Friday, October 29, 2010

This and That on Books and Reading

For a nice Friday change I thought I'd share some booky and writerly things I've been reading around the web.

Well Christmas is around the corner they tell me and what would be better than giving Cousin Abbey a copy of Jane Eyre where she plays the role of Jane?! Yes- I said it! You can now get your own personalised copy of this classic novel with you as the star- how great is that? (Not, very I'm afraid.).

But here is something seriously cool- an automated library. You order your book online and pitch up at this book ATM and out pops what you ordered. I wish someone would put one in Mahalapye. Can I get that for Christmas Santa?

I had a bad experience with online writing groups but this one claims it is something special. Now people are wondering - will online writing groups replace in person ones and writing programmes at universities? What do you think?

Lastly a letter written to Woolworth's by South Africa's very funny Ben Trovato about the magazine selection at the grocery chain. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

5 Things I loved About A Clash of Innocents by Sue Guiney

A Clash of Innocents is set in Phom Penh Cambodia. It is about a home for orphaned and abandoned children run by a 60 year old American expat named Deborah. A stranger with secrets appears one day and from then on Deborah struggles to keep things going on kilter. The stranger, another American named Amanda, carries secrets that Deborah thinks, once revealed, could harm all of them, but still they let her into their lives and their hearts.

The author of this novel, Sue Guiney, will be stopping by Thoughts from Botswana next Monday as part of her blog book tour to talk about this fascinating novel- don't miss it!
5 Things I loved Abouth A Clash of Innocents

1. It's told in first person. Against the current grain of thought, (as is usually the case with me) I love books in first person. This is told through the jaded, often tired, occasionally lonely eyes of Deborah.

2. I knew nothing about Cambodia before I read this book. Sue does a great job putting us there. We feel the weather and the celebrations, the sadness.

3. I love the character Samnang, Deborah's adopted daughter. I wanted more of her. She is loving and responsible and so fearful to follow her own dreams afraid of letting her family down. But when she finally does think of herself for once, I was her biggest cheerleader. A fantastic character with too small of a role perhaps. Maybe she needs her own book...

4. In the middle of the drama of trying to raise 40 children, which alone might have made a pretty good book, there is this puzzle of Amanda running through which keeps you wanting to turn the page.

5. This bit of the story from page 223:
"Airplanes do more than take you from one part of the globe to another. If you let them, if you need them to, they can also provide transitions, real, physical transitions through space and time. Suspended over earth in a large metal tube for hours and hours, a person can do more than just get from one place to another. You can move from one need to another, one purpose, one dream, one reality to another."
How true is that?!

Pop by next Monday for a stop on Sue's blog book tour and ask her a question if you'd like!

Note the book is available HERE.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Groovy's Groovy Questions

These questions come from my pal Groovy Old Lady's blog. She's not that old but she is pretty groovy.

1. What do you think are three top qualities to look for in a politician?
Honesty, integrity and selflessness.

2. Which do you read more of, fiction or non-fiction? And please give us one awesome book recommendation while you're here...
Fiction by far. I just started The Lacuna and I think it will join my list of fantastic books. I also recently loved Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True. And I really like both of Sarah Lotz's detective books- Exhibit A and Tooth and Nailed. She's a South African writer but I think she's just about to break-out so you guys out there should watch for her.
Okay I also have a bit of trouble counting.

3. What is your go-to outfit for dressy occasions? Describe it for us!
Sorry, I try my best to avoid dressy occasions. If forced it will be my black "swingy" skirt and my purple shirt, which is a little bit low-cut (cause if you have 'em you should flaunt 'em).

4. What song(s) do you want sung at your funeral? Why?
I'm not planning to die, when it happens I'll be completely taken by surprise.

5. What is your favorite way to unwind?
Reading and swimming and walks in the bush.

6. Do you think you could live contentedly in a 2 room home (plus a bathroom, of course)? Why or why not?
Yes, have done it before actually in one-room and loved it.

7. What is your all-time favorite breakfast? (Come on now, make us drool!)
Pancakes with real maple syrup and real butter with nice juicy pork sausages.

8. And lastly, are you gonna join me in participating in NaNoWriMo this November? (I hope so!)
No, but I could since I am writing a novella right now that I am attempting to finish in 15 days. So far it is going better than expected.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What Can Art Do? by Lemn Sissay

A few years ago I was speaking with a lecturer from the University of Botswana English Department and I asked him why there was no degree course for creative writing. He told me when they approached the former vice chancellor about that very issue he said,"What's the use of writing in Botswana?" Wish he was still alive to watch the fabulous Lemn Sissay in this video.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Birthday Wishes and Other Stories

Last week I received some copies of Birthday Wishes and Other Stories a collection of three short stories for children published by Vivlia Publishers (South Africa). The stories in the collection inclde the title story which was highly commended in the senior category of last year's Baobab Prize ( which now has a new name - Golden Baobab Prize- and a new beautiful web site). The story is about two girls in South Africa, one a Zimbabwean, and how they deal with the xenophobia sweeping through their neighbourhood.

