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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.

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

Fiction Friday: read an extract from Kobus Moolman's The Swimming Lesson and Other Stories

Award-winning author Kobus Moolman’s latest short story collection, The Swimming Lesson and Other Stories, has received praise for its unconventional perspectives. Moolman’s anthology consists of 10 short stories. Read an extract from the first story, Shelter here:

There are two bus shelters just around the corner from where he lives in Greyling Street – from the house he has always lived in. One bus shelter he likes and uses most of the time; mainly to wait for the Saturday morning bus to take him to town, to the children’s library in the centre of town, or to the OK Bazaars to buy himself a Lucky Packet (in the shape of a small, brightly-coloured cardboard suitcase) with money he received for his birthday, or to King’s Sports to look at their bats or to get another tennis ball after his was confiscated by the woman next door for damaging her flowers during a cricket match between his brother and himself.

The other bus shelter – the one he does not like – is probably closer, but he does not use it. He is not able to walk long distances, so it would make sense to use this one. But he does not. He cannot even remember ever having used it, although he knows that he must have at some point (or driven past it with his parents), for how else would he have known that he did not like it?

Sometimes he thinks it is because his favourite shelter is situated along the exact road he walks to school every week from Monday to Friday (excepting school holidays). If this is true – and already he knows enough about himself to suspect so – then he feels just a little afraid, for it would mean that he is a creature of habit; that he is, in fact, already laying down on a daily basis a pattern of living he might come to regret at some point in his
future.

But the future is too far away for him to be concerned. He is nine years old and he cannot see any reason why he should not remain nine for the rest of his life. His favourite bus shelter is made of tin. It is closed on three sides and has a roof that sticks out like the peak of a cap. The seat is not solid but consists of two polished wooden strips. When he
sits he can swing his legs vigorously and his feet do not scrape the pavement. There is a pole painted yellow just in front of the shelter – in fact, it stands between the shelter and the edge of the road.

There is a small sign on the top of the pole with a number on it, but he does not remember ever taking notice of it. He waits always for the bus with ‘City/Stad’ displayed in black capitalletters onthe front. When he returns from town, from his solitary shopping expedition, he looks for the bus marked ‘Clarendon’. He does not live in this fancy suburb on the hill – his father is a storeman in a chocolate factory – but the bus that goes there has to drive through a section of the lower end of town where he lives.

He is not yet conscious of any difference in his life as a result of living in a street where people have names like Koekie and Poppie and the Eyetie, and where they fix their cars in the front garden or in the road because they don’t have a garden at all. However, he is aware that there is something different about him because of the way people look at him when he climbs onto the bus or walks into a shop, and then he understands why his mother fusses over him so much and why he is not part of any of the gangs at school. He is not sure but he suspects that another reason he likes this small tin bus shelter is because he cannot be seen once he is inside and has drawn up his legs onto the seat beside him like a pair of crutches.

This desire to hide himself away is perhaps yet another pattern he realises that he is building for himself, from which he will not be able to escape. But he does not know what else a small boy can do who is not able to run or jump or play team sports like other children. The other children do not want him on their team. He is too slow. He falls over when they pass the ball to him. He wets himself from anxiety.

He was included once, though. In a football match between the boys and the girls. When he played goalie for the girls. He saved a goal on that occasion, and all the girls jumped up and down and screamed and put their arms around him, and one girl even kissed him on the cheek, twice – a small girl with freckles on her face and a pale skin and sad mouth that was always turned
down. They still lost 7–0 though.

On another occasion, an occasion of which he is extraordinarily proud, he won the Dressing-Up Race at school. This was the first and the only race he has ever won in his short life. In the race the boys had to run to a large heap of clothing piled up in the middle of the field which they had brought from the wardrobe of their big sister or their mother. (This part of the race he naturally lost.) Dresses, shoes, hats and handbags were all jumbled together and the boys had to scrabble and scratch around first to find all of their mother’s or older sister’s items. Then they had to get dressed as quickly as they could – dropping the awkward frocks over their small shoulders – and, hitching up their trailing skirts, run slideshuffling in oversize shoes to the finish line at the end of the field.

He won this part of the race hands down. His favourite game at home is to dress up in his older sister’s outfits and parade around the house talking to himself as if he were some high-society lady. He knows how to do up buttons and zips; how to slide-shuffle in his mother’s shoes that fit snugly over his small, black orthopaedic
boots. ‘Stop that!’ his mother would always shout at him. ‘You’re stretching my shoes.’ But she never took her shoes away.

His prize for winning the race that day was an inflatable figure of a clown that stood upright once its bottom had been weighted with water. It was virtually impossible then to knock the smiling plastic man over. No matter how hard he punched or kicked it the clown would simply bounce straight back up again. Down and up, down and up the little figure would go all day long, no matter how hard he hit it. Down and straight back up again. Down and straight back up again. He thinks that this is a very good description of how he walks, too. He tells himself that at least he knows how to fall without hurting himself.

There are two ways he can walk to get to the small tin shelter to catch the ‘City/Stad’ bus. When he comes out of his green front gate he can either walk all the way down Greyling Street until he comes to Oxford Street, turn right at the house with the knobbly walls, walk straight up this street with its crooked and uneven paving blocks, turn left at the bottom into Boom Street, past the little café on the corner, and on to the bus shelter a hundred metres or so below. This is the one way. What he calls the Long Way. Though by normal standards it is not long at all.

Or he can take the short route. In actuality, it is probably not much shorter (if at all), and really only involves cutting out the greater part of Boom Street by taking a tiny lane (Stead Lane) that sneaks behind the unkempt backyards of the same houses that front onto the Long Way. It is, however, the more interesting route. At least for a boy who enjoys tales of the weird and the wonderful. For, apart from the overgrown backyards with their rusty corrugated iron fences and scraggly fruit trees, the Short Way has the attraction of two strange creatures. Again, not strange by normal standards. But strange enough for someone who has spent their entire life in one street in the lower end of the city.

