As they enter midlife, women may lose touch with their enthusiasm for life. They might also have dreams they still want to fulfil. This series of interviews with authors aged 50+ aims to inspire these women to make their next years their best years!
Welcome Gill Tembo!
Q … Where do you hail from?
I was born in Yorkshire and lived there with my family until I was 12. Then Dad was offered a job in Luton, Bedfordshire and in 1971 we moved lock, stock and barrel. It was quite traumatic I think for us all and I personally felt uprooted. It took us all a while to settle in this strange new world of Bedfordshire away from family and friends, having to start again.
Looking back, this move disconnected me from place in some way. I never felt at home or particularly settled so when Gaban, my late husband came along when I was in my mid-twenties, a move to Zambia seemed like the most obvious thing in the world!
Q … What one thing do you like most about where you live?
The climate, drier and sunnier than your average UK region!
Q … List no more than 5 words to describe yourself
Passionate, loyal, organised, honest, determined
Q … At what age did you start writing?
I remember writing stories as a child and I often started writing a diary and never followed it though! I liked writing poems too, but I never thought they were any good and kept them well hidden!
Q … What is the title of your book and what inspired you to write it?
My book is called ‘Life and Love in Africa: My journey to Zambia, Nigeria and Back’
It is a memoir and I wrote it to record the extraordinary life I had with my late husband, our life in Zambia and Nigeria and back in the UK, until his very untimely death in May 2001 at the age of 40.
Gaban wanted me to write about our life in Zambia because I was seeing a world many expatriates and even Zambians didn’t see. So, that was where it began, with a journal recording our travels. I took our son, James, to Nigeria as a baby, so there was no time to journal write there – but my Mum kept all my letters (we wrote letters then, no internet, email or Skype) so that part of the book is based on them.
Writing the book was a cathartic journey for me, very difficult at times; I shed many tears! Now though, I realise how important that release was and this year the potent dates like our wedding anniversary and my son’s 30th birthday – which we are spending apart because of Coronavirus – have lost their emotional charge. It is a strange feeling, not being upset, but so very positive! I have my memories, but a huge black cloud has lifted, and I can remember and still feel light and bright.
I am very grateful for the 13 years of marriage I had with Gaban and for sharing my life with him for that short time – it was transformational for me and for that I can only feel happy and blessed.
Q … How do you wish to inspire others with your writing?
I would love people to read my book and be moved by it. People have written to me and said how it has touched them in various ways. We share a common human condition and the emotions we feel are universal. I would like to inspire people to write for themselves, I have always found it to be so cathartic and healing. I write a regular journal in which I record my thoughts, feelings and emotions and I often find that writing things down in a free-flowing, uncluttered way clears away blocks and helps me to sort out problems and to see my world more clearly. Writing doesn’t necessarily need to reach publication to be beneficial. For me though it was closure and that needed to happen to allow me to move on!
Q … Do you feel your writing nature changed after you turned 50? If so, how?
I had been writing my book over many years, on and off. It was the year I turned 50 though that I finally finished that rough first draft. It was rough too, because I had gathered together the information from all the journals, letters, papers, passports, travel documents, employment contracts and reports I had. There were still many hours ahead of me smoothing it out and bringing it together into a cohesive whole with a flow and a structure for the reader to follow.
The year I turned 50 was quite pivotal too because I started to see a Hypnotherapist to help me with grief counselling and that lead to training in Reiki, exploring other therapies such as Body Talk, Energy Medicine and Biogeometry – all of which I took courses on. My life was on a transformational path; another one! This time for me and for my recovery, but central to that was to complete the book.
So, yes, my 50th year was a turning point for me.
Q … What impact do you think your book(s) will have on women aged above 50?
I’m not sure that ‘Life and Love in Africa’ will have any particular resonance for the over 50’s than for anyone else who reads it, but I am now writing poetry with the idea to publish another book which may. This shows my journey from the sudden death of my husband to now. If my life with Gaban totally changed me and how I saw the World, I have gone through an equally dramatic change during my recovery process and it is that I wish to share in my next book … in my head at the moment it is called … A Return to Me!
Q … How do you motivate yourself at age 50+?
I don’t feel any less motivated now than I did when I was younger. I think the thing that has changed is my confidence in me and my words which I have gained over time networking with amazingly inspirational people like Sue Williams, and also coming together in a supportive atmosphere which for me is The Sanctuary an online writing group hosted by Hannah Gold. Being determined and open minded is important, follow those thoughts in your head and just do it. There are loads of other resources available and it is just a case of finding the right fit for you. If you are determined and keep open minded the right avenue will open up.
Q … Do you believe you are living the life you have always wanted?
This is so difficult. I’m not sure how to answer. No, I think is the answer! That sounds negative, but I loved my life with my husband! That is no longer available. I have loved my life bringing up my son, but he is now independent. My dream is to move to Cornwall, and I am hoping that will soon be a reality. That is the life I have wanted for many years, and I believe when I’m there I will be able to say ‘yes’ to your question!
