Writers’ Worth Week

In marking Writers’ Worth Week, I have given fellow writer Lori Widmer, space to be guest blogger. To the writers, the readers, and those who may employ writers’ talents…please read on. Food for thought.

Four years ago, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer. I’d watched too many writers making too many bad choices that affected not only their revenue, but the revenue of their colleagues. Writing for $4 an article seemed safe to them, but it was causing what I felt was the deterioration of the writing profession.

After fussing and fuming for entirely too long, I decided the best way to change writers’ practices was to appeal to their sense of worth. I started Writers Worth Day, now Writers Worth Week, in an attempt to raise awareness and send a strong message to our writing community. That message – you have value.

You do, you know. Just because a client or thousands of clients are posting jobs paying less than $10 an hour doesn’t mean you’re not worth more. In fact, if you’re working like a professional writer, you realize the problem. Strangers should never determine your market price. You should. Always.

That’s where many writers make their biggest mistakes. If you allow control of your business – and yes, you are running a business – to fall into the hands of others, you’ve lost control of your own career. Here’s how to get it back:

Take control of your earnings.  Set your own rates and stand by them. Don’t lower them just to get the job. The clients who value your services will pay what you ask.

Actively seek better clients. The problem with job listings is that it’s the most passive way to run your business. You’re accepting someone else as your “boss” and you’re letting that person tell you what you’ll be earning, doing, and accepting as working conditions. Instead, find clients with either the same or similar businesses and put together your letter of introduction. In other words, convince them they need you. It’s how the smart businesses thrive.

Say no when it doesn’t fit. It’s so easy to accept work and lower pay out of fear. But that job that pays half what you’re worth isn’t going to be any easier to complete than a job paying a competitive rate. If it doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Say no.

Drop clients who don’t value you. Even the nicest clients can be cheapskates. If they aren’t paying you decently or aren’t appreciating what you’re doing, fire them. Find clients who won’t make you jump through hoops or work harder for $20 than anyone has ever worked. Tell them why you’re dropping them, too. Tactfully.

Believe in your abilities and accept nothing less than respect. Too often we allow the doubts in our own heads to drown out our business sense. You are a paid, working professional writer. If you’re not commanding respect from your clients, they’re not your clients. Accept yourself and the rest will fall into place.

What other ways can you realize your own value?

Lori Widmer is a veteran writer and editor with over 15 years of  experience in standing up for her business. The founder of Writers Worth Week, now in its fourth year, she helps writers understand their market value and take control of their businesses. Her e-book, The Worthy Writer’s Guide to Building a Better Business, is available on her weblog, Words on the Page.

A Missed Opportunity for Arts & Culture

Another Missed Opportunity for Government to Listen

Asked on a South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) news insert whether I thought the Arts Consultative Conference would make a difference to the lives of artists, I smiled and answered, ‘I am observing but get the feeling it is another pre-election feel-good campaign.’ And yet, being the eternal optimist, I was still hopeful. I was not the only one clearly. In Newtown Precinct on the 14th of April, South African artists came out in droves to attend the two day ‘consultative’ conference and for a chance to be listened to by the Department that is meant to cater for their issues – the Department of Arts and Culture. Despite the fact that only 500 artists had been accredited, an extra 350 artists in film, music, literature, crafts, storytelling, and visual arts, turned up. This alone should have been indicative to the DAC officials on just how important this was, but did they notice? The answer to that is an unequivocal ‘no.’

The first day begun with an address by Arts Minister, Paul Mashatile and Economic Deputy Minister Enoch Godongwana both telling us how ‘important artists are’ blah blah blah. Owing to lack of electricity, the programme had started late so tea break was skipped to continue with the programme. Avril Joffe addressed the delegates giving us a case study of the use of the art, culture and heritage sector as a tool for social cohesion and economic growth. If nothing else, those artists who did not know, got to know about the Arterial Network from her.  Then it was straight to panel discussions where we got to listen to a heritage expert, Zimbabwean Dr. Webber Ndoro telling South African artists on the importance of their heritage sites, and National Library Chair Muxe Nkondo on literature and books.

After these two presentations, the delegates were asked by a very strict Chair, Gauteng MEC for Sports & Arts Lebo Maile, to ask questions. Many questions were posed, as well as quite a few rants – among the amusing ones, a singer who spoke thus: ‘there are some of us who are very good at what they do, yes, I am saying it, I am a good singer. But at every cultural festival and event, the government keeps focusing and inviting the same people who cannot even sing and do not understand music.’ If the reader fails to understand why this was funny then perhaps I need to highlight that as she spoke, African National Congress favourite singer and dancer Chomee had just stood up and her producer Arthur was sitting in the row next to the speaker.

Delighted that we had been addressed by the National Library Chair, I enquired just who was in charge of book purchasing since it seemed odd to me that I can go to many a library in the country and not find South African writers on the shelves. The answer? ‘That is a very good question. The people in charge of that are right here and you can talk to them further.’ To his credit, Professor Nkondo did introduce me to a pair in charge who, when I took them to task just before lunch break, informed me that my issues would be addressed in the breakaway sessions.

SABC Head of News Phil Molefe was another interesting speaker and he found no irony in stating that the arts were very important to SABC and that is why the national broadcaster dedicated two five minute sessions twice a week on SAFM to focus on the arts. He also highlighted the 40 percent local content regulation of the national broadcaster but failed to mention that it is a qualified 40 percent (so for instance when South African music is played from midnight to 6am, and when news in isiZulu is shown on SABC 1, they count as part of the 40 percent of local content).

After lunch we went to the breakaway sessions which were arranged in an odd way to say the least. I would have thought film and theatre would have had its own room so artists in this field can bring forth their most important issues to report back the next day, same for visual arts, literature (where I could get a chance to talk further with the National Library folks) and so forth. Alas, I was being too hopeful. Instead, we had three parallel sessions under the umbrella topics of Organisation, Performance, and Funding on the first day and slightly narrower discussion panels the next day (Skills Development; Sourcing of Goods & services in Sector; Cultural Precincts, events & Information hubs; National & international Touring Company, Heritage Development; Art Bank & Public Art Programme). In each of the sessions we had a hodgepodge of different artists. And yet, from the two breakaway sessions I attended in the two days, many very real industry issues that needed to be discussed were brought forth.

