Blown Away by Books

Dear Readers,

I will be chairing a session at Blown Away by Books, taking place at the Fish Hoek Library between 15 and 17 September. On Friday, I will be speaking with Sara-Jayne Makwala King, Erika Bornman and Cathy Park Kelly about their remarkable, brave memoirs.

Please see the full programme of the festival here: Blown Away by Books

Love,

Karina

Woman Zone interview with Louisa Treger

I interviewed Louisa Treger about her life and books, including her latest, Madwoman (Bloomsbury, 2022) for Woman Zone. Always a great joy to talk to Louisa – an amazing woman writing about other amazing women!

You can listen to the podcast here:

Artscape Conversations – Woman Zone Stories

Book review: Madwoman by Louisa Treger

“If Hell existed in the universe, it was right here,” Nellie Bly thinks to herself only a few days into her confinement on Blackwell’s Island. It is 1887, and the asylum, just off the coast of New York, is “a socially acceptable way of disposing with inconvenient women”. The difference between Nellie and the other women locked up in this hell on earth is that she is there of her own free will. Bly faked insanity to be admitted. She is one of the most dangerous of “inconvenient women” — one with a voice. Madwoman is her story.

Continue reading: Sunday Times

Madwoman ★★★★★
Louisa Treger
Bloomsbury, 2022

Open Book Festival 2022

Vanya Gastrow, Pie-Pacifique Kabalira-Uwase and Fred Khumalo speak to Karina Szczurek about the ongoing vulnerability of foreign nationals in South Africa.

A topic close to my heart. I can’t wait to talk to these remarkable people/authors about their lives and work.

Book your ticket here: Webtickets

Oudrif: The blessings of rain

You could hear the earth sighing with relief and the river bursting with longing. It’s not often that you get to experience rain at Oudrif, even when you are regulars like us. Last weekend, we had a whole rainy day, but also sunshine and warmth and the glory of the flower season all around.

A different kind of light, of being.

We rested, read, went for walks, ate like royalty and returned home with a little bit of calm in our hearts and heads.

And then, there was Jack, one of the rescues from the last CLAWS project I had the privilege to assist with. When he was found, he was barely alive: skeleton and skin, sores all over, starving to death. Seeing him, I did not believe that he would make it. Yet … this weekend, not even a month later, we went for a walk together. His muscles are still learning how to do that – walk, run, play. He is three years old, but all he knew before Jeanine rescued him was a short rope around his neck and a small, merciless enclosure. Despite everything he has suffered through, Jack is full of love and trust, and when he is ready to be adopted after his convalescence in Oudrif, the humans of his forever home will be very lucky to have his beautiful presence in their lives.

If you would like to support Jeanine and CLAWS and at the same time stand a chance to experience the restorative magic of Oudrif for yourself, among other fabulous prizes, you can enter the CLAWS Raffle. Every R50 donated to CLAWS is an entry – it is also the potential to save an animal’s life.

Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society 

FNB ACCOUNT 629 2008 5504 | Branch 250655

Reference: raffle & email address or send POP to clanclaws AT gmail DOT com | WhatsApp: 083 381 0030

Rosebank Writers Cape Town: Our first event

The Rosebank Writers are a group of writers living and working in Rosebank, Cape Town. We meet once a week on Saturday at 11am at the Alma Café in Alma Road, Rosebank, and talk about our current projects, struggles, achievements and writing and publishing in general. From the onset, we have wanted to not only support one another, but also South African writers in general and to open the space we have created to other writers and readers interested in what we do. Discussions, launches, readings open to the public were always part of the plan for the group, and it gives me great pleasure to invite you to our first event on Saturday, 20 August, at 11am – at the Alma Café, of course. We wanted to celebrate Women’s Month with a discussion about mothers. The authors participating are both longlisted for the Sunday Times Literary Awards this year and have written two remarkable books about mothers. We look forward to seeing you there.

Madwoman by Louisa Treger to be launched at Exclusive Books Cavendish and I get to ask the questions … :)

Please join us for this launch. I look forward to talking to Louisa about her life, writing and her latest stunning novel, Madwoman, which tells the remarkable story of Nellie Bly.

Description

‘A moving story’ SUNDAY TIMES, Best historical fiction books of 2022
‘A must read!’ GILL PAUL
‘Intriguing … A fascinating read’ HAZEL GAYNOR
‘Remarkable’ ESSIE FOX
‘An astonishing tour de force’ REBECCA MASCULL

In 1887 young Nellie Bly sets out for New York and a career in journalism, determined to make her way as a serious reporter, whatever that may take.

But life in the city is tougher than she imagined. Down to her last dime and desperate to prove her worth, she comes up with a dangerous plan: to fake insanity and have herself committed to the asylum that looms on Blackwell’s Island. There, she will work undercover to document – and expose – the wretched conditions faced by the patients.

But when the asylum door swings shut behind her, she finds herself in a place of horrors, governed by a harshness and cruelty she could never have imagined. Cold, isolated and starving, her days of terror reawaken the traumatic events of her childhood. She entered the asylum of her own free will – but will she ever get out?

An extraordinary portrait of a woman way ahead of her time, Madwoman is the story of a quest for the truth that changed the world.

‘Madwoman is one of the best, a magnificent portrayal of Nelly Bly in all her journalistic integrity and daring’ New York Journal of Books

Louisa is also the author of:

Can’t wait! Hope to see you there :)

CLAWS: Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society

Love me!

