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Rachel Zadok

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

the baby

Professionally, I lead a weird double life. In 2011, when I started the Short Story Day Africa project (formerly known as Short Story Day South), I inadvertently split my writer-self in two. My intention had been to follow the example of the UK project and get writers, booksellers, readers etc to set up events themselves. I wasn’t planning to create anything. I just wanted to put the idea out there and let whoever wanted to participate, do so. Short Story Day Africa was supposed to be a bit like my clever SMEG oven.  In the morning, you put in dinner, set the timer and go to work. The clever SMEG switches itself on at the set time and voila, you come home to a perfectly cooked dinner. The SMEG and I, we have a partnership. Short Story Day Africa is nothing like my clever SMEG. Short Story Day Africa is a baby. My baby.

My baby is a colicky one. It needs lots of attention and, year on year, it needs more. My baby’s daddy was a one night stand. He doesn’t take the baby off my hands every second weekend and he pays very little maintenance. And yet, my baby has flourished. She’s beautiful and I love her, but my other child, my first born and favourite child, if I’m honest in a way good parents are not, has had to move out of its room to make way for the baby.

I’m looking at the rest of the year stretched out before me and wondering when I’ll be able to get back to my first love. There’s the baby’s anthology to edit, design, format. I wonder too, whether anyone will ever want to speak to me about my child again, or if every interview request I get for the rest of my life will be about the baby. Maybe it’s because there is little space in the media for books. Maybe the media powers that be think that since the baby’s already on stage, my child should be satisfied squinting into the spotlight while I stand behind the curtain, feeding the baby its lines. For example, in June I was invited onto a Cape Town radio book show. I was excited. My child had been on the shelves out a couple of months and there had been a few interviews and one review. Then the presenter of the book show called to clarify. We would only speak about the baby on the show, she didn’t have time to also speak about my child. Another time, perhaps, she said to placate me. A couple of weeks later, the producer of the show called again. Yay, I thought, they’re going to invite me to speak about my child now, who has a lovely voice, I might add. But no, it was the baby they wanted again, or really, one of the baby’s friends. They want to interview one of the writers who had entered the baby’s competition.

As much as I love my baby, some days I don’t. Some days, I look at the beautiful child I’ve poured my heart and soul into and I feel like I’m sinking along with it. Everyone loves my baby. They stand over my baby’s pram oohing and aahing, but seem to look away when my child enters the room.  I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps my child has some deformity; a great big raspberry mole smack in the middle of its forehead that I’m too blinded by motherly love to notice. Maybe no one wants to tell me my child is ugly in case I won’t let them play with my baby anymore.

I am writer. Writing is my talent, my passion, my life’s breath. Being a writer means that writing is a necessity; I must write to stop from sinking into a pit of misery. I need another child to focus on so that I can stop caring whether or not the beautiful one with the raspberry mole smack in the middle of its forehead has no friends. But I’m drowning in the administration it takes to keep the baby alive. I used to do odd writing related jobs to buy myself writing time, now those same jobs buy the baby nappies. I’ve become one of those people with a day job for whom writing is a hobby. Writing has become a luxury.

Today, I’m depressed about that.


The Longlist

After several weeks of intense reading, we’ve come up with a longlist.  Before you scan the list, take a moment to acknowledge our team of readers that generously volunteered their spare time to whittle down the sixty odd entries. I’d like to extend a special thanks to Henrietta Rose-Innes, Alé Steyn (Kwela Books), Lindsay van Rensburg (Kwela Books), Diane Awerbuck, Karina Magdalena Szczurek, Casey Dolan, Aoife Lennon-Ritchie (Lennon Literary Agency), Sheryl Kavin, Na-eemah Masoet (Modjaji Books) and Tiah Beautement.

The process of reading was an interesting one. First, we stripped the author’s name from the story and assigned a number. Each story went to two readers, who were asked to score it out of ten according to six criteria, such as whether it met the theme in some way, even if it was abstract. More importantly, we asked readers to go with their gut feeling. What was interesting is that the highest scoring stories were rated identically in almost every case. Great writing seemingly leaps out and punches you in the gut. It leaves you breathless. Like love at first sight, you don’t know what it is until you feel but when you feel it, you know.

We present nineteen stories that will make up the first Short Story Day Africa anthology. Congratulations to the authors. The longlist will now go through to our crack team of judges, and our ruthless and brilliant editor, Karen Jennings. Get ready for rewrites.

