Catching Up to the Stories Inside

Catching Up to the Stories Inside

Catching Up to the Stories Inside

I recently went to see A Star is Born at the movies: the remake with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. Bradley Cooper directs and also plays the lead male character, Jackson Maine – a singer/songwriter and alcoholic.

The morning after seeing the film, I read a New York Times article about Cooper and the movie. Here’s an extract from the article:

“In 2011 Clint Eastwood talked to Cooper about the role of Jackson Maine. But Cooper was hesitant. He was 36; he didn’t think he could play someone that weathered. ‘I knew I would be acting my balls off to try to be what that character was, because I was just too – I just hadn’t lived enough, I just knew it,’ he said.”

Later that year, Cooper went home to take care of his father, who was dying from lung cancer… Cooper held his father in his arms when he took his last breath. In that moment, everything changed for the actor.

By 2015, he felt ready to play the role (of Jackson Maine) in A Star is Born. Now he looked in the mirror and saw it. “Honestly,” Cooper said. “I could see it on my face. I just felt it.”

A few weeks ago, I was trawling through notes to help me start writing a chapter in my book, and I came across a questionnaire Joanne Fedler had asked me to fill out before she started mentoring me – way back in July 2013. The first question on the form was ‘What are you writing or what would you like to write about?’ And right in front of me was a one-liner I’d written which summarises EXACTLY the book I’m writing now. Not the one I started a year ago, but the one I started in October, because the first one wasn’t working.

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About Elana

 

Elana Benjamin is a writer, qualified lawyer and mother of two. Her work has been published in Good Weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sunday Life, Essential Kids, Debrief Daily (now Mamamia), SBS Life and the Jewish Book Council blog. She’s also the author of the memoir/history My Mother’s Spice Cupboard: A Journey from Baghdad to Bombay to Bondi (Hybrid Publishers, 2012).

And it struck me that like Bradley Cooper, who wasn’t ready to play the part of Jackson Maine in A Star is Born until 2015, I wasn’t ready to write my story back when I filled out that form. Five years ago, I just couldn’t have written that book. I had to learn the craft of writing. I needed time to process my experiences, get some distance from them, and make sense of them on a deeper level. I had to live more. And I had to write more.

I’m not suggesting that anyone else needs five years before they write their books. But I would compare it to being sure that you want to be a mother, or a doctor, when you’re just 10 years old. You have to live many years before you can begin to realise such visions. And in the meantime, you have to be patient and never lose sight of your dreams.

I haven’t been doing nothing in the intervening years (and nor did Cooper – he acted in other movies and a stage play after 2012). All along, I’ve been reading and writing and taking notes and listening to podcasts and working and raising my kids and living my life.

Now I am ready to write my story, the one I knew I wanted to write back in 2013. I can, as Bradley Cooper says, “just feel it.”

Sometimes, our lives have to catch up with the stories that are deep inside us, that we somehow know we must tell but perhaps aren’t ready to yet – because we are scared, or don’t have the tools or the hindsight we need. In the meantime, we just need to keep living and writing.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

Paths Are Made by Walking

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How long is my vision? Does it have a depth that can rival oceans? Has it curiosity akin to a child’s? Will its manifestation mean something even if I never get to see those results? These are questions I ask as I embark on a new writing project. Queries exploring the...

Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

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After I Blow the Whistle, I’m in Your Hands

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Artist-in-Reticence

A month ago, I found out that I was going to be a literary artist-in-residence. I was shocked and delighted, but also uncomfortably pleased with myself for managing to secure such an opportunity. I felt honoured. And excited. Yet an underlying sense of hubris was...

7 Things the Writing Community Can Do for You

Being part of a writing community has changed so much for me. I have been a writer my entire life, but I have almost always navigated the ocean of words on my own. Only in the last year have I come to realize what it means to my journey to have other oarsmen in the...

