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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Announcing the shortlist for the 2016 Gerald Kraak Award for African writers and artists

 
The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation have announced the African writers and artists shortlisted for the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award.

Drawn from a range of African countries, these written and photographic pieces on the topics of gender, human rights and sexuality on our continent represent a new wave of fresh storytelling.

The shortlist will comprise the resultant anthology, titled Pride and Prejudice, which will be published and distributed by Jacana Media and its project partners across Africa in May 2017.

Judges Sisonke Msimang (chair), Eusebius McKaiser and Sylvia Tamale reviewed close on 400 anonymous individual entries over the past four months in order to select the 14 pieces for the shortlist.

Msimang says:

In the current political environment, we are hopeful that expressions like the ones we have chosen – that do not shy away from pain but that are also deeply inventive – find their way into the public consciousness. We think Gerald Kraak would have smiled at a number of these entries, and above all, we have aimed to stay true to his love of fearless writing and support of courageous and grounded activism.

In alphabetical order by surname, here are the shortlisted authors and entries, and short judges’ notes:

  • Poached Eggs by Farah Ahamed (Fiction, Kenya)

A subtle, slow and careful rendering of the everyday rhythms of domestic terror that pays homage to the long history of women’s resistance; yet with wit and humour and grit, the story also sings of freedom, of resistance and the desire to be unbound.

  • A Place of Greater Safety by Beyers de Vos (Journalism, South Africa)

Covers, with empathy and real curiosity and knowledge, underground issues that are seldom discussed in the South African LGBT+ movement – homelessness, poverty, as well as attraction and violence.

  • Midnight in Lusikisiki or The Ruin of the Gentlewomen by Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese (Poetry, South Africa)

This poem hums with sadness and sings with anger. It is full of the sort of melancholy that marks the passing of something very important. It provides an opportunity to connect the themes of gender this collection takes so seriously, with issues of poverty and political corruption.

  • Two Weddings for Amoit by Dilman Dila (Fiction, Uganda)

A fresh piece of sci-fi, written in a clear and bright way, that surprisingly draws on covert and subversive love.

  • Albus by Justin Dingwall (Photography, South Africa)

The choice of exquisitely beautiful high-fashion models to represent people with albinism – who are so often depicted as unattractive, as others – is just breath-taking. It makes its point and leaves you wanting more.

  • For Men Who Care by Amatesiro Dore (Fiction, Nigeria)

A complex and thoughtful insight into a part of elite Nigerian life, as well as the ways in which buying into certain brands of patriarchy can be so deeply damaging – and have direct and unavoidable consequences.

  • Resurrection by Tania Haberland (Poetry, Mauritius)

An erotic poem that is powerful in its simple celebration of the clit.

  • Intertwined Odyssey by Julia Hango (Photography, South Africa)

A solid and thought-provoking collection. The range of poses force questions about power. The photos make the lovers (or are they fighters?) equal in their nakedness and in their embodiment of discomfort.

  • Dean’s Bed by Dean Hutton (Photography, South Africa)

An important contribution to conversations about bisexuality, attraction, age and race.

  • On Coming Out by Lee Mokobe (Poetry, South Africa)

Literal and lyrical, this powerful poem draws one in through its style and accessibility.

  • You Sing of a Longing by Otosirieze Obi-Young (Fiction, Nigeria)

A thoroughly modern epic but with bones as old as time. This is a story of love and betrayal and madness and music that is all the more beautiful for its plainspoken poignancy. Yet there is prose in here that steals your breath away.

  • The Conversation by Olakunle Ologunro (Fiction, Nigeria)

Provides valuable insight into issues of intimate partner violence, family acceptance and the complexity of gender roles in many modern African contexts.

  • One More Nation Bound in Freedom by Ayodele Sogunro (Academic, Nigeria)

An informative piece that gives a crisp and “objective” voice to the many themes that cut across this anthology.

  • Stranger in a Familiar Land by Sarah Waiswa (Photography, Kenya)

This collection of photos showcases the best of African storytelling. The images take risks, and speak to danger and subversion. At the same time they are deeply rooted in places that are familiar to urban Africans. The woman in this collection is a stand-in for all of us.

The winner, who receives a cash prize, will be announced at an award ceremony in May 2017, hosted by The Other Foundation and attended by the authors of the top three submissions as well as the judging panel and project partners.

