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Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

Trade Secrets contributor Kamil Naicker on the dynamics of co-dependence, Alexandre Dumas, and the messiness of life

Kamil Naicker was born in London and moved to Cape Town with her family in 1991. She holds an MA from the University of Leeds and has just completed her PhD thesis on postcolonial crime fiction at the University of Cape Town. She is currently working on a novel about the lives of young South Africans born into exile. Joanne Hichens, curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories Award and Kamil recently spoke about her Trade Secrets entry, friendship, and the dynamics of co-dependence:

The threads of your story, ‘The Liberator’, of politics, of ageing, of looking back into the past, of personal need, are seamlessly woven into what could be described as a relationship drama. Would you agree?

I think so. I liked the idea of the main character beginning with a mission of sorts, which is gradually revealed as being the result of a very complicated relationship instead of anything overtly political. Dhaneshree is essentially recruited by Isaac, and it struck me that recruitment depends on there being some kind of unfulfilled need on both sides. Obviously this is also true of friendships and mentor relationships, albeit in a much less manipulative way, so I decided to explore a dynamic where there seems to be genuine attachment between the characters in addition to this imperative that’s carried out in the course of the story.

Was there an initial inspiration for the story? Are you personally interested in the stories of struggle heroes?

I think we all are as South Africans. It’s a great part of our cultural mythos, so it just naturally found a place in this story too. The initial inspiration was a bit more weird and ephemeral, a strip of corridor that reflected all these fluorescent lights. I pictured a character trying to walk sedately through this place that felt like a sort of creepy, submerged disco without being able to break into a run.

Your protagonist, Dhaneshree, regularly visits a care home in order to read (which could be considered her ‘trade’) to Isaac, an elderly struggle hero who has a ‘trade secret’ of his own. As the story develops, how does the close relationship between them unfold?

Their story unfolds in reverse, so we don’t see a chronological relationship as such. Isaac is a consistently difficult guy, very brusque and angry with his circumstances. As we learn more about Dhaneshree’s past it becomes clear why she appreciates Isaac. They’re both lonely, and she’s never met anyone who is willing to trade difficult truths with her instead of just pretending everything’s all right.

Then there’s also the reading itself, which kind of introduces her to a new world and different way of thinking, even though her job as a paid companion is ostensibly for his benefit. I think Isaac is also impressed that Dhaneshree doesn’t let him bully her. He senses an inner strength there.

Is the literature that features close to your heart, or chosen to show us more of Isaac’s ‘character’?

Both. It’s what I was reading at the time, but I like the idea of something as distant from our context as Dumas’s writing being used to understand the way we live now.

The Three Musketeers is actually about a group of extremely messed up, but oddly lovable, individuals”

What is the particular significance of The Three Musketeers?

The enduring appeal of The Three Musketeers is the fact that it’s actually about a group of extremely messed up, but oddly lovable, individuals. None of them are able to achieve any kind of stability in their personal lives, but as a fighting unit they’re unstoppable. Athos is the most daring fighter in France, in part because he actually doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. They’re able to turn their brokenness into strength, which plays back into the dynamic I was discussing earlier. Tom Burke, who acted in the recent BBC adaptation, describes the bond between the musketeers as ‘co-dependence’ rather than simply friendship, and this describes the dynamic in my story as well. It’s this relationship of great depth and extremes, but not necessarily one most therapists would approve of.

The relationship between the unlikely pair, Dhaneshree and Isaac, is also one of courage and compassion. Is this a story of redemption?

Redemption is maybe too strong a word. There’s a darkness to the story that never really goes away, an undercurrent of distrust and ethical unease. There’s no resolution as such. Courage and compassion, definitely, but it’s all very much embedded in the messiness of life. Everyone continues in their complexities rather than transcending them. At the very most, it’s a piecemeal kind of redemption. Glimmers of grace.

What writing Trade Secret would you like to share?

Can I steal one from Emily Dickinson? ‘Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.’

Trade Secrets

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Six local authors shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Literary Awards


Literary website Brittle Paper has announced the shortlists for the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards. PEN SA members Petina Gappah and Sisonke Msimang were shortlisted in the Fiction and Essays / Think Pieces categories respectively. Gappah for her story “A Short History of Zaka the Zulu”, published on The New Yorker‘s website, and Msimang for her piece “All your faves are problematic: A brief history of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, stanning and the trap of #blackgirlmagic”, published on the Africa is a Country website.

