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Diane Awerbuck Interviews Short Story Day Africa Organisers Rachel Zadok and Tiah Beautement

 
Feast, Famine and Potluck a short story anthology featuring the best 19 stories entered for the 2013 Short Story Day Africa (SSDA) competition, is now available to be purchased. The eBook can be bought on Amazon or Smashwords and the the print version from MegaBooks and Paperight copy shops.

Feast, Famine and PotluckSister-SisterMoons Don't Go to VenusHome Remedies

The winning stories from the SSDA young writers competition, have also been collected in Rapunzel is Dead. The book, consisting of the 17 best entries from writers aged 6 to 16, is also available to be bought as an eBook from Smashwords or Amazon and as a print edition from MegaBooks.

First launched in 2011, as a day on which writers, readers, school children, publishers and booksellers from southern Africa came together to write and read short stories, SSDA has gone from strength to strength. By 2012 word had spread and people from all over the African continent participated. 

In 2013 SSDA partnered with Worldreader and assembled the best 19 stories from their 2013 competition, resulting in Feast, Famine and Potluck. From authors emerging and established, the anthology has food at its centre, blending the secular, the supernatural, the old and the new. The stories are of “…civil wars, evictions, vacations, feasts and romances – the stories we bring to our tables that bring us together and tear us apart,” says co-organiser Rachel Zadok.

In an Books LIVE exclusive interview, Diane Awerbuck spoke to SSDA organisers Zadok and Tiah Beautement about the competition, anthology and their own writing careers.

* * * * * * * *

1. Why should we bother publishing African short stories?

RZ: I’ve been asked this question a lot since I founded SSDA, and every time it throws me. It’s like asking if the experience of being African or living in Africa is a valid one. The reasons we have to publish African stories are the same reasons we have to publish European or American (both North and South) stories, or any other continent’s stories. People live there. They have stories to tell. If the stories are well-written, entertaining and tell us something about the shared experience of being human, we should publish them. If they tell us something about difference, we should publish them. African writers have as much to say about the experience of being human as any other writer. Pose a similar question to the Short Story Day project in the UK, ask them why we should bother publishing British stories, and suddenly the question seems ridiculous.

2. How is Short Story Day Africa different to other competitions?

RZ: SSDA is a community-supported project. While Tiah and I do all the groundwork and admin, it’s pretty much the African writing community extending a supportive hand to other writers. All the expert readers and judges were volunteers. The only people we paid were the editor and illustrator for Feast, Famine & Potluck, both at huge discounts. It’s a project that harnesses goodwill and creates unity, while throwing out a welcome mat to emerging writers. The prizes are sponsored by entities like Books Live and All About Writing, but also by individuals. Many of the prizes came from already successful authors.

3. What most surprised you about the whole process?

RZ: The generosity of people. We’re sold a cynical idea of an every-man-for-himself society, but show people a community they can help build and they willingly pitch in.

TB: It was fascinating to witness the judging process in action. People seem to agree easily that this group of stories is good and this group of stories is weaker. But which story should be the winner(s) – now that is all over the place.

4. What was the most annoying bit?

RZ: That we haven’t yet to find enough funding to run the project without burning ourselves out.

TB: Ooh, this could get us into trouble. Let’s say Telkom. Because having your internet suddenly go on the blink is bloody annoying when the entire initiative is internet-dependent.

5. Is there life after SSDA? How did this affect your own writing?

RZ: I wrote two pieces of flash fiction for The Nameless Foundation last year. This from someone who usually writes four to six hours a day, five days a week. It’s been difficult, because a writer who doesn’t write is no writer. I’m also beset by irrational panic that I’ve forgotten how to write.

TB: Look, when Rachel asked me officially to join SSDA my health was at an all time low and so was my mental state. (I’d just been informed that there was no cure and was convinced I was a useless human being. The book I was working on? Even on a good day eking out 300 words hurt.)

I told Rachel the last thing she need in her life was me. Seriously, who wants to work with a person with two chronic health conditions and a learning quirk which produces constant typos? Apparently Rachel does.

Using daily medication, constant physiotherapy, strange blue tape, a sense of humour and a bucket of creativity, it appears I am perfectly able to raise a family, hold down a job and write. But Rachel refusing to believe I was useless was the mental kick in the pants I needed. And that book turned out to be This Day [published by Modjaji later this year].

8. What do you tell people who ask for writing advice?

RZ: I forward the emails to Tiah. She’s Good Cop.

TB: Our two-person team is unable to keep up with all the requests for writing advice. Our Facebook page provides useful daily links, and we refer people to our blog post Not quite everything you needed to know about writing, but close.

RZ: We’ll get our new competition details on the website (http://shortstorydayafrica.org/) by March or April this year. Check there or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @shortstoryAFR. Both books are available as e-books on Amazon and Smashwords, and printed copies are available through Megabooks and Paperight copy shops.

Book details

Image courtesy Samuel Kolawole

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    January 23rd, 2014 @16:24 #
     
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    Thank you everyone for the extra press. Just a note, that the kids also put out an anthology - Rapunzel is Dead. It is available on Kindle, Smashwords and Megabooks just like the adults. But is cheaper - their stories are a bit shorter.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    January 23rd, 2014 @16:50 #
     
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    Great interview. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy. You two deserve medals (no wait, make that agents, prizes and world acclaim -- and time to write).

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  • <a href="http://bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Carolyn</a>
    Carolyn
    January 24th, 2014 @10:54 #
     
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    Hi Tiah, thanks for your comment. I've now added information about Rapunzel is Dead to the post.

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    January 24th, 2014 @11:13 #
     
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    Thank you very much. (For both adding it in, and being such a champion for SSDA. We really appreciate it.)

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  • <a href="http://bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Carolyn</a>
    Carolyn
    January 24th, 2014 @11:37 #
     
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    Our pleasure : )

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