For more information visit www.jacana.co.za or email awards@jacana.co.za.

This project is made possible in partnership with The Other Foundation: www.theotherfoundation.org.

 

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Don’t miss Die Laughing – the new Short Sharp Stories Awards anthology

I am thrilled with the intriguing interpretations of this year’s theme. The inventiveness, the mix of raw and honed talent, and the dark humour make for a rewarding read. – Karina Szczurek

Die LaughingTattoo Press and Jacana Media are proud to bring you Die Laughing, an anthology of stories of wit, satire and humour:

Die Laughing is the fourth of the Short Sharp Stories Awards annual anthologies, following Bloody Satisfied (2013), Adults Only (2014) and Incredible Journey (2015).

In this anthology, writers have poked a little fun at our crazy country, at our politics, our idiosyncrasies, and our down-right ridiculous habits. A number of stories, all with a strong sense of the South African setting, look on the lighter, brighter side of life, and, of course, dark humour is included too – irony, satire and tragi-comedy.

With a foreword by Evita Bezuidenhout, introduction by Darrel Bristow-Bovey, and stories by new voices as well as prize-winning authors, including Greg Lazarus, Gail Schimmel, Fred Khumalo, Stephen Symons, Kobus Moolman, Ofentse Ribane, Barbara Erasmus and Diane Awerbuck, Die Laughing promises to be another stand-out anthology.

The judging panel of the competition was made up of Ken Barris, Karabo Kgoleng and Karina Szczurek.

Adults Only won the coveted 2016 NIHSS Award (National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences) for Best Edited Collection, and two stories from Incredible Journey were nominated for the 2016 Caine Prize, with Lidudumalingani announced as the winner.

Die Laughing was published in July 2016 by Tattoo Press and is available in all good bookstores. Jacana Media are the distributors.

Adults OnlyIncredible JourneyBloody Satisfied

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Read an Excerpt from Andrew Salomon’s Short Sharp Stories Award-Winning Story, “Train 124″

Andrew Salomon, Joanne Hichens, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Bridget Pitt and Bobby Jordan

 
Incredible JourneyIncredible Journey: Stories that Move You, the third annual Short Sharp Stories anthology, featuring short stories by 20 writers, was released last year and launched at The Book Lounge.

This year’s winner was Andrew Salomon, who took home the R20 000 prize for his story “Train 124″.

In an interview with Two Dogs/Mercury, Salomon says: “A lot of ‘Train 124’ is borrowed from actual experience – more so than any other short story I have written – and I guess that confirms that truth is often stranger than fiction.”

The Mail & Guardian has shared an excerpt from the story. Read it here:

Neurodevelopmental disorder. Sensory hypersensitivity. These are medical terms and the first includes an eighteen-letter word. Too many. Words get awkward above ten letters. I have been diagnosed with both of these disorders by mental health professionals. On the screen in front of me – in easy-to-read tabular form – are the results from my latest biannual psychological assessment. The results show no discernible change in impairment from the same assessment twelve months ago. I could have just told them that.

The professional are wrong. I am not impaired. What I have are talents that happen to complicate my life. I close my laptop and pick up my bag. I have a train to catch.

It takes four hundred and sixty four steps from my gate to the spot where I wait for the train: by the yellow metal pole supporting the public announcement system on the platform at Kenilworth Station. This includes the steps down into and up out of the tunnel running under the tracks.

On the way to the station I pass the parking area on the corner of Kenilworth Road and Second Avenue. Stop there for DVDs, Chinese food and tapas. This time of morning there are only seven cars, covered in dew: three white, two silver, one black, one blue (scratched).

There is one person crossing the parking area: a one-legged man. No crutches. He hops instead. The empty trouser leg is pinned up to his waist. He covers about half a metre with each hop. The one-legged man stops and turns his face to me. I’m waiting for it. The middle finger.

The judges of this year’s competition are Henrietta Rose-Innes, Ken Barris and Makhosazana Xaba, with a foreword to the collection by Sindiwe Magona. The curator of the Short Sharp Stories Awards is Joanne Hichens.

 
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Incredible Journey – Featuring the 2015 Short Sharp Stories Award Winners – Launched at The Book Lounge

Andrew Salomon, Joanne Hichens, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Bridget Pitt and Bobby Jordan

 

The launch of Incredible Journey: Stories that Move You, edited by Joanne Hichens, was held at The Book Lounge recently.

