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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Read SA Gaining Momentum

The first quarter of the year started well for Read SA. In a coup for the campaign, we partnered up with Centre for Creative Arts to give more value to Time of the Writer Festival.

Those who have been part of Time of the Writer since its inception will know what a fantastic literary event it is. In addition to the panel discussions that happen every evening during the course of the week, writers get to visit schools and Durban Westville Prison to talk about their art. In the past, these visits have consisted of schools receiving biographies of the visiting writer and an excerpt of their work to familiarise themselves with it. This year through Read SA’s partnership, we added value to an already fun and enriching experience for the students.

Writers arrived at each of the schools they visited with a box of books to give to the library of the school being visited. Through this, Read SA and Centre for Creative Arts were able to distribute books worth R50,000 in Durban high schools.

As the mission of the campaign is to spread the love of reading through reading South Africa and Africa, we also took four children’s writers to donate books and conduct writing workshops with students from five primary schools in Pietemaritzburg. Zambian writer Ellen Banda-Aaku, Congolese writer Mukanda Mulemfo, and Zimbabwean writer Ivor Hartmann took part in this leg of the campaign.

What was gratifying for Read SA was how effortless the logistics of the visit were as the Pietermaritzburg community, led by English teacher Amisha Aiyer of Orient Heights Primary School, rolled up their sleeves and ensured everything was smooth sailing. Not only did they arrange transport from and to King Shaka Airport for the writers, one of the parents, aware that the campaign has limited funding so far, even paid for accommodation for one of the writers.

As is clear from this, Read SA is gaining momentum and we look forward to more work in different provinces.

All being well, we hope to have visited schools and communities in all nine provinces of the country by the end of the year, donating books and getting people to read and read South Africa.

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Appeal to Donate Books to Bookery

ReadSA appeals to the public, appeals to you, to donate books to Equal Education‘s Bookery. Equal Education is in particular need of primary and high school books, non-fiction and reference books. All donated books should be in a satisfactory condition please. Any books in Afrikaans and in Xhosa are most welcome too, as are any other books.

Equal Education also needs assistance with helping the school libraries acquire Libwin Software, for cataloguing purposes. Volunteers are always welcome to help sort out and catalogue donated books.

Address to donate books: The Bookery 20 Roeland Street Cape Town. View a map.

From the building of school libraries to the giving of a book, Equal Education needs you in their community!

About Equal Education and Bookery

Equal Education is a community-based organisation. It is vigorously campaigning for quality and equality in the South African education system and we engage in evidence and research based activism for improving the nation’s schools. We promote the constitutional right to equality and education, with the firm belief that these will enable the poor and working class to an equal opportunity in life.

The campaign for School libraries. Only 8% of public schools in South Africa have functional libraries. These are almost entirely situated in former Model C schools, which continually have the resources to stock and staff these facilities. Approximately 20,000 schools are without libraries, thereby denying their learners access to regular reading opportunities.

The Bookery is the home of the Equal Education’s campaign for school libraries the slogan (1 school, 1 library, 1 librarian) was adopted for it, the campaign started in 2009. Most of the children in poor communities only have their first access to a reading book that they can take home and read for themselves in a school library.

Research shows that student performance increases by about 10% and 25% when a library space is adequately stocked, and properly staffed within a school.

The Bookery is where we collect books, sort them, cover and catalogue them to a computer software that allows the school to manage the books once they receive them.

We work on giving 3 books per learner “ if the school has 1000 learners they get 3000 books.”

From the moment we have identified the school we will work with as partners, the process takes 4 weeks until the opening of the library. We gather support and regularly visit and monitor the school library, until they are ready to take on the library on their own.

We have opened the 3 school libraries this year. We opened the first one in Khayelitsha Thembelihle High School, Lavender Hill High School in Retreat and our third was opened last Friday Masiyile Secondary Khayelitsha.

With thanks, Read South Africa and Equal Education.

