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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

2017 Caine Prize Shortlist announced

The five-writer shortlist for the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced by Chair of judges, award winning author, poet and editor, Nii Ayikwei Parkes. The list includes a former Caine Prize shortistee and features a story translated form Arabic for the second time in the 18 year history of the Prize.

Nii Parkes said the shortlist ‘reveals the depth and strength of short story writing from Africa and its diaspora.’

‘This year’s submissions were a pleasure to read; we were all impressed by the quality and imaginative ambition of the work received. Indeed, there were a dozen stories that did not make the shortlist that would win other competitions.’

He continued, ‘there seemed to be a theme of transition in many of the stories. Whether it’s an ancient myth brought to life in a contemporary setting, a cyber attack-triggered wave of migration and colonisation, an insatiable quest for motherhood, an entertaining surreal ride that hints at unspeakable trauma, or the loss of a parent in the midst of a personal identity crisis, these writers juxtapose future, past and present to ask important questions about the world we live in.’

‘Although they range in tone from the satirical to the surreal, all five stories on this year’s shortlist are unrelentingly haunting. It has been a wonderful journey so far and we look forward to selecting a winner. It will be a hard job, but I’ve always believed that you can’t go wrong with a Ghanaian at the helm of an international panel.’

The 2017 shortlist comprises:

Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for ‘Who Will Greet You At Home’ published in The New Yorker (USA. 2015)
Read ‘Who Will Greet You At Home’

Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria) for ‘Bush Baby’ published in African Monsters, eds. Margarét Helgadóttir and Jo Thomas (Fox Spirit Books, USA. 2015)
Read ‘Bush Baby’

Bushra al-Fadil (Sudan) for ‘The Story of the Girl whose Birds Flew Away’, translated by Max Shmookler, published in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction eds. Raph Cormack & Max Shmookler (Comma Press, UK. 2016)
Read ‘The Story of the Girl whose Birds Flew Away’

Arinze Ifeakandu (Nigeria) for ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’ published in A Public Space 24 (A Public Space Literary Projects Inc., USA. 2016)
Read ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’

Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (South Africa) for ‘The Virus’ published in The Harvard Review 49 (Houghton Library Harvard University, USA. 2016)
Read ‘The Virus’

The full panel of judges joining Nii Ayikwei Parkes includes the 2007 Caine Prize winner, Monica Arac de Nyeko; accomplished author and Chair of the English Department at Georgetown University, Professor Ricardo Ortiz; Libyan author and human rights campaigner, Ghazi Gheblawi; and distinguished African literary scholar, Dr Ranka Primorac, University of Southampton.

The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at Senate House Library, London, in partnership with SOAS, on Monday 3 July. Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500.

Each of these stories will be published in New Internationalist’s 2017 Caine Prize anthology The Goddess of Mwtara and Other Stories in June and through co-publishers in 16 African countries, who receive a print-ready PDF free of charge.


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Balancing the book shelves: Anneke Rautenbach interviews women who are creating more diverse stories for children

Anneke Rautenbach writes for the Sunday Times

Good Night Stories for RebelsGood Night Stories for Rebels
Various (Penguin Random House)

“Daughters can also be heroic.” If there is a maxim that Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo – co-founders of the children’s media company, Timbuktu Labs – live by, it’s this line by the 18th-century Chinese poet and astronomer, Wang Zhenyi. They would stake their career on it.

Wang is one of 100 women – including Ada Lovelace, Frida Kahlo, Helen Keller and Miriam Makeba – whose sumptuously illustrated biographies make up Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, a children’s book created by Favilli and Cavallo and published by Penguin Random House in April. It chimes with a moment when parents and children across the world are demanding more diverse and positive representation – of gender, race, and sexual orientation – in children’s literature. Nothing speaks to this more than the project’s success on platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo: having raised more than $1-million, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has become the most highly funded original book in crowd-funding history.

The 30-something Italian duo say Donald Trump’s election in November gave their project a greater sense of urgency. About a month before, The Washington Post revealed the video in which the future president brags that his celebrity status allows him to do “whatever he wants” to women – even “grab them by the p**sy”.