The short story anthology contains the winning entries to the 2015 Short Sharp Stories Award and received an excellent turnout on the rainy winter’s evening.

Andrew Salomon, Joanne Hichens, Sean Mayne, Tebello Mzamo, Bridget Pitt, Jumani Clarke, Maire Fisher, Bongani Kona, Eldi van Loggerenberg, Stephen Symons, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Bobby Jordan and Andrew PriorIncredible JourneyHichens, who started the short story competition in conjunction with the National Arts Festival in 2013, interviewed some of the shortlisted authors and winners at the event.

The competition received more than 200 entries this year. Hichens said, “The stories encompassed personal revelations and politics. Again this year it was daunting choosing stories, but we kept in mind our brief which specified strong narratives with a South African flavour or sentiment. The reading team created a list of 30 from which the final 20 stories were selected.”

Bridget Pitt’s “The Infant Odysseus” won the Judges’ Choice Runner-Up award of R5 000. She said she’d written about an infant because babies allow us to get in touch with our own vulnerabilities and tenderness, fears and expectations. “When you have a society that is so contested and divided as South Africa, our opportunities for engagement in a vulnerable and human way are quite proscribed. It’s interesting how encountering each other through or over a baby challenges some of those proscriptions.”

Hichens said that this year’s collection turned out much darker stories than she had anticipated, but that Pitt’s story focuses on reconciliation. Pitt said: “Hope and reconciliation are difficult concepts that have bred cynicism in the wake of Mandela’s ‘Rainbow Nation’. They’ve become a wishy washy band-aid with which to plaster over the injuries of the past. At the same time, if these concepts don’t have strength and meaning, we’re doomed as humans because there’s so much we need to reconcile with and so much we need to hope for.”

Ken Barris, Joanne Hichens and Henrietta Rose-InnesMáire Fisher’s “Space” arrived from the vantage of a young boy who has appeared in various scraps of her writing over a longish period. Hichens said: “He crops up in his pajamas in a confined space and gazes at the night sky through a telescope.”

“He has big issues for a young boy to deal with. ‘Space’ took on a lot of different meanings, including the notion of an incredible journey if one could take one,” Fisher said.

When Fisher is writing, everything tends to happen inside a small place rather than out in the wild, “and yet such wild things happen in small spaces, behind closed doors when the curtains are drawn”. “That tiny little speck of life becomes a microcosm that allows you to deal with the big emotions despite the claustrophobia,” she says.

Racism and intolerance feature in Andrew Prior’s “Terraplane Journey”. “When you have alcohol, young men, a fast car on a Friday night, things are going to happen! This was an ordinary situation with an out of the ordinary result,” he said. He referred to how any journey through life can lead you to an unexpected place and reveal to you a world you might rather not see.

He recalled visiting The Book Lounge some years ago and discovering Stephen King’s classic text On Writing. “I hoped it would be as interesting as Cujo, which I had recently read. You know what? He actually teaches successfully how to write a story. If anybody wants to learn that, there is one copy left downstairs!”

Next on the programme was Shaun Mayne, who Hichens introduced as “a pizza chef who has been fired a lot!” His story “Pyramid of Light” explores the nostalgia some former conscripts might feel for the army days. “How far can I push the boundary of ignorance? Can I seek redemption and treasure memories at the same time?” Hichens asked.

Mayne reflected on the topic, saying: “Nostalgia is important for guys who were in the army, but I want to explore this more in a longer novel. I treasure the memories I made at the time. It’s a paradox. Can you be nostalgic about losing, about fighting on the wrong side?”

Jumani Clarke’s story “Lift Club” was inspired by the stories he heard from his partner who was a member of a lift club. He said that South African literature seldom focuses on work, which for many South Africans means commuting. He aimed to tell the story of someone who makes sure everyone arrives at work on time.

Clarke said that being stuck on the N2 at 6 AM strongly evokes elements of magical realism. He spoke of tales of the underworld, for example Odysseus, Virgil and Dante, and said: “I wanted to go to the underside of traffic and blend it with the everyday of work. You could tell the history of South Africa in terms of traffic. Nelson Mandela, when he finally got bust, was at a road block.”

