Kesi Steven is a 25-year-old author from London.
Last year Steven published her book titled: A Guide To Life: African Proverbs Made Relevant Today. The book is to provide self-help/ life advice using traditional African proverbs in a modern-day context. In essence, she have taken 30 African proverbs and broken down the meaning, as well as provided a daily affirmation for the reader.
We spoke to Kesi about the book, how her readers should read it as a guide to life and her dreams and aspirations for the future …
Please introduce yourself …
I am Kesi Steven, a British born Caribbean creative. My family hails from St.Lucia and Dominica, and my Caribbean heritage greatly influences who I am as an individual from my outlook on life, morals, mindset, and work. I call myself a creative as it’s a broad term that allows me to freely explore the depth of my talents and abilities. At this moment in time I am a writer, a published author to be specific, but this year I’ve been on a new creative journey.
Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.
‘Be still‘ – in the sense that I need to be patient, rest, slow down and allow things to be and flow as it’s meant to.
Can you tell us what initially drew you to writing A Guide To Life?
I had absolutely no intentions of being a writer, I grew up assuming I was talentless because I was only ever average at many things. But one thing I have always been great at is helping and teaching others. Being a helper can sometimes take a lot out of your personal energy, so I wanted to create something that people could always refer to throughout their life for support, advice, and inspiration. So when I was deciding on what to write for the original blog pieces I knew I wanted to incorporate my own personal teachings, affirmations, and African proverbs.
Once I started writing the words flowed like water so I knew this idea was meant to be, and writing was a new gift I unlocked. After the first few blog posts I was asked by a few readers to write a book, so I did the necessary research and continued writing until my book was completed.
This is your first book. What was the writing process like? Did you have a routine?
I can honestly say writing this book was the easiest thing I have ever done in my life. Everytime I wrote a new lesson I was shocked at how quickly I wrote it, and how deep the messages were – I still say to this day that I didn’t write this book alone and definitely had some divine support. I didn’t have a routine for the first month or so, and then with the pressure of lockdown, I created a routine just to help me mentally stay on track. So I started to write only 3 days a week at specific times. Throughout my time writing I was based in my room, I would always have a candle lit, incense burning and would say a prayer before I began for spiritual support. I would then have writing breaks from Friday to Sunday then Monday I would re-read the lessons I had written and edit them, then start the next lesson.
You discovered your love for writing after writing a short story in 2019 for Black History Month. Are you still drawn to writing fiction?
I love a bit of fiction and a good story. I am a storyteller at heart, and as I said earlier this year I’ve been on a new creative journey. At the beginning of the year, I did a short course in screenwriting as I wanted to research the different pathways a writer could take. I enjoyed the class so much and it inspired me to take the next big jump into screenwriting, so I have been working on my first feature film script and it’s centred around the Caribbean community here in London of course. How I felt writing my book, is how I feel writing this script so I know I am on the right track.
Your book was published in April. What responses have you received? I can imagine that you have introduced quite a few people to proverbs that are often forgotten.
Yes, it’s been over a year now since I released my book and I believe I have received a great response so far. I have had a lot of support from my family, friends and the local community. I have received great feedback on the lessons and proverbs used, many people are actually waiting for part 2 and have also requested a Caribbean proverbs version. But I set myself a book sales target of 150,000 sales which I have yet to achieve. I set a highly achievable target because I want to push this book out to the world as far as possible as I know a lot of people will benefit from this guidance – So part 2 will not be released until that is achieved.
Was there a particular proverb which inspired you, or is there a proverb that changed the way that you view your life?
Lesson 5 ‘If the full moon loves you, why worry about the stars?’ is the proverb that I really enjoyed writing and is the one that keeps me grounded, focused, and faithful on my path. I am very confident in myself, and my path and I am a big dreamer as you can probably tell. It’s taken a lot of healing, releasing and growth to get to this place mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I am proud of who I am and shine bright, which can sometimes attract a lot of people who want to diminish that.
My interpretation of the proverb is that the moon represents me, my higher self, my inner self, my spiritual team, and the Creator. As long as I stay focused on the moon and follow the path that its light shines on I’ll be more than fine. I don’t need to entertain the stars (people) that tell me I’m unrealistic, I need to find a ‘normal’ job, or project their failures onto me.
