One of the wonderful things about being shortlisted for the Caine Prize is that the following year you get invited to attend the Caine Workshop. The workshop lasts for ten days (this year 5-15 March) and takes place in various places around Africa. This year we've been lucky to be in a tiny corner of heaven called Volmoed which is near Hermanus South Africa. I took the photo above from one of the trails up into the mountains that surround Volmoed. If you look carefully in the valley in the middle of the photograph above there are the collection of lovely houses where we are staying.
From last year's shortlist, only Beatrice Lamwaka and I were able to attend. The other writers were chosen from around Africa. They include: Mehul Gohil (Kenya), Brenda Mukami (Kenya), Waigwa Ndiangui (Kenya), Tendai Rinos Mwanaka (Zimbabwe), Grace Khunou (South Africa), Rehana Roussouw (South Africa), Yewande Omotoso (South Africa) and Rachel Zadok (South Africa)
Above is the waterfall on one of the trails around Volmoed. Volmoed is usually a retreat for Christians and most of these trails have benches for a person to sit and pray or meditate. In our case, to think about our stories. We are here for ten days and during those days we are meant to be writing a short story that must be handed over at the end ready for publication. The stories produced here will be added to this year's shortlisted stories to make the Caine Anthology for 2012.
We are lucky to have two very good facilitators; Henrietta Rose-Innes (a former Caine Prize winner) and Jamal Mahjoub, an accomplished author from Sudan via UK. Since I'm normally a very fast writer, I thought before I came that I might find ten days far too much for the work required. But the process used allowed me to slow down and take more time to try and really understand how my story works, something I never do. I'm quite instinctual in my process with short stories. Either it works or it doesn't. I don't take the time to evaluate why something works or doesn't work. I really enjoyed the process and learned a lot about the inner workings of a short story.
Each night 3-4 writers read bits of their story that they've completed and the rest of us make comments.
In the mountains around Volemoed is the fynbos the Cape is so well known for. Above (I think ) is one of the fynbos flowers. I took the photo out on one of my morning walks. Another common feature of walks in these mountains are baboons- lots of them, lots of big ones. Mean ones with teeth. So far no writers have been eaten.
The workshop is nearly over and it has been fantastic. I've met some lovely people, had some interesting conversations, and have had far too much fun. A big, big thank you to The Caine Prize folks.