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FLUID: FREEDOM TO BE – Free short story webinars in preparation for entering the Short.Sharp.Stories competition

We are thrilled to invite you to join Short.Sharp.Stories and All About Writing for two free online short story webinars. They are designed to provide guidance and support to writers who wish to enter the Short.Sharp.Stories competition:


The sessions are aimed at encouraging new and emerging writers to enter FLUID, as well as to hone their craft.

Register now for both sessions!

Session 1: What is a story and how to write one

Thursday 20 October 2022
17:30 to 19:30 South Africa Time

Hosts Joanne Hichens and Karina Szczurek will focus on the aspects of short story writing, with a particular aim to encourage emerging writers to understand the elements necessary in the creation of a short story. This session will include a mini-workshop, to spark ideas for a story based on the theme FLUID: Freedom To Be. Have a notebook and pen handy.

Session 2: Short Story Q and A

Thursday 3 November 2022
17:30 to 19:30 South Africa Time

In this session we’ll answer questions and field problems. Participants will be encouraged to send in questions beforehand.

During this time we’ll also do a warm-up writing exercise, focus on showing not telling, the cornerstone of good fiction writing.

Short.Sharp.Stories is a proven platform showcasing top and emerging South African writers. However, we welcome all writers over the age of 18, no matter your background or experience, to send in short stories. FLUID seeks to engage fictional expression around identity, culture and society.

Every published writer will receive an honorarium of R 2 000, with a Grand Winner to receive R 10 000. Additional awards will be given at the discretion of Short.Sharp.Stories.

Register now!

The sessions will be recorded for anyone unable to make it on the day.

The Competition

Click here for further information and to download the entry form.

About the facilitators

Joanne Hichens, author and editor, lives in Cape Town. Her crime novels are Out to Score (co-written), Divine Justice, published in the United States, and Sweet Paradise. Her young adult novels, Stained and Riding the Wave, were both shortlisted for the Sanlam Literature Award. Her memoir, Death and the After Partiesexplores the passing of Joanne’s mother, husband, father and mother-in-law within a short period of time, and examines all that happens after death: emotional frenzy, funerals, family strife – the fighting and loving.

Karina Szczurek is an author and founder of Karavan Press. Her debut novel, Invisible Others (2014), was longlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize. Her memoir The Fifth Mrs Brinkabout her experiences being married to prominent South African novelist Andre Brink, was published in 2017 and You Make Me Possible: The Love Letters of Karina M. Szczurek and André Brink was published in 2018.

Karavan Press aims to publish books they are passionate about, of any genre and any length. They nurture authors and their creativity, establish strong bonds between their writers and readers, and offer a literary home for those who treasure words and stories. Excellence, integrity, and their love for the book as an object are the cornerstones of Karavan Press.

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.


‘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 :)

Operation Oysterhood: 24 January

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

— @HaggardHawks

My birthday week begins. Best present: Mom and my love got their booster shots and both feel fine.

Present to myself: writing. My beautiful friend Joanne and I decided to meet once a week for a morning of writing and just sit together in a room and do nothing but write and then have a simple lunch together and chat. Last week, I felt like the words were flying off my fingertips. This week they were flying on steroids. It is an amazing feeling to write again – to write the book which has been burning in me for over five years. Finally, it’s happening.

Monday is also household duties day, so I did a lot of that and then went for a swim, and in the late afternoon attended the first of five lectures by Karen Jennings at the UCT Summer School. It was wonderful to see Karen again and to listen to her was pure enlightening joy. I mostly had a great time during my university days, so I return to a lecture room with many good memories. Karen’s topic is fascinating: HOW SOCIAL INSECTS HAVE SCUTTLED ACROSS THE THRESHOLD BETWEEN SCIENCE AND LITERATURE THROUGH THE AGES. I can’t wait for the next four lectures.

It was lovely to see a young woman walk up to Karen after the lecture and ask her to sign a copy of An Island for her. She said that Karen has become her favourite writer and she is reading everything that Karen has written. I know how she feels – to discover writers through one of their books and then seek out everything else they have written is one of my favourite occupations.

In the evening, my love and I met up with two dear friends who are visiting from Europe and we exchanged stories while watching a spectacular sunset outside their cottage and delighting in delicious food and drink. It was the best end to a really good day.

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

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


Operation Oysterhood: 4-5 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

Even the hippos are getting COVID-19 now. The fourth wave is crushing over us in South Africa and all I can think of are the friends we’d lost during the early waves when we had no vaccines to prevent the worst consequences of an infection, and I cannot understand how many people are still resisting this – now available and easily accessible – protection measure.