My Father’s Head by Okwiri Oduor

On Time by Achiro Patricia Olwoch

The Dibbuk by Manu Herbstein

Burning Woman by Michelle Preen

Choke by Jayne Bauling

The Broken Pot by Dilman Dila

From Gojjam to Nowhere by Ramonez Ramirez

Black Coffee without Sugar By Lauri Kubuitsile

Chicken by Efemia Chela

A Serving of Honey by Bryen Walter Kangwagye

Bloodline by Tarryn-Anne Anderson

Mogadishu Maybe by Njoku Chukwuemeka

Feast, Famine & Potluck by Katherine Graham

The House of the Apostate by Abdul-Malik Sibabalwe Oscar Masinyana

Looking by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva

Ponta Do Ouro by Nick Mulgrew

44 Boston Heights, Yeoville by Catherine Jarvis

Fizz Pops by Hamilton Wende

Where is the tenderness? by Greg Lazarus


for the brave, young woman who offered me her chair

Social media has created a weird, multidimensional world for nerds like me. Where once, you ended up kicking yourself upon returning home from every social occasion because the retort to something Clever Clogs said over dinner only popped into your head while brushing your teeth, now even the socially inept have opportunities to make witty quips. Without the handicap of a tied-tongue, and the breathing space of being able to compose (and edit) status updates and tweets, even the shyest of the shy can come across as gregarious, funny and sharp. This is why writers love social media. It’s allowed us to connect with other human beings, to actually ‘socialise’ instead of finding a wall to lean against at at parties and hope everyone thinks you’re just cool and aloof and not a pathetic wallflower with no mates.

You! Pathetic wallflower? 

Having seen me at my book launch, you might think I’m being disingenuous. Not so. This confession will haunt me forever, but here goes. I was on drugs at my book launch. Not drug drugs, like Bret Eason Ellis, but a little purple pill that makes me brave enough to stop shaking, think (which is important when you’re being interviewed about what you, well er, think) and speak. In essence, I have a way I imagine myself to be before stepping into the limelight, and a way I actually am when confronted by a bunch of strangers staring expectantly at me. The two live on opposite sides of the planet. Until I swallow a beta blocker.  An hour after swallowing, the funny, smart woman that my friends know kicks the shy butt of the kid who couldn’t ask for ham at the deli counter off the stage. Don’t judge me. I’m not the only writer out there with this prop. When I confessed this to a fabulous famous author friend, she dittoed. And no, I will not out her, so don’t bother asking.

What has this to do with being offered a chair?

 Everything. Little purple pills are not a staple in my diet. Like a bottle of Moét, they’re only brought out on very special occasions.  Literary festivals. Book launches. Of my own books, obviously. On Tuesday night, at the launch of Charlie Human’s debut novel, Apocalypse Now Now, a young woman crossed the crowded floor of The Book Lounge to tell me how much she loved Sister-Sister. And then, she offered me her chair. I was flabbergasted. Nothing like that has ever happened to me.

 Liar, liar, pants on fire.

 Yes, okay. People have come up to me a literary events and complimented me on my work, but I was being spotlighted at those times so primed to respond graciously. On Tuesday, the kid who couldn’t ask for ham responded. I didn’t engage with her as I would have liked to. What I did was turn into a beetroot and I may have even thrown my shawl over my head.

 Later, when I’d had time to think about all the things I should have said, I looked around and she was gone. I didn’t get to tell her how incredibly touched I am that she read my book and that she told me she loved it. At the very least, I would have liked to ask her name so that I didn’t have to call her a young woman in this post, which makes me sound like a granny and is really disrespectful, considering that she crossed a crowded room to offer a stranger a chair. That’s brave.

Which is the thing I want to tell her, most of all. That I think she’s brave. Braver than I’ve ever been.





#bestSAbooks? Explain yourself Zadok!

Before I get into big trouble, thought I best explain myself. A few days ago, a fan of Gem Squash Tokoloshe and Sister-Sister asked me to recommend a list of South African titles because, despite being an avid reader, she hadn’t read much local fiction.

In the interest of transparency, I must confess that the connection between said fan and me isn’t actually through my books. We have a history that goes way back. Bronwyn and I met in college; I was an art student, she a hairdressing student – which is ironic because Bronwyn is now a freaking talented photographer who runs her own studio, Heart & Soul Photography. Now that I think about it though, she bloody hated hairdressing. After college, we went our separate ways into the wide world and lost contact. Decades later she saw some hoo-hah in a newspaper about Gem Squash Tokoloshe and, because we were once buds, bought it.

