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African Books Collective ships around the globe
And outside of RSA...
Where do we find your book?
African Books Collective ships around the globe
And outside of RSA...
- Her soul folded and nestled in a hard shell that formed in her breast. In her mind, she erased her predator from life, sending lightning to suck out all his life force, leaving him as a dried-up lifeless scarecrow in the fields. -
- Mvelo had not known that graveyards were busiest in the dead of the night. -
- Nokuzola could not afford running shoes and, like the other Zola, she loved to feel the ground with her feet. She developed a relationship with the grass, or the soil, or the tarmac wherever she was competing. Her feet communicated with the ground. -
- Newshounds were right on cue with cameras, notepads and the same tired questions for the mother in pain. 'How do you feel about your son dying in a burning shack?'-
- The problem for him was that he was a man being supported by a woman. For the first time in his life he felt the fears of women who had to depend on men. He began to understand why women would do anything to keep their men. -
- Addison had lived much of her adult life faintly convinced that a large segment of the reading public and the entire new industry would be really happy if she died in some bizarre and puzzling way. -
- Even at six Addison had known that she was pretending to be more childlike than she was...Her mother wished her to be thinking of fairies and dewdrops, but she was already the knives-and-curses type. You can tell me anything, her mother used to say, and then respond to anything she was told with disappointment or alarm. So Addison was compelled into a life of deceit and charade, which is what always happens whenever honesty if forced upon someone. -
- In telling the story to Rima and Tilda, her point was a different one. Sometimes something happens to you, she said, and there's no way to be the person you were before. You won't ever be that person again; that person's gone. There's a little freedom in every loss, no matter how unwelcome and unhappy that freedom may be. -
- As was often the case with his columns, Rima preferred the unedited version. She didn't much like the man in the column, with his peaceful, grateful death. She didn't like how he didn't say a word about the loss of his young wife, is only son, but claimed instead to have lived a lucky life. Or at least compared with most. -
- You think I'm real just because I'm sitting across from you. -
- Rejection's not easy. But you reject words, whole pages, long impossible stories, and it feels good once it's done. It's no different rejecting pictures, a picture's right to hang on a wall...We need distance, it's essential...You simply have to feel it...Let them catch their breath and look again because they can't help it. Make them think, make them mad, even...'
- They never asked, "Were you able to work today?" Maybe they had, twenty or thirty years earlier, but they'd gradually learned not to. There are empty spaces that must be respected - those often long periods when a person can't see the pictures or find the words and needs to be left alone. -
- I can help it. Don't you understand; there isn't time any more. It's all I do, just observe, observe to distraction, pictures that don't mean shit until I draw them and redraw them. I've had enough for one life, my only life! -
- ...it couldn't go on like this, these short stories that were never finished and just went on and on getting rewritten and discarded and picked up again, all those words that got changed and changed and I can't remember how they were yesterday and what's happened to them today! -
- She began to anticipate a solitude of her own, peaceful and full of possibility. She felt something close to exhilaration, of a kind that people can permit themselves when they are blessed with love. -
- I might get me some kind of better grade of beer before I go. A guy I was talking to said something about Belgian beer...So the truth was he was dying...Someone would cut his name into the face of a tombstone and it would be as if he never was. -
- Mercy heavens! she cried. Mercy! She cupped water onto her face and chest. Lord! I'm an old woman and I've never been naked outdoors before. Look at me. -
- She was marked and known. It was how you paid for love. But over time that was lost too. She became part of the history of the town, like wallpaper in the old houses - the ageing lonely isolated woman, the unmarried schoolteacher living out her days among other people's children, a woman who'd had a brief moment of excitement and romance a long time ago...-
- So they prayed again, but it didn't change anything. -
- I think he's a good man, one man said who hadn't spoken yet. I can see that. That's not in question. He's someone with a vision of how it could be.
Not here though. -
- In school she had been able to learn reams of stuff off by heart, and to thorw it down on paper...In collage, they expected you to use your mind. Did she even have a mind...To discover that, actually, what you'd had all this time, been praised for all this time - what had got you off the hook all this time - was not, after all, intelligence, but a shallow robotic skill. -
- She was still not quite able to believe that this happened, but it did. You said something, sounding confident as you said it, keeping your voice level, and people nodded, and people agreed with you, and people looked at you as a person who apparently knew their stuff. That was it. -
- Then they were home and he was himself again. Or his public self, or his social self; Catherine was beginning to have trouble remembering all of his selves. -
- 'He certainly struck lucky with his timing,' Julia said drily, eyeing the photograph in the front of them. 'Any other week of the year, this stuff would look exactly like the forced, stretching pedanticism it is. But the jammy bastard's opening night turns out to be the night of the peace talks deadline, and so here we find ourselves, bang in the middle of the most blazingly relevant cultural phenomenon of the year.' -
- Was a reality something you arrived at, or something you made?