Besides Sisonke, five other local authors made the cut.

The Brittle Paper Award for Fiction:
- Sibongile Fisher for her short story “A Door Ajar”, published in Short Story Day Africa: Migrations
- Megan Ross for her short story “Farang”, published in Short Story Day Africa: Migrations

The Brittle Paper Award for Essays/Think Pieces:
- “Writes of Passage, an Urban Memoir: How a Pan-African Journal and American Glossies Put Bongani Madondo on the Write Path,” by Bongani Madondo, as published in The Johannesburg Review of Books

The Brittle Paper Anniversary Award:
- “Love Is Not Apolitical,” by Andile Ndlovu (Fiction)

Koleka Putuma was shortlisted in the poetry category for her PEN SA Student Writing Prize-winning poem “Water”, published on our website here.

Congratulations and good luck to all six of them!

The press release reads:

August 1, 2017 was Brittle Paper’s seventh anniversary. In celebration of this milestone, we are launching the Brittle Paper Literary Awards, to recognize the finest, original pieces of African writing published online.

The awards come in five categories: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Essays/Think Pieces, and the Anniversary Award for works published on our blog. The winners in the fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and essays/think pieces categories will receive $200 each, while the winner of our Anniversary Award will receive $300. The winners will be announced on 23 September, 2017.

The shortlists are a result of months of meticulous hard work. The selections were made based on quality, significance, and impact. In this, we considered only works that are available online for free. For the fiction, poetry, nonfiction and essays/think pieces categories, we considered works published between 1 January, 2016 and 31 July, 2017. For our anniversary award, our consideration was limited to between 1 August, 2016 and 31 July, 2017.

Click here for the complete shortlist.


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Nick Mulgrew awarded 2016 Thomas Pringle Award for his short story ’1-HR FOTO’

Nick Mulgrew has been announced as the winner of the 2016 Thomas Pringle Award for his short story ’1-HR FOTO’, published in Oppikoppi’s annual zine, Ons Klyntji (2016), and his short story anthology, Stations.

The Thomas Pringle Award is an annual award for work published in newspapers, periodicals and journals. The awards are allocated to either a book, play, film or TV review; a literary article or book review; an article on English education; one or more poems; and – in Nick’s case – a short story or one-act play.

Congrats, Nick!

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“Corporations give back just enough to justify a parasitic existence” – Trade Secrets contributor Philip Vermaas

Philip Vermaas writes copy for the cosmodemonic agency. He says, of his fiction writing, “A story idea needs to grab me fully before I try and write it. An understanding family and supportive partner have allowed me to keep at it.” A few years ago, The Blue Hour, an American small press, published a full-length book of his poems, Better Cigarettes and Other Poems. He’s had a several stories and poems published here and there, in print and online, and Cape Town-based pulp magazine Jungle Jim published an excerpt from a novel. “Inclusion in Trade Secrets,” he says, “is a shiny milestone.” Joanne Hichens, the curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories Award and Philip recently discussed his Trade Secrets entry, ‘The Generate Corporation’, the intrinsic corruption of big business in South Africa, and why he prefers to keep everything he works on a complete secret until at least the second draft…

Philip Vermaas’s story is a game of cat and mouse…

Would you agree that your story, ‘The Generate Corporation’, is a scathing comment on South African business practice?

The story is an attempt to distil suspicions that big business operates immorally, often criminally. Corporations give back just enough to justify a parasitic existence. The predators are charting the course. It’s about the fear that predator rationales and rhetoric have been normalized.

I hope it’s scathing about big business in all capitalist countries, not just South Africa. I hope it’s more universal than that.

It’s a brave comment too on BEE. Did you intend this? Or was it a by-product of the developing story?

The BEE thing is a separate issue to the intrinsic corruption of big business generally, worldwide, but a salient aspect of business in this country. It’s inevitable to include BEE if the story is in any way to represent South Africa. BEE is a valid tool for change. But I suspect its spirit isn’t always embraced by those entrusted with implementing change, especially when established methods of making money are to be adapted. It’s merely a suspicion. That’s a benefit of writing fiction, you don’t have to quote sources, and you can indulge suspicions.

