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Fiona Snyckers

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

A Sharp Stick

The Mail & Guardian JHB Literary Festival is taking place on 3, 4, and 5 September this year in an apparent attempt to resurrect the literary festivals of the 1980s. Those festivals of twenty years ago – I am told by those who remember them – were noteworthy for their almost total exclusion of women writers.

However, the world has moved on since then. One would certainly expect this testosterone-centric approach to have been confined to the history books, not so?

One would be sadly disappointed if one did. I had an informal flick through the final programme and discovered that of the thirty or so writers featured, precisely four are women. Of those four, one is from the Ivory Coast, and one is not actually a writer at all, but an artist. So, in case you’re keeping score, the M&G literary festival features exactly two South African women writers – Zukiswa Wanner and Margie Orford. There is also a (very) light sprinkling of female academics and journalists on the panels.

Both Margie and Zukiswa are excellent choices – being fine writers and experienced, eloquent panelists. They are, however, just two of the many talented female writers in South Africa.

I noted with pleasure that the spread of participants is quite culturally representative of our post-apartheid country. Is it greedy to wish that it could be gender-representative too? Or was it simply a case that, with the best will in the world, the Mail & Guardian could not scrape together any more women writers to make the cut? Somehow, I find this difficult to believe.

South African fiction is in an unprecedentedly vibrant and influential state, and women writers are responsible for at least fifty per cent of that impact. There really is no excuse for not including more of them in the festival line-up. The fact that women are so woefully under-represented has not gone unnoticed.

SAFM presenter Karabo Kgoleng remarked on Twitter today: “Mail & Guardian Johannesburg Literary Festival – where are the female voices?” Journalist Marianne Thamm commented on Facebook that the heavily masculine line-up looks “as bad as a comedy festival”. Writer and editor Helen Moffett suggested, also on Facebook, that the M&G needed poking with “a sharp stick” to draw their attention to the howling gender imbalance of their programme.

Consider this blog the requisite stick. I just hope it’s sharp enough.

Franzen Frenzy Gets Foolisher

So the century is precisely ten years old and already it has a greatest novel?

Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Freedom’ has yet to be released, but on the strength of a few pre-publication review copies doing the rounds, the literary establishment has declared it to be the novel of the century. Time magazine even put Franzen on its cover. Our own Kevin Bloom wrote about him in the Daily Maverick, wondering aloud whether literature was about to make a comeback (where did it go?).

All of which leads us to one inescapable conclusion: when men write about families and relationships, it’s called high art – when women write about the same thing, it’s called chick-lit.

If this sounds like sour grapes, well, perhaps I just lack the fine discernment that characterised the Pulitzer Prize committee in 1930 when they declared ‘Laughing Boy’ by Oliver La Farge to be the novel of the year. ‘Oliver La Who?’ do I hear you ask? You mean you’ve never heard of him? Well, he must be good because in 1930 he was up against such competition as Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury’ and Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’. He beat them both … and now he is out of print and completely unheard of.

If you think this is an isolated case, you should check out this website. Random samples: The Great Gatsby losing out to ‘Arrowsmith’ by Sinclair Lewis in 1926. ‘Catch-22’ losing out to ‘The Edge of Sadness’ by Edwin O’Connor in 1962. (Edwin O’Who?). There are plenty of others.

The point is that great modern classics aren’t easy to call in the year they come out. Sometimes not even in the century they come out. We need the perspective of time and distance to judge the real impact a novel has. Much of that impact has to do with whether a book stays in print, which it only tends to do when people buy it, which they only tend to do when they enjoy it. People are funny that way.

You wouldn’t be far wrong in saying that the literary canon is made up of fan favourites that gradually got adopted by the literary establishment. From Shakespeare, to Austen, to the Brontes, to Dickens, and many points in between, we see smash-hit plays and novels being retrospectively gathered into the bosom of the establishment and granted a recognition they lacked in their own time.

I suspect Kevin Bloom would disagree with me. When he writes about the death of literature, and about popular culture having ‘moved on’, he clearly doesn’t mean fiction in general. We live in the age of Twilight, Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code. Fiction is more popular than it has ever been. Kevin is drawing a distinction between popular or generic fiction (low art) and literary fiction (high art). The trouble is that history tends to blur those distinctions and to elevate those that were disregarded by their peers.

