Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Eritrean writer, @TesMekonnen, joins TheGlobalDig #crowdfunding

Illustration from Mekonnen's book:Happyland
Tes Mekonnen is with me to discuss the books he's written and his process as a writer. Tes came to America in 1990 at the age of four. He was born in Sudan, but considers himself Eritrean (a country on the horn of Africa) because his parents are Eritrean. They fled Eritrea because of war and trekked to a refugee camp in Sudan where they started a temporary life there then eventually came to America.

Tes, what have you written?
I’ve written  Blue Ivy Carter: A Little, Big Story. I wrote this story because I read an article where folks were attacking the appearance of a little girl—that little girl happens to be Blue Ivy Carter. What is wrong with folk? Even kids aren’t sacred on the Internet. Leave the kids alone—they don’t deserve your venom. I’ve also writtenThe Book of Teezus: Thus Spoke Me (a book of original quotes that comes in 2 versions), and Happyland: A Fairy Tale in Two Parts—the book I am presenting today.

How much research do you do?
For the story? None. All the research pertains to post-story. After my story was complete, I decided to go self-published. It wasn’t really a decision, but more of giving up on traditional publishers because of the rejections. It is not the

rejection, but just the waiting. I wont continue sending my query letter in the hopes that a publisher will take a chance on me. I decided I wanted to be semi-proactive in getting my book in the form I want. There has been a huge learning curve with self-publishing. I didn’t understand how much work it takes to get a book in bookstore-form.

Tesfahiwet Mekonnen picture (above)
The whole process required researching. I had to find a credible editor, Kelli Agodon, to edit my original manuscript. When you’re a naïve writer—you cannot take criticism, but I was able to put my Ego aside and go through 2 rounds of exhaustive editing. She was the objectivity I needed. I have a newfound respect for editors—they are the unsung heroes. I had to find my own illustrator, so I posted an ad and sifted through a bunch of flaky illustrators and annoying writers. Do not tell an illustrator that you will give them royalties in lieu of payment for illustrations. 50% of nothing is nothing, my friend. That is my pet peeve. You have to respect the illustrator. I posted an ad on CL and Anthony Resto responded from Indiana. That required some serendipity. I asked for a quick sketch and as soon as I saw his drawing of Lily Marshmallow, I needed to have him for my book.

 I had to research prices and I learned about having a proper contract for the illustrations. I had to copyright my work, I had to layout my book, and I had to create the blurb. All this required some research. It was and still is frustrating. I didn’t know that each edition of the books needs an ISBN. I didn’t know about ePUB and. mobi files. I didn’t know I needed a fixed layout for my eBook because of all the illustrations. The learning never ends. Self-published books get a bad rap because of the quality. I tried to present a work that can compete with a big publisher—quality-wise. That is it. As a writer, you finish a story and think that is all. I apologize for the word vomiting. So…yeah…there was some research.

Do you work on an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

I like a very skeletal outline. And then I fill it in with a bunch of stuff. I like the idea of spontaneous prose. I like to let it flood out. I am an all-over-the-place writer. If I am not inspired to write—I won’t or cannot write. I like letting an idea take me to different places and see what sticks.

Do you let the book stew and move on to a different project?
Forget stew, I let it ferment till I get drunk enough to write. I am just joking. I don’t like forcing anything. I am not really a disciplined writer. I don’t wake up a 9 a.m.and start writing till a certain time. I can’t do that. I wish I were able to that. I get ideas and let it stay in my head. If it is a quality idea, I jot it down. Happyland was frustrating because it was more imaginative and it exhausted me. I like working on different projects. I got frustrated with Happyland, so I started The Book of Teezus. Since it is a book of quotes, it didn’t require that much time. I was able to compile quotes. I have a couple half-cooked ideas that I might explore later.   

What is your favorite movie and why?
Manchester by the Sea is my favorite recent movie. Something traumatic happens in life and some of us can’t shake it. That is why I love it. The character goes through something outright devastating and he is burdened with so much fucking guilt. Even with the passing of time, he just can’t get over it. “I can’t beat it,” is the line that always gets me. Something happens in life and we are expected to get over it, but some of us cannot. That is what is so fucking human about the movie. It really gets me. I’ve been through something and I never totally got over it and haven’t been the same since. We are not a hero even in our own life. I dig the movie because it triggers an abundance of emotion.

Let me thank Tesfahiwet Mekonnen for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. I certainly hope you enjoyed this interview and found useful. Please leave your comments below as I would love to hear from you!

Contact Mekonnen:

Books Available at
Tes [my website] – Amazon author page


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