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Alert! The programme for this year’s @OpenBookFest has been revealed! Click here to see it:

"The Pavement Bookworm" Philani Dladla to Give TEDx Talk (Plus: Twitter Interview)

Pavement Bookworm

Philani Dladla, or “The Pavement Bookworm”, as he has become popularly known, will be delivering a talk during the TEDxJohannesburg event this Thursday, 21 August.

The 24-year-old’s story is extraordinary by any measure, as he went from life on the street – reviewing books through car windows for cash – to becoming the founder of a literacy project and Book Reader’s Club for underprivileged children in Johannesburg.

Dladla was born in Port Shepstone in KwaZulu-Natal. His story began when he received an unlikely gift:

Here, he attended a small, rural school which taught its pupils in isiZulu. When Philani received a book from his mother’s employer, he realised that in order to understand what the words meant, he would have to learn English. Even though it was a heavy, non-fiction book about politics, it was the first birthday gift he had ever received and Philani loved it. He read it over and over, grappling with the difficult language. “It was a challenge for me. But I wanted to know what was so special about this book.”

And he will tell anyone who asks that his favourite childhood book was, in fact, The Last White Parliament (by F van Zyl Slabbert). It was his only book.

However, after school Dladla moved to Johannesburg, where he fell into drug abuse and found himself living on the streets. It was during this time that his love of reading resurfaced, and he began reviewing books for passers-by on Empire Road, near the University of the Witwatersrand, instead of begging.

After being featured in a short on YouTube by filmmaker Tebogo Malope in November last year (see below), Dladla’s story went viral, being shared widely on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and featured on the Huffington Post, Reddit, 9GAG, Funny Junk, 101 Books, and locally on The Herald and Nal’ibali.

Now Dladla is set to deliver his own TEDx talk. He recently took part in a Twitter Q&A, where he chatted about his life, saying: “a good book written by one man can transform Thousands of lives.a good book can force you to change”.

Read the Twitter interview:


Watch Malope’s video:

YouTube Preview Image

Philani is a 24 yr old Bookworm.a pavement bookworm to be more precise currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa.He basically bounces around different streets with his expansive library of books and at anybodies request reviews the books.He has read all the books in his collection and is always seeking for more to read.He then sells some of his books as a way to raise money for himself and some of his homeless friends.I’m appealing to anyone that can contribute somehow into his life,He’s a great role model on the power of reading and can be an amazing ambassador for our young people.

Here’s how you can help Dladla and his family:


Submissions Now Open for Issue 13 of Itch


Online creative journal Itch has put out a call for entries for its 13th issue, and has also announced the appointment of a new editor.

London-based writer and filmmaker Elan Gamaker has taken over the reins of the journal, which is published under the auspices of the School of Literature, Language and Media at the University of the Witwatersrand. Gamaker says under his leadership Itch will be turning its focus outward. “While our base remains South Africa, we encourage writers and visual artists from around the world to contribute to what is rapidly becoming the pre-eminent publication of its kind in Africa,” he says.

“While our base remains South Africa, we encourage writers and visual artists from around the world to contribute to what is rapidly becoming the pre-eminent publication of its kind in Africa.

“This being said, it is important to us that we maintain our financial independence and editorial integrity. This is why, in spite of recent changes, we exist entirely thanks to the contributions of our readers.”

The theme for Itch 13 is “Detection”, and those interested have until 1 September (not 25 August as is stated in the press release below) to submit their writing, non-fiction, poetry or visual art.

detection |dɪˈtɛkʃ(ə)n| {noun} the action or process of identifying the presence of something concealed

French philosopher Jean-Pierre Faye once wrote: “Every society emerges in its own eyes by giving the narrative its violence.” I ask: what is that narrative? And what is the violence? Perhaps it resides in the fact that in many ways we live in an unavoidable state of concealment: a domestic and vernacular world of secrets and half-truths, of suspicions nurtured and admissions withheld.