Or something you just forced onto things? -
- Certain people in life - and not even always ones who deserve it - can just unlock all your doors, somehow. Even if you change the locks or hide the keys. -
- I wanted to be the kind of person that people gave nicknames to. -
- I'd come here for nature. I'd come here to be transformed. And yet for that whole first day of hiking, I listened to celebrity gossip, tales of intra-sorority injustice, and diet tips. -
- All morning, the kids had been talking about "next year," and making plans to come back and do it over again, in a way that made me saddest of all. Because I knew that they wouldn't. A year is an eternity, and they'd never come back. Life would get in the way. -
- What can I say? When your eighty-three-year-old grandmother wants to paint your portrait, you let her. -
- It really is a strange situation to find oneself in - that of attending your own funeral. -
- It was not explicitly thought that my language was inferior to English, but there was a general feeling that mastery of the English language was the preserve of the truly privileged, and we had to show it off as best as we could. -
- To call my mother overbearing would be a simple way of saying that the English language has failed her by not having a stronger word to really define her. -
- Loneliness is a strange thing to bring up with anyone. If you are lonely, yet you are surrounded by people they think that you are saying that they somehow cannot provide you what you really need.-
- The strangest thing about nightmares is that once you explain them to someone else they never sound quite as scary as they were when you had them. -
- To be surrounded by languages you don't understand. Of how it must, in some ways, be like being deaf. The deaf children he knew, whose parents sometimes came to see him, became remote, cut off, even inside their own families. Silent islands. -
- 'Is it true,' says the child Abass, voice juddering as he bounces on the car's back seat, 'that the number of stars in the sky is infinity? -
- Most of the people who write those things never leave their hotel rooms, they're too afraid. And wouldn't know the difference between a Mendeman and a Fulaman. But still they write the same story over and over. It's easier that way. And who is there to contradict them? -
- After the lovemaking, she'd pulled away, withdrawing her body from him. Suddenly no longer inside her, he experienced the sensation as a shock. An abandonment. -
- People think war is the worst this country has ever seen: they have no idea what peace is like. The courage it takes simply to endure. -
- 'This is their reality. And who is going to come and give the people who live here therapy to cope with this?" asks Attila and waves a hand at the view. 'You call it a disorder, my friend. We call it life.'
We wanted to listen to poetry. We arrived at the venue, a restaurant, over an hour early. There were no customers. The [white] owner / manager was behind the bar. He didn’t say hello. Then again, I guess we didn’t look like much. I was in jeans, flats, cotton jersey and a scarf my mother had knitted. The [white] writer with me is between jobs, and doesn’t dress to impress. But a waitress came forward: ‘We’re not serving food. There is an event tonight.’ We explained we’d come for the event. Were there any seats unreserved? The waitress smiled. Said there was. Told us we could have coffee while we waited. She sat us. We ordered coffee.
[White] Owner / manager didn’t say a word.
This was only my second year at FLF. Last year I’d been brought in as a last-minute replacement for another writer. I’d stayed at the Travel Lodge, cheap, clean and cheerful, which my stipend from the fest basically covered. I met wonderful people, my panel was with two writers I admired, and I had a lot of fun. This year, however, I was at FLF only for work purposes and not on the programme. Sill at the Travel Lodge, work was covering it, and the place remained clean and cheerful.
But FLF wasn’t as much fun. Some of it had to do with work. There had been a comedy of errors – not of our doing – that we’d had to scramble to fix. But there was something else in the air I couldn’t quite place. [White] writer next to me, who I had driven to the fest, had also noticed. Night before he’d been frisked. He had been walking along the streets of Franschhoek. Ran into a group of youths who’d come together after the news that BB King had died. The gathering morphed into a soccer game. This, apparently, warranted police investigation. The most dangerous thing they uncovered during the pat downs was a melted chocolate ball. ‘What the fuck is this?’
The venue was starting to fill up. A [white] woman – fancy scarf, expensive jersey, jewels so gaudy that if she swam with them on she’d have drowned – approached us. ‘This is my table,’ she squeaked.
‘We were told this table wasn’t reserved.’