Why Books Are the Best Presents

Why Books Are the Best Presents

Why Books Are the Best Presents and All of Our Wins in 2018

 

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends;
they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
―Charles William Eliot

‘I’m so proud of you,’ I sniffed. I was holding the first copy of Xanti Bootcov’s memoir, But They Look So Happy which had just arrived from the printer. From screen to hands is a magical transformation. I adore the heft of paper, the gloss of print. It is a tiny miracle to have walked a path with someone from ‘I want to write a book,’ to holding the book in your hands.

‘And I am so proud of you,’ she said. ‘You did it. You really published me.’

Just as she’d never imagined she’d someday be an author, I too never quite grasped that I’d actually be publishing books and the heat of accomplishment each one would bring me.

A few weeks ago, the delivery guy said to me, ‘You sure buy a lot of books.’

Despite being in an anti-acquiring phase of my life, books have escaped this purge.

A physical book is, of course, a ‘thing,’ and you can, like me, have too many of them and run out of shelf space, which is what a Kindle is for.

But books are not ‘things’ in the manner of a nik-nak. They are not tchotchkes or ornaments. They do collect dust if you are not careful enough, but they take up space in a different way than too many vases or platters do. They are more like sculptures than trinkets. They are art. They tell the story of who we are. We are defined by what we’ve read.

 

“Our books will bear witness for or against us, our books reflect who we are and who we have been, our books hold the share of pages granted to us from the Book of Life. By the books we call ours we will be judged”
―Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

 

Even if we lose or give away a physical book, it can still stay with and in us. It has been easier for me to let go of some relationships than it has been to get rid of some books.

Books leave their traces in our hearts and minds.

The gift of a book tells someone, ‘There are treasures in here I think you will love.’ It is the most meaningful of all gifts. It is the antithesis of a voucher. It is the ultimately personal acknowledgement of the depths of another person’s humanity.

So with Christmas and Chanukah just here, we want to invite you to bookishly love your family and friends. Joanne Fedler Media has something here for everyone in your life. And let’s face it, a book is such a modest investment given the time, energy and creativity it has taken to produce it, yet it is never a ‘cheap’ gift. People always feel thought about when you give them a book.

Need something for your mother, mother-in-law, sister-who-loves-to-read or grandma-who-goes-to-bookclub?

They’ll be moved to tears by Xanti’s memoir, But They Look So Happy about Xanti’s experience of adopting two six year old orphans in Mexico. 

Or if they prefer literary fiction, my book Things Without A Name (10 year anniversary edition) is a good holiday read. It’s the story of Faith, who at the age of 34 has given up on the prospect of ever falling in love because she’s seen too many love-gone-wrong stories in her work at a women’s crisis centre. It is by far my best book – and I’d love to know what you think of it.

For the children in your life, we have two exquisite offerings – Jess Zlotnick’s What Mouse Knew and Tanya Savva’s The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo – books that encourage emotional literacy and will give you a warm chocolatey feeling as you read them.

Got a doodler in your midst? A latent creative? How about Dov Fedler’s If You Can Write, You Can Draw?

And for poetry-lovers, my 50th birthday collection, The Turning might hit the mark.

I know many of you have already purchased some (or all) of our books – so THANK YOU – your support means everything to us.

 

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

2018 has been such a huge turning point for me personally and for my team.

We have taken over 130 writers through our transformational Author Awakening Adventure.

We are currently running two overlapping Masterclasses with over 60 aspiring authors.

We’ve published 6 books with the help of the wonderful Karen McDermott of Serenity Press and The Making Magic Happen Academy.

JFM books 

And we already have a line up of books for publication in 2019.

This year we published 22 new writers on the Joanne Fedler Media blog with 29 outstandingly written blog posts, edited by our blog and content manager Jennifer Pownall, who did an awesome job.

In March we are running a 5 day live event in Sydney – The Midlife Memoir Breakthrough. We still have a few places left (at the time of writing this newsletter). While I was creating and curating the Masterclass, I learned so much about how we can shape our experiences into shareable narratives and I want to pass on these insights in an intimate group of writers.