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From a Writer…

by Megan Voysey-Braig

The telling of stories matters. The listening to and reading of stories matter. It keeps us human. Writing them keeps me human. Stories remind me that I am not alone.

If we do not read, we fail to be curious. We fail to learn from ourselves and learn from the stories that run through everyone. We fail to understand, and we remain unchanged, we fail to see the other person who is telling their particular story.

It is criminal that books are mostly only available to the fortunate.

The Government neglects the majority, and relegates the majority of people to a life of ignorance and illiteracy.

It does this as if it was the good and proper thing to do, as it neglects with impunity and a heartlessness that leaves almost no space for questioning and one can only stare wide-eyed and reeling in disbelief. Neglect is a story. How does the same thing day in and day out, FEEL?

How does being kept away from knowledge and finding out more, feel?

The writer would imagine getting out, GETTING OUT, that reading, learning to read and HOW to read would be a beginning, a step, a leap. The writer would imagine ideas and dialogue beginning and continuing between people of all ages, great and challenging debates till the early hours, seeking to understand one another, connecting. No more the superstitious, rigid, hate filled and oft murderous thoughts towards people, towards sexual preference and expression of sexuality, no prejudice towards skin colour. An informed and enlightened society rather than the ruinously violent society South Africans live in.

That all minds would open and OPEN, as books open, that perceptions would change, that one would have the key on the inside of the prison door.

The writer imagines that the level of illiteracy and lack of education would be considered a state of emergency and all who could, would mobilise and give of their time, money and support. Give of their books on the shelf and to assist those who are under the gun, on the edges, those who have been pushed to the edges.

The ones that feel no one cares, but the writer imagines that one day others just might. The ones that can, should bear up under the strain for the people that cannot bear anymore and have certainly borne enough.

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Book Now for the Read SA “Meet the Writers” London Event!

Meet the Writers in London - A Read SA Event

Help raise funds for Read SA

Read SA invites you to “Meet the Writers” at a special event in London the day after the conclusion of the London Book Fair.

Join us at The Meat & Wine Co., Westfield London, on Thursday April 22 at 7pm (click here for map). Your hosts will be the South African writers Imraan Coovadia, Siphiwo Mahala, Angela Makholwa, Thando Mgqolozana, Kgebetli Moele, Ndumiso Ngcobo, Fiona Snyckers, Zukiswa Wanner and more!

Bookings are just £90 per person and include a three-course meal and seating at a writer’s table. All proceeds from the event go to Read SA, a registered non-profit organisation that aims to boost the profile of South African writing locally and abroad.

Write to for details and to book. We look forward to welcoming you in London!

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Five Tactics To Make It Easier For Readers To Learn About and Buy Your Book

While trawling the Internet to shop for books, I noticed five things that some of the authors I read do to promote their books and to encourage readers to buy:

  1. Book covers are hyperlinked to sales pages – Readers who are considering buying a book don’t have to wait until the next time they go to a bookstore to buy a book. They also don’t have to page through numerous web pages to find buying info. All this makes it easier for them to buy.
  2. Excerpts give readers a taste – Many authors are publishing excerpts of their books to hook potential readers. As a voracious reader (and online book buyer), I’ve even come to expect the excerpts.
  3. Online serials build a captive audience – A couple of up and coming authors whom I read publish online serials on a weekly basis to build a community for their works. Yes, it’s hard work to constantly think up new stories to tell and to give away. But I’ve also noticed that authors who invest in this kind of promotion build a faithful base of fans who love their work, have grown to trust in their storytelling skills and pre-order their books. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have at least 3000 readers impatiently waiting for you to release your next book?
  4. Banding together increases marketing power – I also noticed that new authors in the same genre are increasingly banding together to promote one other’s works. This means that if you have 5 authors working together, each author’s books are promoted in at least five different places at the same time. Think “economies of scale.”
  5. Blog tours help you connect with new readers – Blog tours are easy to arrange if you already have an online presence (like a blog or web site). All you need to do is contact 10 other bloggers you know (or whatever number) and ask them to host you. You can either writer a short article, talking about your book or issues related to it, or the blog owner can interview you. Bottom line is, you reach new readers you may never have been able to connect with otherwise.

