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The winner of the 2014 @City_Press Tafelburg Nonfiction Award is Vashthi Nepaul! #openbook2014 @OpenBookFest

Open Book 2014: Poetica Workshop with Francesca Beard

Open Book 2014: Performance Poetry

Francesca Beard, one of the UK’s most experienced performance poets, presented a masterclass on her craft for the third Poetica Workshop at the Open Book Festival.

Beard said that poetry written for performance is different to poetry written for the page; that performance poetry is a conversation with the audience, and subject to improvisation.

Beard said she hoped the workshop would give participants the freedom and the license to write, and took the participants through the elements that make up good performance poetry. Beard also emphasised the importance of warming up physically before each performance.

@PoeticaCapeTown took photographs and tweeted from the workshop:


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Open Book 2014: Jonny Steinberg, Andrew Brown and Ekow Duker Discuss the Impact of Fiction

Open Book 2014: Off the Page
Invisible OthersDying in New YorkWhite WahalaDevil's HarvestA Man of Good Hope

On the third day of the Open Book Festival, Karina M Szczurek spoke to Andrew Brown, Ekow Duker and Jonny Steinberg about the way the content of their books affect their lives.

Szczurek is the author of Invisible Others. She asked Brown (Devil’s Harvest), Duker (Dying in New York and White Wahala), and Steinberg (A Man of Good Hope) how their sensitive subject matter influenced their lives.

Duker writes about sexual violence, Brown about the war in South Sudan, and Steinberg has written about contemporary South African issues from farm murders to prison gangsterism.

Brown and Duker both had completely different lives before they turned to writing. Duker was an investment banker and an oil field engineer, while Brown is an advocate and a reservist sergeant in the South African Police Service. Duker, who said people can blame his mother for his writing but not the bad language in his books, would like to be a full-time writer, but Brown said he would not.

Steinberg, who said he enjoys being both a writer and a teacher, is based at Oxford University, but he said that when he began writing in the 1990s South Africa was very much unexplored; there was a book on every corner.

The link between fiction and real life was explored next, with Brown saying fiction helps people make sense of their worlds. Steinberg said writing is a way for him to be in control.

Duker, who writes about sexual violence in Dying in New York, said it has been a humbling experience to have women come up to him and say how much they can relate to Lerato, the main character. “The fact that my book has allowed them to open that door is touching.”

Books LIVE’s Helené Prinsloo covered the discussion:

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Open Book 2014: Michele Magwood Chats with Margie Orford and Rabih Alameddine in a Fascinating Pen Dialogue

Open Book 2014: SA PEN Dialogue

An Unnecessary WomanMichele Magwood welcomed two world-famous authors to the first of two SA Pen Dialogues at the 2014 Open Book Festival, when Margie Orford was joined by Lebanese writer (who also hails from the USA) Rabih Alameddine, who on Wednesday heard that he was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award for his fourth novel, An Unnecessary Woman.

A vital and vibrant discussion followed, which covered issues of identity, reasons for writing, how soccer humanises murderers, how we make sense of women’s reality, and the writer’s dual challenge of “muse as mistress; publisher as husband”.

nullBefore the discussion was launched, mention was made of the empty chair on the stage. This tradition of Pen International keeps the spirit alive of all those writers who are in jail around the world.

The discussion turned to the voices of Aaliyah, Alameddine’s 72-year-old narrator in An Unnecessary Woman and Clare Hart, the feisty female detective at the centre of Orford’s crime novels: Like Clockwork, Blood Rose, Daddy’s Girl, Gallows Hill, and Water Music.

Like ClockworkBlood RoseDaddy\'s GirlGallows HillWater Music

Alameddine spoke about the hyphenation of American citizens (African-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and so on). He said that the hyphen always leads to a diminution, a “minus sign” that takes away identity and power.

