cw: mental unwellness

In many ways, Kereita is indeed God flexing. With little research, and with myself on a petri dish, I can come up with scientific proof that forests are therapeutic. A tree can approach your soul, hold its neck and breathe into the back of its ear until your soul sighs, lets go of its burdens and collapses onto the tree’s shoulders.

Unfortunately, on this visit to Kereita, I had an anxiety attack which debilitated me. It had been a while since I got that wired for that long and I had started to trust that I could once again seduce the universe with my laughter and leap into it and that it would catch me very time.

How do you come from feeling like your spirits are as high as those bodies on a zipline and then feel like they are down in the valley below within 2 seconds?

It felt like every cell in my brain was battling another using the bow and arrow I was learning to work in archery. Even when the symptoms were screaming, I beat myself up for being weak not sick and for missing out because of it.

To blame you rather than itself is in part the nature of this lonely illness, a demon invisible sometimes even to its unwilling captor. In part, however, blaming yourself is a consequence of the fact that you are in more active control of your treatment than with other illnesses. When you are in charge of your wellbeing through constant yoga and positive affirmations and deep breaths, then an attack that overwhelms you feels like personal failure. As you fight and fight and fight, it is difficult to know when to look your armed brain cells in the eye, put your own bow and arrow down, raise your hands in surrender and ride the attack.

What I did ride was a horse which was good to me this time. I joke about how as a grownup I understand the darkness that drove people in rock music videos we watched with Ethel in high school on Sundays to wear black lipstick. I think when I got on Mzungu and pushed him faster and faster, it felt very dangerous but I finally understood the obsession seemingly disturbed black-leather-jacketed 20-somethings in music videos had with speeding motorbikes. I made a friend though, who got me a beautiful blue stone, and if that is all I got from the day, then it is sufficient.

*Psst I am soft launching a Patreon for paying readers, in which I will duplicate okasungora pieces (because open access). If you are capable, sign up to support my work: Thanks 🙂



There may be no God, but the world has little heavens. Castle Lodge is the kind of place that God would reserve for only his favourite people. There is not a moment you are more aware of this than when you are riding uphill on a horse onto a grassy clearing which overlooks a rich forest. Butterflies that cleared surrounding leaves as larvae and left them looking like a sieve scatter in the mischievous way of children who know they have done something wrong but are not apologetic. For background music, birds sing like you imagine they do in poems and a waterfall hums as every moment new waters, only the ones at the very top, win the privilege of being kissed by the sun. Above the forest, sun beams escape through holes in the clouds which glow as if they are hiding a secret. Saladin, the horse, sensed earlier that I am a timid person and stopped following my orders, but needs no convincing to ride into this beauty. My therapist said that while abuse is never the victim’s fault, manipulative people can sense a timid energy, which is partly why some women are repeatedly victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. When Saladin refuses to listen to me, I go into my brain in that way that is difficult to escape. The waterfall is mesmerising, because when I stare at it for long and then look at the world, the trees and the rocks and the soil shift as if in a collective Mexican wave. I like it- that the earth too in its perfection can harbor an eerie darkness. A brain that is always sprinting and always glancing behind to scan for enemies is a difficult thing to live in, but when you have some money, a waterfall and a dear friend there are ways to run away even from your brain.

*Psst I am soft launching a Patreon for paying readers, in which I will duplicate okasungora pieces (because open access). If you are capable, sign up to support me: . Thanks 🙂

skipping rope

Photograph by Anna Wane:

Image for skipping rope

Brian loved to run everyday. I was never sure from what demons until he ran right out of my life.

I skip rope. Only. In the same place. I skip until all of my demons melt and evaporate from my mind. The first time it worked I thought it was genius and almost called the doctor to tell her thank you but her services were no longer needed and that I always knew the nights I felt my mind waking up, stretching, yawning, packing its bags and starting to leave me were a lie.

I feel like my mind is rushing fast towards a cliff and jumping and then changing its mind and jumping back onto the cliff and laughing at me and telling me to stop being so uptight.

Brian got it right. Beat me at life again. He knew how to run. At least.

I just jump here. On the spot. And this rope it switches between a smile emoticon and a sad face emoticon. Taunting me.

I knew it was coming too- the day that I would drag myself out of bed, remove my work clothes, convince myself to pick the rope up, put on Jane the Virgin so that I do not have to listen to myself and skip and still the lonely sadness does not molt from my skin.