The idea of detection and its associated terms – investigations, clues, concealment, covering, uncovering – is one that has always fascinated us. It is subject of perhaps the most successful literary genre of all, and a key aspect of all our relationships, which derive their meaning from trust. It seems innately human, this desire to get to the heart of the matter, to discover as much as possible, to assume the deception and to resume its unearthing.

And now the nature of something concealed – in our post-Snowden world – becomes ever more elusive. Do we have the right to conceal; is there any privacy left? Have we all become private – and public – detectives?

Press release

itch 13 Open for Submissions by Books LIVE

Image courtesy of Itch on Facebook

Book Bites: 17 August 2014

Sister MoonSister Moon
Kirsten Miller (Umuzi)
Book fling
Catherine lives in her past because her present is gloomily filled with taking care of her ailing father. She’s afraid her 10-year-old daughter will follow her example and live an unfulfilled life, too. Although her husband is supportive and loves her, she doesn’t see it or appreciate it because of a secret that totally obscures her reality. The author lays out a tale of puzzle fragments, creating gripping tension as the reader pieces them – the betrayal of families, the monster that finds strength in the silent screams of a child – together.
– Kholofelo Maenetsha @KMaenetsha

Code Name: Johnny WalkerCode Name: Johnny Walker
‘Johnny Walker’ with Jim DeFelice (Harper Collins)
Book buff
A surprisingly readable ghostwritten account of an Iraqi interpreter’s time with the US Navy SEALS in Iraq. ‘Johnny Walker’, as he was known, was thrown into the role largely by accident when he helped broker a truce between American soldiers and angry Iraqis. He became key asset for the elite SEAL units, and though there are moments when his relentlessly pro-American voice becomes annoying, his story – of a man whose country is destroyed, and who is caught between two very different worlds and ultimately must choose between them – is fascinating and page-turning.
– Hamilton Wende @HamiltonWende

One Step Too FarOne Step too Far
Tina Seskis (Penguin)
Book fling
Touted as this year’s Gone Girl, Seskis’ debut novel is not as cleverly crafted or captivating as Flynn’s bestseller. Yet as a psychological thriller you zip through it quickly enough. We meet Emily on a train escaping from her life in Manchester. Of course, she seemingly had the perfect husband, job, child, home (yawn!), but something has caused her to go off the rails. She changes her name, moves into a digs, starts shoplifting and experimenting with drugs. And all of her bad choices point back to a terribly painful past that involves her twin sister.
– Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Book details

Fiction Friday: Extract From The Sea – "Up She Rises" by SA Partridge

SA Partridge

The SeaMermaids, shipwrecks, and horror stories all from the deep feature in this week’s Fiction Friday.

Our short story excerpt comes from the pen of SA Partridge, author of such books as Sharp Edges and Dark Poppy’s Demise.

Shared on Aerodrome, “Up She Rises” conjures up old sea magic within the anthology, The Sea, edited by Nerine Dorman.

There were whispers among the fishermen that something was wrong with the sea. They would know, if there was. Ma believed that I was one of the ocean’s children too, just like Pa. She had accepted it, as if my fate was a certainty. When I was much younger, the realisation that I belonged to this wild, unpredictable creature filled me with dread, but nowadays I found myself feeling the urge to be near the water more and more. Maybe Ma was right, after all. But then again, she usually was.

Book details

Enter the Nova Short Story Competition for Budding Sci-fi and Fantasy Writers

Tech-Savvy ParentingConquestThe Shining GirlsBroken Monsters

The closing date for entries for the annual Nova Short Story Competition, run by Science Fiction and Fantasy South Africa, is drawing near.

The competition, which is “open to everyone, even to international and extraterrestrial aliens, as long as they can write in English”, is divided into two sections, South African and General; with prize money of R2 000 for the former and R1 500 for the latter.

2013′s winners were Belinda Lewis, in the General section, for “Unearthly Creatures”, with David Platt taking the South African section with his short story “Doppelganger”.

Arthur Goldstuck, author of the newly released Tech-Savvy Parenting: A Guide to Raising Safe Children in a Digital World and head of WorldWideWorx, will judge the South African section, while the General section will be judged by Jenny Ridyard, co-author of Conquest, who takes over from last year’s judge Lauren Beukes.