Eldi van Loggerenberg’s “Communis” explores the experience of riding in a minibus taxi and was inspired by her reflections on the social media blabber about Heritage Day. “Does anyone actually think, or take stock, or make an effort to unearth their own history in a brutal way on Heritage Day? This is a central thing to analyse in the last few years, but I have no conclusions. It was an important process for me and I would encourage others to have the guts to give it some thought,” she said.

“The story asks what it means to share a communal space. I traced the history of the word ‘communal’ which means shared or general. What is our shared history and heritage is what I wanted to know.”

All the stories were read blind, which enabled the readers and judges to assess them on their own merits, without bringing their prior expectations of specific writers to the text. Hichens said: “By listening to the range of writers here tonight, I hope you’re getting a sense of the differences and the community we share as South Africans.”

Stephen Symon’s “Red Dust” is set in a dystopian South Africa where the country is imploding and starts with these words: “The president collapsed like a pile of books.” He said: “The title gives the reader an inkling of how South Africans are all intimately connected to the landscape. The dust of the landscape coats us. It’s controversial, dealing with elements of racist stereotypes. When it was written as a draft for an MA seminar, it caused quite a stir and a spirited response from my fellow students.”

Hichens noted that Sindiwe Magona and Ken Barris had commented on how this story highlighted the problematic way we see “us and them” in our fellow compatriots. “To that end it was an important story that needed to be included,” she said.

Bobby Jordan’s “Shortcut” won the Publisher’s Choice award, which Tim Richman described as transcendent. Jordan said he had spent a lot of time in a bakkie travelling to Grahamstown late at night when he had to decide whether to take a short cut over a mountain pass. In the South African tradition he was drawn to the landscape. Hichens wondered whether it was a nod to Herman Charles Bosman. “This wasn’t deliberate, but once I was in the bakkie, the character took on a life of his own. Bosman’s love of the landscape always came through as did his sense of humour,” Jordan said.

Lidudumalingani Mqombothi was another runner-up. “Memories We Lost” features two sisters, one with schizophrenia, and explores the territory of mental illness and the eccentric traditional practises people undergo in search of a cure. “When I was growing up I read about a sangoma that claimed he could cure the mentally ill by baking them,” said Mqombothi, who was at pains to stress that this wasn’t a definitive narrative about the topic.

Mqombothi recalled growing up in the villages of the Eastern Cape where space was something he grew up with. The landscape of mountains and forest were part of the heritage that shaped him. “In the city there is not a lot of space, but it’s also interesting to imagine how people navigate small spaces,” he said.

“A collection like this teaches us about each other,” Hichens said, referring to the different cultural narratives exploring village and city. Through reading fiction, we see how diverse we are, how exciting our literary landscape is. “This is the value of these collections,” she said.

Bongani Kona reflected on his story “At Your Requiem” which grew out of a R10 discovery at a second hand book shop. An old copy of New Contrast contained a poem called “At Your Requiem” which evoked strong resonance and inspired his story about the relationship between siblings. “Strange things that happen in families is often an incredible journey all of its own,” Hichens noted. Kona, who has written as a book critic, found the process of writing fiction as opposed to non-fiction “brutal”.

Tebello Mzamo’s “The Room” features the outside position that is taken up by a gay man from Lesotho who contemplates his future and his dreams. Hichens asked her about her process and the decisions she had taken. “I just started writing and everything fell into place,” she said.

“Train 124” is the winning story in the collection, written by Andrew Salomon. Hichens read the opening lines aloud: “Neuro-developmental disorder. Hypersensitivity. The professionals are wrong. I am not impaired. What I have are talents that happen to complicate my life. I close my laptop and pick up my bag. I have a train to catch.”

The judges particularly enjoyed the deconstruction of a journey and the humour, Hichens said. Salomon said he saw the story as a concentration or distillation. He travels by train to work and has a love/hate relationship with Metrorail.

“There’s so much stuff that happens in a carriage on a 24 minute journey, that truth really can be stranger than fiction. I started taking notes on what people were saying, how they dressed, the interactions I saw. I wrote this from the perspective of someone with a neuro-developmental disorder that forces them to concentrate really closely all the time, and to note what they’re seeing,” he explained.

“The bizarre is a daily feature of commuting in Cape Town and humour is the only way to survive it. You see the strangest things, the oddest things, that might not be funny to someone else. It’s easier to write down what you see than to think them up,” Salomon said.

