Sylvia Stewart: A Caring Woman; Caring Novels

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Everyone’s Story welcomes Middle-grade and YA author Sylvia Stewart. Sylvia and I have become acquainted on Facebook and I’m so glad we have. Sylvia’s a lovely woman with a wow-fascinating background, which I’ll let you viewers explore for yourself (smiling here!). In fact, Sylvia has a lot to share with you this week: a book excerpt, a few words on what has influenced her writing, and plus, I’ve interviewed her. I hope you enjoy. Both Sylvia and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

 

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Excerpt from Kondi’s Quest by Sylvia Stewart

 

“The next Sunday Boniko scooted down the bench toward Kondi in Sunday school class.

“Here we are to listen to Ugly Teacher again.” She giggled in Kondi’s ear. “Look at the mole on her chin.”

“You mustn’t say Teacher is ugly,” Kondi whispered. “It isn’t kind.” She didn’t want to laugh, but she felt her eyes begin to crinkle at the corners. “Besides, Ulemu’s mother is too nice to be ugly.”

“I don’t feel like being kind today. Watch this.”

Esinati and Losi sat on the bench in front of them. Boniko reached up and pinched the soft skin on the back of Losi’s neck. Losi shrieked, and the whole class turned around to look.

Boniko scooted down the bench, pushing Kondi in front of her until Kondi fell off the end.

“Girls!” scolded Mai Mbewe. “Let’s be quiet so we can begin our lesson.”

Kondi pushed up from the floor and pulled her extra chirundu up over her face. Her heart was pounding and she tried to stop her nervous giggling.

Boniko made a loud snort that started the whole class tittering and shifting in their seats.

“Quiet please!” Mai Mbewe said. “We have a very interesting lesson today.”

Boniko wasn’t listening. She was busy picking up a large ant carefully…carefully so as not to squash it.

“No!” Kondi whispered.

But Boniko raised her hand high and dropped it on Esinati’s head. It began to crawl slowly over her curly hair, closer and closer to Esinati’s ear. Boniko nudged Kondi and pointed to the ant. Closer and closer! Suddenly Esinati jumped and swatted at her ear. She shook her head again and again. Kondi and Boniko clapped their hands over their mouths, but the giggles slipped through their fingers in bubbles and squeaks. Everyone began laughing again.

Mai Mbewe stopped talking. She walked back to their bench, took Boniko’s hand, and sat her on the front row. Mai Mbewe faced the class. “Kondi, have you ever been afraid?”

Kondi felt little cold bumps begin to rise on the back of her neck. “Afraid?” She tried to look brave, but her voice sounded strange even to herself. I’m always afraid of Bambo! If I knew Bambo loved me, it would help me to not be afraid of so many things.

Then she remembered last night. She had been kept later than usual at the grain mill. The sun was going down when she raised the basket of flour onto her head and started for home. By the time she got near the graveyard, it was dark. Walking faster, Kondi glanced at the graveyard and then back to the road. “Don’t fall. Something might be in there,” she whispered to herself. She opened her eyes wide and peered into the shadows.

Suddenly, the bushes rustled! Fear ran down into Kondi’s fingers like cold water. She gripped the basket on her head and began to run. The Thing found the road and ran after her. She ran faster. The Thing panted behind her. Faster! Faster! A light shone from the fire in Mai Phiri’s cook-house. Running toward it, Kondi burst through the doorway, nearly knocking Mai Phiri into her own cooking fire. She flattened her back against the far wall, holding the basket of flour on her head with both hands. Her breath came in short, quick gasps.

“What’s the matter, Kondi?” Mai Phiri shouted, righting herself in front of the fire. “Be careful! You’re about to knock the porridge pot over!”

“Look!” Kondi pointed a shaking finger at the eyes glowing in the doorway. “Something is chasing me from the graveyard!”

The Thing took a step into the light. Ukhale, her father’s dog, stood in the doorway, with his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. Kondi’s breath came in a long sigh.

“Yes, it is your own dog,” Mai Phiri said. “You come running in here to get away from your own dog?”

“I thought it was…it came out of the graveyard…I was afraid.”

“Go home! Get out of my kitchen and take your dog with you!” Mai Phiri waved a winnowing basket at her to shoo her out the door. “The next time you are afraid of something in the graveyard …”

But Kondi didn’t wait to hear the rest of what Mai Phiri had to say. She scurried away for home with Mai Phiri’s voice fading away behind her.

“Kondi!”

Yesterday’s memory faded like morning mist in the sunshine.

Mai Mbewe was looking at her, waiting for an answer. “I asked if you have ever been afraid.”

“Yes,” Kondi whispered. Her heart pounded even now. She licked her lips and rubbed at the goose-bumps on the back of her neck.

