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Modjaji's Bed Book of Short Stories Launched at FLF

Colleen Higgs & Henrietta Rose-Innes

When Colleen Higgs started the small independent publisher, Modjaji Books, it was with the express intention of creating a space for new writers to develop and emerge. At the launch of the fifteenth book on her list, Bed Book of Short Stories, held at the Franschhoek Literary Festival on Saturday, the rain queen quite literally appeared. Tears flowed as an overwhelmed Higgs beamed with delight as she showed off the latest addition to the Modjaji family.

Erika Coetzee, Arja Salafranca, Liesl Jobson, Pamela Newham, Ginny Swart, Rose Richards, Joanne Hichens, Colleen Higgs & Helen Walne

The Bed Book of Short StoriesShe said it had been an early goal to publish an anthology of short stories. “I love this form,” she said, “and I figured there had to be others who would want to read short stories too. There certainly are many who like to write them.” Another goal was to cast the net wide so as to include writers from countries across the border. The collection includes writers from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and Mozambique.

Joanne Hichens, who edited the collection, talked about the challenge and delight of working with new writers who were hungry for engagement on their writing and were keen and willing to take up her suggestions. She said she felt the responsibility acutely and found it was a gratifying process that informed her own growth as an editor: “Part of my learning curve was never to underestimate how a writer’s energy drives one to polish a story until it sparkles like a gem.” She noted that it felt at times like she was “the mother of thirty children!”

She saluted Higgs’ vision, saying she was a “brave publisher that takes risks”. She siad it was imperative to seek out new writers and to nurture and engage with fresh voices in order to expand the literary canon in South Africa.

Higgs said this publication was a testament to teamwork on every level. She acknowledged Lauri Kubuitsile who had read more than 300 stories and come up with the selection that called to her most strongly. Maire Fisher’s proof reading and Colleen Crawford-Cousins’ practical and emotional support had been supremely valuable.

She acknowledged the financial support of the Arts and Culture Trust that had enabled her to keep the resale price of the book down. Additionally, the support of Jenny Hobbs of the Franschhoek Literary Festival, Le Bon Vivant, the restaurant that hosted the launch and provided the delectable munchies, and Porcupine Ridge all contributed to a delightful welcome for the Bed Book of Short Stories.

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