Anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows that doing it right is a little bit like becoming a grandmaster in chess: you have to know everything that can possibly occur and be prepared to overcome it. If you’re the bride, chances are that you’ve had your dream wedding mapped out in your mind for the better part of a decade by the time you finally get your big day. Which is why nothing can go wrong. But sometimes all the careful planning in the world can not prevent things from going off kilter. This happens to Jane in my new short story ‘Out Of This World’, which is free from Amazon Kindle for a limited time only. See the link below to get your copy. Your honest feedback, on Amazon, Goodreads or otherwise, would be greatly appreciated!
Jökulsárlón means ´Glacial-river lagoon´ in Icelandic, but it´s far cooler than the name suggests. Ever seen those National Geographic specials where large pieces of glaciers tumble into the water? What about those shots of seals, sunbathing on the ice? You can view all of that, and more, at Iceland´s Jökusárlón. But sometimes, when you travel, the things that you can´t photograph make for your greatest memories. Find out why by reading my travel blog about my first visit to Iceland, first published by wesaidgotravel.com.
I was introduced to Elizabeth Pienaar at the NB Books Authors’ Party earlier this year. A small, beautiful blonde woman with an open face and infectious smile. She was easy to talk to, even easier to listen to, as she is smart, well informed and a good conversationalist. That was my first impression, before we started talking shop.
What are you working on/getting published?
A new book, about to be released, she said. A Young Adult book called Bobby.
Young Adult? I had read only the week before that a multitude of American authors are suddenly finding themselves ranked as YA writers without ever having intended their work for that market. Did you write it as such? I asked.
She hadn’t, but it had become labelled during the publishing process. Labelled for teens, so it could be sold to teens.
What’s it about?
It’s about a dog, told from the dog’s perspective.
Pretty much the perfect elevator pitch, I thought. She hadn’t even needed two minutes. One sentence had me hooked.
Fast Forward two months.
In a charming bookstore in the heart of Melville, the lights are on tonight. Laughter flows out of the two entrances to Love Books at the Bamboo Centre on Rustenburg Road. Leopard’s Leap wine glows in every glass. Beautiful food disrupts happy conversation. In the midst of it all is Elizabeth, taking it all in. They are all here for her, but what they really came for is the book. A book, based on true events, inspired by the life of one creature that many would count insignificant. A dog. An animal so easily taken for granted, overlooked, forgotten. For the lucky few who understand, an animal which should never be taken for granted, overlooked or underestimated.
She speaks with mirth about her method as a writer, about discipline and belief. She speaks about Bobby, the real Bobby, with great love, from heartfelt remembrance. She looks with reverence to the couple who gave Bobby his final home. Arthur and Ingrid. They are among the attendees.
When she reads from her book, my signed copy burns me through its brown paper bag. I could have bought it a few weeks ago on Kindle, but then I wouldn’t be reading the real thing. Then I wouldn’t be able to hold the paper copy in my hands with the same anticipation, the same first-read jitters.
The cover is beautifully simple. A girl and a dark-coloured Alsatian with hazelnut eyes. A book that every dog-lover would pick up. A book that everyone else might pass by, not knowing what they missed.
“People coming, people coming to look!” Elizabeth Pienaar – Bobby
I met Bobby on page one. I’d heard about him, read snippets about him, but until I met him I couldn’t have understood the immensity of his presence. Bobby embodies every look, every wag of the tail, every yelp, or bark or whimper of every dog who ever lived. Bobby is the book you read to your children so they can understand the importance of being kind to animals. It’s the book you give to someone who’s been unfortunate enough to have to deal with the loss of a beloved companion. It’s the book that was written expressly to remind us that dogs are not pets, or protectors or mere companions. Dogs are family. And if you treat them right, they’ll love you more than is humanly possible.
Bobby tells the story of a dog who loses his human to death. Afterwards he is repeatedly abandoned by his caretakers until he ends up in a care facility, awaiting adoption or death. Along with so many of his kind waiting for someone to notice them, there is no knowing which of the two will come first.
On the other side of the special barrier, a young girl finds it hard to overcome her grief after losing her dog to Cancer.
