Profile of Storymoja
Storymoja was formed by a collective of writers who are committed to publishing contemporary East African writing of world-class standard. A reading nation is a smarter nation. To read our own stories helps us understand ourselves and that knowledge empowers. To that end, we source widely to identify good local writers, help them publish and distribute the work locally and internationally. We also commission writing based on interviews with those affected by issues that shape our society.
By the end of 2013, Storymoja will have published, in print and/or digital versions:
– Twenty one books for adults under the Storymoja imprint
– Seventy four children’s books under the Storyhippo and Storykiboko imprints
– We also market and distribute books on behalf of other publishers and individuals.
Our motto is to ‘Get a book in every hand.’ Growing Kenya’s reading culture is Storymoja’s mission as it feeds our business, our personal call as writers, and our patriotic duty. To that end, we organize an annual international literary festival in Nairobi every September and initiated the Start a Library campaign to stock books in schools that do not have libraries, as well as other reading-promotion campaigns.
Key campaigns projects that Storymoja has initiated and/or executed:
- Read Aloud National Record setting day. We intend that Kenya break a world record in reading. On the day of the African child in 2011, over 84,000 children read aloud from the same script to set a national record. In Jan 2013, just before the elections, over 79,000 children participated, reading aloud for peace from an excerpt of Attack of the Shidas , a book that drives the message that unity is strength. The next read aloud day will on Monday 17th June, 2013, in honour of the Day of the African Child.
- Storymoja Hay Festival. In this annual festival held in September, over 5000 people, including international and local writers, thinkers and personalities gather over three days in Nairobi to participate in a range of debates, discussions, talks/interviews, workshops and competitions. The main objective of the festival is to stimulate interest in ideas and books, and to celebrate knowledge. Ben Okri, Vikram Seth, Dinaw Mengistu, Lola Shoneyin, Benjamin Zephaniah, Yung Chang, Ory Okolloh are some of the famous international writers and thinkers who have graced the festival.
- 2008/2009 Nairobi Spelling Bee drew on competitors from 28 primary schools around Nairobi and was aired on Citizen TV. This competition was modeled on the American Spelling Bee and was sponsored by Henkel.
- After the post-election conflict, we worked with a children’s psychologist to develop peace workshops based on our book, Land of the Kitchen, that we rolled out to children representatives from the 200 primary schools in Nairobi. Our key partners in the project were UN Habitat and the Nairobi City Council.
- We launched a ‘Kenya Get Reading Campaign’ in 2007 with a media breakfast at which writers engaged with media representatives to discuss issues inhibiting our reading beyond exams. We persuaded many writers to submit articles that subsequently appeared in various newspapers, publications and online.
- Start a Library. To generate interest in reading, and facilitate greater access to books, Storymoja initiated this campaign in 2012 to encourage the public and companies to donate books to stock libraries in primary schools that do not have such facilities or have too few books for their student bodies. To date, the Start a Library team has installed 11 libraries in primary schools.
- Reading Revolution Campaign. The new knowledge economy requires critical thinking and creative skills, which are best developed through reading books from an early age. This campaign employs reading revolutionaries who make stimulating presentations to parents and teachers, in schools, functions and at events, to challenge and persuade them to bond with children by reading and discussing stories together.
- Writing workshops. We train aspiring writers to improve their craft skills and to develop books and stories. Most of our children’s books emanate from these workshops. We train in both corporate and in-house settings. A recently completed six-month workshop involved training eight university students to write contemporary stories now being used in a graphic version to train teenagers on conflict resolution and peace building online.
- Ongoing Storytelling in Primary schools. Our storytelling team regularly visits schools in greater Nairobi to excite them about stories. This is a popular ongoing programme with both teachers and children. We also arrange for author visits and Q&A sessions at schools.
- Cut Off My Tongue on stage. We successfully staged this show, based on the famous book of poetry by Sitawa Namwalie, in Kenya, Uganda and the UK. The book/show tackles issues of identity, tribalism, land, community and love.
- The Matatu from Watamu Drove into the Sea. This is a musical theatre production with an environmental theme – marine conservation – was performed as a pilot in May 2010 with children from a low-cost Government School, Arya Primary in Ngara. Fifty percent of the funding for the pilot production of this musical was covered through the Changamoto Fund.
- Universities Storytelling Competition. IN 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, we conducted storytelling competitions in 70 tertiary institutions around greater Nairobi. The finals were held at the Storymoja Hay Festival. The competition has helped past winners launch careers in journalism, performance arts – television and theatre, and creative writing. The most famous alumni is Eric Omondi, the comedian, who won our first storytelling competition while still a student at Daystar University. The powerful story he told is now published as a children’s book ‘In the Land of the Kitchen’
Key Storymoja Personnel
Monity Odera is the Managing Editor. She has many years of experience working in leading educational publishing firms serving the East African market.
Muthoni Garland is the resident writer and lead brand ambassador. She writes and edits children’s books, runs writing workshops on behalf of Storymoja for individuals and companies, and makes motivational presentations about the power of reading. Her writing has been published in literary journals and newspapers in USA, UK, South Africa and Kenya, and her novella, Tracking the Scent of My Mother, was shortlisted for the 2006 Caine Prize.
Aleya Kassam is the Producer of the Storymoja Hay Festivals, which are organised in partnership with Hay Festivals (UK). She is an avid reader and has organised many workshops to inspire parents to read with their children.
Anne Eboso heads the Start a Library team. Apart from her passionate commitment to rousing the public to donate books for schools, Anne is deeply involved in reading initiatives in her rural home area – Rusinga Island.
Millie Dok heads the Reading Revolution team. She is a published writer of children’s stories and an avid reader, particularly of African writers. She is passionate about driving the message that reading widely is critical to children’s future success.
Juliet Maruru is the engine behind Storymoja’s social media presence. She is a published writer and editor, who teaches and inspires others, especially children. Juliet also runs the Princess Project (Kenya) which mentors teenage girls.
Roy Wekoto is the Finance and Operations Manager. He is a certified accountant with many years of experience.
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