07 Jun Wr. Tom Mwiraria: Out of the Bank, into the Ink!
By Wr. Vera Omwocha
Tell us a little about yourself
Thank you. I graduated from MMUST in 2010 with a Bachelor’s in Business Management. I worked at a bank for 1 year then quit and registered Optlinx Writers to offer writing services. Currently, I am doing consultancy – grant advisory for some non-profit organisations including Magadi Soda Foundation, Ghost writing under Optlinx. I’m the Founder of ‘Friends of Green Earth’-a Community Based Organisation intervening on food security and environmental threats. I am also Short Story Writer at Kasoma Africa, and an affiliate of Writers Guild of Kenya.
Does writing pay?
It pays tremendously. It is the best thing that happened to me.
How is it like writing for startups, nonprofit organizations and corporates?
It is very sustainable because the work will be consistent. But one must develop skills such as blogging, proposal writing, copywriting, web design, SEO, and master as many types of business writing and use proceeds to fund creative writing especially if one is just starting. If you invest from the non-fiction to fiction it will pay in the short run or long run.
You will make it big because they are lazy, busy, bored and monied, and there is a need to be solved. I also realized it takes the same amount of energy to do a big project that it takes to do small ones. Between 2012-2014, I did so many small projects and they really burned me out.
How do you source for clients for Optlinx?
Sourcing for clients is an integral approach and it is a skill you perfect. First, I do a great job and the happy client becomes my marketing apostle. I also advertise online and outdoor. Business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. Confidence and publicity at every occasion is key.
I have learned that a writer should also try and learn how to pitch and market him or herself as a brand. Confidence is key, then outer branding. That is an icing on the cake.
What has been your writing journey like?
I was aching with writing ever since I can remember. In high school I would help dudes pen those love notes to their high school sweethearts and they would pay me by sharing some avocados during lunchtime. Then after high School I suffered a massive heartbreak. I decided to vent up by writing instead of jumping from the 10th floor of anniversary towers. I was unleashed. I also read avidly.
Are you published yourself?
Yes. My first book –Beauty and Lamentations of African Wilds is published on Amazon. I was inspired by the events of 2014, when Tasao the tusker, the biggest elephant in the world was felled down by poachers’ bullets. The book laments about the obliteration of wildlife and wild lands, it is a wake-up call.
The second book-Enchanted Kenya profiles the majestic sceneries in our 47 counties, and the unwritten history.
My third book ‘Black wind blowing ‘ is now published and available in print, and as an eBook on Smarshqords.com
What challenges do you face as a writer?
My challenges in literary journey are catalogical. The lovesick vent up was an anthology of 300 poems. Armed with it, I came to Nairobi looking for a publisher. One publisher toppled with laughter upon looking at it and declared it gibberish, I was never discouraged. When I quit the bank job to write, my mom dispatched a delegation of elders to interrogate my sanity, she said I had let her down. I was, however, unperturbed.
Does she support your cause now?
Yes, she now encourages me. They first doubt, then slowly they believe. Even my fiercest naysayers have started congratulating me. One must put himself or herself on fire and they will come to see you burning.
What is your advice to writers who are not able to identify which category works for them, especially for starters?
My advice is, focus on the area you are passionate about. As time goes by, you will develop interest in more areas. Sometimes you are forced to do what you don’t like so that you can fund your creative writing. I have temporarily done that.
How come you always land massive opportunities writing opportunities and you are so generous to share?
It is the law of attraction. I share and it comes back. Once someone sends me a very promising opportunity for writers, I will post it here. I also use Google accurately by use of specific keywords. If you type ‘writing opportunities’ you will drown into a sea of scam .Use nicely coined keywords. Also subscribe to magazines and opportunities will be delivered right into your inbox
Also following other writers on Instagram and Twitter thus creating for yourself a community of sharing.
What is your favourite part about being a writer?
Freedom. Freedom to work from anywhere. Freedom of expression, and I must say it pays if done consistently. Also being crazy and the readers not understanding whether it’s you or your characters.
When did you realize it was time to leave the corporate world?
It is like love. I realized I was in the wrong relationship. Initially, I was infatuated but projecting 5 years I realized I would be seriously stunted. As a Christian I also believe in the parable of talents. I had to use my talent else it would be taken away. Also at the corporate I was insecure, losing a job could mean not surviving in Nairobi etc.
Do you think there’s a danger with not starting with formal employment at all?
Good planning is critical. My exit was not well planned so I suffered for six months. In those six months, I tried fruit farming but my fruits were eaten by pests, others were as small as pimples, others nasty. I also tried motivational speaking at secondary schools. Unfortunately, I didn’t look motivated myself, my shoes were dusty after climbing the nine hills of Meru, and when I entered the school compound, I looked like someone who badly needed a feeding programme. I learned from that, branded myself, bought tools of work, took a temporary job as a recruiting consultant and juggled with writing till I was a bit stable then quit.
So juggling writing and a day job can work, if you work for a nonprofit the better because you will have time to write. I believe juggling writing and a job is a great way to start till you are more established.
How do you sell yourself?
We are not all natural sales ninjas but there are a number of platforms where one can advertise their work. Also, an impressive job markets itself. A client will call and insist you do the job and don’t delegate. Meaning a writer is a brand.
A writer needs to expand his or her circle so that once you are published they become your fans and actually buy your book. I did not formally launch all my books (I hope I will with WGK) but I sold over 500 copies of Enchanted Kenya in the first few weeks. It was bought by my schoolmates from primary, secondary, campus and my past clients. You can also build a fan base online by posting your stories and they can’t wait to read your complete work. Pia salimia watu on-line, build friendships, be concerned about them, one day they will appreciate your work. Well you don’t get concerned about them so that they can buy your book but if they do ni Baraka.
When enchanted Kenya was out I would meet over tea or uji with a reader, sign the book, take a photo together and they would tag me. I got almost 1000 new fans, it became organic.
What are your interests, other than writing?
My interests are delivering good news, carving soaps, wind gazing, moon bathing, nature adventures and photography.
Walking in the moon, smiling at moon, letting moonshine envelope you with splendor.
Single or taken?
A difficult one. I am climbing Mount Kenya to meet her at the top, a bald nun.
Previously, we broke up because she told me a story and I said it was as funny as hell ‘you think hell is funny eh! ‘she asked angrily . A few minutes later we saw a cat crossing the road and I said cats are stupid. ‘You call my cat stupid?’ She was so angry, we broke up.
Before I go, let me congratulate once again the Writers Guild family, thank you Gabriel. I am going to Addis Ababa on 10 June for Short Story Africa ID flow workshop. Gabriel posted the opportunity on Writers Guild facebook page and I took it up. I urge you to keep taking up the opportunities. God bless you all
Extremely resourceful, experienced and witty; that is Tom Mwiraria for you. From Writers Guild family, we wish him nothing but blessings as he sets to revolutionize the writing sector.
For more, Tom can be reached through:
Facebook: Tom Mwiraria