I’m excited to announce something new on my blog. From Monday, you’ll be able to read a very special short story that I’ve written. It will run as a 7-part series for two weeks on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  “Neema” is the Swahili word for ‘grace’ and it’s the name of the young elephant in my story, who I hope will touch your hearts.

One of my goals in publishing  this story is to raise awareness of the scourge of poaching that continues to ravage Africa.  The most notable victims of these crimes are rhino and elephant, but as I followed the recent story of Nina–the chimpanzee rescued from bush-meat hunters–I realised that there are far more species than just these two at risk.

Contrasted to this greed-driven cruelty, are the people and organizations who dedicate their lives to saving these animals. Nina, for instance, is at the Jane Goodall Institute – “Chimp Eden”, while in Kenya orphaned elephants are rescued and brought to an ‘elephant orphanage’. It was this young elephant sanctuary that became the inspiration for my short story “Orphaned Grace.”

“Orphaned Grace” was birthed at a South African Writer’s Conference I attended last year. Our fiction track facilitator was the inspiring Lawrence Darmani, a well-known author from Ghana. On our first day, he threw out a challenge to the six of us. We were each to write a short story set in Africa, with the theme of hope. What’s more, we had half an hour to plan it and then present the idea to the group.

I froze. Half an hour? He couldn’t be serious! Writer’s Block hit with a vengeance.

By the end of half an hour, I had a half-baked idea about a young boy and an orphaned rhino. By the next session (in which Lawrence wanted us to read our opening paragraphs), the rhino had turned into an elephant, and the young boy into a teenage girl. So—under extreme pressure—my short story started to take shape.

On the last night of the Conference, we all presented excerpts from our stories, but they were far from finished. In fact, it took me another month of—on again, off again—writing to complete it. When I did, I realised that this little fictional elephant had crawled deep into my heart.

That’s why I’d like to share this story with all of you, as a reminder, not only of the devastation of poaching, but also of the hope and goodness found in those that rescue and protect these precious animals.

Look out for part 1 of the story on Monday. If you don’t want to miss a single installment consider subscribing to my blog. This way you’ll be sent an email on the day of each post. And if you enjoy it, please share the link with your friends. Creating awareness of the reality of poaching is the first step to defeating it.

And–just for fun–here’s a short trailer to whet your appetites for “Orphaned Grace”.

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