Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
But that is not what this post is about though. That will be for another day.
I'm currently working on a novel, the project I decided to complete in Egypt. It is about a couple who go through quite a terrible ordeal (do you see how cagey I am being?) after the wife has an affair. As I'm writing, I feel so attached to my protagonist. I feel like what is happening to her, is actually happening to me. I wrote a chapter yesterday about the first phone conversation she has with her daughter after her husband chases her from their home. Through the whole chapter, I was weeping, my shirt was wet with tears. I felt like it was me, that I was banned from my home and my children for a stupid mistake that unfortunately creates a chain reaction of terrible consequences.
Are you ever swept away with your story, lost in such a way that what you're writing becomes more real than what is actually around you? I'd be interested to know.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
My husband went out to the tree and called the cats. They, uncharacteristically, climbed down from the tree and came running to us. But still the dogs were going mad.
The sun climbed a bit higher and suddenly at the tip top of the tree we saw a long, thick, furry striped tail. I got the binoculars and was surprised to see a little foxy face clothed in a beautiful spotted coat. We had a genet in our garden! The dogs had not been chasing the cats, they were a tag team against the genet!
Here is more about our new guest. I hope tonight he'll have the chance to slip away to safety. Cross fingers- I'll keep you posted.
Friday, March 26, 2010
On the weekend the suspended group (dubbed Barata-Phathi) held a meeting deemed illegal by Khama's faction of the party. At that meeting, they decided they would form a new party of their own. In an attempt to stop the splitting of the ruling party, President Khama sent a delegation to the meeting asking Barata Phathi to list their grievances. The list produced was long and a bit pie-in-the-sky including such things as a review of the Constitution and the powers it awards the president of the country, the rejection of the recent recommendations from the task force on moral regeneration, and a demand that the law on declaration of assets for MPs be passed and implemented before the end of the year.
The split of the BDP, if it goes down the middle, could be a good thing for the country. It's important to have a strong, healthy opposition to maintain a strong, healthy democracy. If instead, as I suspect, it takes only the voices of sense in the party, and the bulk of the membership remains firmly behind President Khama, it will do nothing more but confuse the members of the electorate who see things in the country veering in the wrong direction. Who should they vote for- Botswana Congress Party (BCP), the only sensible opposition party, or the new Barata Phathi Party? It will do little more than divide an already divided opposition vote and leave the BDP even more firmly in control.
Why couldn't Ntuane and friends find a home at the BCP? That way the opposition would be strengthened. I think it may be more about positions and power than patriotism. I'm not optimistic that this new move will change anything but it certainly sells newspapers so that's a good thing.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
In a little more than a month I'll be gone to Egypt. The preparations around this seem to fill my mind. I've sent my passport for the visa and have bought the ticket. The book I want to write there has been troubling me, so in a move to get a handle on the situation I have started the rough draft. I'm writing like a fiend, 5000-8000 words per day on the rough draft. The story is forcing its way out. It is rough and will need work, but I feel better getting out. This is helping to ease the mind noise a bit, but anticipation of the trip and what I'll find there is creating a loud noise so this small alleviation is hardly noticed.
I've been paid the first of my two big royalty cheques. It was for two short story collections prescribed for primary schools in Botswana. I co-wrote the books with two other Batswana writers. I hesitate to write the amount of the cheque, but as a service to writers who live here and are curious about such things I will do it- it was P84,000 and some change, this is in the middle of the credit crunch mind you. We had negotiated a non-royalty deducted advance paid out upon delivery of the manuscripts. I recently read a news article in The Daily News from a Setswana writer who had a book prescribed (poetry) who complained about the small amount of money he received from his book as compared to the publisher. I think his complaints were disingenuous and smack of inexperience and naivete in the publishing industry. I was more than happy with that cheque and the deal we made with the publisher.
Some of the noise in my mind is caused by the hype developing around the television series I co-wrote for PSI called Morwalela. It will soon be shown on Botswana Television (BTV) and I'm anxious to see how it will go. Combined with this is my column that will be starting the first week of April. And then there is the first romance which will be coming on in a few weeks.
Buzz, buzz, buzz- how can a writer work with all of this noise?
Monday, March 22, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I was honoured to be asked to help compile a collection of short stories around the theme of bed -and now the book is ready for pre-orders! It has a fantastic collection of writers including flash fiction star Liesl Jobson; author of the hilarious book Exhibit A, Sarah Lotz; and our new up and coming short story writer Gothataone Moeng, among many other fabulous, talented writers. See the list here.
Modjaji Books is one of the publishers attending this year's London Book Fair which is having a South African focus. In celebration of this upcoming event, they are having a sale on their new titles, including the Bed Book.
Support a very special publisher.
Yeah for Modjaji!!
Monday, March 15, 2010
I put together a proposal and sent it out to Mmegi, Midweek Sun and Guardian and waited. And waited. Yes, they were interested but "these things take time". And waited yet again. In the meanwhile thanks to Facebook I met Beata Kasale, one of the owners of The Voice newspaper. I first met her in cyberspace and then in real life. I found her so interesting and we hit it off straight away. Though at first I didn't think The Voice was the right paper for such a column, I liked Beata so much and she was so enthusiastic about my idea ,I changed my mind. Now after a meeting last week and more thought I think The Voice is going to be a perfect home. It is the most read paper in the country and the whole point of the column is to get the information out there. The plan is to talk about publishing and how to go about it, but also to include snippets of publishing and book news. The column will start the first week of April.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
I remember being a little girl and thinking how I'd hate to be a boy because everything was so limiting. Girls could wear dresses and trousers, while boys were trapped in trousers forever. Girls could cry but also fight. I was lucky because I was born when it was no longer acceptable to stop a girl from being anything she wanted to be. In the chaotic world of my childhood, growing up and getting married just didn't seem like a sensible plan for a life. Far too fragile and prone to wild emotions, so I was never the little girl dreaming of a white wedding and an even whiter picket fence. I wanted something a bit sturdier and in a more sensible colour.
I know my freedom of choice was won from the wars fought by the women who went before me, and I am forever thankful for that.
In Botswana, women are in a fairly good position as long as they have an income. Poor women here, like poor women everywhere, are vulnerable. They get in relationships with men and become trapped because of economics. Once trapped they are vulnerable to violence and other forms of domestic abuse. They are also unable to negotiate things such as condom use making them more likely to contract HIV/AIDS.
In Botswana, abortion is illegal. Women are forced to go to unhygienic and untrained abortionists and, if they are found out, they are taken to prison. The prisons are full of women who had no choice. Again this burden falls on poor women. Women with money can go over the border to South Africa where abortion is legal and can be done in a clinic or hospital.
It is shocking how the issue is rarely discussed in the country. The missionaries were highly successful in Botswana and Christianity is rampant and nearly mandatorily assumed. As a long time member of Emang Basadi (a women's' rights NGO), I've been in discussions with some of the leading women's rights activists in this country and when abortion is brought up even they are vehemently against it. This saddens me.
Today as we think about the progress women have made, we should know too that the work continues. Until all women have unlimited choices, free of constraint of any kind, the struggle must continue.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
And here, having nothing at all to do with tea sets or gifts, except that I found this photo in my camera when I was downloading the tea set pics, are the cats busy at their day job.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.
These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.
The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.
I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.
So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?
Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.
Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.
I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say; ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for’, before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.