Elizabeth Pienaar understands the human condition. She understands what grief is, that everybody deals with it in their own way and that it often defines who we become. In Bobby we have to deal with a new form of grief, a new understanding of our own reactions to the grief of others, whether they are human or not.
This book is not just for teenagers. Young Adult is not an apt label. It should have been labelled more distinctly. It should have been labelled “For humans”. It should be sold in pet stores, at shelters, by breeders and vets. Anyone with a beating heart should get a copy of Bobby. And since you’re going to the bookstore anyway, why not grab one for your friend, sibling, parent, grandparent or boss?
Get Elizabeth Pienaar’s fantastic debut novel (R120) at your local bookstore or buy it from Amazon via Kindle. Also available in Afrikaans as Bobbie. To learn more about the author, visit her website at: elizabethpienaar.com
Die eerste weergawes van die verhale wat die Nuwe Stories 2014 Kortverhaalwedstryd se kortlys gehaal het is nou beskikbaar om te lees op Litnet. Een van Christina van Deventer se verhale is ook op hierdie jaar se kortlys. Kortlyskandidate werk nou saam met twee van Suid Afrika se voorste taal-kundiges, Leti Kleyn en Suzette Kotze-Myburgh, om hul verhale af te rond vir publikasie. Die finale weergawes van die verhale sal in die Nuwe Stories 3 bundel opgeneem word. Die bundel word later vanjaar, in November 2014 deur Human & Rousseau gepubliseer. Klik gerus hier om die verhale op Litnet.co.za te lees.
The first versions of the short stories that made the Nuwe Stories 2014 shortlist are now available to be read (in Afrikaans) on Litnet.co.za. One of Christina van Deventer’s short stories are also on this year’s shortlist. Shortlist-candidates are currently working together with some of South Africa’s foremost language specialists, Leti Kleyn and Suzette Kotze-Myburgh, in order to refine their short stories for final publication. The final versions of their short stories will be published in the Nuwe Stories 3 short story collection. The book, which appears later this year in November 2014, will be published by Human & Rousseau. Click here to read the shortlisted stories at Litnet.co.za.
Christina van Deventer, was in 2013 een van die twee nasionale wenners vir die PEN Afrikaans Jong Stemme Kortverhaal Kompetisie vir skrywers onder dertig. PEN bied weer hierdie jaar die geleentheid aan jong skrywers om deel te neem aan die gesogte kompetisie. Die wenner(s) se verhale word ingeskryf vir die PEN International Young Voices kompetisie waarin meeste wereldlande se PEN verenigings verteenwoordig word deur een of twee jong skrywers binne hul verskeie landsgrense. Die PEN kompetisie vir Suid Afrika sluit eersdaags, op die 6e Mei, 2014. Meer inligting oor die kompetisie kan hier verkry word. Lees ook Christina se wenverhaal hier.
Christina van Deventer was one of the two national winners in the PEN Afrikaans Young Voices Competition 2013. This year PEN once again offers young writers under the age of 30 the opportunity to participate in this sought after competition. The winners’ stories will be entered into the PEN International Young Voices Competition in which most countries in the world are represented by one or two writers chosen by their local PEN organization. The PEN Afrikaans Young Voices Competition is still open for entries until the 6th May, 2014. More information about the competition can be viewed here. Read Christina’s winning entry here (only available in Afrikaans).
Dit is vir my ‘n groot eer om weereens hierdie jaar deel te wees van die NB Uitgewers/Human & Rousseau Nuwe Stories Kortverhaal Kompetisie kortlys.
Die kompetisie word hierdie jaar vir die derde keer aangebied met die doelstelling om jong skryftalent (onder 30) op te spoor en te ontgin. Lees meer oor die kortlyskandidate asook die bundel by Litnet.co.za deur hier te klik. Baie geluk aan alle kortlyskandidate!
“Follow your dreams”, that’s the spirit of the times for young people leaving school and those who are re-thinking their careers. I was lucky to grow up in a home where the general consensus was not to follow a career path that pays well, but to follow a career that sits well with me. For me, almost any career in the arts would sit well, partly because I don’t have the aptitude to do a nine-to-five office job and partly because I don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything if I haven’t created something new. This doesn’t mean that I look down on everyone else for being able to do these jobs, just don’t expect me to understand the complexities of their day at the office.