She kept squeaking. Loudly. That she’d handed over her credit card. That we must move. The waitress came over. She calmed the woman down. She assured us we were fine at our table. Then she directed the woman to the table next to ours, ‘That’s the table you reserved.’
Not a word of apology as she and her party sat down. They were quickly given menus. Offered food.
We were offered more coffee.
We ordered more coffee.
People kept coming in. More tables sat. More menus dispatched. [White] owner / manager greeting many. Standing room was gone. Now there were people standing outside the restaurant, peering through the glass.
At last the poetry night began. First the [white] organiser of the event gave a welcome and summary of what was to come. Then the introduction of the first poet. A [white] woman stood up and read a few poems. They were cute. The sort that make you think, ‘Oh, bless.’
Next poet was introduced: Phillippa Yaa de Villiers. From the first line, she had me. Thus, I didn’t see him approach. It wasn’t until the [white] owner / manager was in my face that I realised there was a problem. He was loudly demanding we leave. He was saying the table was reserved. I glanced over at the bar. Philippa was still performing her first poem. But a [white] wealthy-looking couple was indeed standing at the bar.
We told the man that we had asked, repeatedly, if the table was unreserved, and we’d been assured we were fine. The man went on a rant – loudly – about his staff. He blamed them. Despite having been there the whole time, he claimed to have no knowledge of our presence, or why we were there.
Phillippa was still performing. It was embarrassing, such a scene. I told the man we would leave, but not until the poet was done. ‘It would be rude to get up during her set.’ He looked startled. Glanced back at Phillippa, as if he’d forgotten the poet was there.
The following evening I would attend an award ceremony. I’d RSVP’d, but was informed I wasn’t on the guest list. An admin mistake, perhaps. My publishers got me in. During the event I met a lot of wonderful people. Discussed interesting possibilities for work. But at one point I found myself awkwardly jammed against a wall, hemmed in by the crowd, while a prominent male author conversed with my left breast. Or maybe he was simply shy, found it hard to make eye contact. Regardless, it was a relief when the crowd shifted and I could break free.
It is now over a month since FLF, yet people continue to ask me about how the weekend went. I think of the festival. I think of the literary debates. ‘Interesting times,’ I say.
This post originally featured on Books Live
The Write Life. It sounds catchy. Desirable. It involves a perfect balance between commitments, writing, family, rest and living. Living, which according to internet memes and motivational slogans, appears to be those things that are not work and family and reading and writing…this elusive living that is done in that spare time by people who have lives. With arms stretched out wide. On a mountaintop. At sunrise. Maybe sunset. The rest of us are not living, apparently, but zombies. Can’t be dead, because the dead don’t move. Hard to do laundry and not move. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I’m not sure there is a Write Life, however. I’ve spent time cutting things out of my life only to have new things slip in: children’s writing group, Spring Wring Course, #WriterPrompt and belly dancing, to name a few. I like being busy. But I don’t like being stressed and anxious. I enjoy working with writers under the age of 18 in person. It remains to be seen if I feel the same about adults. Giving feedback on #WriterPrompt (which I enjoy) is a far cry from adult writers gathered in my dining room. But it is a challenge, and at least I can say I tried.
What I have come to understand, however, is that my Write Life is only achievable in moments. Yes, since the 28th of May I’ve managed to put down another 6,000 words in a work-in-progress. First time I’ve added words to a work-in-progress during the months of May and June since I became a part of Short Story Day Africa. It hasn’t been easy to acquire the space for those new words. They are the first new words since the 24th of April. Nor will we discuss how long it took for me to write this final post. Things were going, then they were not. People get sick, have injuries, face unexpected events – Write Life depends upon consistency. Life, even the zombie sort, is full of unpredictability. Organisation, diaries and working ahead can only accomplish so much. Life happens. And it isn’t always at sunrise on a mountaintop.
Write Life blog series is done. But this isn’t a mini project. Like my health, how much I’m working – how I’m using my time - is going to require constant reassessment. There is already a looming what if hovering in July. To happen, or not happen. I’m not sure what the answer will be. I thought I knew. Now I don’t. But what I’ve come to realise is, that it is wonderful to be at a place to have choices. There are times I have not had much choice. The trick is to keep in mind that, ‘No, is an answer, too,’ as my physio said. Nonetheless, what a beautiful time in my life this is, where I have choice. It is an important point. Because looking behind me, it is evident that when I lose sight of choice the demons creep in. I must remember, because I can’t keep adopting black dogs to keep the rest at bay.