We have no way of knowing whether a novel like ‘Freedom’ will stand the test of time. When future scholars pick over the bones of the early 21st Century dysfunctional family, will they turn to ‘In Her Shoes’ by Jennifer Weiner – New York Times bestseller, made into a Hollywood movie – or Franzen’s ‘Freedom’ – a tome that runs just shy of 600 pages, and that some reviewers have described as hard going? You have no way of knowing the answer to that question, and nor do I. All we know is that it would probably surprise us.

You’d think book reviewers would know this by now, wouldn’t you, so why the near-hysterical adulation for a book very few people have read? I’m not the first person to ask this question.

Bestselling novelists Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner have been making some scathing references on Twitter lately about the tendency of the literary establishment to fawn at the feet of its white, male literary darlings. Their iconoclasm has ruffled more than a few male feathers, causing Weiner, rather mischievously, to create the hashtags #Franzenfreude and #grumpyoldmen to describe the resultant furore.

One encouraging sign is that her concerns are not being dismissed with a smile and a pat on the head this time. The question that I started this blog with is receiving some serious attention in publications such as The Huffington Post. One can only hope this attention will lead to a modification of popular opinion.

‘When men write about families and relationships it’s called high art – but when women write about the same thing, it’s called chick-lit’. FINALLY, it’s being said out loud. The terms ‘high art’ and ‘chick-lit’ are both well overdue for a reboot. One can only hope they’ll get it.

Bungee Jumping For Writers

Stepping out of my comfort zone is something I really Don’t Enjoy Doing. You won’t catch me standing on top of the Carlton Centre in the cold, grey dawn with a parachute strapped to my back, looking to break some world record for Deeply Asinine Stupidity. I don’t paraglide, skyjump, mountain bike, abseil, scuba dive, rockclimb, or even hike unless I can do it in heels and a frilly dress. The only time I’ll go camping is when they start making tents that come with room service and a minibar.

I’m pretty much the same with my stories. I know what I like writing, I know what I’m good at, and I’m not real keen on stepping outside these comforting parameters. Unfortunately I also have a positively Tracy Engelbrechtian inability to say no to new writing projects.

My first foray into what I like to think of as the extreme sports of writing occurred a couple of months ago when I received a mysterious, anonymous invitation to a party at Melrose Arch, with strict instructions to tell nobody where I was going. I was convinced that I was going to be kidnapped, murdered and have my body tipped into Zoo Lake. I showed the invitation to Louis Greenberg, that font of all online wisdom. He agreed with my assessment of the situation – even going to far as to volunteer to drag Zoo Lake for my lifeless corpse.

But then a blogger that I trust persuade me to attend, and I found myself neither kidnapped nor murdered, although I did get briefly lost in the Kafkaesque sprawl of the Melrose Arch underground parking – nothing new there. The party – well lubricated with wine and girly edibles – turned out to be a recruitment meeting for a new website called Girl Guides. A jaw-dropping array of writing talent was in that room, with some of South Africa’s most prominent women bloggers and tweeters gathered under one roof.

Girl Guides, we were told, was all about women reviewing technology for other women. Because men seem to think that bringing a gadget out in pink is all it takes to appeal to the female market, women tend to trust other women when it comes to choosing new technology to buy. It all made perfect sense to me … although I couldn’t quite understand what I was doing there. Yes, I use technology all the time. Yes, I’m an avid social media addict. But I’m so far from being a tech-geek that if geekdom were the Klingon Empire, I’d be the fourth planet in the Romulan system, with no dilithium crystals to get me there. (See, not geeky at all).

But it turned out that was the whole point. It seems I’m not alone in my total lack of interest in how many giga-pixel-whatsits a gadget has. I’m just interested in how it will complement my life as a stay-at-home mother slash writer person with an interest in fashion and all things girly-cool. So when I’d got over my fear that I was entirely the wrong person for the job, I found that I absolutely LOVE trying out new technology and writing about it as honestly as I know how. You can check out my first review for www.girlguides.co.za over here. I must confess to loving the fact that I could use the phrase “this thing attracts sweat like Schwarzenegger’s jockstrap”, without anyone telling me to mind my manners.

No sooner had I gotten comfortable with the role of tech-reviewer than I took on the mantle of mobile phone novelist for the Shuttleworth Foundation. Their Yoza Mobi project is being vastly expanded following the huge success of the Kontax series. I was brought on board to write the teen chick-lit story – which would have been right up my street if not for the extremely short format. The novels are a scant 8,000 words, with each chapter or episode totalling no more than 400 words. I’ve got used to thinking in 100,000 word chunks, which is pretty standard for the kind of popular women’s fiction I write. Bite-sized chapters, each with a cliffhanger ending, seemed like a challenge on a par with base-jumping.

