Thursday, August 15, 2013

16 Aug: Twitter debate on African kid lit

I've always been a big fan of the work of Golden Baobab so I'm really please that they have scheduled a Twitter conference of sorts to discuss the issues of African children's literature. Realistically, there's no real other forum to take up the conversation and someone has to ask why a great opportunity like Golden Baobab only received 180 submissions this year. Where are all the writers at? And why didn't they submit they stories?

In the context of my own life, moving out of my career in African children's literature because of a systematic lack of investment and support in the sector, I definitely have a vested interest in this discussion. And I really really wish that just one of the people I see on Twitter asking for books in Zulu or Sesotho or Xhosa for their kids could use this as a platform to explain why they care enough to ask but seemingly don't care enough to buy these books or support the organisations that do. I'm not even being facetious. Seriously. I want to know.

On July 26 2013, there was a press release from Golden Baobab announcing the end of its call for submissions for the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize. Golden Baobab has undoubtedly established itself in the literary sphere as the voice of African children’s literature. As the Executive Director, Deborah Ahenkorah says, “African children deserve to grow up surrounded by stories that reflect their cultures and experiences.” This statement has been the driving force in the Golden Baobab key objective of pushing African stories to the forefront of the literary world.

Considering the number of stories received this year, 180 stories from 13 African countries, is it untoward to ask, “Does Africa not care for the intellectual growth of its future citizens?” A continent with 54 countries and 1 billion people (as at 2009) and only 180 stories from 13 countries! Stories are the repositories of culture. In my opinion, I think we can do better than this. It is true that all the 1 billion people cannot write stories for children and are doing other worthy things but I still think we can expect more.

True, our continent has been beleaguered with circumstances (low literacy rate, coups, etc )hat have stunted our growth and development but how long are we going to pull up this card anytime the issue of not doing enough is raised? The Golden Baobab Prize was established to inspire the creation of enthralling African children’s stories by gifted African writers. Currently In its 5th year, the Prize has received a little over a thousand submitted stories. A little over a thousand stories in 5 years, in the world’s second largest continent with its over 1 billion people scattered all over the world. This is not good enough.

I am not in anyway discounting the invaluable contribution to African Children’s Literature other organizations have made. The Junior African Writers Series (JAWS) by Heinnemann and the Pacesetters books by Macmillan may be mentioned as the stimulant of African writing for children. The bustling publishing industry of South Africa and Nigeria is something to be proud of. However, Africa is more than just these 2 countries ; there is so much we can do.

It is about time we had a serious conversation about the African children’s literature industry and space that Golden Baobab occupies with other well-meaning organizations on our continent. The children’s book publishing in India is estimated to be worth $1.15 billion growing at the rate of 25% per annum.

According to IBIS World’s Market Research on the Children’s Book Publishing Industry over a period of 5 years (2007 to 2012), the industry (in the US) accounted for:

487 businesses
$3 billion in revenue
9, 307 people employed and
An annual growth of 0.7%
These are positive statistics that should set investors on a scrambling spree yet you and I know that is not the case. This is a billion dollar industry waiting to be taken over by writers, illustrators, publishers, marketers and anyone you can think of within this space. South Africa may be considered as the hub of African children’s literature. To paraphrase the title of NoViolet Bulawayo’s famous book, “We need new countries.” We need new countries to be known for African children’s literature so that Africa can have a fair representation in the sphere of children’s literature. We need new names, new authors, new illustrators, new readers.

So why aren’t our African writers writing for children?

Read more about tomorrow's virtual meetup or just follow @GoldenBaobab or tomorrow at 16:00 GMT.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Reviews of Tempest, Vortex and Anna Dress in Blood

Tempest by Juile Cross

Verdict: (I feel like I need to add a new category here) Likeable

The year is 2009. Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.

That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

So, all in all pretty awks for Jackson, right? He's stuck in 2007 while his gf is dying in 2009 and he can't get back to her. So what's the logical thing do to when you're stuck in 2007 with not a lot to do? Find your future gf and make her fall in love with you all over again, for the first time. It's a solid plan until the Enemies of Time that tried to kill her the first time, in the future, follow Jackson to 2007 to do it all over again. Luckily, Jackson is also spending 2007 learning more about his abilities, his family and the future so he's not going down without a fight.

I enjoyed Tempest. I mean, it wasn't life changing but it was fun and I enjoyed it. The sequel was a lot better and totally made Tempest worth reading. Which brings me to:

Vortex by Julie Cross

Verdict: Incredible

LOVED IT. As this is a sequel, I'll refrain for adding any spoilers not already in the blurb of the book. What you need to know is this: Jackson managed to quit Holly 2007/2009 - it's hard to keep up. Even after getting her away from the Enemies of Time, Holly managed to get herself into even more trouble by basically just being alive. I kind of feel bad for Holly but I feel worse for Jackson because even though he's got this whole time travel thing sort of figured out now and he's in the CIA, the same peeps that tried to kill him and/ Holly last time are back and they are really working at it now.

More time travel, more love-vibes, more CIA conspiracy - what's not to love?

Anna Dressed in Blood by Anna Kendrick

Verdict: Incredible

I meant to read this book ages ago but it kind of kept getting away from me. I'm really glad I did get to it though because it was great. Cas Lowood hunts ghosts and saves people. Like his father before him, he's travelling through North America with a knife and a burning desire for vengeance. He may still be a teenager but Cas has got this ghost hunter thing down - no friends, no distractions and in no time, he'll have killed enough practise ghosts to take on the real prize: the ghost that killed his dad. It's all very Supernatural-esque which, as a HUGE fan of seasons 2-5, I really loved. Cas IS Dean Winchestor. Broody, good-looking, charming and ready to kick some otherworldly ass.

He arrives in Thunder Bay to kill a powerful ghost named Anna who is, as the title suggests, dressed in her own blood. But what he does instead is make friends, get some people killed, solve a mystery and do a little personal growth on the side. It was a good mix of funny, sort-of-scary and sad. Really enjoyed it and looking forward to diving into the sequel soon.

Monday, August 5, 2013

New award for SA writers announced: WGSA Muse Awards!

There's a new writers award for South African writers!

The Writers’ Guild of South Africa (WGSA) honours, celebrates and promotes the creativity, quality and writing excellence of local writers with the introduction and launching of the WGSA Muse Awards.

There are six categories for which entries will be accepted for the 2013 WGSA Muse Awards:
• Feature Film
• TV Drama
• TV Comedy
• Documentary
• Stage Plays, and
• Unproduced Script in any genre.

A panel of independent judges will be looking for excellence in writing style, story, characterisation, dialogue, and impact. Every nominee will receive a personalised Nomination Certificate, and each winner will receive a personalised Winner’s Certificate and a beautiful and specially designed WGSA Muse Trophy.

The WGSA is a registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) and a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) which replaced SASWA, The South African Scriptwriters Association that was formed in 1974. It remains the only association in South Africa with the sole purpose of protecting, developing and empowering performance writers in the local film, television, radio, stage, animation and new media (internet – mobile and digital distribution, and gaming) industries. The WGSA is a key member of SASFED (The South African Screen Federation), and one of the founding members of LAMP (Language and Media Practitioners).

The judging process will take place during November and December 2013, with the nominees announced in January 2014. This will be followed by the award ceremony, which will take place early next year.

Entries open on 1 August 2013. The deadline for entries in the 2013 WGSA Muse Awards is at midnight on the 31st October 2013, and they must be submitted online. The online entry system and competition details can be found on the WGSA Muse Awards website.