We reconnected through Facebook (as one does) and she told me was how much she loved my book.  This immediately put her on my A-list – as you know we authors are insecure and like to surround ourselves with sycophants. Kidding. Bronwyn is one talented tattooed cat with a wicked sense of humour and a passion for recreating vintage pin up. Needless to say, when I went up to Joburg, we made a date. There, we drank whisky into the wee hours and cemented our friendship. And that, as they say in the classics, is history. Our history, at least.

Back to books. Through Short Story Day Africa, of which she is an official sponsor,  Bronwyn became a passionate supporter of local literature. But, having come late to the party, she missed out on some great titles – it’s not like we writers are front page news around here (except on BooksLive and Aerodrome etc, obviously). So, last night when I got home from a book launch, I started tweeting all the books I loved and thought she might too, adding the hashtag  #bestSAbooks.

The two reasons I did this are: the hashtag #booksyoumightlikeBronwyn is far too long, and after chatting to Bronwyn, we decided that a tag other people could use to recommend their best South African books would be a good promotional tool for local literature.

My list is by no means definitive. I’m tweeting the books I liked and think Brownyn will too. I haven’t read everything out there -who has? A little help from my friends would be greatly appreciated. Please, join in. Tweet your recommendations of #bestSAbooks.

And readers, know these recommendations come with the proviso that you look ‘em up and decide for yourself whether you want that title on your bookshelf. Just because we all have a thirteen digit barcode attached to our name, doesn’t mean we all have the same taste.

Short Story Day Africa 2013 – The Interview!

As part of the Short Story Day Africa 2013 celebrations, we’ve compiled twenty-one interview questions our followers want to know about writers in Africa.

Global support for the project is growing. Participate! Post your answers on your blog before 21 June 2013, then forward the questions to another writer.

But, if any question makes you blush, just write blush and skip it. We’re not going to force you to disclose.
In the spirit of participation, I’ll go first.

The Interview

  1. Do you actually enjoy writing, or do you write because you like the finished product?

Sometimes I hate writing and it feels like every word I pull from my taxed brain leaves a headache in its wake. Othertimes it flows and I’m living in a different world. I write for Othertimes.

  1. What are you reading right now? And are you enjoying it? (No cheating and saying something that makes you sound like the intelligensia).

The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst. I know I’ve been saying that since the beginning of June, but that’s how long I’ve been reading it. Short Story Day Africa keeps me busy, what’s your excuse?

  1. Have you ever killed off a character and regretted it?


  1. If you could have any of your characters over for dinner, which would it be and why?

Joe Saviour and Next-Door-Auntie from Sister-Sister. I’d love to see them get drunk and argue about religion. It would be a hoot.

  1. Which one of your characters would you never invite into your home and why?

Oom Piet from Gem Squash Tokoloshe. I can’t watch people with bad table manners eat, and imagine he’d slurp the soup and suck the bones of the lamb chops.

  1. Ernest Hemingway said: write drunk, edit sober. For or against?

Definitely for.

  1. If against, are you for any other mind altering drug?

Does the American government monitor blog posts as well as emails? I’m still hoping for a big US deal and don’t want to ruin my book tour by not being let in to the country.

  1. Our adult competition theme if Feast, Famine and Potluck. Have you ever put food in your fiction? If so, what part did it play in the story?

The only food I can remember writing into a book was the one egg and mouldy potato in Sister-Sister. It was a plot device to show the characters couldn’t stay where they were.

  1. What’s the most annoying question anyone’s ever asked you in an interview?

What have you written?

  1. If you could be any author other than yourself, who would you be?

Neil Gaiman. He’s like the rock star of writers.

  1. If you could go back in time and erase one thing you had written from your writing history, what would it be and why?

I’m a slow writer. If I erased one thing, it would make me a debut novelist. Ask me again in twenty years.

  1. What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told?

I once told someone at a party that I was a writer, even though I had just left my job in advertising with the idea that I might pursue a life as a writer. I hadn’t actually written anything yet. Also, the one I just told is a corker too.

  1. If someone reviews you badly, do you write them into your next book/story and kill them?

With hot skewers.

  1. What’s your favourite bad reviewer revenge fantasy?

Making them eat every copy of the bad review.

