It is hard to say what kind of a change it is – the good kind, the not-so-good kind, or simply the necessary kind. For decades writers have been denied the satisfaction of seeing their work in print, of having someone else read and appreciate it. Like a child seeking approval from strict parents, they try and try to please, reaching out to this and that publisher and hoping at least one would give them the validation every writer craves.
The thing with writing is that it always looks fantastic to the writer when it is finished. Unfortunately, your endorsement is not enough; you need someone else to think so too. For this reason, traditional publishers have held the reins for a long, long time. They KNOW that writers absolutely need them, just as they need the writers too. But they are running a business, and must be careful who to give ear (and royalties) to.
Then comes alternative methods of publishing. Methods that effectively defy the godhood of the publishing company and open a window where they have closed their doors. Now, with the necessary resources, pretty much anyone determined enough can raise their heads and proudly say ´I am a published author!´ The word ´published´ was that which carried so much power decades ago; it meant that someone else, other than your family and friends, someone with business interests, actually believed in your creation. Oh, but times have changed. Now, the only person that needs to believe in your work, is you.
But does traditional publishing still have a special place in this field? Is an author that is that is ´traditionally published´ a notch higher than the ´self published´ author? Is one system of publishing here to replace the other or can they co-exist?
AiA asked these questions to many authors, mostly from Africa. Their responses? Whew!
Rabison Shumba, Zimbabwe
¨Publishing is taking a new turn in our generation. We are coming from an era where one would not progress much as a writer unless there was a publisher to hand-hold him/her through the publishing process. This is the traditional method that has existed for generations. The self-publishing options have become the cheapest, fastest most convenient way to get books out. I have self published a few titles andI am not complaining at all. Of course, as a self published author you then take care of the end to process of publishing from the writing, editing, cover design, typesetting and actual printing which traditionally you never needed to worry about.
¨What is more interesting is the fact that paper based books are fast being overtaken by e-pubs and e-books. As a self published author you can have your book ready to be downloaded onto smart devices in a matter of minutes if all your material is ready. This will replace the old way of publishing in due course. As self published authors, one critical success factor remains quality. The fact that you can quickly get published leaves you with a daunting task of ensuring that you remain the quality assurance manager of your own work. If you love to have control of your products, self publishing is the direction to go.¨
Yewande Omotoso, Nigeria, Barbados, S/Africa
1) ¨Whatever the mode of publication what is most essential is quality. Quality of design, of writing, of editing and of presentation. The view is that traditional publishing produces a higher quality product, better writing and so on. While this might be largely correct I don’t think this is “the truth”. In other words it’s possible to pick up self-published works and be blown away by the talent. And many times I’ve read books that have come through “the stable” and there are editing errors or I find the writing just plain bad. The opposite is also true. My personal nervousness about self-publishing is that there is the chance of fewer checks and balances. From the little I know about self-publishing (I might be wrong) a writer is paying someone to publish their work, so you now rely on someone you’re employing to “check” you as it were. There is plenty of room here for much to slip through the cracks of this transactional relationship. I’ve picked up several a self-published book and realised the only reason it exists is because the writer could afford it, making the whole thing a bit of an ego-trip. At least with the long list of rejections and the editors telling you what to work further on, the traditional publishing route is quite humbling. And you can have no doubt that if an establishment will go through all that rigmarole with you then there is something about you and your work that makes it worth it.
¨That said a lot can slip through the cracks between traditional publishers and their writers too, especially if the writer is “popular”. Popularity can sometimes be an unfortunate source of compromise to quality – strange equation but evidently true. Both publishers and writers would need to be exceedingly vigilant to guard against that. The same kind of vigilance required if you choose to self-publish.
2) ¨But this comes to another point. The subjectivity of what we are dealing with here. What I might find bad writing someone else might be unable to put down, might want a sequel to and so on. Some of the most exalted and prize-laden works I could think badly of and some hidden gem no traditional publisher would touch might appeal intensely to me.