Alameddine recalled the story of the Nazi-Soviet invasion which saw Bruno Schulz, a Polish writer and artist, identified by the Gestapo officer, Felix Landau, as “a necessary Jew”. He admired Schulz’s painting and reclassified him in order to complete a mural on his son’s bedroom wall. “What makes a person necessary?” asked Alameddine. “What makes a person ‘unnecessary’? That is what I had to explore using the vehicle of Aaliya,” he said.

Orford spoke of the outrage that drove her writing. She felt she was personally under attack as a South African woman. She viewed writing crime fiction as a way to make sense in some small way of one particular crime – to figure it out and wreak justice. The bigger picture is so overwhelming and traumatising that one can only look at small pieces in isolation.

She referred to the experience of teaching creative writing to the prisoners of the Victor Verster prison and reflected on the extreme brutalisation of these men through poverty and the traumatic abuses they had suffered themselves as children. She also pondered the chilling “because I can” reason given for why they turned to violence.

“Writing seemed to be the way they accessed an ‘empathy switch’, enabling these men to inhabit the world of those they had injured through the exercise of the imagination.” She said the men had been traumatised by the violence they had wrought on other human beings, resulting in “an alchemical change” that never left them. The work of storytelling as a process had been a humanising one for the prisoners.

Reflecting on the humanity of murderers, Alameddine recalled playing soccer with some “very nice” men. “Well, they were very nice until you stopped to ask them, ‘How many people have you murdered?’”

He reflected that although the statistics of violence against women were horrific in South Africa, the issue was not the sole preserve of this country, but presented globally. He also considered how narratives beg to be told, to be heard. He took issue with the concept of how stories “humanise” people because that implies they were somehow less than that before their stories were given voice. He liked the concept of a story integrating

Book LIVE’s Helene Prinsloo (@helenayp) and Open Book Cape Town (@OpenBookFest) tweeted live from the event.

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Tim Noakes at Open Book: "The Low Fat Dogma is Nonsense"

Tim Noakes

Real Meal RevolutionDie kosrevolusieCo-author of The Real Meal Revolution Tim Noakes spoke to Africa Melane about his book at the Open Book Festival on Friday afternoon.

With diabetes being the biggest killer in Cape Town, Noakes says you can either choose to be a part of the pharmaceutical industry’s business plan or you can be in charge of your own healthy future.

According to Noakes, we do not need any carbohydrates at all, just fat and protein. “The body has better systems for nutrition,” he said, adding that if we needed carbohydrates we would have been born dead. He say sugar is a highly addictive and a tool in the hands of food manufacturers and that the “low fat dogma is nonsense”.

Books LIVE’s Erin Devenish covered the gig:

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Mike Carey, Dave de Burgh and Raymond E Feist on the Pure Joy of Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Open Book 2014: Fox and Raven Presents: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Rocks!
The Girl with All the GiftsBetrayal's ShadowMagician's End

The second evening of the 2014 Open Book Festival brought a lively panel, billed Sci-Fi/Fantasy Rocks, to The Fugard Theatre where an energetic crowd waited eagerly to hear that writing can be an enormous amount of fun.

And, as promised on the programme, Mike Carey (The Girl with all the Gifts), Dave de Burgh (Betrayal’s Shadow) and Raymond E Feist (Magician’s End) told Marius du Plessis just how much they loved their jobs. Not one of the authors could disguise their glee and the enthusiastic response from the audience, which contained many local writers and aficionados of the genre, was clearly enjoyed by the authors too.

The discussion was led by Du Plessis, the owner of Fox & Raven, and lived up to its promise, delivering a veritable festival of joy like few others. The authors disclosed their secrets to getting started and keeping going. They revealed the tricks they use to navigate writerly challenges and shared their unmitigated delight in the work they do. Their pride and enjoyment was palpable as they talked about the quirks and vagaries of writing science fiction and fantasy. The venue rang with laughter and a motivated and inspired audience departed, encouraged and supported to follow their own dreams and writerly ambitions.

