Your name and what do you do?
My name is Shufaa Yakut. I create content online. Communication, social media management etc. I am a writer, I write creative nonfiction and short stories.
I serve the community full time. Currently the senior administrator and communication director at swahilipot hub.
I manage all social media for Jaffery Academy Mombasa.
I vlog for YouTube sometimes. Currently been a bit active in Ramadhan, check out https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNadGvM19HZZHqC3hq27K9A
Tell us about shufaayakut.com
shufaayakut.com is a website that has stories and articles which mostly favour the female young adult -soon to introduce kid’s stories too. It matured from shufaayakut.wordpress.com two years ago. Blogging was inspired by my lawyer friend, in around 2014-2015 who (sadly) no longer writes. I used to publish long notes and poems in Facebook until Carole started sharing links to me from her WordPress account. I thought it was a great idea and decided to download the WordPress App. From there, I met very many writers via Facebook, Instagram and events.
Recently found out that I write for young adults. I put myself in a teenager’s shoes and I feature her. We rarely read stories that these young adults in high school can relate to except for movies, which most contain controversial issues that other parents find offensive. Most teenagers read novels that are not of their age. I have realized there are no stories about the real things happening to the current teenage kids. These people read, they are always online so in as much I want it to look real, I try to make it cool for them.
I put myself in a lady attending a boring meeting so I write something for her too. A lady can multitask. The lady stuck in a traffic jam or you who can’t listen to a podcast, you are welcome.
What do you love the most about writing?
Writing is interesting. A writer has to be able to think like both a man and a woman, both a kid and an old person, both a sane and a mad person to achieve the message they want to communicate. This makes me research a lot and in the journey, learn a lot too. I find new strength in writing, especially being open about controversial topics. The prophet said there’s no shame in learning, that is why i am finding it now easy to call a spade a spade when I write. Initially I would hide words till I learnt the power of description. I haven’t fully gotten it but I am not where I used to be.
Do you prefer fictional writing or non-fictional?
Initially, I preferred non fiction because that was all that made sense to me. I did not believe in what does not exist. Recently I read BINTI, a science fiction book and found it interesting. It makes a reader more creative by imagining things and struggling it to make sense in the eyes of a reader. Being able to give life to a story and creating characters is becoming very interesting lately.
How many African writers book have you read? And what makes you keep on reading?
Quite a few, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nnedi Okorafor, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Elnathan Jones I think and a few more.
I have also read local writers from the country and from Mombasa e.g. Jj Lanji Ouko, Lubnah Abdulhalim, Nadia Naddy etc. It feels good reading the works of a person you have met or a person you can relate to.
Well, reading inspires me to learn the different writers’ brains/thoughts.
How do you get inspired to write?
Mostly by reading. Whenever I read, I get an idea to either write something similar or totally opposite. It jogs my mind and challenges my abilities. Sometimes movies and people’s stories. I have a lot of people’s stories to publish in my website, just watch what you say to me. (laughing). Very few times, I go look for inspiration from places where many people gather, like market places or Salon. Other times even in public transports. When you hear someone say “hii Kenya yetu Hii…” know there’s a story following and 60% of the people in the matatu will contribute.
Women in Mombasa are slowly emerging in different sectors, how can we use writing to tell the stories?
We can always come up with a page in a site to celebrate the success of women in Mombasa.
As writers in Mombasa, we need to take a woman’s success as our own individually. Applaud them even if it’s in a collective article. I believe in team work especially for victory. In one blog I.e life in Mombasa, every writer can contribute a sentence or two talking about one specific person’s success every month. This way, all of us will have a share in it and share it widely. We can introduce feature stories and interviews for the same too.
What are your future plans for your blog and writing journey?
I believe it’s every writer’s dream to publish a book one day. Those who have already published now wish to have their own publishing sites and maybe a library. Apart from wanting to publish my own story, I hope to publish a setbook in future. This will be read by generations to come, both book lovers and non-readers. Everyone will talk about it and teachers will use my work as examples. My works will not be easily forgotten. I want to capture people’s thoughts from when they are in school.
In the near future, I’m planning to introduce a kid’s section where I’ll be writing stories for kids and find a way to get them published in the local newspapers. I will be updating my website quite often and adding every new feature I learn, now that I have web development knowledge. I am also planning to create a subdomain for blogs about social media and content creation after Ramadhan in shaa Allah. I hope it works out as I have planned. Maybe, just maybe, I will add a shop page. I will be selling thrifted clothes when the need grows because people have been asking me where I get dressed, during events. 90% of the clothes are thrifted. So I’ll help a sister out.
What resources would you advice the youth to use to grow their passion, be it writing, acting, singing and or any skill they have?
The main one is using youth centers and safe spaces like Swahilipot hub and MTY impact hub. Here, they will meet people from all corners of life and grow in thoughts.
Second, attend events. Especially art related events for the talent lovers. Here you get exposed to people and the world.
Third, use their voices especially in events, talk to people more and build networks.
Finally, YouTube university. Do more research and allow yourself to make mistakes then correct.
If I could, I would advise my younger self to not be afraid of taking risks, not be afraid of the results and not be afraid of what the society will say. I would start the moment I thought about an idea.
Dare to do more than what you think you can.
Nobody is born wise. Let us read as much as we can and keep on learning. Prophet Mohammed (SAW) said, “Indeed, knowledge only comes by learning.”