Friday December 7 was a very special day for me and this blog. This is the day that Pulse, the increasingly popular youth/entertaining magazine that comes out every Friday in the Standard, reproduced a review I had ran on Tony Mochama’s poetry book What If I am a Literary Gangster. The piece was treated as Special Edition in the Scene at column.
This was also the day that Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), through Lillian Inziani, invited me to their end of year luncheon held at the posh Nairobi Club. I checked in some minutes past one sufficiently hungry for the spread the ever resourceful Lillian had in store for us.
The first person I saw at the venue was OUP’s PR chief Esther Kantai, in the company of their marketing director John Kiarie and Kiswahili editor Hassan Said, who was appropriately dressed in a Kanzu, being a Friday.
The place was still in the process of being laid out but KPA chair Mrs Nancy Karimi, looking regal, (JKF MD) was already there, so was Eve Obara of KLB, a KPA council member. This was going to be an open-air function, as opposed to the closed-door affairs of previous years. Lillian, the KPA executive officer could be seen running around, obviously making sure that everything was in order.
I took a seat at the far left corner, directly facing the buffet table, where else! Soon, and in quick succession, I was joined by Treza Kinoru, EAEP’s PR girl, Brenda Anjuri, OUP’s production manager and Mary Mbuthia Macmillan’s Marketing manager. Clearly, I was not doing badly, what with all those beauties surrounding me. There was also Henry Munene, an editor at EAEP. Munene in Kikuyu means big, and clearly he is not exactly small! Gabriel Maina, the cool Savanis’ Marketing manager completed the picture.
Much later we were joined by Musyoki Muli, the Sasa Sema boss at Longhorn. Muli also turned out to be the event’s emcee, and he really did a good job of it. Next table sat Kiarie Kamau (KK) the quiet but highly effective editorial manager at EAEP, looking sharp like a pin. (he introduced himself only as editor. Kwanini unacheza na madaraka KK?) Louisa Kadzo, an editor at EAEP and the indefatigable one-man publishing machine Malkiat Sighn himself.
Behind me sat two other very tough publishing gurus, Simon Sossion of Longhorn and Muthui Kiboi of Focus. I gather they were in KU together. They must have been reliving some nostalgic college days.
Lawrence Njagi, the MD of Mountain Top later stepped in majestically in the company of his lovely wife and planted themselves at the high table. June Wanjiru, the marketing manager at Kwani? Completed the picture at the high table, which also had Jimna Mbaru, the NSE boss, who was the chief guest.
On the other side I could see beautiful Beatrice Nugi of Longhorn, as well as Peter Nyoro of Longman. Murori Kiunga of Queenex Holdings was also in the house. The trio of Paul Karaimu, Anne Mutua and Catherine Muraguri, had ably represented WordAlive Publishers, I wonder where their boss David Waweru was.
Once everyone was settled Mrs Karimi gave her speech, which highlighted the achievements KPA had chalked up in the year, which included the holding of a successful tenth Nairobi International Book Fair, and challenged publishers to aim for bigger things in the coming year.
It was now the time for Jimnah Mbaru to give his keynote address, which went on well, save from the little hitch of his Powerpoint presentation which most of us could not see because of too much light. He explained to those gathered what the NSE is all about and the various ways people can make money there.
Touching on the sensitive issue of Kenya’s sorry reading culture, Mbaru explained this could be due to the unfortunate culture among Kenyans who claim to have “finished” school after attaining a certain level of education, thereby putting an end to reading. Giving his own example, where he enrolled for a Law degree at the University of Nairobi, when he was in his fifties, he stressed that reading is a life-long commitment.
He challenged publishers to get out of the cocoon of text book publishing and embrace general publishing. He gave the example of the West where publishers encourage well known public figures to write books, as they are guaranteed sales.
Was it an oversight that he forgot to mention that he has a book out published by EAEP? Well…
Finally Mbaru asked publishers to have themselves listed in the NSE, as they would raise their profiles that way. A publisher’s IPO anyone?
Too bad Mbaru had to leave before he could partake of what Lillian had on the buffet table for us. A busy man, he had to rush to another function – Things that billionaires do that we don’t. Hmm I guess I will be skipping lunches more often in order to emulate Mbaru… just kidding.
Anyway, the best part of the day was soon here with us and Muli invited members of the high table to sample that buffet delights before everyone. Apparently, Muli who kept using sayings and proverbs in his presentation, has never heard of this one: Charity begins at home! He should have started with our table, where he was also seated! He he
Anyway I digress. After putting away a plate full – I stress the word full – it was time for introductions, and I realised that people in the publishing industry do not know each other! Which is a shame really. Lillian should work at bringing the publishing fraternity together more often, possibly in the evenings, where people can mingle over a drink. It is only natural. As the function came to a close Kakai Karani, the MD of Longman cornered me and accused me of being biased against his company! He only let me go after extracting a promise from me that I would write a comprehensive review of their book Poems Aplently. In my other life I work as newspaper book reviewer. Now you understand why I was invited to a publishers’ bash.
As we were leaving, Njagi and his wife were kind enough to give me a ride in their cream Mercedes. But do I say? UPDATE: I am reliably informed that KPA’s website was supposed to be launched during the lancheon. We never got to hear a word of it. Lillian what happened?