“The other day a man selling Fritos was shouting out his wares, but it sounded like ‘fried toes’. The other day on a dark rainy morning when the wind was howling, somebody from the Department of Health had put a sticker on the window with a stop sign. ‘Stop the spread of TB! Open the windows!’” He confessed to feeling an urge to scrawl below it, “Get pneumonia instead”.

Hichens said that the readers and judges had particularly enjoyed the humour in Salomon’s story. “Maybe as South Africans we need to laugh more … humour often covers pain. The theme for the next competition is ‘Die Laughing’ and writers are invited to send in stories of satire, wit and irony. We look forward to a lot of new and wonderful stories,” she said.

Hichens thanked the readers and judges, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Ken Barris and Makhosazana Xaba, as well as Sindiwe Magona, who wrote the foreword.

 

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted live from the event using #livebooks:


 

 

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Presenting the New Short.Sharp.Stories Anthology, Incredible Journey, with a Foreword by Sindiwe Magona

Incredible JourneyThe new Short.Sharp.Stories anthology, Incredible Journey, is out now – containing the winning short stories from this year’s Short.Sharp.Stories competition, which were announced a few days ago:

About the book

Incredible Journey is the third of the annual Short.Sharp.Stories anthologies. Following the crime thrillers of Bloody Satisfied (2013) and erotic tales of Adults Only (2014), the focus in 2015 is on a journey, be it political, personal or emotional.

The incredible journeys of this year’s title vary from road trips to mind trips, and are by turns inspirational, intriguing, and entertaining. Those that have made this year’s shortlist have two things in common: 1) as in previous collections, they capture uniquely South African voices, and 2) they move the reader.

The judges of this year’s competition are Henrietta Rose-Innes, Ken Barris and Makhosazana Xaba, with a foreword to the collection by Sindiwe Magona.

About the awards

As the only regular collection of short fiction writing in South Africa, the Short.Sharp.Stories initiative, published in conjunction with the National Arts Festival, is playing an increasingly important role in the nurturing and development of South African writing talent. Bloody Satisfied and Adults Only were both positively reviewed in the media, and together have given widespread exposure to more than 40 local authors.

Incredible Journey will provide a platform for another 20 authors, some established (such as Anirood Singh, Bridget Pitt and Sally-Ann Murray), others previously unpublished. As in previous years, the winning author receives R20 000 and there are three further awards of R5 000 – a total of R35 000.

About the editor

Joanne Hichens, curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories awards, is an author, editor and creative-writing teacher. She has edited four short story anthologies, including Bloody Satisfied and Adults Only. Her first novel, Divine Justice, was published in 2011; her second is due out later this year.

Praise for previous anthologies

“The book is a gem. Adults Only is a nuanced, sensitive and intelligent collection of fine stories that stimulate in the broadest sense” – Liesl Jobson, Business Day

“Adults Only is a fascinating read which showcases the diversity, audacity and vibrancy of South African fiction” – Karina Magdalena Szczurek, Cape Times

“It is a great pleasure to be associated with Bloody Satisfied … buy it. Read it. Relish it” – Deon Meyer
 
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Now Available: The 2015 Caine Prize Anthology, Lusaka Punk and Other Stories

Lusaka Punk and Other StoriesThe new Caine Prize for African Writing anthology, Lusaka Punk and Other Stories, is now available from Jacana:

Now entering its 16th year, the Caine Prize is Africa’s leading literary prize, and is awarded to a short story by an African writer published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere.

This collection brings together the five 2015 shortlisted stories, along with stories written at the Caine Prize Writers’ Workshop, which took place in Ghana in April 2015.

Zambia’s Namwali Serpell won the 2015 Caine Prize for her short story entitled “The Sack” from Africa39 (Bloomsbury, London, 2014).

Chair of Judges Zoë Wicomb announced Serpell as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a dinner held on Monday, 6 July, at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

“The Sack” explores a world where dreams and reality are both claustrophobic and dark. The relationship between two men and an absent woman are explored though troubled interactions and power relationships which jar with the views held by the characters.

Wicomb praised the story, saying, “From a very strong shortlist we have picked an extraordinary story about the aftermath of revolution with its liberatory promises shattered. It makes demands on the reader and challenges conventions of the genre. It yields fresh meaning with every reading.

