Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fun, Fun, Fun 'Til Her Daddy Takes the T-Bird Away!

Okay it's not a T-bird it's a Toyota Corolla, but I am off on a road trip with my famous writing friend - yes, I will name drop- Jenny Robson (crowd says: Ooooo!!!) -winner of the Sanlam Prize a record five times as well as LOADS of other awards, even a UNICEF Award. Just a fantastic writer of children's books and a lovely woman to boot. We are off to the thriving metropolis of Lephalale (formerly Ellisrus) , which for people not from the area might be compared to Garrison Keillor's fictional Lake Wobegon with a distorted Afrikaner twist.

I like telling the story of our visits over the border - myself and my black husband. The first time we went was when my daughter was born, 1992. We went to OK to buy a pram. Cars nearly stopped in the street to look at us- mixed race couples were apparently not very common since it wasn't that far back in history that such things meant time in jail. We were there for about an hour, two at most.

About two or so years later we visited again to buy some things for our newborn son. We went into the same OK and the teller said, "So you're here again?"

Since then we've been to the charming, little, racist place a handful of times. The last was to sue a man who buggered up my car. I won quite a pile of cash at the small claims court so we went out to the local Spur to celebrate. By now it must have been about 2004 or so, well into the Rainbow Nation Pseudo Dream South Africans love to believe in, but don't dig at too deeply for fear the truth might spurt out all over them. The white waitress couldn't quite be convinced to wait on the black man, his white wife, and their two brown children. In the end, we got a black, male waiter who received quite an astounding tip from the, by the end, quite drunk, misbehaving, white wife.

So that's my experience with Lephalale in a nutshell. So- I'm looking forward to this trip. Something about that place seems to bring out my naughty side. Hmmm..... News upon my return. Promise.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

We didn't let him live in peace- will we let him die in peace?

You can't be a member of the Earth Club without hearing every detail of Michael Jackson's death just like we went through every detail of his life- from the monkey in his bedroom to the merry-go-round in his garden to his dirty drawers shoved behind the stove. He was a media construct. Of course he had choice as we all do, but perhaps he couldn't see the choices clearly in the unrelenting glare from the stage lights.

Please go and read the wonderful poem by Australian poet Maxine Clarke called Little Michael, here is an excerpt:

oh / michael / would you believe it today congress stood for you same old little michael / nobody spoke / we found gabriel in that voice of yours /
& looked past the empty eyes / childhood locked up /
behind a thug on a tour bus / nobody spoke up & little michael /
a tired twelve-year-old / sold platinum /
how ‘bout that everybody wz say in little michael /
y’know small black boy with the hair / cute smile /
sings that song / ABC & somethin‘bout salvation

Robala Ka Kagiso, Little Michael, if we will only let you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Not Enough Words

Even though I have a stack of books from the Book Fair that I want to read, I am slowly making my way through Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I am doing it slowly on purpose; I don't want it to finish. I love his writing. It is smart and funny and creative and exactly the kind of writing I wish I could produce. I said this to a writing friend and she said- no Jeffrey Eugenides must write as Jeffrey Eugenides and Lauri Kubuitsile must write like Lauri Kubuitsile. And I guess that is the case, sadly, but then of course the next question is- how does Lauri Kubuitsile write? I know her and I don't know. She's a bit of a chameleon if you ask me; she can't be trusted.

Anyway this is not why I started this post. The reason I started this post was thoughts that have been inspired by something in Middlesex. He says that it's obvious language was created by men because there are so few words for emotions. We all know that the Eskimos have a bazillion words for different kinds of snow, because snow is an important part of their lives. But us, in English at least, have only a handful of words for emotions; which may be a commentary on the emotional maturity of English speakers- but I'd rather not go into that now.
If we're sad we can be distressed, tormented, melancholy, unhappy, doleful, inconsolable- but what is the word for the particular sadness you feel when you just discovered the tyre on your car is flat. There should be a word for that mixture of anger, sadness, frustration and just plain bad luck .