What surprised me was how easily I took to it and how much I enjoyed working a soap opera element into the story. And now that the story has gone live, I get the daily thrill of seeing the comments and feedback streaming in on the website for each chapter. For a novelist who is used to waiting weeks for reviews to appear in the press, this kind of instant gratification is incredibly … well … gratifying. You can check out the first two chapters of Latoya’s Secret here. I had a huge amount of fun writing it, and hope the readers will have just as much fun reading it.

So the upshot of the story is that I’m starting to understand some of the thrill of moving outside one’s comfort zone. All that pumping adrenalin. The throat-closing terror. The rush of endorphins when it’s all over. I really think I’m starting to get it. So next time someone invites me to come whitewater rafting with them … I’ll explain that I already get all the kicks I need right here in front of my laptop.

Free To A Good Home

I’ve read two blog posts that made me uncomfortable recently. Okay, not that recently. I’ve actually been meaning to get to this for a while.

The first was I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script by screenwriter Josh Olson, that appeared in the Village Voice. The second was Payment Now by Book SA member Fred de Vries. Both posts were warmly received when they came out. The general consensus was that the authors had hit their respective nails firmly on the head.

Olson’s post is a clever and articulate rant about how people who ask professional writers to look over their manuscripts are guilty of a massive breech of etiquette and ought to be tossed into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. His succinct description of those who make this request is ‘dick’:

“Yes. That’s right. I called you a dick. Because you created this situation. You put me in this spot where my only option is to acquiesce to your demands or be the bad guy. That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move.”

He goes on to explain that asking a writer to give away free writerly advice is tantamount to asking a surgeon to operate on you for free, or a lawyer to give you free legal advice. Totally unacceptable, in other words.

Olson’s post was greeted with a storm of delighted approval from the writing community. My reasons for not joining in the general chorus of assent were connected to an experience I had years ago when I was living in Oxford. I’ve written about this in a previous post.

Briefly, I wrote to Whitbread Award-winner Barbara Trapido asking her for advice about where to send a manuscript I’d recently completed. She responded by not only introducing me to her own literary agent, but inviting me to send her the novel so that she could have a look at it as well. A few weeks later I received in the post a five-page, handwritten critique of my novel that I cherish to this day.

Now, I can’t pretend to have been blase about this at the time. I was quite simply astounded that she would give up her time to help out an utterly unknown writer like this. But it’s only now, years later, when I’m a published writer myself (albeit on not nearly such a distinguished scale), that I realise the full extent of what she did for me. I get asked to look at people manuscripts all the time, so I know intimately and precisely what a pain in the butt it is.

But here’s the thing. I do it.

I do it because I know damn well I’m not a surgeon or a lawyer or a nuclear freaking physicist. I didn’t study for seven long years to get where I am today. I’m just a hack who got lucky. And a lot of that luck had to do with the self-belief instilled in me years ago by one astonishingly generous writer.

The Botswanan author Lauri Kubuitsile told me recently that writers who do manuscript assessments for free are basically snatching bread from the mouths of their colleagues who offer the same service professionally. Her tongue was firmly in her cheek as she said this, but she had a very good point nonetheless. There are those who make a living from assessing manuscripts, and it’s not fair to undercut them. But a simple read-through and a handful of encouraging words won’t put anyone out of business, and are not that hard to muster. They might just make all the difference to someone who is really struggling.

The Fred de Vries post can be summed up as follows: those who ask writers to contribute pieces for free – whether it be to newspapers, magazines, or charity anthologies – have one helluva cheek. And we as authors ought to ignore all such offers unless they come with an offer of payment attached.

As an inveterate contributor of Free Stuff to various publications, I can only remind him that there is always someone younger and hungrier than you who will snatch those precious column inches away while you dither about remuneration. De Vries pours scorn on the idea that writers should just be greateful for any exposure and not ask for payment as well. But unfortunately that’s just the way it is, at least in South Africa.

Poet and cultural commentator Rustum Kozain said on Twitter today that there are virtually more writers in South Africa than there are readers. He may have been joking, but he wasn’t far wrong. Our reading public is so tiny it can barely be seen with the naked eye. There are hordes of us competing for slices of an extremely small pie. Anything that brings you to the attention of the public is a Good Thing, with the possible exception of extravagant, double-page scandals in Heat magazine.