3) ¨Part of the bottom line, however, is money. Publishers publish for many different reasons, I imagine. It could be to give a foot to a burgeoning author, to support a certain aspect of the literary world, to develop something and yes surely to make money too. They make money by publishing what “the people” want to read and what they will buy. “The People” is not a homogeneous glob which makes this even more complicated. Some want literary fiction, most I would say want to laugh or want to be turned on, want to be excited, be thrilled, to be spirited away somewhere fantastical. Some might even forgo good writing so long as these other elements are present. I guess I’m saying we might all like burgers, some drive through McDonalds to get theirs others ask the waiter to confirm with the chef that the beef is organic. And many want both, sometimes you’re in the mood for fast food other times you want gourmet. All this to say there might come time (it could be here already) when a writer doesn’t want to play this lottery with a publisher. She feels her work is strong and she trusts her own sense of integrity, she trusts herself enough to embark on a self-published trip and, while I’m not particularly interested in going this route myself, I would wish her luck. I won’t disregard her book on the basis of its self-published status, I’d check it out and, actually, I’d long to be pleasantly surprised by it. How awesome it be would if there comes a time when the stigma often attached to self-published works faded away. At the end of the day who cares how it got on the shelf, if it’s good keep it there and keep them coming.
4) ¨However, having said all that, the reason I’m not particularly interested in going the self-published route is because I am a child of an era. Some people, you walk into their homes and the furniture is from the seventies. Their wardrobe is bell bottoms or shoulder-pads. Some people don’t have a Skype account, heck some people refuse to get email addresses. Well, I am quite emotionally attached to the traditional mode of publishing. Many young writers can reach their audience by clicking the “publish” button on their computer screen. Times change and move but I think with all its complexities there is still deep worth and merit in the traditional mode of publishing and publishing in paper, physical books. In some circles this makes me a dinosaur. Again this could well be my downfall as a writer. But even with the possibility of making more money as a self-published author (I hear this is the case), I find the whole thing unsexy at this moment. Let time tell.¨
H L Daniel, Ghanaian/British
¨I believe strongly that alternative methods of publishing, including Indie and self-publishing compliment the traditional methods of publishing.
A sizeable amount of self-published books are written so skilfully that it would be a travesty if they had been left unpublished.
The way I see it, an excellent book must grab the reader from the very start. We need excellent writers from every genre to inform, entertain and lose us in their books. If the traditional publishers can’t spot the talent in a submitted text then the author must find an alternative way of getting his or her story told.¨
¨I believe Self Publishing helps writers to get their works published because it’s very difficult for traditional publishers to take on a new writer manuscript without a literary agent and that process takes years until many writers give up writing completely. Traditional publishers will only publish recognized writers or some Oxford or Cambridge Professor work.
¨Many famous authors such as:Mark Twain,John Grisham,Walt Whitman,D.H Lawrence, T.S.Eliot etc.self published their own work. Many Indie self published writers have won literary awards and many of them are very talented writers. Many self published writers works were later published by traditional publishing houses. So the self publishing gives unknown writers literary recognition in the first publication then later exposes the writer to traditional publication.
¨I believe self publishing is the first step towards international publication they compliment each other unlike vanity publishing where the writer pays to publish anything that’s not of any literary merit. I self published my book of poetry first with Outskirts Press and five years later a traditional publisher re-published my work for free.¨
Gloria D. Gonsalves, Tanzania/Germany
¨Before I published my first book, I read about publishing and it seemed like a bureaucratic process involving sending manuscripts to as many as you can and probably all could end up in the bin. If one was lucky to be published, they needed an agent. Then I read of self-publishing and my instincts felt it was the right way to go despite the negativism I read of vanity publishing.
¨I regard both self publishing and vanity publishing as choices. Whatever choice a writer makes, they should be ready for the consequences too. The latter is harder in terms of finding a publisher. On the other hand self-publishing requires that you have the capital of financing the Project and to bring in your own expertise. For instance, you will need to proofread and edit your own work, be involved in the layout and designing, etc. However, the main advantage of self-publishing is having control of your own work. You will also work at your own pace and nothing will get published unless you are satisfied with the final product.
¨I must also admit that there are hard lessons involved if choosing the self-publishing path, and sometimes they might come too late. For example, my first book is no longer in distribution because my financial situation did not allow me to contract a professional editor. The quality of that book made me decide now that I no longer wish for it to be out there.
