By BRUCE DENNILL
My Family Of Superheroes by Zinhle T Matthews uses the power of positive affirmation to help children access their inner hero. Specifically written to be read by a parent or caregiver with a child, the book uses engaging illustrations and emotive language to tell a compelling yet accessible story of triumph over adversity. It introduces readers to a young girl named Precious who, inspired by her mother, overcomes her insecurities and doubts.
When, and under what circumstances, did the idea for your latest book come to you? Did it initially feel like something to commit to, or was that something that took time to develop?
In 2018, after my daughter was born, I began to question decisions I had taken that had led me where I was in my career. But it was only in 2019 that I started to do something about it. I started a journey of self discovery in an attempt to align myself with my purpose because I felt I was not living up to the fullness of my potential. In that journey, I read and listened to sermons of purpose. Later that year I moved on to teachings of the power of thought and spoken word. I started writing summaries of what I learned because I didn’t want to forget. I then shared those with friends and family because I have never understood it that way before, that words create our world, and I thought it could help someone else. I received such great feedback from these short write-ups. I then entertained the thought of maybe writing a book in a way that my friends and family could understand. And so my writing journey began. In January 2020, it clicked that I should start with a children’s book. It was just a knowing, deep within myself. The concept came within an hour because the concept of positive affirmations or the power of thought and spoken word were for me what changed the lens of how I viewed life. That I had the power to co-create with God and having that as the theme of the book was a no brainer.
How did you conduct your research or other preparation before writing – was it more experiential or more academic or desk-based? And if money was no object, what additional groundwork would you like to have completed?
I have two children, so I already had a couple of children’s books. In writing the book after developing the concept, I studied how the books were written. I also watched a lot of episodes in which Michelle Obama reads children’s books. Some of the ideas on how I approached the book actually came from that. I think for me, the message was clear regarding what I wanted the book to portray and I do believe without a doubt that it was God-inspired. I don’t think that there is anything else I would have done to create the book. What I feel I could have considered, is doing it through a publishing house. The book was compiled by a reputable company called Myebook, which did the editing and illustrations. They then publish it for you on Amazon. However, with regards to distribution further than that, it is my responsibility with the assistance from the distribution companies called Porcupine Press and Blue Weaver.
When considering influence, do you find yourself wanting to write like someone (in terms of their style, tone or use of language), or aiming for a kind of perspective or storytelling approach you admire or enjoy?
For me, it’s about sharing a message that I feel can transform people’s lives. There are a number of children’s books that I love that do that, such as Mayine by Nathan Adonis and Ayah The Brave Girl by Amanda Dambuza. I love that they both include our African boys and girls so that they can also see themselves in a position of power.
What’s in your to-read pile – and what upcoming book (other than yours!) are you most looking forward to?
I am currently listening to the audio book by Louise Hay, The Power Within You. The next one is The Billionaire Mindset by Daniel Strauss.
Do you have a favourite character that you have created? Or if you’re writing non-fiction, do you have a specific topic that you find endlessly fascinating?
The next chapter for me is animation. That is what I am in the process of creating. The girl in this book, Precious, is my favourite character, because she teaches us firstly that as parents, our children are watching us and are imitating what we do. This encourages us as parents or caregivers to up our game. She also has an imagination that is unlimited. I believe this is how we were all born and along the way was diminished by something or someone. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” So I am exploring this with the character. There are a few things I hope we can learn from her imagination. How life would be if our imagination remained this pure!