When I was little, we would eat good food and then listen to stories. I was fortunate to have two of the best storytellers ever: My father’s mother told fables, horror, and zombie stories. Her stories were flights of fancy, intense and imaginative. My mother told real life stories of growing up in the fifties and sixties. Alternating between each of their homes (I lived with both) I heard the best of both worlds.

I remember as a child telling myself that when I grew up, I wanted to tell stories like these to my children and grandchildren. During my childhood, however, what mattered most was just playing, exploring the world where I lived, and having fun. During those years, I forgot my love of stories. Later, during those bitter-sweet teen and early adult years, I rediscovered my passion for stories. I felt as if I were reborn, breathing the fresh air of creation.

During my “O” level years, I was constantly borrowing books from friends and the library. I read during every free moment. I remember reading novels as I walked the daily three kilometers to school. I'd put it away when class started, and keep the dog-eared pages within reach so that I could continue reading every spare minute throughout the day. After school, I continued reading on my way home from school, and later, while herding cattle, goats, and sheep.

During my “A” level years, I remember, I really losing it, when, about six months before the big exam, I received a failing grade on O-level English, which I had had to re-write the previous year. I didn't know how to deal with the failure, and immersed myself into reading novels again. I stopped reading my A-level subjects (Mathematics, Accounting and Geography), and, instead, read all the novels in our A-level library. When I finished all the books, I started borrowing books from the O-level library. I couldn’t stop. My fellow students thought I had gone mad. And I did in a way, when I failed my A-level examinations.

I didn’t stop reading, though. Whenever I borrowed a book, I read it throughout the day and night, stopping only to eat. I read Tom Clancy’s THE EXECUTIVE, then Charles Dickens’s DOMBEY AND SON, then Frank Herbert’s DUNE, then Anthony Grey’s SAIGON—the list went on and on. I even began to write down some of the stories I'd heard as a child and then some of my own. Soon I was as avid a writer as I was a reader, and as a writer, I felt the first stirrings that I wanted to be an author. I dreamed about creating riveting novels that would stir the soul, and compel readers to read them, like I had, nonstop.

Now that I'm an author, I strive constantly to improve, so much so, I have scarcely enough time to read. There is so much I would like to say and so very little time. And yet, I think there is nothing as satisfying as curling up before a fire with a good book.

In that spirit, with a wink and a playful smile, I recommend to you KEYS IN THE RIVER (Savant 2012). Play some good background music, preferably African, and have some tasty food within reach. Then, let yourself sink into the stories. Let the ideas growl across the consciousness, until it becomes a howling, mangy dog. Experience with my the passion and heartaches that are modern Zimbabwe. KEYS IN THE RIVER might be just the right medicine for the tribulations of living in this exhausting, frustrating and high-strung 21st century.

Tendai Mwanaka
Author of KEYS IN THE RIVER (Savant 2012)
Author of VOICES FROM EXILE (Lapwing publications 2010)