'The intracranial neoplasm had eaten into his cerebellum.' An Interview with #WriterPrompt winner Sima Mittal.

An electrifying thrill radiated down my spine. Vengeance pirouetted in my heart. Two years of meticulous planning! This deception culminated to the intended climax. Nothing seemed more satisfying than musing over the numerous MRI, CT and CAT scans that decorated my office. The intracranial neoplasm had eaten into his cerebellum. Now the cancer cells were mutating at supersonic speed. Right through his medulla oblongata.

I double checked with the labs and radiology department. Secretly, I consulted with two distant colleagues. Finally I ensured the tiniest tinge of doubt. I discussed the tumor’s progress with the super-expert Dr. Ben Carson. I carefully concealed any relationship to the patient.

It was time to add some spark into our 15 year arranged, dead, dull marriage! His infidelity and impotency, coupled with alcoholism, had brought nothing but pain and dissatisfaction. No kids. No bonding. He had married for money and for the perks that attached to being the spouse of an attractive neurosurgeon. I hadn’t left him because my traditional self had coerced me into believing that divorce was a taboo.

Brain splitting news coming your way, hubby dear! Time to turn into the submissive wife, to disclose your illness!




Sima Mittal won SSDA's 9th #WriterPrompt event with her story 'Pirouetting Revenge'. She has participated in Writivism and been a reader for the 2015 Short Story Day Africa Prize slush pile. 

Doing the Right Thing Isn't Always Easy, your self-published children's picture book is available on Amazon. What led to children's literature?

SIMA: Reading to and with my children was what sparked my passion for children’s literature. I started early with them. I enjoy exploring the different children’s genres with my girls. For me Children’s literature is far more interesting than adult literature. I can cover up for all the missed childhood reading. With children’s literature one can become a child once again.

Also I am passionate about children in general and love to work with them. I joined the Lions Club so that I could work on various projects associated with children.

Reading to children is so different from reading with adults. Children do not have inhibitions.

You were part of Writivism 2015. Tell us about the experience.

SIMA: It has been the most wonderful part of my writing journey so far. The best thing was that it was absolutely free and I got to work with a splendid group of people. I had applied because one of the workshops for Writivism 2015 was held in Dar es Salaam and I would not have to travel anywhere for it. Being selected was fun but I found I was the lone candidate from Tanzania.

Initially I was nervous at the workshop but Zukiswa Wanner and Ayeta Wangusa made me comfortable. Zukiswa Wanner is still an inspiration.

Making it to the mentoring program was awesome and that is when the work and the tough part started. Satisfying my mentor Mr. Donald Molosi was not that easy and he was very honest with my work. Some of my initial work did not meet his standards.

But the first draft of ‘Dying Gracefully’ passed his judgement. He said I had not overstated it and he wanted me to use my own style. I worked very hard on this particular piece and finally it made my mentor weep. I had accomplished my first mission.

The second job was that the judges would connect with my story and it was a dream come true when I got long-listed.

But the gruelling part came when I had to edit the story for the Anthology. It was extremely challenging since it was a totally new concept and experience for me. My editors were very accommodating and we dissected every line. They helped me refine it as well as convey my story exactly how I had wanted to. Thanks especially to Sumayya Lee.

I hope the readers enjoy it.

It was hard work but rewarding as well. And again all this was free. All it required was dedication from my side. Thanks to all the people at Writivism and my mentors.

What have you gained from your participation in #WriterPrompt?

SIMA: It is a very short piece of writing and it helps me to try all kinds of writings. It is a fun way of experimenting. It is beneficial when you get first hand comments from other readers as well as writers. What a wonderful job SSDA is doing! Thanks and do keep it going.