Or what about happiness. You might be contented or joyful, enchanted, or even exhilarated. But what is the word for the happiness you feel on a hot summer day, with not a single cloud in the sky, and you've just been handed a chocolate ice cream cone. There's joy, of course, but also anticipation, relief, some nostalgia for past cones, and even a little bit of sadness as you know it will all be over in such a short bit of time. There should be a word for that feeling.

Our thoughts and our writing are housed within the box of the language that we choose to write in. I'm limited and can't quite be sure about this since I speak only English fluently enough to write in it , but I think that this may be the problem in being forced to write in a language that is not your mother tongue. I mean how would an Eskimo write a story without her bazillion words for snow? It would become paralyzingly frustrating to pick from the limited list English has on offer.

Thanks to Mr. Eugenides I'm wondering about all the ways that English, or any language for that matter, keeps us from being able to describe all of the things we must. It means in almost all cases we never get it quite right, we actually never can because there are just not enough words at our disposal. Then too, that space between what we want to say and what we can, is the place in which our readers write their own stories from the ones that we've provided for them. Perhaps that is a bit of the magic of reading and the wonderful interaction between the writer and the reader. So maybe it's not as bad as it seems after all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Let's Be Friends

What a lovely surprise I got when visiting Helen Ginger's fantastic blog- Straight from Hel-she gave me a Let's Be Friends Blog Award! Here's what the award is about:

Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers.
How sweet is that??? Now I get to pass this lovely award on to others.
This is a new friend I've made. A lovely, open writer living in the Blue Ridge Mountains so far awy, but we still have many things in common.
Groovy runs a hilarious blog about her extremely busy life and her lovely family.
Ivor has got to be the most supportive writer of other writers. He jumps up and down and cheers for every single writer's success. A very big heart this one has.
This is a fascinating blog about life in the north of Botswana. A new friend met in cyberspace who I intend to meet in real life one of these good days.
A caring, loving writer whose blog is always a thoughtful read.
I certainly could not leave Selma out of such an award- she's giving, caring and over the top supportive as well as a fantastic writer!
Ms Karen is one of my first cyber friends, we even once had a writing group together. Funny, intelligent honest blog.
Tania Hershman is an extraordinarily talented writer that has a very bright star in her future. To add to that she is one of the most warm and loving people I've met in cyberspace, she really has the best interest of writers always at heart.
My daughter said a funny thing when she was here this past weekend. She was concerned that I would soon be home alone with she and her brother at boarding school and my husband heading back to university. She said, "Anyway, you're never really alone since you have friends on the internet that you talk to." And that's true. I've made many lovely friends in the internet, it really is a wonderful thing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Please, Take Photographs

One of the high points for me at the Cape Town Book Fair involved poetry- a session on what poets mean when they write about love. It was a panel discussion led by Modjaji Books founder Colleen Higgs. On the panel were Sindiwe Magona, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Makhosazana Xaba, Malika Ndlovu, and visiting poet from UK, Xena Edwards. They each read a love poem showing love in the widest possible definition; the way that it should be thought of.

Mme Sindiwe Magona read a poem about the loss of our children to this vile disease AIDS. It is in her first book of poetry, also launched at this year's Book Fair and published by Modjaji Books. The name of the poem and the book is "Please, Take Photographs". The reading was one of the most moving for me. My mind slipped to all of the people gone, only photographs left to remind us.

The poem is haunting with the repeated title line, a photograph- a small comfort up against the death of a child.

....Please, take photographs, and tell the children why-
Take photos, before the young perish to the very last.

Take photographs! Take photographs, and put then on the walls.

So the image of the dear face will forever live on.

I know, small comfort is a picture, your son or daughter gone.

Cold is a photo, from it comes not warmth nor smile nor hug.

A photo does not laugh; it will not go to the shop for you

Or be solace in your old age. .....

This weekend when my giant teenagers were home from boarding school, I did just as Mme Magona instructed and took photographs. AIDS is an equal opportunity killer and I should not sit complacent thinking my children are safe for whatever reason I choose that lets me sleep at night. I will take photographs and tell the children why.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Writing for Teenagers

One of the sessions that I attended at the Cape Town Book Fair was on writing for teenagers. UK writer Kevin Brooks was on the panel as well as my new friend and very accomplished writer Helen Brain, among others. There were a few things that stood out for me in that session.

