What happens, when the girl who loves stories, falls asleep on her history textbook in the middle of exam week?
A vivid imagination goes to work!
She dreams of a python, ominously chanting, “Nzinga Mbemba, Nzinga Mbemba,” as it chases her through an African rain forest. She wakes up and fleshes out the story of how it all went down. Then, she regales her classmates with a reading of her tale.
After such an entertaining interlude, mates are convinced that this is surely a sign that Central African history, especially the period that documents the arrival of the Portuguese and the spread of Christianity, would feature prominently on the history final. It did not. Said storyteller hid from vexed classmates in a conveniently located restroom stall after the final.
Yes, that storyteller was me. What can I say? I tell stories, I don’t predict the future!
My classmates did predict that I would become an author. I became an engineer who studies genomes and designs tools to detect harmful microbes. I still read avidly, dreamed vividly and told dramatic tales.
In 2013, my friends’ prediction came true. I am officially … drum roll please … an author! So far, I have written and released 5:
- Today's Water and Other Ananse Stories
- The Yam Child and Other Tales from West Africa
- The Missing Mouth and Other Ananse Stories
- The Girl in the Tree and Other Tales from Africa
- How Elephant Lost His Huge Bottom and Other Ananse Stories.
How it began
It began innocently enough. I asked a friend to tell me the details of a folktale that she used to tell when we were children. She did not remember any details. In fact, she did not remember the story at all! I was quite annoyed at that and let her have it.
She patiently endured my indignant rant on people who neglect their cultural heritage, etc., etc. Then, she challenged me to collect and write down the stories, for those like her who had forgotten, and for those who had never heard them before.
I was cool to the idea at first because it seemed like such a huge task. I love challenges though and my friend knew which buttons to push. Push she did. In the end, I said “Oh, why not, I’ll try,” and went for it.
I actually do quite a bit of academic and technical writing on the job. In these sorts of formal texts, I’m not, even remotely, trying to invoke dramatic joy or transport my audience to a new world. So, it was not a trivial challenge for me to write just for fun and entertainment. I am so happy I did.
What am I working on now?
Currently, I am working on books 6 and 7 in the series of books that I have loftily dubbed, The African Fireside Classics. Each one features a collection of stories that retell African folktales.
I have no idea how many books there will be eventually, but I have a lot of fodder for the series. I grew up in Ghana, West Africa, where I enjoyed many wonderful nights sharing stories. Stories that made me hold my sides with laughter; cry in sympathy; shout with joy or suck my teeth in anger. Many of my stories come from my memories of those times.
I write up the fantastical tales about why things are the way they are. I also write of the antics of wily African folktale characters like Ananse, his son, Ntikuma and his clever wife, Aso. Then, there are stories of naughty and nice ghosts; brave and scared kids; monsters that eat disobedient children and so on.
I am also dreaming up new tales, mainly in the science fiction and fantasy realm. “Tell me a story,” and, “would you like to hear a story?” are my constant refrains these days. For as long as I am able. I intend to continue collecting and retelling African folktales.
They say that, you can tell that someone is a Ghanaian, when they use 30 words to say something that could be said with 3. Ah, ah, I am a true Ghanaian writer.
If you’ve read this far, “Thank you, pa paa pa!”
I hope you’ll check out my humble efforts and more than anything, I hope you enjoy the stories that I am finding such joy in sharing.
If you have any questions, you can contact me directly from this site. I would love to hear from you.
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