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How to Write: Tips from Margie Orford

The new Wordsetc cover - 'Crime' issue, featuring Margie Orford #tow10Like ClockworkBlood RoseDaddy's GirlMargie OrfordMargie Orford is best-known as a crime writer – her Clare Hart series, listed here, has gone ’round the world like a rocket – but she has a rather distinguished career writing other types of books, too, which began long before she was crowned SA’s “krimi queen” (cf. the brand-spanking-new Wordsetc – cover shown here). In this regard, we recommend Fabulously 40 and Beyond (with Karin Schimke), Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism: Stories from the Developing World (with Stefan Raubenheimer) and Fifteen Men (with the inmates of the Groot Drakenstein prison).

Here are Orford’s tips:

  1. It is not possible to set out to write a hit. Readers are smart: they can tell a con at fifty paces.
  2. So, feel with your body, write with your heart, edit with your head.
  3. Write about what you know, but if you don’t know something then go find it out.
  4. It takes a very long time to become an overnight success, so work harder than you ever thought possible.
  5. Then work some more.
  6. Don’t give up.
  7. Don’t complain.
  8. Just do it again.
  9. And then again.
  10. And if its not working? that thing about killing your darlings is true: if a chapter doesn’t fit, then cut it out, step over the blood and move on.
  • PS
    • What Margaret Atwood says about pencils is true. If you write when you fly don’t take a pen. They leak.
    • What Elmore Leonard said about cutting out the boring bits that readers skip is good advice. That includes adjectives. And adverbs. Zap the lot.
    • And Stephen King was right: if your characters are speaking then use ‘said.’ He said, she said, he said, she said. If your characters have to ‘grumble’ or ‘moan’ or effervesce’ you have failed. (see 10, then 5 – 9)

Book details

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How to Write: Tips from Niq Mhlongo

Inspired by the Guardian’s article bringing together “how to write” tips from prominent authors, ReadSA and BOOK SA introduce a similar series a bit closer to home. Watch out for top tips from stars in the SA Lit firmament!

Niq MhlongoAfter TearsDog Eat DogNiq Mhlongo is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, Dog Eat Dog – which, in Spanish translation, won the Mar des Lettras prize – and After Tears, both published by Kwela, an imprint of the NB group.

Read an excerpt from After Tears here.

Niq Mhlongo’s tips:

* * * * *

  1. Always write for yourself. Don’t listen to your publisher telling you to write for a particular audience.
  2. Delete every game on your PC or laptop before you get addicted.
  3. Write to express and not to impress. My first manuscript had absurd words such as inter alia, comprehend, and bourgeoisie. Maybe it’s because of the law thing that I was doing at that time, but now that I look at it I feel embarrassed.
  4. Avoid talking about your next project with your drinking buddies. South Africans always think that all writers are celebrities and millionaires.
  5. Do not try to write like your favorite author. Every writer has his or her own voice.
  6. The best way of not losing your work is to E-mail it to yourself every time you write something.
  7. Avoid people who want to give you their manuscripts to read and comment because this might distract you from your own project. Always refer them to your publisher.
  8. Keep your day job. Writing only makes you poorer.
  9. If you write in first person, people might call you by your main character’s name even at international writer conferences.
  10. If publishers reject your work, curse them in your heart and aim for self-publishing.

* * * * *

Book details

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How to Write: Tips from Lauren Beukes

Inspired by the Guardian’s recent article bringing together “how to write” tips from prominent authors, ReadSA and BOOK SA introduce a similar series a bit closer to home. Watch out for top tips from stars in the SA Lit firmament!

