Category Archives: Media

Operation Oysterhood: 4 April

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

— @HaggardHawks

From midnight South Africa will no longer be in a state of disaster. Some transitional regulations will remain in place before we are solely guided during the remainder of the pandemic in terms of the National Health Act.

750 days since the state of disaster was declared. 738 since the lockdown began. It all ends tonight, apart from the pandemic.

And completely coincidently, I am home alone again. My love is back at his place, and my lovely houseguest is on a flight to Europe (she no longer required a PCR test to board the plane home).

Not an ordinary Monday.

But after weeks of no shows or delayed appearances, the refuse truck was back on time this morning. And, as for the past thirteen weeks, I went to see Joanne to write with her today – and three other writers; our group is growing – again. My memoir is growing, too. And as I go along, it is all falling into place. I am encountering challenges every week, but every week solutions present themselves alongside the challenges and I am soldiering on. It is an intellectual, creative and emotionally volatile battle field.

I did some research about Carlos Alcaraz Garfia’s historic Miami Open win, and while reading up on it, I came across a former tennis player I really enjoyed watching on court before he retired from the sport a while ago: Alexandr Dolgopolov, who was born in Kyiv and returned to Ukraine now during the war. I clicked on his social media accounts and saw his outrage and despair. He mentioned the five Ukrainian women who were raped and murdered by Russian soldiers. I do not know why since the war in Ukraine started I – totally naively – did not think of one of the oldest weapons of war. I should have known that rape would become part of this horrific story, but Alexandr’s brief mention of the crime caught me unawares. And all day today, no matter what else was happening, I have been walking around feeling wounded. Writing about violation only exacerbated the feeling of helplessness, and disconnect. I know women are raped all around me, every day, relentlessly. Yet, there’s something about the layers of trauma – loss of control and narrative – that a madman, a war, displacement and all imaginable violations of human dignity, integrity and freedom bring into one’s life, no matter how distant, that are beyond grasp. That wound.

I am grappling to find words to articulate the horror, even though I am writing from my relatively safe space, my home. Surrounded by love, purrs and kindness. I understand that my words change nothing. I am just grateful. I am still here. I’ve survived the pandemic. No soldier is knocking on my door. I will never take that for granted.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please. Live.

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


Interview with a former refugee, Karina Szczurek

LitNet: You were a refugee, fleeing from an oppressive regime. Please share with us what those thousands of women and children who are now seeking refuge must feel like?

Karina Szczurek: I was a child when my parents decided to flee Poland in the 1980s. My brother was six and I was ten at the time. It was very difficult to comprehend what was happening to us, but at least we were secure in the knowledge that our parents were with us at all times and would take care of us, no matter what. Our lives were never in danger. Watching Ukrainian parents evacuate their children to safety while staying behind to fight for their future breaks my heart. I cannot imagine the levels of anxiety and distress this kind of separation causes for a family. These people will never fully recover from this, even if they survive.

LitNet: Do you know Ukraine at all?

Karina Szczurek: A little bit. I spent three weeks in the beautiful Lviv on a student exchange in 1997. We also travelled outside this historic city. It was a formative experience. During these three weeks, I experienced for the first time the real closeness of the two languages – Polish and Ukrainian – met Charlotte, who remains a very dear friend, and discovered my love for opera and ballet at the stunning Ivan Franko Lviv State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet (renamed since then). I specifically remember how friendly and welcoming everyone I met there was, and I will never forget their delicious black bread (I couldn’t get enough of it).

Continue reading: LitNet

Operation Oysterhood: 4 October

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

— @HaggardHawks

Until I heard the 6.30pm news, it seemed like a typical Monday. Work, work, work. At the end of the day, I took my love’s cat to the vet for her monthly injections and discussed the next steps of Salieri’s recovery with him – no op yet, we are continuing with the diet and monitoring the situation. I heard the news on the way back: Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are down. Still, hours later, while I am writing. I have never really been on Facebook (apart from ages ago for a few hours – which was enough for me to decide against it). I have never been on WhatsApp, not even for a second. But all those nice photographs I have posted on Instagram over the past two years … It is weird to think that all of it is inaccessible and might be gone, maybe even forever.

The thought crossed my mind that I better start printing my blog – just in case.

Twitter is busy tonight!

I have only taken one photograph today, of a freshly sharpened pencil. It feels strangely prophetic.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local. Get vaccinated, please.

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


Operation Oysterhood: 5 June

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

— @HaggardHawks

In the end it was popcorn and cheap red Spanish wine, and Sarah Moss’s Summerwater in the hot bathtub. One-and-a-half hours in the bath, and the little bit of loadshedding darkness that was left afterwards we spent in bed. We slept well for the rest of the night.

Saturday morning continued in bed with the Cat Ladies and another manuscript submitted to Karavan Press. As always, Salieri eventually fell asleep on the job. But it wasn’t because of the manuscript, which is tense and harrowing reading because of the traumatic story it tells. We hope to finish reading it tomorrow.