Feist reflected on the dramatic changes in the spec-fic scene since he started writing in the early 1980s. He said two variables are business and the cultural societal evolution of fanboys and -girls. “For one it makes a lot more money now, in books, comics, film and TV games. Societally it has become so rich that there are number sub-genres to it,” he said. He recalled writer conventions of the ’80s when there were maybe 600 guys in bad T-shirts with cardboard boxes of comics in the basement of a sad hotel getting excited to see a woman writer.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said, “we all look at what came before and figure out how to do it differently. It’s got richer, and better, and there’s way more variety!” He emphasised that there were more opportunities than ever before for genre writers.

Mike Carey spoke about his background in comic book writing and how he got dumped in the deep-end as a writer for the X-Men. It was difficult to get into it because there was such a vast repository of comic books, something like 5 000. As all the cool characters had basically been taken, that freed him to take the characters that were not as popular, giving him terrific freedom to create their backstory and do some world-building. Publishers sent him rejection letters that were extended hilarity. Learning to write for comics, Carey said, helped him structure his stories for the later novels. It was a great learning encounter.

De Burgh shared his early engagement with the novels of David Eddings and Steven Erikson, that meant When he became a bookseller he could speak passionately with the customers. “That changed everything. When I give them a Steven Erickson. If you love it you’re going to hate me because you’ll keep coming back for more! I want to make people want to go back to the books, to make them ask when the next one is coming out.”

Feist affirmed him saying: “That little voice that says you’re better? You are! You are better at writing what you love than anybody else on the planet and you have to hold on to that!”

Echoing the sentiments Sefi Atta, Fiona Leonard and Zukiswa Wanner displayed in their panel, that reading is the most import thing a writer can do, De Burgh turned the conversation to writers who don’t read. He said writers need their writing to be informed by what they read. This is how you learn about writing, via the different kinds of books you read. He said, “Everything I know about writing, I got from reading. The more widely read you are, the more it unlocks your author’s voice … if you don’t read, the only socks you’re going to blow off are the ones you throw in the washing basket!”

Liesl Jobson tweeted live from the discussion:


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Open Book 2014: Highlights from Day Two (Evening Sessions)

Rape Crisis Presents: Duker & Mbalo

(Scroll down for coverage of Launch of Ragged Glory by Ray Hartley and Surprising Diversions, with Rabih Alameddine, Geoff Dyer, Deon Meyer and Henrietta Rose-Innes, chaired by Ben Williams.)

Open Book 2014: Rape Crisis
Dying in New YorkWhite WahalaDear BulletThe Ugly Duckling

Ekow Duker, author of Dying in New York and White Wahala, and Sixolile Mbalo, author of Dear Bullet: Or A Letter to My Shooter, spoke to Sindiwe Magona about the rape crisis in South Africa on the second evening of the Open Book Festival.

The writers engaged in an emotional discussion about sexual violence. Duker’s work of fiction and Mbalo’s autobiographical account both deal with the abuse of women, and the authors spoke about how the writing of their books has affected their lives and the lives of their readers.

Read Books LIVE’s Lindsay Callaghan’s tweets to follow the discussion:

Launch of Ragged Glory by Ray Hartley

Open Book 2014: Ragged Glory Launch

Ragged GloryRagged Glory author Ray Hartley spoke to Tony Weaver about his latest book, which examines the presidencies of Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and Jacob Zuma.

Weaver said Ragged Glory reads like a political thriller. Hartley noted that where we are today is the consequence of choices made in the last 20 years. Ragged Glory explores those consequences.

Books LIVE’s Lindsay Callaghan covered the launch:

Surprising Diversions

Open Book 2014: Surprising Diversions
An Unnecessary WomanAnother Great Day at SeaCobraNineveh

Rabih Alameddine (An Unnecessary Woman), Geoff Dyer (Another Great Day at Sea), Deon Meyer (Cobra), and Henrietta Rose-Innes (Nineveh) told Ben Williams about their great passions (other than writing).

The conversation centred around marbles, motorcycles, ping pong, and Arsenal. There was also some mention of a drone.

Books LIVE’s Jennifer Malec tried to tweet the madness that ensued:


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