The Portfolio: Makanaka Mavengere-Munsaka

Life change: Makanaka Mavengere-Munsaka was an accountant but has now fulfilled her dream to be a writer. (Delwyn Verasamy)

Life change: Makanaka Mavengere-Munsaka was an accountant but has now fulfilled her dream to be a writer. (Delwyn Verasamy)

I was in accounting for 14 years and then I became a writer. I knew from the time I was a kid that I wanted to write books, but then life happened and I ended up in finance.

What prompted me to write was a friend of mine who, in 2010, sent me a message saying: “Makanaka, I am still waiting for the book.” It then prompted me to say: “You know what? I forgot about this dream I had to write this book.”

It also happened at a time when I didn’t know whether I was going through some postnatal stuff or what, because I had so many voices inside my head, literally. I used to write whatever it was down.
So I created the characters because I knew what the story was going to be. I knew that these ladies were not connected, so I needed the glue to make them exist in the same book, on the same pages.

I also had a domestic worker who came in twice a week and she would tell me what was happening in the next house. Then it clicked to me that if I have four fictional ladies who don’t know each other and this lady — the domestic worker in real life — is telling me what is happening in their houses, she is obviously also going to tell them what is happening in my house and so in real life I had to tread carefully around her but in my fictional world I had found the perfect solution and glue for my story. And the story of Maxine was kinda like my journey to say I am leaving accounting. So when she moves from this abusive relationship to go into town, it’s like me leaving accounting to venture into this unknown space of writing.

I didn’t have a degree in writing. The only thing that I had was the passion and the characters that I had already created.

So when you follow Maxine’s story and how she works with these different women and finding out all of these women’s stories, it’s kind of like a metaphor of what I went through.

Some of them were personal experiences but the book is not about me. There are certain aspects of situations that had happened to me that I just brought out. There were some stories that I heard on the train, some stories that I heard in the book club and when I was sitting with other ladies — the usual complaints that we’d have. It got to a point where, if I was driving, I would park on the side of the road to start jotting things down. I had receipts with stuff written on them. I had little books with so much stuff written in them so I could keep the information. Sometimes I’d have to go to the bathroom to record on my phone — or just write notes.

The only people who saw the dark side of me were my children, when I was taking them to school or in the night. It was either I would just start talking on my phone or just start writing.

Makanaka Mavengere-Munsaka is the author of Perfect Imperfections (Blackbird Books)

Makanaka Mavengere-Munsaka

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