Whenever I mentor my writers, the first question we ask is, ‘who is this book for?’ If you are still reading this newsletter, the answer is, we are writing for you.Thank you for your ongoing support to our writers and to this community.

I couldn’t have done any of this without my incredible team – thanks to Norie, Naila, Lisa, Jennifer, Zed and Jean-Marc who have executed on all my crazy ideas with so much creativity, brilliance and enthusiasm,

Finally, I was asked to write my Soul Story for Karen McDermott’s new magazine Enrich. It came out in a voice I’ve never written in before – and was one of those surprises provoked by the prompt.  I hope it inspires you to give it a go – what’s your soul story? (If you’d like to purchase copies of the magazine as stocking-fillers, you can get some here – it’s filled with other wonderful stories and special offers for readers).

May you have a blessed end to 2018.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

Swimming with Details

I just returned from a family trip to the Big Island of Hawaii where we celebrated my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. We experienced vast views of lava-filled fields against turquoise waters, watched white puffs of whale blows, cheered breaches of power, savored...

Wednesday

My heart unsteady in my throat I wake my son, curls and squinty eyes shield his face Five more minutes becomes 10 or 15 Mornings sting for the strong-willed night owl His shoulders stiff with ire Wednesdays are heavy He packs for his dad’s I tread carefully I hold my...

Ageing Songlines

I find myself wondering more and more about her warning. Is it really obscene to grow old? I mean, what are a couple of white hairs, a bit of sagging skin, leathery arms and the odd stray facial hair? Really.

Warning Signs

For a supposedly smart girl, I accepted behaviour from men that I shouldn’t have. There has never been a single horrific incident, but rather countless events I’ve dismissed as ‘nothing much.’ They go back as far as my earliest memories. Even as a toddler, I used to...

Grabbing the Reins of Creativity

I remember as a kid thinking creativity was this wild, carefree, easy-going emotion that you just got into, rather like finger-painting. But as I have started using the innovative side of my brain as an adult, I realise what a fragile, ethereal thing creativity really...

Surviving Teenagers

I call my kids to come see this YouTube video of some father in the US who ends his rant against his teenage daughter’s ‘I-hate-my-parents’ Facebook post, by emptying the barrel of a gun into her laptop. I suppose I’m hoping it’ll dawn on them I’m not such a terrible...

Why I Struggle to Share My Writing on Social Media

Why I Struggle to Share My Writing on Social Media

“You should share all your work on social,” an editor told me firmly, some years ago. And from then on, I did. Every time one of my articles was published, I dutifully posted a link to Facebook. And each time I felt miserable, as I anxiously awaited the dopamine-inducing ping of a ‘like’ or ‘share’.

It wasn’t just that one editor’s comment. My writing mentor also insisted that my social media profile was essential to getting my work out into the world. I needed to build my Personal Brand, as if I was the next Dyson, or Ben & Jerry’s. But to me, constructing my own brand felt like corporate-speak for what was really Shameless Self-Promotion.

My writing mentor admonished me when I told her how conflicted I felt. When you share your writing, you give people the chance to be touched and feel something, she emailed. Sharing your work is a gift to others, not about ego or self-promotion.

But still, I struggled.

You see in real life, I’m an introvert. I’ve always preferred having a few close friends to being part of a large group. And I don’t like being the centre of attention. But posting links to my stories on Facebook and LinkedIn catapults me right into the limelight. This leaves me feeling exposed and vulnerable, like I’ve turned up naked to a fancy dress party.

Despite my aversion to sharing my work on social, I couldn’t help myself. After posting a link to one of my articles, I’d compulsively check my Facebook page, as if a ‘like’ or ‘share’ made me happier, or a better person (it didn’t). But while I was thrilled by the positive feedback, I was deeply troubled by the ‘friends’ who stayed silent. Why hadn’t cousin Sophia ‘liked’ my article, especially when she’d ‘liked’ cousin Katie’s holiday snaps, posted just minutes earlier?

