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Archive for the ‘Youth’ Category

John Boyne and Chris Bradford Speak About Writing Great Children’s Books at the Franschhoek Literary Festival

John Boyne, Darrel Bristow-Bovey and Chris Bradford

This year at the Franschhoek Literary Festival, international authors John Boyne and Chris Bradford discussed writing for young people in a panel discussion entitled “Wielding Words”, chaired by Darrel Bristow-Bovey.

Bristow-Bovey welcomed the audience to the very first event of the festival. He said he felt quite nervous as host of the session, as he had never shared the stage with an Englishman and an Irishman at the same time before, and he expected chaos and fighting. There was, of course, also the small matter of their intimidating writing success.

Chris Bradford with ChildrenBodyguard: AmbushBodyguardBradford was introduced as the author of “two extraordinary series for young people”. His Young Samurai series recently came to a conclusion, and the third book of the Bodyguard series has just been launched. Bristow-Bovey said that the latter series is like a young Kevin Costner, with better hair. Bradford’s books have been translated into multiple languages, and have been met with great enthusiasm by young readers and “wannabe samurais” around the world.
John BoyneThe Boy in the Striped PajamasA History of Loneliness“John Boyne needs no introduction,” said Bristow Bovey, “which is something people always say when they are introducing people.” In the case of this author, however, it was true. Boyne has written a vast number of books for children, for “older young readers,” and for adults. He is well known for his novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and is currently on tour promoting his new book A History of Loneliness.
Bristow-Bovey started the conversation by asking Boyne about his new book, and how he thought loneliness related to the act of reading and writing. Boyne said that reading is not really lonely but an “act of solitude”. Writers tend to be people who sit by themselves to do their work. He says that the characters in his novels tend to be lonely and a little bit miserable, but this is not because he is himself a lonely person.

Bradford agreed with the statement about loneliness, saying that “a writer’s life is quite bizarre”. He says he spends half the year completely alone, talking and fighting with himself like he’s mad, and then he is “immersed in people” while he is promoting the book. Bradford says that these days it is not possible for children’s authors just to write; they also have to be performers to engage with child readers.

Boyne’s experience of promoting books was a little different to the way Bradford, who dresses like a samurai for book events, does things. The first four books he wrote were for adult readers, and he only needed to reach children with his fifth. “It was terrifying,” he says, because he was expected to be entertaining. Bristow-Bovey said that adults are used to disappointment, but the thought of “being the first to break a child’s heart” is truly formidable. Boyne struggles with being a performer, as he would prefer to just talk about the “subject of the books, take questions and engage”.

On the subject of how to engage younger readers in the story, Bradford said that young readers are exactly like adult readers, they are just younger: “They don’t want to be written down to: they know when they’re being written down to, and they want to read up.” Both he and Boyne deal with “tricky situations”, such as war and terrorism, through the character of a young person. This, he says, allows writers to do “something quite fresh” because they look at the world in a iconoclastic, and unaffected way.

Boyne mentioned the relative newness of categories such as young adult, children’s and adult literature – now used by publishing companies, in bookshops and just about everywhere – saying he believes that good literature is good literature no matter what level it is written at, at he doesn’t hold his writing for young people at a lower literary standard than that for older readers. “The stories are just as interesting, I hope. The writing is just as polished, I hope. And the subject is just as evocative, I hope.”

Some books, like those by both Boyne and Bradford, defy boundaries between children and adults.

The event was live-tweeted by Erin Devenish:

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Dewald Koen resenseer Skooldae deur Franz Marx

SkooldaeUitspraak: wortel met kritiek

Skooldae sal waarskynlik steeds gewild wees, maar dit sal deur meestal volwasse lesers bloot om nostalgiese redes gelees word.

Net soos Leon van Nierop sy televisiereeks Ballade vir ’n enkeling met sowel die onlangse rolprent- as romanweergawe met ’n moderne aanslag vernuwe het, moes die skrywer sowel as die uitgewer Skooldae hersien het om aanklank by die huidige tienerleser te vind.


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All the Highlights from the 2015 Kingsmead Book Fair in Joburg

PJ Powers

Here I AmThe 2015 Kingsmead Book Fair was a rocking sensation! Speakers and authors came from far and wide to spend the day at Kingsmead College in Melrose, Johannesburg, and after a day filled with coffee, cake and conversation, legendary singer PJ Powers closed the show with a touching performance of her best songs and stories from her memoir, Here I Am.