The little boy did not know what was wrong with his listless puppy. But he knew who Jeanine Mitchell was and that she would help.

clawsbig

I met Jeanine at Oudrif. She and her husband Bill own and run the place I always return to. I think part of my soul never really leaves Oudrif, so I have to go there to feel whole. Each time I visit, I meet other fascinating guests, and animals. Jeanine fosters cats and dogs who can no longer be taken care of for whatever reason by their original families and she finds new homes for them. She is the project manager at CLAWS: Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society. Between 12 and 14 July, CLAWS, together with the remarkable Cape Town vet Dr Annelize Roos, organised another Pet Sterilisation Project in the greater Clanwilliam area.

The Pet Sterilisation Projects focus on the vaccination and sterilisation of disadvantaged dogs and cats to prevent more unwanted pets and feral colonies occurring in this sensitive environment. (The greatest threat to African Wild Cat is hybridisation with pet and feral cats.)

Jeanine and her team of volunteers pick up the animals from their homes or trap them if they are feral and take them to a building (neglected and grotesquely looted, but beggars can’t be choosers – that is the only place on offer to the Pet Sterilisation Projects at the moment) on the outskirts of Clanwilliam near the sports stadium. There, they are vaccinated or/and sterilised by Dr Roos and her team, and those who need to recover after an op are taken care of by more volunteers at the venue. Anyone who wants to have their pet(s) vaccinated or/and sterilised and can transport their animal(s) themselves, will also be assisted at the venue. People from the entire area arrive throughout the three days. Only those who can afford to are asked to pay the full fees for the services. Others make small donations, if they can. Everyone is assisted.

No electricity, no running water, no toilets, but everyone makes it all work no matter what the challenges (including the generator blowing up and damaging operating equipment, and threats of break-ins at night from the tik-addicts in the area). It’s brutal, but the community rallies around the Pet Sterilisation Projects and all you encounter are smiling faces wherever you look, even after everything goes wrong. Because in the end, nothing really does. Dedication and passion save the day every single time.

The Three Volunteers :)

In my small capacity, I have been supporting these Projects through all avenues of donation – and with books, Karavan Press’s and my own, which you can buy at Oudrif and all the money from the sales goes towards CLAWS – for as long as I have been visiting Oudrif. But, this year I decided to volunteer as well and went up to Clanwilliam for the three days to assist in whichever way I could.

For Jeanine, these three days mean 14 to 18 hours of work daily. It’s relentless. She has assistance only for part of the time. But she never loses her energy or her cool. Her patience and care – for the animals, their humans and the people she guides and works with – are astounding. She knows how to make a plan. I felt out of my depth most of the time and made many mistakes, but she gently taught me and all the others to step up and help to the best of our abilities. There is a gigantic responsibility involved, and life and death situations occur where the wrong decision or action can have dire consequences. Around 200 patients were attended to during the Project. Only one animal arrived too late to be saved. All others were helped, returned home or adopted. The listless puppy abandoned into Jeanine’s care by the helpless little boy could no longer stand properly on his little paws when we found the two, but with a little bit of food, the proper medication, a bath, and all the love around, within a day, the puppy was already going for a walk with me, barking to demand attention and wagging his tail with excitement. Jeanine will foster him at Oudrif where I am sure he will charm the pants off all the current visitors until he is fully recovered and ready to be adopted. He will have one more adult doggy companion getting treatment and healing at Oudrif after this Project.

All other abandoned animals who arrived at CLAWS’s doorstep this time found new homes already during the three days we were there.

Successful adoptions.

In the years that the Pet Sterilisation Projects have been up and running, the team has been able to vaccinate and sterilise thousands of animals. Singlehandedly, Jeanine has also saved many lives of animals who were sick and dying because of abandonment or lack of appropriate care. CLAWS is active throughout the year, helping people to deworm, vaccinate, sterilise and heal their animals. They use the opportunity to educate the general population about animal care issue. During a recent canine distemper virus outbreak, Jeanine and CLAWS were on the frontlines trying to assist (you can read the Daily Maverick article about the outbreak: “Virus has swept through Western Cape town of Clanwilliam, causing death and suffering to dozens of dogs”). She raises the funds to make this all happen from donations or out of her own pocket. At Oudrif, she makes compassion bracelets and handmade beauty products that are sold to raise funding and awareness, while Oudrif supplies logistical and financial support. In Cape Town, you can buy the beauty products at The Hoghouse. I love the liquid and solid soaps and the lotions, and my home is never without them, but there is so much more to choose from.

The most efficient way to support CLAWS is a direct donation:

Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society, FNB account 629 2008 5504, branch 250655.

They are a registered NPO.

I will be going to Oudrif again in August and will be taking cat/dog food, blankets, sheets, towels, cushions and hot water bottles (all needed during recovery) with me. If you can donate any of these things, please get in touch with me and I will pick them up from you (in Cape Town) and take it all with me. Everything helps! The next Pet Sterilisation Project will take place later this year. It makes a huge difference, to the animals and the communities they live in.

Please hug your Furry Family from me. The Cats send their purrs.

Second Life Book Club: A conversation with Karina M. Szczurek

This should be fun! 15 June 2022, 9PM (South African time): Second Life Book Club with Draxtor

Here are some shots from my first visit to the Second Life Book Club, when I had my tutorial on how it all works.

My avatar’s ears wiggle :) She is a real Szczurek.