Ethiopia: A Young Novelist Aims High

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Mihret Adal Gidi is a young novelist based in Ethiopia. A student at the Kotebe University College, she recently authored her first book, 'Bleeding Hearts of a Butterfly'. Published by Austin Macauley Publishers based in London, Mihret dedicated her maiden book to her single mother, Dikitu Eshetu, who she says instilled in her the love of reading at a young age. She reflects with Samuel Getachew of The Reporter on the book, what inspired it and where she hopes the legacy of it would be. Excerpts:

The Reporter: Tell me about the new book?

Mihret Adal Gidi: Thank you for the opportunity you have afforded me. My book is basically a fictional novel. It is an easy to read 200-page book that can be enjoyed by anyone. The story is presented in first person narration as well as in third person narration. Hopefully, readers would fine it both entertaining and enlightening. But if you are asking me to tell you more, I will not (laughs). You would have to purchase it and read it yourself. It's available online, on e-book and is available in many stores throughout our nation. I am a first-time author and I am lucky to see it published by Austin Macauley Publishers in London. I hope it will inspire others to write and also read.

The book is about a young girl who faces many challenges, including family, love, confusion and friendship. It's a twisted love story having exciting and thrilling plot points. It's a story about a nubile girl who moved to Chicago and made new friends.

This is your first book and you are still in school. That is a great achievement to have. What made you decide to write a book at such a young age?

I wanted to be a writer at such a young age. It is a passion passed on from my mother, who is an avid reader of many books. I grew up hearing narrations from her readings. Growing up, I fell in love with reading and I used to read anything and anything at all; I believe every book conveys a message and that is what each book meant for me.

I also had mentors, such as my uncle (Kassye Yonhannis) who encouraged me to write and read at a young age. Remember, I grew up with my mother. She raised me on her own and as a single mother, she did an amazing job. However, it was important to have male mentors in my life and my uncle was that person. He became my mentor, reading my drafts and commenting and building from it. You know, it's true when they say, parents and families are the first to witness their children dream. Anything they do or say makes the difference on a child's life in the future. So, my first push came from my family.

When I was younger; in high school, I used to write short stories and once I reached grade eleven and twelve the habit escalated into fantasy stories. With my two childhood friends, we used to talk passionately about books. Whenever my teachers gave us writing assignments, we used it as an opportunity to improve our writing skills and be exposed to the writings of others.

Later on, once I became an English Language and Literature major, I knew that was where my heart was. I figured out that I was in love with literature. There, I met with amazing instructors that further opened my eyes; that someone like me could have a future in writing; and that I could garner enough confidence to publish such a book. Let me just add, mentorship is such an important gesture for such a new writer. For me, I want to pay a special tribute to Andualem Hadero Selfako for being my inspiration as well as for taking the time to evaluate my first draft and Melkamu Yazachew for help me with editing it. I am now in the process of writing short stories.

If you can afford me a chance, I want to address the need of mentorship to young people in the nation. You know, there are few. I want people who have made it and move on a bit further, to be indebted to those who are not. Always be a mentor for others, especially, those that have little and have little opportunities afforded to them. That way, we can do our part as citizens of Ethiopia.

As a first-time author, what are some of the challenges when it comes to writing this book?

In general, despite how strongly interested or passionate we are with regards to achieving something, everything comes with its own challenges. Everything we all dream to become comes with a high invisible price that we feel and might be invisible for others as well. Starting a journey towards a dream requires courageous sacrifices and you invest much of yourself in actually achieving that dream. There are a few roadmaps others have left for you and you can easily emulate that.

For me, as a first-time author, I faced many challenges. First of all, it was hard to find someone who was willing to take risks and publish the book, especially one whose location is in London. It was hard to get the attention of publishers even in Ethiopia willing to publish a book from an unknown first-time author. For many, it's about the commercialized side of it and how much they can make out of it. There is little appetite to publish a book in English for an Ethiopian audience and that is easy to figure out. As well, it's always challenging to write in your second language.

The other challenge was to find ways to represent myself internationally. It took me longer than I anticipated it to be. But thankfully, everything worked out. But like everyone who is trying to break into the international audience and has a vision of seeing my books in the bookshelves of nations outside of Ethiopia, the absence of international payment system makes it all challenging. We should be able to go for global exposure if we are ready to put our nation's brand visible.

What is next for you?

That is an interesting question and I have thought about it often. First of all, it depends on the reaction of the book from readers when it comes to my role as a writer. I want to be able to grow my writing skills and hopefully earn a global audience and be among great international authors. I want to complete what I have started in literature and become one of the great women African authors who are making a name for themselves.

I have many more writings that will hopefully reach readers soon including the sequel to Bleeding Hearts of a Butterfly and a new horror fantasy novel. So, hopefully, you will be seeing a lot of me.

I also want to help others write and share with them my own experience. One has to know, you do not need to have exceptional connections or networking skills to be a published author, but the passion to write and the heart to learn from your own shortcomings and move forward.

When I started, the chances of failing and quitting were very high. I did not. I moved forward and despite all the challenges, I rose up. I hope people will also learn that from me and also attempt to write. I will always be accessible to those who want to have a conversation.

What do you hope the legacy of the book would be?

As I mentioned to you previously, I am passionate about books and I read lots of them regularly. I have done that almost all my life. I have spent lots of time reading and being inspired by it. When I grew up, my room was full of books that were quite different from each other. That experience exposed me to great things and helped me become a better person and hopefully a good writer with a great potential.

God willing, as any aspiring authors' hopes and dreams, I hope the book will be received well. If not, I hope people would give me good feedback that can help me improve on it and try again. No author reaches his or her greatness on the first book. I hear and I get that. In this book, I have given it my all and my very best.

I also hope the book will lead to great conversations about issues that matter to us all, as humans and as people. It is one thing to be a great author, but the ultimate goal of an exceptionally good writer is how much it inspires readers and starts important conversations on the ground.

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