The singer and author spoke about her life – from leaving home at 18 to join a girl band and reaching fame at a young age, to her battle with alcoholism and losing the desire to live after you’ve hit rock bottom – in her humorous, often wry style of storytelling:



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Gareth Crocker, Carol Campbell and John Boyne


The Last Road TripEsther's HouseA History of Loneliness

The day kicked off at 10 AM with a panel discussion entitled “Song for the Dispossessed”. Sue Grant-Marshall asked Gareth Crocker (The Last Road Trip), Carol Campbell (Esther’s House) and international author John Boyne (A History of Loneliness) about the theme of loss and hope in their novels.

Looking around the room Boyne quoted the English novelist Ian McEwan who said “when women stop reading, the novel will be dead”, joking: “I think we’ll be okay.”

A History of Loneliness is Boyne’s first novel set in his home country of Ireland and is told by a Catholic priest, Odran Yates, who enters the clergy full of hope and ambition and 40 years later emerges disillusioned and forced to confront his own demons and the issues of the time.

“I went through my 20s and 30s very angry at the church,” Boyne said, “I didn’t want to write about revenge or a diatribe.” Instead his book asks: What happens when a priest who’s lived a good life and dedicated himself to the church becomes not only disillusioned but recognises his own complicity in the wrongful acts and crimes of the people within the institution?

Boyne explained how times have changed in the Catholic church, how priests are afraid to wear their clerical garb in public because people will come up to them and mutter “pedophile”. He also spoke about the terrible risk of helping a child and the fear of being persecuted.

Campbell’s Esther’s House deals with a different kind of loss. When the author was a journalist in Oudtshoorn she heard that a group of women had moved into a cluster of houses on a hill and this made her wonder, “What drives a group of law-abiding citizens to occupy houses illegally?”

“What I wanted to do was get to grips with the housing issues in South Africa in a readable, gripping way,” she said about the “human tragedy” that was unfolding before her eyes. “As a news editor I know how many shack fires come across my desk,” she said about the way we become desensitised to news of homelessness and despair.

Crocker’s The Last Road Trip starts with a loss but ends with many gains. Four friends live in a posh retirement village, waiting out their last days, until someone they know dies and they decide to go on one last hurrah through South Africa. One of the characters is also searching for a bird, the Kori bustard (Crocker revealed that he consulted his dad for all the “bird-bits” in the book). The author said that the best stories are human, sad and still, uplifting.

“I have a huge affinity for old people,” Crocker said, and told the story of an 80-year-old woman he once met who wasn’t afraid to drive on the back of a Harley Davidson with a complete stranger.

Esther’s House is really a book about women,” Campbell said and added that if it was left to the men the women of Oudtshoorn would still have been waiting for their homes. “Esther doesn’t want much, just a roof over her head and a patch of land,” Campbell concluded.

Annetjie van Wynegaard (@Annetjievw) live tweeted from the fair using #KBF:



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Anna Trapido and Pete Goffe-Wood

Hunger for FreedomA Life DigestedIn the second session Anna Trapido (Hunger for Freedom) spoke to Pete Goffe-Wood (A Life Digested) about his “Hunger for Life”.

The MasterChef South Africa judge and author started cooking when he was a student of the University of Cape Town and he suddenly had to fend for himself in the kitchen. He soon found out that a home-cooked meal was also a great way to attract women, and the stage was set for his culinary life.

Trapido wanted to know about his food life before university and Goffe-Wood gingerly said that he’d been in trouble before for what he was about to say. His mother was an extremely accomplished woman but cooking was quite low on her list of priorities, he told the audience. “Cooking never featured in our household,” he explained. University was more of a social experiment than an academic one for Goffe-Wood, and today he gets to taste food in fabulous locations while his wife works.

On the subject of TV chefs, Goffe-Wood said that he doesn’t enjoy the American style of confrontational television as seen in shows like Hell’s Kitchen or American MasterChef. “When people are being screamed and shouted at they’re more likely to make mistakes,” he said, adding that fostering a good working environment is really important.

Responding to a question from the audience about which dish works the best when it comes to wooing, Goffe-Wood said that the whole process is important, from finding out what she eats on the first date to preparing a meal. There is nothing worse than preparing a good meal and then finding out they don’t eat chicken, he said.

