Getting Published - Tendai Huchu

Getting Published

‘Abandon hope all ye who enter this profession’ – it is a pity nobody told me these lines when I first put pen to paper and proclaimed in a boisterous voice that I was the rightful heir to Dostoevsky, online Orwell, there Hugo and every other literary giant on whose shoulders I would profess to stand whether I had read them or not. I mean how hard could it be? You write, website like this mail it off to a publisher who says you are magnificent, offers you a six-figure advance preferably in Zimbabwean dollars and within a month your first name has changed to JK.
Then followed five years of euphoria and despair and if I am to be honest more of the latter. That was necessary and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. In those five years I found my voice and knocked back copious amounts of alcohol in the search of inspiration. Then on Christmas day 2009, I got an idea that was like an embarrassing itch that you can’t scratch because you are on your first date with the one who could be the one. I forgot about festivities, got a friend’s laptop and began to write. Vimbai’s voice was spinning in my head, she had a story to tell and demanded to be heard so for a fortnight I was her slave. I did nothing but eat,write,stretch,eat,write,stretch,eat,write,write,stretch. Oh and did I mention sleep? Probably not because I saw so little of it. That’s how the first draft forThe Hairdresser of Harare was born.
I revised it as best I could and shot it off to some publishing houses. Then the waiting game began. Euphoria, delusions of grandeur and despair followed in rapid succession until I got an email from Irene Staunton from Weaver Press. She liked the premise of the story and asked to see the first chapter. She enjoyed that asked to see the rest. In the period I waited for a response I became mildly schizophrenic until I got her email, which said she loved it and then my condition morphed into hebephrenic schizophrenia. The symptoms were self evident, 'reality distortion' (involving delusions and hallucinations) and 'psychomotor poverty' (poverty of speech, lack of spontaneous movement and various aspects of blunting of emotion).
Contract signed, The Hairdresser of Harare had a publisher in Harare. When I got my draft back it had more red lines than black text. Irene had been editing. I was quick to realize just how fortunate I had been. It seems my publisher was a type of diamond prospector, the sort you only find in Chiadzwa. She was an old school publisher who took a chance on a very rough piece of work and was willing to invest her time and resources into polishing it, not because of its commercial appeal but simply because she liked it. The text went back and forth between us so many times that I felt sick in my stomach every time I saw the name Irene Staunton in my inbox.
With each revision the story was improving and several months later when I got the lastest draft I could barely recognize it. It was sharper, clearer and read like a real novel. I admit now that though my name alone appears on the cover there is my editor and an army of proof readers, copyeditors and sub editors lurking in the text who my readers will never know about. That’s only the half of it, my journey continues, interviews, talks and all the other soul sapping aspects of modern writing are to follow.
If there is any advice I can offer a new writer reading this, it is – do not give into despair and self doubt, find your own voice, stay away from cheap cider, don’t take yourself too seriously, revise and polish your work until your eyes bleed and if you do all these things then maybe, just maybe, Lady Luck will give you a helping hand.