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The evolution of stories in the digital world

Zimkhitha Mlanzeli is an author and editor at the FunDza Literacy Trust. She mentors young aspirant writers in a bid to give back to the reading community that made her:

“I’m Remo Modise, I saw a piece I wrote, LIFE AFTER MATRIC, published on Mxit. I wanted to say thank you for the support and also for believing in me.” - Remo Modise

This is what I love waking up to and the reason I rock up for work. It’s not the easiest gig in the world, but it is the best. I work with young, aspiring writers to help develop their magical writing talents and give them a platform to showcase their writing by publishing it on our mobi site and other digital platforms.

Being part of a society that says things like “Our (South African) children don’t read,” or, “If you want to hide information from a black person, put it in a book,” upsets me, because I know for a fact that both these statements are not true. Our children love to read but access to books is not easy and sometimes, when they do find a book, it’s not interesting for them or they can’t relate to the content. That’s where I come in. I’m a ‘Young Adult Writer’, although I write for a target market of mainly 13 to 25 year olds. It is my fantastic task to write relevant, fun, pacey and easy to read stories for this market. But I haven’t been a teenager in a long time; I’m a 30 year old person trying to navigate 30 and so writing for this space can be challenging. I read blogs and articles to get an idea of their struggles, but have found many of these to be the same challenges I struggled with two decades ago. Only some of the language has changed. I just learned, not so long ago, what YOLO (you only live once) and BAE (somehow short for baby) mean. I have also just discovered LOL (laugh out loud), and was starting to own it, and now my readers are throwing new terms at me.

Young people want to read about the things that they know, in a language they understand. The stories I write speak directly to them and they get to see the world through the character’s eyes. I know this because of the feedback I receive. But, It also helps that my stories are shared where the youth spend most of their time; on their cell phones.

My phone is not my best friend; I can’t stare at it 24/7. But they can. And we need to bridge the gap.