Thursday, April 10, 2014

Moving Forward at Kalahari Review

Kalahari Review is our Botswana based, Pan African, online lit mag. I'm proud to have my story, Moving Forward,  published there today. Moving Forward is a short story I wrote at the Caine Workshop I attended in South Africa. It is included in my short story collection, In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata and Other Stories, but only in the print edition.

It's sort of an odd situation because the ebook and the print book are published by different publishers and the print book came out after the ebook. I wrote this story after the ebook was out.  I liked the story a lot and wanted it included with my other stories in the collection all set in Botswana so decided to include it when the print edition was being prepared.

If you want to read the story you can find it HERE.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Video from a Fan of In the spirit of McPhineas Lata and Other Stories

I was directed to this video and it has made my day!

Please go and check out some of her other fabulous book reviews HERE at Siyanda Writes!

Monday, April 7, 2014


I'm back home and settled after Time of the Writer. It seems to get longer and longer for me to get back into my routine after travelling, but I am back to work, and that's good. I always thought of myself as someone who was not necessarily born to write, I'm a generalist by nature. I finally got to get back to proper writing (not columns or blogs or Facebook or emails) last week and I couldn't believe how great I felt. So perhaps I'm changing, perhaps I'm becoming one of those people who must write to feel okay. That's an interesting turn of events...

So what's going on?? If Not for This, my book about a couple caught up in the Herero genocide in 1904, has had some positive feedback. May we all cross fingers that this book gets a nod and finds a fabulous publisher???? Thanks!

What else? I have a new story up at FunDza. It's a romance called Missing Chances. If you'd like to read it you can find it HERE. The readers there seem to be enjoying it. It is such fun getting immediate feedback like that!

My romance novella, There's Something About Him, has just been accepted by the Nigerian publisher, Kachifo. It will be included in their new imprint for popular fiction called Farafina Breeze. I'm very excited about this for a few reasons. One, it's the publisher that publishes Chimamanda Adichie's books in Nigeria (Yay!!!) . The other thing is that I've had a plan at the back of my mind that the best way to get our books distributed around the continent (for us published on the continent) is to find a publisher in each area, i.e. Southern Africa, East Africa, and West Africa. I would love to have a network of publishers on the continent to which I could routinely submit my manuscripts. I'm crossing fingers this may be the beginning.

My young adult novel set in USA during the bicentennial year is currently "cooking". When I was in Durban I was explaining to the kids how I use all sorts of scientific-y words for my process such as "cooking", "fiction pressure" and "growing legs" but they shouldn't go off thinking that they mean anything to anyone else. HA! Cooking is when the story must sit until you nearly forget you wrote it. That's what's happening now with Bicentennial Summer.

I have a story coming out in Drum Magazine this Thursday (10th April) called Pelo's Call for Help. A ghost story--Boooooo!

That's about it. I'm trying to keep myself in the office at the moment instead of sneaking in the house to watch the Oscar Pistorious trial- it is very addicting!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Reflections on 17th Time of the Writer

So I've been back from Durban now for about two weeks, enough time to reflect back on my experiences at the 17th Time of the Writer. (that up there was the view out my hotel window in Durban, by the way. Yeah, I know, tough life.)

1.  I met lots of new writers I never knew before. People like: the child prodigy, Chibundu Onuzo author of The Spider King's Daughter; Satyajit Sarna, a beautiful, young writer from India, Niq Mhlongo- the template for crazy men everywhere ; Kgebetli Moele, who may have the driest sense of humour on planet earth; the beautiful Hawa Jande Golakai who enjoys digging about in dead bodies,  the writer with the loudest laugh in the world- Prajwal Parajuly; a new friend I hope to visit next time I'm in Kenya the beautiful storyteller Mshai Mwangola, and the intimidating-ly girly Angela Makholwa (if you get past the scary perfect girl outside- she's fabulous). I also got to spend more time with writers I knew a bit, like Sarah Britten and Zukiswa Wanner. A fun time was had by all, especially by ME!!

2. I visited a prison where I listened to juvenile offenders read their writing and I gave them a few pointers. It was amazing how quickly they went from being "juvenile offenders" to boys in a classroom. I couldn't help thinking how adults let these boys down, that somewhere in their past was a young toddler learning to walk, a boy riding a bike for the first time, off to his first day of school. Just a boy with hopes and dreams and then what went wrong? Okay, yeah, people have personal choice, but why do some people's choices seem to be between two bad things? Why are there no good choices? And for kids who decides those choices? Who creates the conditions that put them in places where only bad choices are on offer? It's us, it's adults, but they're paying the price.

