THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
[Interview] Omen Muza
Omen Nyevero Muza holds an MBA and runs a financial advisory firm he co-founded in Harare.
He is also a financial columnist with a local daily newspaper.
One of his short stories appears in the anthology, Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe (amaBooks, 2011).
He writes and plays guitar in his spare time.
In this interview, Omen Muza talks about his concerns as a writer:
When did you start writing?
My first serious attempt at writing was while waiting for my O-Level results. I cobbled together a collection of poems which was, however, never published.
Before that, I recall that my Grade 7 teacher put my name to something I didn’t write and submitted it to some obscure publication. Perhaps as some form of poetic justice, the publication misspelt my name to something entirely unrecognizable so in the end it was never attributed to me anyway. I am sure my beloved teacher meant well and obviously had a soft spot for me but I wonder whether she was aware that she was making me an accessory to an act of plagiarism. I certainly wasn’t aware!
How would you describe your writing?
Intermittent and undisciplined.
Although I have attempted a novel before, I now tend to focus only on short stories because they are less demanding, time-wise. The rigour of full-time work and contributing a weekly newspaper column on banking and finance does not leave room for much else, apparently.
I have never consciously thought about who my audience is or should be. I just write, really. Sometimes your audience can come from the most unlikely quarters so it may not be wise to have pre-conceived notions about who constitutes it.
In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most?
My pool of influence is quite an eclectic mix. However, if I have to name one person I consciously sought to emulate during my formative years, it would have to be none other than Dambudzo Marechera. With the benefit of hindsight, I was trying to emulate his lifestyle, not his writing style.
And have your own personal experiences influenced your writing in any way?
I would say extensively.
Most of my creative work is based on my personal experiences, sometimes to the point of being crudely autobiographical, I must say.
What are your main concerns as a writer?
To write in a manner that is believable... to be authentic... to write in a manner that people can relate to.
Perhaps this explains why I only write fiction when I have to. I no longer write for the sake of writing.
Like Nhamo, the character in "The Poetry Slammer", from the collection Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe, my biggest challenge is the balancing act between finding time to write while working full-time in the financial services sector. It’s never an easy road.
Do you write every day?
I don’t write every day but I read every day. And when I write it is never structured - there is no formula. I let the chips fall where they may. At any given time, I usually have several incomplete stories that I am working on.
I haven’t published a full book yet but I have published a number of stories in various online and print media.
My latest short story, "The Poetry Slammer" was published in early August as part of amaBooks' latest collection of short stories, Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe. I cannot remember how long it took me to write the story but because I wrote it for submission to a literary competition, the story can’t have taken much time to write.
An earlier short story of mine had been one of the top ten stories in the Intwasa Short Story Writing competition in 2007 organized by amaBooks in Bulawayo, so amaBooks was the natural destination for "The Poetry Slammer".
Though largely fictional, "The Poetry Slammer" draws significantly from real events and places. Under those circumstances, the challenge was to be faithful to the zeitgeist – the true spirit of those events and places because some people who went through the experiences on which the short story is based may read the story one day. I had to do quite a bit research in order to deal with that concern. For instance, when I was writing the short story, I actually visited the Book Café for the House of Hunger Poetry Slam in order to get into the right groove, and I remember chatting to Chirikure Chirikure one night in the Mannenberg Jazz Café.
I enjoyed writing every bit of "The Poetry Slammer", not only parts of it. I wanted it to be different from anything I had written before in terms of style, plot and characterization.
What will you be working on next?
Interestingly, or maybe strangely, it will not even be a work of fiction. It will be a collection of my NewsDay banking and finance articles written over a period of more than a year, tentatively titled Banking Insights from an Economy in Transition.
What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
Not giving up on writing... staying true to my craft in spite of the odds heavily staked against writing.