First Language(s): Ndebele
Second Language(s): English, Shona
Ethel is a Zimbabwean British writer. Her writing explores the experiences of African women at home and in the diaspora. Ethel’s writing has appeared in journals, including Short Fiction: The Visual Literary Journal, Isele Magazine, Wasafiri Magazine, the University of Sheffield’s Route 57, and anthologies, including Volume-3 (Palm-Sized Press), We are not Shadows (Folkways Press), and Wretched Strangers (Boiler House).
What was your favorite book as a child?
My favourite book as a child was The Arabian Nights. The stories brought a world that was so alien, and yet so relatable. I grew up in Zimbabwe before TV. We didn’t own many books but sat around the fire in the evenings and listened to stories from our parents and older siblings. I first learnt of James Bond from an animated retelling of whatever Ian Fleming book one of my brothers had managed to borrow from his teacher, for example. I can’t quite remember how we had acquired them, but we owned a copy of My Little Book of Bible Stories, some Mwari Anoda Vanhu (God Loves People) pamphlets and a beautifully illustrated copy of The Arabian Nights. I read through our catalogue voraciously and repeatedly, but it was The Arabian Nights that enthralled me for many afternoons while I waited for the evenings.
What was the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
I started writing to process my experiences of living in the diaspora. I sought a way to make sense of my experience of leaving home and starting anew in a foreign country, a continent away from home. I was looking for a way to capture and concretise these experiences. I also wanted to improve my English. In 2007, I enrolled on a Creative Writing Certificate course at the University of Sheffield’s Department for Lifelong Learning and have stuck with writing it since.
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
Leaving my life in Zimbabwe behind to start a new life in a new country without planning was the most adventurous thing I’ve done. Also, every time I finally let a piece of writing go and submit it, it feels like an adventure. I get a mix of nervousness, expectation and euphoria like I imagine bungee jumpers must feel just after they let go to hurtle off the craggy cliffs of Mosi oa Tunya into the crocodile-infested waters of the Zambezi. So, I guess sending my work off into the unknown, not knowing what the response will be, makes me adventurous.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
I listen to music while creating new work but prefer working in silence for editing. So I have created a playlist, “Unapologetically Black,” which I play when I want to push myself to focus and not give up. It keeps me motivated not to give up. I have Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Cynthia Erivo, Hugh Masekela, and Miriam Makeba, just to name a few. The music keeps me grounded and provides positive encouragement while I’m working.
Watching and Praying
Issue Spring '23