Earlier this year, I participated in a full day interactive workshop on ‘Writing Stories for Children’ run by award-winning UK writer, Alan Durant, at the Franschhoek Literary Festival. I really enjoyed the experience and came away with some great tips and loads of ideas.

This is something fun that I wrote in a quick, impromptu exercise:

Pickles the puppy had a secret. It was a huge secret, a secret he could never share with anyone. Nobody would understand. Pickles hated digging and getting his paws dirty. He did not enjoy going for walks either. He would much rather lie on the veranda all day in the sun. But most of all, he didn’t like sniffing other dog’s bottoms! Slobber made him feel sick and barking hurt his throat. Deep down inside Pickles only wished for one thing. Pickles wanted to be a cat.

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The dog really did that?

Posted: October 4, 2017 in Short stories

I am excited and humbled to have my story called ‘A Lick and a Promise‘ about Shadow the rescue dog, adopted many years ago from TEARS Animal Rescue in Cape Town, published in Chicken Soup for the Soul ‘The Dog Really Did that?’. The book was launched globally in August and royalties go to American Humane. More details about the book can be found on the Chicken Soup for the Soul website.

The Dog Really Did That cover

Snakes alive

Posted: April 30, 2017 in General
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I recently had the privilege of interviewing three snake catchers, ranging from a teenager to a retiree,  to write a feature article. The brief was to focus on a dangerous profession. I looked at the adrenalin-filled and perilous occupation of urban snake-catching through the lens of ‘what makes snake-catchers do what they do’, while also touching on the typically divisive issue of snake conservation. Fear of snakes is rated as one of the top fears in the world, so, are snake-catchers generally fearless people?

You can read my article on the www.capesnakeconservation.com blog.

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Nepal – once is not enough

Posted: March 8, 2017 in Travel

Last year, my husband and I spent an incredible two and a half weeks in Nepal. We visited Kathmandu – ‘city of temples and traffic’; Dhulikhel and Nagarkot, both with spectacular views of the Himalayas; and Chitwan National Park, home of the endangered greater one-horned rhino.

I’ve shared a little taste of our journey on my other blog, ‘Trips ‘n Travels’:

https://tripsntravelsblog.wordpress.com

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Hope you enjoy the adventure!

A gift

Posted: June 18, 2015 in Short stories

I haven’t written much lately, so it was a lovely surprise and boost to receive an email recently to let me know that two of my stories had been selected for publication in the Jalada-Writivism joint anthology. Jalada is a pan-African writer’s collective and Writivism is a programme run by the Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE). I wrote the two stories as part of the 2014 Writivism mentorship programme. So… here they are if you would like to read them:

The Gift

Early

Jalada anthology 2015 coverYou can also download the full anthology, My Maths Teacher Hates Me and other stories.

Early – a short, short story

Posted: May 27, 2014 in Short stories
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I was fortunate to be offered a place, along with about 60 other writers from all over Africa, on the Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE) 2014 Writivism programme. Through the programme, my short, short story, Early, has been published on the Deyu African website and on Bookslive.

I am also very excited that my story, The Gift, is on the longlist of 14 and will be published in the 2014 Writivism anthology.

 

 

 

As long as a piece of string…

Posted: February 2, 2014 in General
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“As long as a piece of string.” This was the answer my high school history teacher always gave when someone asked her how long our essays should be. She stared at us intensely over her intimidating black-rimmed glasses and, in her raspy smoker’s voice, always gave the same answer.  I am not sure why we kept asking. Perhaps we hoped she’d give us a straight answer one day, but I am sure the closest she would have got to that would have been: “As long as a plank of wood”.

I had opted to take French as one of my matric subjects and just before we had to make a final decision, she said to me: “French is good, it’s a new language, but history will teach you to write. It’ll teach you how to enrich the language you already know.” And for that piece of advice, I will always be grateful.

As a child, I loved reading and writing. My dad bought me books, all kinds of wonderful fairy tales, and read to me every night. When I was about eight years old, I wrote a story at school (in South Africa) and spelled flavor without the u. My teacher marked it wrong with her aggressive red pen and I argued with her.

“In the books my dad buys me, that is how you spell it,” I said defiantly.

“Show me,” she said.

The next day I brought her an Archie comic and diligently turned to a scene at Pop Tate’s diner where Veronica ordered a strawberry-flavored milkshake. My father got a little note that afternoon suggesting he stop buying me comics as they were negatively affecting my English. He never listened, thank goodness.

My mother also had a big influence on my writing. She was and still is a spelling guru. My mom knows how to spell anything and everything, including flavour. She still helps me with proofreading my writing and in fact, she will have proofread this blog post before you got to read it.

I am also lucky to be married to a part-time writer, who understands my desire to write. Unfortunately, that is what it sometimes amounts to – a desire. I am kept very busy with my fulltime job and other commitments, but when I do find the time and head-space to write, he is always encouraging.

Right now I’m focusing on writing short stories, but my long-term dream is to write a novel. The illusory novel has been harassing me constantly, daring me to give birth to it and berating me when I don’t. But when Alice Munro, a celebrated Canadian short story writer, won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, I felt vindicated.  I made peace with my nagging novel and concentrated on my short stories.

Annie Proulx, award winning author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, sums up perfectly how I feel about writing short stories: “I find it satisfying and intellectually stimulating to work with the intensity, brevity, balance and word play of the short story.”

In a 2012 interview with Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, in Publisher’s Weekly, Stein tells us that if you think short stories are dead, you aren’t paying close enough attention.  

He says: “Short stories bring you up short. They demand a wakeful attention; a good one keeps you thinking when it’s over… The short story offers something else – a chance to pay close attention – and have that attention rewarded because, for once, every little plot twist, every sentence, counts.”

In this digital age, where we are constantly bombarded with information and every link leads us down a different cyber pathway, our attention spans are short and our free time even less. Perhaps the short story, if written well, provides the answer. It’s short enough to read in one sitting, but demanding enough to hold our attention and focus – a skill fast retreating into the digital chaos,  arm-in-arm  with handwriting.