¨Sometimes I get queries from potential authors who write to ask advice on self publishing. My response is always, “Do research about the differences between self publishing and vanity publishing. Once you do, then you will know what you want. Once you know what you want, be ready for the consequences too as there are pros and cons to whatever choice you make”.¨
Mary Ashun, Ghana
¨I think that alternative methods of publishing belong to the new wave of expression in the arts. One of the key aspects of self publishing that made the medium second rate was the quality of work that was produced – the editing, cover art and layout was all subpar. Now, with all the providers out there – freelancers especially can help a potential author produce a quality publication at a fraction of the costs. My biggest problem with self publishing/Indie is the lack of support in the Reading community…especially out of Ghana. In Ghana, no one seems to care if you’ve self published; if its a good read, they will want more of your work. As well, there are not enough marketing opportunities for authors to share their work…and make money doing it. I would love for the government or some artists collective to raise money to further the cause of brilliant authors … and to support them especially in the earliest stages of creating a name for themselves.¨
Kabu Okai-Davies , Ghana
¨As an Australian-based self-published Ghanaian author, I am convinced that the current challenges facing African authors is not whether alternative methods or non-traditional pathways are worthy or would replace established systems towards becoming published. Becoming published is easy, because of the availability of publishing technologies at our disposal. However, this crisis is an opportunity to develop independent communities of readers; without which publishing would not thrive, hence the continued reluctance by traditional publishing Houses to invest into aspiring authors.
¨The truth about professional African writing is that, unless it is linked to communities of committed book lovers and buyers as avid readers, around the world; the book industry would continue to flounder, because oral-based cultures continue to define structures of traditional African communication. Hence, the solitary, disciplined act of reading is culturally absent. African cultures have to develop cultural institutions around publishing industries, promoting reading, Book Awards, bookshops, libraries, Festivals, reading for pleasure and enlightenment, seeking informative knowledge; in order to develop both systems of publishing.
¨For beginning writers the alternative methods of Indie self-publishing is a worthy alternate to mainstream publishing. However, rather than thinking that self-publishing would replace traditional publishing or serve as a back-door route for ´anyone´ to become a published author; it must be considered as a complimentary part of the process by which aspiring authors can introduce their writing to a community of readers. Self-publishing (online or otherwise) would not necessarily replace traditional publishing.
¨It would therefore be important to argue that African authors must use self-publishing to launch their careers. However sooner or later, professional writers eventually come to terms with the realities of the industry as a profit driven business with editors, agents, lawyers, publicists, media-marketing, book-tours and sales executives; without that full-time authors would not succeed.¨
Mikhail Ikpoma, Nigeria
¨Self-publishing complements traditional publishing,that is how i see it. If given the choice, every writer would prefer traditional publishing because of the importance it has in the elite world. This ‘complement’ roles is derived from the demerits of both forms of publishing:
* The editorial process is not adequate in most self-published works, thus they sometimes tend to be not quite up-to-standards.
* Traditional publishing is often rigid,profit-oriented, public driven and at imes non-considerate of writers’ creativity.
Self-publishing does complement traditional publishing but it would be better off if the elite world begins to give it equal importance and writers engage editorial services to fine tune their works. Every writer is satisfied seeing his or her work in print, and happier if it is quality work.¨
Adrian .O Moyo, Zimbabwe
¨In response to the question, we can not conclude that the alternative publishing methods are a replacement of traditional publishing since they compliment, whereby when new authors and writers just starting out in the industry may utilize the established publishing houses in order to gain exposure and mentor-ship opportunities, but for established authors self publishing maybe an efficient way of cutting costs and having full control of their own intellectual rights. It really depends on the perceptions of the writer in question about the environment which they may find themselves in. Since self publishing is fast taking over thus electronic books will soon be on the go overtaking hard copies. While the barriers to traditional publishing are so high that an author without national platform has scarce hope getting a book contract self publishing has made it possible for aspiring authors to bet on themselves, assuming the financial risk but also reaping the profits when the book works thus self publishing is more plausible than traditional publishing.¨
Jennie Marima, Kenya
¨I wouldn’t term the alternative methods ‘replacements’. I would call them worthy alternatives. I imagine traditional publishers may not be able to accommodate the sheer numbers of manuscripts out there waiting to be turned into books. Getting published is every writer’s highest goal; as such, these alternatives provide ‘relief’ to frustrated authors out there who are simply bursting to get their work out. Many good authors, despite their best efforts, have been unable to crack into the highly competitive traditional publishing scene. The two ‘outlets’ should thrive alongside each other.¨
¨It is worthwhile noting that some of the best books in the world are as a result of self-publishing. In mind, I have Marcel Proust’s work, In Search of A lost Time. No publisher was willing to publish this work, until he had to pay for its initial publication. Yet, even today, it is among the best-written works of literature. Proust’s work turned out to be a masterpiece, in spite of what publishers of his day thought. Another example is Binyavanga Wainaina’s Discovering Home, which worn the Caine Prize in 2002. This short story was a fruit of self-publishing.
