Thursday, December 20, 2012

My dearest beloved Blog.

My dearest blog,, I write this letter to you with a great deal of embarrassment.  I know I have really been a bad bad boy, for look at you you, just lying there alone on your cyber bed, heavily neglected, and your face a mask of unhappiness.
How could I do this, I ask myself. How could I neglect especially you, you who conferred status on my shoulders when I was still nothing. Is that a good way to pay back, I find myself asking myself sometimes in moments of reflection.
For I clearly remember too that you were very difficult to propose to, and needed my deepest resources, unlike my new blue lover – no, my new blue friend, that one called Facebook.
I don’t know if I should tell you this, about my bedroom secrets with my blue lover, because you might think that I am trying to make excuses so that you can accept me again, but you did not have not have billions of people sniffing at your sex and speaking your name at every corner, or writing across your bums or bosom – no, you were more discreet than that, for it seems the vulgar, the ones I know at the bottle store, don’t want to come to you, which is a reflection of the goodness of your soul, so I am beginning to realise.
I was vain, I was a fool, I thought that the best girlfriend was the one who is in fashion, the one who wears blue very high heeled shoes, very tight (blue) stretch jeans, and the most elaborate hairstyle (blue) over a face that looks like it came by aeroplane.
Well, ignoring my inner good sense, I proposed to the blue girl, and she accepted my proposal, for after all, I didn’t mind about her colour, it was interesting, and I thought a touch of cross colour relationship would bring a new meaning to my life.
One thing that is funny is that while her name is Facebook, and I easily called her F, and loved it, now that letter F seems to have taken another connotation – and if you still love me my blog, I hope you wont laugh at me and say what really did you think you were trying to do. But do you think I have been a fool?
But we have a saying, what goes round comes round again. Here I am again knocking on your door. Please get up from your bed, take a bath, dress up, and let’s go and have some fun, for I am back, and I promise you this time I won’t go off on some half baked chase of blue girls trying to write all types of vulgarity on their bums.
Do you think I am telling the truth? Well, I hope I am too, but we will see with my activity on you’re my darling blog just to prove that this time I not only want to make love with you, but I want children – the posts on you that will come from my ejaculations.
Pass my tender greetings to all blog families and especially my blog followers.

Always Yours (Even if I sneak back again to the blue lover with the name that starts with the big F)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Side Roads Of Story Creation

If you have a keen sense of the value of evolution, never be rigid with the first draft of any concept.  Ask my good friend the dinosaur about that.
The original concept is the stem, or the main road, but some other branches can take off from the stem, and these in the long run bear the precious fruit or answers or story that we are seeking for.
If you follow the main road forever you will never reach your destination, you will only but get near it, but not there. 
In order for you to get to the destination, you have to turn into a little side road, but not a detour as this will make the journey even more taxing.
The main stem of a tree aims at nothing but the open sky, the main road to the heart of a city, but the branch from the stem aims to bear flowers or fruit, and the side roads bring us to our homes.
Some stems can bear fruit, but these are not in the majority.
This is easily applicable to the arts, or writing.  We start a story with a concept that feels and sounds so good that by merely thinking over it we feel this is the main road that you will follow until you reach the conclusion.
Well, some do that and produce good stories - maybe, as I have never met anybody who has done so yet. 
Some follow this initiating concept until they reach a blank wall, and they put their story to rest, hoping that a blessing will fall on their shoulders from the heavens one day and they be able to continue with that same spine of the story till they have a book at the end.
Sometimes that can work, and sometimes that can result in a very frustrated writer. 
But why wait?  Why not re-read the story from the beginning with a pen poised to break away from the main story should any hint of opportunity present itself in the storyline even if you have just revised one paragraph of the first chapter?
Even rivers burst their banks to form new streams that will one day become new rivers.
We know it is traumatic to dump a baby.  Our stories are our babies.  But these are fictional ink and paper babies.  The laws of any state in the world allow you to dump them at any moment should you feel like it.  No one is going to arrest you for it and send you to the hangman.
And do you know something?  Should you have an aversion of leaving your story for the promising branch, there is an easy way out. Copy and paste the story on to a new page leaving the original still intact. Title the new story revision 2, and then have a go on it with scissors and cut and branch out on it where you were afraid to do so on the original draft, for after all, the original draft is still safe and sound on another page.
As you are doing this, keep telling yourself you are experimenting on this copy, yes it is a copy of the original, just as that photocopy of your birth certificate - you can delete, yes even change titles as you like.
You can even send the entire new document to trash if you want to should you not be satisfied with it, for your original draft is still intact isn’t it so?
But tell you what, treat the re-write with caution, because it has the power to bloom that can never be explained to anyone…

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Story And Story Conflict...