Read the tweets for more snippets of brilliance from Goffe-Wood:



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Mike Nicol, Fred Strydom, Liz de Jager and Edyth Bulbring


Power PlayThe RaftThe MarkVowed

Mike Nicol, Fred Strydom, Liz de Jager and Edyth Bulbring spoke about the otherworldly appeal of their novels in the third session of the day.

Nicol described two of the books, Strydom’s The Raft and Bulbring’s The Mark, as dystopian, while De Jager’s Vowed is more in the realm of contemporary urban fiction. Underneath the labels, however, lurk intricate storylines and wonderful worlds and Nicol wanted to know more about the authors’ inspiration.

“I like things that live in the shadows,” De Jager said. The South African-born author grew up listening to her father’s folk tales and when she moved to England she was again inspired by the gritty, shadowy, beautiful city of London.

Strydom said that while we often hear stories about the end of the world what he wanted to explore was “what happens after the collapse”. In The Raft, his debut novel, all the people in the world lose their memories in an incident called Day Zero. The novel is partly set in the Tsitsikamma forest, Kroonstad and an unnamed beach location. “I lived in Kroonstad for a little bit,” Strydom said, “It was a creepy place.”

Bulbring, meanwhile, said she took the things she dreads most – for example climate change – and used them as a way to explore the “consequences of the actions of greedy bastards”.

Nicol decided to play devil’s advocate: “Why these other worlds? Why is the world we live in not magical enough?” De Jager lamented the way technology has in a way stripped the world of its magic and said in her created world, the “Otherwhere”, she can introduce wild magic that rocks the boat. Bulbring mentioned that she used to love receiving physical letters but nowadays only receives bills in the mail. “One of my fears is a future with no record,” she said.

“That’s the luxury of science fiction, it’s just ‘what-if’ fiction. There’s always a central theme of hope and survival,” Strydom responded and joked: “Eskom’s just training us for when everything goes tits up.”

Nicol next asked the panel about reading for escapism, to which De Jager responded that there’s a huge drive in the UK to encourage children to read, and if fantasy and science fiction are the way to go about it, why not? Strydom said he doesn’t necessarily consider The Raft escapist, instead it can be seen as a metaphor for eliciting question about the way we live and perceive the world. Both Strydom and Bulbring warned against calling books “escapist” as it creates the idea of frivolity and detracts from the real issues that are often dealt with in these books.

The authors debated issues of point of view, different voices and the driving factors behind their characters’ actions. Read the tweets from the event here:




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Lood du Plessis, Carol Campbell, Karin Brynard, Jaco van Schalkwyk and Olivier Truc


KarretjiemenseMy Children Have Faces’n Huis vir Ester
PlaasmoordWeeping WatersDie Alibi KlubThe Alibi ClubForty Days Without Shadow

After the discussion on other worlds we stayed in the Learning Centre for the talk, “Gained in Translation”, with Carol Campbell (’n Huis vir Ester, My Children Have Faces or Karretjiemense), Karin Brynard (Weeping Waters or Plaasmoord), Jaco van Schalkwyk (The Alibi Club or Die Alibi Klub) and the French author, Olivier Truc (Forty Days Without Shadow). The panel was chaired by Books LIVE’s Lood du Plessis.

Campbell said that her books were conceptualised in English and translated into Afrikaans. She felt compelled to tell the story of the Karretjiemense and had an intimate relationship with them – she even helped deliver a baby once! “As journalists we’re used to looking in from the outside,” she said, and added that fiction allows her the liberties of going into different worlds.

Van Schalkwyk also felt like an outsider when he began writing Die Alibi Klub in Afrikaans – a language he had tried to deny for so long. In the end, Van Schalkwyk found his honesty in returning to his mother tongue: “My whole life I’ve written terrible things in English, trying to be who I’m not.” Then he had the “crazy idea” to publish it simultaneously in English and Afrikaans, with only a month to do the translation. “It’s not the same book; they’re twins, in a way,” he said.

Brynard agreed with Van Schalkwyk and said that she too was constantly aware of the “baggage of Afrikaans, when the language of your heart is also the language of apartheid”. Her book is a murder mystery set in the Northern part of the Karoo that focuses on the issue of farm murders. She wrote Plaasmoord in the local vernacular of the area and found the most difficult part of the translation process was finding an English in which to express the “descriptive, beautiful Griqua language”.

Du Plessis asked the panelists about the new audiences gained through translation. Truc said that when he heard Brynard share her experience of reading his book he found that “people are touched by the same kind of stories”. Truc has been a journalist for 10 years in many different places across the world and he said that the same kinds of stories are told in different places on earth.