Sima Mittal was born in India in 1974, but moved to Arusha, Tanzania in 1978. She holds a Bachelors of Engineering in Computer Science. Her love for writing began when she explored reading with her two little girls. She loves reading poetry and children's books. She feels a writer and an illustrator magically weave a children's picture book together. Through her writing, she hopes to connect with and mesmerize audiences of all ages. Her short story ‘Grieving for the Grave’ was published in the Daily News (Tanzania) and on Muwado.com. Her short story ‘Dying Gracefully’ is part of the Writivism Anthology 2015, ‘Roses for Betty and other stories’. Her first children’s book ‘Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Always Easy’ has been published in Tanzania by E & D Vision Publishing Ltd., now available on Amazon.


Participate in #WriterPrompt by following Short Story Day Africa on Facebook

Interview by Tiah Beautement a.k.a. @ms_tiahmarie 

“How long will it be this time?” An interview with #WriterPrompt winner, Catherine Shepherd.

It is a kiss that blows away in the wind: her high heels clip up the train stairs, she looks me in the eye, then the shadow of her arm flung from pouted red lips.

We walk home trying not to wipe at our tears. Johnny is whistling, both hands in his pockets. His scuffed shoes kick up stones in the path. I turn to look at him. His eyelids are swollen and snot is gathering by his lip. He pulls out one of his little hands and rubs his nose on his sleeve.

Pa waits by the door in the dusk light. He crouches to kiss Johnny on the cheek.

“How long will it be this time?” I ask, squeezing past into the house.

When he glances at me I notice he, too, has been crying.  “She didn’t say," he replies, before closing out the street.

Aromatic spices from a vegetable stew drift around the kitchen. Pa has washed our school clothes and laid them out by the fire. I try not to stare at the empty space where Ma’s coats and hats used to  hang.

“Eat,” he says quietly, catching me off guard. He tilts his head toward the table set for three. “Tomorrow is a new day."

“Thanks Pa,” I say. “Thanks for everything.”

Catherine Shepherd won SSDA's 7th #WriterPrompt Event with her story, 'Thanks Pa'. We spoke to her about her choice to follow her dreams. 


SSDA: You've been writing since you were a child, but only recently started putting your writing out there. What gave you the courage to allow strangers to read your stories?

CATHERINE: I woke up one morning in my forties and realised my childhood dream was fading fast.  I wanted to write a novel and live in the country with horses. My eldest child had become a young man starting on his own journey and all I had achieved was a pat on the back for helping others grow their own businesses. I was desperate. I gave up my full time job and found some part-time work and bought a plot of land in the country. I entered Short Story Day Africa’s first competition. My story did not feature. Getting over the rejection hurdle was the hardest but most important part of attempting my dream. I realised I needed an editor and here, lady luck was on my side. I got my biggest break when the gifted author Rachel Zadok said she would help me on my way.  

SSDA: Tendai Mwanaka mentored you through Writivism? How did the mentorship work? 

CATHERINE: It was a wonderful opportunity to work with such a prolific writer. Tendai was very patient and positive. He encouraged all of us to work together (he had 3 other mentees) which took the mentoring process to a whole new level. One of the mentees was Chinelo Onwualu whose story “CJ” appears in Terra Incognita. It was great to work together. Writivism is a very special platform for writers.          

SSDA: What sparked your story, 'On a Hot Summer's Night' published in Jalada?

CATHERINE: I was inspired by our local beach one Valentine’s Day......All the people and the beautiful backdrop. I love summer and have vivid memories of swimming in a warm sea on a hot balmy Cape Valentine’s eve. I remember seeing the local hobo and wondering what Valentine’s Day meant for him. It was only after the first draft that I realised what I was writing.

Catherine Shepherd was born in South Africa in 1970.  The end of Apartheid was the highlight of her young adult years and still inspires her to this day. Although she started writing as a child it was only recently through Rachel Zadok, ‘Short Story Day Africa’ and ‘Writivism’, all part of the amazing African Writing Community,  that Catherine got the courage to put her writing out there.  Her first short story ‘Joy Ride’ was published by Black Letter Media in 2013. Catherine has a degree in journalism from Rhodes University. She currently lives in Cape Town, but has plans to build a writer's retreat in Suurbraak.

Participate in #WriterPrompt by following Short Story Day Africa on Facebook

Interview by Tiah Beautement