The first day it happens I tell Brian. I don’t know that I’m telling him but I’m seated next to him and my mind is on a surgical table between us and a mind is not nakedness that you should cover it with leaves in a garden.

The second day I tell my other half, but it aches her. She limps like a wounded bird to a nest and I feel guilty for sending her there. The next time she comes looking for me I only come out if I have scooped sunshine and used it to rouge my cheeks.

The third day I tell my sculpture. Her arms are longer than her body and she reaches out and hugs me and her arms coil many times around my torso. And it is no longer possible for me to fall down like a series of connected sausages. I love her for it. And I am scared of her love for it. I decide that her limbs are long so they’re thin so they’re fragile and the weight of my demons will break them but not give them the dignity of a complete death and the demons will look at her broken and laugh without remorse. So I pack my bags in stealth the way my mind and Brian taught me. The demons laugh at me because they think I can’t leave. When I do it shuts them up but silence is also revenge. I can’t feel anything and I almost seek them out but I love the silence even if it tastes like cassava but people see me and they ask after my demons while sighing too much. How are they doing. What happened to them. Oh they moved. But they were so funny. Can you imagine?

The fourth day I keep still even though everything inside me is trembling and then I change my mind and tell the 18 dolls queued at the hudson and then I change my mind and I stay quiet and you won’t believe it but I get pregnant and it’s a round ball that makes me unable to see my feet except my toes and I give birth to exactly myself and I try to fool everyone that finally here is my Apiyo whom you’ve been looking for but they know that it is exactly me again. And can you imagine I gave birth to myself? I now understand why mothers confuse themselves for God. I rock back and forth. I could be god. I could be god. I could be god.

The fifth day I tell two flowers. They make their stems rigid and they let me lie down on their petals.

The sixth day I don’t tell anyone. But it doesn’t feel powerful like the drunkenness from giving birth to yourself.

I am scared that the seventh day is my last chance so I keep waking up on the sixth day.

pour me water

All Illustrations by Taabu

I now love water the way I loved men- with caution. There is no way water had nothing to do with all of the things that happened. I know it handcuffed your wrists and wrapped itself around your legs and lifted one and lifted the other and made it seem like you were taking yourself to the fire. When I was a child, I used to read detective stories and usually the person who was present in every crime scene in a series of crimes ended up being the culprit. I am not blaming anyone out loud because they told me not to bring up god’s criminal record even when I had evidence. But sometimes I sit back and think about all of the times I was here on this earth before; every time they said the water was present but it was innocent and only watched from a distance. So I loved water the way I did lovers whom my body knew could turn into something that burns and how can you convince someone that Water- so still and calming- turned into fire while they were not looking and charred you?


All of the darknesses when I looked for myself and could not find me ended with me begging Water to give me a glimpse of myself. And when Water would wash over me I would keep my eyes wide open and catch a reflection of myself but it was blurry, hypnotising and only for a fleeting moment. *My primary school Science teacher who used to touch my cheeks on Friday mornings with bloodshot eyes and the stench of alcohol wafting out of his mouth was one of those teachers who taught directly from the textbook.* He would warn me drugs could only give you a little taste of relief but not enough. To make sure you have to keep going back, he said. That is the same relief Water gave me when it let me see myself a little. Some days when I walk up to the altar and beg the priest to baptize me again and again and again it makes me think I am that really hot woman in red lipstick and a black scarf over my head in a Naija movie walking into a mud shack to beg a jujuman with grigris around his neck for something to relieve me of my suffering.


What suffering, love?

I do not know. But my soul tastes ni kama haina ladha. LOL

I know, lady. Me too.

She laughs like the sound of water boiling- to popni as my mother and her mother call it when she watches me discover that Mr. Eazi does not say Mami Wata because who knew that he says Pour me Water? But I tell her that is why I do not trust Water- the two-faced bastard. She tried to hold me but something would not let her. I am not blaming anyone out loud but can you imagine what luck Water had for god to make him transparent and nobody can prove he was ever anywhere?