  1. What’s the most frustrating thing about being a writer in Africa?

Being told your work is not relevant to a global audience.

  1. Have you ever written naked?


  1. Does writing sex scenes make you blush?


  1. Who would play you in the film of your life?

In a perfect world, that French actress that played Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. In an imperfect world, I don’t mind anyone other thanScarlett Johansson and Keira Knightly.

  1. If you won the Caine Prize for African Fiction, what would you do with the money?

I’d go somewhere I’d never been before.

  1. What do you consider your best piece of work to date?


  1. What are you doing on 21 June 2013, to celebrate Short Story Day Africa?
Working my butt off  uploading stories, giveaways and other Short Story Day Africa things while drinking champaign. Then I’ll probably crawl into bed with all the stories writers shared for SSDA and just enjoy reading them.

surviving THE END

I sit in this limbo between books, one recently put to bed – still at the printers, in the shops in April – one burning in the back of my mind, waiting for the murk that seems to accompany the end of books to lift. I say seems because I only have two books worth of experience.The end of each has been followed by weeks of depression. With Gem Squash Tokoloshe I felt like I was grieving for someone I’d lost, an old friend who’d died too young and left a void in my life. It was more sadness. There were tears, surprising and wet and real. With Sister-Sister it is something else altogether. A sense of impending doom has settled over me and I can’t help thinking that the five years I spent crafting this beautiful piece of work has only brought me five years closer to financial ruin. I find myself look back over the decade since I left my job in an advertising agency and set off to London convinced of the idea that writing a book would change my life.  And I keep asking why? Why did such a painfully shy human being give up everything to do something she had never done, nor studied to do? Why make such a foolish choice?  The answers do not make me feel any better.

Because I am a dreamer. Because I do nothing in halves.Because I never thought about financial security. Because I believed I would be young forever, that children and aging and the desire to own art were things that would not happen to me. Because I did not contemplate rejection. Because I give everything.

Always. I give everything.

In order to not end up spooning Huskey into my mouth in my dotage,  I must let go of the dream I have held so close for ten years. Find other ways to define myself. I must be more than a writer to survive what it means to be one. So I’m off to write my CV, to find work that will occupy me, redirect my obsessiveness into the construction of things besides books. Things that pay rent and put food in mouths and clothes on backs.

But I can’t help wondering if it will be different with the next. Perhaps book three is a charm and will be followed by elation. Happiness. Success. Andrew Miller once said that it takes sheer bloody-mindedness to be a writer. That we keep going, ploughing through dead books to create new fictions, is testament that.

An excerpt of Sister-Sister (Kwela Books) is available to read on Book Oxygen. Sister-Sister is out mid-April.

My (fingers-crossed) Next Big Thing

I don’t often blog here. That makes me feel a little guilty as BooksLive is such a great supporter of SA writing, but I don’t often have much to say about my work after a day actually…er…working. Most of the posts on my other blog are me just bitching about life and motherhood, not really applicable to books – unless I decide to write a memoir. And that’s unlikely (snore).

Recently though, I was invited to take part in a blog relay called MY NEXT BIG THING. I originally published it on my other blog, but thought I’d cross-post it here. And, if MY NEXT BIG THING really is that, I’ll have more to say here. I live in hope.

So here it is (stop at this point if you’ve read it already):

I was thrilled when Lauri Kubuitsile, an award winning multi-genre writer from Botswana, invited me to participate in The Next Big Thing. It’s an opportunity for writers in the blogspere to tell readers what they’ve been working on, and introduce them to other writer’s work they may or may not already be fans of. I guess it’s sort of like standing in one of those old elevators that has mirrors on every side: you can kind of see yourself reflected behind yourself, a writer behind a writer behind a writer ad infinitum. No? More like dominoes? Ok then, back to the topic at hand.  Lauri answered questions about her Next Big Thing HERE. Lauri’s latest collection of short stories, In the Spirit of MacPhineas Lata and Other Stories, is available from Hands On Books.

So, as it’s Wednesday, on to my next BIG thing. 


What is the working title of your book? 

The title is Sister-Sister. The novel had another title for years, which I suppose could be defined as the working title, but the final draft excised all the scenes that made sense of that title. I’m loathe to say what it was for a variety of reasons, not least because it was a great title that I may eventually use for something else.