“So many people have thanked us,” says Favilli. “The book represents not only a collection of bedtime stories, but a set of values that are now in danger.”

In a recent article for The Guardian, Favilli and Cavallo quoted the kinds of statistics that have galvanised them since starting Timbuktu Labs: by the time girls are six, they already perceive themselves as intellectually inferior to boys, according to the journal Science; and a survey by the University of Florida of children’s books published between 1900 and 2000 revealed that 25% of them had no female characters at all and 37% had none who spoke.

“Children’s media lacks diversity not only in terms of gender,” says Cavallo. “We looked for women from countries that are not usually represented, and we wanted to feature as many fields as possible.”

One of the first stories in the book belongs to Amna Al Haddad, a weightlifter from the United Arab Emirates. The book also features the story of Coy Mathis, a transgender girl who, in 2013 at age six, won a landmark case when a Colorado judge ruled in favour of her choice to use the bathroom she prefers.

A little closer to home, Buhle Ngaba, 26, a stage actress from North West, wrote The Girl Without A Sound specifically for black girls – “the ones with moonlight in her skin”. Originally intending to create a gift for her aunt who read her stories and nursery rhymes as a child, she found that she had written the fairy tale that was missing from her childhood – “about a little girl who looks like me.” Ngaba’s character isn’t waiting for a prince to save her.

“She simply goes out in search of a sound of her own.”

Ngaba, who is also the founder of KaMatla, a non-profit arts organisation that develops storytelling among underprivileged youth, describes her publishing model as the reverse of crowd-funding. “I didn’t have a lot of money, but just got the book out there.”

A team of talented friends helped to edit, promote and illustrate the story using a combination of drawing and photography. In February last year, a free PDF was made available online in English and Tswana. Within the first week, 3000 copies had been downloaded.

“I liked that you could print it yourself,” says Ngaba. “Because that means any little girl can do it.”

They have since received support from the Centre for Early Childhood Development. A month after the online launch, printed copies were made available, and more South African language translations are in the pipeline.

The response has been extraordinary, adds Ngaba, especially from black women. “We didn’t even know we were missing ourselves.”

Ngaba sees her book as part of movement towards fairer representation in local fiction, always tagging her social media posts #booksforblackgirls. But by no means does this mean that children of other races can’t enjoy it too, she says. “It’s a self-love thing. It’s simply about balancing the bookshelves.”

Similarly, Rebel Girls is not about excluding boys. “Girls are used to being the guests in other books,” says Cavallo. “We identify with Sherlock Holmes, with Inspector Gadget, Pinocchio, Superman. People often ask us when we are going to make a book for rebel boys – this is the book for rebel boys.”

Crowdfunded books that are making waves

•The Princess Who Saved Herself by Greg Pak, about a rock ‘n’ roll princess and her pet snake. It “reinvents the princess myth for a new generation of proactive girls”. With a $15000 goal, it has raised $111759.

•Wollstonecraft by Airship Ambassador. A “Snicketesque” fictional adventure for 8- to 12-year-olds, featuring Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, and Mary Shelley, the world’s first science-fiction author. With a $4000 goal, it has raised $91751.

•Flamingo Rampant by S Bear Bergman. A racially and body-diverse series about LGBT2Q families and their children, in which girls and women are “problem-solvers and action-takers”. The latest in the series has raised $70305 with a $63000 goal.

Q&A with Ambre Nicolson, author of the crowdfunded An A to Z of AmaZing South African Women – forthcoming from Modjaji Books

Was this book inspired by Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls?
It was actually inspired by the American book Rad American Women A-Z. I saw the book two years ago and immediately wished there was a local version. When I realised there wasn’t, and on a dare from a friend, I decided to make one – with permission from the American publisher, City Lights, and support from the local female-centred publisher, Modjaji Books. Our book does share one thing with Rebel Girls, and that is that the makers of both books wanted to create the book we wished we had when we were young.