A real oysterhood weekend at home, mostly in couple solitude apart from a Sunday lunch with three COVID-19-recovered and fully vaccinated friends. My love has been under a lot of professional pressure recently and he really needed the rest and the calm joy of being with lovely people who care. We were both excited about serving a meal and wine to people who are passionate about the food and drink industry and very successful at what they do. What is most inspiring about them is that they do not stop at their own success, always sharing with and caring about those less fortunate than them. And our wonderful guests brought fresh oysters for us to enjoy and happily cooked up a storm in our kitchen to serve a beautiful sauce with the meat my love braaied for us. He also served some truly special wine from his cellar. I contributed salads and crème brûlée for dessert. Joint efforts, jointly enjoyed. It was an amazing afternoon.

I did do a little bit of work this weekend, but mostly I relaxed, read, watched TV and even indulged in a bath. Much needed down time after the intensity of the last few weeks.

On Saturday, it was my brother’s name day and we met on Skype with Mom for a celebratory breakfast that included a pastéis de nata from The Hoghouse on my side of the screen. It was also a dear Friend’s birthday and I hope to visit her early this week to celebrate the occasion. A small birthday parcel is waiting.

I think most of us are exhausted after the relentlessness of this tough year, and there are still three weeks of 2021 left to make the most of. I want to unwind and spend time with loved ones (in the safest possible manner). My love and I made great plans for Christmas. I can’t wait!

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

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


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: 13-15 September

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

— @HaggardHawks

Salieri (the only work-unrelated photo I took since Monday)

The last three days have been so intense, with so many personal and professional ups and downs, that I did not have the headspace and time to write, but now I am being forced to come to a standstill.

Yesterday, I woke up with what felt like an ordinary allergic reaction. It’s spring and I have many allergies. I often wake up feeling like this during the season. I noted the change, but wasn’t too concerned – yet. Today morning, I woke up feeling different, like my body was fighting off something. In the olden days, I would have said that I might be coming down with a cold. I cancelled a coffee date with a future Karavan Press author, just to be on the safe side. I still delivered books to the distributor, but arranged a contact-free delivery. I worked an ordinary working day. In the late afternoon, my temperature started rising. It’s not terribly high; just worryingly THERE. Tomorrow morning, I will phone my doctor and try to arrange for a COVID-19 test. I informed the three people I have been in contact with two days prior to the onset of symptoms. I asked my love to stay away and isolate until we know more. Apart from all the professional commitments, we have so many lovely plans for the next while … Maybe it is just a simple cold. If it is the dreaded COVID-19, I don’t fear it for myself – I am fully vaccinated and feel confident now that I will be okay – but I am a bit worried about the people I have been in contact with. They are also all vaccinated, but still … I can isolate and wait this out, but others have families and responsibilities that make this much harder. What a bloody nuisance! And I am so sorry that I am causing distress to others.

I have tons of literary news to share, but all of it can wait. For now, I pray.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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


CANCELLED: Pop-up sale on Saturday!

Dear Readers,

A friend I was in close contact with in the last few days has tested positive for Covid-19 and I need to follow doctor’s orders and isolate. I am not showing any symptoms, but SAFETY FIRST. The sale is CANCELLED. We will celebrate when it is safe to do so again.

I hope my friend will recover soonest.

Literary greetings,


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Operation Oysterhood: 19 May

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

— @HaggardHawks

Three lucky coins I found today

Rain. The sound is balm for the soul. Not sure how the roof feels about it, though.

Too much is changing and I am struggling to catch up. There are moments when I say to myself ‘I can’t; I am not coping.’ But, somehow, I manage in the end. And I found three lucky coins today. Good omens, let’s hope.

And, most importantly, my love and I have something wonderful to look forward to … I will report back on Sunday.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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


Operation Oysterhood: 25 December

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

— @HaggardHawks

Christmas Day. My love and I spent the day being lazy together, first at my home, then at his, spending quality time with all the feline members of the family, and reading, sleeping, swimming, drinking bubbly and wine and having braai leftovers and Christmas cake. I treated myself to a sweet dinner with another small cake from the Hoghouse Bakery.

In the evening, I was on Skype with my Austrian family again. And now: bed. The Bosch Binge continues.

More sad news today, but also some good news. It is a constant emotional roller-coaster.

Last night, I had a nightmare about a post-apocalyptic landscape where everyone was lost and despairing. In the nightmare, I managed to find a freshly baked bread and was running to find my love to share the treasure when I woke up. For a few minutes, I was quite disorientated, but then the relief of our reality hit me – my love and I have bread and so much more to share – but even so, there are days when we struggle to keep despair and the feeling of being lost at bay. We are nearing three hundred days of lockdown. At the moment, the pandemic is raging again and we haven’t even reached the peak of the second wave yet. There has never been a good time to get sick, but now is probably one of the worst times to get infected. I keep thinking of the relentless pressure on the healthcare system, the people who care for us in our hours of need, how stretched and stressed they must feel, how utterly exhausted. I selfishly want to keep healthy, but I also want to keep healthy for them. They also need some rest.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

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