3. I went to a government secondary school, Adams College, and had my belief that all a school needs is motivated teachers to be successful confirmed again. The experience re-filled my spirit. I loved the school, loved the staff, and adored the motivated kids. The only down side was my continued sadness that in Botswana I never get invites to speak at government schools. I saw how much the kids enjoyed it and how much it matters to them to meet a "real writer".

4. After our talk (I was with another writer new to me- Praba Moodley) at Chatsworth Education Centre, two young girls came up to me. They are both writers and they gave me the addresses to their blog/ website. There are some seriously good writers coming up if these two are anything to go by- which is great to know. Here's the blog and here's the website. I just thought they were fab! really entertaining.

5. My panel discussion (each writer has one during the evening sessions) was on Friday with the lovely Khulekani Magubane, one of the kindest, loveliest people I've had the pleasure of meeting. It was on children's literature. My fear of public speaking which I have been battling since I entered this writing gig, is slowly dissipating so that's a relief. I think the discussion went well. I was lucky to have one of my publishers, Helga from Oxford University Press, in the audience, and she thought it went well, so I think it did.

6. Time of the Writer is the best literary festival I've ever attended. First it is organised like a military operation. Second, they treat writers like kings and lastly, there is no hierarchical structure. I've been to festivals where the big names are all that matter and the rest of the writers are just the plebs in ther wings. Sort of made me decide I was done with lit fests. Being a writer mostly published in Southern Africa and not known much outside here, I fall into the pleb group which can be a problem for your mental space when you live in a tiny country like Botswana where you are used to being a slightly big fish in a very miniscule pond.  But I'm back to liking lit fest- thanks for that, TOW!

So now I'm home and life goes on. Ups and downs and in-betweens. 
The writing life, the writing life. :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Opening Speech at 17th Time of the Writer

We were asked to give a 4-5 min speech at the opening of the 17th Time of the Writer on the theme- Freeing our Imaginations, taken from Binyavanga's wonderful videos.

Here is what I said.

For writers a prescribed imagination is death. But sadly, in Africa, from every corner, there are threats trying to curtail what we can think, who we can be- and therefore -what we can write. Even the simple act of saying- I want to be a writer- is smashed down and destroyed. A writer? Be serious. Go be a doctor, an engineer, a nurse.

In Botswana, where we have no programme for writers in the entire country, the vice chancellor of our only university at the time, was once presented with a proposal to start a creative writing programme. He said- what does Botswana need writers for? This is a perfect example of how the lack of imagination in Africa is killing us. How the colonisation of our minds is still strong and vibrant- and deadly.

The need to conform in every way is very strong in our societies. Those who step away from the expected path are brave indeed, to fight against such a wall of resistance takes courage and stamina. But that is exactly what we most desperately need. Sadly, we clamour to walk the same disastrous, worn paths of the colonisers. Even when we see where they are heading, the fateful end, we insist it is where we must go, too. Why?

(Read the rest at our Botswana artists website- Diamond Selektion - here)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Vanishings Will Not Be Published

It is unfortunate that I must announce that my book, The Vanishings, will no longer be published. The ebook was put up at Amazon by the publisher, Black Crake Books, but has now been taken down. The publisher was unable to meet his contractual agreement so I've had no option but to break the contract.

I apologise to anyone who was hoping to read the book. I am not sure yet what will happen. Perhaps I will look for another publisher, but that will have to be attended to in the future.

I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

17th Time of the Writer

On Sunday I leave for Durban South Africa to participate in the 17th Time of the Writer literary fesitval which takes place at the University of Kwazulu- Natal. There are panel discussion each evening at the
Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre and the panel discussion I'm on is Friday the 21st of March. The topic is youth literature. I'll be joined by Khulekani Magubane, and the facilitator is Sanelisiwe Ntuli.

Throughout the week there are various activities during the day. I'll be among writers going to
Westville Prison on Wednesday the 19th. I'm also reading and speaking at Adams College on Thursday the 20th. I'm very excited to be going to such a prestigious school who has among their alumni our first president, Sir Seretse Khama. 

I'm looking forward to meeting a host of new writers and to all of the interesting literary discussions that will undoubtedly happen. If you're around Durban, I'd love to meet you.