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

It began with a voice in my head while I was writing the final chapters of Gem Squash Tokoloshe. It said: my name is Another and I have no soul. I wrote that sentence down amidst my GST chapter notes, and began to investigate who this person might be. I studied Fine Art, so I’m quite a visual person, and there are lots of doodles of two girls in that notebook. That simple sentence unravelled into a complex novel that pushed me to edge of my ability as a writer and then some.

What genre does your book fall under? 

Set in a near-future, alternate vision of South Africa, it’s dystopian in setting and tone, though there are elements of African magic-realism and horror.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

That’s a difficult one, because the two main protagonists are young girls, so by the time a movie version actually got made, whatever actors I chose would be too old. I’m also loathe to cast characters in a reader’s mind. One of the joys of reading is being able to amalgamate the characteristics of people you know into literary heroes/villains (especially villains). It seems unkind to deprive readers of that pleasure.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In childhood, the gregarious bright Thuli and her stuttering introverted twin, Sindi, are inseparable outcasts, but the arrival of an uncle they never knew they had sets into motion a course of events that will destroy their relationship and, eventually, their lives.

I think that’s about as close as I can get. If I was any good at one liners, I’d write comedy.

When will your book be published?

Sister-Sister is due to be released in South Africa by Kwela Books in April 2013.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft took two years. It took several more drafts over a period of four years to get it to a stage where I felt good about it. At one point, I stuck it in a drawer for months, but it refused to go away so I took it out again, dusted it off and gave it another shot. It was a long road to get to Sister-Sister, a novel I’m immensely proud of (yes, I’m going to use the word immensely, editors, I am).

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, I think the Sister-Sister may end up ruffling a few feathers in South Africa because I’ve chosen to write about superstition and taboo by referencing outmoded cultural practices  and belief systems that are not my own. Some South Africans may not like that, as there’s still the feeling amongst many that you can’t write from the view point of the other here. I feel we need to stop seeing people as other and realise the core of human experience, our emotions and the things that make us tick, are the same. “If you prick me, do I not bleed?” kind of thing. I expect some flack, and I’m a little nervous, but I believe Sister-sister is a well-crafted piece of work that I’ve poured my soul into and I hope people will receive it as such.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say right now, other than the cover design is beautiful, and I wish I could share it here, but Kwela want to reveal it first. So I will pass the baton on to Tiah Marie Beautement and Yewande Omotoso.

Tiah Marie Beautement is the author of the novel Moons Don’t Go to Venus. Shorter works have appeared in various publications, including two anthologies: The Edge of Things and Wisdom Has a Voice. Tiah says her next big thing is actually a rather small thing for a novel. It is also taking its fine time to come into being. She says, once it is done, she hopes to have written a beautiful story. She wrote it for herself. Which is rather selfish. Still, there remains a hope that others will eventually read it, too.

Read about Tiah’s next big thing on her blog HERE.

And Yewande Omotoso, author of Bom Boy, which was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Award and won a SALA. She may be having cold feet about revealing her next big thing, which is okay –  what writer doesn’t have the occasional doubts? But, even if she decides not to write about her next big thing right now, her blog, 1 of 6 billion, is worth a read, as is her debut novel Bom Boy.

Short Story Day Africa Competition Winners

It has taken us a few weeks to read through all the entries for the four Short Story Day Africa writing competitions, but the judges decisions are now all in. Thank you to Henrietta Rose-Innes, S.A. Partridge, Lauri Kubuitsile and Ben Williams for taking the time to judge the entries, and to Aoife Lennon-Richie and Tiah Beautement for helping to read through them.

Also, thank you again to all our prize sponsors. Henrietta Rose-InnesJamal Majoub and Lizzy Aitree of The Caine Prize for sponsoring prizes for the Win a Workshop competition. S.A PartridgeSA Writers College and Helen Brain for the amazing prizes for the YA competition. Lauri KubuitsileVivlia Publishing and Pearsons for sponsoring the Kids Competition prizes. And, of course, Books Live for sponsoring vouchers for all the competition winners.

We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did. Click on the titles to read the winners.

Without further ado, the winners are:

Win a Workshop

#1 White-collar Parasite by Amy Heydenrych
# 2 The Night Before by Jenna Mervis
# 3 A tie between Cockroaches, marrying by Sarah Frost and Munene Kilongi’s untitled story.

Amy Heydenrych will receive a copy of African Violet, the 2012 Caine Prize Anthology, a R500 voucher from Exclusive Books, sponsored by Books Live, and feedback on 2 drafts of a 4000 word short story from Jamal Majoub and Henrietta Rose-Innes. Jenna Mervis, Sarah Frost and Munene Kilongi will each receive a copy of African Violet.

