Celebrate Life – No ordinary wordsmiths
Four authors, whose debut books will probably change the course of your life, open up about their writing journeys
BUSI SELESHO, 35, author of Money and Black People: Why Black People Don’t Have Money & How To Heal Your Money Story
An internationally-accredited Money Coach and CEO of Isipho Sempilo HSE Solutions, Busi is a serial entrepreneur who learnt the money lessons she now cherishes the hard way. She’s passionate about teaching people how to save, invest and make better money decisions.
The story behind your writing…At the end of my money seminars, I’d always sense that people yearned for something to take home. At the time, I didn’t think I had it in me to write a book — all I wanted was to equip my black brothers and sisters with wealth creation skills. The motivation behind your first book… As the last of six kids, when my mom passed on, everyone who came to pay their respects kept telling my older siblings they’d need a lot of money to raise me. So, I understood quite early on that money makes the world go around. As a teenager and young adult, I sold sweets, spinach and later became a salesperson and then an entrepreneur. I became bankrupt but seeing a wealth coach was my turning point — I developed a desire to change other black people’s money narratives after these sessions.
The lessons you impart in the book… My own bad money decisions and the experiences of those around me inspired the book’s lessons. The book breaks down the stereotypes people believe about money. It also offers solutions in the form of the 30-day money mindset programme, which is a great exercise to try.
Lesson for the reader to take away…I’d like people to adjust and hopefully change their money mindsets.
MALEBO SEPHODI, 34 , author of Miss Behave
Activist, African feminist, lecturer, game-changer and nomad are just a few of the titles Malebo uses to describe herself. She is on a mission to try change black women’s narratives.
The story behind the writing…
I wrote from a deeply personal place. I had to learn a lot of things about myself while doing research for this book, and I grew as a result. Miss Behave was my way of putting out a long-overdue conversation that we as black women needed to have.
The motivation behind the book… As a young girl, I only never saw myself through the eyes of society. I was overweight, shy, lived in my head and thought the worst of myself. I had imposter syndrome and lived in fear of someone finding out that I was a fraud. Once I challenged society’s many definitions of what it means to be a black woman, I came to terms with my perceptions and weaknesses.
The inspiration behind the storyline… The book is about pushing back against the norm and what we’ve been told to be. With Miss Behave, I also wanted to experiment with my writing and defy the rules of what constitutes a good book or writing. I took complex academic issues like African feminism, social constructs, patriarchy, race and power relations and wrote about them in an all-encompassing tone that would accommodate everyone. When someone reads the book, I want them to say, ‘The woman written about here is me’. Lessons for the reader to take away…
The book’s far from prescriptive and is merely a new conversation about old issues. I’d like the reader to engage with the text, fight for the truth and unlearn everything they’ve been taught to believe that could possibly hurt other people.
IJANGOLET S. OGWANG, 26,
author of An Image in A Mirror and a post-investment analyst by day
Born to Ugandan parents in Kenya, the Eastern Cape-bred Ijangolet believes her own colourful childhood played a big role in her producing a captivating story of two sisters who grew up in different worlds.
The story behind your writing… Writing had always been my favourite hobby but pursuing it as a career was not an option because all my siblings had established careers in either commerce or engineering. I chose finance while keeping in mind that being an activist and documenting African narratives were my ultimate goals. This is why I had to resuscitate my love for writing.
The motivation behind your first novel… In 2015, a good friend of mine passed away in a car accident and that made me realise how we always assume we have infinite time — yet we don’t. The storyline came to me during a visit to Uganda one December. I had been chatting to my dad about his upbringing and just how different our worldviews were when it occurred to me what a beautiful story the conversation could make.
The inspiration behind the storyline…The duality concept was influenced by my own upbringing —I grew up in Butterworth but went to a boarding school in East London. I constantly had to transition and negotiate myself between those two worlds. However, the storyline changed as I interacted with more people.
Lessons for the reader to take away…
The concept of the perfect moment doesn’t exist. We constantly live in a duality of courage and fear, and it’s completely acceptable to exist between those two spaces. The second is to experience life at a much deeper level and not just see and internalise the stereotypes about our people and continent.
MOHALE MASHIGO, 35,
author of The Yearning and parttime singer/songwriter
Her real name is Kgomotso Mashigo but the award-winning author chooses to use her mom’s maiden surname, Mohale, as a way of paying tribute to her.
The story behind your writing…
I come from a family of storytellers. My mom was great at narrating stories. I started writing in high school and studied journalism at Rhodes University, followed by marketing and have worked in advertising, magazines and radio. I only started writing in the past few years.
The motivation behind your first novel…
Around 2006, I hated my job in advertising so much that I used writing as an excuse to get away from my colleagues. I opened a blank word document one day and started typing — not intending to write a novel. As I was typing, I realised that the storyline was actually interesting. I had no idea that I was writing a book until 2016 when the manuscript went to print. I kept abandoning this project, which is why it took me forever to finish. The inspiration behind the storyline… I was depressed when I started writing The Yearning — to the point where I had to soldier through a breakdown. Fortunately, writing helped keep me sane during that period. When I started feeling better, I revisited the story and realised that I needed to write about healing because I too would benefit from an uplifting storyline. I didn’t think the book would receive the love and attention it has. After all, my initial ambition was to, at least, sell a hundred copies. Receiving the 2016 University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Debut Writing was a pleasant surprise. Lesson for the reader to take away… Whenever I sign books, I like inscribing the message, ‘I hope this book gives more than it takes’. That’s honestly all I can hope for.