Why now?
At a time when the idea that women’s rights are human rights seems so imperiled, it feels like any project that recognises women as multi-faceted, powerful protagonists is urgently needed. Particularly in South Africa, with its troubled history and terrible record of gender inequality and gender-based violence, I think too often women are presented as one of several stereotypes: the tragic heroine, the angry humourless banshee, the sexpot. I think it’s important to provide stories that show South African women in all their complexity – this is what we hope to do with our book.

How did you choose the women for each letter?
Choosing only one woman for each letter of the alphabet was an almost impossible task. For every one woman featured, we debated dozens of others. Trying to showcase a breadth of human endeavour as well as ensure that the demographics of the women featured reflect the reality of South Africa made the selection process all the more complex. But what a wonderful problem to have! Beyond trying to showcase the diversity of amazing South African women, we also wanted to make sure we didn’t just choose the usual suspects. The question we asked ourselves was always, “Is she a badass?” As a result I like to think we featured a healthy amount of rebels, troublemakers and rabble-rousers. These are women refuse to sit down and keep quiet. Not one of them “knows their place” I’m very happy to say.

What else unites these women?
I have been humbled by so many stories of resourcefulness and resilience and compassion. Looking at these stories as a whole certain themes also emerged: The women in our book are all united by experiencing adversity, in fact often this was essential to their development, as well as having a certain bloody-minded persistence.

What do you think of the potential of crowd-funding as a publishing model?
When it comes to books, I think crowd-funding is an exciting way to create interest around a project, while at the same time allowing people to pre-order copies. Arthur Attwell, [co-founder of Book Dash, a grassroots children’s publishing initiative] recently put it well: “Crowd-funded publishing is no longer an unusual way to fund important books. This is the way it’s going to happen, and it turns every one of us into talent-spotting publishing investors.”

Is this book by women for women? Or is it for everyone?
This book is about our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our friends. So I do think it is for everyone. I think it should be a book that you buy for the amazing woman or women in your life. But if I could choose just one person to give this book to it would be that 13 or 14-year-old girl who is just starting to figure out who she is in the world. I would like her to know that the South African women who went before her are truly amazing.

Book details


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Book Bites: 7 May 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

Traveling with GhostsTraveling With Ghosts
Shannon Leone Fowler (Orion)
Book real
***
In 2002, Shannon and Sean are backpacking through Thailand when Sean is stung by a box jellyfish. In a matter of minutes, Shannon’s fiancé is dead. Days later, Shannon miscarries their child. Finding herself unable to cope with the normal day to day, Shannon uses her savings to travel through Eastern Europe. Traveling with Ghosts is a journey of grief, that is interwoven with memories of her life with Sean. She lays out the rocky journey of loss: from the well-meaning but hurtful platitudes, to what actually helps a person as they grapple with tragedy. A powerful read, especially for people who struggle to live with death. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

CaravalCaraval
Stephanie Garber (Hodder & Stoughton)
Book fling
***
Think of the Carnival of Venice – the equivalent of the Mardi Gras of the hot southern climes but more mysterious, dignified and exclusive. Caraval shares the magic and mystery, not to mention the canals, of this pre-Lenten festival. Scarlett and her younger sister Tella, live under the cruel and tyrannical thumb of their father: Scarlett is eager to marry an unknown suitor who will take her and Tella away from their sadistic father, but when she receives an invitation to attend the magic circus run by Master Legend Santos, she cannot resist. Scarlett, Tella and a “golden brown” sailor, Julian, reach the magical island and take part in the game of caraval. Rich, luscious, intriguing, Caraval is an exciting read. – Aubrey Paton