¨Yet, as we applaud Proust and Wainaina’s achievements, we cannot fail to note that some self-published works lack in stature and standard. Some of these self-published books often read abnormal, with poor grammar that often annoys the reader.
¨But before we embark on this discussion, it is imperative to differentiate between Indie and self-publishing. In the former, the author is not required to pay to be published, unlike the latter. He receives royalties just like in traditional publishing. The only difference, in my opinion, between Indie and traditional publishing is that the first one is not in the league of the multinationals, thus does not entail publishing as many titles in any given year unlike the second.
¨Yet that being said, it is important to note that Indie, along with self-publishing, are very important in the growth of publishing. Normally, it takes a lot of time for any new author to be absorbed by the mainstream traditional publishers, as their focus is on the already established authors, who have a set audience. Moreover, most publishers are cautious about investing in a new author who is unknown, as his book will not become a New York Best seller. This creates ‘dryness’ both in the ideas being propagated in the books, and the themes. This goes on to demand that stories should be told in a certain fashion.
¨For instance in Africa, it is common to have stories that read almost similar, with predictable characters that display lacklustre realism with no twist or turn. This harsh reality becomes the norm, until the reader becomes bored of both buying and of reading new books in the market, as it is possible to predict the storyline, plot, and character development in almost every new book.
¨Now, with the help of both Indie and Self-publishing, we have new authors who come up with exciting different stories exploring diverse genres. In spite of this, there is danger in self-publishing, as sometimes it gives too much freedom to publish. A platform like Amazon or Banes & Noble allows anyone to publish a book in kindle format without paying anything. This creates bizarre books in the market, which have shaky storylines; feeble characters; bad grammar, and seeming uninteresting themes. This breeds a new type of literature that adds neither aesthetic value, nor moral guidance to the reading population.
¨In fact, it becomes like a magazine, publishing mediocre work that is not worth publishing. This further forms new authors, who are driven by monetary gains, rather than producing great works of literature. Thus, they publish almost everything to achieve their desired goal. This kills authentic literature.
¨Self-publishing does sometimes kill literature, giving everyone a back door to becoming published even when there is no talent, or the work holds no value. Plus, other times it seeks to replace traditional publishing. However, the same platform does compliment traditional publishing, and gives way to new authors and readers.¨
¨There was a time when the notion of being self-published, attracted nothing but derision. People would do just about anything to secure the attention of a literary agent, who would in turn, snag them that all-important publishing deal with a traditional publisher.
Because I’ve been there.
¨In my opinion, many people who actually sit at a typewriter or computer, trying to ‘write’, think that their stories are worth telling … and hearing. On one level, it is not the place of X to tell Y that their story isn’t worth a second glance … or listen. However, I am appreciative of the fact that the publishing industry – especially the traditional one – runs on money; as do other industries from fashion to film to pharmaceutical. Many (would be) authors are more concerned with aesthetics, which means that many periodically have blinders on.