Your story also shows how the gullible – in this case your protagonist, Marcus – fall prey – through their own desires – to corrupt ethics. Tell us a little more about Marcus and how you’ve ‘manipulated’ him yourself, as the writer of the story…

His ethos is retro, with his Vespa and 70s film reference. And his naivety is not total, but rather comparative. I want him to be fairly likeable, at least in the way for which I’d forgive a friend his smugness, but not beyond question. I don’t need him to be so either/or. He’s also out for money, and his idea isn’t one to better the world, but rather to fatten the wallet … I don’t want to discredit him as a valid mind. Part of the point is that anyone who isn’t cold and mercenary would be naive in his situation. But Malthus, the antagonist, is naive in his own way. His attitudes to business and society are cynical. Cynicism and optimism are two sides of the proverbial coin. Both are naive. The story is cynical, so in a way it’s also naive. But perhaps a little naivety is necessary to write fiction.

At one point Marcus, who approaches a company to offer a new idea for patent, is offered a seat in reception, yet there are no seats. Is this intended as a bizarre ‘clue’ which foreshadows the later turn of events?

…The whole idea of there being no seats, which comes back at the end, is to convey a Kafkaesque sense of the corporation, a sense of alienation. It’s supposed to be surreal, with a nod to the difficulties in dealing with the corporate stone-walling structure, where things are said that are meaningless. The disbelief when dealing with corporations, the sheer difficulty in explaining yourself, can be very surreal.

The structure delivers a wonderful last line… many might stress that this is central to a successful short story. Do you agree?

I felt a little iffy about the last line, the whole paragraph really. I worried it was too mechanical, too emphatic a twist. But I think the short story, as a medium, does dispose to harder mechanics, a punch line. Roald Dahl is known for his strong punch lines, but there are writers for whom the wrapping-up doesn’t have to be so gimmicky, have the sting of a joke. A writer like, say, Raymond Carver, offers emotional, psychological, and observational last lines or, rather, last ideas; which often open up new ideas. And I generally prefer those stories. For me, a satisfying narrative is one that sparks thought rather than finishing it off.

What writing Trade Secret would you like to share?

I keep everything I’m working on a complete secret until it’s done, at least until the second draft. It’s about ownership of the idea. If I mention what I’m working on, even someone’s facial twitch will bring in the doubt. My ideas are fragile and easily overwhelmed. They’re best protected until they’re safe-ish in the second draft.

Trade Secrets

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“I hope my story illustrates obstacles to the full realisation of the dignity of Black Women” – Trade Secrets contributor Ntsika Gogwana

Ntsika Gogwana was born in Mdantsane, South Africa in 1984 and educated at UNISA and the University of Fort Hare, in Agricultural and Animal Sciences. Currently, he works as a Food and Beverage Chemistry Analyst for Aspirata Auditing, Testing and Certification in Cape Town. He also volunteers for Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda, a grassroots peoples’ organisation based in Keiskammahoek that mobilises rural communities in the Eastern Cape on issues relating to communal land rights, traditional leadership, rural democratisation and sustainable development. He is interested in producing fiction that challenges normative gender and sexuality narratives. Joanne Hichens, curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories Award, and Ntsika recently discussed writing from the point of view from a woman, society’s overly sympathetic approach to men, and how reading is a must for any aspirant writer.

Ntsika Gogwana


Your commended story, ‘Home Cooked’, about a troubled relationship between a husband and wife, brings into focus abuse of women by men and the rage of women against that abuse. What sparked this interest?

The story was inspired by Black Women whose unacknowledged, unremunerated work as wives and mothers underwrite the racial and patriarchal structure of South African capitalism. During the Fees Must Fall protests of October 2015, I had a conversation with Wanelisa Xaba, who features on the title page of my story pictured here. She detailed the marginalization, violence and erasure that Black Women and Queers experienced within the movement. I felt that, beyond the overtly political act of organizing protests, I had to stand in solidarity with women even if I could only do so in the field of literature.

Wanelisa Xaba on the cover of ‘Home Cooked’


Was there a particular driving factor for you when developing the story?

I hope my story illustrates obstacles to the full realisation of the dignity of Black Women, which is a blot on the progress of our entire society.