Van Schalkwyk found that his English book is well-received by reviewers, while the Afrikaans will receive two stars out of five. Campbell remarked that for every English book she sold, 10 were sold in Afrikaans. Brynard said: “It’s wonderful to be published in your mother tongue, I wish it was a reality for more languages in our country.”

Read the tweets from this fascinating conversation:




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Don't Film Yourself Having SexThis One TimeThe afternoon panel on the pros and cons of technology was entitled “Digital Overload” and featured Sunday Times Books Editor Ben Williams, social media lawyers Emma Sadleir and Tamsyn de Beer, Alex van Tonder and editor of Stuff Magazine Toby Shapshak.

Before the speakers started the conversation they all huddled behind Van Tonder and took a selfie. Here it is, courtesy of Van Tonder:

Emma Sadleir, Alex van Tonder, Tamsyn de Beer, Ben Williams and Toby Shapshak

Shapshak said that internet and the smartphone are two of the most important things that have happened in recent centuries. Sadleir, who co-authored Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex with De Beer, agreed, saying: “With smartphones and the internet we made everyone publishers and gave everyone a voice.”

Van Tonder, author of This One Time, said she’s made an effort to rid her screens of clutter: “I’ve become very conscious about finding and following good creative content.” She’s bought a Kindle in order to use her phone less and warned that digital content can be junk food for your brain if you’re not careful.

Shapshak agreed that it’s important to take time off from the internet. While Williams said he takes “digital sabbaticals”, Shapshak calls them “digital Shabbos” – no TV and no phones on Saturdays and Sundays.

Sadleir said that the effect of getting a like of a follow on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter gives your brain a Dopamine hit – it is really addictive. Shapshak countered that it’s not technology’s fault, it’s the users who need the education.

De Beer explained that parents are always very surprised when they find out that their children have engaged in online activities like sexting: “You can teach children about privacy online – but everyone is doing it.” She said that you can’t shelter your children from all digital risks but you can go through the process of setting up accounts with them. “And gaining admin privileges,” Shapshak quipped.

Van Tonder explained how she delved into the dark world of revenge porn and extortion sites for her novel. The speakers debated the issues of public shaming, ownership of online content, privacy and the tattoo effect of the internet.

Read the tweets for more on this exciting panel:



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Posted by Books LIVE on Wednesday, 27 May 2015


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All the Events to Look Forward to at the 2015 Kingsmead Book Fair in Johannesburg

Are you ready for the 2015 Kingsmead Book Fair? The excitement is in the air as the fourth annual festival prepares to kick off on Saturday, 23 May, at Kingsmead College in Melrose, Johannesburg.

From politics to poetry, lifestyle and memoir, the 2015 Kingsmead Book Fair has something for everyone. Throw in a few critically acclaimed international authors and we can’t think of a better way to spend your Saturday. Remember that entrance is R30 per person and each sessions costs R50. Book your tickets now on Webtickets to avoid disappointment.

Here are a few of the highlights to look forward to this year:

2015 Kingsmead Book Fair



To Catch A CopBest White and Other Anxious DelusionsOne Midlife Crisis and a SpeedoTo Quote MyselfThe Texture of ShadowsTriumphs and HeartachesThe New Radicals

11:15 AM to 12 PM: “The Opinionistas” – Marianne Thamm (To Catch A Cop) shouts the odds with fellow columnists Darrel Bristow-Bovey (One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo), Khaya Dlanga (To Quote Myself) and Rebecca Davis (Best White and Other Anxious Delusions) about the job of the commentator.

“Telling War Stories” – Mosibudi Mangena (Triumphs and Heartaches: A Courageous Journey by SA Patriots), Mandla Langa (The Texture of Shadows) and Glenn Moss (The New Radicals: A Generational Memoir of the 1970s) revisit the end years of apartheid with journalist David O’Sullivan, who covered some of the worst of the madness.


A Life DigestedHunger for FreedomThe Search for the Rarest Bird in the WorldImtiaz Sooliman and the Gift of the GiversColour Blind FaithDon't Film Yourself Having SexThis One Time

11:15 to 12 PM: “A Hunger for Life” – MasterChef judge and one of South Africa’s favourite celebrity chefs, Pete Goffe-Wood (A Life Digested) reminisces about his entertaining culinary adventures through the years with Anna Trapido (Hunger for Freedom).