¨Literary agents can help rid a writer of those blinders, in the most brutal way possible. Waiting for a call-back or an email with even the slightest hint of positivity, can be an exercise in futility. Sometimes, it’s a case of “This person isn’t half as good as they think they are” (kinda like X-Factor hopefuls when they genuinely don’t know that they just cannot sing). At other times, it’s an issue of ´There might be some promise there, but we will never know that because we cannot be bothered with you, right now.´
¨Frustration will generally do one of two things – it can make you keel over and die, while chanting, “Poor me, boo hoo!”; or get you to the point where you say, “Up yours! I will do this myself or I will die trying, because I believe in the power of me.” In my opinion, at the end of the day, a good book is a good book – regardless of whether it was published in the so-called traditional method, or not. A well-published book is a well-published book, whether the author got an advance or nearly went bankrupt trying to get 1000 copies printed. Personally, I am thrilled at the emergence and the growth of the self-publishing industry. Some might view it as ‘the poorer, younger brother who should never even be acknowledged’. I disagree.
¨I believe indie publishing and other aspects of self-publishing should be encouraged, because they constitute a lovely complement to the traditional publishing industry. There are many excellent authors whose voices would never have been heard, if they were still waiting for that call from a literary agent.
¨That is not to say that the concern about quality isn’t valid. The perception of self-publishing that some foster is “Print off any old thing, stick a cover on it and voilà … you can call yourself an author.” That does happen; there’s no denying that. But a person who doesn’t appreciate quality, just doesn’t – there are some traditionally published books in print, that are riddled with typos, illogical story-lines, ‘dirty’ font and horrific cover designs. These problems aren’t exclusive to products of the self-publishing industry.
¨If I could go back and do it again, I would do it faster.
¨I wouldn’t wait for a literary agent (or ten) who was/were never going to sign me, to impose an 18-month ban on me contacting any other literary agent(s), before shooting off a standard form email to tell me ´Sorry, we don’t want you.´
¨Self-publishing worked for me. But it was not easy – the financial, emotional and physical costs were enormous. The process took 18 months – the same length of time, some literary agents try to get you a publishing deal. It was a rigorous process, during which I worked harder than I’ve ever done in my life. The end-result is a product that I’m proud to have my name, on.
¨I don’t think self-publishing will ever replace traditional publishing. I don’t think it should – but only because I am not automatically averse to ‘vintage’, even when some might think of it as a ‘relic’. Or as ‘the stuffy older brother who might suffer an allergic reaction to complementary change’.¨
Keith C. Holmes, Founder and CEO, Global Black Inventor Research Projects, Inc.
1. Do you believe that alternative methods of publishing (Indie, self-publishing, etc) is a worthy replacement of traditional publishing, or is it a back-door route for ´anyone´ to become a published author?
¨This is a very good set of questions. First, let me thank you the editorial staff at Authors in Africa. The alternative methods of publishing offers anyone with the resources and funding the opportunity to publish their works. Publishing can now be done at a fraction of the cost of traditional publishing with same quality and desired results.
¨At this time I don’t see the alternative methods and traditional methods of printing as being antagonistic with one another. However, authors and publishers need to co-promote and work together on projects that are beneficial to both.¨
2. Do you think they compliment each other or that one is here to replace the other?
¨They compliment each other, because for those authors whose works would not be published traditionally, now have an avenue open to them. For example the cost of self-publishing are dramatically lower than traditional printing. In the past an author would have to wait for a traditional publisher to review and accept his or her works for publishing. You now have the ability to print your works at a lower cost and at the same time offer your publication as an eBook. Authors and publishers can develop a strategies to go after markets that would otherwise be closed. For example using the alternative methods of printing allows one to have multiple distributors. This means multiple outlets for distribution as well as multiple streams of income.¨
Sumayya Lee, South Africa
Alternative methods of publishing are not replacements. I do believe traditional publishing will continue, albeit with adjustments as e-books gain popularity. Self-Publishing is an expensive affair, however for someone whose work does not tick marketing boxes and hence will not be accepted by a mainstream publisher; this is now a valid, acceptable option. I am pleased that it is losing its negative connotations, and if it is to continue to do so, those who choose this route need to factor in the cost of an editor and proof-reader. I do believe that all writers, regardless of the manner of publishing, are obliged to ensure that their published work is as error-free as possible.