Young in the City YA Competition

# 1 The Dlamini Abduction by Bongani Morgan (17)
# 2 Young in the City by Tamarisk- Ray Glogauer (16)
# 3 Being Young in the City by Lia Wells (12)

Of the winning story, S. A. Partridge said, ‘The clear winner for me was The Dlamini Abduction by Bongani Morgan. The writing was crisp, pacy and thrilling. I loved the raw, gritty setting and the descriptions were vivid and just perfect. The missing boy angle kept me hooked, and the turning point was action packed enough to leave me on the edge of my seat. I was also impressed that there was a clear beginning, middle and end. I think the writer has a bright future ahead of him.’

Bongani Morgan wins signed copies of each of SA Partridges 3 published novels, a Creative Writing for High School Students Course from SA Writer’s College, and a R500 voucher to spend at Exclusive Books, compliments of Books Live. Tamarisk-Ray Glogauer and Lia Wells will each receive a selection of YA books.

Inanimate Object Kid’s Competition

# 1 The Bracelet by Zahraa Khan (8) of Huguenot Primary
# 2 The Unhappy Houses of Joburg by Anya (11) of Milkwood Primary
# 3 The Murderous Scarf by Nina (11) of Milkwood Primary
Of the winning story, Lauri Kubuitsile said, ‘Such a touching little story. It reads almost like a beautiful love story. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of dialogue and the fun twist ending.’ 

Zahara Khan wins a R250 voucher from Exclusive Books, and a selection of children’s books. Anya and Nina will also receive a selection of children’s books.

Five year old Aphelele Bhaneti of Greenwood Independent School also deserves a mention for her highly imaginative story, Why Tiger and Lion were Cross. There’s a book in the post for Aphelele too.

Fiction Flash

Tarryn Saunders wins a R250 voucher from Exclusive Books, sponsored by Books Live. Her 10 word story: She laced his cigarettes with arsenic and anthrax. Smoking kills.

Thank you to everyone who entered.


Thank YOU!

Short Story Day Africa is a project that exists because of the generosity and help of many. Writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, bar owners, web designers, computer gurus, teachers, publications, writing associations, schools and colleges have all given freely of their time, their skills, and their funds to help get this project off the ground. We’d like to thank them all, in no particular order except the order in which they spring to mind, to be added to as they give.

For the website I owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Sweeny (Qualica), Richard Watson (The MacGuru) and Anne Hoffinghoff (Starlit), for sharing their IT and web design skills with me, and bailing me out of trouble when I thought I knew what I was doing, but didn’t. Isla Haddow-Flood for her ideas, support and for paying for the hosting of this site, and last year’s, out of her personal funds. Thank you.

To Tiah Beautement, who took on the role of Kid’s Coordinator for Short Story Day Africa and stretched the envelope beyond anything I could have hoped for. Thank you.

Sacha and Shafeeka of Rabbit in a Hat for sending out our press releases last year, and this year, even though I promised to raise funding for 2012 but didn’t. Thank you.

Short Story Day Africa Official Sponsors, Helen Moffett, Wolter te Riele, Black Letter Media, Books Live, Pearsons, SA Writers College and Modjaji Books. Thank you for generosity.

Books Live, Comma Press, The SA Writers’ College, S.A. Partridge, The Caine Prize for African Writing, Vivlia Publishing, Lizzy Aitree, Jamal Mahjoub, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Lauri Kubuitsile and Helen Brain for sponsoring the prizes, big and small, for the competitions, and judging the entries. Thank you.

Jayne Bauling, Linda (Lulu) Fellows, Pearsons, Smart Kids, Vivlian Publishing, Helen Brain, Cat Hellisen, Macmillan Publishers, Alex Latimer, Karen Jennings. Thank you for all the books you sent us for the kids.

All About Writing, Darleen Rusnak, Juile Bracker, Orwell and the 5 evas, Moira Richards, Karen Jennings, Yewande Omotoso, Kerry Hammerton, Byron Loker, Bontle Senne and The Cat in the Hat for supporting us via the Indiegogo fundraising campaign with generous donations. You have our eternal gratitude.

Karen Jennings for offering to help in any way she could, then taking on everything I threw at her including proof reading the entire website, and offering to read through competition entries. To Aoife Lennon-Richie for her support and offers of help, including reading entries. Thank you.