“Formally innovative, stylistically stunning, haunting and enigmatic in its effects. ‘The Sack’ is a truly luminous winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing.”

Serpell’s first published story, “Muzungu,” was selected for the Best American Short Stories 2009 and shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing. In 2014, she was selected as one of the most promising African writers for the Africa 39 anthology, a project of the Hay Festival. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, n+1, McSweeney’s (forthcoming), Bidoun, Callaloo, The San Francisco Chronicle, The LA Review of Books, and The Guardian. She is an associate professor in the University of California, Berkeley English department; her first book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty, was published in 2014.

Also shortlisted were:

  • Segun Afolabi (Nigeria) for “The Folded Leaf” in Wasafiri (Wasafiri, London, 2014)
    - Caine Prize winner 2005 for “Monday Morning”
    Read “The Folded Leaf” here
  • Elnathan John (Nigeria) for “Flying” in Per Contra (Per Contra, International, 2014)
    - Shortlisted in 2013 for “Bayan Layi”
    Read “Flying” here
  • Masande Ntshanga (South Africa) for “Space” in Twenty in 20 (Times Media, South Africa, 2014)
    Read “Space” here

The panel of judges was chaired by Wicomb, the recipient of Yale’s 2013 Windham-Campbell Prize for iction. Wicomb’s works of fiction are You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, David’s Story, Playing in the Light, The One That Got Away and October. She currently lives in Scotland where she is Emeritus Professor in English Studies at Strathclyde University. Her critical work is on Postcolonial theory and South African writing and culture.

Alongside Wicomb on the panel of judges were Neel Mukherjee, author of the award-winning debut novel A Life Apart (2010) and the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted The Lives of Others (2014); Brian Chikwava, author and former winner of the Caine Prize (2004); Zeinab Badawi, the prominent broadcaster and Chair of the Royal African Society; and Cóilín Parsons, Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University who has written on Irish, South African and Indian literature.

Once again the winner of the Caine Prize will be given the opportunity to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University, as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500. The winner is invited to take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, Storymoja in Nairobi and Ake Festival in Abeokuta, Nigeria.

Last year the Caine Prize was won by Kenyan writer Okwiri Oduor. She was a 2014 MacDowell Colony fellow, has been accepted on the Iowa Writing Programme and is currently at work on her debut novel.

Previous winners are Sudan’s Leila Aboulela (2000), Nigerian Helon Habila (2001), Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Kenyan Yvonne Owuor (2003), Zimbabwean Brian Chikwava (2004), Nigerian Segun Afolabi (2005), South African Mary Watson (2006), Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko (2007), South African Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008), Nigerian EC Osondu (2009), Sierra Leonean Olufemi Terry (2010), Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), Nigerian Tope Folarin (2013).
 
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Joanne Hichens Shares Why She Chose Sex as the Theme for the 2nd Short Sharp Stories Award

Adults OnlyRide the TortoiseAdults Only: Stories of love, lust, sex and sexuality editor Joanne Hichens recently met up with Ride the Tortoise author Liesl Jobson to discuss the collection of erotic short stories, the end result of the second round of the Short Sharp Stories Award competition.

“I had a vision of how to address the loneliness of writing, the desire for contact with other writers and the need for an income while my own novel got written,” Hichens tells Jobson, explaining how the CEO of the National Arts Festival got involved to make her vision a reality.

Hichens shares how she chose the theme of this anthology, drawing from her personal frustrations: “I wanted to see how other people live out their sexual and sensual lives via their fiction. I wondered how writers would interpret the brief, and anticipated having a lot of fun.”

“Marriage is an outdated institution that ‘socialises’ and ‘civilises’ us under the influence of religion and normative values.” She wanted more, “but the idea of living differently puts society in turmoil. And turmoil is painful; better avoided.”

The sea seen from her home is so blue it is a parody. Her Facebook updates show her late husband, a barefoot artist and chef, on the beach, the brilliant white sand a mockery of paradise. Her eyes darken. “I loved Robert, would give everything to have him back. He was my pal and my one-man support system, but I was frustrated. Life was ordinary and predictable, even the sex.