However, in your story, the wife and mother, Nomafa, creates a revenge scenario that could be considered just as heinous as the treatment she suffers from her husband. Why did you choose to do this?

In writing my entry I was inspired by several texts that feature male/female antagonism (in particular ‘Cruel Karma’ by Nduka Ekeh, ‘Eve Was Framed’ by Helena Kennedy, ‘The Huntsman’ by Anton Chekov and ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ by Roald Dahl). I wanted to produce a literary response to what I saw as ‘Woman as subject’ in these texts. I set out to make the woman the prime mover, a revolutionary agent, who uses the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.

What was it like for you to write from the point of view of a woman? How did you put yourself in Nomafa’s headspace?

I felt incredibly apprehensive about tell a ‘woman’s story’ in the first place, and so I chose to write from a third person perspective to connote a respectful distance from my male-self and the female protagonist. That said, I believe that subjection is a common South African experience given our history and that the oppression of women is objectively wrong. The conversations I have with Black feminists helped a great deal, but I still think that my story could have been told more authentically had it been written by a Black woman, especially with regard to the dialogue and Nomafa’s ‘voice’.

Do you have any sympathy at all with her husband, Sizwe?

Yes, I do. However I think society is overly sympathetic to men and that fragile masculinity is a patriarchal device to excuse abusive men. Given that I am a man, I understand the expectation that I should feel gender empathy with any and all men, but I think the reality of gender-based violence in South Africa required that I break ranks in telling this story. My ethical position is that there can be no symmetry between the violence of the subjugated and the violence in resistance to that subjugation.

As this is your first published work, are you inspired to write more?

Absolutely! I was greatly honoured and encouraged to be commended for my entry. However, it has been an incredibly busy year for me – mostly managing relocating from East London to Durban, and then to Cape Town. I just need to get some kind of regularity in my life so that I can concentrate on developing new stories.

What have you learned through this process?

I’ve learnt a great many things. From how to better structure my prose, to the intensive editing process it takes to get a story ready for publication… I suspect I still have much to learn.

As a ‘new voice’, if you could share a writing Trade Secret what would it be?

Read, read and read. The teacher of good writing is reading great stories.

Trade Secrets

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Trevor Noah wins the Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award

Trevor Noah was announced as the winner of the 2017 Nielsens Booksellers’ Choice Award for his autobiography Born a Crime and Other Stories on the 22nd of August.

The award is bestowed upon a local author for a South African published book that booksellers most enjoyed selling or that sold so well that it made a difference to the bottom line of booksellers across the country.

The books are voted for by members of the South African Booksellers Association all of whom are booksellers; the booksellers vote for the book they most enjoyed selling during the year. The winner receives R20 000.

The following books were shortlisted for this prestigious award:

· Emily Hobhouse: Geliefde verraaier by Elsabe Brits (Published by Tafelberg)
· JAN: A breath of French Air by Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen (Published by Struik)
· Kook saam Kaaps by Koelsoem Kamalie and Flori Schrikker (Published by Lapa Uitgewers)
· Koors by Deon Meyer (Published by Human & Rousseau)
· My own liberator by Dikgang Moseneke (Published by Picador Africa)


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Trade Secrets contributor, Kerry Hammerton, on her short story, researching dagga, and South Africa’s political climate

Kerry Hammerton lives in Cape Town, South Africa. She has published poetry in various South African and overseas literary journals and anthologies – most recently Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Bloodaxe Books: 2015). She has two poetry collections These are the lies I told you (Modjaji 2010) and The Weather Report (2014). Kerry has an MA in Creative Writing with Distinction from the University currently known as Rhodes. ‘Spider Woman’ is her first published short story. Here, Kerry and Joanne Hichens, the curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories Award, discuss her futuristic crime romp, researching dagga, and South Africa’s current political environment.

Your story, ‘Spider Woman’, a futuristic crime romp in which your protagonist, Carey AKA Mrs Harvester, takes ‘entrepreneurship’ to the extreme, is great fun. What first inspired the story?

The daughter of a friend of friend delivered a suitcase full of cash to a smuggler at an airport (not in South Africa). The idea really intrigued me – how would you find such a person? How would you identify them at the airport? That opening scene wrote itself very quickly and established the personality of my main character, Carey.

