Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Using Cellphones to Get Kids Reading!

In Botswana and Southern Africa in general books are expensive. And like everywhere kids are not reading as much as they used to and this is impacting on their education. In Africa cellphones have taken off like mad. It's difficult to find a teenager without a cellphone. A trust in South Africa decided to use cellphones to solve the problem of teens not reading.

The organisation is called FunDza Literacy Trust. One of the many exciting things they do is to serialise short (3500-4200 word) stories (popular fiction such as romance and mystery) and send them out on their cellphone network for kids to read. They have a website where kids can comment and discuss the stories. I think it is such an exciting idea and was over the moon when I was asked if I might want to write a story for them. The answer was, of course, YES!

Here is my story, "Love and Science Don't Mix" and here is a short interview they did with me. Let me know what you think about the idea.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What Do You Define As The Stealing of Your Work?

After my incident last week of my story being lifted from a website and put on another one without my permission, I've had numerous discussions about this.

There are writers who actually want this to happen to their stories. They want people to take their stories and post them all over the internet, permission not needed. They think it's good for them, it gets their work out there so people can read it.

I know for news articles I've written, I can often find them on sites which are news aggregators. When the internet was a bit new and I owned a newspaper, I was not pleased to find articles from my paper on a website about Botswana without my permission. When I complained, the man, a foreigner, acted like I was mad.

In a way, this site that took my short story is doing the same thing. He is collecting poems, photos, short stories on the internet and bringing them to one place. He links through the author's name to the place where he took the piece. But he includes the entire piece on his website.

I think it would be different if he put a few paragraphs and then linked to the original literary magazine where the story was published. In that way he would be supporting the arts he claims to love, not exploiting them.

What is your view on this issue? Is the internet free for the taking? What will that mean in the long run for writers?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New Look- So Soon?

Dear readers,

Please excuse my blog makeover so soon after my past blog make over. It was needed. My interim design was far too busy and dark. I had complaints and I agreed.

So we've gone light and bright.

Have no fear- I will stop my dithering and dathering now.
Comments welcome. :)


Friday, February 24, 2012

My Story Was Stolen!!

This is not the first time this has happened and , sadly, it will likely not be the last,but this afternoon I found one of my stories on a website without my permission.

I'm not sure how someone rationalises this type of behaviour. Writing takes time. It takes effort. For me it is my sole way of earning an income. When a story is published online, it is published and now is of less value financially. In most cases you can no longer submit it for competitions either. Also, a writer has the right to decide where and when they want their writing to appear online or anywhere else for that matter. I own the copyright to that story, no one else. Surprisingly at the bottom of his web page it says- "Images/Writing © their respective owners and creators" so apparently he seems to have some loose grasp of the concept of copyright.

I contacted the man and asked him why he had used my story on his website. I asked if perhaps I had given him permission but had forgotten. I have many published stories and this could happen but it is unlikely. His response:

"No, I do not recall also. May I have your permission? Thank you."

How arrogant is that? Here is a person who has stolen my words and posted them on his site to draw readers to his site, to bring himself personal gain and this is his response? No remorse at all.

When I told him that first he would need to pay for the eight months that he had my story on the site illegally his response was:

"I will remove your story from the website. I am sorry that I cannot have your permission. It is writing that I liked very much.
Take care."

Stealing is stealing. He might as well have broken into my house and stole my television. I suppose the law according to him is that you can steal something from someone as long as you like it very much. That certainly makes life much easier.

Here is the link to the story. The man's name is Stephen Laidlaw. He is apparently Canadian.
To my writing friends, you best check his site to see if he liked your story too.

PS: He has now taken my story down but if you want to check the site for your own content here is the website.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Two of My Books at Vivlia Arrived Today!!

Both of these books were published some time ago by Vivlia Publishers in Johannesburg South Africa but I only received my copies today. I thought you'd like to see them.

Curse of the Gold Coins (children)

Leano and her sister, Pelonomi have a problem. They're going to be kicked out of school for not paying school fees. Their mother seems unwilling to do anything to help them because she's convinced they're cursed. She believes all the women in their family are cursed because the long dead Mojewa, the girls' great, great grandmother stole three gold coins from her own mother and the ancestors are punishing the entire family for her evil deed.

To make matters worse, in the middle of everything, Leano starts slipping back and forth between time-one minute she's in her village of Serowe and it's 2008, and then suddenly she's back in time to 1902 when Khama the Great is preparing to leave Old Phalatswe. It is in Old Phalatswe that Leano meets Mojewa and discovers a terrible secret- Mojewa has been wrongly accused!

Now not only must Leano solve her own problem about how to get the school fees paid, she must also help Mojewa prove that she's innocent and in the process, hopefully, rid the family of the curse once and for all.

Anything for Money
(Third book in the Detective Kate Gomolemo Setective Series)

Detective Kate Gomolemo is not sure what to make of Helen Segole's wild allegations. She's claiming government ministers and high-ranking civil servants are behind the cold-blooded murder of her father in front of their house in Shoshong, but Kate wonders if Helen is not confused by the grief she's feeling.

