Monthly Archives: August 2021

Operation Oysterhood: 20-22 August

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

A visitor in my Mom’s garden. Last winter, she thought that she was feeding hedgehogs in the back of her house, until she discovered that she was actually making a family of rats very happy. Fittingly so, in the end, as we are family, but she did freak out a bit (for those who do not know: szczurek = little rat). It was good to see that the hedgehogs also survived.

This weekend, after a relatively busy Friday, I acted pretty much like the above hedgehog, curled up, spikes out, and not too eager to engage. I read a lot, mourned the end of Roger’s and Rafa’s 2021 season, watched mindless television, co-planned a new literary prize with wonderful people (yes, because I have so little on my plate and need to keep myself busy ;)) and went for a long walk along the Promenade with my love.

On Saturday, my love treated me to our LAST MEAL (!!!) at the famous The Test Kitchen, which is closing its divinely-delicious doors soon.

Every bite will be remembered with great fondness, especially the dill ice cream – you have not lived until you have tasted dill ice cream!

It feels like the following should not be simply part of a blog post on quotidian matters, but a book on its own (and I have been writing it for years now, so perhaps one day it will see the light of publication …), yet it is what it is: an integrated part of so many of our lives:

Today, Sunday, was filled with anger, and deep sadness. Thando Mgqolozana’s partner accused him publicly of horrific abuse. The literary community is mostly reacting in support of the brave Thabisa, and I hope that her loved ones will be able to keep her safe and help her find a way out of this hell and into healing. And even though I do not know her personally, I want to emphasise how much I admire what she did.

I have been thinking back to an incident quite a long time ago when I challenged Thando over something close to my heart in private – perhaps inadequately, but sincerely – and I have never forgotten his reaction, in words only, but words can be as powerful as fists. I did disclose to a few close friends at the time and made sure never to interact with him again, but that is where it ended for me. We so often create these whisper networks to protect one another, but whispers are not enough to stop monsters – they thrive on our silences – and only a few of their victims are brave enough to go public and accuse those who violate them.

I have tried, and mostly failed, to go up against abusive men’s influence in the literary community – in the world – and I still live with the consequences. That book is growing, i.e. festering, inside me.

I admire Thabisa’s courage. Deeply. I believe her.

To end on an uplifting, truly enriching literary story: I have been reading the anthology Our Ghosts Were Once People, edited by Bongani Kona. Many of my favourite local authors, including Bongani himself, contributed, and the book is beautiful. All the pieces I have read so far are enlightening, exquisitely written, and even if they have death and sometimes horror and trauma at their centre, there is something gentle and soothing in the storytelling. That is the gift of great writers.

Karin Schimke in Our Ghosts Were People Once, edited by Bongani Kona

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 19 August

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

The DISRUPTION endpapers :)

I did not want to post the picture yesterday before Rachel had an opportunity first. This book is going to be a collector’s item! Get a copy of the first edition before it sells out.

A morning of quiet reading, but the rest of the day was unpredictably busy (apart from a long, heart-warming Skype conversation with an author). We are reprinting An Island, again. It is now flying off the shelves. I can only hope that readers will give all Karavan Press titles a chance, because they are all ‘Booker’-type-recognition-worthy in their own way. And I am proud of having published each single one of them.

On the personal front, a celebration: Salieri has been on her thyroid diet for a week! Such a relief.

Dinner with my love to end the day. Now, a hot shower and bed. Sleep has not been easy again, but not too bad either. A lot is happening. A deep breath.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 18 August

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Anyone who has read Lester Walbrugh’s writing knows what an excellent author he is, but did you know that he can also bake the most incredible bread? I met up with Lester in the afternoon to discuss his debut novel, which we will be publishing at Karavan Press early next year (triple hurray!), and he gave me one of his freshly baked breads as a gift. It was still warm when I held it in my hands and it smelled so good in the car on my way back home from Grabouw that it might not have survived the journey had I not eaten just beforehand. We met at Liberty Books and briefly said hello to Christy, the amazing owner of the bookshop, before settling down for our discussion next door at the Peregrine Farmstall – one of my favourite places in the area. Lester’s novel is also set in these surroundings, and it is chillingly brilliant … Details to follow :)

I was at the printers’ on a secret mission earlier today and accidently saw SSDA’s Disruption in the making. Can’t wait for this book to be ready. It will be the only book with my name on the cover (and it is another striking one designed by Megan Ross) this year. I co-edited the anthology with Rachel Zadok and Jason Snyman. The stories will blow you away. And wait until you see the endpapers!

Another session with my counsellor. The stuff that is coming up … but the way she guides me through the process is gentle and perfect for what I need, especially now.

Tomorrow should be the first quiet(er) day of the working week. I hope.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 17 August

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

When your friend is an artist :)

Tour the Cape: Paarden Eiland, Parow, Greenpoint, Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Simon’s Town and Lakeside. The sun was shining and Glinka was playing on FMR and talk radio was great company in the car. The only calm, motionless hour of the day was coffee with my friend Debbie, who is a wonderful artist and her artworks – from a simple sketch to an elaborate oil painting – always make me happy. Today, she gave me the above sketch and made coffee for me in front of her fireplace.

An Island reprint ready for distribution.

In the evening, a quiet, simple dinner with my love – I cooked fish for us and had to smuggle the leftovers into the house without Salieri noticing. We have five full days of the special diet behind us and we are doing better and better with every day. I am so proud of her.