Carey is certainly versatile when it comes to business. And she keeps a cool head. How did you research her role as ‘botanist’ in the fullest sense of the word?

I imagined the story set in the future with an authoritarian government that didn’t want interference from the outside. One of the big threats to such a society would be food security. To make Carey and her husband valuable to that society it made sense to give them jobs as botanists who are trying to feed the nation, jobs where they don’t need earn a lot of money. In this scenario Carey needed an activity that would give her a lot of cash. In an authoritarian society it would have to be something illegal. Growing and selling marijuana seemed to be the best option.

It is very interesting what you can find online via Google… I simply searched for websites that would tell me how to grow and harvest marijuana. There were several and they gave me the specific information I needed – how you would grow weed in a confined space, the lighting you would need to make it grow, how you would know when it was ready to harvest and how you would cure your product. This helped to add authenticity to the story.

What appealed to you about setting the story in the future?

The freedom to create a world that works in a particular way – I could create a walled-society with a ban on cars in the inner city, few jobs, very little money, a society that goes through a second revolution. It made the story believable.

It seems that the world Carey and Jamesy inhabit, and the rest of the cast of wacky characters, isn’t actually much different – on many levels – to the world we live in today. Would that be fair comment?

If we look at the world it feels as though we are going backwards – that we haven’t learnt from history. All the things in my future society have already occurred and may be occurring again. I think that there is a real possibility that the world in future could become more fragmented and turned inward – my story is just a reflection of that.

The ‘politics’ of the story reflects that of South Africa. Is this intentional?

That was the one element of the story which I deliberately introduced. The rest of the elements of the story seemed to introduce themselves to me. I thought the political element – in particular appropriating state funds for personal use – rounded off the story and at the same time made a direct comment on the current South African political environment.

In my story I recreate: the large gap between the haves and have-nots, the haves being seen as more worthy, and the use of propaganda to tell the state’s version of the truth. It sounds all negative I know but my future society does have positive aspects – the ban on cars in the inner-city, a multiracial and multicultural society where normal citizens respect each other and each other’s traditions, leisure activities that are free for everyone – while these may not be a reality in our society now they could be in the future.

The title is intriguing. Why this reference?

As you mentioned Carey has a cool-head, she organises the illegal activities she and her husband, Jamesy, are involved in; she is smart and knows what she wants. She is the super-hero of her own life. In the story spiders help Carey and her husband fulfil their dreams. Combining these two factors gave me the title.

As a poet, how did you translate your skill and craft to writing the short form?

Writing short stories is very different from writing poetry. In a poem often what you leave out enhances the poem. In a short story you need to flesh out all the details. I found my editing skills helpful – in poetry you have to edit a poem until you have the essence of the poem, until it flows. Reading and writing poetry develops your ear for language, pace and rhythm – I like to think that I have managed to bring these into my short story writing.

What writing Trade Secret would you like to share?

Be intrigued by the world. Listen to other people’s stories. Don’t pay attention to the obvious. And let your imagination wander.

Trade Secrets

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Kortlyste vir die kykNET-Rapport Boekresensent van die Jaar-toekennings 2017 bekendgemaak

Die Afrikaanse resensiebedryf kan homself op die skouer klop te oordeel na die gehalte van inskrywings wat vir vanjaar se kykNET-Rapport Boekresensent van die Jaar-wedstryd ontvang is.

Die kortlyste is pas bekend gemaak vir dié pryse, wat ingestel is om die belange van boeke en die leesgenot van boekliefhebbers te bevorder deur die wêreld van Afrikaanse boeke vir die breë Suid-Afrikaanse publiek toeganklik te maak. Dit dien ook as aanmoediging om hoë standaarde in die Afrikaanse boekjoernalistiek te handhaaf.

