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Open Book Festival

I have just returned from The Open Book Festival in Cape Town. I was taken there by my publisher, Penguin SA, to market my book The Scattering. The Open Book Festival is run by the fantastic independent bookstore, Book Lounge and takes place primarily at the gorgeous Fugard Theatre with a few events at other venues in the area, including Book Lounge itself. It took place from September 7-11.

This was the sixth anniversary of the festival and they seem to be growing from strength to strength. 

I was on three panels, the first was on Thursday. The facilitator was Yewande Omotoso, the writer of the award-winning novel Bom Boy, as well as her latest book The Woman Next Door.

On the panel with me was Bronwyn Law-Viljoen, speaking about her book The Printmaker which had only come out that very day, and American Michela Wrong talking about her book, Borderline, which I managed to buy and I am looking forward to reading. Our topic was, apparently, “Switching Courses”, but we seemed to talk about many other things than that.

I then had a lovely session at The Book Lounge chaired by one of this year’s Caine shortlisted writers Bongani Kona. If you have not read his beautiful shortlisted story, At Your Requiem, do yourself a favour and find it online.

Bongani was speaking with me and a writer from Denmark, Kim Leine, who has written many books but on that day he was speaking about his book The Prophets of Eternal Fjord about the colonialisation of Greenland by Denmark and indeed the topic of our morning conversation was colonisation.

My final panel was on Sunday, the last day of the festival, with well-known South African writer Dianne Case, American/Afghani writer Nadia Hashimi and was chaired by Cover2Cover publisher Palesa Morudu.

As I like to do, I attended numerous other events at the festival.

I was in an illustration workshop run by French writer and illustrator Benjamin Chaud. I have been trying my hand at painting in the hope to one day illustrate my own children’s books and I learned a bit during this three hour workshop on Saturday .

I write regularly for FunDza Literacy Trust so could not miss their panel on Friday morning. What is amazing about FunDza, which gets young people reading stories on their cellphones, is that they also have a fan writing section.

And now, as the Trust has grown, some

of the readers grew to be writers in the fan zone and now are actually published writers - both on the FunDza mobi-site as well as writing books published by their book publishing arm, Cover2Cover! How fantastic is that! This is how true transformation of the overwhelming white South African publishing industry will happen. This panel had some of the writers who have made that journey and was one of my favourite events of the festival.

Another good panel was one on Saturday evening. It was chaired by the always hilarious columnist Darrel Bristow-Bovey and on the panel was the equally hilarious columnist Rebecca Davis, who everyone seems to know but me, and the final panellist, who spent the beginning to the discussion calling Rebecca Sam, the controversial former columnist and current author, Lerato Tshabalala.

They were speaking on the topic of ‘Word Count’ and how to come up with a column week in and week out.

One of the last events I went to was a fascinating discussion between Canadian writer Rosemary Sullivan and Penguin/Random House managing director Steve Connolly about her book Stalin’s Daughter. I bought the book and I am so looking forward to getting stuck in; the conversation was absolutely engaging. I could have listened to them talk about that book all day!

I have been to a few festivals which I nearly always enjoy, but I think the folks at Open Book should feel proud of what they have done. There was truly something for everyone.

Important Note on the Publishing Workshop!!

The date for the Bessie Head Heritage Trust Publishing Workshop has changed! It will now be on Saturday October 15 at the University of Botswana Block 252, Lecture Theatre 4, 9am to 4.45pm. Morning and afternoon tea will be provided but you should make arrangements for your own lunch.

If you have any interest in getting your writing published - BE THERE! It is free and open to the public. No registration is required. See you there!

Its all I write



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