Zukiswa Wanner

WORK/LIFE: Zukiswa Wanner — author

Zukiswa Wanner tells us about her working life


Zukiswa Wanner was born in Zambia to a South African father and a Zimbabwean mother. She  has written for the Sunday Independent, City PressMail & Guardian and other titles. Her third novel, Men of the South, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2011: Africa Region.

What are you working on at the moment?

I just completed my humour nonfiction Maid in SA and, as such, am taking a bit of a breather reading. I will be back at work in September as I complete the edits of my fourth novel, London cape town Joburg.

Describe your work space.

I work best from my bed with a pillow for support. I have a desk and a chair that I bought with all the good intentions of making a workspace but I only use the desk for depositing papers on.

What’s your most productive time of day?

After midnight and before seven in the morning.

How many words do you write in a day?

I don’t set out to write a certain number of words a day. When I am feeling inspired, I write. When I am not, I read or watch television. London cape town Joburg, for instance, was written in 28 days of little sleep. Also, for the record, when someone offers me a good amount of money to write something, I then definitely feel inspired and I write :-0

Do you first write by hand, or type?

No. I work directly on my laptop.

What do you do when you’re stuck, or not feeling creative?

I read, watch television, hang out with my partner and/or son.

How do you relax?

See above. Weather permitting, I have been known to go swimming too.

What has influenced your work?

I am inspired by contemporary South Africa and the number of stories in it. I am influenced by every book I have read. The badly written ones teach me how not to write, and the well-written ones teach me how I would like to write.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Lewis Nkosi and Moeletsi Mbeki told me the same thing at different times: “You must write fiction.” It was great advice because although I do write non-fiction too, I find fiction liberating.

Your favourite ritual?

I make a cup of rooibos, take my notebook (I tend to write little notes on what needs to be improved in a manuscript as I sit and watch telly), get into bed, drink my rooibos, put my laptop on and then decide, “nuuh. I would rather sleep”. Then I nap and only later on, wake up and write.

What’s the hardest thing about your job?

Chasing people for payment. It’s crazy. No publication can honestly claim in the last seven years I have been a full-time writer that they had to follow up with me because I had not met a deadline but I find myself calling to follow up on payments way after invoices have been submitted. I need a loan shark as a manager.

What do you dislike most about yourself?

Oh I am very comfortable in my skin and like everything about me.

What are you afraid of?

Mice and their relatives, rats. I read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four when I was to young and impressionable.

What advice would you give to people starting out in the same career?

This blogpost, and also that they should read widely.

What’s your greatest achievement?

Ask me this when I have won the Booker.



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