3 to 3:45: “Paying it Forward” – Journalist and broadcaster Bruce Dennill introduces Shafiq Morton (Gift of the Givers) and David Gemmell (Colour Blind Faith: The Life of Father Stan Brennan) and asks what place mercy and compassion can play in society today.

“Digital Overload?” – Digital doyen Ben Williams discusses the pros and cons of technology with Emma Sadleir and Tamsyn de Beer (Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex), techno guru Toby Shapshak and Alex van Tonder (This One Time).

4:15 to 5 PM: Vernon RL Head (The Search for the Rarest Bird in the World) and Prof John Ledger (editor of Environment Magazine) share their fervour for bird watching with fellow enthusiast and author Hamilton Wende.


Weeping WatersEsther's HouseBlacklandsPower Play

1:45 to 2:30 PM: “Gained in Translation” – Carol Campbell (Esther’s House), Jaco van Schalkwyk (The Alibi Club) and Karin Brynard (Weeping Waters) discuss the publication of their Afrikaans books in English, and the light a different language throws on their stories. Chaired by Lood du Plessis.

4:15 to 5 PM: “The Gory Details” – Belinda Bauer (Blacklands), Mike Nicol (Power Play) and Karin Brynard (Weeping Waters) discuss their research and the importance of forensic accuracy in their crime novels.

History and Place

Inside OutThe Joburg BookValleys of SilenceImperfect SoloWorld War One and the People of South Africa
JimfishA Man of Good HopeRhumba

10 to 10:45 AM: “Drilling into Jozi” – Tanya Zack (Wake Up, this is Joburg) and Nechama Brodie (The Joburg Book) excavate a city that’s rarely seen. Chaired by author Hamilton Wende (Valleys of Silence).

“Tails and Trails Through South Africa” – Author Steven Boykey Sidley (Imperfect Solo) sifts the sands of history with Hazel Crampton (The Side of the Sun at Noon), and eminent historian and raconteur Bill Nasson (World War One and the People of South Africa).

1:45 to 2:30 PM: “A Long Way From Home” – Christopher Hope (Jimfish), Jonny Steinberg (A Man of Good Hope) and Elaine Proctor (Rhumba) consider the agony of exiles and émigrés, and of writing away from their homeland.


A History of LonelinessThe Last Road TripBodyguard: AmbushThe Paying GuestsThe Dream HouseThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas

10 to 10:45 AM: “A Song for the Dispossessed” – Loss takes many forms in the moving novels of John Boyne (A History of Loneliness), Gareth Crocker (The Last Road Trip) and Carol Campbell (Esther’s House).

12 to 1 PM: Bodyguard: Ambush – Chris Bradford offers the audience a taste of the Young Samurai series as well some of the skills he’s learnt in this area.
Interactive, entertaining and full of action.

12:30 to 1:15 PM: “Sense and Sensibility”- Sarah Waters (The Paying Guests) and Craig Higginson (The Dream House) consider how a sense of place shapes a story.

3 to 3:45: “Faith, Hope & Hell” – Acclaimed Irish author John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, A History of Loneliness) appraises the major themes of his broad body of work and shares his life as a writer with Michele Magwood.
Special Performance

Here I Am

6 to 7:15 PM: PJ Powers (Here I Am) – “You have made a tremendous impact both on and off the stage, and you are one of those young people on whom the country pins so much hope.” – Nelson Mandela to PJ Powers, 1989

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Which events are you going to attend? Tell us in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.


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Picture: The first Times Talks event of 2015 with Jodi Picoult at Kingsmead College

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JM Coetzee and Athol Fugard Festival 2015 Programme (28 – 30 May)

JM Coetzee: Two ScreenplaysMonsieur Ibrahim en die blomme van die KoranThe Animal GazeHome from HomeThe Shadow of the Hummingbird

The 2015 JM Coetzee and Athol Fugard Festival will be taking place 28, 29 and 30 May 2015. The festival is a celebration of Karoo art, literature and film.

This year will feature plays and talks by Athol Fugard, a number of talks by JM Coetzee academics, poetry by Chris Mann and many more wonderful talks, viewings and performances.

Have a look at the programme for more details:

Book Town Programme 1

Book Town Programme 1

Book Town Programme 3

Book Town Programme 4

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Announcing the Shortlists for the 2015 Media24 Books Literary Awards

Alert! The shortlists for the 2015 Media24 Books Literary Awards have been announced.