Lauren BeukesMoxylandMoxylandZoo CityLauren Beukes is one of the hottest tickets in SA Lit. Her first novel, Moxyland, published by Jacana, has blazed a trail in speculative fiction circles around the world, and has been picked up for publication in US, UK and Australia by the new Angry Robot imprint – which is also bringing out her second novel, Zoo City, later this year. Beukes is also the author of Maverick, a non-fiction work showcasing the more interesting women characters from South Africa’s past.

Lauren Beukes’ tips:

* * * * *

  1. Ideas are easy. Putting fingers to keyboard to get the words down is the hard part – and the only thing that counts. Writers write.
  2. You should have at least a vague idea of where you’re taking this thing. Write a detailed outline if it suits you. But don’t be afraid to veer off course. Allow for unexpected things to happen in the space between brain and page when a character becomes something other than you intended or an event unfolds in a different and usually more interesting way. Surprising myself is the most fun, exciting and rewarding part of writing for me.
  3. You know those first three chapters you’ve polished until they’re so shiny they can blind at 50 paces? Leave them alone. Stop stalling. Move on. Write the whole first draft and then go back and facelift and liposuction to your heart’s content. A rough-hewn finished book trumps three shiny chapters any day.
  4. Be disciplined. A sports psychologist friend who coaches the Springbok rugby team says there’s no such thing as motivation – no magic buoyancy to propel you through the hard work. It’s sheer bloody-mindedness to do this thing even when you really, really don’t want to.
  5. Research matters. So does experience. It brings life and depth and truth to your writing, even if your story is the most fantastical lie. If you can, get a day job or a hobby that exposes you to interesting things outside the everyday that will make your writing richer. Sure you might not qualify for NASA or the FBI, but you could do an astrophysics course at summer school or volunteer as a police reservist. Like many writers I’ve found journalism to be a great way to hone my writing and get a nifty backstage pass to strange and interesting places and people. If I’m sneaky, I can pitch articles that just so happen to coincide with research for my novel. I’d probably avoid advertising because while it’s a great place to practice smart, sharp writing and creative ideas, so many of my friends in the industry seem desperately unhappy.
  6. Learn how to take criticism. It’s a bit like juggling chainsaws. If you do it right, you’ll impress everybody. Do it wrong and it can be wounding, or, worse, you can lose your head. Choose your readers and editors with care and then listen to everything they have to say, even the nasty parts. If you’re feeling raw, take a few days or weeks to get over it and then look at the critiques again and take what you can use and disregard what you can’t and stand up for the stuff you believe in.
  7. Getting published is hard work. Do your research, pitch to the right kinds of agents and publishers, write a query letter that shines (it’s okay to polish this four million times as long as you send it out). Don’t give up, keep racking up the rejections and write something else in the meantime.
  8. But don’t think the hard work stops when you get the book deal. You’re not the only author in the stable and publishers are busy, busy, people. You’re going to have to be proactive and find innovative ways to promote your book.
  9. Be sociable. Make friends with writers and readers. The world has changed, it’s easier than ever to connect with interesting people through twitter, through blogs. Be active in the writing community, speak up, speak out, have a conversation, have an opinion. But don’t be an asshat.
  10. Be generous. I’ve had relative strangers reach out and do incredible favours for me that have meant the world to my writing and my career, often unasked. I try to return the favour where I can. This is not a moral obligation to read your ex-boyfriend’s cousin’s wannabe-Twilight novel featuring angsty high school swamp monsters instead of vampires (see Josh Olson’s “I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script” about how NOT to approach professional writers) but if you find a new writer whose words you believe in or a young talent to mentor or a literacy charity that could do with more volunteers, or you get asked to write ten tips on writing, and you have the time and space to help, do.

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Book details

Photo courtesy Victor Dlamini

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How to Write: Tips from Michiel Heyns

Inspired by the Guardian’s recent article bringing together “how to write” tips from prominent authors, ReadSA and BOOK SA introduce a similar series a bit closer to home. Watch out for top tips from stars in the SA Lit firmament!