We South African writers need to get over ourselves and realise that we are not some rare and precious dying breed. There are younger, more ambitious, and vastly more talented writers snapping at our heels every moment of the day. They’re just waiting for us to pass up an opportunity so they can snatch it up triumphantly and run away with it.

And if that same young writer just happens to be one whose manuscript you snootily disdained to take a look at five years ago, don’t expect him to have mercy on your redundant ass.

(PS – Puh-leeze don’t send me any more manuscripts to read. Honestly, I’m really busy at the moment. Like really, REALLY busy.)

Write Like You’ve Never Been Published

There’s a fairly soppy and nausea-inducing email that finds its way into my Inbox every few months. Something along the lines of, “dance like no one’s watching, love like you’ve never been hurt, sing like no one’s listening”. In fact – now that I come to think of it – it may even have been written by someone like Mark Twain. What’s that, Mr Google? Someone exactly like Mark Twain? All right then, thanks.

So I’d like to add another one to the list: write like you’ve never been published. I recently finished Carole Matthews’ latest novel “It’s Now Or Never” and am still struggling to come to terms with the disappointment. When I saw it lurking on the shelf in New Releases (just a couple of books down from Trinity On Air, I was happy to note), I fell upon it with glad cries. A new Carole Matthews, I crowed. Hooray! My weekend was made.

The first inkling I got of the let-down in store for me came in the Acknowledgements section in which Matthews thanks various people for the super hiking holiday she had on the Inca Trail in the Andes. Now I don’t know about you, but for me the knowledge that an author has taken some kind of fabulous holiday to prepare for a book doesn’t inspire me with confidence in the spontaneity of the plot. In Matthews’ book, for instance, the heroine spends most of her time agonising over whether to hike the Inca Trail or not. But the reader already knows damn well that she’s going to because the author already did.

Likewise, when Katie Fforde gushes about the joys of life on a canal boat, you just know her heroine is going to be pitched into the world of canal boats, and that the book will be littered with gratuitous information about guiding boats through locks and how to cook in a galley kitchen.

The same syndrome abounds in the world of romance writing. If I open a book and see that the author has been writing for Mills & Boon for the past thirty years, I know beyond a doubt that it’s not going to be very good. (And for some mysterious reason, there will be virtually no sex in it. Whether this is because older romance writers are just not comfortable writing about sex, or because they’re so darn sick of it after all those years, I have no idea.) But the young Turk of a writer who is only on her second or third novel will almost certainly produce a page-turning read, crackling with pace and sexual tension.

A depressing number of highly successful writers fall into the trap of believing that they have nothing left to prove. Their fanbase is so strong that they’re immune to criticism. Not the nastiest stick of a review has the power to dent their sales. Their name is such a powerful brand that their books will continue to sell in staggering numbers long after the original quality of their writing is gone.

It’s only the poor old first-time novelist who bothers with mundanities like plot, character and dialogue; who throws all her efforts into hooking the reader from the very first sentence, and doesn’t have the luxury of a reputation to fall back on. No one is offering her free holidays in exchange for a mention in her book, but she is still hungry enough for publication to put in the hard graft that will make her manuscript stand out from the slushpile.

So this blog is a note to my future self – in the unlikely event that I ever get famous enough to stop caring about the quality of what I write…

Write like your career is just starting. Write like you’ve got everything to prove. Write like you’re trying to stand out from a teetering pile of manuscripts in an overworked publisher’s office. Don’t take short cuts. Don’t take a fabulous cruise on the Med and then set your next book in a fabulous cruise on the Med. Don’t get so greedy that you sign a contract for so many books a year that you can’t keep up without producing McNovels.

Write like you care. Write like it matters. Write like you’ve never been published. (And tell Mark Twain from me that he should have stuck to the hard-boiled, cynical stuff).

Bloggers For A Free Press

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of the ANC Youth League spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the Secretary General of the ANC, against Shivambu.

This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money laundering practices of Dumisani Lubisi, a journalist at the City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on Constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa.

We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.

The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.

We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but a insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the Youth League President.

We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other Constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.