Monday, March 10, 2014

FunDza Literacy Trust

In Botswana, as it is in most of Africa and maybe all over the world, kids are reading less and less. Here the other problem is development budgets often have little money for libraries, and bookstores are few and far between, not to mention that most books are just too expensive. Books are about P200, with the minimum wage around P1000 and prices going up everyday, who can afford to buy a book under those circumstances?

What I find lovely, though, is when Africans sort out innovative solutions to their problems. FunDza Literacy Trust is one such solution. Cellphones have taken off big in Southern Africa and FunDza has latched on to that to get kids reading. I'm proud to be writing regularly for them.

How it works is a story begins on a Friday. Each story has seven chapters and one chapter goes out on the kids' cellphones each day. Here is my author's page with all of the stories I've written at FunDza. Click on any story and see the comments the readers leave. The kids are reading and seriously engaging with the stories! I think this is wonderful!

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Visit from The Overseas Author

On the 19th of February I trekked down to Gaborone to hear what British author Carolyn Slaughter had to say. I’d not heard of her before I found out she was coming to Botswana, but I quickly bought and read one of her books so as to have a bit of reference when I heard her speak. She lived in Botswana pre-independence when her father worked for the colonial government in Maun, Francistown, Mafikeng, and Gaborone. Her memoir, Before the Knife gives insight into expat, colonial life; that purgatory of not quite being here and not quite being there. The book is brutally honest about her experience and I appreciate that quite a bit. I’d hoped I’d hear that honesty in her talk in Gaborone.

I thought she’d speak about her experiences, her writing, her books. In any case, that’s what she knows about and one would expect her to speak about that. Instead the topic was “Where are the Botswana writers? - an inspirational discussion on African Writing and possibilities for Batswana writers”. I’m not sure where that topic originated, but I hope not with the author. I know that sometimes authors are asked to speak on topics they know very little about. There is the assumption, wrongly, that writers should know everything. When I’m in such situation, I just say no. I will not speak on something I know nothing about. I wish Ms Slaughter might have considered that answer.

She’d last been in Botswana in the 1980s as she admitted. From her talk it was clear she knew nothing about the writing done in this country either in Setswana or English. She spoke a bit about Bessie Head, but had to have facts corrected by a member of the audience.

She spoke about writing on the continent as if nothing had happened since the 1970s, speaking of Achebe and Gordimer; stating that JM Coetzee was the best author to study if you want to understand the slave/master dynamics and the nuances of colonialism (!?!!!!). The only modern writers she spoke about were Zimbabweans Petina Gappah and NoViolet Bulawayo, who she wrongly described as a lawyer. She spoke about We Need New Names, but, surprisingly, did not once mention the Caine Prize story from which the book originated, and the Prize which is so important in discovering new African fiction writers.

How do you speak about conflict and war on the continent and narratives about them and not talk about Chimamanda Adichie and Aminatta Forna? How do you speak about traditionalism vs modernism without speaking about Lola Shoneyin? How do you not mention exciting writers like Teju Cole, Binyavanga Wainaina, Lauren Beukes, Chika Unigwe, Sarah Lotz, Taiye Selasi, Damon Galgut…honestly the list goes on and on. I felt like I’d fallen into a black hole.  There are so many exciting, current writers on the continent and to only mention two writers, one of which put out a short story collection and seems to have disappeared, is not representative in any way of “an overview of African fiction”.

She went on to give suggestions about what Batswana writers might consider writing about (because we can’t find topics on our own)  and suggested that maybe there were no writers in Botswana because the country was just “too peaceful”. When she gave us all permission to write about war on the continent because wars in Africa are just as important as the wars in Europe- “all wars are equal”,  I looked around the room to see if I was the only person trying hard to stop myself from banging my head on the table in frustration.

Honestly, I don’t blame Ms Slaughter for her woeful lack of knowledge about literature on the continent and in Botswana. She doesn’t live here or write her. She knows nothing at all about the publishing climate or the challenges and opportunities we have. I do think she should have said no, this is not something I should speak about, but, for whatever reason, she decided otherwise. For that she is accountable. I guess my real beef sits with whoever invited her and gave her such a topic. It smacks of neo-colonialism- let the foreigner tell us what to do and we’ll all just nod our heads and follow. Are we not past that?
Surely we are long, long past that

(This first appeared in my column It's All Write in The Voice newspaper)