Michiel HeynsThe Children's DayAgaatBodies PoliticMichiel Heyns, who writes in both English and Afrikaans, is the author of several novels – most recently, Bodies Politic, which won the Herman Charles Bosman award.

He is also a noted translator and won, with Marlene van Niekerk, the 2007 Sunday Times Fiction Prize for the English translation of van Niekerk’s Agaat.

Michiel Heyns’ tips:

* * * * *

  1. Don’t have a dog. A dog lies there looking at you reproachfully just when you’ve settled down to your writing day.
  2. Get a dog. A dog keeps your feet warm when the rest of the world’s gone to bed.
  3. Try to write when the rest of the world’s gone to bed or before the rest of the world’s got up: there are fewer distractions, and the sense of virtue is good for your ego.
  4. Feed your ego all it requires, because it’s the part of you that takes the knocks in a writing life.
  5. A writing life is life, though it doesn’t always feel like one. At times it’s even better than life.
  6. On the relation between literature and life: don’t think about it, it comes naturally. Listen to what somebody called the boys in the basement: your subconscious. It’s not news that writing draws on your subconscious, as you’ll know if you’ve ever had the experience of your characters acquiring a life of their own. By the same token, said Norman Mailer (I think), writer’s block happens when you ask the subconscious to deliver something you haven’t primed it with. So live all you can, as Henry James said. It’s a mistake not to.
  7. But the subconscious can’t spell, construct sentences or punctuate. That’s the superego’s job. Give him plenty of scope. There are a few writers who have managed to persuade the world that their illiteracy is art, but you probably won’t get away with it. So respect the rules that you were told would stifle your creativity: they merely make it accessible to others.
  8. You will have been told, as a rule, to avoid adjectives or adverbs or both, but nobody will have told you why. That’s because there’s no real reason. If irresistible adjectives come naturally to you, indulge them; if adverbs run trippingly off your pen, let them be. But then edit.
  9. Edit, edit, edit. Yes, first thoughts are often best, but they usually need to be licked into shape. Athena may have sprung fully-formed from Zeus’ brow, but you’re not Zeus. Yet. Keep at it.
  10. Keep at it.

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How to Write: Tips from Zakes Mda

Inspired by the Guardian’s recent article bringing together “how to write” tips from prominent authors, ReadSA and BOOK SA introduce a similar series a bit closer to home. Watch out for top tips from stars in the SA Lit firmament!

Book Signing - Zakes MdaWays of DyingBlack DiamondThe Heart of RednessZakes Mda is one of South Africa’s most prolific and critically-acclaimed playwrights and novelists. His best-known books are Ways of Dying and The Heart of Redness – and he was recently the subject of a new work of criticism, Ways of Writing, out from UKZN Press. Mda’s latest book is Black Diamond, published by Penguin.

Zakes Mda’s tips:

* * * * *

1. Show, don’t tell. Humbug! You do need to tell as well. Effective storytelling is a balancing act between showing and telling, otherwise all stories would be in real time.

2. Write what you know. Humbug again! Otherwise all our stories would be about our own miserable little selves and nothing else.

3. The most compelling of stories are not made of big moments and sweeping gestures, but are an accumulation of small moments.

4. Waiting for inspiration? You will wait forever. Write and write and write again. Inspiration will find you on the way.

5. Write anywhere and everywhere: in the kitchen as you prepare meals for the family, at the train station, in the plane, in the bedroom between bouts of lovemaking. Solitude is a luxury you can’t afford.

6. Avoid reading thrash. It is infectious and will creep into your own writing. Read only writers whose work you admire.

7. Do explore and search for unsung writers. You never know what gems you’ll find between those covers. However if a novel doesn’t engage you in the first five pages discard it. Life is too short.

8. Be a shameless eavesdropper.

9. Have lots of kids. They are a source for rich material.

10. Don’t judge your characters; leave the judging to the reader.

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