SlippingSlipping: Stories, Essays and Other Writing
Lauren Beukes (Tachyon Publications)
Book fiend
****
Lauren Beukes can be so cool and cutting it leaves you cold. Her uber-trendy style is signature, but Slipping shines when she eschews the snark for intimacy and heart. This collection showcases the range of her talent across 11 years of speculative and experimental fiction, intense relationship dramas and journalistic essays (in which you can see much of the inspiration for her stories). Beukes excels at writing body horror and unhappy endings. She shows readers the brutality in the way bodies are modified for the pleasure and profit of others (contrasted with power in revelling in your own body) and articulates what social media and reality TV are doing to us. Occasionally alien life appears, terrifying and incomprehensible, yet humans are always far worse in comparison. It’s funny and entertaining too, but perhaps best read when you want something to creep under your skin and connect. – Lauren Smith @violin_ina_void

The Fire ChildThe Fire Child
SK Tremayne (HarperCollins)
Book thrill
***
Chilling. Terrifying. It plays out like a movie in your head, one you can’t stop watching. Rachel is married to the charming, successful, and rich David. She moves into his old family house in an isolated part of Cornwall. But when her stepson Jamie starts to claim that he is haunted by his dead mother, Rachel begins digging. David refuses to talk about what is happening to Jamie or about his ex-wife, and Rachel becomes very suspicious. An eerie thriller with a satisfying end. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

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Presidential karma: Rosa Lyster reviews George Saunders’s debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo

Things get strange when we die, but George Saunders is a very good guide, writes Rosa Lyster for the Sunday Times

Lincoln in the BardoLincoln in the Bardo
George Saunders (Bloomsbury)
****

Everyone who loves George Saunders felt the same thing when they heard he was publishing a novel: please let this be good. It will not be as good as Tenth of December, because nothing is as good as Tenth of December, but please let this be good.

He inspires this kind of goodwill in people because he is so good and generous himself. It isn’t just that he is brilliant; it’s that he is kind. Saunders’s gift is his ability to imagine himself into the minds of others. He is constantly asking his readers to think about the lives of people they wouldn’t normally think about. He can make the inner life of an obscure teenage nerd seem not only riveting but morally important. A lot of the stories in Tenth of December take as their subject the lives of apparently ordinary people, but Lincoln in the Bardo, his first novel, focuses on someone so well-known you wouldn’t think there’d be anything left to say.

It’s Saunders, though, so of course he has found something new.

These are the facts: Abraham Lincoln and his wife had four boys, Robert, Eddie, Willie and Tad. The only one who lived past the age of 18 was Robert, the eldest. The Lincolns were deeply affected by the deaths of all their children, but Willie’s death in 1862 (a year into the Civil War) seems to have been the one that broke his father’s heart. Historical accounts depict Willie as an especially loved and lovable child, very close to his father, whom he resembled in many respects. He died at age 11 of typhoid fever, and was interred in a Georgetown cemetery. The first night after the funeral, his father came to visit the grave twice.

I can think of a lot of novelists who would take this information and make a good book out of it. I can’t think of anyone who would do what Saunders did. In The Tibetan Book of the Dead, a bardo is an intermediate state of existence between death and rebirth, a transitional phase of consciousness. During the bardo of the time of death, souls either ascend toward nirvana or descend gradually and violently into a new body, doomed to start all over again. Saunders, a practising Buddhist, has incorporated aspects of that belief system and fused it with American history.

Lincoln in the Bardo takes place over one night in the cemetery where Willie Lincoln lies. The story is told, mostly, from the perspective of the spirits in the cemetery with him, souls who are trapped in the bardo for one reason or another. Some of them can’t leave, but most of them don’t want to. Moving on means accepting the fact of their deaths, and they can’t do that. They don’t call it a coffin, they call it a sick-box. They don’t call it dead, they call it being less well.

The forms that the spirits take on are informed by their personalities and preoccupations while living, which means that parts of the story are told by things with 1000 eyes, women enclosed by orbs, people without hands or feet. Willie, being a child, has no reason to linger in such a strange and scary place, but he is held back by his father’s love and devastation at his passing. Everyone knows he shouldn’t be there, but he is.

The above makes the book sound stranger and more difficult than it is. It is a strange book, no getting around it, but it’s also lovely and beautiful and so, so sad.