The second story is called The Only One With Any Sense to It about a boy who has to make a difficult decision between his family obligations and his dream to play on Botswana's national football team the Zebras. The final story is one that has been published in many places The Rich People's School and was first published in Mslexia.

I love the cover of the book and I really like this little collection. They're all stories about kids with problems who make a plan to solve them. This is important to me, empowering kids to sort their own problems out, sometimes a skill we fail to teach our children for fear they might make mistakes but we forget the mistakes are sometimes just as important as the successes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Botswana's Spring

(Photo above: The jacaranda trees in our garden)

It's currently spring in Botswana. In my village of Mahalapye that means the jacaranda and syringa trees are in blossom and the village looks and smells fantastic.

Another not so nice thing about spring in Botswana is bush fires. We've had some terrible ones this year. In one a brother and sister died when they were out collecting wild fruits. On my way back form Gaborone this weekend I took the photo below. The entire eastern side of the Francistown Road from Dibete to the Tropic of Capricorn going back deep into the Tuli Block was burnt.

(Photo above: The burnt bush along the F-town Road/ A1 highway)

I have an odd thing happening in my yard right now that perhaps one of my readers can help me with. We have two morula trees; a male and a female. The female is completely leafed out but the male tree is completely leafless. Is this normal? I'm afraid our male tree might have a disease. Any help regarding this would be appreciated.

(Photo above: Male morula tree)

(Photo above: Female morula tree)

Otherwise spring in Botswana is hot and windy and everyone and everything is in wait mode, waiting for the first rains. As of October 17th, we're still waiting.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


People who read this blog might remember last year when we had the most amazing hail storm in my village of Mahalapye. Windows were broken and roofs blew away and many indigenous trees fell down.

This morning I was driving from town and I saw this. The colour is not so nice but the tree was bright green, all leafed out, even though the storm nearly pulled it completely out of the ground. I little hail storm is not going to put this acacia tree out of business. No way.

So what about you? Can you stand up to this tree? In writing, in life- it's all about resilience.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What I'm Up To or How Tomatoes Can Ruin a Good Day

The tomato situation is out of hand. Even as I write this I should be in the garden collecting yet another bucket of tomatoes. Yes, bucket, bowls will no longer do. I have many packages of frozen tomatoes. I've given tomatoes to everyone who steps into my house including the friend to Giant Teenager No.2 who looked at me as if I was asking him to please take a package of nuclear waste home.

But tomatoes notwithstanding, I've actually had a fairly productive week. I finished my rough draft of The Vanishings. It is currently very plotty as my books tend to be at rough draft stage. It has all sorts of curves because we like curves. Now it will sit for at least a month probably two to cook.

I have set aside the end of the year for four fiction projects and thanks to my good royalties this year, I have the time to do that. The first was to finish this rough draft. Number two is a romance novella that has been banging at my head and I fear will almost be vomited into the computer as fast as my fingers can type it. Then I need to go back to the book I worked on in Egypt, Revelations. I'm quite excited about this as it's been in the cooking phase and I have some solid ideas about where I want it to go. Lastly I want to work on a young adult book for next year's Sanlam Prize. The theme is hope. I'm hopeful I can come up with something that does not scream maudlin as much as theme suggests it might.

In the meanwhile, today I was going through proofs for two of my books with Vivlia Publishers in South Africa: Curse of the Gold Coins and Anything for Money, the third book in the Kate Gomolemo series. It was nice to read them after such a long time. I also got alerted to a write-up in The Mail and Guardian (a South African newspaper) about the Sapphire books and both of my books were mentioned, Kwaito Love and Can He Be The One? Though they spelled my name wrong, I was still pretty pleased.

So that's what I've been busy with. And of course tomatoes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Sea Monkey Scam Gets Worse

People who know me know I blame sea monkeys for a lot of things. I sort of see my life as the innocence before the sea monkeys and the jaded post-sea monkeys child I became.

We all saw these beautiful sea monkey adverts in our Richy Rich comic books. Look at that family! The jolly little baby, the fashionable mother. And as the advert clearly says they are "so eager to please, can even be trained". Yeah. Right.

We all bought them. They arrived as a powder. A powder. Nothing coming from a powder smiles. But still I had hope, it WAS pre-jaded child time so I was willing to give them a chance, so I mixed it all together, loosely following the instructions. And nothing happened. No little crowned family appeared. There was no smiling. There would be no tricks. Later I learned they were brine shrimp. Mine never even became brine shrimp. They were a stinky bowl of water with a layer of brownish scum on top which ended up flushed down the toilet.

And now I hear that the guy who "invented" sea monkeys, Harold von Braunhut was a white supremacist and the money we all forked out to buy the brine shrimp that ruined our childhoods was used to buy guns for the KKK. He was also a proud anti-Semite though he was apparently Jewish. Gave bucks to the Aryan Nation too. Great. Really great. As if this whole sea monkey incident was not traumatic enough.