“Coming from a home where ‘marriage’ was inevitable, I wanted to push the boundaries. It took many years to consider that ‘partnership’ might be more satisfying. I was dissatisfied but it wasn’t worth breaking it up for an illusive fantasy. I really wanted to get our marriage on track.”

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Caine Prize Writers Okwiri Oduor, Efemia Chela and Diane Awerbuck Launch The Gonjon Pin with Henrietta Rose-Innes

Diane Awerbuck, Okwiri Oduor, Efemia Chela and Henrietta Rose-Innes

Despite the chilly winter’s evening, the launch of the 2014 Caine Prize anthology, The Gonjon Pin and Other Stories, was a decidedly festive affair at Cape Town’s Book Lounge.

It kicked off with Mervyn Sloman, the independent bookshop’s proprietor, receiving a communal grammar lesson from the editors in the front row of the audience, and ended, an hour later, with him collapsing with mirth at the various hilarious insights and observations that flew from the stage. There was a superb turnout of writers and readers who, like Sloman, were seen wiping tears of merriment from their eyes.

nullThe Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesThe 2006 winner of the prize, Henrietta Rose-Innes, welcomed this year’s winner, Okwiri Oduor, and two of the runners up, Efemia Chela and Diane Awerbuck. Rose-Innes spoke about the growth of the prize, which is in its 15th year. She described it as the most important event on the calendar of African writing.

The anthology includes the shortlisted stories as well as a series of stories that were written at the annual Caine Prize Workshop which fosters up-and-coming African writers. Rose-Innes described the book as “particularly beautiful this year” with superb work from a range of talented writers, in particular Tendai Huchu and Billy Kahora.

“It seems to have been received very well,” Rose-Innes said. “The judges are not always the kindest, but the comments that came out from the judging panel were extraordinary with Jackie Kay announcing ‘a golden age for the African short story’.”

Rose-Innes reflected that although the Caine Prize has been quite controversial in the past, she sensed 2014 was its coming of age: “There were a record number of entries this year, with 140 entries that arrived from 17 African countries.”

Chela recalled the online chitchat in the run-up to the event, the speculation on which story was the best and the criticism that labelled them all as “terrible”. She said, “We were interviewed at the BBC several times, and met people who use the Caine Prize as the benchmark for new talent. As a young writer, this is extremely exciting. There’s a feeling that the stories this year set a different range. Each year brings its own variety. There’s my story that has squirting lesbians, there’s Okwiri’s story that has dying fathers, Diane’s story that has night swimming, nude swimming, so … there isn’t exactly a typical African aesthetic.”

Awerbuck observed how differently the stories and the prize were viewed here and in London. She said, “In Cape Town there is a lot of content being generated with few platforms for it to go out onto, but in the UK there seems to be a hunger for content, because there are structures in place to sell it. There were agents and filmmakers that seem to want African content. If you’re going to be an African writer, be one now!”

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:

 

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Adults Only Launched with Hot Sauce at The Book Lounge

Adults Only!

The temperature at the Book Lounge went up a couple of degrees on a chilly winter’s night when the second annual Short Sharp Stories Award anthology was launched. Editor and curator of the award, Joanne Hichens, welcomed an impressive number of contributors, quizzing each one in a quick and dirty interview about the short story they had sent into Adults Only: Stories of love, lust, sex and sexuality.

Adults Only

Hichens referred to Bloody Satisfied, the inaugural anthology launched last year, saying, “What else is there once you’ve done crime? You might as well do sex …”

She introducted Kagure Tiffany Mugo, who won the Publishers Choice award, “In your recent column you stated that African women were hot in their own right, not because we’re the offspring of the ‘exotic, erotic native’ from the colonialists’ dreams. We are not ‘motherland beautiful’, we are not mysterious, we are not ‘bizarre in our beauty’. We are just hot.”

She praised her story “Coming into Self-Awareness” about a woman who discovers what she wants and marvelled at the bravery that enabled Mugo to be so sexually explicit.

The next writer, Sean Mayne, received the Judges Choice award, for his story, which provided her with a grand belly-laugh. “It is subtle and clever, very tongue-in-cheek in its use of suspension of disbelief, makes the theatre of the absurd seem totally plausible.” She said “Bring on the Clowns” offered readers the luxury of laughing out loud.