I tend to think of office jobs in a fairly linear fashion. This is how they look in my mind: You go to the office. You work at completing your work for today. You go to lunch. You come back to the office. You finish your work. You go home. You relax and forget about the office until tomorrow morning. You get up and do it all over again.
Wanting to be a writer
For a writer I imagine a completely different task-management-plan: You get up when you’re ready to. You don’t go to the office, but rather grab your computer and get back into bed. You read a few blog-posts and articles before getting coffee and settling down to work.
You realize that you need to do some research before writing the next passage, so you head to Google. You get more coffee.
You haven’t read a book in like, three days, so you do that, since it’s anyway too warm/cold/noisy/quiet/emotionally draining etc. to write. You get some coffee.
You attempt to write something, but get distracted by something you wrote three months ago and didn’t finish yet. You attempt to finish it, just to find out why you had stopped in the first place: the story wasn’t going anywhere. Still, you spent time writing that, so you end up not deleting it, just in case the idea does turn out to be WML (Worth Millions Later). You get some coffee, for inspiration.
You still haven’t written anything all day, so you buckle down and put down a header:
You look at it and muse about what meanings or expectations people will gleam from it when they see it on the cover of your debut novel. You Google the word, just to make sure it’s as bad-ass as you hope. It is. Then you do an in-depth search about all the ways in which a person could commit murder using Anthrax. You see dollar-signs about your head. This book is going to sell millions!
You attempt a basic story outline:
Wally Silberman is an ordinary guy, working a nine-to-five office job. His life is uncomplicated until he accidentally overhears plans of an illegal weapons-exchange while having lunch at the local coffee shop. The next day he finds an envelope with anthrax on his desk at work.
OK. You think this is sufficient to build a story on.
You type “Chapter One – An ordinary man” and then go to get some more coffee.
When you come back to your computer you don’t like the idea, probably because there’s not much to hold on to or like there.
You write a new idea:
After his lab-assistant wife dies in a chemical accident caused by a lack of safety precautions, Hal Osprey has nothing left to lose. He is intent on getting revenge and he means to show the company just how flawed their safety is.
OK. This seems like something!
You type “Chapter One – Chemistry” and get up to get some more coffee. It’s the only way you’ll stay awake, because when you come up with anything remotely close to a full-fledged idea at two thirty in the morning, you had better keep going.
When you return you start considering the broader outline of this story: what company were Hal and his wife working for, what were they creating and what went wrong in the lab? Why did the wife die and not Hal? Wait a minute – isn’t that the exact plot in Spiderman 3?
You find your copy of Spiderman 3 and watch the whole thing through. Apparently not. Never mind.
What could have prevented Mrs. Osprey’s death? Was she perhaps pregnant with their first child? Is that why revenge is so important to him? Is Hal a good name for a scientist? Where does the story take place and why there rather than somewhere else? What kind of habits does Hal have? How does he mean to exact his revenge?
You look at all these questions and begin to realize there will be a learning curve, or at least space for a lot of research. For one thing, you don’t know anything about science, scientists or Anthrax. Also, you’ll obviously have to build a chapter by chapter outline for this one, since you can’t really foresee where it’s going and you don’t want to end up giving up on it like the one you ended up not deleting earlier in the day.
You decide, since it’s late and you’re probably too tired to figure out the mechanics of this idea, to go to bed and start again fresh tomorrow.
The next day you get up, fully intending to write at least one chapter, but during your morning coffee someone rings the doorbell. Strange, you think, you don’t have any friends, why would anyone be ringing the doorbell?
A police officer is twirling his hat, which should rather have stayed on his head to hide that hideous hair-day.
“Good morning, officer. What can I do for you this morning?” you ask in your most polite voice.
The police officer doesn’t seem interested in anything you have to say, simply introduces himself via a badge before telling you that you are to come downtown with him.
“Whatever for?” you ask, no longer polite.
“You Googled Anthrax. You are now considered a person of interest.”
“By whom?” you ask, very proud of your correct use of grammar.
He has said as much as he was willing to and is now giving you the grandmother-glare, secretly hoping you will understand that it means you should drop everything, close the door behind you and come downtown with him.
You do so, though not because you particularly want to.
After hours of interrogation and explaining that you are a writer despite not having been published, you are let go.
