Recently I read, with shock and horror, Paige Nick’s insightful piece in the Good Book Appreciation Society about the low number of South African English fiction that is purchased in South Africa.(“Ever wonder how many books get sold in SA every year?”)
I hope this piece encourages a few readers to stroll the extra few metres to the middle of the bookstore and grab a title from the exiled African Fiction shelf.
Yesterday I attended the inaugural Soweto Literary Festival, held at the Soweto Theatre. I was very much looking forward to the festival, not least meeting up with Karina Sczcurek and Pamela Power who were respectively first and third on the programme.
I arrived at 8:45, 15 minutes early and was sipping a cappuccino when Pamela and Karina stepped through the entrance. We hugged and took selfies, Pamela’s fingers danced across her smartphone’s screen, tweeting. Before the start of proceedings, we chatted to Daryll David, the organiser who without doubt put in a tremendous amount of effort putting together the event. Daryll commented about the difficulty he experienced to get our own press to publicise the event properly beforehand. I can vouch for that as, during the week I did a few Internet searches and wasn’t able to find the programme online; fellow tweeps however tweeted it included Karina and Pamela.
The programme reflected an impressive line-up of literary greats. Karina was up first, followed by Mandla Langa at 9:30 talking about and reading from ‘The Texture of Shadows’ with Pamela at 10, in conversation with Bontle Senne. Karina paid a moving tribute to her beloved husband Andre Brink. During question time Karina talked about her very much anticipated memoirs titled ‘The Fifth Mrs Brink’.
Karina’s contribution to SA Lit is legendary and I am the last person who is able to pay proper homage to that. Her very much understated Twitter profile reads: ‘Reader, writer, editor & critic’. After becoming friends on Twitter, my personal introduction with Karina was when she (with Alex Smith, my creative writing teacher) interviewed me at the Cape Town launch of Submerged. This was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.
Similarly, to Karina, Pamela’s contribution to SA Lit is priceless. She tweets at nearly all book launches in the Joburg area, buys the books, reads it and reviews it. We became friends on Twitter and in person afterwards. Pamela attended my book launch in Joburg and her tweets certainly put Submerged on the map.
From my background in banking and finance, if one had to ask a corporate service provider to perform similar undertakings, their bill would run into the thousands.
Karina finished and now it was the turn of Mandla Langa. But he wasn’t there (an always punctual true professional he did arrive a bit later due to an unexpected family crises). But it was still thirty minutes before Pamela and Bontle Senne were due to take the floor and Bontle was on her way.
Daryll was frozen on the spot.
But then the most unbelievable thing happened. As though a pair of twins having similar thoughts, Karina and Pamela called me, not featured on the programme, over to join them on stage.
My midlife crises/bucket list was to write a crime thriller. Submerged was published this year and I am fortunate enough to share above-mentioned discussed bookstore shelf space with world-class SA Fiction writers, like Pamela, Karina, Louisa Treger, Paige, Mohale Mashigo, Joanne Macgregor, Rachel Zadok, Alex Smith and Andrew Salomon, others (apologies if I don’t mention every by name but I follow you all on Twitter).
During the next thirty minutes or so, sitting between the two conspirators, we chatted about Submerged, touched on my professional career and past medical problems, the compulsion to write, then finally changing course to become a full-time writer, my creative writing training and finishing my thriller. We discussed future projects and specifically my life story which hopefully will be as fascinating to readers as it was to them when we became friends.
After this surprising development it was the turn of Pamela and Bontle who chatted about MsConception. A best-selling novelist and artist, Pamela is in actual fact very reserved about her own achievements, and said that, for a long time she found it difficult to call herself a novelist. But she said that, after only eight months on the ‘writers’ circuit’ she found her ‘Tribe’.
What Pamela said about our Tribe was special. Having thought about that overnight, I realised that members of our Tribe, including writers, bloggers, reviewers (Amy Heydenrych, Janice Leibowitz, many others, new kids on the block Bookish sisters Babongile Zulu), soon to-be published novel writers (Amy, Missy Volker, Natasha Alexander, others), not forgetting people like Daryll, look out for each other without expecting anything in return, because this is what we do.