First, Kevin Brooks said he never set out to write for teens. He felt teens won't read books that are designated as 'teen fiction'. As a writer he just set out to write books, it was only that his books tended to be about teenagers so for that reason teens were drawn to them. Someone on the panel said that the best way to get teens to read your book was to either censor it or write 'for adults only' on the cover.

The other interesting thing that Kevin Brooks said, though it might have been at the other session I attended with him, was that he felt it made more sense to write his teen books in first person. He said that for teens so much of their lives is happening in their heads. Compared to perhaps any other time in our lives, teenagers are frantic in their heads so first person allows the writer to get inside there, at least for one of his characters.

There was also a discussion about the validity of adults writing for kids and again Kevin Brooks made an interesting remark- all adults have been kids. And too- adults get the added perspective of looking back on what happened. Someone in the audience and on the panel felt adults didn't know teenagers and what was important to them now. But Brooks said that was irrelevant and in actual fact if you include current lingo and music etc. by the time the book is out it will be dated. Stories are timeless.

I think I agree with Brooks. I recently finished my humorous (I hope) book, Aunt Lulu, about a teenage girl who gets roped into running the agony aunt column in her school newspaper and it all goes very wrong. Though I normally write in third person, I never considered that for a moment. It had to be first person, too much of the fun was happening in my protagonist's head.

I think sometimes as writers we make our work more difficult than it needs to be. Yes, we should do our research to make things authentic but we are writers- fiction writers no less. We are like spies, we can go everywhere but the lovely thing we can do it right at our desks and we get to take our readers along with us, we get to show them a new place, a new way to see things. Don't be afraid to write for teenagers- just don't tell them that's what you're doing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stories From Cape Town

I am exhausted and happy and inspired and filled up and full of so many things to say and too tired to say them. I had a lovely time at the Book Fair. I got back last night at about 9 pm. I have a feeling I will be blogging about everything that happened there for a few weeks in one way or another. I felt so much like a real writer- it was great- maybe I'll begin to believe it soon. So many wonderful stories to tell about the Fair.

One evening after the Book Fair there was an event sponsored by British Council. The London Book Fair is linking up with the Cape Town Book Fair; a process which began this year with author Keven Brooks and poet Xena Edwards attending the Cape Town Book Fair. Next year there will be a whole section just for South African writers and publishers. So this event was about that, sort of a kick-off to preparations.

So I was standing there and suddenly I looked next to me and there was Henrietta Rose-Innes, last year's Caine winner, just like that! People who read this blog regularly know that 1) I am a writer stalker of the first order and 2) Henrietta Rose-Innes is one of the many in my sights. SO- I turn to her and say in my inept, diarrhoea-of-the-mouth way-"My god you're Henrietta Rose-Innes- I think I might cry". She asked me to please NOT, which is fair enough. I got to tell her what a fan I was and that was lovely. She mentioned that she knew me and my writing too, which was nice though a suspect it may have been a segue to get away from the scary writer-stalker, but it was wonderful to meet her. She has a very calm, intelligent, focused way about her, much like her writing. I kept thinking she reminded me of someone and it was only in the morning when I woke I realised it was Jodie Foster, though everyone I told says I am wrong, I still think she does.

It was a lovely, albeit awkward, moment. One of so many at the Fair.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Obama Fun

Australian poet Maxine Clarke has a laugh out loud funny poem she intends to perform in Melbourne very soon all about her dreams for President Obama. I have a feeling many of us share her thoughts. Stop by her blog and read it for some fun. Wish I could fly to Melbourne to hear her perform it!

And for more fun check out this video about the culture shock Obama got when he stopped in a Denny's Restaurant. Hilarious!!! Apparently the President will never be the same after the visit.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Off to Cape Town Book Fair!!

If you're reading this you should know I am gone. Picture me flying off to Joburg (BRRRRR Cold!) and then flying again to Cape Town (Yeah- ocean!). I leave Friday morning and won't be back until Wednesday. I will be listening to authors read, crying at performance poetry, learning at panel discussions, meeting up with publishers, seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and doing what I love best- stalking writers!