I did not think I remembered the year the taps ran out of Water in Embakasi. But that day she brought me to a waterfall and then coaxed me to remember what the water did while it was there I told her to kindly take two steps back urgently and I was 12 and I was strong about it and it definitely did not leave a mark and I made it so that another version of myself in another dimension made a deal with Water to give me a break and it did but now a version of me owes Water a thing I do not know and what can you do to appease something that has swallowed the world whole at least once before? So I keep sacrificing things to pay my debt to Water but it keeps gobbling them whole and then belching only to tell me that was not what I owed him.

I shall not take it upon myself to quench the thirst of Water.

Everything feels like a tragedy now- the way Oedipus had to sleep with his mother no matter how many ways he tried to run away. And you know what, Water reminds me of an African politician because as long as it delivers its tithe to the devil it does not have to answer to anyone ever.

One time I got tired of begging Water to show me myself and I tried something stronger and I saw myself and I hated her and she hated me so I went back to Water and she charged me the same bank-breaking registration fees to onboard me as it did all the first-timers.

I think that the reason this betrayal aches is when I stood next to an ocean and my dress flew in the wind I thought I was all of the things all of the versions of myself have ever wished and will ever wish they could be.

I have run out of ways to tell Nairobi men I do not love them.

(Tw: sexual harassment )

I have run out of ways to tell Nairobi men I do not love them.

I feel (and I know it sounds defeatist) that the world I inhabit belongs to them and that I just borrow space as I move within it.

I think their bodies come in all sizes and their insults do too. And so when I walk around I think this is free space but actually it is space filled with their insults and when I pass by they release even more into that space and of course those insults hit me and bruise me because we cannot all fit in here and it reminds me of being squeezed on the queue to the tuck shop on days Mama taki had stocked hot buns and thinking my insides will come out like toothpaste.

Can I say Sema Nyonyo enough times that I wring it of its blow and it does not make me want to burst into tears. I want to pour these words into the river in my grandmother’s farm but I fear they will find a woman downstream and trap her legs and drown her.

I want to write a book called How To Grunt From Your Loins When A Luo Woman Walks By But Want Her People Dead.

This weekend I will clink glasses with men who tell other men to do better on Twitter and then insist on touching me on dance floors after I say no thank you in all the languages I have learnt. Kind but firm. Frown. Awkward smile. Finger pointing. Finger flipping. They will offer me jobs and wonder why I do not follow up. I will wish I could run and leave them all behind but I fear I am allowing them to continue monopolising the places that matter.

Last week, at 5-ish, I was waiting to cross the road at Yaya and I saw a group of men coming from work or whatever. I cross the road every time I see groups of men in my way. But the road was busy and a silver car was coming and I considered running in front of it but I thought I would definitely die and it would definitely be my fault and so I waited and one of the men grabbed my right breast and I cannot promise that I have not wished that I had jumped in front of that car.

The day a woman will take a scalpel and open her stomach the earth will grow dizzy from the odour of what she has been keeping inside. Then the earth will not be able to take it and it will self-destruct and once again a woman will have caused the Big Bang and birthed the world.

I want to tell people one day about how a woman a god made from mud uses Sunlight bar soap to lather her hands and then to love my body. The soap smells like something a little too sharp to apply to the softness of my nakedness and she apologises but we hope it stings the insults and washes me of them the way it stings my eyes. I tear. I want to tell people one day how a woman a god made from mud applies shea butter to every inch of my body and at first she says sorry 23 times. Out loud. And then she starts to say a word I do not recognize over and over again. Every time it is the same word but I never remember it. But it seems to remember me and it finds me in all the corners I go to squeeze myself, and it embraces me and it tricks me into coming out.

I have run out of ways to tell the woman a god made from me that I am scared.

Something warms my stomach and fills it and makes my heart beat fast and I feel like a character in a children’s storybook. The first thing I will do when I find the money I collected somewhere that smelled like a butchery that has not been cleaned for a while is ask someone for their professional opinion on whether I have lost “it”.


I feel like I belong on a page of Goodreads quotes when I breathe too fast and think that I do not deserve the absolute kinds of loves that women offer me.




Lisa. That is what I am planning to name my walking stick when I am 83. It sounds like something you would name a really tame pet that is not a dog. I’d call a bunny Lisa. Or a mouse. Little harmless pets can be called Lisa. A bird that can fit in your palm. Lisa. A kitten with ears too large for its body size. Lisa.