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About Elana

 

Elana Benjamin is a writer, qualified lawyer and mother of two. Her work has been published in Good Weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sunday Life, Essential Kids, Debrief Daily (now Mamamia), SBS Life and the Jewish Book Council blog. She’s also the author of the memoir/history My Mother’s Spice Cupboard: A Journey from Baghdad to Bombay to Bondi (Hybrid Publishers, 2012).

My Facebook feed, I realised, was tapping into my deepest insecurities. My fears of failure. Of rejection. Of embarrassing myself. And, perhaps most importantly, my need to be liked. I tried repeating author Steven Pressfield’s mantra: “You are not the work.” Logically, I knew this was true.  But I had difficulty separating myself from my words.

My ambivalent feelings towards social media continued for years until a few months ago, when I decided to conduct a little experiment. I’d had an article published online but decided not to share it on social. My words were in the public domain, but some of the most important people in my life didn’t know.  This felt lonely, like spending a birthday without family or friends. And I realised that by trying to shield myself from vulnerability, I was missing out on one of the most joyous parts of writing: interacting with readers.

After that, I called a ceasefire in my battle with online platforms. I still find that sharing my writing on social media dissipates my energy, but I’ve learned to tolerate the discomfort.  When I post one of my published pieces to Facebook or LinkedIn, I accept that I’ll probably feel destabilised for a day or so, like I’m on a roller-coaster ride. I force myself away from my screen, and go for a walk or a swim. Or I bake scones to eat with my kids when they get home from school.  Anything to help me feel more grounded.

These days, I know that even if people read one of my articles, they’ll soon move on to the next story. And then it will just be me and my laptop again. So I try to enjoy the fleeting moments when I connect with readers, knowing that all I can control is what I write, not how other people react. I focus on the feedback that I do get, instead of zeroing in on those virtual bystanders who don’t respond to my posts. And over time, I’ve learned to disentangle my self-esteem from the success (or lack thereof) of my writing.

Yes, social media can feel like a very public popularity contest. But Facebook and other platforms are gold when it comes to spreading our stories. The trick, I’ve learned, is to use social media as a tool to serve our individual needs as writers. We must look confidently at our Facebook and LinkedIn feeds and be clear – just as my son told me defiantly when he was four – that “You are not the boss of me.” And know that regardless of what happens in cyberspace, our worth as humans in the real world remains intact.  

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

I Am Well if You Are Well

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How long is my vision? Does it have a depth that can rival oceans? Has it curiosity akin to a child’s? Will its manifestation mean something even if I never get to see those results? These are questions I ask as I embark on a new writing project. Queries exploring the...

Right Turn

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Where Is My Writing Voice?

When I heard the question, “How do I find my writing voice?” I had this vision of searching my house. Looking behind the cushions on the couch, checking amongst the debris long forgotten in the back of my wardrobe, maybe even turning out the rubbish bin in my...

People with Passion Interview with Xanti Bootcov

People with Passion Interview with Xanti Bootcov

‘I’m terrible at spelling and my grammar is horrible,’ Xanti said to me. ‘I think I am even dyslexic. But I have a story I need to write, and I need your help.’

It has taken two and a half years of dedicated commitment, but finally, today, Joanne Fedler Media is proud to be publishing her book, But They Look So Happy, about Xanti’s experience of adopting two six-year-old boys from a Mexican orphanage. This book means so much to me because it’s the first book Joanne Fedler Media has nurtured from inception to publication. 

Xanti Bootcov - But They Look So HappyWhen they adopted their boys, Xanti and her husband knew their sons had suffered untold abuse and neglect, but they believed that love would heal all wounds. Life didn’t turn out that way. This is a heart-wrenching journey into one family’s experience of adoption as two adopted boys struggle to become part of a caring family and Xanti faces the fact that her love will forever be unrequited.