The winning entries and finalists will be published in Probe.

The closing date for entries is midnight of 30 September 2014.

Press release

On 7/8/2014, an incident occurred in Southern Africa. We’ve all heard the jokes, the usual human reaction to disaster: “I was tremortised when the President dropped his wallet”; “Did the earth move for you, too?”, “It was all over in 90 seconds. Just like my husband”, and so on and so on. These comments trivialise the serious implications of which few people are aware: Seconds before the earthquake, NASA detected an EMP coming from the underground alien base hidden on the far side of the moon.

Exactly why the aliens aimed at Orkney, or how the pulse travelled through the centre of the moon, are known unknowns. Some say they were targeting the two mermaids found in the fire pool at Nkandla. Others say it was a premature emission from an uncompleted death ray. And there are more questions we’re not even aware of: the unknown unknowns, as Rumsfeld would say.

If this sounds fantastic, it’s because it IS fantastic. If your readers think they can do better; if fantasy for your readers means more than fifty shades of monochrome; if fiction for your readers has a strong scientific slant; if your readers are inspired by the fantastic tapestry of daily life in South Africa, then perhaps they should enter the Nova short story competition run by Science Fiction and Fantasy South Africa (SFFSA).

Prizes totalling R2 000 are on offer in the South African section of the competition (sponsored by the WorldWideWorx-renowned Arthur Goldstuck), with an additional R1 500 on offer in the General section. This annual competition is intended for budding writers of science fiction and/or fantasy short stories, and is open to everyone, even to international and extraterrestrial aliens, as long as they can write in English.

But the end is nigh! The deadline for Nova 2014 is 30 September 2014. So write right now.

Details can be found at, or by emailing, or by contacting Gavin on 084 830 0608.


Book details

9000 Books to be Given Away During National Book Week (Plus: Programme Preview)

National Book Week 2014

The programme for the fifth annual National Book Week, which will take place from 1 to 7 September, has been revealed.

For the first time, the event will feature a “travelling bus” and a week-long tour around six provinces, during which National Book Week ambassadors, motivational speakers, authors and storytellers will visit towns from Ganyesa in the North West Province to Worcester in the Western Cape.

The slogan for the 2014 National Book Week is “Going Places”, with an emphasis on encouraging reading as a “fun activity”. Events will focus on promoting literature in indigenous languages, local authors as well as library awareness and access.

As part of the South African Book Development Council‘s (SABDC) Indigenous Languages Publishing Programme, every child or adult that “engages” with the National Book Week tour will receive a new book in the language of their region, with 9 000 books to be handed out.

In addition, the final Twenty in 20 stories, a collaboration between Books LIVE, Short Story Day Africa and the Department of Arts and Culture, will be launched as a new anthology. Find out more about the project and see the final twenty stories here.

Elitha van der Sandt, CEO of the SABDC, says: “In South Africa, the book is one of the most under-utilised tools to contribute to economic, social and educational empowerment. Reading a book has the power to transform the individual, the community and the country at large. Reading remains one of the few ways in which we access information. We need information to thrive in this world.

“Accessing that information allows us to make more informed decisions about our lives. It allows us to actively participate in the economy, in all aspects of life.

“National Book Week will therefore take the power of the book to many places. As the bus will be going places, so shall we be promoting the magic of the books to our diverse people, allowing them to go to faraway places, dreams, agonies and accomplishments of cultures everywhere.

Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa believes books could play a crucial role in his department’s Mzansi Golden Economy strategy, which aims to create 5 million jobs over the next 10 years.

“The importance of reading in order to achieve success in life is foundational for the individual and essential for nation building and social cohesion,” Mthethwa says. “The Department of Arts and Culture’s Mzansi Golden Economy strategy recognises the power of the books sector to contribute to job creation, poverty reduction, skills development and, above all, economic growth. Thus as such, the National Book Week is a strategic intervention to promote a reading culture that will enhance the prominence and socio-economic impact of the South African books sector both locally and globally.”

2014 National Book Week programme preview:

National Book Week 2014 Programme by Books LIVE