The Media24 Books Literary Awards are awarded to books published between 1 January and 31 December 2014 by the Media24 Books group. The winner in each category will receive R35 000. In the category Illustrated Children’s Books, the author and the illustrator will share the prize money. This adds up to a total prize money of more than R200 000 to be awarded this year.

Last year’s winners included Dominque Botha (published by Umuzi, but deemed too strong not to be included on the list), Marlene van Niekerk, Etienne van Heerden, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, SA Partridge, Linda Rode, and Irina Filatova and Apollon Davidson

The winners will be announced at a special event at the Hilton Hotel in Cape Town on 5 June.

Without further ado, here are the shortlisted titles:

Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English Fiction

  • Face-Off by Chris Karsten (Human & Rousseau)
A Sportful MaliceFace-OffRachel’s Blue


Recht Malan Prize for Afrikaans and English Non-fiction

  • Justice by Edwin Cameron (Tafelberg)
JusticeLost and Found in JohannesburgA Man of Good Hope

MER Prize for Youth Novels

Alive AgainChuck Norris kan deel deur nulChain Reaction

MER Prize for Illustrated Children’s Books

Noko and the Kool KatsDie Dingesfabriek: Jannus En Kriek krimpSpeurhond Willem en die diamantdiewe

Elisabeth Eybers Prize for Afrikaans and English Poetry

  • Mede-wete by Antjie Krog (Human & Rousseau)
Karnaval en lentMede-weteAl die lieflike dade

WA Hofmeyr Prize for Afrikaans Fiction – novels, short stories and dramas

  • Ester by Kerneels Breytenbach (Human & Rousseau)
  • Kamphoer by Francois Smith (Tafelberg)
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Media24 notes in the press release that four titles are included in this year’s WA Hofmeyr Prize shortlist owing to the quality of the works.

The Jan Rabie Rapport Prize, for a debut work in Afrikaans, will be announced at the kykNET-Rapport Book Prizes later this year.

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors!
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Ilse Salzwedel resenseer Bambaduze deur Derick van der Walt

BambaduzeUitspraak: wortel

Wat is sy skryfgeheim? Ek dink die antwoord lê daarin dat Derick van der Walt menswees in al sy fasette verstaan, iets wat hy opnuut bewys in Bambaduze, die aangrypende verhaal van Jurie Viljoen, ‘n matriekseun, se verlies, rebellie en uiteindelike aanvaarding.


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Pat Schwartz Reviews Alive Again and Other Sanlam Prize-winning Titles

Alive AgainChain Reaction
Snail Trails and Other TalesOliver’s OutlineNoko and the Kool Kats

Verdict: carrots

Nandi is well on the way to realising her dream of studying law when she leaves school. With a supportive mother, a teacher who recognises her talents and a boyfriend who encourages her she seems to be unstoppable. Until a horrific event sends her into a deep emotional pit from which she believes she cannot emerge.

This is a story of loyalty and betrayal, of violence and violation and, ultimately, of the redeeming power of love.

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Tips on Writing Horror for Children by Francois Bloemhof – An Extract from Horror 101: The Way Forward

… stories, all the good ones, all the effective ones, are supposed to grip you. To charm you. Transport you.

And, yes, terrify you.

Horror 101: The Way ForwardKoue rillingsDie vierde stemDie vampiere van LondenHospitaaltyd
Kamer 13Old Aunty ClawsThe Dark Forest

These are the words of critically acclaimed author Francois Bloemhof in an essay in Horror 101: The Way Forward on writing scary stories for children.

Horror 101 is edited by Joe Mynhardt and Emma Audsley and contains writing advice from seasoned authors in the horror genre. Described the Crystal Lake Publishing as “not your average On Writing guide”, Horror 101 contains career advice and tricks of the trade for aspiring authors, from writing for movies and comics to blogging and self-publishing.

Read Bloemhof’s essay entitled “Horror for Kids: not Child’s Play” in which he shares essential principles for writing scary stories for children. The author believes that a good story doesn’t need blood, death and violence to terrify the reader.

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There are a few principles I adhere to. Most of them are common sense and may have been clear at the outset if I had ever made a study of the sort of horror books that had already been written for children in other countries. I made up my own set of rules as I went along, but am pretty sure they have a much wider bearing.

The rules, then:

Little or no blood.