Saunders is never weird simply for the sake of being weird. He is experimental, but never for show. A clever writer who doesn’t care about seeming clever is a rare thing. Saunders is trying, always, to imagine what it’s like to be someone else, and he uses every creative tool at his disposal to do that. His inventiveness is linked to his humanity — he is weird because he is trying to make us see something we haven’t seen before.

Follow Rosa Lyster @rosalyster

Book details

 
 
 

Tenth of December


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Attend a Short Story Day Africa Flow Workshop

Short Story Day Africa in partnership with the Goethe-Institut invite submissions to attend a series of one day workshops in the following cities:

Johannesburg, South Africa | 27 May 2017

Cape Town, South Africa | 27 May 2017

Nairobi, Kenya | 3 June 2017

Windhoek, Namibia | 3 June 2017

Yaoundé, Cameroon | 3 June 2017

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | 3 June 2017

Kigali, Rwanda | 10 June 2017 | By Invitation Only.

Writers working on entries for the prestigious 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize, or wanting to begin drafting an entry for the prize, are invited to submit an application.

Click here for more.


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Reading: Nick Mulgrew at Bridge Books

Join us for a reading by Nick Mulgrew from his Edge Hill Award-nominated debut Stations, and a new story from his forthcoming collection The First Law of Sadness.

Event Details

 
Book Details

Stations


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Literary Crossroads with Imraan Coovadia (SA) & Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria)

Literary Crossroads is a series of talks where South African writers meet colleagues from all over the continent and from the African diaspora to discuss trends, topics and themes prevalent in their literatures today. The series is curated by Indra Wussow and Sine Buthelezi.

The guest speakers for the upcoming talk (to take place on May 16) will be Imraan Coovadia and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. The discussion will be moderated by Danyela Dimakatso Demir.

About the guests:

Imraan Coovadia is a writer and director of the creative writing programme at UCT. His most recent novel is Tales of the Metric System (2014), which appeared in the US, South Africa, India, and Germany.

He is the author of The Institute for Taxi Poetry (2012), winner of the M-Net Prize, and a collection of essays, “Transformations” (2012), which won the South African Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction. In 2010 his novel High Low In-between won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the University of Johannesburg prize. He has published a scholarly monograph with Palgrave, “Authority and Authorship in V.S. Naipaul” (2009), two earlier novels, and a number of journal articles. His fiction has been published in a number of countries, and he has written for many newspapers, journals, and magazines here and overseas, including the New York Times, N+1, Agni, the Times of India, and Threepenny Review.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a Nigerian writer and journalist. His debut collection of short stories The Whispering Trees was long-listed for the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014, with the title story shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. His debut novel Season of Crimson Blossoms was published in the UK in May 2016 by Cassava Republic Press. Abubakar is a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow (2013) and a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2015). In 2014, Abubakar was named in the Hay Festival Africa39 list of the most promising writers under the age of 40 who will define future trends in African writing. Abubakar is the recipient of the 2016 Goethe-Institut & Sylt Foundation African Writer’s Residency Award. He lives in Abuja, Nigeria.

Event Details

The Institute for Taxi Poetry

Book details

 
 
Tales of the Metric System

 
 
 

The Whispering Trees

 
 
 

Season of Crimson Blossoms


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Shortlist for Short Sharp Stories Awards announced

The shortlist for the Short.Sharp.Stories Awards has been announced.

The Short.Sharp.Stories Awards is an annual short story competition made possible by the National Arts Festival.

This year’s theme is “Trade Secrets.”

The judges have focused in the main on how successfully the story speaks to the brief, and have chosen stories which showcase a range of South African ‘voices’.

Congratulations to the following writers whose stories will be included in Trade Secrets and who are on the short list for this year’s awards.

2017 Short Sharp Stories Awards shortlist:

Olufemi Agunbiade
Darrel Bristow-Bovey
Jumani Clarke
Linda Daniels
Frieda-Marie De Jager
Ntsika Gogwana
Amy Heydenrych
Mishka Hoosen
Bobby Jordan
Sean Mayne
Mapule Mohulatsi
Kamil Naicker
Sally Partridge
Pravasan Pillay
Megan Ross
Andrew Salomon
Stephen Symons
Philisiwe Twijnstra
Philip Vermaas
Michael Yee

Trade Secrets will be published in June/July.

