Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Writers Talk Short Fiction with Ben Williams at the Cape Town Book Fair

Ben Williams, editor of BOOK SA, led a panel discussion at the Cape Town Book Fair about the reading and writing of short stories between local authors and BOOK SA members Henrietta Rose-Innes (Homing), Arja Salafranca (The Thin Line), Sarah Lotz and Meg Vandermerwe (This Place I Call Home). Noticeably absent from the panel was Louis Greenberg, editor of the collection Home Away, who was unable to attend this year’s fair...Read more here

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Best American Travel Writing Series: a review

Take one short story writer and teacher of creative writing and show him Dubai. Send him on assignment for GQ magazine, send him on a ubiquitous press trip, and the result is George Saunders' wonderful piece: "The New Mecca". Published in the 2006 issue of The Best American Travel Writing Series, the volume edited by travel writer Tim Cahill, this piece alone makes the price of the book worthwhile and is just one of the reasons I love this series....Read more here

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Big Book Chain Chat #9: Short stories

In 2008 I researched and wrote an article on the genre of the short story for The Star. I opened with the opinion that “short stories are commonly called the Cinderellas of the literary world. Publishers complain that readers don’t buy short story collections, and so publish few volumes, then bookstores don’t stock them in great quantities. All around it seems to be a Catch-22 situation. But, are things changing? After years of drought, in which you found just a few local volumes published, whether of anthologies or of collections by single authors, 2008 has seen what some are referring to as a renaissance of the genre in South Africa.” I then reviewed four collections of stories that had recently been released, including Liesl Jobson’s flash fiction collection 100 Papers and Zoe Wicomb’s The One that Got Away... Read more here

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Women’s Words: African Worlds, a Promising “Think-fest” for Those Who Knew About It - Liesl Jobson

The “Women’s Words: African Worlds” think-fest was a sensational idea, one with the potential to be a real opportunity for women writers from South Africa, Africa and the Diaspora in this, the African Union’s recently declared Decade of Women.

The sub-title, “renewing a dialogue between African women writers and women of African descent”, was bolstered by a line-up of substantial talent: elders Miriam Tlali and Lauretta Ngcobo, leading activists Elinor Sisulu and Zubeida Jaffer, academic Veronique Tadjo, as well as journalists, Maureen Isaacson, Gail Smith, Nokuthula Mazibuko and Arja Salafranca, and BOOK SA regulars Zukiswa Wanner and Henrietta Rose-Innes. These were coupled with a stellar guest-list of writers from abroad that included 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize winner Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. It promised to be a propitious space for the vital reconnection and reclamation of women’s voices on the Continent....read more here

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Do we still need a Women's Day in 2010?

Why do women have a special day? This is the disgruntled question I’ve heard through the years.The usual retort is that men have 364 days – why not have one day for women?

But, I wonder if we still need a Women’s Day in 2010? Do women’s issues then conveniently get set aside because we’ve already celebrated and discussed women’s issues, so let’s now move on?

My women’s month started when I read poetry with a group of other women at the Jozi Book Fair on August 9.Women of all persuasions stepped upto the forum to declaim on a range of issues – from being single to hymns to grandmothers. I then found myself as part of the celebrations for the launch of a book by women writers only. Asked why there was a need for women-only publishers, I suggested that if men felt the need, why not put together a book of stories by men on the same topic?

But the point remains that men are perhaps starting to feel excluded.We may argue that women have just one day a year, but men’s issues – and they too deserve serious consideration – aren’t often on the agenda either. At the writers’symposium hosted by the Department of Arts and Culture, I was on a panel with the novelist Adaobi Nwaubani. She brought upthe point that women novelists were experiencing aflowering and being published, but was there not a danger of excluding men, or of men feeling excluded?Such a comment might provoke howls of outrage from women – and some men. But are we shooting ourselves in the foot with Women’s Day? Surely weshould place women’s issues firmly on the agenda,whatever the month, whatever the day?

I write, and live, from a position of relative privilege– although the finances of a single mother precluded me from private school, I still attended a government school that was highly regarded. I’vemoved through my working life without encountering a barage of sexism, although I’ve certainly brushedagainst sexist practices.

I’m lucky in that I entered the workforce in 1994,the year of democracy and change.When I started my first job as a community reporter, the editor was male, smoking was allowed and it was only the women reporters who wrote on the Womens League.When I left a few years later the editor was female, smoking had been relegated to the balconyand we all attended Womens’League meetings.

I have always felt myself to be valued by everyone with whom I have worked. Perhaps the tide has turned and we are now blessed to be working with men who have been enlightened by the fires feminism ignited.And my feeling is that we need to recognise this within men themselves. Although I welcome the attention afforded women during thismonth, I also lament that since we have a month to ourselves, so to speak, we don’t yet have the year.

(Published in The Sunday Independent, August 29)