Chika Ezeanya, Nigeria
Democracy is the global watchword and its appeal lies in the freedom and progress it promises. In education, teaching is becoming more and more learner centered and demand driven. In healthcare, patients are now empowered by search engines and are becoming active participants in their own treatment. In politics, the traditional domain of democracy, the Arab Spring is still fresh. In short, global citizens are crying for freedom and taking it by themselves without seeking validation from establishments, nor looking to take a cue from age-old systems and processes. And among global citizens are writers.
Who really wants to knit socks and shawls and whistle some favorite tune while waiting for some set-in-my-ways publisher to respond to queries, six months after submission, and with a heart wrrenching ‘NO’, for that matter?
Perhaps the pension generation who posted letters by hand in post offices and waited weeks, sometime months to receive responses. Or those who lived under communist or military regimes or were somehow influenced by them. These are the few traditionalists who snub e-books and still proudly trawl struggling decades-old bookstores in search of “readable materials”. For many others, however, the old days of autocracy in publishing are over. The supporters of the global publishing industry, who are mostly based in the west, the bastion of democracy, now appear to some, to be speaking from both sides of the lips. From one side freedom is emphasized, from the other side, the domain within which that concept should be applied is restricted.
But the world has moved on, and writers live in it. Publishing is now a question of placing one’s fingers on the keyboard and clicking away your material to hungry readers. Readers are the target. Be it through traditional publishing or self publishing, the freedom to be heard by those who want to hear you is what matters. And with hard and smart work and the right message, everyone can, and should be given the opportunity to, be heard.
Lyndal Asanempoka, Australia/Ghana
I do believe alternate methods of publishing are worthwhile. It enables people, who, likeme, live in remote areas and work so cannot write to schedule per see, to open doors that enable them to have access to publishing their material in a professional looking manner and share it with others. It has assisted many an, now famous, author to begin their publishing journeys and sell to independent bookstores so they may be discovered. I know of two authors this has happened to particularly. One is now having a mvoie made of their book and one is an international bestseller. Therefore it is a backdoor route, although that in itself requires dedication, time, knowledge and assistance.
I think self-publishing could overtake traditional publishing houses but I don’t think one can replace the other due to the fact that there is still a need to be able to distinguish between certain writers and writings. I don’t think there is an assumption anymore that self-published works are of a lesser quality than traditional publishing houses.
Bolaji Olatunde, Nigeria
I am of the considered opinion that alternative methods of publishing are very worthy alternatives to traditional publishing.
I often tell anyone who will listen – an ideal world is one in which everyone writes and we all read what the other writes. It would be a better world because the perspectives available for inspection would be so immense, and it would probably broaden understanding, although the hate shared on social media seems to cast doubts on this supposition because it is one of the models for exploring such a possibility. Writing should be as ubiquitous, powerful and as widespread as speech. In the past, traditional publishers were able to act the roles of “voice limiters” – they held the gate keys or passes to readership. If a literary work was too daring, risky or did not express a view or perspective with economic potential, it was possible to stifle it. Those days are thankfully gone. The corpus of world literature is a list of works that were turned down several times by traditional publishers. To characterise a writer’s work as that of “anyone who has come in through the back door” is to somehow dehumanise or debase the importance of each one’s unique perspective of the human experience, which is the essence of literature. In fact, I would go so far as to identify it as arrogance and snobbery writ large. With standard editing and other tools available to traditional publishers, the works of most authors could shine and thankfully, those tools are rapidly becoming available to savvy self-published authors at affordable prices.
Curiously, watchers and respected voices of the Nigerian literary scene are ever so quick to complain about the slow death of literature in the land, the dearth of literary work and are even faster to denounce self-published work in an environment where a losing battle is being fought to keep the scene alive. No better illustration of confusion exists, I believe. A clamour for improved standards all-round would be a better tactic to improve the present state of affairs.