I am a writer because I have a long and committed love affair with books. My first letter posted in the mail was to an author of a book about monkeys- and he wrote me back! Since then I've been a committed writer lover. So I will buy books and stand in long queues to get them signed and be so grateful that the person took the time to sit down and write the book so that I could read it, and then as a cherry on top pitched up at the Book Fair to speak about it and then sign my copy. The whole thing borders on a religious experience. I'll be worshipping the only way this committed agnostic knows how.

So have fun while I'm gone...and don't be naughty....okay.. just a little bit. See (? read) you all when I get back.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What’s the deal, JM Coetzee?

I received my copy of New Writing from Africa 2009, which is the anthology of the stories that made the shortlist for this year’s PEN/Studzinski Literary Award. It is a beautiful book. They’ve done a lovely thing at the beginning of each story with a map of Africa and the writer’s country highlighted and then their picture and biography. The two Botswana writers, myself and Wame Molefhe, are second and third in the book thanks to the alphabetical ranking of our country. I would request Algerian writers to please refrain from entering next year or if you must enter please move to Zambia or Zimbabwe. That would be very helpful.

Bios are tricky, more so when you are asked to comment on your writing. I think my attempt at anti-intellectualism in describing my story worked- unfortunately. It was almost as bad as Mma Molefhe’s painful admission that one of her hobbies is sewing.

The book is beautiful- that is- until page 394 and 395- the final judge, Mr. JM Coetzee’s comments. The prize winners in this competition were all white, South Africans though all judging was done anonymously. This seems to have pushed Mr. Coetzee, sitting in Australia with his heavy satchel of white guilt, to come up with a reason. He does contend that he perhaps does not have an ear for the continent’s writing and for that I give him one point. But then it all goes very wrong. He then says- “…educational standards vary, and along with them levels of competence in the reading and writing of English, not to speak of familiarity with international literary trends and standards. We must face the unhappy fact that the playing field on which the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award was contested was not a level one, and will probably not be level for a long while”.

In a handful of words Mr Coetzee manages to insult the winners, as well as all writers from the rest of the continent. To the winners he’s saying-“Okay you won, but not because you are good writers, it’s because institutional inequalities gave you a leg up.” How nice is that? If I was among the winners, I’d be less than pleased.

The weighted ethnocentrism of his remark has it falling flat on its face. If you look through the bios of the writers from countries outside of South Africa many are academics. Cameroonian Naomi Nkealah is doing her doctorate, Kenyan Ken Kamoche is an academic in UK, Nigerian Maik Nwosu is an assistant professor in USA, Nigerian Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyeni is an associate professor in USA, and Zimbabwean Novoilet Bulawayo is doing her masters degree at Cornell- these are no academic slouches.

I also find his condescending contention that writers on the continent are not in tune with “international literary trends and standards” very disturbing. Which trends and standards are those? Euro-centric trends? Writing in Africa has a style, grown from the soil of this continent. Perhaps a judge familiar with the “African literary trends and standards” may be more suitable to judge this contest. For if it is the case that the writers from the continent are so ill equipped to compete with the learned white South Africans, as Coetzee contends, why is it that those same writers have not taken over the Caine Prize? Why do Nigerians win? Ugandans? Kenyans? Zimbabweans? How did they manage to slip by the judges with their shoddy work coming from minds not schooled to the rhythm chosen by Mr. Coetzee?

SA PEN has done a lovely job by extending the contest to the whole of Africa. Now let’s have judges who can hear beauty in the literature of the continent.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

I just finished reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. An excellent book about a special relationship between two women during unbearable times. There is so much about China and Chinese culture that I knew nothing at all about and I found the book fascinating for that too. It is about two girls growing up in the mid 1800's in rural China. Lily comes from a poor family, her father a farmer, while Snow Flower is from an educated, wealthy family. Though their backgrounds would normally have kept them apart a matchmaker decides that they are 'old sames' and the two girls begin the most important relationship for women of the time, in many ways more important than their marriages; a laotong relationship. They are now paired for life.

Though much about Chinese culture is revealed; foot binding and its importance, the very strict class system, and the role of women in society, the most interesting to me was Nu Shu. Nu Shu is a secret language only known by Chinese women of the time. It nearly disappeared until recently when the government realised its importance in their society and resurrected it.

