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Eppel continues writing exploits

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BY SHARON SIBINDI

AMERICAN musical director, producer and musician, Steve Jordan’s famous quote: “Good music grows with age like a fine wine. It gets better and better over time,” best describes Bulawayo poet, teacher, critic and writer John Eppel who has been in the creative industry for years.

Having published his first work in the 1960s when he was a teenager, Eppel recently launched his 23rd book as his career continues to blossom.

In an interview with NewsDay Life & Style, Eppel said he hoped to keep writing until he drops.

“As a child I loved reading and writing. I am an introvert by nature and those pursuits helped me escape the chattering world. I loved the nonsense of nursery rhymes and before long, at the age of nine, I discovered Charles Dickens,” he said.

“I have been reading his (Dickens) books ever since for their syntax, their humour and, above all, their compassion for the poor.

“My primary schoolteachers were all British expatriates who filled my head with the snows of yesteryear.”

Eppel said he wrote the first draft of his debut novel, DGG Berry’s The Great North Road and it took him 15 years to find a publisher.

“Starting from my late teens I began to find publishers for my poems. I guess the journal that began my career as a writer was Two Tone, founded by Philippa Berlyn and Olive Robertson in 1954 or thereabouts,” he said.

“Some of my contemporaries, who also started there, were Julius Chingono, Charles Mungoshi and Musaemura Zimunya. The journal was disbanded shortly after independence.”

Eppel said South African academic Mike Kirkwood was very encouraging in his career, adding that he advised him that there was no money from donor countries like Holland and Sweden to support unknown white writers.

“It took me 12 more years to eventually find a publisher. “This was a time when black South African poets like Mongane Serote, Oswald Mtshali, and Mafika Gwala flourished. Publishers like Ad Donker and Ravan Press were instrumental in this collection,” he said.

Carrefour Press, edited by Douglas Reid Skinner, published my first collection, Spoils of War. Incidentally, both these debut collections won awards, the M-Net Prize for my novel and the Ingrid Jonker prize for my anthology.”

He said about 15 years after independence Zimbabwe publishers would not touch his manuscripts and this forced him to start amaBooks in partnerships with some colleagues.

“The ensuing years proved quite fruitful for my writing of prose, a largely satirical voice and poetry, a largely lyrical voice. Now, the new kid on the block is Pigeon Press, owned by Paul Hubbard, and I look forward to a mutually rewarding partnership with them,” he said.

Follow Sharon on Twitter @SibindiSharon

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