When Stacey Fru decided to write her first book, Smelly Cats, it was purely to get back at her mother. “I was mad at her for writing a book without telling me, so I decided I would write a book without telling her. I was young I didn’t understand that a masters’ thesis was part of her learning.” She was seven years old. That simultaneously childish yet very adult decision, changed the course of her lifetime. Aged twelve now, she has published five books which have won her multiple awards. She is also a philanthropist, child activist and inspirational speaker.
Stacey who describes herself as curious, quiet and open-minded is the second of four children. She says she comes from a literary family: her parents are both academic writers and avid readers. She credits them for fostering her love for reading, writing and the reading
culture (which also serves as family bonding time) in their home. Her siblings aged fourteen, ten and seven have all read her books and some have even tried to write their own books. She is the only one who is published among her siblings, a fact she jokingly credits to being the most tenacious.
Stacey has undoubtedly grown as a writer. Her first book Smelly Cats is about two cats who are cousins who get into fights because of their differences. She says that this book drew from her family life: she sometimes fights with her cousins. It was her attempt to integrate her human life into cats. From that first book, she has gone on to write about children and their pets, Kidnappings and the need to look and see Africans as role models, these last two, undoubtedly heavy topics for a twelve-year-old. She says this growth is fueled in part by her love for reading. Reading is instrumental in developing her reading style. It improves her grammar and she’s constantly finding new creative ways to structure her sentences. Even as she grows, she is deliberate in ensuring her writing style remains unique to who she is. She particularly loves literary fiction. She is currently reading a young adult novel titled Lost Boy. She has no favourite books or authors but she hasn’t been able to shake off The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas.
Stacey also has a foundation that deals with kidnappings and literacy. While her interest in kidnappings comes from a valid concern for children’s security, her work in literacy is more impassioned. When she was starting out her journey as an author, her mother asked her if she knew how many children in South Africa could read. Stacey hopefully assumed all of them which sadly isn’t the case. From then on, she made up her mind to do something about child literacy levels in South Africa and the world over. She does this through reading programs in various schools. I asked her what a literate future looks like for her. A future where all children can read, for her means a more advanced world, less crime and children with a better sense of worth the world over.
Her future however isn’t as spelled out. You would think Stacey is certain about being a writer for the rest of her life, but she is adamant about keeping her options open. She knows she will keep on writing for as long as she can, but she also has her sights set elsewhere. She wants to become a human rights lawyer and activist.
Having achieved success so young, I ask her what awards and success mean to her. She likes awards as they mean that her work is seen and recognized, which serve as a confidence boost and motivates her to keep writing. Success on the other hand, is a bittersweet feeling. While she is happy that she has achieved so much already and is able to impact children’s lives, she also feels like she is losing her childhood early. Her success means that she feels a pressure to be perfect and can therefore not fully express herself. A huge part of success for her is being able to make everyone around her happy. But she also wants to write more books, travel more, learn how children learn and live in different areas.
This can be overwhelming and so to unwind, she draws and dances. She also listens to music and thinking of the best possible future and the impact she could have. She likes indie music, lofi hip-hop and rap. In doing these things, she is able to stay grounded and true to her authentic self.
Stacey is incredibly smart and ambitious. The impact of her existence and life’s work will certainly be felt for generations to come.
Photos obtained from Stacey Fru’s website.