left side of my brain will overpower the creative right side of my brain.

Listen, writers in their early years struggle. Like most artists anyway do. Writing is a difficult way to earn a living. It’s like earning a living from hawking your unfertilized eggs. Or renting out your uterus for 300grand per trimester. Or selling off a portion of your liver in the black market. You get the picture – writing is like earning a living from flogging pieces of you.

Like most people, I had life goals and life ambitions tethered to my (previous) career. Stuff I had lined up for the year, projects that were midway. Choosing to write fulltime interfered with those projects; it halted some, slowed down others and postponed several more.
For the past few, there have been weeks where I split my energies between survival and the focus to put sentences together. Not an enviable place to be when there are liabilities hot on my pretty ass, and creditors knocking on my door threatening to repossess my assets. It isn’t humorous but it is sure darn funny.

Then there are the voices of others, telling me things like, ‘Bett, when are you resuming jobo?’ Or ‘fra, when is the sabbatical coming to an end?’ Or, ‘It’s a hobby, c’mon, leave it alone already.’ Detractors these are.

So yeah, right now, I fear that logic will overpower creativity.

But fear only exists for as long as I let it be a fear. Perceive it differently and it stops being fear; it becomes resolve. Fuel. Spark. Ignition maybe. Or all of those things, if you want.

Fuck fear. I made a decision. I stick with it because I made a commitment to myself to.

You cuss a lot in your work.

I cuss a lot in my ordinary conversations.

But pardon me. I once received an email from a reader telling me to stop using the Lord’s name in vain. That it was offensive. Too low a blow. And that if my sentences/choice of words could not cuss on its own, then I shouldn’t festoon it with the Lord’s name with a hope that it would. I tipped my hat touché.

No more cussing in the New Year. I swear.

2014 is here now. What’s the plan for you and your writing?

There is no plan for my writing. None whatsoever. I am making stuff up for it as I go along. Not to dismiss me as myopic. Or to say that I don’t have an agenda or an end in mind; it’s the means to that agenda and to that end I lack.

I act on impulses these days. I make momentary decisions. I developed regrouping and spontaneity as personal skills.

Nonetheless, the basics remain: to keep writing. To keep returning to the blank page, here on this blog and wherever else. To persist.

His memoir
One for the road

Comments (14)

  1. MIMI

    I think you should start an interview show, I’m not quite sure whether it was the questions or the answers, but whether you are the interviewer or the interviewee, I’d still watch the show

  2. JB Ali

    Quite an engrossing and engaging read! A very fascinating peek into your writing calling. Honored to get a mention :-) Happy new writing year.

    • fra

      Because I am still in search of style and voice, I shouldn’t rest (on these magazines) until I find ’em.
      Plus, I was getting lazy with my reading.

  3. EDDIE.

    Eloquently done FC Bett.

    • fra

      Thanks Eddie.
      Stick around some more.

  4. Mystery

    Intriguing soliloquy indeed.

  5. Torrie K.

    I love this piece, quite entertaining!

    • fra

      Thanks Torrie K.
      And Happy New Year.

  6. Mwende

    Love it…The tea was great, I agree. Can’t get over these words….’Perceive it differently and it stops being fear…”

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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👇🏾
  • 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