I am thinking about an 83-year-old-me for a very cliche reason. I am imagining what memories a version of me leaning on a cane with a badass inscription will treasure. I will be standing next to an anthill in the idgaf way of old women and looking into the orangeness of a sunless sky at sunset. My eyes will have forgiven me for whatever I did to them to send them on a go-slow at age 14. The long-sightedness of old age will marry the shortsightedness of my youth to allow me to create perfect vision and allow me to stare at the breathtaking horizon. My eyes will be glassy and an imaginary camera will zoom in on them. 83-year-old me will fade out and a youthful version of me will take the stage.

I want to enjoy this year. I know it’s never that serious and I really want to chill out and be in the present and so on and so forth. But in school My Life happened to me. At the beginning of the semester, My Life and I were on a running track bent over the starting line doing our on-your-magoros and set-your-makinyas and by the time the bullet went off my life had finished two laps and I spent the whole semester trying to catch up.

This year, I want to wake up at 11a.m. on Saturday and wear my I’m-allergic-to-Mondays top and black sweatpants and go to My Life’s apartment and knock. I will ask ML (My Life and I will be on nickname basis this year) if she wants to come out to brunch. And ML and I will hold hands on the roadside. And ML will stop to take a photo of a purple butterfly for the butterfly blog she has started.

When we reach the bakery, we will order muffins and regular tea. Which is different from Masala tea (yes, I’m trying to announce I go to Java now). And I’ll ask ML, “Hey, what are you up to today?” And she’ll say, “I don’t know. We’ll see what comes up.” And we can talk and talk and at 5p.m. I can look at the clock and say, “Oh, it’s already 5p.m.” But not the oh-it’s already-5-p.m. for college. The one that makes you count how many hours, minutes and seconds you have before your deadline and which friend’s birthday party you are not going to make it to even though you are very sorry. No. This oh-it’s-already-5p.m. is a happy one in which I marvel at my friendship with ML and how easily we can spend hours together doing nothing.

I read a book (Salt Roads, Nalo Hopkinson) in which one character seeks silence so much that she wishes her travel partner would breathe more quietly and paces her own breathing because she can hear her ribs. The sand sounds super loud to her as the wind blows it. But she finds so much silence within herself that she can hear other people thinking. For example, if you walk by her, she can hear you say “I need to buy meat” if that’s what you are thinking.

I hope that Saturday afternoons with ML will allow myself that silence so I hear my||self think. As a youthful version of me fades and 83-year-old me leaning on Lisa comes back into focus, I hope that both past me and present me will have enjoyed that peace that only someone who can listen to themselves think can afford.


Photo credit:



Monica’s life seems lonely to me. Not in the way that standing at the airport alone, after your lover says goodbye, is lonely. It is lonely in the pleasurable way that reading a book is. Every weekday at four a.m., Monica gets up. With only Nairobi’s cold morning breeze for company, she leaves her house and heads to Nyayo Estate Gate B: a twenty minute walk. In June’s cold, it helps that her uniform includes a long sleeved red shirt, with a stripe at the collar the colour of the midday sky. She pushes the door and walks up two steps into the 33-seater matatu which will be her home for the next nineteen hours.

Matatus are public vehicles in Kenya that range in size from huge buses to 14-seater Nissan vans. Some are owned by individuals while many are owned by groups called Savings and Credit Co-operative groups (SACCOs). In these groups, people pool together money to buy the vehicles and then share the profits. Each matatu is staffed by two people: a driver and a conductor, like Monica, whose job is to collect fares and to let people into and out of the matatu. Monica’s matatu is one of hundreds of thousands of matatus in the country. She transports 33 people nearly every hour, sometimes meeting the same people she’d transported earlier that day.

Monica settles down into a chair next to the door as the matatu joins Outer Ring Road, then Jogoo Road and then enters the city centre. She then stands up and collects fares, swaying to the rhythm of the moving matatu, steadying herself against the chairs. Bus companies like Citi Hoppa have tried to make these transactions cashless. There was the Beba Card, on to which you could load money and then swipe it like a debit card. Lipa na M-pesa is another alternative, a mobile money transfer through which you could send money to the bus’ account. But in a city that has been nicknamed Nairoberry – a city whose conmen and daylight robbers often have me wishing I had eyes all around my head – people are always wary about having their money swindled.  Monica, for instance, was prompted to leave the hairdressing industry and find a more lucrative job when thieves took away everything in her house, including her hairdressing equipment. So people prefer to give the cash to Monica, whose life they walk into and out of, rather than use a card whose inner workings they do not understand.

