A number of people have asked me how they can get published in the Kenyan media or how will they make money from writing. I have helped some get published and some have even earned from their writing. In recent times I rarely get back to those who write to me seeking advice or any help because mostly I’m busy or because I don’t see that hunger in their quest.
Writing is easy until you try. Many often give up. Not because they can’t write. Mostly because they wanted to be published and be stars overnight. Or they wanted to earn from writing instantly. It doesn’t work that way. Unless you are too good. In deed some are just too good.
It reminds me of when I started. In 2007, shortly before I joined The University of Nairobi. I got my first break with Pulse Magazine in the Standard’s Friday. Pulse has this column called Rants and Raves where you get to ask random nonsensical questions such as how do you write zero in Roman numbers? Or who decided the exact time when the first clock was made? Or if the black box in airplanes is indestructible, how come the whole plane is not made from such a material so as to make sure individuals survive in the event of a plane crush.
Then came the biggest break. Back then the economy was good. Newspaper and magazines used to call for articles that they paid for. The Saturday Magazine used to have a column called By The Way, they never paid for the column but it was good to published alongside Oyunga Pala, who by then run perhaps the most read columnist in Kenya.
Now the column was supposed to be a 700-word piece where you pen your opinion on anything topical about women, men and relationship. One Monday, a day like today in 2007, I sat in my brother’s house in Kibera and wrote an article titled “Can someone teach me how to treat a woman?” I went to a cyber in Ayany Kibera and with my elementary computer skills typed the article and mailed it. It came to 900 words. I saw it was perfect and could not scale it down to 700 words and sent it to the editor. It was like the fourth attempt and hoped it will be the last.
Saturday, September 1st came and I went to buy mandazis for breakfast. And as was the custom for me, I will pass by the newspaperman and flip through the paper to see if my story had been published. That fateful Saturday, I bought Mandazis and looked at the paper to see if my story had been published. Quickly I turned to Page 8 of the Saturday Magazine and straight to the By The Way Column. It was not there. My heart sunk. My best effort up to then had not been published. There was a sinking desperation. I felt like this writing thing was not going to work, ever. I had been published in Pulse a number of times and wanted a serious break.
As was the custom, being the biggest fan of Oyunga Pala, I looked up at top of page to see what he had served us that weekend. The article was titled, “Just What Do Women Want? I sighed; it was going to be another Oyunga masterpiece. Then I started reading the kicker on top and froze. The words “Silas Nyanchwani” has tried every trick in the book…”I was crazily insane. It was my lifetime dream to see my name there and hoped to achieve it when I was 35. And now I was just 20 or thereabout and the dream had been achieved. I was confused. I ran home and told my brother and another cousin. They could not understand my excitement. I borrowed Sh 50 bob from my cousin to buy the paper. That was it. The rest is history.
I fumbled along the way. I guessed my way through. I tried my luck every so often. I had several false starts. And false dawns. Sometimes I was too ambitious. One day one editor made me chase a story and did not sleep for 72 hours straight. It was not published. I never gave up. When I dabbled student politics, I stopped writing temporarily but went back as soon as I finished college. It never always paid. But in all my adult life, 90% of the money I have made always came from writing. The other 10% almost came from writing related thing. And here is the thing, I write social stuff. No business, science and tech stuff. I am so daft in that sector. I hate political writing. It is too easy. Just read and quote 48 Laws of Power and abuse opponents. But even with writing stuff about men and women and my blog, I have earned enough to sustain me, start a family.
When I started writing, I would often ask the senior writers and editors what does it take to be a good writer and be published consistently. Gracious ones did respond, even if they did so once and in a monosyllabic tone. Nothing like a response from the editor to inspire a young writers. But most editors rarely respond to queries from the writers because a)They are too busy, b) They have no place for your kind of ideas, c) They are monumental pricks and too self important d) they simply ignore. Most of them ignored my emails, not just once but severally. It used to hurt. Even today when I don’t reply to someone’s mail, even if it is an acknowledgement, guilt gnaws me, it becomes cancerous. But due to the busy schedule that adulthood throws at us.
Now to correct that here is the deal. Before I left Kenya I had finished writing my first book in a series of books of practical advice on how to be a journalist in Kenya, and how to get published. It is my personal story that I believe that by sharing it can help a few more guys make money or employment from journalism even though things look bleak for the industry.Newspapers and magazines are laying off, not hiring. But there is a silver lining in all the dark clouds currently ravaging the Kenyan media.
The book sought to answer everything you many need to know about the Kenyan media.
- Why are you not being published?
- How to get started?
- Which newspaper pays the best rates
- Gaps in the industry and who can fill them and how.
- How to contact editors-a key to scoring in the journalism career.
- How to be a columnist
- Best practices to keep you in the business
- Frustrations and Writer’s Bloc (It is real)
- What to read to enrich you style and skills
Among many hot topics. In total, the book had ten sections. All the sections are an accumulation of mostly personal anecdotes from the eight years in the business and how my experimentation has worked. I would be richer from the craft if I knew what I know today about journalism in Kenya. Sadly, even senior editors in Kenya have not bothered to write books to help beginners and some of the best writers and journalists in Kenya started on their own. But this book will see to it you get to understand how a typical Kenyan newsroom operates.
Rather than sell the book, this is how we will go about it. We will have a crash program of three months. The book has ten chapters. At the beginning of each month, I will email you the notes and assignments. I will charge Sh 3,500 per month and you will get three chapters in advance. You will read on your own. Besides I will send you appropriate reading material to start you off and see what good writing is all about. Or at least what editors do expect. I will mark your assignments, offer helpful suggestions and answer any question related to journalism and writing to the best of my knowledge.
In total the cost will be 10,500 for the three months we will be together and you only need to pay Sh 3,500 and have notes emailed to you. Ideally, all this should be free but the money will be for the time I have set aside to prepare the handbook and answering your questions. Besides, something you pay for, you will take it more seriously.
The course is ideal for:
- Anyone who believes they have everything it takes to be a writer but still does not get published.
- Those who have finished high school or in college and interested in Journalism and writing as a career.
- Those who want to have writing as a side-hustle.
- Experts who have the knowledge in different fields, can be education, business, IT, agriculture, cooking etc but lack the linguistic capabilities to write their ‘expert’ articles’.
- And anyone who wants to know these things.
- You need to have an above average command of the English language
- You are passionate about writing or journalism and you believe you have a story to tell.
- You are serious about life.
On top of that
- You will have to fill a three page questionnaire for me that will assess your knowledge about writing and journalism. I will not use it to judge you in anyway, it will be a way of measuring your preparedness and to know what kind of work you need to put it.
- You will need to pay the money in advance you can pay all of it or every month just before the beginning of the month. The account will be announced later.
- The course begins Monday, September 7th 2015 and will run until the end of the year.
This is not a fleecing arrangement and I am not in the business of conning anyone. In the event you are dissatisfied, you can discontinue as from the second month. Thing is, no one can make anyone a writer, but if you have the desire, the passion and the drive, this small course will be a good stepping stone. It will offer very helpful directions. Also, it can help you understand what kind of job is needed and see if you can make it. So hit me up on my inbox:
Facebook: Silas Gisiora Nyanchwani
Let’s get started. All the best.