AiW note: Following Zahra Banday’s review of Chibundu Onuzo’s latest novel Sankofa last week and her accompanying Q&A with Chibundu — where they chat process and writing and various inspirations — we are excited to be sharing a Words on the Times with Sankofa‘s Press Officer, Kimberley Nyamhondera.
Kimberley is a Press Officer at Little, Brown Book Group and has experience working across literary fiction and non-fiction book PR campaigns. She is also the Marketing and Communications Manager at AFREADA.
Words on the Times is an AiW Q&A series inspired by the spirit of community and resilience, initiated to connect the blog’s communities of work and life through their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Kimberley’s responses, we’re happy to feature some more of the “backroom” sorts of labour – perhaps the less visible work that happens behind the scenes – that helps bring books into view…
Words on the Times with Kimberley Nyamhondera
Could you tell us a bit about your work and the ways that the pandemic has affected your plans for it?
I’m a Press Officer at Little, Brown Book Group, working on really brilliant fiction and non-fiction, including Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo. This means championing/publicising/cheerleading amazing books and working with blogs and publications that will engage with the text and the author through reviews, interviews, features, articles to secure coverage for a book.
I’m also the Comms and Marketing Manager at AFREADA, which is a literary magazine sharing stories by established and emerging writers across Africa and its diaspora. For AFREADA, we already worked remotely, so the pandemic and resulting lockdowns really gave us a chance to be creative! In the last 18 months we have set up a penpal project, had fun pairing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s beautiful outfits with hand sanitisers and put out print issue 00 of the magazine.
In what ways are you working now that you weren’t before and/or how are things on the ground where you are now?
For one thing, the pandemic meant that book events, literary festivals and talks halted for a period and are slowly making their way back. This has meant online events, Instagram lives and very pared back literary festival lineups. They used to be one of my favourite ways to see readers really debate and celebrate or critique works. I also think, since we’ve all been so online and ‘on’ throughout this period, the pandemic means we’ve seen more online outlets grow and I think more podcasts have launched in this time too. Where relevant to the author, I love being able to facilitate conversations with creatives, the result is always something joyful.
Chibundu wrote the single to Sankofa, ‘Good Soil’ and filmed a music video for it in a pandemic. It helped me write my pitch emails and gave me life in a very chilly, drawn out winter/spring.
We’ve always worked collaboratively with AFREADA but we’re doing that even more now, as well as testing and trialling new ways to share stories.
What have you found most supportive and/or heart lifting in this time?
Communicating! It can feel busy at times, talking to journalists, bloggers, producers etc but in this period, it’s been so nice to check in and know that everyone is willing to spend a bit more time discussing how they are and what they’re doing.
How can our blog communities best support you?
Supporting writers by reviewing and engaging with (and buying) their work or showing support on social media. It’s a really tough time to be a published author when everything largely happens online and you don’t get that real life engagement and celebration. That’s why I’m so invested in online communities and the power that they have.
With our thanks to Kimberley.
For more from the Words on the Times series — from makers and producers, scholars and thinkers, and now publicists, communications managers and press officers! — linking up our communities online in experiences of the pandemic, see our blog category here.
Our AiW review of Chibundu Onuzo’s latest novel Sankofa, Flying Forward With Your Head Facing Back, written for us by Zahra Banday, is available here; as is an accompanying Q&A with Chibundu, where they discuss writing processes, ABBA (yes! you read that right), Bessie Head’s presence in the novel, and responding to journalist’s questions on the grounds of gender and race.
And for that pandemic-inspired thread on outfits and clean hands…