In Conversation with: Valentine Makoni

My Name is Valentine Makoni. In my head, I am a full-time debater, part time student and public speaker by accident.

I am a sapiosexual, who finds joy in being a prolific and unapologetic composer of WomenCrushWednesday posts. I have little stamina for books, so poetry is my reading of choice. I am a hip-hop head, I stan hard for Kendrick Lamar, Eminem and Run the Jewels.

Words are awesome.

What is your proudest achievement?

It has to be winning Debate Open Challenge 2017 at the Lupane State University. It’s the biggest debate competition in the country and after always being the groomsman (3 time losing finalist) it felt good to be the groom.

What do you hope people will take away from reading your poetry/short stories?

I hope they find the expression that lives within all of us. I don’t think creative writing is an elitist concept – say like Actuarial Science. I think we need to approach it like fried chicken. Most of us can make fried chicken! Some are KFC; some are a gourmet restaurant in Paris and some are Mai Nhingi’s kitchen!

The idea is that in the ordinary ways we go about life there is beauty, pain, joy, lessons and ideas that we can see, and we should find the creative outlet to express that. This is how I do it, and I hope others get inspired to do so too.

What makes your writing unique?

Honesty. I generally hate branding lol. I feel that what separates me from other writers is I unapologetically approach the human aspect of the lived experience. For example, I would believe most men have women they are attracted to, but it sounds ridiculous and absurd to tell 49 of them that. In public!

I am not a technically gifted writer with barely any formal training outside O level English, so I am still learning some of the mainstream or common approaches. But, I do imbue my work with honest emotion and trust that to resonate.

Who inspires your work?

The women of Zimbabwe arts scene make me want to quit!! Lol They don’t inspire me, they scare me with how brilliant they are. Uzah from Nobuntu, Blacklilly, Tinashe Tafirenyika Poetry, Kapitol (the Mongolian teletubbie), Rae lyric, Tinaye, Blazingsane, Kganya, VeraZw, Mneka, Nomthie… they are are so many and they are so excellent!

But, after I am done being in awe of what they do, I do get some ideas and go explore that a little more.

Do you have a favourite genre?

That’s a hard question to answer hey. I guess I am a mood person with eclectic taste, so I just respond to whatever may interest me. I think the only 2 genres that I don’t like are horror and sci-fi. (boo-hoo lol) I just think the world as it is so interesting that I don’t see why we have to make up any fantasies about it lol.

How did you get into Creative Writing?

Social Media to be honest. When you are on twitter or Facebook often you subtly get these writing challenges. Comment on current affairs, have an opinion on a popular hashtag, share your personal story in a way that connects. So, I would just spend a little bit more time than most on composing what I wrote.

The WomanCrushWednesday posts got some very good feedback from the people and when they asked for it to be compiled into a book it made sense. Hence, my first release, #49Crushes- a Visual Album.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

This breaks all the rules of being creative, but I enjoy the feedback process the most. If I were to write about depression, I am happy when someone who has been through something reaches out and say they connected with my words. If I were to write a post on a muse who inspires me, I enjoy when they get happy and smile (or blush) because I have reminded them of the beauty they possess.

Describe a typical day in your life?

Wake up at 5 am and have a short prayer. Then its social media for the next two hours- responding to chats, composing messages, understanding what’s happening. Depending on the day of the week its school in the morning, debate / entrepreneurship / networking in the afternoon.

My favorite part of the day is when I chill and watching dating shows with my grandma in the evening. Especially “The Bachelor”!

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Fear is crippling. Fear is the enemy of happiness, of progress, of peace. I need to work on reducing the negative energy of fear in my life.

What is your view on the quality of the content produced locally?

I would say, it is good, but rarely exceptional. By that, I mean there are many exceptional artists, but I do not think they execute their talent as well as they should. Yes, partly that is because of the bad economy, and partly that is because good talent is diluted by even more mediocre expression, but we could do better. We can do better to support and champion that which is brilliant instead of being complacent with the average.

What song would you say is the soundtrack to your life?

This is soooo hard!!! Lol I will cheat

▪          Song soundtrack- Ngirozi by Winky D

▪          Album soundtrack- Melodrama by Lorde

▪          Artist Soundtrack- anything Kendrick Lamar

What can you expect from you this year?

First, going to continue to grow the #49Crushes movement. I did a show on the 8th of March at the Zimbabwe Academy of Music in Bulawayo. The plan is to have these shows in Gweru, Harare, Blantyre and Johannesburg within the next few months.

I have three books I am working on now. The next is called “The Muse inspired” and it will be a collection of short stories and poetry from the women of #49Crushes.

Who are your top 3 writers right now and why?

1)      Rae Lyric

2)      Tinashe Tafirenyika Poetry

3)      Blacklily

Basically, these women are flames. All flames! I like especially how they infuse poetry into visuals, music and other forms of artistic expression. Plus, their social media statuses are the best thing on the internet. Legit!

If you could give up anything for a year what would it be and why?

Fashion! Lol I suck at getting dressed up. I literally have 2 nice shirts, and they are the same design! Lol Can’t we all do blue jeans and black t-shirts for 1 year? No dressing up? We good? Cool. Let’s do it!

What is your favourite thing about being Zimbabwean?

Hope. I feel that we are a people of hope, especially during these transition periods right now. We are a people who strive and hope for an elusive utopia. To me, that is worth living for.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a good person. One of my friends always used to rib me about it, but I just think at the end of the day most of these accolades fade. At the end of the day, it is our spiritual and existential purpose to be good people.

What advice would you give to upcoming writers or those considering becoming one?

If you are still at the stage of considering becoming one, you will write some bad works. Often in some cases. The key to being better is to be self-aware and listen to the criticism, feedback and suggestions from people that know their stuff. I literally paid a professional editor (from the Nust Publishing hub) and my manuscript came back with more red ink than black! But, the idea was to learn, to grow and to produce better work and that is what we should strive for.

For upcoming writers who have put in the time, make things work for yourself. Collaborate, network, but do not depend on someone else to market your work for you. Build an organic audience of people that like what you do, no matter how small and then expand from there. 5 people that genuinely like your work are worth more than 1000 impressions from strangers who will forget about you tomorrow.

Social media (@valentinemakoni) (Valentine Makoni- Page) (@valentinemakoni)

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