Monday, March 26, 2012

The Rest of my Cape Town Trip

After leaving the Caine Workshop I still had loads ahead of me. I arrived in Cape Town on the 15th and almost immediately set off for Springfield Convent School to speak about my book Signed, Hopelessly in Love.

I was lucky to be in Cape Town while the authors' party for NB was taking place. NB is the publishing company under which all of my romances (published by Sapphire Press, an imprint of Kwela Books) and Signed, Hopelessly in Love (Tafelberg) are published. So on the evening of the 15th it was time to party! It was such fun to spend time with all of the Sapphire folks, many I hadn't met before (above photo).

The next day, the 16th was all about being on television for the first time. I appeared on the teen show Hectic Nine 9 to speak about my book. (above I'm with the presenters in the green and brown plaid shirts and the two other guests) When I was at Volmoed, I was interviewed on SAFM and despite what people say, you actually can be at two places at the same time. The radio interview aired very near to the time I was live on TV. HA!!

That night Tafelberg organised the most lovely thing!! It was a dinner with 14 girls from various teen magazines in South Africa. They'd all read Signed, Hopelessly in Love and were so keen to discuss it. We had dinner and great conversations. It was really a delight. One of the girls, Taryn, has already blogged about it at Saltwater Girl. It sounds like they had as much fun as I did. I got some good insight for the sequel to the book that I've already started. (above is a photo of our name tags at the dinner)

The next day I was off with my friend Lesley Hay-Whitton to the first day of Hangclip Art Week in Betty's Bay. Such a beautiful drive from Cape Town along the coast. Above was my favourite statue called "Yummy".

From there I spent a few days with my good friend Colleen Higgs. She's a writer and poet and owner of the acclaimed, independent publisher Modjaji Books. On Sunday I went with her and her daughter to a place called Spier where cheetahs, raptors and owls are rehabilitated.

Above is a Cape Eagle Owl having a bath and below is a barn owl. If you get a chance to go to this place you should attend one of the raptor shows, it was wonderful.

On the evening of the 20th, Colleen was launching her collection of short stories, Looking for Trouble at The Book Lounge in Cape Town. She asked me to interview her at the launch and I was very honoured to be part of it. The book is fantastic. It is a collection of stories all set in Yeoville, a part of Johannesburg, during the turbulent 1980s, all told in an honest fresh way.

And now I'm back home. It was a fantastic trip! Thanks to everyone who made it all happen!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My First Column at New Internationalist

I'm back home and will blog about all of the wonderful things that happened to me while away- but first I need to recover a bit. In the meanwhile, I thought I'd introduce you to my new column.

One of the many wonderful things that happened as a result of my Caine Prize shortlisting last year was meeting the folks at New Internationalist. I'd had some interaction with them because they're the publishers of One World, an anthology I was a part of. They were at the awards dinner and spoke to me about maybe writing a column for them. I thought I could give it a try and now it is a reality.

The column is called Letter from Botswana, and the first instalment is called "ET is Not An Alien".
I'd love to hear what you think about it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2012 Caine Prize Workshop: Volmoed

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.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Our Indian Myna Birds

This tree is just in front of our garden. It is forever under threat. People want to cut it down for firewood. Now, if you look carefully at the photo, you'll see the termites are making some headway. But I fight this tree's destruction because it has been a nesting site for birds ever since we built our house.

First it was always lilac breasted rollers. They'd set up house each summer and raise a family. Then about five years ago there was a massive battle, it lasted for weeks, between a pair of starlings and the rollers. The starlings won, but not for long. This year a pair of Indian myna birds have arrived and the battle ended before it even began. The starlings were out and the mynas were in.

According to my bird book mynas don't live in Mahalapye. Well these two do. There is apparently a huge problem with Indian mynas, especially in Australia, as they are an introduced species and are very aggressive. I found this site that talks about the eradication programme the town has to get rid of the Indian mynas. I found it all quite disturbing. I know all about the threat of introduced species and perhaps this pair are the pioneers for colonising Mahalapye but I've grown to love them.

They have had a problematic breeding season because a cuckoo has been around for most of the summer, the cuckoo wanting to lay eggs in the mynas nest. They are nest parasites. The mynas want none of that. They've had epic battles.

They're funny birds mynas. They like to walk on the ground and have a swagger that many would envy. They are taking no prisoners. The bird bath is outside my office window, and while writing this, one of the mynas was at the water drinking. A cape dove flew in ready to land on the edge of the bird bath and the myna flew out and grabbed the chest of the dove pulling out a few feathers- mid-air- and as if nothing had happened, it went right back to drinking water. It's aggressive, of course, and probably the very reason the Australians have such a problem, but there is something about that audacity you need to respect.

I know all about maintaining species diversity and the harm introduced species can cause, but too isn't evolution about the survival of the fittest? I've always wondered why people say scornfully- "House sparrows have adapted to every place on earth" or "cockroaches will survive a nuclear war". Why are these adaptable, evolutionarily successful species so hated? Shouldn't we be championing them for their success?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Busy Busy March

March has started and I'm about to get very busy. First I'm off to Cape Town for seventeen days then I'm back for a few days and then I head up north to Maun until the beginning of April. So my quiet office days will see about a month off. For hermits like me, April will be needed just to get myself back to normal.

I leave for Cape Town on Monday and will be there until the 21st. The first item on the agenda is attending the Caine Workshop at Volmoed near Hermanus. I'm looking forward to spending quiet time writing for ten days. I'm also looking forward to meeting writers from around the continent. Great connections and discussions about short story writing. Just what my mind needs right now.

The workshop ends on the 15th. As luck would have it NB, which is one of the biggest publishing groups in South Africa, is having their author's party on the night of the 15th. I have quite a few books published with imprints under NB. All of my romances: Kwaito Love, Can He Be The One?, Mr Not Quite Good Enough and soon to come out Love in the Shadows are published by Sapphire Press which is under NB, and my book Signed. Hopelessly in Love published by Tafelberg which is also part of the NB group. I'm looking forward to meeting the people there including other authors so that ought to be fun.

On the 15th and 16th the publisher for my book Signed, Hopelessly in Love, has organised some PR events around the book. I'll be speaking at some schools. On the 16th they've organised a book club dinner, inviting some teen girls from teen magazine book clubs in South Africa. We'll eat and talk about the book and writing. I'm really looking forward to that. Since I'm currently working on a sequel to that book, I'll be very interested in hearing how they think the story might progress. I'll be able to see if I'm on track or not.

After the Tafelberg events I'll be staying with a writing friend, Colleen Higgs, getting ready for the launch of her short story collection, Looking for Trouble and Other Yeoville Stories, on the evening of the 20th at The Book Lounge. I'll be interviewing her about her new collection and her writing.

I'll be back for only a few days and then I'm off to Maun for the Poetavango International Poetry Festival on the 30-31 March where I'll be running a writing workshop for participants.

And that will be my March finished. Looking forward to all of the excitement.