A protracted struggle to get a publisher for her first book Uyindoda Kwedini, in 2000, nearly destroyed Zukiswa Pakama’s ambitions and hopes of getting her work into the public domain.
For more than 12 years, until 2013, she had to keep the book at home and allowed it to gather dust. But she was not discouraged, she soldiered on and continued writing.
However, things changed for good in 2013, when she approached Maskew Miller Longman/Pearson to publish her work and agreed.That turned out to be a master stroke.
Later that year, the first of her five books, Uyindoda Kwedini, was published. From there she grew from strength to strength and had been nominated for numerous awards and became a multi-awarding winning story-teller, script writer, translator and author.
To add to her growing list of accolades, the 45-year-old has once again been nominated for another international award for her book Akulahlwa Mbeleko Ngakufelwa.
The book was selected for its excellent writing as one of the five South African books for the contest.
The book is about a story of hope for a Endlovini family who triumph over tragedy.
The family encounters numerous challenges, including arrests, but in the end they succeed.
Ms Pakama said the book inspired people never to give up.
In 2016, the book won the prestigious literature award run by Maskew Miller Longman /Pearson. In February last year, it was once again nominated by the Pan South African Language Board (PanSalb ) in their multilingual Awards.
The latest nomination by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) is one of many achievements by Ms Pakama. The organisation recognizes biennial books best published children’s literature by IBBY member countries.
The awards ceremony will be in Athens, Greece, from Thursday August 30 to Saturday September 1. But Ms Pakama’s trip hangs in the balance. She needs to raise R50 000 for the trip and accommodation.
The former domestic worker is appealing to the public to assist her to raise the required funds.
She said for years she worked as a domestic worker and could not further her studies due to poverty and financial struggles. But she said would read and write in her spare time as a hobby and made a pact with herself that she would advance her education if she could get a chance.
However, after many years of struggle she enrolled at the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) for a National Diploma in Journalism Diploma in 2003.
Ms Pakama said she has written three drama plays for Umhlobo Wenene Fm over the last years. She described writing books as a healing for her.
She said she writes for the love of telling stories, sharing knowledge and expressing her views on certain topics.
But she said the best highlight would be to see her books in the hands of the children who are meant to read them.
“This is my attempt to assist the nation as we work along in preserving our indigenous languages and our own cultural way of life.
“I find joy in writing for young people as it brings back a nostalgic feeling that keeps me motivated and encourages me to be one of them and hence be a voice to them. I hope to have a centre where I can teach young people how to write especially in their own language,” she said.
Talking about challenges, she said the struggle was writing for nothing, after receiving the prize money, you sit and wait for the book to be distributed to school. And that is still a challenge because if you are an unknown writer, your books are seldom chosen irrespective of how well they are.