Friday, September 26, 2014

In That Scary Blank Zone

I hear about writers getting writer's block. If I'm in the middle of a project, that usually doesn't happen to me. I might have a crap writing day, where nothing I write works, but then I either keep writing until the crap sorts itself out, or I leave that project and work on something else in an attempt to get the juices flowing again. But there is a thing I fear, I call it the blank zone.

The blank zone is when your big project you've been working on for a year or more is finished, and nothing else has popped up to take its place. For me, I always have small projects running. I have my weekly column, or a short story I'm working on. I might have other writing projects going on , for example right now I'm working on books for an early reader series. But even with these small projects happening in the front, I must have a big, exciting project moving along in the background to keep me going, to push me along, to feed my creative mind and keep my writing muscle in shape. When there is no big project I feel adrift. I don't quite feel like a writer. I get scared that no other big project will ever come to me, that maybe my well of ideas is now empty.

That's where I am right now. I get whiffs of ideas that don't pan out. I think of something and it is either too small to test me, or too big and I shy away.

 It's a scary place this blank zone. I hope it won't last long. I hope it is not permanent.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

No Storymoja for me this Year :(

Everything was set for me to take off for Nairobi next week to attend the Storymoja Festival, but then the air ticket had a problem that couldn't be sorted. So- sadly- I am no longer attending. I was looking forward to it, especially the master class on writing for teens and the panel discussion on romance writing- but oh well, things happen.

Coincidentally, on the same day I learn I won't be attending a literary festival, my piece I wrote many months ago on litfests goes up on Kalahari Review: The Best of Times- The Worst of Times. Here's a bit of it:

Attending literary festivals is part of a writer’s life. They are wonderfully horrible experiences, especially for someone like me who lives in a tiny comfortable pond in which I take up an inordinate amount of water space, but at these gigs I morph into the microscopic plankton that the normal plankton eat. 

I am slightly known as a writer in Botswana, a few select people (I try to tell myself the better, discerning types) in South Africa might know me, might have read something written by me, and a handful of people around the continent have heard my name, almost exclusively other writers.  But jump off this lovely, huge island called Africa and it is a wasteland in terms of my writing career.

Read the rest HERE. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Our Big Road Trip Through South Africa

We started our trip at Kuruman and our first stop was the Wonderwerk Cave just outside of the town. It is the oldest site in the world that shows evidence of controlled use of fire. This is the entrance to the cave.
It is an active archaeological site.
These are some of the cave paintings, still bright and easy to see.
One of the more recent occupants of the cave was Pieter Bosman who our guide for the day was most fascinated by. He was an Afrikaner man who lived in the cave with his wife and fourteen children from 1900-1907 while he was building his farm down in the valley. He was apparently a giant, weighing 200 kgs and towering to 1.98 metres. Below are a pair of his trousers.

The next day we were off to the Moffat Mission Station. Robert Moffat was the first person to write out Setswana and published the first Setswana Bible. He was a missionary. David Livingstone came to Africa first as a missionary and lived at the Moffat Mission Station where he met his wife Mary, Moffat's daughter.
Below is the church at the mission station. It is still operating.

This is Moffat's house.
This is the house that Livingstone lived in.
Here is the actual printing press that printed the first Setswana Bible- and it is still working!

From Kuruman we headed to Calvinia along a beautiful road in the Karoo.
In Calvinia we stayed at the historic Hantam House. The small town was all decked out in spring wild flowers including the Namaqua daisy.
This was one of the displays inside Hantam Huis, the less said about the scary lady at the back the better.
From Calvinia we headed to Sutherland, but on the way we came upon this goshawk finishing his rabbit meal along the road.
In icy Sutherland, we attended a star gazing night just outside of town run by one of the residents. The next day we climbed up the mountain for a day tour of the Southern Africa's Largest Telescope (SALT).

This was our beautiful bathroom at Skitterland Guest House in Sutherland.
And these folks graced our wall.

From Sutherland we set off for the sea. Our first stop was Lamberts Bay on the west coast of South Africa. This was the sun setting on first night.

And this was the rainbow we found the next morning.
Lamberts Bay has a large breeding colony of gannets at Bird Island. You can also find cormorants nesting there too.
 From Lamberts Bay we headed to Cape Town to see friends and visit the iconic Charley's Bakery.
The original point of the trip was to visit Hermanus to see the whales that breed there, the Southern Right Whales. We took the road along the coast and had a stop at Betty's Bay to see the African Penguins that nest there.
Hermanus is gorgeous and though we saw whales,they were nearly impossible to photograph.
...except for this one.
We spent a day in George and saw even more whales. We spent a long time out with a friend watching a mother and baby playing in the water. But again- no good photos, sorry.

From George we passed through the Meringspoort Ravine in the Swartberg Mountains. It's a beautiful area connecting the Great Karoo to the Little Karoo.
With the best rest stops and toilets in the world.
A friend later told me about the wonderful determined woman who built and cares for these rest stops, Sandra Africa. You can learn about her amazing motivating story here.

 We stopped in De Aar to see the largest solar power installation in the world.  It provides enough electricity for 19,000 homes. Learn more here.
From De Aar we meant to pass through Kimberly but got caught up at The Great Hole, a former diamond mine. They have such an interesting museum there that we spent a few hours and decided to spend the night in Kimberly.
Here's a car in their museum. It's the first car in Kimberly and was driven by the diamond mine's boss.

That night we attended an art festival and watched this Afrikaans rock band.
This was the Ferris wheel at the festival. We considered taking a ride but it was cold and the queues were time!
The next day we drove home.
South Africa is a beautiful country with nearly ever corner offering up delights.We had such an amazing trip- thank you SA!!!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sign up for our Masterclass on Writing Fiction for Teens!!

 If you're going to be in Nairobi during the Storymoja Festival, don't miss the masterclass on writing fiction for teens I'll be co-teaching with Monity Odera.

 With sales up 24 percent, the fastest-growing market for publishers are young adult books.” – CBS Evening News 8 December 2013

For years, the young adult or teenage market has been ignored by publishers – but not anymore. As one of the fastest growing markets for books the only question is: what are you waiting for?

Sign up quick for the Writing Fiction for Teenagers Masterclass taught by the two-time Golden Baobab winner and YA author, Lauri Kubuitsile and Monity Odera, author of the book that proves science can also be fun – It Is Sunny Today.

Read more about it here