It is always so fascinating when a young person becomes an author and releases their first book. This is what Cover2Cover works so hard to accomplish. With the mission of getting the youth reading for pleasure, Cover2Cover identifies potential writers, mentors them – then provides some of them with an opportunity to publish their stories. One story such as this is that of Anathi Nyadu.
This is not Anathi’s first accomplishment in the publishing world. He broke into the literary scene with his quirky, exciting and readable story, ‘In my Hands’, which is featured in the anthology #LoveReading. With his book ‘Heart of Stone’ as one of Cover2Cover’s latest releases, we were all too eager to chat to him about the road leading up to this.
Growing up in the Eastern Cape and then Kimberly, how did you imagine your future as a young child? Is it at all similar to what you had initially expected?
I don’t think as a child I had any idea what it was I was expecting of the future, like what I wanted to do or be. As a child one is merely concerned with the activities of being – which include amongst other things playing with friends, eating and falling asleep whilst watching television and waking up the next morning in bed. The future is distant then. It was my sister who could envision what the future held for me. She used to refer to me as a journalist. This was due to the fact that I loved reading, magazines, and newspapers and because I always had an information on what was going to happen next in the soapies. Thanks to TV Plus and Daily Sun.
It was only in Grade 12 after I had received my marks that I started thinking about what I wanted to do and by then I was already in love with literature. And most of my literary heroes had been journalists and since the university I was enrolled in did not offer courses in literature and creative writing, I chose Journalism.
Who were the people in your life that changed and shaped you? How did they do this?
My teachers. I’ve always had the luck of teachers who believed in me and therefore boosted my self-confidence in amazing ways. I was once chosen to join the school drama group – and it was there where my love for writing was birthed. I edited a scene and everybody loved it. It was in this Drama group that I met Mr. Aaron Shabalala who then mentored me and introduced me to writing properly.
In 2013, I met Zimkhitha Mlanzeli of FunDza – who also believed immensely in my writing capabilities. She entrusted me with the responsibility of writing the Zinzi diary and that’s where I got my 3 years of training to be a writer.
Heart of Stone has a gang-related theme. And you yourself had experiences with gang related activities while you were young. What prompted you to stop and get out of that lifestyle?
I wouldn’t say I was part of a ‘gang’ in the true sense of the word. It was delinquency, I think. If I had stayed longer I would have graduated to the gangs. I remember once, we had followed a guy walking alone at night into a bush and had threatened that we would stab him if he didn’t give us all the money he had. He only had R2. The next day the two friends I was with were in trouble for what we had done the previous night and I saw that as my cue out of that kind of lifestyle. I saw that if I didn’t get out of it soon, it’ll really swallow me and I would struggle to wriggle my way out of it. It was a monster. It had swallowed some of my friends who were already in prison or have passed away prematurely.
Your parents passed while you were quite young – are there any other similarities between you and the character?
The character loses his mother and moves to Cape Town. After my mother’s death I also moved to Kimberley to start Grade 1. He also loves reading. The story, however, comprises of the things that bother me as a human being, the things that I care about, the things I’ve seen, heard and some even experienced personally. As a fiction story, I made sure that I do not lift passages from the pages of my own story and experiences and project them as my character’s life. I used my observations of life and what I’ve experienced being alive as to imagine the story of Khanyisile and his father, Matchstix.
How would you say that reading, writing and getting an education has changed your life?
Reading has changed my life in that it has been the most constant thing about my life from a very young age. Most of what I know has been acquired through reading. It has made my understanding of the world better. It has granted me the rare chance of living life as other people than me. It has allowed me to see perspectives of other people and how they live and experience life.
Education is the key to a life and experience that not so many in our communities have access to. This is one of the reasons I had no doubt that when students were fighting for free education in universities in South Africa they were fighting a necessary and good fight. Access to education grants one access to opportunities and experiences of meeting people from different walks of life and a better understanding of life and how people relate to each other in both local and global contexts.
June 16th has just passed, and it’s Youth Month – what advice would you give to the youth?
My advice to the youth is always to read. I don’t think this can be said enough. It is not a secret that the youth find reading boring and can only be done in the confines of a classroom, and this is quite alarming. This mentality coupled with the fact that many homes do not have books and the lack of relevant library contents has bred a culture of people who live entire lives thinking that nothing is as useless as reading a book. This type of thinking is passed down. We as a society need to take an active role in changing this culture. Which is why I support organisations that have made it their business to promote and advocate a culture of reading in South Africa.