Against her better judgement, Kate agrees to do some investigations and suddenly she's swept into a high-rolling, dangerous game of power, greed and corruption. The people behind it will stop at nothing to get what they want. How many people will have to die before Kate finds Goitsemang Segole's killers? And will Kate be one of them?

Both books are available at Vivlia Publishers visit their website HERE.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Name is Lauri Kubuitsile and I am an Exercise DVD Addict

You wouldn't know it by looking at me, but I love exercise DVDs. I like to exercise, the problem is I like to eat too so I never see any dramatic change except in my attitude. Exercise is my happy pill.

For years it was Jane and I:

Then I got Jillian Micheals, who was frankly kind of scary.

But now I've fallen in love! Thanks to a Facebook friend I now have Richard Simmons' Sweating to the Oldies. What fun!! I've become a complete addict. I have to stop myself from doing it everyday because I fear I'll get bored . It just makes me happy to wake up and dance to such fun music. What could be more fun than doing the twist, monkey and the cha cha cha before breakfast?? Luckily there are four different DVDs in the set I bought so I get to alternate them. Yeah for Richard Simmons!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Do Women Get a Raw Deal in Publishing?

I recently finished The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt and it left me confused and, frankly, annoyed. I knew nothing about the book in advance, in fact, I initially hadn’t intended to buy it but was at the cashier and realised I had bought books in a buy two get one free deal and hadn’t chosen the third book. The cashier was the one who recommended The Summer Without Men so I bought it.

The title and the cover would make you believe this would be a light book, in the chick-lit category, about a woman fed up with men and who decides to take a summer off to get some perspective on things. That is not what the book is about at all. The question becomes why did the publisher choose this cover, the cover one of the biggest parts of marketing a book? Even that title?

It’s quite a serious book about a woman who has separated from her adulterous husband of many years and is spending the summer with her elderly mother and her group of elderly women friends. At the same time she’s teaching a poetry class to a group of girls. It is almost everything except what the cover and the title suggests. Okay, there are no men, but that's not really the point of it.

This got me to wondering why would a publisher choose a title and a cover that purposely hides the real content of the book? I wondered too if a male author would have been treated in this quite underhanded manner.

It reminded me of the big literary debate in 2010 between, on one side the New York Times Book Review and on the other Jody Piccoult (author of My Sister’s Keeper) and Jennifer Weiner (author of Good in Bed). It started with a tweet from Piccoult. She was annoyed that Jonathan Franzen had received two glowing reviews by The New York Times Book Review for his book Freedom.

She said, “Is anyone shocked? Would love to see the NYT rave about authors who aren’t white male literary darlings.” Then Weiner stepped in to support her and said, “I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it's literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it's romance, or a beach book—in short, it's something unworthy of a serious critic’s attention.”

I think the Piccoult/Weiner debate and my annoyance at the cover of the Hustvedt book are symptoms of the same problem. The established literary community still does not accept that women can write serious books about serious issues. If someone like A.S. Byatt does manage to break though that prejudice, she is considered nothing more than an anomaly.

Even the resources and hype that go into men’s books shows that they are overvalued compared to books written by women. Look at One Day by David Nicholls. If that book was written by Jane Doe, it would have been given a pink cover with a cartoon woman carrying a purse and it would have been relegated to “chick lit” and never a reviewer’s eyes shall see. But because a man wrote it, it was hailed high and low as a masterpiece.

JK Rowling knew the prejudice against women. She admits that’s why she used her initials instead of her full name.

And it is not just female authors spewing sour grapes either, facts back up the talk. From 29 June, 2008 to 27 August 2010 the New York Times Review of Books reviewed 545 novels, 62% of them were written by men. 101 of those books were reviewed by both the New York Times Review of Books and their Sunday issue, the Sunday Book Review, 72 of the 101 were written by male authors (71%).

People often criticise prizes like the Orange Prize that only allows books by women to be considered. The point of the Orange Prize and publishers such as Modaji Books (who only publishes women from Southern Africa) or literary magazines such as Mslexia (which publishes only women) is to try to address the inequities that still stubbornly persist in the publishing world. Until women authors are on a level ground with men, it is imperative that these equalisers remain in place.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I'm Interviewed at Guerilla Basement

Last year I met Tahirah Avosuahi at the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop in Lagos. I immediately liked her self- depreciating way and her intellect. She is an exceptional and unique writer and I think you should watch out for her in the future.

A few weeks ago she asked if I would be willing to be be interviewed for the website she writes for and I very happily agreed. Below is an excerpt from the interview. Please pop over to Guerilla Basement for the rest of it.

Thanks again Tahirah!

Tahirah: What are your thoughts on the structure of short stories, what is usually the most compounding aspect of crafting one?