Altesaam 33 van die voorste resensente in Afrikaans het vanjaar ingeskryf, tien meer as verlede jaar. Twee pryse van R25 000 elk word toegeken vir die beste Afrikaanse resensie wat in 2016 oor Afrikaansie fiksie en niefiksie onderskeidelik verskyn het. Die kortlyste, wat uit 90 inskrywings saamgestel is, is soos volg:


Danie Marais: “Die ‘Kook en Geniet’ van oneerbiedigheid” (oor Anton Kannemeyer en Conrad Botes se Bitterkomix 17, Media24-dagblaaie, 4 Julie 2016)
Charl-Pierre Naudé: “Digterlike afdruk van ‘n lewe verbeeld” (oor Bibi Slippers se Fotostaatmasjien, Media 24-dagblaaie, 5 Desember 2016)
Elmari Rautenbach: “Debuut se stiltes ’n elegie aan verlore liefde” (oor Valda Jansen se Hy kom met die skoenlappers, Media 24-dagblaaie, 18 Julie 2016)


Reinhardt Fourie: Vlam in die sneeu: Die liefdesbriewe van André P. Brink en Ingrid Jonker (geredigeer deur Francis Galloway, Tydskrif vir letterkunde, September/Oktober 2016)
Daniel Hugo: “Een van die heel grotes” (oor Om Hennie Aucamp te onthou, saamgestel deur Danie Botha, Rapport, 14 Februarie 2016)
Emile Joubert: “Die afkook van ’n vol lewe vind hier beslag” (oor Wat die hart van vol is deur Peter Veldsman met Elmari Rautenbach, Media24-dagblaaie, 31 Oktober 2016)

Die keurders was boekjoernalis en digter Bibi Slippers (sameroeper), senior joernalis en skrywer Jomarié Botha en digter en dosent Alfred Schaffer. Aangesien ’n werk van Slippers geresenseer is, is sy vir die finale keuring deur die redakteur van Huisgenoot, Yvonne Beyers, vervang.

Die keurders was dit eens dat die inskrywings deur die bank van ’n baie hoë gehalte was en werklik leeslus aanwakker.

“Daar was heelparty gevalle waar ek nie noodwendig onder normale omstandighede in ’n sekere boek sou belangstel nie, maar die resensent se entoesiasme en insigte het my genoeg geprikkel om dit ’n kans te wil gee,” sê Slippers.

“Dit was ook veral heerlik om verskillende resensies van belangrike boeke soos Die na-dood, Vlakwater en Koors te lees, en uiteenlopende interpretasies en leesbenaderings te kan ervaar via die resensente.”

Daar was vanjaar heelwat nuwe name onder die resensente wat ingeskryf het. “Ek hoop dat ons deur inisiatiewe soos dié die poel selfs verder kan vergroot. Hoe meer ingeligte, intelligente menings uit verskillende perspektiewe verteenwoordig is, hoe beter vir alle rolspelers in die boekbedryf,” sê Slippers.

Die wenners word op 30 September 2017 saam met die wenners van die kykNET-Rapport-boekpryse in Kaapstad aangekondig.

Bitterkomix 17Boekbesonderhede




Hy kom met die skoenlappers


Vlam in die sneeu


Om Hennie Aucamp te onthou


Wat die hart van vol is

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ATKV-Woordveertjies 2017 se finaliste bekendgemaak

Die name van die finaliste vir die 2017 ATKV-Woordveertjies is onlangs bekendgemaak. Dié prys vier tans sy tiende jaargang en die wenners sal op 8 September by Anura Landgoed buite Stellenbosch bekendgemaak word.


Tuisland – Karin Brynard (Penquin Random House SA)
Verlorenkop – Celesté Fritze (Queillerie)
1795 – Dan Sleigh (Tafelberg)

Prys vir Liefdesroman

Oorlewingsgids vir ’n bedonnerde diva – Sophia Kapp (LAPA Uitgewers)
Offerande – Chanette Paul (LAPA Uitgewers)
Anderkant vergeet – Santie van der Merwe (LAPA Uitgewers)

Prys vir Poësie

Hammie – Ronelda S. Kamfer (Kwela Boeke)
Fotostaatmasjien – Bibi Slippers (Tafelberg)
Die aarde is ’n eierblou ark – Susan Smith (Protea Boekhuis)

Prys vir Romanses

Moeilikheid met ’n meermin – Sophia Kapp (Romanza)
Troue in ’n towerbos – Rosita Oberholster (Romanza)
Liefde deur ’n lens – Elsa Winckler (Satyn)

Prys vir Spanningslektuur

Tuisland – Karin Brynard (Penquin Random House SA)
Die dood van ’n goeie vrou – Chris Karsten (Human & Rousseau)
Koors – Deon Meyer (Human & Rousseau)

