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The experience of writing your own book as a librarian


IN this article, Tonderayi Chanakira talks about how he managed to publish his first book titled Tonderayi’s Way: Memories of a Diaspora Librarian, to become an author and what inspired him to write his own book.

HE also talks about the difficulties of publishing a book from the time it is originated as a manuscript to the time it gets to printers.

Chanakira urges fellow librarians to write their own books as a way of contributing to the development of the book industry in Namibia as well as developing the library profession in general. I have worked in the library industry for a period clocking 27 years now and this was a major driver that inspired me to think of writing my own book as I felt I had my own library story line to contribute to a profession I have served for many years.

My experience as a librarian who has worked for several different libraries set ups in my country of birth and origin Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and many other parts of Europe, Asia and Africa also played a great part in inspiring me to write a book from a librarian point of view. The journey that I walked in trying to have my manuscript published as a book product was not an easy one.

Many publishers ignored my manuscript and at one time I was so discouraged to the point of shelving my project of writing my own book. I would also like to pay special tribute to a white fellow Zimbabwean established woman writer who is based in Cyprus, Miranda Hoplaros, as she is the one who actually read my manuscript and advised me on the best title to use to attract publication of my book. I had read one of Miranda’s Hoplaros’ books when I was based in Botswana working as a Diaspora librarian in that country.

Miranda Hoplaros, a fellow Zimbabwean writer, who is based in Cyprus, suggested the title of my book having read my manuscript.

I also think that my exposure to studying literature as a varsity student of the University of Zimbabwe also inspired me to later write my own book as a librarian. Some of my varsity lecturers have published their own books and this influenced me to aspire to write my book.

Established Zimbabwean writers such as Musaemura Zimunya (who was my lecturer for English at the University of Zimbabwe) played a great part in inspiring me to write my book as they kept advising me on the best way to write my book. Another friend of mine, Shimmer Chinodya, kept mocking me to write a book that was better than his! Chinodya is an established Zimbabwean writer who has won several international awards for writing novels. I was advised to come up with a story line that was original and would identify with my readers.

The experience of working for several organisations as a librarian thus became the plot of my storyline which was unique, hence the sub title of my book “Memories of a Diaspora Librarian”.

I kept writing and re writing my manuscript and shared it with fellow colleges and relatives of mine. It was an uncle of mine who kept inspiring me to have the book published as he identified with many of the issues that I raised in my book. The Namibia Library and Archives Service (NLAS) hosted a writers’ workshop on 5 December 2013 in Windhoek which I attended as a participant.

It was at this workshop that I got first hand tips and difficulties that published authors, poets, publishers, journalists and librarians for that matter face as they deal with the publishing industry.

One participant at this workshop a fellow Zimbabwean librarian, Charles Mlambo, brought out the difficulties that established writers face when he gave an example of the famous Doris Lessing. As an established writer Lessing gave his publishers a manuscript using a pseudonym and surprisingly the manuscript was rejected! Such circumstances encouraged and inspired to get my own book published after learning from the experiences of other authors.

The main message I got from attending the workshop was that publishing a book is not an impossible mission as you can actually publish on your own without taking your manuscript to established publishers who will negotiate for your royalties. I decided to be my own publisher for my book and took that route.

The next challenge that I faced was to look for funding for publishing my book. There are steps that one goes through before a manuscript becomes a book product.

You develop your story as a manuscript first which is not a problem as you can type your own manuscript using word processing software. The next challenge is to set out your manuscript into a book format and that step is done using desktop publishing software.

A friend assisted me set up my book at a cost of course but I also have some background in desktop publishing and we worked together with my friend in setting up the pages of the book.

Having your book printed can be a great challenge in publishing a book as this needs money to pay the printers. I had to seek for a bank loan to enable me to have enough money to have my book printed as I was determined to have my book published. I also looked for local publishers whose printing prizes are cheap as they are new to the printing business here in Namibia.

I was actually very surprised by the reasonable quotations that came from some of our local printers in Namibia. I calculated the profit I would get after selling my book and I was not disappointed by what the sales of the book would realise for me as the publisher of my own book.

My advice to fellow librarians is rarely do we become authors as librarians but we should demystify that kind of thinking as we are professionals in our own right.

Writing and publishing our own books is the best way of marketing our profession to the world. We are experts in cataloguing and classifying books by other authors as this is part of our job description and that professional privilege should inspire us to read other authors and write our own stories as experienced by us librarians.

There is no satisfying thing as writing your own story which is unique and original to what you have experienced as a librarian and the journey that you have walked as a librarian.

Fellow librarians lets develop our own profession by being writers of our own library profession. This was how I managed to publish my first book as an author and you can also do it! Colleagues always remember that “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it” as said by Toni Morrison.

The best story teller to me is the person who experienced the story and witnessed it as well which is what writing books is all about in my view.
So colleagues let’s write them books as we have our own library stories to tell the world!

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