The first creature is a white goose. It makes him think of ‘The Snow Goose’. But this bird from Stead Lane is definitely not the same ideal of unwavering affection that the Snow Goose is in the story he likes to listen to on his sister’s record. It hisses like a snake and twists its long neck about just like a snake when he walks
down the lane. Because he knows that it cannot get through the wire fence (its wings have also been clipped, his father assures him) he sometimes stands for a long time enjoying the terrifying thrill of danger while the large bird with wings outstretched sways and jabs at the air between them.

But two houses down from the goose is an almost opposite creature. And one of which he is more genuinely afraid since it seems never to notice him, has never made a sound as far as he can remember, and is content simply to stand staring fixedly at him like a mythic beast from one of the books on legends that he always takes out of the library. It is a tall, elegant bird. A blue crane. Rescued perhaps from the side of some rural road where it lay flapping its broken mauve wing helplessly. He does not know for sure. Whatever its origin, he has never seen it move, but knows it is alive only because it is never in the same place in the garden. He does not look at it for long, afraid that, like the Medusa, it will turn its victims to stone.

There is one problem, however, with this short cut which, despite the dangerous and exotic attraction of the birds, causes him more often than not to avoid it. For the end of Stead Lane, where it leads back in to the top part of Boom Street, is a dirt track overgrown on the sides with wild banana trees and bushes that never flower but give off a putrefying smell from their leaves.

The track is often also covered in rubbish. It is a path that he always regrets having to go down, making him wish he had never chosen to walk down the lane to look at the two birds, that he had suffered instead the narrow pavement of Boom Street where the uneven blocks threaten at every step to pitch him into the deep gutters. He tells no one of his fears and his secret thrills. He closes himself off from admitting the truth to anyone, as if he himself were a book that he could simply shut and forget. (But how many stories are there which he does, in fact, forget?) It is a strategy he cannot ever remember learning, but seems to have been born with. As he was born with stupid feet and a hole at the base of his spine. As he was born with soft brown eyes.

Once again he has an intimation that some dark pattern of behaviour is being worn into his being that, once established, he will find it difficult to free himself from. But he does not know how else to survive. It is not a choice. It is simply what he has to do in order to win other dressing-up races. In order not to wet himself
with anxiety when a playmate passes the ball to him, shouting, ‘Score! Score! It’s wide open!’
And he falls.

* * *.

The Swimming Lesson and Other Stories

Book details

Kobus Moolman's The Swimming Lesson and Other Stories stands out for its unusual perspectives

This story collection by multiple award-winning poet, author and playwright Kobus Moolman is a volume of unconventional potency.

Written in a range of styles, voices and genres, each of the ten stories offers original insights into the difficulties of staying afloat. Whether the challenge is being differently abled (with all the outsider isolation this brings); lower-income family life under unbending patriarchal rule; or being born a female child in an abusive, gendered culture, the narratives are convincing (often humorous) in their portrayal of trapped lives striving for transcendence.

The darkly funny ‘Kiss and the Brigadier’ invokes the stultifying boredom of small-town life and the captured mentalities of its understimulated citizens; ‘Extracts from a Dispensable Life’ offers a creative and sensitive reading of the gender violence theme; while the irreverent but never disrespectful ‘Angel Heart’ ventures into the risky waters of religious send-up.

The Swimming Lesson and Other Stories is a collection that stands out for its unusual perspectives; its frank, often uncomfortable treatment of taboo topics; its creative risk-taking; and its skilful and observant recreation of worlds gone by, which still leave their aftershocks.
 
 

Kobus Moolman is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Western Cape. He has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2015 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, and has presented his work at literary festivals in South Africa, Ireland and Canada.

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Launch of Short Story Day Africa's Migrations

Migrations: New Short Stories From Africa Short Story Day Africa will be launching their latest anthology Migrations. There will be a discussion between Mary Watson, Efemia Chela and Bongani Kona with Sibongile Fisher and Megan Ross (winner of and 2nd runner-up for the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize).
 
 

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Diane Awerbuck shortlisted for 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

An international judging panel have shortlisted 21 short stories out of almost 6000 entries from 49 Commonwealth countries as nominees for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Local author Diane Awerbuck, who won the 2004 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for her debut novel, Gardening at Night, has been shortlisted for her short story Nagmaal.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English and is currently in its sixth year. Previous recipients of this prestigious literary award include Parashar Kulkarni (Cow and Company), Jonathan Tel (The Human Phonograph, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Let’s Tell This Story Properly, Sharon Millar (The Whale House) and Eliza Robertson (We Walked on Water), and Emma Martin (Two Girls in a Boat.)

Chair of the judges, novelist Kamila Shamsie, said of this year’s shortlist:

The extraordinary ability of the short story to plunge you into places, perspectives and emotions and inhabit them fully in the space of only a few pages is on dazzling display in this shortlist. The judges weren’t looking for particular themes or styles, but rather for stories that live and breathe. That they do so with such an impressive range of subject matter and tone has been a particular pleasure of re-reading the shortlisted stories. The geographic spread of the entries is, of course, in good part responsible for this range – all credit to Commonwealth Writers for structuring this prize so that its shortlists never seem parochial.

The Prize is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth. The 2017 judges are Zukiswa Wanner (Africa), Mahesh Rao (Asia), Jacqueline Baker (Canada and Europe), Jacob Ross (Caribbean) and Vilsoni Hereniko (Pacific).
 

The complete shortlist is available here.
 
 

Gardening At Night

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