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Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Last Blog Post: Ben-Editor Takes a Books LIVE Bow

Ben Williams

Alert! Here’s some news: I’m leaving Times Media – and thus Books LIVE – at the end of the month.

It’s nine years since I founded Books LIVE, then known as BOOK SA – nine years since I rounded up a few scruffy authors and tapped on the doors of a handful of South African publishing houses, with the idea of promoting local books on something called a “weblog”.

I had little inkling then of what the site would become, or that I would be given the privilege of working with so many formidable writers, whose creativity, especially in these turbulent times, is a reaffirming act of faith.

Books LIVE wouldn’t be what it is – and what it has been – without you.

I have to pay tribute to the editors who took the reins after me – first Sophy Kohler, then Carolyn Meads and now Jennifer Malec, plus our first full-time Afrikaans editor, Helené Prinsloo, and our indomitable at-large contributor Liesl Jobson. They each have moved the site in new directions, and taken it to new heights.

I also have to single out, among our many notable community members, Lauren Beukes, Mike Nicol, Victor Dlamini and Helen Moffett. Lauren helped put us on the map internationally, lending us some of her fame after winning the Arthur C Clarke Award (that post is worth a click for the old-school tweet embeds alone). Mike founded, with Barbara Erasmus, one of the world’s longest-running crime fiction blogs, Crime Beat. Victor allowed us to host his truly astonishing collection of author photographs. And Helen was the first person to take Books LIVE viral, with her epic post, Take Your Women’s Day and Shove It.

Then there were the legendary frenzies on BOOK Chat (remember the Mfonobong Nsehe scandal?), before Facebook took over below-the-line conversation. I’m looking at you, Richard de Nooy, Sven Eick, Kelwyn Sole and Rustum Kozain. And the wonderful BOOK SA Ban’quets, organised by Kathryn White, where many of us got the chance to meet in person for the first time.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the honour it’s been to host notable literary organisations on our network, including Modjaji Books, SA PEN, the Good Book Appreciation Society and Short Story Day Africa, and to have been involved with key SA Lit initiatives like long story SHORT and the Twenty in 20 Short Story project (one of the things I’m proudest of).

Thank you, all, for everything you’ve done for Books LIVE, and indeed South African literature, over the years.

Among the places that this website has taken me, one of the least expected was the books editor’s desk at the Sunday Times, where I’ve tremendously enjoyed working my square of rigging, despite the occasional freak wave battering the grand old ship.

Now, for a myriad reasons, not least of which is the birth of my daughter, I’m moving on. Luckily for all of us, my able colleagues – Jennifer and Helené at Books LIVE, and Jennifer Platt and Michele Magwood at the Sunday Times – are staying put. Theirs are the safest of hands for your books. I commend them to you.

Thank you, once again, for your unflagging support over the years. It’s fair to say we achieved something special together.

To lift a line from my favourite character in Shakespeare, I wish you well and so I take my leave – I pray you know me when we meet again.

Warmest personal regards and keep the faith!

Ben – Editor

Random gallery of Ben-Editor pics

Red-Eyed RabbleMaureen Isaacson, Ben Williams and Nadine GordimerKarabo Kgoleng, Ben Williams and Tymon SmithBen WilliamsBen Williams and Lauren BeukesBooks LIVE FLF 2015 TeamBen WilliamsHelen Moffett & Ben WilliamsBen Williams & Kathryn White#ntlbf #lbf10 Build up at Not the London Book Fair w/Ben WilliamsMarita van der Vyver, Ben Williams & Deon MeyerBen Williams & Sindiwe MagonaTom Eaton & Ben WilliamsSarah Lotz and Ben WilliamsLouis Greenberg, Richard de Nooy, Ben Williams and Kathryn WhiteBen WilliamsDiane Awerbuck, Ben Williams & Henrietta Rose-InnesBen Williams, Sophy Kohler, Vikas Swarup and Aparna SwarupToasting the Launch with Mountain DewIngrid de Kok and Ben WilliamsBen Williams, Carolyn Meads, Olivia Walton, Carla Potgeiter and Sophy KohlerKarabo Kgoleng, Ben Williams and Tymon SmithBen Williams and Anne LandsmanBen Williams talks to Alistair MorganAmitabh Mitra, Mimi Selemela & Ben WilliamsNonikiwe Mashologu and Ben WilliamsJani le Roux, Mimi Selemela, Imraan Coovadia and Ben WilliamsZukiswa Wanner, Ben Williams & Fiona SnyckersBen Williams and Damon GalgutBen Williams, Zukiswa Wanner, Chris van Wyk & Nechama BrodieBen Williams with Nechama Brodie's Inside Joburg on his iPadSophy Kohler, Lauren Beukes & Ben WilliamsBen Williams & Mervyn SlomanRichard Poplak and Ben WilliamsBen Williams & Steven Boykey SidleyBen Williams, Tymon SmithMatome Monyela, Ben Williams, Kgebetli MoeleKarabo Kgoleng & Ben WilliamsDamon Galgut and Ben WilliamsBen Williams & ZapiroBen Williams, Stephen Boykey Sidley, Ron Irwin and Sihle KhumaloOpen Book 2014: Surprising DiversionsEmma Sadleir, Alex van Tonder, Tamsyn de Beer, Ben Williams and Toby ShapshakBen Williams and Tarryn-Anne Anderson

Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    December 10th, 2015 @12:12 #

    Oh no! Sad to see you go, Ben, and thanks for the memories, not least of which the nefarious Nsehe.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    December 10th, 2015 @15:52 #

    Thanks, Rustum - and thanks to you for your many interventions on this humble platform. Snoek and chips soon.

  • arthurattwell
    December 11th, 2015 @13:14 #

    Ben, what an epic ride. South African publishing owes so much to you for what you created here. I can't wait to hear about what you're doing next!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    December 13th, 2015 @18:35 #

    Oh Ben, I could write an entire blog post about what wonders you've wrought. SA letters owe you and your willing elves the most enormous debt of gratitude. Personally, when I left academia for the third and final time, I was lost and looking for a home. Books SA/ Books Live became that home -- the nicest and happiest community I've ever been part of. I remember how patient you were with Luddite me -- and how ironic that this technodinosaur got to be one that crashed yr server...

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    December 14th, 2015 @09:49 #

    Arthur and Helen, thanks very much for your kind words. It really has been an epic ride, and we couldn't have gone the places we went without you. Thanks so very much for being part of it all :)


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