“Today’s Bible story is about some men who were afraid,” Mai Mbewe said. “One day at twilight when the first evening star appeared, Jesus and His disciples got in a boat to cross a lake. They hadn’t been rowing long when a strong wind began to

blow. The boat was still far from the shore. The wind whipped up big waves sloshing, sloshing.” Mai Mbewe’s arm wagged back and forth. “Water began to pour over the side and fill the boat! They dipped the water out as fast as they could, but waves kept splashing in. ‘What will we do?’ the men asked each other. ‘Soon we will drown!’”

“Why didn’t they jump into the lake and swim?” Boniko asked. “It is silly to stay in a boat that is going to sink.”

“That’s true,” Mai Mbewe replied, “but the waves were so big the men couldn’t swim. ‘Let’s ask Jesus what to do,’ they said to each other. ‘He’s asleep in the back of the boat.’”

“Asleep?” Losi’s hand shot up. “How could He be asleep in such a great storm? The men were shouting and clanking buckets and things weren’t they?”

“Jesus wasn’t afraid,” Mai Mbewe said. “You can sleep when you are not afraid.”

Kondi listened with both ears now. I’m always afraid. Before I was only afraid of Bambo. Now I’m afraid of many things: hooting trucks, things in the graveyard, and being alone in the dark. What can I do? My baby sister will need me to be brave, not afraid all the time.”

 

My Past’s Sweet Influence by Sylvia Stewart

I first arrived in Africa about two weeks before my sixth birthday. As our DC-6 landed, I remember seeing tall palm trees flash past my window as we tore down the red dirt landing strip. When the dust had settled at the end of the runway, we taxied to the terminal and soon walked down the air-stairs into a wall of humid heat.

I soon learned to love the sights, sounds and smells of Africa: the acrid scent of some tropical plants; grasslands hiding trails of pinching ants; the white-hot heat of near-the-equator sun which could quickly burn fair skin; the distinctive cry of guinea fowl roosting for the night and the gentle call of doves, sounding to me like a widow’s mournful cry—“Yusuf, come home again! Yusuf, come home again! Yusuf! Yusuf!”

Our mother home-schooled us for two years. When we went to Rethy Academy in the highlands, we left behind malaria-bearing mosquitoes and lived where we were able to have fresh milk and vegetables. Writing letters home to our parents started me down the writing path.

When I grew up and married, my husband and I applied for appointment as missionaries to Malawi, in East Africa. We spent 21 years there in ministry and learned to love not only Africa, but Malawi in particular. Malawians are warm-hearted, friendly and full of life. Malawian children especially tugged at my heart. And the publication of three pre-teens’ mystery novels set in Malawi, East Africa.

We hadn’t lived there for very long when I decided I wanted to write a story for Malawian children. Kondi’s Quest took 24 years to write and hone into a story that children would love to read. Since then, two sequels joined the first novel, completing the Mysteries in Malawi series.

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Questions for Sylvia Stewart:

Please tell us about what is at the heart of your novel Kondi’s Quest.

The theme of Kondi’s Quest is that, no matter how difficult life can be for a pre-teen, having Christ as one’s personal Savior will bring peace in turmoil, and also make it possible to live a joy-filled life. Knowing Christ as one’s Savior and Lord is the heart of Kondi’s life—the heart of the whole Mysteries in Malawi series, in fact.

Why have you chosen the reading audience of pre-teens for Kondi’s Quest?

Kondi is twelve, and she faces issues that other 12-year-olds face. Although this is basically a ‘tweener’s” story, adults will also be able to relate to her problems and find peace and satisfaction in living for God.

I was once told, “If you feed the lambs, the sheep will be able to feed, too.” The Mysteries in Malawi series as a whole is not written down to a child’s level. The story is approached in language that is suitable both to adults and to pre-teens. Children, even as young as eight, have been known to enjoy Kondi’s story.

In what ways can an American, or for that matter any non-Malawian child relate to Kondi?

Kondi’s family and personal problems are universal. She struggles with living in a drunkard’s family, fear, anger toward others, getting along with others, and anger towards God. These issues are found in every culture and in every human condition.

What’s life like in Malawi, Africa? Are there any one or two things in particular that one cannot imagine if never visited?

Statistics for 2016 show that Malawi is the poorest country in the world with a GPD of $226.50 per capita. Hunger and poverty are real. Earning enough for the basic needs of life means hard labor by every member of the family, even children when they are old enough to help. Malawi has no mineral resources to boost its economy, so it is a purely agricultural nation. When rains fail to come at the right time and in the right proportions, Malawians will starve. For the past two years, rain has either caused flooding during the planting season or has not come at all. People are starving.

Maize (what we call field corn) is the staple of the Malawian diet. Right now, the price of maize is the most expensive in all of Africa. This poorest country has the most expensive food.

Corruption is rampant in most African countries, and, in Malawi, graft is very common, so supporting countries have withdrawn their financial subsidies. This makes the prices of commodities and necessities rise even more drastically.