Warned by intuition not to pursue the subject, you set down to start writing something else. You silently mourn the loss of an idea which could potentially have sold millions.
Being a writer
You go to your office. You decide what you are going to write and start writing it. You work through lunch because you want to at least finish a draft of Chapter One. You finish your work well before dinner, which gives you time to do chores, fetch the kids from school, cook dinner, help with homework, make a costume for the Halloween dance and catch up with blogs and Facebook. After dinner you put the kids to bed, call your mom for her birthday and finish reading the book you started last night, all the while jotting down things you liked about the manuscript and good ideas you have. Your mind is constantly processing ideas which will help you overcome some hurdles during your workday tomorrow. You go to bed having come up with the solution to some particularly annoying problems and having written them down. The last thought you have before falling asleep is that you’re confident your book will be done by the end of term, in time for the family vacation. You hope at least one person will like it. If you’re lucky, your book will get picked up.
I am affectionate toward books about words, which is how I came to read The book of hard words by David Bramwell. What comes next is what it inspired me to do.
This is the original flash fiction piece, written with it specifically in mind that I want to rewrite using only “hard words” from The book of hard words.
His neighbour’s unruly behaviour made him feel particularly bloodthirsty. The memories of his death and reincarnation returned once more.
Perhaps just one bite, he thought.
Biting her could be beneficial to him. He was one of a kind, a revolutionary of his time, because he was the only one of his kind who didn’t have the predisposition to kill his own offspring.
The more he thought about her slender digits, the more lustful he became.
She obviously feared speaking.
He carried her into his underground chamber. He hadn’t been there since the early part of the century, shortly after his rebirth, and the place was covered in spider webs and dust.
It had once been his winter retreat, but he had long since given up the practice. After his transformation it became unnecessary.
Tying her to a chair, he intended to pour her blood into a cup. That was, after all, the humane way of feeding.
He bent over her, ready to cut her delicate skin.
‘Wait,’ she insisted. ‘I can tell you many things about yourself. I am a palm reader.’
‘Is this a trick?’ he asked. ‘Or are you really a visionary?’
‘I’m not cool enough in the face of danger to be lying.’
He stuck out an overly cold hand towards her.
‘Hmm…,’ she murmured. ‘You have an unnatural vibe about you. Very mysterious.’ ‘Do you feel anxious during the full moon?’
He sighed audibly. ‘I’m not a werewolf, if that’s what you’re suggesting.’
This is the rewrite using hard words from the book.
His neighbour’s obstreperousness made him feel particularly sanguisugent. The memories of his metempsychosis returned once more.
Perhaps just one bite, he thought.
Biting her could be beneficial to him. He was sui generis, a sansculotte of his time, because he was the only one of his race who wasn’t prolicidal.
The more he thought about her leptodactylous beauty, the more concupiscent he became.
She was obviously lalophobic.
He carried her into his hypogeum. He hadn’t been there since the early part of the century, shortly after his rebirth, and the place was covered in spider webs and dust.
It had once been his hibernacle, but he had long since given up the practice. After his transformation it became unnecessary.
Tying her to a chair, he intended to extravasate her blood into a cup. That was, after all, the humane way of feeding.
He bent over her, ready to cut her delicate skin.
‘Wait,’ she insisted. ‘I can tell you many things about yourself. I practice dermatoglyphics.’
‘Is this a trick?’ he asked. ‘Or are you really theophanic?’
‘I’m not sangfroid enough to be lying.’
He stuck out an acrohypothermic hand towards her.
‘Hmm…,’ she murmured. ‘You have a preternatural aura about you. Very mysterious.’ ‘Do you feel anxious during the plenilune?’
He sighed audibly. ‘I’m not a lycanthrope, if that’s what you’re suggesting.’
Hier volg ´n onlangse onderhoud met Litnet na die publikasie van Nuwe Stories 2 in November 2013.
Nuwe Stories-kortverhaalwedstryd 2013: Onderhoud met Christina van Deventer
Naomi Bruwer, Christina van Deventer
Vertel ons lesers meer van jou verhaal/verhale wat in Nuwe Stories 2 opgeneem is.