Among the big issues

  • Definition of artists on South Africa’s economic landscape – most artists are treated by South African Revenue Services and taxed as full time employees but many other industries consider artists as unemployed because of their irregular income and thus will not give home or car loans. A delegate suggested that DAC needs to work with Department of Labour and SARS to ensure clarity on this. This was an issue of particular importance to artists given that at last study, the arts and heritage sector contributed more than R40 billion annually to South Africa’s GDP.
  • A set minimum standard royalty fee percentage in the different creative arts fields and a DAC-funded legal team to fight for artists hen companies infringe those rights.
  • The need for cultural attaches at all South African diplomatic missions to ensure that there is a promotion of South African arts and artists.
  • The need for bureaucrats in DAC who are familiar with their field of artistry. Someone complained, and many nodded in agreement, that oftentimes artists will talk to department officials on a certain issue and the official is not familiar with the field at all although they are getting paid for it.
  • The need to streamline the national, provincial and local governments’ year ends so that funding can be better accessed by artists.
  • The need for the Department to give real deadlines to act on different issues so that artists can hold them accountable.
  • The need to separate Sports from Arts & Culture in provincial and local government.
  • The need for SABC to guarantee that their 40 percent local content occurs between 6am and 8pm so that artists can get the most out of the exposure. Also the need for Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to ensure that more people are familiar with the arts since the national broadcaster does not do that. A delegate suggested that ICASA monitors and fines the SABC if this is not done.
  • A South African library book in each South African library purchased by the libraries. Also, a system where any time a local book is borrowed, the author and the National Library split a minor royalty fee (in the same way that musicians get paid anytime their music receives airplay). The author would then get her/his share as part of their royalty while the contribution to the National Library would go to a Writer’s Grant that would permit the grant recipient to take time off to write without worrying about bills.
  • DAC seemed very keen to push the idea of an Arts Bank but in the breakaway session I sat in on Day 2, many a visual artist shot the idea down, suggesting instead that it would be better if the funding was utilised for existing yet underfunded galleries. Another idea that DAC was keen on, that of setting up a National Skills Academy was also shot down by artists for two reasons: one being that there are already existing institutions dealing with the arts which need support and as such, funds should be diverted there instead; and secondly that talk of training more artists was not practical given that existing artists are not thriving (a delegate whispered, ‘what do they want to train more of us for when those of us who are here are dying broke or committing suicide because we cannot pay our bills?’)

In the end though, all this talk came to nought as artists received copies of a Conference Declaration which some of us thought may have been written before the conference begun.

And why would we not think that? Clause 5.1 of the Declaration read, ‘We will also establish a National Skills Academy’, and 5.9 read, ‘An art bank will be established…’ Then just in case the reader is not laughing already, there were Clauses 9 and 10 which committed to ‘initiate a consultative process’ and to a ‘follow up consultative conference’ – in essence, more conferences about this conference. Perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back as we waited for this talk shop to end though was when a delegate from the Creative Workers Union South Africa (CWUSA) wanted to make an announcement to the delegates about a march to M-Net on Wednesday March 20. The march follows that company’s recasting of actor Tony Kgoroge when he questioned a clause in their contract to him – an issue that many an actor have battled with with M-Net. The powers that be, despite the very real presence of creative workers, did not feel this warranted the delegates’ attention and refused to allow a minute or two (which is what it would have taken) for the announcement to be made.

And they wonder why we are cynical.

Instead the programme closed with a team of choristers from, some said Denmark, singing some song in isiZulu and DAC officials joining them on stage, dancing, whistling and ululating. Yay for celebrating a Rainbow Nation of Starving Artists!

Last Day in Kach (& a challenge for the Blog Readers)

Day 7 & 8

Kach Diaries – Day 6

Friday

Busy day. I have two schools – a primary and high school to visit today. St. Anne’s Junior Academy have gone all out and I am in absolute awe. On arrival I am taken to the Principal’s Office to sign the Visitors’ Book (I am actually getting used to this. Then the Vice-Principal who also heads the English department comes in and tells me the children are ready. She is an energetic lady and has wit to match. I am addressing the children outside so when I emerge I am told the first thing expected of me is to inspect the Guard of Honour. Yes. You got that right. A guard of honour of the Guides (you know the ‘be prepared’ kids?). I am trying to give the occasion the solemnity it deserves but I am dying to laugh. Guard of Honour, really? I am some average little writer but I cannot say no because I hear from the VeeP that they spent a lot of time practicing. O-KEY!

So I end up inspecting the Guard of Honour after all. And then I march in front of the students to my seat. Then one of the English teachers who is MC’ng asks the other staff members to come and introduce themselves. And after, he assures me that the children have prepared some entertainment for me. I nod my head in appreciation. Then a group of Standard 8 girls comes and sings a song that’s still playing in my head.

‘In every thing Kallie. Economically. Academically…’ Yes. I am still laughing. Although I swear at that moment I kept a stern face and applauded solemnly when the young ladies were done. The parents were there as was the Director of the school. All in all, a fun  morning.

In the afternoon, I go to St.Monica Lubao, a secondary school. As I chat with the students they tell me that one of the greatest problems they find with their set books in literature is difficult language which make the text incomprehensible. One even asks me to tell some certain older gentleman of letters from the continent to make it easier. I laugh and answer by paraphrasing a certain Bra Zakes, ‘no-one can tell anyone how to write, when to write, or what to write.’ I suggest that perhaps they make use of the local library in Kakamega for dictionaries and then perhaps summarising the stories for themselves in simpler language. Sorry. It’s the best I can do with someone’s work that has to be read for exams.

In the evening I go off with the boys from the Foundation to Franka Hotel – a dodgy-looking but really quite fun joint. Service is not too impressive as I find myself, after 12 minutes, having to walk to the bar to get my own drink despite the boys having told me to wait for the server. One of the boys tells me that they have been drinking since 2pm – ‘what about the liquor law?’ I ask. They crack up. That only applies and is enforced by teetotallers in the company of drinkers, I am told. Apparently what they do even in the not-so-rich places is to get a glass and start with a bottle of ginger ale which shall forever remain in place after being emptied as beer is replaced in the glass. I wonder what would happen if this law was passed in South Africa? I finally get to have nyama choma and although it takes a long time to get to us, it is well worth the wait. Then I get on a boda-boda and make my way back to the hotel.

Kach Diaries – Thursday

I am in pain. Psychological pain. Overnight I read a lot of essays by  students from one particular school of the ‘tears cascaded down my rosy cheeks’ and ‘I felt the wind rushing through my hair’ variety so I am eternally grateful that I shall be engaged in hopefully more mature discourse with the university students. On the university students’ side, I had some pretty impressive writing and my favourite was a creative non-fiction piece from one Francis so…Francis wins.

Lunch is at a hotel that seems to have one too many curries on its menu but all good. The food definitely more varied than the Golf menu. I have chicken but am thinking if I make it here again I shall certainly ask for fish if the meal at my neighbouring table is anything to go by (why, in restaurants, does other people’s food always look better than one’s own?).

We arrive at MMUST and everything is on time. It’s outdoors and the discourse is engaging. Perhaps needing to feel like he has talked but with nothing of much significance to say, one student asks, ‘how do you become a great writer?’ I tell him I promise to pass on his details next time I come across a great writer so he can get his answer. The uni students rightly question some of my assertions which is a delight as it makes for better engagement.

Someone asks me why I always have gender in my novel titles. Never noticed. Do I? He he he. I then go on to give a brief summary of each of the works. Just as I am explaining Men of the South and asking the question, ‘if you are a stay at home dad and do the cooking and cleaning but don’t have an income, does this make you any less of a man?’ a chair breaks and the Chair (Dr.Bob) falls. There is laughter. But the show must go on and I quip, ‘and if women in your culture sit on the floor and you suddenly find yourself on the floor, does that make you any less of a man?’ A laughing Dr. B responds, ‘yes. Just because I fall of a chair it does not mean I am any less of a man,’ to much laughter.

The one thing that does surprise me is that although the ratio of men to women is about even, there are more young men engaging with me than women. In fact, I only ever get one question from a girl. I wonder whether girls just understand everything I am about to say in the way that many of us females are intuitive or whether its a matter of the boisterous nature of young men?

Kach Diaries – 4

Wednesday

Kisumu!!! We start off at 9 in the morning at a leisurely pace. There is Boniface, Martin (the man in charge of nutrition and advising the community on balanced diets at the Foundation) and the gentleman driver. Less than 15 minutes out of Kakamega, we are stopped by the police. They ask for lunch money, or some bottled water – not because anything is amiss but because apparently this is what happens when Ma or Papa Witaba are in the car. This time around they are out of luck. Martin points out to me the police accommodation. He tells me that although they look okay from outside (they don’t to me), they are pretty bad inside with two or three members of the police force and their families sharing one two-bedroomed unit. Then on our right he points to me some prisoners in stripped gear. ‘It’s even worse for Prison Authorities. They are seriously underpaid and the state accommodation they have are huts.’ Whaaat? So the abuse of  folks working in prisons might be a universal African thing then? In Kisumu, there are still some very vivid signs of the post election violence that rocked this country after the 2007 elections. I get a photograph of a hotel that I hear was quite top-notch but was brunt down for belonging to a man from the wrong tribe. Then I am told that a building I am admiring was finished just recently as the original building was razed to the ground. I start questioning why, in light of such horror some renowned local politicians still continue using the type of fractious language they have been quoted saying on the news. Elections are in 2012…will this country I am very affectionate towards avoid a repeat of 2007?

Kisumu is beautiful, wide roads like those in Bulawayo sans the potholes so its tragic when one hears what happened in 2007 or worse – witnesses the result (I am by no means advocating that violence only takes place in only ugly places. Rather that it not take place anywhere at all).

On a less serious note, we stop in town so I can ask in a bookstore whether the managers might know how I can trace Asenath. I know. It sounds crazy. But what am I to do? I have failed dismally to get hold of her via telephone – either it rings incessantly or I hear a recording ‘the number you have dialled is temporarily out of service.’ The bookstore manager knows Asenath’s son but doesn’t know her or even that she is a writer – yet another case of prophets never being appreciated in their own town. We get to the shores of Lake Victoria where there are tons of zinc restaurants that offer to make the fish for you – kwaMereki chaiko. We select one but I am deeply disappointed when I walk right through and realise that I cannot enjoy the Lake because it is full of that horrible hyacinth weed. I shrug my shoulders and decide not to let that destroy my enjoyment of Kisumu.

While the fish is being prepared, I get greedy and order a dried one to snack on. The result of this is that when the fish is prepared, I am no longer able to eat it – too full. And it looked very good too with sukuma on top. Eish!

When we were leaving, I spotted next to us, a Mandela Restaurant. Ja neh?

A tuk-tuk trip to the other side of the lake where the hyacinth wasn’t so bad ensured I went on a boat ride. The other two members were not keen but Martin was game. Not only did I spot quite a few people brewing changa’a (a local toxic brew equivalent to Barberton I hear) but I also saw a hippo that kept popping out and swimming but would disappear the moment I pointed my lens at it. This hippo was less than a 100 metres from the shore where some children were bathing so with concern I asked the boat operator, ‘but won’t something happen to the children?’ and he responded lightly, ‘don’t worry madam. The hippos here are friendly.’ Awww-kay!

We leave Kisumu for Kakamega using the Busia route, primarily because I want to have a book cover moment..and I have it. Certainly I am better looking than Sihle Khumalo on the cover of Heart of Africa and I am in a neighbouring country  and not Uganda but I am certain I got the sunglasses almost right.

The heat has got to me so although it has been less than 2hrs ride back and forth, I am exhausted when I return and head straight to bed. Tomorrow I have the toughest and most enjoyable part of the assignment yet…I get to talk to the Lit students at MMUST. I am looking forward.

Kach Diaries- Day 3

chatting to students

My morning is lazy and free. After going through the students’ work for the other schools, I decide to work off yesterday’s food by going for a swim. The pool attendant says to me, ‘madam, welcome to the pool.’ The pool is heavenly. Later as I am going up to the room, I ask the waiter for a flask of water. ‘Hot or cold madam?’ he asks. ‘Hot water for tea sir’ I answer. ‘Oh? You are very welcome madam.’ I had not noticed it before but as I recall the conversations of the last few days I realise, the folks in Kach are very welcoming. Its only natural that when he brings the flask of water, instead of ‘thank you’ I look at him and say deadpan, ‘you are very welcome sir’ to which he responds, ‘welcome.’ Karibu sana indeed!

We go for lunch at Kula Korner again. A man who is on the table next to us orders a Tusker – and gets it….I complain to the manager. ‘ah, pole madam. I wasn’t here yesterday. Do you want me to get you one now?’ See what I mean about drinking for the rich? The average Kakamega resident cannot afford to eat at Kula Korner. I shake my head no.

I have a school to visit and perhaps going there with beer fumes on one’s breath is not the best first impression to make. After lunch, I visit my first school – Friends Secondary School, Handidi. My first stop is to the Principal’s Office. Here too, I am ‘welcome.’ Must tell you, visits to the Principal’s Office are a little less scary when you are over 21 like I am. Everyone calls me Madam Zukiswa…for a moment I think they must have read my True Love piece. It’s awesome and I feel so grown. The talk with the students goes well and I get some interesting questions. The school has put themselves out and bought a crate of sodas. I am torn between the children watching me drink and eat or passing on the food to one of the children. It is a problem that will haunt me for the whole of this trip. In this instance though, I decide to go ahead and drink my warm Sprite out of politeness. Tomorrow is my all free day and I have convinced my host that I would be very happy to make it to Kisumu 45 minutes away for some tilapia from Lake Victoria. I am hoping, while there, to also pay a visit to one of my favourite Kenyan writers and a family friend, Asenath Bole Odaga if I can get her. In the interest of local writers, I need to get some of her children’s books as I will be visiting a primary school in the course of my journey and the only children’s author I have brought is the brilliant Ellen Banda-Aaku (one day I shall claim that it’s in the interest of pan-Africanism but really its cos I love Ellen’s children’s books).

The Kach Diaries- cont’d

DAY 2 – Monday

I have a free morning so I spend it going through the essays of the school I will visit tomorrow afternoon. Some are pretty well-written and from these I shall have to select one winner who will be given free IT training at the Foundation as well as the very minor prize of one of my books. Before I start on the schools tomorrow though, I must visit the base of the foundation as well as have an interview at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology today. A friend from these parts calls me and tells me that Masinde Muliro is named after a famous son of these soils who was married to a South African woman…so already I feel tied to it by history. Mmust FM, where I have my interview, broadcasts live on campus. When we get to MMUST, I soon make friends with the literature lecturer who is going to interview me. Dr.Chris as he shall henceforth be known is a former Wits student and although he has not heard of me, we have a fair share of Wits friends to create a great rapport on air (not to name-drop or anything but Dr. Pumla Gqola of ‘What is Slavery to Me’ fame IS my friend). Although he has not read my books, our little chat prior to getting in studio ensures that our discussion is so much fun that before we know it, the producer gives us the basketball time out hand sign. Thirty minutes already? Dr. Chris suggests that I meet up with his Chair (our equivalent of a Dean I believe), Dr. Bob. Dr.Bob is from Nakuru and he knows my Nakuru family, the Wainainas so yet again another old friend network in this distant part of Kenya…who would have thought? We all go for lunch at Kula Korner by Nakumatt Centre and everyone tells me that Luhyaland as this is, is famous for its chicken and so they recommend it. I order it reluctantly. I should not have. It’s the best chicken I have tasted thus far.

But an interesting tidbit. When asked what drink I would like to have I answer as I generally do in Kenya ‘Tusker baridi’ (cold Tusker). My hosts look at me weirdly and then one of them patiently explains that some Parliamentarian pushed a Bill to outlaw the drinking of booze before 5pm on weekdays and 2pm on weekends. Another of my hosts laughs, ‘a thousand shillings says this guy won’t be re-elected come 2012.’ Apparently though, this booze law only affects the poor as people are allowed to partake in alcoholic beverages at private clubs and we know who can afford membership to private clubs, yes? Alright-y then. Mango juice it is with my chicken and ugali.

After lunch I part with Dr.Chris and Bob. We make our way to the Witaba residence where my host’s mother has made chicken. I really wish that Boniface had warned me because in the space of less than two hours, I find myself being handed a plate to dish out. force myself to eat a little although my stomach is so full I can barely take anything in. The home cooked chicken is, permission to quote President Zuma, ‘delicious.’ But I promise myself not to make a repeat performance of this eating when I get into bed exhausted from eating too much good food. I haven’t felt like this since Christmas when I was a child.

The Kach Diaries

Western KenyaSo some of my friends are wondering what I am doing in Western Kenya – Kakamega to be exact (where is that? I see a few going on google maps).  I would love to say the main reason I came here was to finally have a chance of ‘sterring’ in  Western but no. Until now I have never been much of a Western fan. I come here at the invitation of a young friend of mine, Boniface, founder of the Witaba Foundation (http://www.witabafoundation.org ). Unable to find a job in Nairobi after graduation, Boniface came back home to Kach as it is nicknamed. While here with a degree in IT gathering dust, he decided to find funding to start a project to train the youth in IT. Patiently, he wrote proposals and submitted over a 1000 but only two organisations responded positively and the rest, as they say is history. Now Witaba Foundation has branched into other youth initiatives like Education (of which I am here for with particular emphasis on literacy) and Sport. But, bless the Witabas, this blog is not about them, it give a little background for the writings following that I call, The Kach Diaries. I am a bit of a cheat so they are written with the benefit of hindsight as my observations are from a week old.

Take a journey with me and if you have never been to Western Kenya, here’s a chance to familiarise yourself with this land called Kakamega.

DAY 1  – Sunday

I arrive in Kakamega on fly540. I must admit to being pretty impressed that the plane lands here. When I was researching Kakamega it felt a bit of a back water town and I thought I would be landing in Kisumu 45 minutes away and coming here by road. As the plane goes towards the landing strip, I spot some cattle grazing not too far away from where the plane is touching down oblivious to the drone of the plane – they are obviously used to this. We get off the plane as others board and then I spot my host with his boyish smile. he is holding what turns out to be Kach’s equivalent of a lei – one of those shiny silver  decorations that some of us have at one time or another put on Xmas trees. Photos and a lei right on landing. I am bit embarrassed with all the attention – I feel like a a fraud rock star but my fellow passengers act like its the most ordinary thing. We get to my home for the next week, Golf Hotel Kakamega. While checking in, I overhear conversation that Kenyan Prime Minister  Raila Odinga was here the day before – dammit. Trust me to miss him, I should have liked to buy him a  drink and ask him a question or two American diplomat-style – I could see me being one of the few people with a byline at Wikileaks.  So anyway, turns out the Golf is where all the politicians who are planning something in these parts meet up. Then whatever is decided is sealed at the Members Club next door. I leave my luggage in the room, go down for breakfast, return upstairs and sleep. I’d like to claim its jetlag but the flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi and then the extra hour plus to Kakamega does not warrant the claim. What it really is is that I have been busy chasing deadlines in Johannesburg because I knew I would do little other work while here.

As my head hits the pillow, I wonder what Day Two will bring.

Writers’ Worth Week

In marking Writers’ Worth Week, I have given fellow writer Lori Widmer, space to be guest blogger. To the writers, the readers, and those who may employ writers’ talents…please read on. Food for thought.

Four years ago, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer. I’d watched too many writers making too many bad choices that affected not only their revenue, but the revenue of their colleagues. Writing for $4 an article seemed safe to them, but it was causing what I felt was the deterioration of the writing profession.

After fussing and fuming for entirely too long, I decided the best way to change writers’ practices was to appeal to their sense of worth. I started Writers Worth Day, now Writers Worth Week, in an attempt to raise awareness and send a strong message to our writing community. That message – you have value.

You do, you know. Just because a client or thousands of clients are posting jobs paying less than $10 an hour doesn’t mean you’re not worth more. In fact, if you’re working like a professional writer, you realize the problem. Strangers should never determine your market price. You should. Always.

That’s where many writers make their biggest mistakes. If you allow control of your business – and yes, you are running a business – to fall into the hands of others, you’ve lost control of your own career. Here’s how to get it back:

Take control of your earnings.  Set your own rates and stand by them. Don’t lower them just to get the job. The clients who value your services will pay what you ask.

Actively seek better clients. The problem with job listings is that it’s the most passive way to run your business. You’re accepting someone else as your “boss” and you’re letting that person tell you what you’ll be earning, doing, and accepting as working conditions. Instead, find clients with either the same or similar businesses and put together your letter of introduction. In other words, convince them they need you. It’s how the smart businesses thrive.

Say no when it doesn’t fit. It’s so easy to accept work and lower pay out of fear. But that job that pays half what you’re worth isn’t going to be any easier to complete than a job paying a competitive rate. If it doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Say no.

Drop clients who don’t value you. Even the nicest clients can be cheapskates. If they aren’t paying you decently or aren’t appreciating what you’re doing, fire them. Find clients who won’t make you jump through hoops or work harder for $20 than anyone has ever worked. Tell them why you’re dropping them, too. Tactfully.

Believe in your abilities and accept nothing less than respect. Too often we allow the doubts in our own heads to drown out our business sense. You are a paid, working professional writer. If you’re not commanding respect from your clients, they’re not your clients. Accept yourself and the rest will fall into place.

What other ways can you realize your own value?

Lori Widmer is a veteran writer and editor with over 15 years of  experience in standing up for her business. The founder of Writers Worth Week, now in its fourth year, she helps writers understand their market value and take control of their businesses. Her e-book, The Worthy Writer’s Guide to Building a Better Business, is available on her weblog, Words on the Page.

A Missed Opportunity for Arts & Culture

Another Missed Opportunity for Government to Listen

Asked on a South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) news insert whether I thought the Arts Consultative Conference would make a difference to the lives of artists, I smiled and answered, ‘I am observing but get the feeling it is another pre-election feel-good campaign.’ And yet, being the eternal optimist, I was still hopeful. I was not the only one clearly. In Newtown Precinct on the 14th of April, South African artists came out in droves to attend the two day ‘consultative’ conference and for a chance to be listened to by the Department that is meant to cater for their issues – the Department of Arts and Culture. Despite the fact that only 500 artists had been accredited, an extra 350 artists in film, music, literature, crafts, storytelling, and visual arts, turned up. This alone should have been indicative to the DAC officials on just how important this was, but did they notice? The answer to that is an unequivocal ‘no.’

The first day begun with an address by Arts Minister, Paul Mashatile and Economic Deputy Minister Enoch Godongwana both telling us how ‘important artists are’ blah blah blah. Owing to lack of electricity, the programme had started late so tea break was skipped to continue with the programme. Avril Joffe addressed the delegates giving us a case study of the use of the art, culture and heritage sector as a tool for social cohesion and economic growth. If nothing else, those artists who did not know, got to know about the Arterial Network from her.  Then it was straight to panel discussions where we got to listen to a heritage expert, Zimbabwean Dr. Webber Ndoro telling South African artists on the importance of their heritage sites, and National Library Chair Muxe Nkondo on literature and books.

After these two presentations, the delegates were asked by a very strict Chair, Gauteng MEC for Sports & Arts Lebo Maile, to ask questions. Many questions were posed, as well as quite a few rants – among the amusing ones, a singer who spoke thus: ‘there are some of us who are very good at what they do, yes, I am saying it, I am a good singer. But at every cultural festival and event, the government keeps focusing and inviting the same people who cannot even sing and do not understand music.’ If the reader fails to understand why this was funny then perhaps I need to highlight that as she spoke, African National Congress favourite singer and dancer Chomee had just stood up and her producer Arthur was sitting in the row next to the speaker.

Delighted that we had been addressed by the National Library Chair, I enquired just who was in charge of book purchasing since it seemed odd to me that I can go to many a library in the country and not find South African writers on the shelves. The answer? ‘That is a very good question. The people in charge of that are right here and you can talk to them further.’ To his credit, Professor Nkondo did introduce me to a pair in charge who, when I took them to task just before lunch break, informed me that my issues would be addressed in the breakaway sessions.

SABC Head of News Phil Molefe was another interesting speaker and he found no irony in stating that the arts were very important to SABC and that is why the national broadcaster dedicated two five minute sessions twice a week on SAFM to focus on the arts. He also highlighted the 40 percent local content regulation of the national broadcaster but failed to mention that it is a qualified 40 percent (so for instance when South African music is played from midnight to 6am, and when news in isiZulu is shown on SABC 1, they count as part of the 40 percent of local content).

After lunch we went to the breakaway sessions which were arranged in an odd way to say the least. I would have thought film and theatre would have had its own room so artists in this field can bring forth their most important issues to report back the next day, same for visual arts, literature (where I could get a chance to talk further with the National Library folks) and so forth. Alas, I was being too hopeful. Instead, we had three parallel sessions under the umbrella topics of Organisation, Performance, and Funding on the first day and slightly narrower discussion panels the next day (Skills Development; Sourcing of Goods & services in Sector; Cultural Precincts, events & Information hubs; National & international Touring Company, Heritage Development; Art Bank & Public Art Programme). In each of the sessions we had a hodgepodge of different artists. And yet, from the two breakaway sessions I attended in the two days, many very real industry issues that needed to be discussed were brought forth.

Among the big issues

  • Definition of artists on South Africa’s economic landscape – most artists are treated by South African Revenue Services and taxed as full time employees but many other industries consider artists as unemployed because of their irregular income and thus will not give home or car loans. A delegate suggested that DAC needs to work with Department of Labour and SARS to ensure clarity on this. This was an issue of particular importance to artists given that at last study, the arts and heritage sector contributed more than R40 billion annually to South Africa’s GDP.
  • A set minimum standard royalty fee percentage in the different creative arts fields and a DAC-funded legal team to fight for artists hen companies infringe those rights.
  • The need for cultural attaches at all South African diplomatic missions to ensure that there is a promotion of South African arts and artists.
  • The need for bureaucrats in DAC who are familiar with their field of artistry. Someone complained, and many nodded in agreement, that oftentimes artists will talk to department officials on a certain issue and the official is not familiar with the field at all although they are getting paid for it.
  • The need to streamline the national, provincial and local governments’ year ends so that funding can be better accessed by artists.
  • The need for the Department to give real deadlines to act on different issues so that artists can hold them accountable.
  • The need to separate Sports from Arts & Culture in provincial and local government.
  • The need for SABC to guarantee that their 40 percent local content occurs between 6am and 8pm so that artists can get the most out of the exposure. Also the need for Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to ensure that more people are familiar with the arts since the national broadcaster does not do that. A delegate suggested that ICASA monitors and fines the SABC if this is not done.
  • A South African library book in each South African library purchased by the libraries. Also, a system where any time a local book is borrowed, the author and the National Library split a minor royalty fee (in the same way that musicians get paid anytime their music receives airplay). The author would then get her/his share as part of their royalty while the contribution to the National Library would go to a Writer’s Grant that would permit the grant recipient to take time off to write without worrying about bills.
  • DAC seemed very keen to push the idea of an Arts Bank but in the breakaway session I sat in on Day 2, many a visual artist shot the idea down, suggesting instead that it would be better if the funding was utilised for existing yet underfunded galleries. Another idea that DAC was keen on, that of setting up a National Skills Academy was also shot down by artists for two reasons: one being that there are already existing institutions dealing with the arts which need support and as such, funds should be diverted there instead; and secondly that talk of training more artists was not practical given that existing artists are not thriving (a delegate whispered, ‘what do they want to train more of us for when those of us who are here are dying broke or committing suicide because we cannot pay our bills?’)

In the end though, all this talk came to nought as artists received copies of a Conference Declaration which some of us thought may have been written before the conference begun.

And why would we not think that? Clause 5.1 of the Declaration read, ‘We will also establish a National Skills Academy’, and 5.9 read, ‘An art bank will be established…’ Then just in case the reader is not laughing already, there were Clauses 9 and 10 which committed to ‘initiate a consultative process’ and to a ‘follow up consultative conference’ – in essence, more conferences about this conference. Perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back as we waited for this talk shop to end though was when a delegate from the Creative Workers Union South Africa (CWUSA) wanted to make an announcement to the delegates about a march to M-Net on Wednesday March 20. The march follows that company’s recasting of actor Tony Kgoroge when he questioned a clause in their contract to him – an issue that many an actor have battled with with M-Net. The powers that be, despite the very real presence of creative workers, did not feel this warranted the delegates’ attention and refused to allow a minute or two (which is what it would have taken) for the announcement to be made.

And they wonder why we are cynical.

Instead the programme closed with a team of choristers from, some said Denmark, singing some song in isiZulu and DAC officials joining them on stage, dancing, whistling and ululating. Yay for celebrating a Rainbow Nation of Starving Artists!

Last Day in Kach (& a challenge for the Blog Readers)

Day 7 & 8

Kach Diaries – Day 6

Friday

Busy day. I have two schools – a primary and high school to visit today. St. Anne’s Junior Academy have gone all out and I am in absolute awe. On arrival I am taken to the Principal’s Office to sign the Visitors’ Book (I am actually getting used to this. Then the Vice-Principal who also heads the English department comes in and tells me the children are ready. She is an energetic lady and has wit to match. I am addressing the children outside so when I emerge I am told the first thing expected of me is to inspect the Guard of Honour. Yes. You got that right. A guard of honour of the Guides (you know the ‘be prepared’ kids?). I am trying to give the occasion the solemnity it deserves but I am dying to laugh. Guard of Honour, really? I am some average little writer but I cannot say no because I hear from the VeeP that they spent a lot of time practicing. O-KEY!

So I end up inspecting the Guard of Honour after all. And then I march in front of the students to my seat. Then one of the English teachers who is MC’ng asks the other staff members to come and introduce themselves. And after, he assures me that the children have prepared some entertainment for me. I nod my head in appreciation. Then a group of Standard 8 girls comes and sings a song that’s still playing in my head.

‘In every thing Kallie. Economically. Academically…’ Yes. I am still laughing. Although I swear at that moment I kept a stern face and applauded solemnly when the young ladies were done. The parents were there as was the Director of the school. All in all, a fun  morning.

In the afternoon, I go to St.Monica Lubao, a secondary school. As I chat with the students they tell me that one of the greatest problems they find with their set books in literature is difficult language which make the text incomprehensible. One even asks me to tell some certain older gentleman of letters from the continent to make it easier. I laugh and answer by paraphrasing a certain Bra Zakes, ‘no-one can tell anyone how to write, when to write, or what to write.’ I suggest that perhaps they make use of the local library in Kakamega for dictionaries and then perhaps summarising the stories for themselves in simpler language. Sorry. It’s the best I can do with someone’s work that has to be read for exams.

In the evening I go off with the boys from the Foundation to Franka Hotel – a dodgy-looking but really quite fun joint. Service is not too impressive as I find myself, after 12 minutes, having to walk to the bar to get my own drink despite the boys having told me to wait for the server. One of the boys tells me that they have been drinking since 2pm – ‘what about the liquor law?’ I ask. They crack up. That only applies and is enforced by teetotallers in the company of drinkers, I am told. Apparently what they do even in the not-so-rich places is to get a glass and start with a bottle of ginger ale which shall forever remain in place after being emptied as beer is replaced in the glass. I wonder what would happen if this law was passed in South Africa? I finally get to have nyama choma and although it takes a long time to get to us, it is well worth the wait. Then I get on a boda-boda and make my way back to the hotel.

Kach Diaries – Thursday

I am in pain. Psychological pain. Overnight I read a lot of essays by  students from one particular school of the ‘tears cascaded down my rosy cheeks’ and ‘I felt the wind rushing through my hair’ variety so I am eternally grateful that I shall be engaged in hopefully more mature discourse with the university students. On the university students’ side, I had some pretty impressive writing and my favourite was a creative non-fiction piece from one Francis so…Francis wins.

Lunch is at a hotel that seems to have one too many curries on its menu but all good. The food definitely more varied than the Golf menu. I have chicken but am thinking if I make it here again I shall certainly ask for fish if the meal at my neighbouring table is anything to go by (why, in restaurants, does other people’s food always look better than one’s own?).

We arrive at MMUST and everything is on time. It’s outdoors and the discourse is engaging. Perhaps needing to feel like he has talked but with nothing of much significance to say, one student asks, ‘how do you become a great writer?’ I tell him I promise to pass on his details next time I come across a great writer so he can get his answer. The uni students rightly question some of my assertions which is a delight as it makes for better engagement.

Someone asks me why I always have gender in my novel titles. Never noticed. Do I? He he he. I then go on to give a brief summary of each of the works. Just as I am explaining Men of the South and asking the question, ‘if you are a stay at home dad and do the cooking and cleaning but don’t have an income, does this make you any less of a man?’ a chair breaks and the Chair (Dr.Bob) falls. There is laughter. But the show must go on and I quip, ‘and if women in your culture sit on the floor and you suddenly find yourself on the floor, does that make you any less of a man?’ A laughing Dr. B responds, ‘yes. Just because I fall of a chair it does not mean I am any less of a man,’ to much laughter.

The one thing that does surprise me is that although the ratio of men to women is about even, there are more young men engaging with me than women. In fact, I only ever get one question from a girl. I wonder whether girls just understand everything I am about to say in the way that many of us females are intuitive or whether its a matter of the boisterous nature of young men?

Kach Diaries – 4

Wednesday

Kisumu!!! We start off at 9 in the morning at a leisurely pace. There is Boniface, Martin (the man in charge of nutrition and advising the community on balanced diets at the Foundation) and the gentleman driver. Less than 15 minutes out of Kakamega, we are stopped by the police. They ask for lunch money, or some bottled water – not because anything is amiss but because apparently this is what happens when Ma or Papa Witaba are in the car. This time around they are out of luck. Martin points out to me the police accommodation. He tells me that although they look okay from outside (they don’t to me), they are pretty bad inside with two or three members of the police force and their families sharing one two-bedroomed unit. Then on our right he points to me some prisoners in stripped gear. ‘It’s even worse for Prison Authorities. They are seriously underpaid and the state accommodation they have are huts.’ Whaaat? So the abuse of  folks working in prisons might be a universal African thing then? In Kisumu, there are still some very vivid signs of the post election violence that rocked this country after the 2007 elections. I get a photograph of a hotel that I hear was quite top-notch but was brunt down for belonging to a man from the wrong tribe. Then I am told that a building I am admiring was finished just recently as the original building was razed to the ground. I start questioning why, in light of such horror some renowned local politicians still continue using the type of fractious language they have been quoted saying on the news. Elections are in 2012…will this country I am very affectionate towards avoid a repeat of 2007?

Kisumu is beautiful, wide roads like those in Bulawayo sans the potholes so its tragic when one hears what happened in 2007 or worse – witnesses the result (I am by no means advocating that violence only takes place in only ugly places. Rather that it not take place anywhere at all).

On a less serious note, we stop in town so I can ask in a bookstore whether the managers might know how I can trace Asenath. I know. It sounds crazy. But what am I to do? I have failed dismally to get hold of her via telephone – either it rings incessantly or I hear a recording ‘the number you have dialled is temporarily out of service.’ The bookstore manager knows Asenath’s son but doesn’t know her or even that she is a writer – yet another case of prophets never being appreciated in their own town. We get to the shores of Lake Victoria where there are tons of zinc restaurants that offer to make the fish for you – kwaMereki chaiko. We select one but I am deeply disappointed when I walk right through and realise that I cannot enjoy the Lake because it is full of that horrible hyacinth weed. I shrug my shoulders and decide not to let that destroy my enjoyment of Kisumu.

While the fish is being prepared, I get greedy and order a dried one to snack on. The result of this is that when the fish is prepared, I am no longer able to eat it – too full. And it looked very good too with sukuma on top. Eish!

When we were leaving, I spotted next to us, a Mandela Restaurant. Ja neh?

A tuk-tuk trip to the other side of the lake where the hyacinth wasn’t so bad ensured I went on a boat ride. The other two members were not keen but Martin was game. Not only did I spot quite a few people brewing changa’a (a local toxic brew equivalent to Barberton I hear) but I also saw a hippo that kept popping out and swimming but would disappear the moment I pointed my lens at it. This hippo was less than a 100 metres from the shore where some children were bathing so with concern I asked the boat operator, ‘but won’t something happen to the children?’ and he responded lightly, ‘don’t worry madam. The hippos here are friendly.’ Awww-kay!

We leave Kisumu for Kakamega using the Busia route, primarily because I want to have a book cover moment..and I have it. Certainly I am better looking than Sihle Khumalo on the cover of Heart of Africa and I am in a neighbouring country  and not Uganda but I am certain I got the sunglasses almost right.

The heat has got to me so although it has been less than 2hrs ride back and forth, I am exhausted when I return and head straight to bed. Tomorrow I have the toughest and most enjoyable part of the assignment yet…I get to talk to the Lit students at MMUST. I am looking forward.

Kach Diaries- Day 3

chatting to students

My morning is lazy and free. After going through the students’ work for the other schools, I decide to work off yesterday’s food by going for a swim. The pool attendant says to me, ‘madam, welcome to the pool.’ The pool is heavenly. Later as I am going up to the room, I ask the waiter for a flask of water. ‘Hot or cold madam?’ he asks. ‘Hot water for tea sir’ I answer. ‘Oh? You are very welcome madam.’ I had not noticed it before but as I recall the conversations of the last few days I realise, the folks in Kach are very welcoming. Its only natural that when he brings the flask of water, instead of ‘thank you’ I look at him and say deadpan, ‘you are very welcome sir’ to which he responds, ‘welcome.’ Karibu sana indeed!

We go for lunch at Kula Korner again. A man who is on the table next to us orders a Tusker – and gets it….I complain to the manager. ‘ah, pole madam. I wasn’t here yesterday. Do you want me to get you one now?’ See what I mean about drinking for the rich? The average Kakamega resident cannot afford to eat at Kula Korner. I shake my head no.

