Today on Pearls And Heels we feature Anne Moraa. Anne Moraa is a creative writer, performer and editor. The Managing editor of “Nia Teen” – which teaches girls sexual and reproductive health and rights through a fun and engaging medium- she also the ‘Nia Comic’. A YALI fellow, Anne is driven by the need to create stories that she could never have imagined existing as a child and has over six years of experience in the creative arts.
Anne’s writing can be read in Jalada, KikeTele, Brainstorm, Short Story Day Africa among other publications, and she also wrote the well-received play “They Say/I Am”. Her performances include acting in “Too Early for Birds”, as a tableaux vivant in the critically acclaimed art installation “Exhibit B” in Gwangju, South Korea and Edinburgh, UK, as well as a series of spoken word performances in Nairobi, Kenya (including the Festival CulturElles) and Edinburgh (as a “Loud Poet” during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival). A feminist, her work led her to be selected as a panellist at the OUT Film Festival in Nairobi and part of the African Feminist Initiative Conference at Pennsylvania State University, USA. She continues in her role as a founding member Jalada, the award-winning writer’s collective. She has completed an undergraduate degree in Law (Hons) from the University of Nottingham, and Master’s degree in Creative Writing (Distinction) from the University of Edinburgh.
- Describe your typical day.
Get up, usually too late. I head to work editing the teen magazine with a great group of people. Sometimes we’re running discussions with girls or doing interviews with subjects or editing. I will break for lunch and then get back to work. My evenings are usually for writing or rehearsals or creative work outside of the day job, reading and unnecessary long Netflix binges. I’m a homebody, so most weekends, unless there is some creative work, I usually stay home, read and relax.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
I have changed as often as the story changed. From a singer to a marine biologist, and I can neither sing nor marine. Writing and performing I discovered after I grew up. One consistent career desire was to be a teacher or professor. I always imagined myself in my 40s with a class full of students.
- If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I’d follow my instincts more – I always loved writing and the stage but had no idea that those could work. I’d also be more deliberate early on – when I started out I hopped from here to there and wasn’t as attentive or detailed as I’d like to have been. This idea that you can ‘just write’ instead of working at writing slowed me down for too long.
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
Creativity: Push yourself to do new work in your voice.
Be open to criticism: You can always improve and you need to learn how to take a hit.
Collaboration: Writing especially can feel solitary but collaborating with other artists in your field, or others will expand both your opportunities and your own craft.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
It can be – there is a burgeoning creative space and so many creatives innovating – not just in writing but in film and animation, painting and music, you name it. The challenge is the money. It can be difficult to sustain oneself as a creative and there is little bridge between the business side and the money side. It has improved a lot but this is still a challenge. I also find many spaces very male-centric, with male stories and perspectives taking the lead. Again improved, but there is still a challenge when, for example, I say I edit a magazine for girls. The first question I get is, “Why not boys?” and I always respond, “Why not girls?”
The greatest challenge is finding the time to balance different creative pursuits, and ensuring all the output is above standard. The opportunity is, by dabbling in different fields, the chance to learn and constantly be pushed. What you did yesterday isn’t enough, it’s what you’re doing now that counts.
- What motivates you?
I love learning. I could be in school every day, and finding spaces or work where I can learn new ideas, perspectives or techniques excites me.
- How do you define success?
Being surrounded by love. People you love, work you love and loving yourself. Not being too tied down with money, but always learning, always growing.
- Who has been your greatest inspiration?
I am surrounded by all these incredible women who are flawed and powerful. Women inspire me.
- What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Generally, I love that I get to satisfy different facets of my personality. For the magazine I see girls see themselves in the work I make. When a girl reads the magazine and says yes, this is me, this is who I am, this is my world, I feel such joy. When writing, I release, fiction or otherwise, I understand myself better: the introspection and self-reflection it demands help me grow. Performing is a freedom to let go of self and you feel so powerful engaging an audience.
- What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
- Take on what you can handle: That’s one of my biggest challenges, taking on more than I can handle just cause I’m excited by so many things. My mom, a lawyer, told me, “I’d rather take two large and do a great job than ten small clients, struggle to do any work for all them.”
- Challenge yourself: If you aren’t challenged, you are bored and not learning.
- Be open to criticism: Especially when you are a creative, this can be hard but listening when constructive criticism is shared and growing is key.
- What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Work. Find ways to push yourself and create. Find people who push you to create and create well. Listen to your own creative voice: figure out what you want to say and learn how to say it.
- What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
Honestly, it was the day I chose to do this. Law school, staring at a book saying, no, I don’t want this, I want to write. That private moment – no one was there with me – was so satisfying because I would not be here without it.
In terms of career, achievements, it’s always the firsts. First print publication of a short story with SSDA, the first time I saw a girl reading the comic and magazine engrossed, my first stage performance years ago that had people cracking up, the launch of Jalada, the first time performing to an international audience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
- What makes you happy?
Seeing my work in the real world. Printed or performed or recorded or even teaching in a class, seeing people listening to my voice and perspective, maybe even learning from it.
- What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I like cooking and reading. A good Netflix binge is never a bad thing. I love travelling – need to do it more and more often.
- Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
Not sure, as long as I’m dabbling in all these creative arts and working with people far more talented than I am. I’d love to be teaching as well. Ample gin and tonics drunk in a beach house would also be welcome.
If you would like to interact with Anne you can find her on Twitter at @tweetmoraa.
Pearls And Heels: Teresa Njoroge