Sixteen-year-old Anesu Mukombiwa is one of the few young writers who have managed to get published whilst still at school.
Mukombiwa's courage and talent came to be known in 2014 when she, as a thirteen year old, published her debut teenage novel titled "Genetic Twists" (Darling Kind Publishing). Bookshelf caught up with the Dominican Convent School student to find out what she has been up to.
"Readers can expect truly great things, with this new book of mine coming up. I know it will be a game changer in the Zimbabwean publishing world. Nobody has written something like this, not even my publisher who is also a great visionary writer. Trust me, this will be epic. I just hope with school and all, I will manage to get it right as I imagine it," she said.
Although she could not reveal the title of her new book, the small details she confidently gave about it arouse some curiosity. The work in progress is a sci-fiction novel she described as "much bigger, much detailed to a greater proportion, something very ambitious and unique".
Although Mukombiwa can now shine for having published "Genetic Twists" as a student, she had to fight against certain odds normally faced by students who have a dream to be great writers.
"It is definitely hard being a young writer. Most people don't take you seriously and you wish for more support, especially from schools," said Mukombiwa.
The difficulties faced by student writers in Zimbabwe include lack of enough technical advice and platforms to showcase writing talent. Online publishing has played a part in encouraging young writers but it is limited in granting them an opportunity to share their writings with other students in disadvantaged areas to whom reading the physical book written by a fellow student is an awesome experience.
Mukombiwa, who has been a student at Dominican Convent from primary and is now doing lower six at the same school, and others of her age, fear that they may not be 'welcomed' out there as young writers once they leave school.
It is true that at school the young writers have supportive peers and teachers with whom they can share their writings and get honest criticism. However, the young writers might not yet be aware of local writers' organizations and publishers there to cater for young writers' needs.
"I really encourage schools where young writers learn at to really support them in many ways. It's sad some schools don't do this and many young writers lose faith or hope in their writings. We need to be motivated, we need support," Mukombiwa said.
Her plea for support also brings back memories of the long gone exciting reading moments when The Standard, a local newspaper, in partnership with Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust used to run the Cover to Cover Story Writing Competition for schools and published a magazine showcasing stories by students from various schools. Admittedly, projects for young writers in schools offer invaluable stepping stones.
"Genetic Twists" confirms the truth stated in the 2013 issue of Cover to Cover magazine by Culture Fund executive director Farai Mpfunya that "literature by children, from a children's point of view, offers us insight into their hopes, anxieties and aspirations".
In this fast-paced story, young Mukombiwa displays the power of her creative imagination as she shows through scene by unexpected scene the unfair realities which life presents to the young characters.
In a society where people are sharply divided into two social groups, the poor and the rich, Greta, the thirteen year old main character, refuses to be downtrodden and together with her young brother, she suffers for it.
Domestic violence robs the two young characters of their loving "mother". Tension rises when the two escape from home to embark on a journey to find their rightful father after discovering in a diary that they had been adopted.
If truth be told, the story in "Genetic Twists" reflects the children's natural desire to grow up in a peaceful home which then nurtures a sense of direction in their lives. There is no serenity for the young characters in Mukombiwa's novel who suddenly find themselves lonely in a dark world in which they keep running but to a dead end.
To other young writers, Mukombiwa says, "Believe in yourself and your dreams. Never give up on who you want to be in life, write, write, and write. It is very important to have your work published, be known out there."