Haiti, Afghanistan, climate change disasters. I am aware. I am reading. But it is too much to comprehend.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 16 August

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

A bottle of pink bubbly has been shared earlier tonight at the Vineyard to celebrate these two women – Dawn Garisch and Joanne Hichens – their incredible books and their nominations for the 2021 Sunday Times/CNA Awards. We are a great team – we made it all happen. Years of dreaming and hard work.

Otherwise Monday was very Mondayish, but I did not chase after the refuse truck when I forgot to put out the bin this morning. I just remained in my warm bed with Salieri and Glinka purring gently next to me, and I simply let the truck come and go while sipping on my second cup of coffee and listening to the radio. Some things can wait another week. Meditation is working out for me! ;) (I did sleep through the night again, with no TV background noise – that’s gigantic progress!)

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 15 August

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

A socially distanced Sunday lunch: I braaied for my family today – my love and friends. It was the first time that I had to handle so much food on a braai at once, and it went … surprisingly well. Thank goodness only one person was watching, though – it wasn’t all exactly by the book. We had the perfect weather for an afternoon in the garden, and The Cats enjoyed having us there. Although it was difficult to explain to Salieri why she had to eat her boring, healthy food when there was sausage on the braai. I made up for it in the late afternoon by spending the rest of the day in bed watching TV with Salieri sleeping on my lap.

I read another book in the morning. The hunger for reading is back. Finally. And I have slept for three nights straight again, although the last one was with Mama TV on throughout the night. Oh, well – whatever works.

A good Sunday.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 14 August

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

I met with a Princess on Skype today: we celebrated her birthday with a glass of pink bubbly.

It is still a few days away, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY, dearest Sally! Love, health and many more great books!

The morning before the celebration was spent reading (yep, finished the book!) and trying to coax Salieri to eat. A more difficult day in this respect than yesterday, but we are somehow managing.

Late Skype lunch with Mom and Krystian, a lovely phone conversation with my friend Debbie, and rugby and dinner with my love.

I received a really nice message from a reader of Invisible Others today. It’s hard to believe that it was published already seven years ago. It makes my heart smile to think that people are still finding and enjoying it. Thank you!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 13 August

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

It was all about food: Salieri’s and ours. The day started off badly – with syringes and my desperation – but by noon, Salieri was eating the special thyroid food on her own, and most importantly: visibly enjoying it. I think the trick was the temperature, either room or slightly higher. She does not want the stuff straight out of the fridge. Full success. I broke out into a horrible rendition of “Ode to Joy” several times during the afternoon. My poor neighbours.

My love and I could celebrate tonight with a feast at The Hoghouse and what a feast it was. It all went very well with a pint of their porter, my favourite of their wonderful beers. And I brought some goodies home that are going to keep me happy throughout the weekend :)

The best pastéis de nata in town, and way beyond, me thinks.

The rest of the day was work and … READING! Yes, two mornings of reading in a row. I finished a manuscript that I hope to publish, and tomorrow, I will finish a novel I have been ‘reading’ for weeks. It feels good to be able to focus.

A friend phoned at lunchtime and we spoke about lottery wins and travel – the days we could just go places without giving it much thought …

I also met with one of my authors on Skype to discuss ‘what’s next’. It’s a good question in all respects. But since yesterday, I have been thinking about the advice David Duchovny got from one of his teachers: ‘You don’t have to go back.’

Two more weeks until my second jab. Fully vaccinated by mid-September. Just imagine!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 12 August

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Typing with Salieri

A scatterbrain kind of day despite an unusually restful night and a morning with Meditative Story – an episode with David Duchovny, who, it appears, is also a novelist. In the past, I loved fiction written by Ethan Hawks, Carrie Fisher and James Franco. I hope to add Duchovny to the list. Time for another visit to the Book Lounge to order some books.

Today, I confused the time of a meeting, forgot a promise I made, wanted to reply to an email I’d already answered on Wednesday – and so it went on, BUT, in the end, all was well and a lot got done.

Salieri and I did not have an ideal day. Special diets have never worked for either of us, so I shouldn’t be surprised that we are both struggling to adapt. Big sigh. We hope for a better day tomorrow.

My love and I are trying out new foods/dishes with more success and tonight’s dinner was purely vegetarian. But tomorrow night we return to a favourite restaurant. Table booked and I can’t wait.

Together with Michael King and Masande Ntshanga, I recently spoke to Nancy Richards about sixty years of Contrast/New Contrast and the future of the magazine. You can listen to the BooksStoriesPeople episode here: “MICHAEL KING, KARINA SZCZUREK & MASANDE NTSHANGA – By complete Contrast”

The latest issue of New Contrast, Winter 2021, no 194

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 11 August

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Karavan Press is going to be a home not only for Karavan Press books, but also for other titles in need of local distribution. Today, I met briefly with the first author whose books we will be distributing and she gave me a bunch of beautiful proteas to celebrate. I loved both her books as a reader, and it will be a great pleasure to represent them on the local market.

The rest of the day was one meeting and errand after another, all ending with good news for the present and the immediate future, but by the time I got home, there was no time left to cook dinner and my love and I ended up at HARU – always a treat.

I found a 20c coin today. And had an enlightening session with my counsellor. I haven’t slept properly for a week again now, but maybe tonight is the night. It’s up and down, up and down. Salieri and I are struggling to get her diet right, but I consulted with the vet today and I hope that I can implement the new strategy starting tomorrow.

Nearly six hundred Covid-deaths in the last twenty-four hours. The third wave nightmare continues.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD