How an author was inspired by his mother

Tuesday June 23 2020

Fadhil Mtanga has written 15 books, with five

Fadhil Mtanga has written 15 books, with five of them being published. PHOTO | COURTESY 

By Salome Gregory

Fadhil Mtanga is an author who started writing 28 years ago. So far he has written fifteen books, with five of them getting published. He started out by in his exercise books, until in 2007 when he purchased a laptop and started blogging.

The blog became his main platform until in 2011 when he published his first book titled Kizungumkuti. The book was then followed by other publications such as; Huba (2014), Fungate (2017), Hisia (2018) and Rafu (2020). Mtnaga is currently pursuing a Masters degree at the University of Iringa on Community Development and Project Management. He shares his writing journey with Success.

What inspired you to become a writer?

My biggest inspiration is my mother. Before her retirement, she was a language teacher. This made our home get filled with literature books. My bedroom was our library. Since childhood, I used to see books well-arranged on the shelf. They beguiled me and in a flash of a second, I was attached. My first read was Adili na Nduguze by Shaaban Robert, then Shida by Ndyanao Balisidya before I came across Kufa na Kupona by Aristablus Elvis Musiba. It was when I read Musiba that I aspired to be a writer.

My late father was also a great admirer of English literature, so much so that he blessed the bookshelf in my bedroom with a number of enthralling books. I was lucky to read a lot of Russian novels that had been translated into Kiswahili. Books from authors like Alexander Pushkin and Fyodor Dostoevsky kept on inspiring me. I also became a member of the Tanzania Library Service when I was in Standard II.

My other inspiration came from my friends during my years at primary and secondary school. My friends kept pushing me to write in my exercise books, and would queue to read my work. However, it is not until I managed to read Sidney Sheldon’s books and articles that I seriously decided to become a writer.

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How has writing impacted your life?

Writing has made me see life differently – both subjectively and objectively. It has made me love to explore things through how I engage with different people, travel, read, watch movies, listen to music and everything. It has made my life a learning process and this has enabled me to learn from every aspect I encounter.

Writing has also given me a platform to share with others what I have learnt so far and keep my perspectives known and perennial. It keeps me connected with those I hanker to read from and write to. There is also monetary benefit through selling written work.

What keeps you going in your occupation as a writer?

The possibility of being able to learn more and write more give me the energy to continue with my work. Also, friends and family members are always pushing me to keep writing. They love reading my work.

How do you get the ideas for writing a storybook?

I am an avid traveller and adventurer, photographer, painter, gardener, cook and sports enthusiast. All these are experiences that are efficacious in the generation of new story ideas. For instance, in ‘Huba’, the idea came to mind when I was driving from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya. The idea for ‘Rafu’ came when I was watching a basketball game.

What are the challenges you go through as a writer?

Challenges are both on a personal and industrial level. Personally, the biggest challenge is the schedule. Being able to manage my time and make sure it does not affect my other income-generating activities is a challenge. There are times I feel very pressed with fresh ideas of writing a new book but they come at the most inconvenient time.

Writing needs research. Research is expensive because it involves travelling and other resources. Although now the internet has simplified the way we do research, it also requires one to have access to the internet.

On an industrial level, the biggest challenge is finding a publisher willing to trust your work and not immediately think about the monetary rewards that will accrue from it. They also tend to go for books which have a sure market – such as those in the school curricula. Additionally, some of the terms set for local authors by these publishers are unfair to the writer.

Terms such as getting 35% or 40% of the book retail price hinder many local authors to access big bookstores. Albeit, new online booksellers have come to the rescue. Bottom line, it is such challenges which force majority of authors to do what is known as ‘self-sell’ of books using street vendors.

What are your future plans as a storyteller?

To write as many books as my feet will carry me, and inspire the next generation.

Tell us about your other occupations asides from writing.

I work in community development. I enjoy serving the people I work with and contributing to their efforts to bring about positive change and development in their communities. In my spare time, I study, read, write, take photos, paint, cook, garden, listen to music and watch sports and movies.

What advice do you give to upcoming writers?

They should not stop writing. But, if their inspiration for writing is to get money fast, they should rethink, because they will be disappointed. Cash will come after a lot of hustle and bustle. I wish everyone was writing, as every individual has a unique experience that needs to be shared. Nothing should stop people from writing. To be a great writer, one needs first to be a great reader. It is from reading the work of others, that one can broaden their horizon of understanding.

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