Lauri: For me the biggest problem writing short stories is to keep the story small without it becoming irrelevant. I see a short story as like a peek at someone’s life. You see a woman sitting in the aisle in the supermarket crying , that’s a peek. You see a man walking down the road pushing a stroller that’s a peek. Now the problem for you as a short story writer is to make that peek relevant. Don’t burden the reader with all sorts of baggage to achieve your relevancy, that is no good in a short story. You need to take a peek and make it relevant, if you do that it is a good short story in my book.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Help Modjaji Books Get to Cape Town Book Fair

Below is a special offer by Modjaji Books, a Cape Town based independent publisher that is doing fantastic things for women in Southern Africa!!!
Please help if you can!!

Modjaji Books plans to be at the Cape Town Book Fair 2012 for all sorts of good reasons. So please help us generate the cash we need to pay for the exhibition stand. Take up one of these special offers - you win and so do we! Please share on your pages too - that would be hugely appreciated. I know I can count on your support and you won't be sorry.

We have fabulous new books coming out over the next few months:

- Swimming with Cobras by Rosemary Smith* - memoir - Black Sash R195
due out in Feb

- Bare and Breaking by Karin Schimke -* debut collection of poems R145
due out in Feb

- Got No Secrets by Danila Botha - short stories by young SA/Canadian
writer R145 due out in early March

- Absent Tongues by Kelwyn Sole's - a collection of poems, his 7th
(a Hands-On Book) R145 due out in Feb

- Eloquent Body by Dawn Garisch***- a memoir R190 combining a life
of science and a life of creativity due out in March

- Looking for Trouble by Colleen Higgs *short stories set in Yeoville
(1980s and early 90s)* * (A Hands-On Book) R145 due out in March

- *(South African)* African First names Dictionary by Phumzile
Simelane* with a chapter on naming practices R195 due out in April

The prices next to the books are the prices that you will pay in the stores. All of these are fabulous books and we are offering you 4 of them for R600 or 6 of them for R800. The special offer is on for a week - it ends on Friday 17th February. If you have already bought and paid for any of the above titles in a previous offer, you can choose 2 of the above titles instead or any other Modjaji title.

Or you can choose a single title and you can have 10% off the price. All the special offers include postage in South Africa.

Inbox or email me at for payment details and with your address.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Kalahari Review is Now Up!

We have a new literary magazine in Botswana- The Kalahari Review. It's quite exciting and the hope is it will grow and help to publicise our writers in the country as well as others on the continent.

My story In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata is up on the site as well as a piece that I first put on this very blog, I Miss Fatalism. (though the version on Kalahari Review is changed a bit)

I hope you'll stop by. They also have a Facebook page -HERE.
Wishing them all the best!!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

It's Morula Time Again!!

Yes, it's morula time again and this year our tree has gone crazy. We have a male and a female tree in our garden. The female tree is just next to my office and I've been spending the last few days feeling like I'm being bombarded with bombs. Morula fruit make a big sound when they fall on the roof, bigger than their size might dictate.

Yesterday I collected a 20L bucket of fruit and used it to make some juice, four 2L bottles of it. I just wash them, boil them with some water, mash them up and use a strainer to remove the seeds and skins. Very nice! And apparently between 4-8 times the vitamin C as citrus fruits.

Need to buy some jars and get making jam again. I still have the problem of getting the thickness right so I need to discover a method that is more reliable than guessing when to stop boiling the jam.

But as you can see from my tree - it is loaded. This photo was taken after collecting the 20L bucket of fruit.

I did a bit of research about morulas last night. One of the articles I read said that morula trees are very resistant to drought because they store water from the previous rainy season in their roots, which I found fascinating.

(In my research I also found this article on the website Humanitarian News. It is something from my blog, the very article I linked above about my attempts at making morula jam but now it is written by Ndesanjo Macha. Is this even okay? It was written by ME!!!)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Revolution Will Be Photographed

I think I'd be safe in saying that 99% of the people reading this post own a camera. You might have a digital camera and most of you likely have a camera in your phone. In a very short space of time, cameras have become ubiquitous precipitating the rise of what I call phototerrorism.

In the time of film and developing of photos, a single photo was a precious thing. To take a photo was an event. You gathered people together in their best clothes and a single photo (at most two) was taken to remember the event. That I had no problem with.

Now attend a workshop or an awards dinner, even a kid's birthday party and everyone has a camera and everyone wants a hundred photos of what went on- every single, solitary detail of what went on. When we at dinner, when we wrote an assignment, when we tripped up the stairs, when the pencil rolled off the table. Every step is accompanied with- "Wait! I want to take a photo." And then people group themselves and every single camera in the vicinity is pulled out and the same photo is captured by 15 cameras.

I'll admit I don't like photos. I don't like having them taken and I don't like taking them. I feel like taking a photo subtracts from my experience of what is happening. I have to stop and put this machine between me and what is happening. It taints my view of things. It slows things down when they shouldn't be slowed. And of course now with social media, as soon as the photo is taken it is up on Facebook for the world to see. Another aspect of phototerrorism.

I guess I'm likely alone in this point of view which is fine. I know I've regretted occasionally coming home from a trip and realising I'd taken no photos at all to remember it by. I have an upcoming workshop I'll be attending, I guess it's more about me preparing myself for the barrage I'm sure will be waiting. I'll try my best to be cordial.