The story of two children who try to stop the drought destroying their farm

Ruth HartleyBook Launch, Books by Ruth Hartley, Children's Stories, Dust and Rain, Southern Africa, Zambia4 Comments

The long and surprising journey made by the story of the Chipo and Chibwe and the drought

One of the original illustrations made for the story

Readers and friends, I have wonderful and exciting news to share with all of you. For the first time in my long writing career, one of my books is being commercially published, not self-published. The Drought, my middle-grade children’s story, will be published by Gadsden Publishers in Zambia in April this year and I will be there in Lusaka when it happens. The launch arrangements are still not finalised thanks to Covid-19, so instead, I’ll tell you how the story came into being and what a long journey it has made.

It all began in 1993 on a great river in a remote part of Zambia

My sketchbook dated Senanga 1993

Our friend, Attie Crause, a gentle giant and a skilled hunter, took me and my husband on a fishing trip in North-Western Province on the Zambezi River near Senanga. I love birds. I love the river. I took my sketchbook and started to draw and make notes. As I sketched, my ideas flowed with the water and the ideas I’m passionate about began to swim into the shape of The Drought Witch, this children’s story.

Zambia, the Zambezi River and the Luangwa River

More pages from my sketchbook on the Zambezi
Sketchbook pages and dried grasses

Zambia is a butterfly-shaped country fed and cradled by rivers, the largest of which is the Zambezi. I’ve been very fortunate – I’ve seen the River and its floodplains at Mongu, I’ve crossed it at Kazungula on the ferry, and spent hours staring at the Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls) from the Knife Edge Bridge, I’ve lived – and holidayed – on Lake Kariba, crossed the dam wall and the Beit Bridge at Chirundu too many times to count, camped in the Lower Zambezi at Chongwe and paddled on a 90-kilometre canoe trip down to and through the last gorge in Zambia. I had many extraordinary times on safari on both the Luangwa and Kafue Rivers where I’ve seen the richness and beauty of nature and its value and importance to the planet and to all human life.

Writing a story for a grandchild and for children

My grandchild, the original hero of The Drought Witch

Who was the story for and who was it about? My first grandchild had been born in 1990, so naturally I wrote the story for him and gave his name to the hero of the book. Together with his sister, my hero would travel across the heart of Zambia in a search to find the Wise Woman of the Garden who could teach them both how they could prevent droughts and look after the land they lived in and loved. In those days I was living in Zambia and never expected to leave.

The beginning of the adventure of writing the story

And that dear Friends and Readers is just the start of the story of how this story came to be told and how the book came to be made. Another exciting instalment will follow in a fortnight as usual. I’ve included some more of the pages from the sketchbook here.

4 Comments on “The story of two children who try to stop the drought destroying their farm”

  1. Géraldine de Haan

    Hi Ruth, wonderful that the Drought Witch is being published in April and that you will be in Lusaka for the launch! Interesting that a story you started working on for your Grandson is going into the world now for a whole new generation of children in a totally different environment. Good luck for you and your book!

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Hi Geraldine, Yes, my book has taken a whole generation of family time to get published and it’s changed and been adapted and grown and shrunk. I think you know all about the processes that one goes through to complete – or almost complete – a creative project!
      Thank you for your good wishes.

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Thank you Sue! When the book is published it will be available POD and as a Kindle on Amazon Uk and on the African Books Collective.
      I promise to keep you fully informed and up-to-date!

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