I was always a bookworm as a child and I have lived entire lives between two pages. At the start of my career in the corporate world, I knew I wanted to end up as an author. The final push came in the form of an assignment working in Mumbai, India. That incredible experience gave me the courage I needed to move forward in pursuing my dream.
I struggled to actually write in the beginning, I’d always had concepts floating around in my head, and I would write pieces of stories, but I found my mind would draw a blank at having to put the pieces together. That’s when I decided to do a writing course with Writers Write, and that is one of the best decisions I have made in my life!
Storytelling, like most things, is an art. You can break all the writing rules and still be successful, but as they always say, it helps to be conscious of the rules that you are breaking.
After doing the course, I found it much easier to write the three stories I was working on: a romance novel, a sci-fi novel, and a children’s story that was particularly close to my heart because there were specific tiny humans that I was writing it for.
I shared all these ideas with a friend and when I got to speaking about the children’s story, her eyes lit up. That was a significant moment. I fully focused on the children’s story after that. This was in the latter part of 2015. One of the most amazing privileges of working on How Many Ways Can You Say Hello has been that every time I have told someone what the book is about, I have seen their eyes light up in just the same way! This is across gender, race, age – you name it, and it has fuelled me.
I initially decided to self-publish because I am a self-professed control freak and couldn’t for the life of me reconcile with the idea of submitting to a publisher and hoping for the best. I found Anja, the illustrator of the book, on social media. I was immediately drawn to her style of illustration. I went to Cape Town to meet her and over two days we worked on the storyboard.
She completed the illustrations in three months, a year after I had written the first draft. There were many drafts! I am eternally grateful to the few key people who helped me with editing along the way.
Only when Anja had completed the illustrations did I have a sense of peace about the project and how far it had come, and that’s when I submitted it to Penguin Random House. At that stage it was a case of ‘the worst they can say is No’, and then I would have happily carried on with my self-publishing mission.
They said Yes!
Editor’s note: We’re thrilled that Refiloe’s dream has come true and we wish her every success with her book. You can find out more about the book here.