It is a heroic memoir, in which Xanti learns to value everything she gave even in the face of rejection, and will make you think about what it means to be a ‘mother’ in a completely new way.

 

PLEASE SUPPORT THIS WONDERFUL NEW AUTHOR
BY BUYING A COPY OF HER BOOK

Why She’s Fabulous

 

Xanti was born in the late ’60s and grew up in South Africa. As a little girl, she found out how powerful writing could be when her first-grade teacher asked the class to write an essay. She learned that it wasn’t a good idea to write about having a teacher who shouted all the time. It took her another forty-five years to show her writing to anyone.
 
Xanti - But They Look So Happy
She started travelling at the age of fourteen and has lived in seven countries. She learned something new from each, which has added to her eclectic lifestyle. She’s been through earthquakes, volcano eruptions and a couple of fires. But her life changed completely after she witnessed the realities of abandonment and abuse in a Mexican orphanage, and that’s when she adopted her two sons. Her experiences as an adoptive mother have shaped her view on parenting, childhood and everything else that matters.
 

Xanti is fascinated by the human psyche and longs to understand the reasons we do the things we do and it’s this perspective she applies to writing her memoir. Xanti is no ordinary person, no stereotypical ‘mother.’ She is a gypsy-hippie-lover-of-all-creatures and has a unique voice that permeates this wrenching, and honest account of her efforts to be a mother to her two boys. 

Here’s my People with Passion interview with Xanti:

If you want to learn more about Xanti, you can visit her website at www.xantibootcov.com or check out her Facebook page.

 

When Xanti and her husband adopted two six-year-old boys from a Mexican orphanage, they knew their sons had suffered untold abuse and neglect. But they couldn’t leave them where they were. Xanti believed love would heal all wounds. She was wrong. This is a heart-wrenching journey into one family’s experience of adoption as two adopted boys struggle to become part of a caring family and a mother faces the fact that her love will forever be unrequited. This is a heroic memoir by a debut author who learns to value everything she gave even in the face of rejection.

The Dynamics of Manifestation… I Get It Now

A couple of years ago, I wrote a book to help other writers get their story into the world called Your Story: how to write it so others will want to read it. My aim for it was modest – I was going to self publish it, and it would be a gift to the writers I mentor and...

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Books That Made a Difference in My Life

When I was in my early teens, my father introduced me to Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, a play for voices. I became enchanted with language.

Wednesday

My heart unsteady in my throat I wake my son, curls and squinty eyes shield his face Five more minutes becomes 10 or 15 Mornings sting for the strong-willed night owl His shoulders stiff with ire Wednesdays are heavy He packs for his dad’s I tread carefully I hold my...

Girlfriends

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Are You Using Protection?

In my early twenties, I went on a self-defence course, where I learned how to puncture someone’s Adam’s apple with a key and to perfect the knee-to-groin move should such unfriendly gestures be called for. I swallowed little pills and purchased boxes of prophylactics...

Spelling Out My Story

Spelling Out My Story

“Bernard! If you don’t stop that, I’ll go get the sack.” That was all Marie said, and her son stopped, looked up in fear, and apologised. Marie relaxed back into her seat and explained, “He knows I’ll hang him in the sack from a tree for an hour. It’s funny, he is so scared of the sack. I can get him to do anything.”

My mother’s colleague had brought her family for a Sunday BBQ and she was happily sipping on her cocktail. I sat next to my mother and thought, “When I am grown up, I don’t want to be a mommy like her. I want to be a mommy like mine. One who sits at my dolly-tea-parties and pretends to drink imaginary tea and reads bed time stories.”

As a child I was not a good reader. I was not a good writer either. If my life depended on spelling, it would have had a very sad outcome. I would carefully write the words that I actually knew how to spell. And I used up a lot of energy finding ways to trick my teachers into believing that I had bad handwriting over bad spelling habits. That was until I was sixteen years old and an English teacher told me to stop focusing on spelling. Grammar, he said, was for cowards. “I want to know the story. If I can’t imagine it, then no good-spelling is going to get me there anyway.”