My verhaal, “’n Kis vir Boel”, handel oor ’n hond wat ’n jong seun doodbyt. Wanneer dit duidelik word dat die hond aan ’n swart man behoort wat sedert die gebeure vermis is, raak die hele gemeenskap betrokke en is die hond se lewe op die spel.
Ná die aanvanklike keuring het jy die geleentheid gehad om die kortverhaal persgereed te kry met die hulp van raad en keurverslae. Hoe het jy hierdie proses ervaar?
Ek het die proses geniet. Die keurder se verslae was op die man af en die voorgestelde leesstof was interessant en aktueel. My enigste “negatiewe” kommentaar op die proses is dat ek graag kritiek van albei keurders sou wou ontvang, aangesien dit moontlik die ontwikkeling van my verhaal verder
Wat is die beste skryfraad waarvan jy al ooit gehoor of gelees het en wat jy probeer om self toe te pas?
Lees. Dit is moontlik ook die grootste hindernis om te oorkom, want ’n mens is geneig om fiksie vir ontspanning te lees. Selfs wanneer ek ontledend lees, raak ek ná ’n hoofstuk of twee meegesleur deur die verhaal (as dit ’n goeie een is) en vergeet ek om op te let na die nuanses. Ongeag daarvan dink ek dat dít wat jy lees in jou onderbewussyn saamgesleep word en ’n uitwerking op jou skryfwerk het, selfs al is dit net deur taalgebruik. Ek het aanvanklik gedink ’n mens moenie so baie lees nie, want dan begin jy soos ander skryf. Ek het intussen my opinie verander.
Die ander skryfraad is die ou een “skrywers skryf”. Baie suksesvolle skrywers sê hulle kan bloot elke ses maande ’n boek op die rakke sit omdat hulle elke dag skryf. Om elke dag te skryf, klink maklik genoeg, maar dit is nie. Dit verg toewyding en dissipline. Ek raak al beter in hierdie opsig, maar dit is ’n roetine wat ’n mens moeilik aanleer, veral omdat die lewe geneig is om tussenbeide te tree.
Wie is die skrywers wie se werk jy die graagste lees, en waarom hou jy van hulle werk?
Ek lees graag die groot kokkedore van Engelstalige ontspanningsfiksie: Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crighton, ensovoorts. Ek is baie meer kieskeurig wanneer dit by Afrikaanse fiksie kom en lees selde of ooit ’n boek net omdat dit deur iemand geskryf is van wie se vorige boek ek gehou het. Ek word maklik visueel beïnvloed: As die boek ’n aantreklike buiteblad het, sal ek dit koop sonder om spesifiek op te let wie die skrywer is. Dan gaan ek huis toe, lees, en besef/besluit agterna dat hierdie skrywer meer aandag verdien. Dus lees ek in Afrikaans oor die hele spektrum, van Sophia Kapp en Isa Konrad tot PG du Plessis en, meer onlangs, Deon Meyer. Dit is vir my moeilik om iemand spesifieks uit te lig, want ek geniet amper enige skryfwerk wat goed afgerond is en maklik lees, selfs romanse en niefiksie. My enigste vereiste is dat die boek goed moet eindig – ek lees gewoonlik die laaste bladsy in die boek voor ek besluit of ek dit koop. Dit maak dit interessant om dan uit te vind hoe die skrywer en karakters daarby uitgekom het.
Het jy enige verdere planne vir jou skrywersloopbaan?
Ek weet nie of mens regtig in hierdie verband planne kan maak nie. Ek skryf dít wat my hart my forseer om te skryf en hoop dan maar agterna dat daar ’n ontvangslokaal daarvoor sal wees. Ek hoop om as skrywer te ontwikkel en dat mense byval sal vind by my skryfwerk, maar net die tyd sal leer of daar wel ’n skrywersloopbaan op my horison is.
Vind meer uit oor my deelname aan Nuwe Stories 2 deur hier te klik.
And by this, I mean THIS:
Hot off the presses, Nuwe Stories 2 is the only cubic package you MUST give this Christmas. It’s not the only book you MUST own, but definitely one of them – at least right up there with your Bible and your Diary 😉 It has been available since the 15th of November… so what are you waiting for? It’s time you rush to your nearest bookstore to get it, or click here to learn more about the book and where to get it.
Your life will feel meaningless without it!