One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo

Book details

 

Call it a Difficult Night

 
 
 

Sharp Edges

 
 
 

Tokoloshe Song

 
 
 

Questions for the Sea

 


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Submit your manuscript for publication by Modjaji Books


 
Modjaji Books is a singular publishing house which only publishes work by women and people who identify as women, and only those who live in southern Africa, or who are originally from southern Africa, or whose work reflects a major relevance to southern Africa.

This independent feminist press is currently seeking manuscripts for publication.

If you are a southern African woman, or identify as a woman, and have recently written a novel, collection of short stories or poems, or a work of creative non-fiction, you are eligible to submit your manuscript for possible publication by Modjaji Books.

Interested? Click here for more.

Submissions for entries close on April 30.


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Behind the words of Africa: an interview with the editors of Short Story Day Africa’s latest collection, Migrations

Published in the Times

Diane Awerbuck asks its editors – Bongani Kona, Efemia Chela and Helen Moffett – some difficult questions.

MigrationsMigrations: New Short Stories From Africa
Edited by Efemia Chela, Bongani Kona, Helen Moffett (New Internationalist Publications Ltd)

Which is your favourite story?

Kona: Today it’s “Diaspora Electronica” by Blaize Kaye. It’s set in the future where people are migrating to a better digital world, but there’s a lingering sadness at the core of the story. Despite Twitter, Instagram and new technologies of connection meant to bring us together, we somehow feel depressed and more alone.

Moffett: In “Naming” by Umar Turaki, words from multiple languages weave together the lives of men, women, children and even a rooster on a lethal journey that bristles with beauty and menace.

In “Exodus” by Miriam Bahgat Eskaros, an unusual narrator tells the story of a refugee child with poignance.

I tear up every time I remember it. Izda Luhumyo’s “The Impossibility of Home” is superb – the most original quest and women’s friendship story I’ve read in a while.

Chela: “Naming” plays around with temporality in a fascinating way and Umar Turaki’s writing is incredibly cinematic. Stacy Hardy’s “Involution” masterfully explores womanhood, eco-futures and invasion. It’s unsettling and unique.

What makes these stories African?

Kona: The writers are looking at the world from an African perspective.

Moffett: “African” stands for multiple voices, telling of often precarious lives in the wake of past and ongoing pillaging of a continent, of human movement (often forced), of outsiders and insiders, of reinventing the “heart of darkness” and subverting the western gaze – done with humour, panache and context.

Chela: African writing is so diverse that African doesn’t mean any particular voice, themes or style will necessarily be present. Migrations will surprise you.

What did you learn about editing?

Kona: Writing is a collaborative process. Before a story ends up with the reader it’s gone through an editor, proofreader, typesetter, the writer’s last last-minute changes.

A number of people work in the service of the story. It’s magical to witness.

Chela: My fellow editors have an almost telepathic knowledge of what the writer is trying to achieve. Often less is more. A great story can be told without a lot of ornamentation.

Moffett: The serenity of leaving in errors when these reflect the embedding of local languages, images and idioms in multiple Englishes. The courage to wade in and clean up muddled syntax that is obscuring brilliant storytelling. The wisdom to know the difference.

What did you learn about your own writing?

Chela: There’s so much talent in African writing. As a writer myself I have to watch my back.

Kona: Don’t worry too much about making mistakes. It’s part of the process, and mistakes can be fixed.

Moffett: To finish the damn book/story/poem and push it out there.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Moffett: READ. READ. READ. And read local.

Chela: Write what scares you. Be an active part of the nebulous, far-flung African writing community: buy and read books by African writers (and not just ones who write in English, please); create a writers’ group; start a funky literary zine. You’ll never know if you don’t put yourself out there.

Kona: Is there any better advice than “just write”?
 

Migrations

Book details


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