Blog Roll

http://thoughtleader.co.za/siphohlongwane
http://rwrant.co.za
http://vocfm.co.za/blogs/munadia/
http://vocfm.co.za/blogs/shafiqmorton/
http://blogs.news24.com/needpoint
http://capetowngirl.co.za
http://thoughtleader.co.za/sentletsediakanyo
http://thoughtleader.co.za/davidjsmith
http://letterdash.com/one-eye-only
http://boyuninterrupted.blogspot.com
http://amandasevasti.com
http://blog.empyrean.co.za/
http://letterdash.com/brencro
http://6000.co.za
http://chrisroper.co.za
http://pieftw.com
http://hamishpillay.wordpress.com
http://memoirs4kimya.blogspot.com
http://thoughtleader.co.za/azadessa
http://watkykjy.co.za
http://fredhatman.co.za
http://thelifeanddeathchronicles.blogspot.com/
http://blogs.timeslive.co.za/common-dialogue/
http://www.clivesimpkins.blogs.com/
http://mashadutoit.wordpress.com
http://nicharalambous.com
http://sarocks.co.za
http://blogs.timeslive.co.za/stompies/
http://helenmoffett.bookslive.co.za/blog/
http://01universe.blogspot.com
http://groundwork.worpress.com
http://iwrotethisforyou.me
http://fionasnyckers.bookslive.co.za
http://attentiontodetail.wordpress.com
http://blogs.women24.com/editor
http://www.missmillib.blogspot.com
http://snowgoose.co.za
http://dreamfoundry.co.za
http://www.vanoodle.blogspot.com
http://www.exmi.co.za
http://cat-dubai.blogspot.com
http://alistairfairweather.com
http://www.zanedickens.com
http://www.nickhuntdavis.com
http://guysa.blogspot.com
http://bookslive.co.za
http://baldy.co.za
http://skinnylaminx.com
http://blogs.african-writing.com/zukiswa
http://www.mielie.wordpress.com
http://blogs.timeslive.co.za/gatherer/
http://thoughtleader.co.za/sarahbritten
http://stii.co.za
http://blogs.news24.com/FSB_AP
http://twistedkoeksuster.blogspot.com
http://whensmokegetsinyoureyes.blogspot.com/
http://trinklebean.wordpress.com
http://commentry.wordpress.com/
http://matthewbuckland.com
http://blogs.news24.com/colour-me-fran
http://gormendizer.co.za
http://www.harassedmom.co.za/
http://ravingfans.co.za/
http://khadijapatel.co.za/
http://moralfibre.co.za/
http://www.exmi.co.za/

Trinity – Banned, Suppressed … Confiscated!

Some of you may know that in my pantheon of relatives (near and far and aangetroud) I am the proud possessor of a brother.

Also a Rhodes University alumnus, he blazed a trail through the Linguistics Department and pursued a career in literacy, while I blundered around in matters literary.

Today he consults all over the country, verifying, moderating, examining, and teaching teachers to teach. In his spare time, he is also very supportive of his sister’s writing career … such as it is.

So last week he was in the office of a certain head of department at Wits, when a blinding flash of pink caught his eye. “I noticed it immediately,” he says in his gripping, eye-witness account of this incident. “Because this HOD is not a pink person. Her office is lavishly supplied with weighty tomes, with not a pink dust jacket in sight. Well … not usually.”

My brother looked a little closer and discovered that the book in question was in fact “Trinity Rising”.

“Oh,” he said, with a casual wave of the hand. “I see you have my sister’s book there.”

“Your sister’s book, eh?” snapped the HOD, fixing him with a steely glare over the top of her horn-rimmed spectacles. “Well, tell her not to read it in class next time. She can have it back at the end of the term.”

There was a pause while my boet struggled to wrap his mind around this apparent change of subject.

“No,” he said at last. “I meant that it is her book because she wrote it. She is the author.”

“Is she indeed? Well, I caught a student reading it in class yesterday. She had it all propped up behind “The Hermeneutics of Representation” … the little slacker. So I confiscated it.”

“You need to give it back immediately,” my brother urged, with all the exigency at his command. “She had probably just got to the exciting part.”

“Oh, all right,” the HOD agreed grumpily. “She can have it back on Monday.”

Well … I couldn’t be more delighted. “Trinity Rising” has joined the ranks of Books That Get Confiscated In Class. I am in distinguished company. Harold Robbins, Judith Krantz, Eric van Lustbader … no doubt I’m showing my age, but those were the books that used to get yanked out of pupils’ hands and borne off to join the teacher’s collection of racy paperbacks when I was a kid. I remember that they all had a certain well-thumbed look about them, with spines rendered pliant by scores of youthful hands. They fell open naturally, I seem to recall, at certain crucial sections.

And now my book has joined their well-thumbed ranks. That’s worth a dozen good reviews.