We spent the early afternoon in the garden, mowing grass, weeding, cleaning the pool, chopping wood and sweeping. This time Mr Mozart and the Prince Frog (camera-shy as always) joined the party.

Then it was time for a late leftover lunch and some tennis before I made my way to my love’s house for more tennis and a simple, delicious dinner and more laziness in front of the TV.

Sad literary news: the Woordfees was cancelled yesterday. Two of Karavan Press authors were supposed to feature on the programme. Bummer. But I think I have an idea, or two. I am starved for bookish conversations that do not involve computer screens.

Jeanette Winterson – whose work I treasure – burned the latest editions of her novels because she did not like their new blurbs. Her actions are difficult to understand or defend, especially in the context of the history of book burning, but we might not know all the essential details of the story, so maybe our stones have been cast too soon. The reports about the book burning made me remember the only time I burned a book. A combination of utter helplessness and rage led me to it. The act itself felt sacrilegious and incredibly empowering at the same time, and I would do it again any day, but only to this one author and this one book. Fortunately, it is out of print anyway, so it won’t be necessary.

Sometime you actually have to be a witch to survive.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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


COUNTRY LIFE Podcast: Author Karina Szczurek interviewed by Nancy Richards

“In a translucently honest and open-hearted gesture, Karina Szczurek shares letters of love, hope and intimacy between herself and writer André Brink, in a book that, unwittingly, they wrote together.”

Read and listen here: COUNTRY LIFE PODCAST


Thank you, Nancy Richards & Country Life (I will miss the magazine very much!).

Longlist of the SSDA Prize for short fiction announced


The 2018 Short Story Day Africa longlist:

  • ‘The Satans Inside My Jimmy’ by Harriet Anena (Uganda)
  • ‘The Jollof Cook-off’ by Nkiacha Atemnkeng (Cameroon)
  • ‘The Last Resident’ by Jayne Bauling (South Africa)
  • ‘Mr Thompson’ by Noel Cheruto (Kenya)
  • ‘The Layover’ by Anna Degenaar (South Africa)
  • ‘A Miracle In Valhalla’ by Nnamdi Fred (Nigeria)
  • ‘Of Birds and Bees’ by Davina Kawuma (Uganda)
  • ‘Maintenance Check’ by Alinafe Malonje (Malawi)
  • ‘Why Don’t You Live in the North?’ by Wamuwi Mbao (South Africa)
  • ‘Slow Road to the Winburg Hotel’ by Paul Morris (South Africa)
  • ‘The Snore Monitor’ by Chido Muchemwa (Zimbabwe)
  • ‘Outside Riad Dahab’ by Chourouq Nasri (Morocco)
  • ‘Broken English’ by Adorah Nworah (Nigeria)
  • ‘Queens’ Children’s Little Feet’ by Godwin Oghenero Estella (Nigeria)
  • ‘Door of No Return’ by Natasha Omokhodion-Banda (Zambia)
  • ‘An Abundance of Lies’ by Faith Oneya (Kenya)
  • ‘The Match’ by Troy Onyango (Kenya)
  • ‘Supping at the Fountain of Lethe’ by Bryony Rheam (Zimbabwe)
  • ‘Happy City Hotel’ by Adam El Shalakany (Egypt)
  • ‘The Space(s) Between Us’ by Lester Walbrugh (South Africa)
  • ‘Shithole’ by Michael Yee (South Africa)

Congratulations to all Writers!

Dear Readers, You are in for a treat! For more info about the prize see: Short Story Day Africa. To read more about the longlist, head over to the Joburg Review of Books.

You Make Me Possible reviewed on LitNet

btr“Biography lovers may despair that the internet is making it improbable that biographers will still discover old, forgotten letters in dusty attics, revealing juicy secrets about celebrities. It still remains a problem when writers discard electronic records of their correspondence, but this book proves that emails can be every bit as romantic as old-fashioned letters, and all the more immediate.”

— Elkarien Fourie

Read the entire review here: LitNet.


Karen JenningsKaren Jennings is a South African, married to a Brazilian, and in September of 2015, due to various circumstances, they were compelled to move from South Africa to Brazil. It has been a challenging and difficult time for Karen. Perhaps most difficult has been feeling removed from the country of her birth, a place that she loves and had hoped always to be part of. This year she started to look at her life and consider how she could realistically be involved in the future of her country, in even the smallest of ways, at the distance and without the benefit of any sort of income to assist her. She was inspired by the organisers of Short Story Day Africa and Writivism who work incredibly hard to bring opportunities to African writers. With this in mind, she has decided to offer a mentorship/writing course to an aspiring writer for a period of 12 weeks, starting on 1 April 2019.


And here are two of my reviews of Karen Jennings’s work:

Travels with My Father – An Autobiographical Novel by Karen Jennings

Space Inhabited by Echoes by Karen Jennings

If you are an aspiring writer, please apply. This is a rare opportunity to work with someone who is passionate about what we do and who truly cares.