For the bulk of this month I’ve been away being very writerly. I left Botswana on the 5th, heading for Cape Town and then to Hermanus for this year’s Caine Workshop.
It was held at the beautiful Volmoed, normally a Christian retreat but in this case a writing workshop venue. It’s set in the mountains with fields of fynbos along the walking trails and a tranquil waterfall at the end of the river. The perfect place for quiet reflection, just what’s needed for writing.
Each year the Caine folks organise a workshop somewhere on the continent. The shortlist from the previous year’s prize are invited and then some up and coming writers chosen from around the continent. Only Ugandan Beatrice Lamwaka and I from last year’s shortlist were able to attend.
The other writers at the workshop were: Mehul Gohil (Kenya), Brenda Mukami (Kenya), Waigwa Ndiangui (Kenya), Tendai Rinos Mwanaka (Zimbabwe), Grace Khunou (South Africa), Rehana Roussouw (South Africa), Yewande Omotoso (South Africa) and Rachel Zadok (South Africa).
At the workshop you’re meant to produce a short story of over 3000 words ready for publishing by the end of the ten days. You’re assisted by the facilitators, this year we had former Caine Prize winner, South African Henrietta Rose-Innes and British-Sudanese novelist Jamal Mahjoub.
Each evening three to four writers shared some of the story they were working on and the group discussed it. This also helps you as a writer. It helps you to identify what works in a story and what doesn’t. At the end of the workshop, the participants’ stories are combined with the stories on this year’s shortlist and these will make-up the 2012 Caine anthology.
It was a fantastic learning experience for me to take ten whole days to really analyze and understand a single short story. I’m more of an instinctual writer, either the story works or it doesn’t, so it was good for me to take the time to look closer at the workings of a story, to identify exactly what is not working and why and fix it. The facilitators were excellent in helping me do this.
I left Hermanus on the 15th and jumped straight into two days of hectic marketing for my book Signed, Hopelessly in Love, a book for teenagers published by the South African publisher Tafelberg. I first had a school talk at Springfield Convent School, a girls’ school in Cape Town.
The next day, Friday the 16th, was mostly taken up with an interview on SABC2’s Hectic Nine 9. An odd thing happened as I had been interviewed for a programme on SAFM a few days earlier which was recorded, so nearly at the time I was live on TV, I was also on the radio. Apparently a person can be in two places at one time.
On the evening of the 16th, the publisher organised a book club dinner for young journalists from some of the leading teen magazines in South Africa, including Seventeen and Saltwater Girl, who had reviewed the book. There were fourteen girls in total including two who had entered a competition to attend the dinner.
It was great to hear how they felt about my book especially that I am currently working on the sequel. They gave me a few good ideas about where to go with the characters too which was very helpful and not something a writer usually gets from their readers.
I stayed in Cape Town for a few more days because my friend, Colleen Higgs, was launching her collection of short stories, Looking for Trouble, on the 20th and asked me to interview her at the launch. Colleen Higgs, besides being a poet and a writer herself, is also a publisher, the owner of the highly acclaimed independent publishing house Modjaji Books. Her book launch was held at the fabulous Cape Town bookshop, The Book Lounge.
Overall a very successful trip, but like always, happy to be back home.