    Blood flying all over the place does not heighten the tension, but dissipates it. So curtailing the blood-flow was no sacrifice for me. Being subtle often gets you a lot further anyway; the atmosphere can be much more disturbing if the central issue is not resolved so spectacularly. Besides, when it comes to movies, why are the torture porn and slasher genres even classified as horror? Those are violent suspense films that feature no monster, but often merely a main character with a penchant for cutting off limbs. Quite understandably, parents will not rush out to buy their children books in which kids get hacked to pieces. Again, that quite a few young readers might like to read stories in which that happens is beside the point!

Children don’t die.

    Or in any event they don’t in my youth horror books. One or two adults may come to a sticky end, but then mostly offstage. The threat of death may be there, and in fact in many a story should be there, but killing off a child character, especially one the reader has come to like and identify with, is betraying the reader’s trust. You are also betraying the trust of the adult who placed that book in a child’s hands. Alfred Hitchcock always regretted having a child character get killed in a bomb blast in Sabotage, and even though it remains one of my favourite films of his and that scene has a devastating impact, I see his point.

Children don’t kill.

    If a child protagonist does kill a monster or villain, it should be by accident and the event must be brought on by the antagonist. It seems to me better from a moral point of view that an evil force brings about its own destruction. The main character can’t be a murderer; he or she can’t remain a young representative of goodness once they become guilty of the same level of violence as the antagonist—not even if they are defending themselves. Evil must be destroyed by its own evilness.

Monsters are not safe villains …

    Some of my youth horror books do have monsters in them, but this is risky in terms of sales. Many adults may just decide that their child won’t read about such things—forgetting that once upon their own childhood they might have wanted to read entertaining stuff like that themselves, and not the mellow type of book they now want to buy their child. If I do make use of monsters I try to work in a playful tone. If these creatures bleed (see the first rule), green or yellow blood is preferable to red.

… but ghosts are.

    While many adults may object to monsters putting in an appearance in a children’s book, they accept ghost stories more easily. Perhaps the reason is simply that most people enjoy a good ghostly tale? The frisson of fear it may produce is more genteel than the shudder that waits within the pages of a monster story. That the threat seems less overt is rather a contradiction because for many people ghosts are easier to believe in than monsters. My ghost stories have sold in greater numbers than those starring monsters.

No witchcraft.

    The Harry Potter books have been translated into Afrikaans after their tremendous success overseas and indeed over here, but had they originally been written in Afrikaans or otherwise in English by a South African author, I am not so sure they would ever have been published. They would certainly not have sold as well as the Afrikaans translations did, since those had the weight of “overseas acceptance” behind them. Though Harry Potter and his foes are certainly no horror icons, the element of witchery appears to be taboo in South African youth literature; otherwise it must be a great coincidence that books containing that element almost never see the light of day around here. In the rare cases where witches and wizards do pop up in South African youth literature, they are comic, eccentric characters that can’t do any real harm and whose supposed talents usually work against them.

    I would suggest that anyone who wants to write horror stories for young readers should first take a good look at what has been done in that field in his or her own country, since no two countries’ banks of literature and criteria will be the same. What already exists and what is selling? That knowledge should help you determine the broad boundaries, as well as avoid blind repetition.

    One of the greatest compliments on my writing I have ever received was when I was speaking to a reading circle about an adult novel, and one of the women mentioned that her son had wet his bed recently. He’d been reading a book of mine before bedtime and when he woke up in the middle of the night didn’t want to get up and go to the bathroom … She laughed about this unfortunate event – because she understood. Being an avid reader, she realised that a wet mattress, though certainly an inconvenience, was in this case also testament to a vivid imagination, one that had been activated and was being enforced by the power of fiction. She knew that stories, all the good ones, all the effective ones, are supposed to grip you. To charm you. Transport you.

    And, yes, terrify you.

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Lona Gericke resenseer Bambaduze deur Derick van der Walt

BambaduzeUitspraak: wortel

En toe doen hy dit weer! Die skrywer van drie vorige jeugromans – Lien se lankstaanskoene, Willem Poprok en Hoopvol – met bekronings soos goue en silwer-Sanlam-pryse, die MER-prys vir jeuglektuur, die Scheepersprys vir jeuglektuur en insluiting op IBBY se ererol, het weer eens bewys dat hy ’n storie kán vertel, dat hy ’n fyn aanvoeling en begrip het vir menseverhoudings en veral die emosionele aspekte van ’n tiener se lewe oortuigend kan ontleed en verwoord.


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