I have a school to visit and perhaps going there with beer fumes on one’s breath is not the best first impression to make. After lunch, I visit my first school – Friends Secondary School, Handidi. My first stop is to the Principal’s Office. Here too, I am ‘welcome.’ Must tell you, visits to the Principal’s Office are a little less scary when you are over 21 like I am. Everyone calls me Madam Zukiswa…for a moment I think they must have read my True Love piece. It’s awesome and I feel so grown. The talk with the students goes well and I get some interesting questions. The school has put themselves out and bought a crate of sodas. I am torn between the children watching me drink and eat or passing on the food to one of the children. It is a problem that will haunt me for the whole of this trip. In this instance though, I decide to go ahead and drink my warm Sprite out of politeness. Tomorrow is my all free day and I have convinced my host that I would be very happy to make it to Kisumu 45 minutes away for some tilapia from Lake Victoria. I am hoping, while there, to also pay a visit to one of my favourite Kenyan writers and a family friend, Asenath Bole Odaga if I can get her. In the interest of local writers, I need to get some of her children’s books as I will be visiting a primary school in the course of my journey and the only children’s author I have brought is the brilliant Ellen Banda-Aaku (one day I shall claim that it’s in the interest of pan-Africanism but really its cos I love Ellen’s children’s books).

The Kach Diaries- cont’d

DAY 2 – Monday

I have a free morning so I spend it going through the essays of the school I will visit tomorrow afternoon. Some are pretty well-written and from these I shall have to select one winner who will be given free IT training at the Foundation as well as the very minor prize of one of my books. Before I start on the schools tomorrow though, I must visit the base of the foundation as well as have an interview at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology today. A friend from these parts calls me and tells me that Masinde Muliro is named after a famous son of these soils who was married to a South African woman…so already I feel tied to it by history. Mmust FM, where I have my interview, broadcasts live on campus. When we get to MMUST, I soon make friends with the literature lecturer who is going to interview me. Dr.Chris as he shall henceforth be known is a former Wits student and although he has not heard of me, we have a fair share of Wits friends to create a great rapport on air (not to name-drop or anything but Dr. Pumla Gqola of ‘What is Slavery to Me’ fame IS my friend). Although he has not read my books, our little chat prior to getting in studio ensures that our discussion is so much fun that before we know it, the producer gives us the basketball time out hand sign. Thirty minutes already? Dr. Chris suggests that I meet up with his Chair (our equivalent of a Dean I believe), Dr. Bob. Dr.Bob is from Nakuru and he knows my Nakuru family, the Wainainas so yet again another old friend network in this distant part of Kenya…who would have thought? We all go for lunch at Kula Korner by Nakumatt Centre and everyone tells me that Luhyaland as this is, is famous for its chicken and so they recommend it. I order it reluctantly. I should not have. It’s the best chicken I have tasted thus far.

But an interesting tidbit. When asked what drink I would like to have I answer as I generally do in Kenya ‘Tusker baridi’ (cold Tusker). My hosts look at me weirdly and then one of them patiently explains that some Parliamentarian pushed a Bill to outlaw the drinking of booze before 5pm on weekdays and 2pm on weekends. Another of my hosts laughs, ‘a thousand shillings says this guy won’t be re-elected come 2012.’ Apparently though, this booze law only affects the poor as people are allowed to partake in alcoholic beverages at private clubs and we know who can afford membership to private clubs, yes? Alright-y then. Mango juice it is with my chicken and ugali.

After lunch I part with Dr.Chris and Bob. We make our way to the Witaba residence where my host’s mother has made chicken. I really wish that Boniface had warned me because in the space of less than two hours, I find myself being handed a plate to dish out. force myself to eat a little although my stomach is so full I can barely take anything in. The home cooked chicken is, permission to quote President Zuma, ‘delicious.’ But I promise myself not to make a repeat performance of this eating when I get into bed exhausted from eating too much good food. I haven’t felt like this since Christmas when I was a child.

The Kach Diaries

Western KenyaSo some of my friends are wondering what I am doing in Western Kenya – Kakamega to be exact (where is that? I see a few going on google maps).  I would love to say the main reason I came here was to finally have a chance of ‘sterring’ in  Western but no. Until now I have never been much of a Western fan. I come here at the invitation of a young friend of mine, Boniface, founder of the Witaba Foundation (http://www.witabafoundation.org ). Unable to find a job in Nairobi after graduation, Boniface came back home to Kach as it is nicknamed. While here with a degree in IT gathering dust, he decided to find funding to start a project to train the youth in IT. Patiently, he wrote proposals and submitted over a 1000 but only two organisations responded positively and the rest, as they say is history. Now Witaba Foundation has branched into other youth initiatives like Education (of which I am here for with particular emphasis on literacy) and Sport. But, bless the Witabas, this blog is not about them, it give a little background for the writings following that I call, The Kach Diaries. I am a bit of a cheat so they are written with the benefit of hindsight as my observations are from a week old.

Take a journey with me and if you have never been to Western Kenya, here’s a chance to familiarise yourself with this land called Kakamega.

DAY 1  – Sunday

I arrive in Kakamega on fly540. I must admit to being pretty impressed that the plane lands here. When I was researching Kakamega it felt a bit of a back water town and I thought I would be landing in Kisumu 45 minutes away and coming here by road. As the plane goes towards the landing strip, I spot some cattle grazing not too far away from where the plane is touching down oblivious to the drone of the plane – they are obviously used to this. We get off the plane as others board and then I spot my host with his boyish smile. he is holding what turns out to be Kach’s equivalent of a lei – one of those shiny silver  decorations that some of us have at one time or another put on Xmas trees. Photos and a lei right on landing. I am bit embarrassed with all the attention – I feel like a a fraud rock star but my fellow passengers act like its the most ordinary thing. We get to my home for the next week, Golf Hotel Kakamega. While checking in, I overhear conversation that Kenyan Prime Minister  Raila Odinga was here the day before – dammit. Trust me to miss him, I should have liked to buy him a  drink and ask him a question or two American diplomat-style – I could see me being one of the few people with a byline at Wikileaks.  So anyway, turns out the Golf is where all the politicians who are planning something in these parts meet up. Then whatever is decided is sealed at the Members Club next door. I leave my luggage in the room, go down for breakfast, return upstairs and sleep. I’d like to claim its jetlag but the flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi and then the extra hour plus to Kakamega does not warrant the claim. What it really is is that I have been busy chasing deadlines in Johannesburg because I knew I would do little other work while here.

As my head hits the pillow, I wonder what Day Two will bring.