If people get off the matatu, Monica hops off too, trying to convince more people to get on with a “Hamsini Town, Hamsini Town”. The more people she carries, the more money she earns. She has a quota which she has to give her employer and then any money left over is her own. She takes home about 2000 shillings – 20 dollars – nearly half the monthly rent of many houses in her neighborhood. Sometimes, though, when she hops out of the matatu, she collects more dust than she does passengers.


Nairobians pride themselves on knowing which matatu to take in which part of town. When stranded, you ask matatu conductors like Monica. You cannot trust Google because, just last summer (amidst complaints about misnamed Nairobi avenues), they offered you an enthusiastic “18 minutes to Africa” when you tried to get around in Kenya. They finally added Nairobi’s matatu system to their maps, taking pains to make the chaos that is the matatu industry legible, but many people would still prefer to make their own brains maps. The blue, red and white boxes painted on the side of Monica’s matatu resemble a crossword, and are to me a symbol of how difficult it is finding your way around Nairobi.

Women venturing into the routes served by the Embassava sacco will hesitate to ask directions from male conductors, even with the same Embassava badge that Monica wears. Last year, videos flooded Kenya’s social media spaces, in which women who were deemed scantily dressed, were stripped of their clothes by matatu touts. People believed the perpetrators to be Embassava conductors. But Monica says she was present and it was a jealous ex boyfriend, not matatu touts, who stripped this woman of her clothes. An Embassava bus passing in the background of the video recording implicated them, she says. This may still not exonerate matatu touts altogether, since many other videos went viral of the same thing happening to other women.

Women drivers and conductors have always been rare in the matatu industry. Even now, for a lot of Nairobians, there is something avant-garde about a picture of a woman walking down the aisle, asking you to pay up. Like they are in a gallery, Nairobians still stop to aah and ooh at this picture. Legend has it that the first woman in the matatu industry, a John the Baptist who paved the way for other women, was called Senorita. She was single, like many of the women I have met working in matatus.

Nowadays, the matatu industry is a sponge for women looking to join the working class. Since the dusk of Mwai Kibaki’s presidency, there has been an increase in Al Shabaab attacks on Nairobi matatus. At bus stops, before people get into the various matatus, touts frisk them using a metal detector. Women conductors are better placed to frisk other women. And more and more women want to find out how the maroon uniforms would look on them, that the former Transport Minister Michuki made all conductors wear in 2004. Some women who work with Monica are students who work part time so they can pay their school fees.

Monica puts away some of her money every day so she can pay school fees for her own seven children, many of whom are away at boarding school. She has only the younger ones left and, returning home at midnight and leaving again at four a.m. each day, she barely sees them during her work week. She might as well be alone in the house, because they are asleep when she is awake.


Another woman I meet works the 105 Nairobi – Kikuyu matatu route that takes you to Alliance Girls’ High School, one of the best high schools in Kenya. At Alliance Girls’ where she delivers these young women, students are encouraged to work hard, because who would marry you if you did not work hard?

Women in Nairobi are taught to look at alone-ness as something to be sneered at. The trajectory of a girl’s life – even one who, by society’s standards of smartness, has excelled and has made it by a quota system to the highest level of secondary school – is always aimed towards combating alone-ness and singlehood. Teachers, male and female, want to know who will marry you. Peers, male and female, mock you about singing along to Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ and remind you Beyonce has a man at home. Perhaps, even now, as I tell you the stories of Monica and Rachel, I am highlighting their alone-ness because in my eyes it is so exotic. But Monica’s daughters know that a widow can raise seven children alone. Monica makes the life of a woman alone seductive in the way that bachelorhood has been made seductive.  She earns her own money. She decides what to do with it.

Rachel, the owner of Hotsteppa, the matatu that won the East Africa Motorshow, has mastered aloneness so much that she wanes in the national conversation about her matatu. National newspapers report her friend Abel Ouma, the man who encouraged her to buy a matatu, as the actual owner of the matatu. Rachel manages the matatu from behind the curtains, like the director of a play. She hides her identity for her own security, fearing that she may endanger her life like the director of Rasasi investment, who was shot in October. When there is a problem, she lets her friend deal with the other men on the ground because “he can threaten them”.