The writers who, in the spirit of getting people reading, gave us stories for the website: Lauri Kubuitsile, Jenna Mervis, A. Igoni Barrett, Gary Cummiskey, Helen Moffett, Byron Loker, Beatrice Lamwaka, Samuel Oluwatosin Kolawole, Andie Miller, Yewande Omotoso, Diane Awerbuck, Mehul Gohil, Karen Jennings, Allan Kolski Horwitz, Louis Obere, Dr Deena Padayachee, Arja Salafranca, Ukamaka Olisakwe, Greg Lazarus, Isabella Morris, Sylvia Schlettwein, Colleen Higgs, Thank you.

The writers who, in the spirit of getting people reading, gave us books: Louis Greenberg, Karin Magdelena Szczurek, Professor André Brink, Lauri Kubuitsile, SA Partridge, Colleen Higgs, Karen Jennings, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Shafinaaz Hassim, Paige Nick, Diane Awerbuck, Isabella Morris and Sylvia Schlettwein, Greg Lazarus, Ukamaka Olisakwe, Helen Moffett, Dawn Promislow, and their publishers. The stories have not stopped rolling in, and we will publish until the end of the month and keep thanking as we sort through everything. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Mervyn, Johan and the rest of the staff at The Book Lounge for coming up with The Chain Gang Challenge and hosting the Cape Town teams. Louis Greenberg for once again assembling the Joburg team, Kate of Love Books for hosting them, and Comma Press for putting together the UK team. All the writers, that can be seen here, who were brave enough to put themselves out there and write publically under pressure. Thank you.

National Short Story Day (UK) and International Short Story Day for their support. Thank you.

Black Letter Media, All About Writing, The Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop Class of 2011, and Monday’s at St Celments for their unique participation in Short Story Day. Thank you.

The Alexander Bar for hosting the Cape Town literary salon and hosting a night of readings to celebrate. Thank you.

To Books Live, Ben Williams, Liesl Jobson and Sophy Koller for their coverage and support of the project. Thank you.

And to everyone, readers, writers, members of the press who tweeted, shared our postings and appeals, took part in events and expressed their love of African fiction. Thank you.

Without all of you, none of this would have been possible.


If I have been remiss in thanking anyone, please accept my humblest apologies. I will continue to add to this list as I remember.

Short Story Day Africa

Tomorrow, 20 June, is Short Story Day, the culmination of six exhausting weeks of hard work. I hardly recognize the bleary face that stares back at me as I peer into the bathroom mirror every morning, trying to peel my eyelids away from eyeballs sticky with strain.  I’ve wondered, these past few days,  if I’m so haggard because of lack of sleep or because I’m bearing down on the big four oh at a rapid pace. The odd sense of disconnection I feel from the lives of my husband and daughter make me believe (and hope) it’s the former – nothing sleep and moisturizer can’t cure. My family cannot wait for me to stop circling them like a zombie, nodding distractedly when they talk to me, unable to keep my mind from wandering to the long lists of tasks I need to accomplish each day to keep the project running smoothly. They cannot wait for tomorrow.

And neither can I. I’m excited.

Tomorrow, at 10am local time, five teams of writers located across the UK and Africa will take part in The Chain Gang Challenge, passing stories along like relay batons. I’ll be at my desk watching their tales unfold, ensuring nothing goes wrong and tweeting the links as they go live. But, if you go along to The Book Lounge in Cape Town or Love Books in Joburg, you can watch the weird process as writers from across all genres get together to try craft a single coherent tale.

Tomorrow, Short Story Day Africa will be giving away enough African fiction to keep one lucky reader immersed for weeks. I’ll be uploading more short stories from some of Africa’s most talented to our website. Then, in the evening, joined by Byron Loker, Greg Lazarus, Sarah Lotz, Maya Fowler, Helen Moffett and Colleen Higgs, I’ll be reading a short, short story at The Alexander Bar in Strand Street. Wine and books, two of my favourite things, will be on sale and we’re inviting writers, published, unpublished, aspiring, professional and hobbyists, to bring along their stories to put in the swap box.

Short Story Day is all about sharing the love of short fiction. So tomorrow, I celebrate Short Story Day.

Thursday, I sleep.

Follow us on Twitter @shortstoryAFR or Facebook or check out the website to see what else is happening. We also have an Indiegogo Campaign to fund those costs not covered by ‘doing it for the love of fiction’.