INDUSTRY INSIGHT WITH WENDY BOOKS & WINE FOUNDER

I

love the story behind Books and Wine. Wendy is one of the few people I would describe as a wonder really. Here’s why:

  • She would save part of her allowance money to buy 1 book every month-All my allowance ( which was not much) was for the tuck shop, loaf!
  • From an early age, she read above her age, way above her age. Quoting authors like Mario Puzo(The Godfather author). In Highschool, River and The Source was all the books I could care for. And it was a struggle.
  • She is a mum of 3 with a new born at hand, yet she has time to:
    • READ, READ, READ- a lot! check her Instagram page if you don’t believe me
    • Organize the Books & Wine events held at the Village Market every Month.
    • Open and run her new co-owned book store, Soma Nami.
    • Run her social page-on a consistent basis.

Pardon me for my then, misguided teen priorities . Wendy seemed to have got it right though! You can admittedly see why I had to talk to her about her route into Bookish events for this month’s feature. She also shares some book recommendations and compelling arguments on policy reforms to encourage a vibrant book culture.

“The more you discover wines, the more you discover yourself. Wendy

Image of Books & Wine founder

Wendy is the Founder of Books and Wine, a community where books and wine lovers can discover, explore and learn from like minded Individuals. Having attended one of the events, I can confirm they are the plug. From meeting new bookish friends, to playing fun games and lots of wine tasting to keep you happy. Wendy’s story is a fascinating read and her fun fact about wine is sure to keep you enlightened.

Tell us about Books & Wine and how it came to be

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I come from an Advertising background and I loved how dynamic the Industry was at the time. I soon discovered the space wasn’t conducive for new moms. Naturally, I wanted to slow down a bit and find a place that would promote the work life balance I was looking for. I found a new home at the Text Book Center Marketing Department. Needless to say, I fit right in because Its in my nature to share the love for books and Text Book center gave me the platform to do just that. And I did it for five pleasant years. I am proud to let you know I was the Text Book center Book Club brain child.

Funny story, I ended up smart talking during the Interview. One of the panelists asked what I thought the bookstore lacked, my tongue kept rolling without my wanting. And I said the store needed a book club. So, it was rather obvious that when I got the job, they put me to the task of creating a book club. I had no idea of how to go about it then, but I’m glad I took up the challenge.

That’s the Books Part…..Now the Wine story?

Ah yes! I was working for a certain Company and stumbled on an ad in the paper that piqued my Interest. The ad talked about a wine tasting, where sommeliers would learn about the History of wine tasting in South Africa. I was curious and I knew I had to find a way to the wine tasting even if it meant getting off of work unnoticed. I can’t remember the excuse I gave for the afternoon but I am glad I went. My take away was, that I would want to curate the same kind of gig for book lovers. I wanted to give a new look and feel to book clubs, where we talk about books and wine. And the rest as they say is History.

Tell us about your role in the book world within the Kenyan space

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We hold wine tasting events every month at the Village Market to discuss a plethora of books, enjoy wine and make new friends. It gives me great pleasure to offer a platform where our bookish community can discover more about wine and books.

Tell us a bit about wine pairing

Dry Red Wine tends to pair best with bold flavored meats like red meat. Foods like Samosa with chilli, choma sausage, nyama choma would suit best. Merlot pairs well with dark chocolate, because it has some chocolate notes in it’s taste. I could go on and on or we could all meet for the next Books & Wine in September.

Describe your favorite genre right now

Well, my taste in the kind of books I read has morphed as I have obviously. But I find myself more intentional about my reading experiences. I want to see myself more in the books I pick up. To see my own experiences and relate to places I call home. While It’s good to read about snow and 1500 London, am happy to read about the happenings under the African sun. So Contemporary African writers have captured my heart.

What are your thoughts on the Book Industry

It is highly optimized for education purposes, and I mean of the scholarly sought. This is disappointing to a great degree because as a country we are losing creative writers. This has severed our reading culture to a point we don’t praise leisure readers. The fact that the market is not ripe for leisure readers, Inspiring writers are facing challenges. The ripple effect is real.

However, times are changing and organizations like the Writers Guild has stepped in to bridge that gap between writers and the publishing world. The Bookstagram Community has given Indie bookstores and Kenyan authors a platform to shout about books, our own books.

What would be your ask of the Publishers?

First I would have them know that the Kenyan market has never been ready to consume their own like now.  That there are great authors out there. As a strategy, publishers should keep an eye the shortlisted names that come up on the Caine Prize for African writing for example. The fact that they made it to the list means they have something and publishers should take note and publish them.

Of Kenyan authors that are underrated

There are plenty. And I lament on their behalf because they are crippled by a system that doesn’t support them. But Troy Onyango is a brilliant writer. Every Kenyan should read his work. Another is Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, author of the Dragon Fly Sea. I say there are many because If you check the short list of the African Prizes dating back to 2012, Kenyans are in the hundreds sadly unsung.

There are a few publishers I have seen striving to change the narrative, like Lolwe, Jahazi Press, and BookBunk

What African books would you recommend to The Fun Librarian Community as a must read

I have tons that have stuck with me long after I read them. The feeling these books evoked in me are still fresh. Perhaps that’s why I would recommend them over and over again. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is one of my absolute best. It’s one of those reads that leaves you so conflicted on how you feel about the theme of relationships. The writing style is very captivating. Havoc of Choice by Wanjiru Koinange is one book I think every young Kenyan should read. It’s a book that forces you to reflect  and reconcile within yourself about our Country’s past mistakes that led to the post election violence in 2007. For those who love Fantasy books, this one’s for you. Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James embodies African superheroes making you see Africa in a new light, one that is not often portrayed. Lastly, House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, this would be the perfect Introduction to African Historical Fiction in my humble opinion.

Thank you Wendy for taking the time to answer my questions, your answers were provoking and engaging. I learned a few things about wine that I am sure to apply.

Connect with Wendy on social media:

Instagram:@iwanderandread

Website: booksandwine.co.ke

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