Nu Shu was taught by mothers to daughters and by sworn sisters or, in the case of Lily and Snow Flower, by laotongs. It was a secret language not to be shown or learned by men. It was used as decorations when embroidering with poetic messages about women's lives. It was also used to make books called third day books, in which sworn sisters, mothers and laotongs wrote messages about the newly married young woman. The book was read on the third day after the marriage. For Lily and Snow Flower, they used Nu Shu on their secret fan to record the important events in their lives.

Apparently it is the only language written only for women. That seems quite astonishing to me. In so many cultures women suffered similar oppression as Chinese women, one would have thought naturally such languages might have developed, as a secret code to express their real thoughts and wishes that society forced them to hide.

I recently read a post at Helen Ginger's blog about researching for fiction and how the author should be knowledgeable about their material, but they shouldn't set out to use their fiction to teach their readers. I think Lisa See does an excellent job at doing just that, of walking that difficult line. The facts about China in the mid 1800's are brought out through the beautiful love story of these two girls. A very good book I highly recommend.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Don't Bash Your Head Against the Wall

Tim Clare author of We Can't All Be Astronauts writes an interesting essay in The Independent about his road to publishing success. He says-

Tenacity and flexibility make a formidable team. Take pleasure in creative failure – it's a sign you're pushing yourself – but learn from it too. I had to bash my head against a brick wall several times before I thought: "Hey, maybe I should change direction." Getting published is about practising until you're really good, then persevering until you're really lucky.

I think we all take our own roads on this writing journey, but I'll agree bashing your head against the wall for extended periods should be avoided if possible.

When I started out writing I thought I was going to be one of these humorous writers with quirky characters a la Sue Townsend. I wrote two novels and they both were beaten around like a baseball at the World Series. They have now been benched (to continue the baseball analogy further than I really should). I was banging my head against the wall. So I tried writing detective books and it worked. So though I am not of the school that says 'rejection is good for you', in a twisted way it got me published. So flexibility is indeed important. Don't fall too in love with your initial idea about the type of writer you want to be. You could be wrong and that could keep you from success.

As Mr. Clare says, flexibility is important, but more and more I'm realising that tenacity is the key. There are many, many writers who are much better than I am, but they will never be published. Anyone will tell you making a success of writing is almost impossible. The road is littered with people who lost hope. Pit bull-like tenacity is what will get you through. They can shake you, they can bash you left and right- but don't let go. Stay steely-eyed and hold on. Hold on and somewhere ahead, with a little luck and quite a bit of hard work, success will find you; it's almost certain.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Funeral

I went to the funeral for a friend to my children on Saturday. I couldn't stop thinking about the mother and putting myself in her shoes. Batswana are a very stoic people; wild emotions are frowned upon. For women, when someone very close to you dies you are put in a room with all of the elderly women in the family. This bit of writing is about that.

The Dream Dying Room

She sits in the room she’s been assigned to for the last week and a half. At first she wanted to rebel against tradition and get out. Her son was dead and it seemed only right that she should be involved in laying him to rest just as she’d been involved in every aspect of his life up until then. But the routine of the room has become a comfort. The abnormality of it gives structure to the dead end her life has run into. The room is a fitting place for dreams to die without hopes begging for their resurrection.

People crowd. She can hear chairs knocking against each other in the garden. People talking. The smell of cooking fires drifts in. People pass through to view her son, so abnormally still in the wooden coffin, so quiet and solemn. She sits, statue still. She’s found it helps to keep down the emotions simmering just under the surface, like lava in an active volcano. No one wants an eruption, it’s frowned upon; she’s been taught that since she was a little girl.

People are settling. She can hear her husband’s aunt start a hymn in her strong, solid tenor. Though she mourns with them, a sprinkle of excitement can be heard around the edges of her voice. She revels in every opportunity to share her talent with strangers.

