FunDza Literacy Trust is a South African NGO that encourages reading and writing with its 'library on a cellphone'. In the past, their imprint Cover2Cover has published FunDza short stories in anthologies called 'Big Ups'. But there is so much other interesting stuff in FunDza's library, little bite-sized pieces to entice people into reading, that FunDza and Cover2Cover decided to launch a new anthology, #LOVEREADING. For many of the writers, this is the first time they've had their work in print. We had a chance to catch up with them at the #LOVEREADING launch recently.
Sicelo Kula was born in Cape Town, but then moved to the Eastern Cape. He later went back to Cape Town to attend high school and then study law at UWC. He is currently working at Michalsons Attorneys.
In 2013 he entered and won a Fundza writing competition, and has since never looked back! Cover2Cover published his first novel, Taking Chances, in February 2016, as part of their Harmony High series. He continues to write, perform poetry and do motivational talks in his spare time.
When you write for Fundza and Cover2Cover, you learn to let go of a writer’s ego, of fancy and inaccessible language. You learn to write for the people, to write stories that educate and inspire, stories that ordinary young South Africans can connect with.
How did you get involved in the #LOVEREADING project?
I’ve been a Fundza writer for more than three years now and that means I generally participate in some of their major campaigns. So when #LoveReading came around, they took two of the articles or blogs I had written for them (one as recent as two and a half months ago) and they included them.
As far back as 2008 I’ve wanted to be a writer. In 2013 Fundza finally gave me the platform to become that writer. They helped give me a voice. In fact, they went beyond that and brought my voice to thousands of young South Africans.
I’ve always had a story, somewhere in the back of my mind, an essay I wrote way back in high school, or the blogs I’ve written. All of those stories come from a genuine place – moments of anxiety, fear, pain, or even joy. I have to keep telling those stories. They can make a difference.
Nandipha Tshabane a.k.a. Nandi was born in Cape town, grew up in Gugulethu and then later Langa. She went to Alexander Sinton High in Athlone, Cape Town and then completed a one year International Journalism Diploma at Cape Town Academy. Nandi is passionate about community development and youth development in particular. She has worked as a researcher in a number of Social projection projects and is currently working for FunDza as a Beneficiary Liaison, running a number of activities with FunDza beneficiaries around the books FunDza donated to the various groups or beneficiaries.
Please just keep on writing, never let go of the "pen" and keep on sending work to FunDza.
You became involved with Fundza when they approched you to write a blog. Can you tell us a little about that please?
Sometime earlier this year, I was approached by FunDza to write about being gay and coming out. So I wrote the blog from the heart with honesty. So a couple of months later, Dorothy told me that they wanted to include my blog in #LOVEREADING.
Well, growing up I always loved to express myself through drawing, so I found writing as another way to express my feelings. I was fortunate to become an employee of FunDza where I was introduced to the world of reading and writing.
A lot of my gay friends are pushing me to expand on the blog that I wrote thus enabling me to write a book about growing gay. Trust me there is plenty to tell, there would be laughter, tears, joy, basically all that I have been through in my life. I hope I can find time to do so.
I always try to tackle social issues, so by addressing these issues I always feel like I'm contributing to my community. I am very passionate about community development, more especially the youth.
John Fredericks is a storyteller. He started telling stories to survive his time in prison and has never stopped. Many of his stories were published in magazines and newspapers. He has also run writing workshops for youth at risk in prisons. John has also written well-received documentaries, such as Mr Devious and Hard Living Kids, with the latter winning a Best Documentary award in New York in 2005. Most recently the film, Noem My Skollie, about his life has hit the big screen. He wrote the script for the film and has now been commissioned to write the story of his life by Penguin. His story, The Creep, is on the FunDza mobi site.
Fundza offers them a great opportunity and I'm keeping my eyes peeled for that rough diamond who's got a story to tell. Who I would like to meet through Fundza.
Why do you write?
My journey of becoming a writer started in 1964 in prison where I had to tell stories to survive. The seed of writing stories for money was sown then. I recently signed a contract to write the book of Skollie and that's what I'm currently busy with. I've also had two screenplays shortlisted.
So do you have any advice for the younger generation of writers in the anthology?
Writing is rewriting and rejection letters are part of the game. If you're serious about writing, you will have to hone your craft and not be scared of rewrites.
Anathi Nyadu is an aspiring writer, who lives in Kimberley in the Northern Cape. Anathi has just completed a degree in Media Studies and Journalism at the University of the Free State. He has written a blog for Fundza ‘The Diary of Zinzi Zwane’ and a short story ‘In My Hands’ for Mandela Day. He is currently working on another short story and a novel.
Honestly, I don't know what keeps me writing. I just know that I love it, that there is no feeling that compares to the one I feel after finishing a piece of writing.
Every writer's journey has a beginning. Tell us about yours.
I started writing rap lyrics for a rap crew that me and my friend had started in Grade 7. Nothing came out of this. The following year I joined a drama group and the director introduced me to writing. He kept on urging me to write a play, but I didn't. To appease him, I wrote poems and kept on telling him that one day I will write a play.
However, it was only in 2012 when I started taking writing and reading more seriously. I sent my poems and short stories to Fundza and they were published. For the past four years I have been writing a blog for the Fundza mobi site (The Diary of Zinzi Zwane).
They commissioned to write a story for Mandela Day. The story that came out of this was my entry for #LoveReading.
Epiphanie Mukasano is from Rwanda where she used to be a teacher. She has a Master’s degree in English Literature and now lives in Cape Town with her husband and children.
Her poems have been published in Living on the Fence (2007), a collection of writing by women who are refugees from various countries in Africa. Epiphanie contributed "When a name is Lost" to the collection of birth stories, Just Keep Breathing (Jacana, 2008) and most recently, Cambridge University Press has published her children’s story Shema and the Goat (2009).
She has also published a collection of poems, Kilimanjaro in My Lap (Dakini publishers). She has written many short stories for FunDza.
Despondency is so real mainly due to lack of support especially for beginner writers. At some point, you find yourself without a computer. In the meantime, you learn to be grateful for what you have and start capitalizing on it.
Your journey began in a very different place from many of the other writers in #LOVEREADING. Please share your story?
My journey to writing started some years back in the eighties, in my country, Rwanda. I entered a competition about writing a piece of drama for radio, in my mother tongue Kinyarwanda, but I did not win the competition. Thereafter, bushes grew on my path to writing. Then, with the new millennium, I told myself: it is time to clear the bushes. I entered another competition, this time, a poetry one for an anthology, Trials and Tribulations. Even though I was informed that my poem was selected to be part of the collection, I have never laid eyes on it. My next involvement with writing came after I joined Whole World Women Association, a non-profit organization that brought women from many African countries together at Anne Schuster's workshops. Our writing practice there led to the publication in 2007 of a collection of poems Living on the Fence. Still mentored by Anne Schuster, my collection of poems, Kilimanjaro in My Lap, saw the day in 2010.
My advice to other writers is to persevere. Writing is hard work. At times, you feel constipated. Or better, you are this woman experiencing the throes of childbirth. She keeps on pushing, her eyes fixed on the prize, this little angel on the way. Writing requires lots of practice and discipline. So, read, keep on practising and get writing. Do not drop the pen or the mouse!
#LOVEREADING is available on Loot, or at Cover2Cover's offices at 85 Main Road, Muizenberg, Cape Town. Or simply order it from any bookstore.