Matatus are Nairobi looking itself in the mirror. Men threaten. Women are threatened. Men are the only ones who can be in control. This may be why for women to survive in the matatu industry, they have to act as they would in a play, complete with costumes like maroon trousers that are traditionally considered male. Rachel has employed a manager to play her double. He rides on the matatu all day and collects the money after every trip. That way, she says, employees cannot lie to her that they got arrested and had to pay fines, or got punctures. The employees in turn call this middle-man Battery, because he links them to her so that they cannot swindle her.

If Monica’s life is about working with hundreds of people all day, Rachel’s is about controlling hundreds of people each day, as, on another scale, is Mary Mwangi’s, who owns over a hundred buses. Rachel uses phone calls from Battery as her morning alarm. And she spends the day putting out fires: punctures, policemen, accidents.

Rachel left her job in South Sudan due to insecurity. With her savings, and a lot of pleading because she did not have a payslip, she secured a loan from Toyota, a company which is eager to sell its new ‘Helio’ brand for use as matatus. She spent two and a half months designing the matatu: installing the three TV sets, a music system, deciding to put the word Hotsteppa in the interior – not words like Arsenal or Manchester United which could be divisive – and picking the purple and yellow theme of the matatu. She spent her evenings on Youtube, watching MTV’s Pimp My Ride.

Despite now having a team of employees she likes, Rachel has had to sack some along the way. The first driver got into an accident. The second driver tried to stipulate that he bring his own conductor to work with, so, she said, they could conspire over their stories and swindle her. Drivers, who sometimes have celebrity status, are not bothered about her matatu and ruin it by speeding.  They want to complete many journeys and maximise on their earnings while the matatu is still new. On the side of Monica’s matatu is painted a red aeroplane, nose raised proudly as it perches into the air.  It reminds me of the speed with which the drivers, nicknamed pilots, operate the matatus.

Rachel has had to abandon many of her other exploits and spends most of her days monitoring all her employees, from backstage. When Rachel first got her matatu, men called ‘hangers’ would lean out of the door of the matatu and pretend to fall and hurt themselves. Then, they would go to the police and ask that Rachel compensate them. Both Rachel and Monica are frustrated by policemen. Rachel has a lawyer friend who advises her on her rights and, to the surprise of other people, her matatu is barely ever confiscated by the police.

Rachel refused to have her matatu all yellow, because she felt so many other matatus in Nairobi were yellow. She also made a decision to pay salaries per day rather than commissions, to ensure her employees didn’t ruin her matatu by trying to fit in extra trips each day. She is anxious because this may mean that they will not work as hard.

Maybe Nairobi itself teaches a sense of competition that can grow unhealthy. In a society where only about half of the students who finish primary school go on to graduate from high school, it is perhaps not surprising that a relative advised Rachel against hiring a woman because the men would get jealous. She says: “[In] this industry you’ll be hurting the lady [and] they even call a police”. Since matatu men are seen as not having succeeded in life, all successful women, however subtle, threaten them.  They try to assert their space within the industry by putting down women who try to succeed within it. Sometimes, even male passengers refuse to board matatus driven by women. Yet women who venture into the industry are also popular. The policemen, who frustrate both Monica and Rachel by accusing them of things which they have to pay for, actually let women drivers go more easily than they do men. Rachel says, “Ladies are favorites even if she makes a mistake”. When Rachel gave a woman driver the matatu for a weekend, she attracted more customers, and Hotsteppa got significant social media clout. Rachel will consider hiring her full time when she gets a new matatu.

Mary Mwangi, the owner of the Double M, a fleet of buses that traverses Nairobi, employs more women than other fleets do. This may be because women are more likely to give fellow women a chance. Thanks to Michuki’s laws, there are also now laws protecting workers from sudden dismissal when working for bus fleets.

Many people tried to scare Rachel when she decided to enter the industry, but both Rachel and Monica would recommend their jobs to anybody in a heartbeat. Monica insists on maintaining her 3-4 hour sleeping schedule, protesting the suggestion that her children could help her once they finish high school; insisting that they must go to college instead. In the morning, she returns home, removes her uniform and takes a bath.

Reblogged from Commonwealth Writers forum