A story can never be found to be gripping if it does not have any conflict.  Commonly, when we mention conflict, those not initiated into the creative writing craft will immediately jump to political conflict, that which deals with politicians and their vices, but it will be found that this kind of politics is nothing but a mere element in the broader story conflict spectrum.
To isolate the concept, conflict is a child of the tension between two opposing elements.  The tension can be visible to an onlooker, as a physical fight, or it can be invincible and only exist internally - in the mind and emotions of the subject. In this case for this internal conflict, only an in-depth analysis of the mind and emotions of the subject will reveal it, and of course this lies in the realms of psychoanalysis, or crazy writers.
This also pulls us to the fact that the story teller must be widely read on any subject, or if not well read, must be a good observer, as these tidbits of knowledge will be found to add depth to their stories – there is nothing as boring as a story that only scraps the surface… no matter how small the organ, a highly skilful usage of it will bring total satisfaction…
A story without conflict will immediately begin to sound like a simple explanation, and will immediately lose the attention of the reader, or if it is in theatre or film, the audience.  Where three people are trying to tell their stories at the same time, as it usually happens in bars when we have had a beer or two, we will always focus on the story which tells us why John kept failing to get to point B from point A, and not the one which tells us how John slid from point A to point B without any mis-adventure.  The story teller who keeps failing to grasp this simple fact will always take a long time to attract readers or publishers to their work. 
Of course there are some who say they do not writer for readers, but only write for themselves – but most will be found to be lying on this, and will be secretly seeking for audiences and bugging their mirrors to have taste of their work..
To give an example of the power of conflict, and to use an example outside creative writing, even when one watches a bottle juggler performing their act, if one looks at this act closely, we will discover that even if one is drawn to the sheer beauty of observing the act of the flying bottles and the skilful catching, one is also drawn by conflict to the performance, but the conflict is within the perceiver – one side of you tells you the bottles are going to fall and break, and the other is disagreeing and saying no they are not going to fall – and so we have the enthralled audience!
We are also aware that aesthetics hold a vital position in story telling – brilliantly assembled sentences, descriptions of scenery and people, descriptions of the condition of nature, humankind, and also the creations of humans – the societies, the machines and so forth – but the thread holding this quilt together is the conflict that is the subject of the composer.
It seems that people are so much drawn to conflict that, even in peacetime, they create it as a pastime for their leisure time so that they can always get their adrenaline fix.
We have created all sorts of sports whose epicentre is conflict between individuals or  teams. Imagine if boxers were two countries at war with each other, or even in the mind sports, chess and the like. But we are happy that we seem now to want to contain our aggression within soccer stadiums or boxing rings or any other sports venue, and also contain it between teams with referees watching over them.  Of course we have these incidents in sports stadia where the audience becomes so much infected by the conflict between their teams that they take the conflict to themselves within the terraces and slug it out between each other.
The sports are also a good example where conflict is nicely wrapped up in excellent aesthetics, the beautiful uniforms of the sports people, the green lawns, the adverts, the beautiful cars in car racing, the flags, the national anthems if its national teams playing, and even the beautiful manoeuvres or actions of the sports people themselves.  Of course now and then we have this crazy person leaping over the barricades in football stadia separating the people from the players and running across the turf  amidst the players in protest or celebration and now bringing a new dimension to sports conflict.  An action like this can be a beautiful distraction to sports lovers, but the wary story tellers will always try to lop off a trend like that if it starts protruding from their story construction – imagine a shooting star doing a wobble streak across the sky…But sometimes this is an out of the world fascination that we would like to explore to the fullest before we discard it.
Of course there is the belief that there is no formulae to creative writing.  This also holds true too, as creative writing is an eternal process of experimentation, just take the story where it wants to go as long as you can burrow through that tunnel to the sun on the other side.  But whatever, do not forget what got Hyena into trouble in the animal Kingdom, or how Janet lost her boyfriend to her best friend….

Friday, February 17, 2012

Can A Writer Write On An Empty Stomach?