Prys vir Dramateks

My seuns – Christo Davids
DEURnis – Jannes Erasmus, Henque Heymans & Johann Smith
Wild – Philip Rademeyer

Prys vir Niefiksie

Broedertwis – Albert Blake (Tafelberg)
Emily Hobhouse: Geliefde verraaier – Elsabé Brits (Tafelberg)
Historikus Herman Giliomee – Herman Giliomee (Tafelberg)

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Trade Secrets contributor Sally Partridge on magic, being a kitchen witch, and carbomancy

Sally Partridge is a novelist and short story writer from Cape Town, South Africa. She is a three-time winner of the M.E.R Prize for Youth Fiction and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Short Story Prize in 2013. She is passionate about youth literature, and bringing words to life. Her popular first novel was adapted into a school play titled Gif. For her contribution to the creative arts, Sally was named one of Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans in 2011. Her fourth novel for young people will be published in February 2018. Joanne Hichens, curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories.Award, recently sat down with Sally and the two discussed her short story ‘Kitchen Witch’, magic, and the art of carbomancy.

Sally Partridge


Your story ‘Kitchen Witch’ tells the tale of a tender relationship between an elderly ‘baker’ and her protégé. What was your initial inspiration?

The story happened by accident. A typo over Whatsapp resulted in an exchange over what the arcane art of carbomancy would involve. From this “what if” scenario, it evolved into a story about the past and present, how fast time moves and how quickly the modern world can change if you stop paying attention. In a sense it’s my way of exploring a changing world. While I’m focused on the past, the present seems to have skipped ahead, and sometimes I look around and think to myself, “When did Snapchat happen?” and then, “Oh, it’s already gone.” I enjoy spending time offline, but there’s a cost attached to that – you stop keeping up with what’s happening. I wanted to create a character that’s so out of place in the modern world that she feels like she doesn’t belong anymore, and explore how she comes to terms with that.

Mrs Bailey has a charming sense of humour. Is it her age and experience which adds to this?

It was a defining characteristic. I wasn’t intending to write a caricature of an elderly woman, but rather a real character that the reader could engage and identify with.

For the uninitiated, what is ‘carbomancy’?

Carbomancy is the practice of predicting the future through baking and the reading of crumbs.

Do you personally like to bake?

Yes. Like Mrs Bailey, I’m a complete kitchen witch. For me, cooking and experimenting in the kitchen is all about how the results are going to be experienced. I’ll make pumpkin fritters because they’re a friend’s favourite, chicken soup for someone who is feeling low, a cake to make someone feel special on their birthday. I love how food is able to lift the spirits, and there’s magic in that. It’s transformative.

What is it that fascinates you about magic?

There’s an awe and wonder to magic, and a complete absence of rules and reason. I’m in love with the idea of using your imagination and creativity to make sense of things you don’t understand. I love looking at old ivy-covered buildings and imagining ghosts inside and leaves circling in the wind as some sort of impish mischievousness. It’s liberating to be able to see the world as this wild, powerful thing and not just an endless dredge of making ends meet.

Is magic a common theme in your other work?

I think so. Which is maybe why I love the young adult genre so much. Teenagers haven’t been jaded by the economic hamster wheel yet. The world is huge and full of possibilities. I like to think books can keep them believing that for a little longer.

Not only is the sense of magic enchanting, but in ‘Kitchen Witch’ the sea-side village of Muizenberg takes on an ethereal quality. Was this setting deliberate choice?

While I was writing the story I imagined that it could have taken place anywhere, but the more I built this world and added detail the clearer is became that Mrs Bailey lived in a ramshackle cottage in the old Muizenberg village. It seemed perfect somehow. Muizenberg is a place that changes slowly. Landmarks like the colourful changing booths and the water slides have stayed exactly the same for years, but change is happening. New additions like the Bluebird Market and the trendy restaurants at Surfer’s Corner show signs of a subtle gentrification, which was perfect for the theme that was developing.

What is your writing Trade Secret?

This pertains to magic again. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that magic exists and wanted to explore how and why it reveals itself to a select few.

Follow Sally on Twitter @Sapartridge

Trade Secrets

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