Even though Kondi’s story is told when it was a better time in Malawi, Kondi helps her mother, who has a sewing business. Kondi does embroidery on baby clothes and dresses to increase the value.

Although you’re retired from mission work and settled in the American NW, are there any Malawi traditions/customs that you still honor?

We don’t keep Malawian customs or traditions. Malawi was a British protectorate, so Malawian want to be as “western” as possible—preferably American. To them, the USA seems like heaven. So their own customs and traditions are constantly changing.

A little bit different from Kondi’s Quest, tell us about Seattle Rayne.

Seattle Rayne is a Christmas novella set in Seattle. Here’s the back-of-the-book blurb:

Loneliness has hovered over Rayne DeMarco’s life ever since leaving East Africa to live on her own in Seattle. Frequent infusions of coffee have neither enlivened her flagging business as a freelance writer nor her social life. Seattle’s gray winter skies seem to mirror her life.

Then a mama cat with three rambunctious kittens finds a home in her above-the-garage apartment, and a handsome Montana cowboy, Matt Hayes, walks back into her life. Bring in a puppy who needs a little love and you have a Seattle romance that is as sure to warm your heart as the hot coffee Seattleites crave.

Fast Favorites:

Favorite book: The Bible—I read it daily. I also have several favorite authors: Jane Austen, Miss Read, Mary Stewart, Zane Grey, Irene Hannon, Kristen Heitzmann.

Favorite movie: Right now I’m really enjoying the series, Foyle’s War, set in England in the 1940’s.

Favorite meal: African curry, which is adapted from Asian curry. African curry differs in that no vegetables are cooked in the gravy other than onions. Then fresh vegetables and fruits are added as condiments on top of the rice and gravy.

Favorite holiday: Christmas, even though Christmas day in Malawi seemed to be the hottest and muggiest day of the year.

Favorite dream: To write another book.

Sylvia’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet @SylviaStewart3: retired missionary turned author, setting #MG novels in #Malawi (Tweet This)

Interview on @SylviaStewart3: Africa, novels for Malawian children, and life in Malawi. (Tweet This)

Did 24 years of honing her writing craft pay off for @SylviaStewart3? (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Sylvia Stewart first arrived in Africa two weeks before her sixth birthday. Her parents, missionaries to the then Belgian Congo, had been assigned to the northeastern part of the country.

With her brother, she attended a boarding school, Rethy Academy, in the highlands. Their mother contracted a tropical disease when Sylvia was nine years old, and their father hurried his family home to the U.S. A year or so later, when God miraculously healed her, they returned to the Congo for further missionary service.

Sylvia was able to spend her junior and senior years in high school in the States. Just before her first year of college, her parents left her with friends and returned to the Congo.

Sylvia and her husband, Duane, spent almost 32 years in Africa, sharing the good news about Jesus Christ and his power to save. They worked twenty-one years in Malawi and eleven years in Ethiopia. Their ministry was in evangelism and Bible School teaching and administrating.

Places to connect with Sylvia:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon

 

~*~*~*~*~

For a short time only on Goodreads:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Always with You by Elaine Stock

Always with You

by Elaine Stock

Giveaway ends October 15, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Sylvia and I look forward to your comments.

 

12 comments to Sylvia Stewart: A Caring Woman; Caring Novels

  • Sylvia Stewart

    Thank you, Elaine, for hosting me. What a joy it is to be with you here. Zikomo. This means “Thank you” in Chichewa (chee-chay-wah), the national language of Malawi.

  • Thank you for sharing Sylvia’s life in stories. She’s a wonderful person, and it’s a gift to know her.

  • Marilyn R

    Thank you for featuring Sylvia Stewart on Everyone’s Story. She definitely has a story to share. Books for preteens presenting real issues and that Jesus is the answer is so needed. God bless you both.

    • elaineadmin

      As always, Marilyn, it’s a joy to see you here 😊 What I admire about Sylvia is her dedication to authoring books for younger readers… capturing their hearts and attention at an early age.

  • Sylvia Stewart

    Thank you, Marilyn, and Elaine, too. My original purpose was to leave a written legacy for Malawian children. However, Malawians face the same issue that children of other cultures do. We all need a personal relationship with God whether we’re adults or children.

  • Thank you (or Zikomo) Elaine and Sylvia for sharing this story and excerpt – so interesting!

    • elaineadmin

      Laura, thanks so much for visiting today. I’m glad you’ve found Sylvia’s excerpt intriguing… what every author wants to hear 😊

      Blessings to you.

  • elaineadmin

    Huge thanks go out to Sylvia Stewart for making this past week’s edition of Everyone’s Story so fascinating!! Sylvia, you’ve been a wonderful guest and I sure hope to see you back again. Before I launch each guest’s blog I pray that this opportunity will bless and encourage them, as well as touch each viewer that He wants to reach. And I’m trusting this has happened. Well, I know it has for me 💗

    May each of you be blessed.

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