Celebrating East African Writing!

New Media and Writing

I am hardly a web design techie, or a digital artist, or the leading expert in IT. As a matter of fact, though I have been forced by job demands to be an online Jackie-of-all-trades, my skills are not at all specialised in web design, graphic arts or IT. However, as a writer, I have accepted the fact that my creativity is required not just in the arrangement of words into script that communicates, maybe even entertains, but also in learning and using new methods of presentation that are constantly challenging the modern professional.

I have spent the last few weeks brainstorming and working ideas with a newly published author, James Penhaligon. His book Speak Swahili Dammit! is a personal account of his first 15 years growing up in a remote village in Tanzania. My experience with Storymoja has made it possible to be just a little more calm than James about exploring the online world with regards to both promoting his book, but also in finding media platforms on which to present his work.

The truth is, sometimes I feel like I am at the edge of a precipice and expected to launch into flight with a new version hand glider that I have not been allowed time to learn its functions, limitations and capabilities. Knowing how I feel about heights and flying, well, you would understand the apprehension and fear.

Today’s journalists are required to learn how to write for the emerging, “live web” media platforms of tomorrow that are being driven by the social media technology. Public relations professionals aim to communicate with the journalists and social media communicators of tomorrow in language and in formats that are familiar and useful to them, so that they can in turn better communicate the information and news provided to the communities they serve.

Writers have not been left behind. I have written here before about how writers and publishers can utilise social media technology – Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, You-tube, etc – in promoting and marketing their work as well as themselves as professionals and companies.

But that is not the complete picture of new media in writing.

What is New Media? In my opinion, New Media is simply continued reinterpretations of traditional media in various formats which in time becomes a revolution in technology, creativity and thinking.  What distinguishes new media from traditional media is not the digitizing of media content into bits, but the dynamic life of the “new media” content and its interactive relationship with the media consumer. This dynamic life, moves, breathes and flows with pulsing excitement in real time.

The new media industry shares an open association with many market segments in areas such as software/video game design, television, radio, and particularly movies, advertising and marketing, which seeks to gain from the advantages of two-way dialogue with consumers primarily through the Internet.

Since long before Shakespeare, writers had applied themselves to writing everything from fictional prose and poetry, to theological discussions and even drama scripts. Theatre groups and individual actors then applied themselves to interpreting the written word into acted plays in front of theatre or village audiences. Music was added and spin offs made the village dances, or over in the northern hemisphere, the Opera. This was reinterpreted again and again, and the first motion pictures shown in a “movie theater” in America were presented to audiences on April 23, 1896, in New York City.

Screen actors in the early days of Hollywood were mostly professional theatre actors who were experiencing droughts in their careers. Many of them were actually ashamed to be appearing in what some people believed to be a passing fad. The actors were usually paid five dollars a day and never received on-screen credit.

Out of that were born the greatest films in time, and some really bad ones, and everything else in between. The more technology has developed, the more writers, actors and musicians have had to reinvent themselves.

When I talk of writers today, I do not only refer to the likes of Ngugi wa Thiongo or William Faulkner; Wole Soyinka or Ralph Ellison; Miriam Tlali or Susan Sontag (these are not comparisons, just mentions for variety). Most of  the above mentioned writers were academics and very likely political or social activists, which would explain the common assumption by many that writers are absent minded academia who like to take up placards and go against the riot police.

The truth is that writers today encompass news writers, social bloggers, tech writers/bloggers, columnists – print and online, screen writers, and the list is endless. And as with any form of creative and intelligent expression, the media for presentation continues to evolve. Well, sometimes it does feel that I have blinked and time has jumped about 50 years ahead without warning. I have to keep updating my knowledge, sometimes looking for tomorrow’s technological information and applications, and at the same time using up what skills I have acquired this morning to do my work this afternoon.

That is a challenge all writers must accept. Perhaps the scope and range of the demands upon a writer will vary from one writer to the other, depending on their field or specific contracts. Of course, should you have the ability, you could hire new media professionals to handle your needs. But the truth is, for any work to be satisfactorily your creation, you must be involved in every step of its creation, which therefore leaves you with two options; learn the possibilities, as well as the skills needed to produce your work in the formats required of you by your target audience and market, or allow yourself to be so uninformed that you cannot produce material that is relevant and in demand in the modern writers’ market. So go out there, troll the internet, buy some magazines, take some classes. I assure you, the quest for information turns into exciting inspiration only if you dare.

The quest for information turns into exciting inspiration only if you dare.

As you make your choice, allow me to introduce this week’s stories. The Stories below were entered into the Storymoja/Generation Kenya – Kenyan Conversations Contest last week. Please read them, and vote on them to choose the story that will be entered into the Kenyan Conversations Final Judging Round.

A War Within: Gradually, Muthwiri was able to lure a naïve Aziza into his room at the security post and they had sex. With Aziza, a brief moment of passion..

‘I didn’t do it’: At night I rehearsed the long speeches I would attack him with the following day. Quoting lines like ‘Give Caesar what belong to Caesar’ som…

God has Nothing to do With it: “I don’t care if I have to sing that ATM machine a love song; it just has to cough up some money today. I swear I will sing it Mrina wanje..

The Man in the Dark Suit: The very first time I saw him I envied him. He was the picture of sophistication, and at the back of my mind there was a stirring of …

The Kenyan Conversations Contest is almost over, with just 4 more weeks left to run. That means just 8 more pictures left. Remember, when you see the photos up, you can comment on the blog under the picture on the Storymoja Blog or Send in a story or dialogue that is not more than 500 words long to Clearly mark in the subject Contemporary/Kenyan Conversations (Insert Number indicated)

Have a look at the contest guidelines here before you send in your piece. All entries that do not adhere to contest guidelines will not be published.

The prize details are as follows:

1st Prize: 2000/-, 2 Storymoja books and 1 complimentary day pass to the Storymoja Hay Festival

2nd Prize: 1500/-, 1 Storymoja book, and 1 Complimentary day pass to the Storymoja Hay Festival

3rd Prize: 1000/-, and 1 complimentary Day Pass to the Storymoja Hay Festival

3 complimentary day passes for best comments on the pictures.

Be Part of the Kenyan Conversation! For more details, write to


2 comments on “New Media and Writing

  1. mehul
    August 24, 2010

    When are Nos 15 & 16 being unleashed? I would like to try this out.


  2. Storymoja Africa
    August 25, 2010

    No 15 up, No 16 coming up on Thursday.


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This entry was posted on August 22, 2010 by in Writing and tagged .
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