Everything is heavy and distorted. The old women pack her up and push her into a stranger’s car. It smells of dust. The blankets are tucked in around her as insulation against the world and she sweats in their folds. When she sees the ragged hole torn into the red soil, her mind clears. This is it, she tells herself. She will leave her son here. Alone. Forever. She tries to think of other things as they lower the casket. She picks at her anger at the minister who pleads with the gathering to save themselves before it is too late, but she has no energy to build up any proper fury. She’s not succeeding in diverting her attention. The soil drops shovel by shovel onto her son. The echo of it bangs against her weary heart. It will continue in her mind long after this day.

She’s weak from the effort of keeping herself sane. She sits in the room again. She can hear people stacking chairs. Cars start and drive away. Plates clank against each other in a metal washing tub. Men lift the massive three-legged, iron pots onto the back of a baakie that brought them.

The room is emptying. People must go home. They’ve finished what they came for, to bury her son. They must get back to their lives that have been running along without them. At some point, she knows, they will come and tell her to leave the room too; to get back to her own life. But her life is no longer waiting for her. Her life was not running along while she stepped out of it for a few days. The room that she rebelled against at first is the only place her new life still goes on. Now her only wish is to cling to the abnormal; she knows the ordinary will force her defenses down. She might not survive it, she thinks, as she buries herself deeper into the heavy blankets and dreams that she might be forgotten.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Reading Your Work Aloud

I hate public speaking to such an extent that it has become a handicap. Even at lovely events where I should be enjoying myself and my success, I'm busy spazzing out in my head about speaking in public to such an extent that I am for all practical purposes not there. It is shameful and ridiculous. I feel for my audience when I must read my writing in public. All I want is to be through. I can read at a rate that literally makes peoples' heads spin- I've seen it with my own eyes, and let me tell you if members of your audience are battling to keep their heads on straight, I can assure you it inspires little confidence and then it is just a horrible downward spiral from there.

Since I've realised this affliction has become a liability, I am trying to put myself in more and more places where I must speak in public. I do think some of the problem is just lack of practice. Just like anything, every time you have a bit of success it makes it easier the next time.

At a recent workshop I attended, we needed to read some of our writing out loud to the group. I realised a few things. One is that if you are reading and you think you are reading at a BBC Special English pace then you are at the right speed. It makes a difference. People take your writing more seriously if you read slower. You also sound calmer even if you're not. Speedy Gonzales does not give off an aura of a calm guy. Slow and steady is the key.

At the same workshop, I was advised to stop and look up and look around, connect with your audience. I think this also helps with the speedy reading. If you connect with someone in the audience, you will begin to feel that it's more of a conversation as compared to a speech. Conversations I can handle. Speeches are for Obama and Abraham Lincoln- not me.

To be a writer, means at some point if you have any success at all, you will be expected to read your work aloud. In a recent article in The Guardian, Stuart Walton wonders if this is always a good thing. Writers, as in my case, are not always the best readers. They can ruin the writing for the reader, and that's a bad thing. But sometimes a writer can read in such a way that the listener discovers another way to think of the writing. As Walton says, "There is one immense and tangible benefit to me from listening to literature, rather than reading it for yourself, which is that, just sometimes, the voice you are hearing is better at the job than the one inside you."

My goal one day is to be that sort of writer; a writer who can read my own writing and lead the listener to a more interesting place, a place they maybe would not have found on their own without me. Otherwise what's the point of reading our work aloud?

So more public speaking for me. It's a bit like that terrible bitter cough medicine your mother was always forcing down your throat. It's painful, but I know it's for my own good.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Me? The Winner? Yahoo!

I guess there is still hope of me becoming the next Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King (maybe). I won a competition over at Watching9987 with a scary little flash fiction piece. A 50 word story about a mother dreaming about her first doll- that quiet one put out by the PR Department for Motherhood. Didn't they just suck us in?
Pass by and give it a read and check out Nik's very interesting blog while you're there.
Big thanks to Sue and Nik!!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Liar Among Us

Are these the eyes of an animal you can trust?

On Sunday, the veterinarians arrived. They're a husband and wife team. They came to give Chelsea, the African Sausage Dog, and Sgt. Catman their injections. Amidst all of the needles and injecting of various liquids, the husband veterinarian revealed something that has altered my world. It has tested my faith in many things that I firmly believe in. It has shifted the path of my future.

Sgt Catman is a girl.