It has often been said that the best works of art have been produced by people under straitened economical conditions.
I would also like to add that this category of people, the poverty stricken ones to use a less polite term, are also victims of dire mental anguish – they are in a position that has pushed them against a corner with no escape, and the only way they can escape it is by giving birth to the beauty inside them – a time tested way of opening any door of opportunity that lies before you.  Society is a sucker for all things beautiful.
But what is it with art and poverty?  If we were to separate the two, art is dealing with aesthetics and the appreciation of beauty, and poverty is ‘the state of being extremely poor.’
Poverty can also be lack in any required amounts.
Can we equate art to religion?  Can we be justified in saying that it can be also perceived as a system of worship, for surely, if the question can be asked, don’t artists worship their calling?
That said, we will begin to notice that, on a profound level, art is a spiritual condition, and we do not need to tell one that most spiritual discoveries, just like character, are discovered when an individual is under pressure. 
The pressure can be internal (within the mind, body and soul), or external – societal etc.  And what it burns down to is that, even if the pressure is external, outside the body, if more pressure is added on to this pressure, the mind internalises it, and it now becomes internal as well as being external.  And once the pressure is internal, then comes a change in the constitution of the psyche, which will lead to the birth of the new person with a new resolve, and on the negative side, the mind can go haywire.
I am not a psychiatrist, but years of writing and analysing characters have taught me a lot about the mind and how it works, but not as much as the shrink let me add…
We now have this individual, who through extreme hardship has discovered the new person within themselves that had lain submerged under these piles and piles of day to day life pre-occupation, and this new person is the artist (or the mentally challenged man).  The artist now begins their practice, and as any newly born, they attack it with vigour – when they smile, the world smiles, and when they cry, the world cries too.
Year piles on year, and the manuscripts are now a ceiling high pile in their bedroom.  Let’s also remember that most dedicated artists don’t marry before they become stars in their trade, and so the manuscripts keep on piling, and now in every room of the house.
If they are using a computer, they now have heaps and heaps of back up CD’s and flash drives stacked in some drawer or other.
In the streets they walk tall and proud even if their work has not started selling, because they know they have this enormous wealth in their minds, or on the tip of their fingers if they are guitarists or some other artists who rely on their fingers.
And the years pile on, they are still unmarried, own nothing in the world, not even a spoon, as they are banking their lives on a future big sale. 
Their friends are now all married and have families and own houses, and they are still bachelors or spinsters  and now with uncontrollable tempers when they have had a  drink or two.
Then comes a time when their work is now known around the country and the world, but still they are failing to make that illusive big sale. 
And in cases of countries like Zimbabwe, there are no arts grants or even recognition from government of their work and status of being custodians of national cultures.
And one day they wake up to the fact that, even if they are producing beautiful stories, poems, sculptures, they are poverty stricken, and now it is not that poverty they had at the beginning that made them discover the artist lurking inside them, but it is that poverty that will see to it that when they die in a few years, they are going to receive a paupers burial.
On that note, we would like to urge the public, families, and friends to support the nearest  artist by buying their art work, and not ask for freebies, or limit themselves to gazing at it only.
The amount of work an artist can do an empty stomach is limited.  Maybe when she or he is voluntarily fasting, but not when the ‘cat is now sleeping on the fireplace’ because there is now no cooking fire to chase it away.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Let The Writer Write

This is an old subject, but I think I want to return to it as I have never let my opinion on it get known.
There is a school of thought amongst some writers, readers, and critics that sometimes make me sick when I hear them writing and also articulating that they think writers should stop writing about the wars, the hunger, dictatorships, and all such images they think portray a negative picture of the African continent and the Third World.
Some go on to tell the picture they want to see written about, describing the beautiful natural landscapes and wild life of the continent.  Some have even go far and tried to suggest that why don’t these ‘negative’ writers write romances or thrillers or some such literature that does not touch on the hungers, the wars, the child soldiers, dictators etc.
I have never commented on this opinion like I said whenever I come across it, especially on social networking platforms, mainly because I have always been amazed, and if not disappointed, that there are some people with this train of thought, because, for goodness sake, what constitutes of the very term of literature?
Of course we are aware that people have diverse tastes, just as we would see somebody preferring to go half dressed whilst some hold that as a taboo in their cultures.  But does having diverse tastes warrant a ‘dressing down’ of the other? Is there anybody who can rightly say they are the judges of world literature, and people should always pay homage to their opinions on this matter?
I hope I am not being abstract, as I have often discovered myself confusing myself in some of my writing when I use words that seem to hang in mid air, but my opinion on this matter, which I will stand by through thick and thin, is that let each horse chose from which river it wants to drink from, for who knows, maybe those forbidden waters are the ones that hold healing chemicals.
Literature should heal.  There can be no healing if there is no exposure.  Lack of exposure can lead to a perpetuation of the illness, a suppuration of the wound. Let the political writers write.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Literary Year Ahead (2012)

