Writing is solitary, but it’s in this silence that characters speak. I follow the voices of my characters and allow them to show me the things that are buried between the written word and white space. The truths of the human condition, of my reality, the new ways of thinking, seeing and believing. I am most alive hunched in front of my laptop, a cramp knotting the base of my neck, watching hearts take shape on the page.

Sometimes the voices are familiar. My mother spoke through the characters in my first novel for years. “I’m here,” she would say. “I have something to share, kizim!” So I broke her words on the page, fragmented them, tried to keep her quiet. I was scared to complete her words, of the stories she might tell, the sorrow that might bleed on the page. I kept breaking her until her fragmented words became a wall between my characters and I, between my writing and me.

After years of rewriting the novel though, I was frustrated and confused. Why wasn’t it working? The characters were funny, unique, they wanted things. There was conflict, drama, movement. So what if Mum was hiding in the white space and I was hiding behind her? It was a good story. But after many redrafts it lost its heart. I’ve now given up breaking and am mending instead. It’s a tough tapestry but now Mum has an authentic, solid and unwavering voice in my nonfiction. As I write, I honour her story, and have come to learn that the thing I feared most wasn’t facing her pain but facing myself as her sentences unravel me.