My second novel is almost done and I say this without mincing words – self-publishing is an option I shall be willing to explore once more. Never again will any manuscript of mine gather dust, electronic or physical, just because some agent or traditional publisher doesn’t think giving vent to my voice could be worth the effort. (Read full article on this here)
Books in variety like guns and pens porridge and fresh juice
War is feared. Books loved, books are my love. Where I come from there is a proverb that goes “War is not porridge”. ..add , that you should long for it. This means that war is not necessary, something you should have as if it were food. War no good. There is no proverb from there about books so I make up one. “Books or stories can prevent war. Books are like porridge and cool drinks have them in all varieties around you.”
Let me first tell you how I relate with books. What I care about are people not who gave birth to them. What I look for is the substance in a book not who published it. After that I relate often with a physical book as the writer. I say, “have you seen my … and mention the title or author.
The Internet presence is more spiritual, secretive and mysterious I move in there like a spirit that is why you will hardly find a list of mine on Amazon or Goodreads. I try but it does not work. In reading I have to own something I can relate to as mine so I also have a kindle. It is a communion, a sacred sharing. What I eat in words is enough I do not panic about all that I have not read, I read.
Spirit? Porridge and books? Let me tell my story. You think about books. Where I grew up there were many women of my aunt’s age who made traditional celebration gruel, a porridge. It was a speciality for the mother of a newborn child. It was brought to a home in calabashes, about two or three but six was also possible. That depended on the size of the family.
This super drink Is a fine porridge, a little fermented, sweetened too to one’s own taste before drinking. It is so refined that as they said at home, it took itself down there. It was a cool drink that did not go bad in a hot environment.
This is a drink that took days of preparation, hard labour including pounding own grain of maize in a mortar and pestle. It was a group task as the grinding stone was also to be wetted in a specific way. One could not afford to get it wrong. Many did it but there were two women in my area who stood out. Everyone said they had the ginger for it. Their touch was irresistible. This happens with wine and vineyards, with gardening. The green finger.
My aunt had the porridge knack and she and her friend Mama Kiragu were spoken about with reverence, after all the making of this drink was almost reverential even when light jokes could be told in between to age mates who worked at it.
It was a great honour to be visited with full gourds of this happy stuff. Almost everyone I know loved it and the family drank the last bit unwillingly wishing that they could stretch it even longer in terms of days.
We lamented the other day that today women in their forties have no clue how to make this uji. No idea what to do with grindstones most of the time other than maybe keep them as memorials. But everyone still loves the drink they made and some people try to produce it in a modern way. Others are pleased to take fresh mango or passion juices or even the not so fresh. What with wait issues and all, even when the drink taken in right quantities did not fatten. Somehow childbirth did but not even that today.
They are ready to mix powders that travel from as far as Chile to Kenya. They buy them and sell them delighted at their convenience when they could grow their own lemons and oranges outside and all manner of verges too for vitamins.
I woke up at 4am thinking about this with regard to your questions on publishing online and in the traditional way. I am sitting at an airport and I could send this analogically memory to my friends all over the world and get to publish it. I am going to Edinburgh for a literary meeting. All my it tiles were bought online and will be on sale there. I do not have to think about their weight. Not even of the 57 titles here on my kindle but which I can read from a PC too. I will meet Authors whose books I shall read as I fly, near them when we sit together and they will not know unless I tell them so. I like to read people I meet. Publish online of course and be seen to sneak in but the market will not receive you if you do not write well and to be read.
My analogy still. The traditional is not easily discarded. The traditional book is great especially in the hands and help of experts who edit and market so are the skills of the same online as long as they are not abused or cheapened. But not everyone writes for the huge publishers just like before. 8 believe there are many wonderful works that would never have reached us without the diversity and expansion of publishing that we are enjoying today. When it comes topper and weight one had to carry both the trees and humans are smiling. Yet when I visit a home or a library I do want to see and touch bound books, smell them. I balance both. I relish the traditional book.
And how it is distributed.
Great Literature is great on the tongue, in the dictation, – voice the writer hears perhaps as they write – and even in the heart and art of inspiration. When it comes out the writer will be recognised by the birth they give. It will Aldo need eyes to look at it and love it. Like a newly born child is looked at. Sometimes the ‘child book ‘is conceived, gestates and is delivered, reared and nurtured on the Internet! Wherever humans gather there books must be too. Let no one generalise.
Good cream always rises and the best of stars shine in the dark nights.
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