It is January now, and I think this is a good time to try to take stock of what the year ahead holds in store for one.  Is this a good thing to do – well, I think it is in terms of career planning, and to also try to bolster one’s soul.
Is writing my career? Yes definitely it is.  And that question I am always having to answer – what do you do full time? How do you earn a living?
This question has unpleasant connotations. That people believe that one cannot make a living through the arts, or writing as in my case.
The answer to that one is subjective, one can or cannot, but for the past four years ever since I left my job as an acting bursar in a government school, I have become more freer and happier, and what more do we pursue in life other than that? So there…
Of course there have been turbulent times, life has never been smooth for anybody and it will never be– if it’s not this it’s that, but here I am writing and enjoying every moment of it all, and more so when I see what I aspire to achieve blossoming by the day...
And so here is the check list.  My play, Fes’bhuku, directed by Daniel Maposa, and produced by Savana Trust of Harare, which opened, in October 2011, is headed for more shows around the country in 2012. Fes’bhuku is a look-see on social media, Facebook, Twitter and so forth, and its impact on semi rural communities, and infused with loads of humor, and of course the usual acid political satire. Check.
The present core of my 2012 expectations is the publishing of my latest novel, Running With Mother, by Weaver Press sometime between March and February which I finished during my 2011 term as guest writer at the Nordic Africa Institute in Sweden, but had started started when I was Feuchtwanger Fellow at Villa Aurora in Los Angeles in 2010  I would like to believe that this is an international book as it has crossed seas and continents during its creation.  This is my third book to be published so far after DANCING WITH LIFE and MANY RIVERS, and oh yes I am happy I have gone this far in terms of publishing. What more can a writer wish for?   This gives me strength and a heart warming smile, some energy that sometimes is so hard to muster.  I wont talk much about the latest book as it is still not yet out, but please watch out for it. And please don’t ask for free copies, but BUY.
I also have two plays which are still at manuscript stage, and which were written in 2011 but written for the 2012 theatre year.  I am still looking for production houses for the plays and so far have not met with any luck, but I believe in the plays, and one day they will hit the light.  I am loath to look for a director and actors/actresses and produce the plays myself as it involves so much work and also resources that I do not have – I guess I am very lazy, and so finding a production house seems the easier option for me – if only somebody they can believe in the plays just as I do.
Still on the plays, one is titled THE FORGOTTEN, and tells the story of a visually impaired woman conquering over serious adversity.   This one is a two character cast. The other, titled PURPLE BLOSSOMS, is a one character cast, and also tells the story of adversity and hope from the point of view of a grave digger called Digger who is looking for his missing wife and daughter.
I also have another novel manuscript which I have been working over for the past three years, and the funny thing is that the one that has been taken up by Weaver Press was started much later than this one, about six months ago, but will see the printing press first. So you see, this proves that if you feel you are stuck on a novel project, put it aside and start on another one, you can still go back to it if you finish the new one.  Do not let old work delay your advancement.
Currently, I am working on a Ndebele TV drama which is now at an advanced stage.
There is another project I am working on when I am not writing or reading – hey, this just reminds me, I am so behind in my reading it shames me!
This project, which I am working on with visual artists, is titled ‘VisualisingZim.’ When I was in Los Angeles in 2010, I did a Multi Media Story Telling course, which entailed learning to collect and create stories/news for the electronic media using the video, audioslide shows, and podcasts  fomart.  And so I have been creating short documentaries of visual artists (painters) in my city of Bulawayo and loading them on youtube and Facebook, with the hope that the work of these painters can be viewed internationally and draw attention to Zimbabwean art. So far I have done 15 documentaries in Bulawayo, and hope one day to as many as I can nationally.  My other hope is that one day I will open up a website for these documentaries which will serve as an electronic gallery/register of the visual arts of Zimbabwe.  This is an exciting project, and I love every minute I working on it.
Lastly, but not least, I have been promised a Fiction Fellowship in the USA sometime soon in 2012, but I will talk about this when everything has been finalised…