Yes. It is the truth. He entered my home as a male. He positioned himself as a male. We built our lives around that fact. And now what? How do we go forward?

I've grown used to seeing him as a boy, and I don't think I can change now. We've decided to ignore the vets (the wife checked and confirmed the husband was right). In any case, the Sergeant is going for sterilisation on the 27th of July, so I don't think she'll be that averse to remaining a boy in our minds, it will become irrelevant in practical terms anyway. Besides she was the one who entered our hearts under false pretenses.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sydney Pilane- A Real Motswana Patriot

It is easy for opposition parties to criticise the ruling party, but for a member of the ruling party to step forward and state that what President Ian Khama is doing is wrong takes a brave and true patriot. Well known Gaborone lawyer and former advisor to President Festus Mogae, Sydney Pilane, has an excellent article in this week's Sunday Standard titled Would Lt. General Ian Khama Please Stand Down and Make Way for Mr. Ian Khama.

People outside of Botswana may not be aware that there is a growing fear in my adopted country. On the day President Ian Khama took office he gained my allegiance. His speech about the 4-D's (discipline, democracy, development and dignity) showed his vision for Botswana and I was ready to get behind him. But since that day, step by step, Batswana have watched his concerted efforts to dismantle a democracy his patriotic predecessors (including his own father, our first president, President Seretse Khama) had worked so hard to build. And as the democracy we took for granted slowly slips away, he is replacing it with orders on high and fear around every corner. His cabinet has become little more than lackeys and yes-men. He rules by decree without thought to the consequences. The recently passed media law will control the press he so despises. But none of this can hold a candle to the recent events in this country.

Two weeks ago, an alleged petty thief, John Kalafatis, was pulled over by people who were either members of our new spy department, Directorate of Intelligence Security (DIS), the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) or the police; to date everyone is pointing the finger at someone else. Kalafatis was forced to get out of the car he was in and then he was assassinated. He was shot at least eight times at close range. According to witnesses in the car, he was unarmed.

Mmegi and The Sunday Standard broke the story. According to the story, Kalafatis knew that the DIS were after him after he allegedly robbed a house of some Gaborone big-wig with the right connections, the name has yet to be confirmed, even the theft. Allegedly, DIS officials told him and members of his family that they were going to kill him. Kalafatis left a letter with his lawyer detailing just that.

After Kalafatis was killed, the government's reaction has been astonishing. They held a press conference excluding all private press. At that 'press conference' the journalists were spoken to as if they were children who had misbehaved, instead of professionals with an obligation to report what happens in the country. The president has since decided to sue The Sunday Standard which alleged that the house robbed by Kalafatis belonged to his elder sister and that he rushed to her side on his motorbike once he heard. Now the government has issued an order that no government departments or parastatals are allowed to advertise in any of the Mmegi papers or The Sunday Standard. In the current credit crisis situation, it could mean the death of these privately owned papers, which would be a tragic loss to this country and a knock to democracy . The government once before tried to do the same thing to The Guardian and The Midweek Sun which took them to court and won, so they are aware that what they are doing is against the law. Doesn't matter. Even killing unarmed suspected thieves is okay- our vice president recently said that killing one or two people is no problem.

President Ian Khama does many wonderful things, but unfortuantely these do not outweigh the damage he is doing to our country. Where I stood 100% behind him, I am now keeping my registration card in a safe place and plan to vote for the opposition in October. I will not stand by and let Botswana go the way of her northern neighbour. It's the duty of Batswana to see that that never happens.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Whiplash on Sunday Times Long List

I am so pleased that Whiplash by Tracey Farren (Modjaji Books) has been placed on the Sunday Times Fiction Prize Long List. Please folks- if you haven't read this book you need to- now! Here is the link to buy online . Here is my review of it. Please folks- this book is exceptional.

Now let's all cross our fingers, legs, eyes and any other thing that may be cross-able and hope that Whiplash makes it to the shortlist and goes on to win.

Congratulations to the Rain Queen!!!!! Long live the Rain Queen!!!!
**** NEWS FLASH*****
4 jUNE, 2009
Whiplash is shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize! See others on the shortlist here. That eye crossing seems to be working so keep it up!!