I took his words as gospel and I began to tell stories.

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About Xanti

Xanti was born in South Africa in the late ’60s. She enjoys travelling around the world, which is why she has lived in seven different countries. She believes in equality for all people. Xanti gave up on a single career path when it became necessary to choose between travel and career. After seeing the shadows and the light of abandonment and abuse, she adopted her two children. She has always been interested in understanding why people do what they do. This helped her when her experiences as an adoptive mother shaped her view on parenting.  She’s been through earthquakes, a volcano erupting and a couple of fires. Currently, Xanti lives in Mauritius but continues to travel the world whenever possible.

You can visit her website at www.xantibootcov.com
Or her Facebook page.

As a mother desperately trying to find the middle ground between the dreaded sack and the imaginary tea-parties, I turned to writing to get me out of some of my saddest moments. I was a mother who felt like I was failing every test, but I found acceptance and healing in the words I banged out on my keyboard. My spelling was bad. I couldn’t grasp the active voice and I wasn’t even sure if I could remember an adverb from a pronoun, but write I did. Tears dripped some days. Giggles filled the house on others.

I found meaning and understanding, and I found my place in my story. Don’t get me wrong, I still think spelling and grammar are important. There is a whole world of meaning between “a part” and “apart”. Don’t even get me started on the difference between “your” and you’re”, but here is the thing: Words are important. How could you explain that your heart is sore if you don’t know the word for heart? How would you say that you are in love if you didn’t have the language to express the emotion?

As for my parenting skills? Well, you’ll have to ask my children if I ever brought out the sack. I know I tried to give my children the best life I could offer. I know I had good days and I know I had bad ones. Days where I succeeded and days when I felt I was worse than the tree-sack-hanger. But through all of that, I repeated the same message that I was given all those decades ago. Let me hear your story. Tell me your story. Write your story.

Give it a try and maybe you will find yourself in between the lines. Or even more meaningful, perhaps someone else will find themselves between your paragraphs. What could be better than that?

Being able to spell onomatopoeia?

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

A Harvest of Hindsight: My top 10 insights about publishing for aspiring authors

My being here is actually not about me. It’s about you. My new book is about you – and your story. So I thought what would be the most helpful input I could give you, as an unpublished author at this point in your writing journey. Here are my top 10 insights or lessons that I’ve learned over the past 12 years as a published author. Things I wish I’d known. A harvest of hindsight in the hope that it will help you to get more quickly where you want to go.

Bringing Inequality Back into the Bedroom

I came to marriage by a circuitous route. As a radical feminist, I avoided it, certain it was for unintelligent girls who had no aspirations to travel or write books. I was never going to be ‘given away’ or called ‘Mrs’ Someone Else’s Surname. Working with abused...

One Story in an Immeasurable Community

Some years back, when I had half the number of children I do now and half the ache in my heart, I found my first writing community. It was at the Centre for the Book, a historically solid structure in the middle of Cape Town, close to the austere buildings which...

The Biggest Birthday Yet

Good lord, it is two days to my 50th birthday. I am not ready to own such a majestic number, never mind have to blow out that many birthday candles. Also, it means I have to stop ‘turning’ 50 and just be 50. I have literally devoted my entire 49th year to getting to...

What Writers Can Learn from a Cake Mix

In the 1950s, General Mills launched cake mix under the Betty Crocker brand. Everything was in powdered form. It was aimed at the busy housewife – all she had to do was add water and bake. But surprisingly, the cake mix didn’t sell. A team of psychologists was brought...

What One Special Mother Did to Bring the World Alive for Her Blind Daughter

What sort of people do we want to be? What sort of people do we want to raise? The answer to both these questions came to me when Tanya Savva approached me with her children’s book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo. I created Little Wings Books, the children’s book...