Writing is not your only creative interest. You are also now passionate about film & TV writing. How have you found navigating this industry so far?
I have always had a passion for the TV and Film industry since I was a child. I wanted to be a TV presenter and host my own show like Trisha or create my own movies, even my mum wanted me to get into TV. I suppressed that dream later on in my childhood due to experiences that caused me to become insecure and lose parts of my personality and identity. Since turning 25 last year I decided to stop making excuses and take action on what I really and truly want to do, which is to get into the Film and TV industry as any of the following or all of them: writer, director, content creator, and presenter. Navigating the industry so far has been interesting, I suppose it is as hard as they say it is, but I know I’ll find the door that’ll open up for me. I know what I bring to the table creatively so my time will soon come.
You have a very positive and ambitious outlook toward life. Is this something that you have always had or has your attitude changed over time?
Not at all! This is 7 years of hard work, healing, growth, many mental breakdowns, a spiritual awakening, and therapy. I was battling with undiagnosed depression and social anxiety from the ages of 11 to 17. My outlook on life was dark, I was very miserable, and didn’t see much of a future for myself. It wasn’t until I was around 18 when I had a conversation with a family member who helped me identify that I needed help which led me on a journey of healing.
The positive outlook that I have now came into being in 2020, I tell people 2019 was the year that broke me and 2020 is the year that I found my true self hence why I wanted to write my book. I have learnt that this game of life is all about your mindset, attitude, and how you show up. Every “L” I take is a lesson, every obstacle I face is a challenge to overcome (and I do love challenges), rejection is redirection and every win is a divine blessing and there are many more of those to come. Life is hard, I know, but there are many tips and tricks to make it a little easier and they all start with working on your inner self.
What’s your current plan B? (if it all goes wrong what’s the plan?)
Nothing can go ‘wrong’, everything will work out for me the way it is intended in divine and perfect order. If I think about a plan B, then my plan A goes out the window because that’s me telling my spiritual team that I don’t believe in myself, I don’t believe in them and I don’t trust the process.
A book you have to have in your collection?
A book that I have in my collection and also recommended is Acts of faith, daily meditations for coloured people, by Iyanla Vanzant this is a great book to help you expand your mindset and actually inspired the format I created for A Guide To Life.
A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date?
Golden – Jill Scott – Life is good right now, I’m not exactly where I want to be, but I am where I’m meant to be, and I am truly enjoying the journey.
A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly?
The Frog Princess, I definitely share the same life lessons as Tiana, so it helps me ground myself, plus I love the songs, the story, and the visuals overall.
The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)?
I am fortunate enough to have an Aunty/Godmother who ensured that we as a family went to the theatre every winter. I can’t remember the first stage production I saw but my favourite one was Into the hood, which was an urban-style Disney production with a Black cinderella who wore Nike hightops, and other spins on traditional Disney characters. I really loved the production, I even saw it twice! I enjoyed the storyline, the music, and the cast were great.
What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week?
I have friends who are dealing with some difficult life situations which they don’t deserve which is making me sad. I am not mad about anything thankfully, and my mum has gone on a school trip for 3 days and there is peace in the house so I am very glad!
What’s on your bucket list?
I actually wrote a bucket list when I was in college of 100 things to complete, I’ve done about 10 so far. But I would say at this moment in time I would love to find my ideal role in the industry or become a presenter/host of my own show (TV, Youtube or podcast). I would love to move out into my own property, travel to all islands in the Caribbean, record the audio version of my book and reach my book sales target; Have my script be developed into a movie once it’s complete, be able to afford the lifestyle I have envisioned for myself, and continue to explore the depths of myself – Not asking for too much.
Celebrate someone else (who do you rate right now?)
I want to shout out Candice Carty-Williams, the casting for Queenie has just dropped, and this is a great movie for the culture, and Black British film. There are so many great Black British stories that are not being told, so many great writers and voices not being heard, so to see the casting for Queenie is a great achievement for us all. I am looking forward to seeing how this book manifests on screen – Also I am looking for a job/role so shout me!
Where can we find you and read your project?
I am where I have always been, at home in my bed writing. But you can find my work online either on my website: www.kesisteven.com, instagram: @kesi.sx, Linkedin: Kesi Steven, and Facebook: Kesi Steven.