Ivainashe: the UP student behind I Was Never Ready and Many Other Stories
3rd year UP Law student, Ivainashe Earnest Nyamutsamba, recently launched his anthology titled, I Was Never Ready and Many Other Stories, a collection of sixteen short stories. Fifteen of them explore the intimate complexities of the African women that come from different backgrounds, whose life experiences are interwoven by the phrase ‘I was never ready’. The book also covers the story of a person who meditates about fifteen different female persons that are going through different experiences, and another story that explores the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 and focuses on a UN Peacekeeping soldier. PDBY spoke to Nyamutsamba to discuss his journey leading up to the release and publication of his book.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I shared a story about my experiences of the year 2008 with my best friend, Khanyisa Masinge, over a WhatsApp chat [in 2017]. She shared […] her reaction to the story of how I survived 2008 during my time at boarding school. Every Zimbabwean knows 2008 was a tough year for everyone, Khanyisa said, “Earn, this feels like an extract from a novel”. I would humbly say back in 2017 is when I decided that I want to become a writer.
How long did it take you to write this book
Intimately acknowledging the journey thus far, honestly it took me three years. This includes developing the ideas, editing, sourcing inspiration and designing the cover art.
Where did you get information or ideas for this book?
I draw ideas from everyday life, I draw ideas from my mother, I draw ideas from my workplace, TuksFM, I draw ideas from my own personal experiences, being Zimbabwean and being financially excluded at one point. I draw ideas from my undying devotion [to] being African, being a black person, my field of study, law. My purpose in the field of law [is] “the rights of women, children and emigrants”. People like me that come from the ridiculed parts of the world, we all desire one thing and that is to be given an opportunity to be treated like a human being for once, an opportunity to be understood and be heard. My well of ideas is a quantum escape into the innumerable realm of consciousness and subconsciousness where the cosmic and the physical world[s] collide. I am just a vessel, an instrument where ideas of the universe pass through me all for the benefit of humanity. That is where my ideas for the book radiate from.
What is your schedule like when you’re writing?
Writing is something that I have grown to appreciate and embrace as it is now a part of me. My schedule as a writer is a bit hectic and helter skelter at the same time. I write poems and short stories and am working on ideas for a full-length feature novel; that shall drop soon. Frankly, it is hectic because I need to study my characters and their backgrounds in order to be able to communicate their actions as they are crude. So as to be able to communicate the intimate feeling to the reader.
How did you manage writing this book with university work?
University work is demanding. Writing the book came at a time when I was depressed and I felt as if I was going nowhere. Things felt as if they were falling apart. My subconscious would serenade me into the realm of creativity so as to protect myself from the stress. Thus, I managed the writing of the book when I was stressed, the lesson here is that writing is therapeutic and it helps. Once I felt I am comfortable to resume the demanding university work then I would carry on from where I left off.
How did your book get published?
I am a self-published writer. Unfortunately, 2020 happened, the year came along with it with its own struggles. In this regard I am hinting towards the incredulous negative corrosive impact of the pandemic. I am an international student; I come from Zimbabwe. We all know that Zimbabwe is going through her worst economic experiences ever since she attained her independence in 1980. In the year 2020, I managed to pay R5 000 for my 2019 tuition debt. Thus, I was left with the balance of R36 723. With the economy falling [flat], this understanding meant I could not return for the academic year of 2020. [… ] I brainstormed on the options that I had at my disposal, noting that it is difficult to land a job during the pandemic and I need a job that best meets my needs as a student. That is when I realised that I can be a self-published author. That is how I got published. At the same time I managed to have my own start-up which is in the form of a bookstore called “Uncle Earnie’s Bookstore”. Thanking God, I landed a sponsorship from Yoco where I can open a virtual bookstore. [My] clients may purchase my literary works directly from me. This then allowed me to be my own boss and be able to pay off my debt and be able to return to school and resume my studies.
Inspiration is everywhere, start by developing interest in reading
How were you able to secure the funding?
[…] Sourcing funding is tricky and hard in these trying times. Where I stay my landlord would give me odd jobs until I raised the much-needed capital to kickstart my career as a writer. Also, the pocket money that I would get from home I would save it and dedicate to my project until it was enough. It is all dedication, frankly. Noting sacrifice, Jay Z would say, “financial freedom is my only hope”.
How would you advise upcoming student authors to find publishers?
Look guys, jealousy is real among creatives, spite is corrosive. Be careful to keep an eye out on opportunists, leeches, and exploitative persons. Take your time, there is no rush, work within your means. If you have the resources that might help you to go directly to the major publishing houses go for it. If you are not sure, just send an email to the publishing houses and ask them to give you their agents that they work with and once you have their emails and commence your negotiations with the agents. If you are like me who wants to go the self-publishing route go for it, however, I must say it is a long slow process where it is you and your community against the world. Thus, I encourage all upcoming student authors to weigh their options and understand the terms and conditions of each path. The resolution lies within you fellow writers.
Where would you advise fellow students to start when writing books, finding a publishing house and securing funding?
Once you are a UP student; you better know that you are gifted in your own way. Inspiration is everywhere, start by developing interest in reading. Read literary works from writers of the past, yesterday and today. What this does is build up your own writing style, then practice everyday each hour, blend your field of study, your interests and curiosity, and find a supportive system of friends. I am blessed to have a pool of friends who believe in me, it all began with a notebook from my best friend on my birthday. I never turned back to what I know and I am here. Finding a publishing house is easy, but securing a contract is a bit challenging, depending on who you are and what you have in your disposal. People like me know one thing and one thing only, work. Work every day, your efforts will speak for you. Publishing houses will take note of you and if they appreciate your efforts, they shall approach you. Securing funding, hey, look man there are no shortcuts when it comes to the hustle. Put in the hours and keep an eagle eye on opportunities. Jot down your budget then follow up with a plan to save up money as much as you can. There is no one who will ever throw money at you for no reason, unfortunately. If someone gives you money without any cause better know when they come for their money it is going to cost you something. Look for a job that best meets your needs and then save up, even if it is a portion of that pocket money. Go for it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.