An African in Imperial London

Today is the official UK publication date of An African in Imperial London: The Indomitable Life of A.B.C. Merriman-Labor.

When I got up in the morning, there was a rush of twitter posts from my literary agency Artellus  and my publisher Hurst. Oh my!

What a rush of emotions I’m feeling right now.

The book I have lovingly nurtured for seven years is coming into the world. Last week, I actually dreamt I was pregnant. Pretty funny, eh? Although I confess I was a little disappointed that my subconscious wasn’t a little more creative with the metaphor. 

Along with the excitement has come some nervousness. It was there, last week, too, in the dream. It’s a bit fuzzy now, but I remember much concern about my age. Surely I was too old to give birth. 

Fortunately for me, no one is ever too old to become a writer.

Publication day invites reflection about writing and the writing life. Today’s Guardian featured an article about how little money writers make nowadays. The median earnings for professional writers is only about $14,000 a year. If you think that’s bad, add this: women writers only earn 75% of what male writers earn.


So, in the face of these daunting facts, why write?

I think all writers have the same dream. We all work—most of us in obscurity—for months and years with the same hope.

We hope that we have written a book that will move our readers the way our favorite books have moved us.

And readers everywhere know what I’m taking about. Reading a great book, one that touches you at your essence, that enchants you, amuses you, teaches you, or even rattles you, that experience is just pure magic.

And who doesn’t want to be able to do that?

So, here’s what I think: Anyone who takes the trouble to put pen to paper, and who sticks with it draft after draft, is someone who has fallen in love with stories. Someone, I’d venture, who hid under the covers with a flashlight more than once to finish a book she just couldn’t put down even though it was bedtime,

So, on this wonderful day when An African in Imperial London officially enters the British world, I thank all those writers who came before me. I thank them for every scratched-out word, torn-up page, and rough draft. I thank them for sticking with it. I thank them for writing books that enchanted me, dazzled me, and made me fall in love with the written word.

Writers are not born. They are created by other writers.