Q … How has your writing affected your quality of life?
As mentioned, I write my ‘Morning Pages’ (Julia Cameron, ‘The Artists Way”). This book was recommended to me a couple of years after losing Gaban and it changed my life. My daily writing gave me a safe place where I could share my deepest, darkest thoughts with the secure knowledge that no one was ever going to read them – that was so freeing and allowed me to work through so many emotions.
Q … Which book or author has most helped you change your life at the age of 50+?
I met two inspirational people who helped me finish the book. The first was John Harrigan of ‘Foolish People’, a writer, director, performer and for me a meditation teacher! I started going to his outdoor meditation classes at Hitchin Lavender which are amazing and as I got to know him, he offered to mentor me for a year with my creative practice. We met once a month and John taught me techniques and practices that helped open up my creativity, to listen to my inner voice and the importance of completing the ritual of the book. He gave me deadlines, so important, because I work to deadlines! Without that structure I wouldn’t have finished the book. So influential!
The second person was Hannah Gold. I had finished the book by the time I signed on with her online writing group, and was in the throes of editing, re-writing and reading, but Hannah and the ladies of the group gave me confidence in my work and my words. I shared writing for the first time and began to realise that I can move people with my words. Imagine, by then I was 60!
Q … What piece of advice do you have for other women over the age of 50 that could help them live the rest of their lives in the best way possible?
Fifty is just a number, don’t let it stop you doing anything you want to do!
Q … Please share an inspiring or motivational except from your current book
When I was in Zambia with Gaban he carried out a survey in Southern Province investigating the use of animal draught power by the small-scale, subsistence farmers living in the area. We worked with a team of Extension Workers employed by the Ministry of Agriculture and to cover an area dropped off two-man teams at each farm we visited with me, Gaban and an extension worker visiting the furthest farm to interview our farmer, before returning and picking up the other teams…
“We approached the farm and found a very frail old lady; so thin and fragile I imagined a gust of wind could blow her over, but her heavily-lined face lit up when she saw us. She was wearing a faded chitenge (batik cloth wrap around skirt) and looked small and vulnerable. She greeted us warmly, introductions were made, and we explained the purpose of our visit. The old lady found stools for us to sit on and we settled down in the clearing in the middle of her small farm around the embers of last night’s fire and Gaban began his questions. Firstly, her age, she didn’t know how old she was, but we estimated she must have been over sixty since she had married daughters with families of their own. The farm consisted of one brick-built hut with a grass roof, which must have been her house, another round straw thatched hut was where she kept chibuku-brewing equipment (local beer) and another open sided hut which housed a hand grinder for chibuku making.
As Gaban ran through the questionnaire, we discovered that she had run the farm alone since the death of her husband some years before with now only the help of one son, still of school age and living with her. She grew just enough food to survive and didn’t have any surplus crops to market. She did make chibuku and produced pottery cooking pots which she sold locally; she proudly showed us the pots she’d just made, which were glazed brown, functional and sturdy and of various sizes. She didn’t own any oxen, but tilled the land with a hand hoe, which must have been back-breaking work. There was no running water at the farm or power or access to any form of transport. The farm was tiny; just a few huts gathered together in what felt like such an isolated spot in the middle of nowhere. I sat and listened in complete wonderment. I couldn’t imagine living her life and yet there was a spirit and stoic determination that shone out of her. I am sure she didn’t feel worn down or underprivileged in any way; this was her life and she calmly accepted it with dignity and I sensed a balance and equilibrium that some of us in the rush of Western living are missing. On completing the questionnaire, we thanked the old lady very much for her time and walked back to the vehicle, leaving her alone in her village.”
Q … What can we expect from you in the future?
A motivational and thought-provoking anthology of poetry bringing to life my emotional journey from grief to happiness. Change is hard and an ongoing process, but hopefully in ‘Return to Me’ I show how anyone can reach a place of acceptance and learn to love life again.
I am also in the process of setting up a blog in which I hope to share some of my writing… it’s on the back burner for the moment … but that is the plan!
Q … What advice would you give to other women who are thinking of writing a book at age 50+?
Go for it! Don’t let anyone or anything put you off, it’s your life, live it!
Q … How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
‘Life and Love in Africa: My journey to Zambia, Nigeria and Back’ is for sale on Amazon and other online book sellers.
My email address is: email@example.com
Answering these questions reminds me that I do need to get on with setting up my blog!
This series of Q and A with female authors aged 50 and above, helps us understand how they use their books to help change lives and motivate other women above 50 to live a life they love. If you, or someone you know, would like to participate, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can read the ongoing series of inspirational interviews at www.sue-williams.com where you can also register to receive occasional updates.