Reprints – Why We Heart Them

Every author greets the news that their novel has been reprinted with mixed feelings.

Okay, I’m lying. They don’t really. Unless by mixed feelings you mean joy, jubilation, delight and ecstatic relief. More like lightly blended feelings, really.

On the one hand, there’s the relief that you have escaped the cold clutch of the dreaded Pulping Machine. On the other, you can’t help but reflect that a whole lot more fodder has now been created for his possible future delectation. And by fodder, I’m referring of course to your babies, your treasured offspring, the fruits of your creative soul…

Still, you can’t help dwelling, with just a touch of complacency, on the undeniable fact that you have sold out an entire print run. Your sales are now roughly equivalent to those of John Grisham. On a slow weekend. In Boise, Indiana. In the middle of a recession. When half the population is on holiday. And the other half has been wiped out by a mysterious plague.

Yes, the sad truth is that South African print runs are nothing to run screaming through the streets about. I’m not saying that Spud isn’t sitting comfortably in the six-figure bracket, but the rest of us have to muddle along with a measly four.

I’m not complaining, though. A sell-out is a sell-out, right? Even if roughly two thirds of the first print run were purchased by one’s mother-in-law and foisted willy nilly onto the hairdresser, the dog parlour lady, the physio, the guy selling feather-dusters door to door, and the entire 50th anniversary school reunion of Afrikaans Meisies Hoër.

So Trinity Rising has gone into its second printing and no one could be happier than yours truly. I got to see the first of the new copies today. They look girlishly slim and frisky next to their chunkier first-run predecessors. Still 372 pages, but somehow, inexplicably, thinner. Like they have been on a diet or something. Someone with printing savvy could probably explain it to me.

Right now all I care about is that the ink is warm and the bubbly is cold. Salut!

Trinity Rising chosen as one of The Witness’s Top Reads of the Year

I was delighted to see that The Witness’s book reviewer Stephanie Saville has chosen Trinity Rising as one of her top three books of 2009. This is what she says:

“Trinity Rising by Fiona Snyckers was a riotous read which cheered me up and made me feel young again. A great read in the style of a homegrown Marian Keyes. Trinity Luhabe, a first-year Rhodes student, entertains on a grand scale. A South African author to boot.”

Her other two choices are The Immigrant by Manju Kapur and Come Sunday by Isla Morley. She goes on to say, “Go get them all. They are all classics in their own right.”

I was tipped off about this article by Janet van Eeden, who frequently reviews books for The Witness, and by a fan who wrote to me via my Very Pink Website offering to send me a cutting. I’m grateful to both of them.

You can read the whole piece here.

I Can Haz Website?

Louis Greenberg made history today as the most self-deprecating author in South Africa. To the list of achievements he is reluctant to acknowledge, may now be added “designer of fearfully girly websites”. That’s right – Louis has been getting in touch with his feminine side and coming up with deliciously animated graphics of highheeled shoes floating out of martini glasses, and silver stars drifting down the page.

Perhaps most impressive of all, he managed not to reveal quite how against the grain all this girly frivolity went with him.

Here’s a sample of the Louis-Fiona collaborative process -

LOUIS: So how do you think its looking now?

FIONA: Great, great! But can’t you make it a bit … you know … pinker?

LOUIS: Pinker? It’s already pink.

FIONA: I know. But it could be pinker. And also, could the lipstick kind of … SHOOT out of the cocktail glass, instead of just, you know, gliding out?

LOUIS (scribbling notes): Lipstick to shoot out of glass. Right. Got it. What else?

FIONA: Pink words. I think it would be really cool if every page had some pink words on it.

LOUIS: Pink words. Um … okay. Anything else?

FIONA: The top I’m wearing in the photo. Do you think it’s really … how can I put it … pink enough? I don’t want to look too demure, after all.

LOUIS (wiping sweat from brow): No, no! Don’t change the picture. It’s fine. Honestly. It’s pink enough.

FIONA: Then do you think we’re ready to go live?

LOUIS (voice ringing with relief): Yes! Let’s go live! (Goes off to crack open a cold one and watch some manly sport on TV).

You can view the fruits of the collaboration here:

http://www.fionasnyckers.com/

Be sure to click on “Fun Stuff” and mouse over the martini glasses to see the Flash animation Louis sweated over. I am absolutely thrilled with the end result. If any of you are looking to set up websites, you couldn’t do better than give Louis a shout.

(Credit is also due to the very talented Shelley Williamson of Lime Green Design who came up with the original templates.)