Alex Smith‘s “The Big Toad” was highly commended. Hichens described it as “a fresh and fun fantasy, an imaginative tour de force that proves writing about sex can lead you down any number of different paths.” This “madam and maid” story was loved by the readers for its freshness, fantasy and fun.

“Wamuwi Mbao is a literary writer that challenges the reader,” Hichens said. “I found his story ‘The Ninth Wave’ mesmerising. It was really like riding a wave!” She praised the poetry of the story, reflecting how he turned the tables with an obsessive male character.

A number of stories in Adults Only have no actual sex, but it is suggested rather than made explicit. Hichens pondered the eternal debate as to what makes good sex writing. “For some it’s suggestion, for others, they want to read it on the page. In Ken Barris’ Highly Commended story, ‘Louka in Autumn’, the graphic descriptions happened in relation to scenery, dialogue and reflection. This enhances the poignancy as the protagonist enters the autumn of his life. In this case, the sex is remembered.”

Carla Lever chatted next about ‘Soetkoek Special’, which Hichens said contained enormously evocative language. “The local bakery in the small dorp is not all it seems in this suggestive and humorous story of a business run by an older woman with a naughty streak.”

Hichens said that Eugene Yiga’s funny story ‘Peaked’ guaranteed laughs. “But there is a seriousness about the underlying themes that touch on many issues, as two men at a gay pride march chat it up,” she said.

Chantelle Gray’s completely hard-hitting BDSM fantasy had an extreme edge to it. She described it as possessing a searing sexual need at the core of “The Most Tender Place”. “This is one of the stories that has provoked the most reactions,” she said.

“Dudumalingani Mqombothi’s Highly Commended ‘The Streetwalkers’ is another thought-provoking story, that one might not expect to find in a collection like this. There is a prostitute and a man, a student, trying to find his father in Cape Town. It is a very streetwise and very different exploration of the underlying theme of the absent father, and whether this influences the way women are treated.”

Next in the limelight was Alan Walters, the oldest contributor to the anthology, claims an interesting literary heritage, albeit a somewhat inverted one. The father of Sarah Lotz said he had entered under strict instructions. He had never written a short story before and was thrilled that his first efforts had been included. Hichens said she loved the fact that the Short Sharp Stories competition provides space for all types of writing. “While looking for the literary as well as the commercial you discover a range of authors and voices. Alan Walters’ ‘A Threesome in a New South Africa’ was another story that elicited wildly differing responses, from ‘it’s porn’ to ‘guffaws of pleasure’.”

Efemia Chela, on the the opposite end of the scale, was the youngest contributor: “This Caine-prize nominee wrote ‘Perigee’ that takes us ack to student days, to issues of sexual identity and experimentation. Her story is also a sort of threesome, as well as a search for sexual identity.”

Donvé Lee won the Editor’s Choice’s prize for “The Mirror”. Hichens said this was human, tender narrative brought the eternal questions of body image to the fore. Lee’s intimate story explores ageing. “Your story brought tears to my eyes – and of course brings in the power of photography, the way the photographs of a woman’s body are manipulated on the computer,” said Hichens.

Jo Stielau, a second-time Short Sharp Stories published author, wrote “The Meat in the Crosshairs”, which is a different take on voyeurism. “In this instance, the audience is a therapy group. As the story unfolds, so does Jo Stielau’s wicked sense of humour,” Hichens said.

The evening ended with a reflection on Christine Coates’s Highly Commended work, “The Cat’s Wife”. Hichens said this was, “a jolly romp that refuses to take itself too seriously. The central character comes into her own … what 50 Shades could have been.”

More than a few folks were observed to be fanning themselves discreetly as the steamy content condensed on the book shop’s windows. One could even believe that the pages of the books became a little crinkly from the surplus moisture in the atmosphere!

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Liesl Jobson tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks


 

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Join Henrietta Rose-Innes, Okwiri Oduor, Efemia Chela and Diane Awerbuck at the Launch of the Caine Prize Anthology

The Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesJacana Media and The Book Lounge invite you to the launch of the 2014 Caine Prize anthology, The Gonjon Pin and Other Stories.

“Africa’s most important literary award” – International Herald Tribune

Henrietta Rose-Innes, who won the Caine Prize in 2008, will chair the conversation, with this year’s winner Okwiri Oduor and shortlisted authors Efemia Chela and Diane Awerbuck.

Don’t miss this exciting event!
 
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