'A true artist says the most by saying the least...' An Interview With #WriterPrompt Winner Zithulele Sibanyoni.

Three little birds

With only a day to go before he was due to submit, Josias woke up low on motivation but high on optimism. The story had to be written - and written yesterday! He had been burning the midnight oil for days only to achieve the same result - nothing.

He played and sang along to Bob Marley's 'Three Little Birds' while fixing himself the strongest cup of coffee, a refreshing departure from the high-end weed of the past few days. 'Every little thing is gonna be alright,' he sang out loud. A true artist says the most by saying the least, he thought, drawing inspiration from the musical genius. Just then it hit him. "Three little birds!" That was going to be title of his story.

It was at the secluded countryside spot half an hour's drive away that he found his mojo. The gentle hum of river was calming and the cool breeze detoxifying. More encouraging; tweeting melodiously from above the eccentric tree he had found and nestled against, were three little sparrows - as if cheering him on for the honour of being written about.

Nothing had changed when he awoke from a rejuvenating nap. The big tree's weed-like leaves still looked a peculiar mixture of sweet pink and bright yellow. Three little birds still chirped merrily from above - and pooped all over the pages of his notebook - the story. Only his cellphone was missing.

#WriterPrompt is a flash fiction event run on our Facebook page. Writers post stories in response to a picture, then workshop them with other participants and members of the SSDA team. Zithulele Sibanyoni, our winner, shares his editing tips and some of his favourite authors with us.


"Zithulele is a dedicated #WriterPrompt participant. His critique and encouragement of his fellow writers on the platform map how much he has grown as a writer as much as his stories do. I chose Zithulele's story because it has a lightness of touch and so much writerly humour.  His story captures how so many of us feel about our writing. There have been many times I've woken "low on motivation but high on optimism". And really, it's motivation that counts.  I think we can all relate to – and laugh at ourselves in – this story.  Laugh at our ambitions, failures and how our inner critics "poop" on our most inspired words."  – Rachel Zadok on choosing the winning story.


What role does writing play in your life and why?

ZITHULELE: Writing gives me a sense of duty to reflect society and its realities. Societal realities are like facial blemishes - they have to be seen to be corrected - and the writer - quite like the mirror does - brings these blemishes to the fore for correction.


Who are your favourite authors or books?

ZITHULELE: K. Sello Duiker for the ability to tackle complex subjects in a manner that is simple and easy to relate to. My favourite book of his is 13 Cents. Zukiswa Wanner for the ability to make one laugh, reflect and cry in one book. Men of the South is my favourite one of hers. Niq Mhlongo for the ability to write with great pacing from page one to page two hundred and whatever. Way Back Home is the book of his I enjoy the most.


Can you give us 3 basic editing tips that have helped your writing?

ZITHULELE: Show, don't tell 2. Less is more 3. Unless it adds to the story, it has no business there.


Zithulele Wiseman Sibanyoni started writing poems in 2011 and short stories in 2014. His work has been published by FUNDZA, a South African based literary trust. Zithulele is also an active participant of #WriterPrompt. His ultimate dreams are to have one of his short stories published in a Short Story Day Africa anthology, to eventually win the Caine Prize for African Writing as well as publish his own novel.


Interview by Catherine Shepherd