Sunday, December 16, 2012

"The best thing I ever applied for... : British Council Crossing Borders Project


 Eight years after the British Council engaged creative writers from Zimbabwe and beyond on the Crossing Borders project, it seemed that the immediate impact of the creative writing programme was all there was to see. However to read this moving testimony from a participant of the programme on how it has changed her career gives a feeling of sweet success and an overpowering sense of why we commit our resources to creating opportunities in the first place.

Bryony Rheam was born in Kadoma in 1974 and lived in Bulawayo from the age of eight until she left school.She studied for a BA and an MA in English Literature and taught in Singapore for a year before returning to teach in Zimbabwe. She won the Zimbabwean best first novel award and gives an account of her experience in writing the award winning novel, This September Sun:
“The process of writing is never an easy one.  Time and again I read about writers who confess to disliking everything about it: the need to be disciplined, the hours sat in front of a keyboard (even when the ideas are flowing) and the drudge of writing and rewriting paragraphs, scenes and scenarios.  Having the ideas is the easy part.  More than once I have wished for someone to invent some sort of gadget that would allow me to plug my brain into a computer and for the story to download itself.
Unfortunately, as this gadget is still to be invented, I have had to rely on my own reserves of determination and discipline.  There is a popular idea of the writer having a muse, and when the muse is with them, they have to write.  Associated with this, is a feeling that writers are somehow special people – gifted, at least – who need to keep their own hours and express themselves as creatively as possible.
Whilst there may be an element of truth in this supposition, I’m afraid the truth is a lot less romantic in reality.  Writing is a job.  It’s a job that brings the writer an income, however small, and it’s a job that needs to be treated as such.  Of course, not everyone is a writer and not everyone who wants to be a writer can write, but those who can should not delude themselves into thinking that it doesn’t require hard work, constant attention and, until you finally have something published, frequent times of self-questioning.  Is this good?  Is this acceptable?  Will anyone enjoy it?
It took me about ten years to complete This September Sun.  That’s not to say that I was writing every day, or even every month!  I wrote in spurts, carried away at times by a determination to at least get the story down, and at other times hampered by periods of self-doubt and, dare I admit it, laziness.  When I look back, I can see that the times I worked the hardest were the times when I had had some encouragement from someone who read the odd chapter or so, or when I had a deadline to meet.
The best thing I ever did was apply to go on a British Council run writing course, Crossing Borders.  I was lucky in being accepted as it was the last year that the course was being offered.  It was wonderful.  For someone like me who works well to deadlines, it made me work hard at completing unfinished chapters and linking various ideas.  Only a small part of what I had written was sent to my mentor in the UK, but I had to do a lot of work to get to the point of choosing which excerpts to send.
I’m often asked by aspiring writers to read their work and it is a task I try to avoid if possible, not just because it feels like extra work to read through, but because I often find that the kind of people who ask me to read their work are looking for a specific type of response from me.  They want to be told that it’s good, they want me to be overwhelmed with awe at the quality of their writing and tell them to get it published right away.  I know this because I’ve been there myself and I know the awful cringing feeling of embarrassment they feel when told their writing ‘still needs some work’.  So it was also hard for me to send off chunks of my writing to someone in the UK who knew little of Zimbabwe and of the events of the past 50-60 years.  I had to make a conscious effort to send off the parts that I felt genuinely needed comment and assistance, rather than pieces I knew were good.  Like every writer, my work is very personal and I don’t take criticism well, but it actually wasn’t like that.
It was uplifting to find that some of the parts I saw as problematic were actually fine and interesting to see someone else’s point of view on pieces that hadn’t occurred to me needed reworking.  The best thing about the course was that I didn’t have to take on board all or any of the suggestions.  Ultimately, it gave me the confidence to believe that my story would be well-received and I had the impetus to get on with finishing it and stop procrastinating!
It was a great moment for me in November 2009 when I attended the launch of This September Sun at the Bulawayo Club.  The number of people who attended the launch and who bought copies of the book was quite overwhelming.  Owen Sheers, the Welsh poet and writer, who had led a writing workshop I had attended at the Intwasa Festival a couple of years previously, gave the opening speech.  At that moment I felt I had come a long way.  An idea became a story which became a book.  I’m glad I stuck at it.  My next novel, which I’m working on at the moment won’t be quite as long and I hope it won’t take me even half the time it took me to write This September Sun.  I’m on my own now – and I’m employing the muse on a more permanent contract.”

This September Sun’ was published by ‘amaBooks in Zimbabwe and by Parthian Books in the United Kingdom. It is to be published in Kenya by Longhorn. Elsewhere it is available through the African Books Collective. It is now a set book for ‘A’ level Literature in English in Zimbabwe.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

African Violet reviewed in the Financial Gazette

African Violet and other stories

'amaBooks, 228 pp., 2012, 978-0-7974-5069-1

 Africa’s leading literary prize, the Caine Prize for African Writing, was won this year by Rotimi Babatunde from Nigeria, for his short story ‘Bombay’s Republic’. Besides receiving GBP10, 000, Babatunde will take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University Washington DC, as writer-in-residence. In September he will appear at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, followed in November by a series of events at the Museum of African Art in New York.

Babatunde’s unusual tale appears in African Violet, a volume of short stories published by ‘amabooks of Bulawayo. The four other authors shortlisted with the Nigerian for the award, are Malawian Stanley Kenani, South African Constance Myburgh, Billy Kahora from Kenya and Zimbabwean Melissa Tandiwe Myambo. Stories from ten other African writers who attended a Caine Prize writers’ workshop in South Africa this year, are also included in the anthology.

There is a perception that literature emanating from Africa will always deal with corruption, political violence, rape, poverty and conflict. Most of the continent’s 54 countries have been through political upheaval and suffered varying degrees of drought and famine: but the engaging stories in African Violet offer an outlook on life in Africa that is witty, thoughtful and positive.

Colour Sergeant Bombay, the hero of the winning story, is thoroughly likeable as the ‘veteran… who went off to Hitler’s War as a man and came back a spotted leopard.’ Rotimi Babatunde’s humour and easy style lead us through the adventures of the soldier who battled with the leeches that scarred his body in the Burmese jungles, and Japanese forces that chopped up African cadavers in the belief that ‘black soldiers resurrect’. Returning home, the war hero declared the new Republic of Bombay, raising a flag of a spotted leopard over the old jailhouse. There he remained until ‘death finally unseated him from office’.

In Love on Trial by Malawian Stanley Kenani, law student Charles Chikwanje is discovered by the village gossip, Kachingwe, in flagrante delicto with another young man, in the village toilet. For a tot of kachasu, Kachingwe will provide salacious details of the encounter to curious villagers. The law takes its course, and although Chikwanje’s defence is dignified and articulate he is sentenced to 12 years with hard labour. The domino effect, when angry international donors cut aid, is felt by everyone, including Mr Kachingwe, who has lost the ability to solicit free drinks.

Ex-Arundel schoolgirl Melissa Myambo impresses with her writerly skills in La Salle du Depart, a tale of gender and family obligations set in Dakar. Having spent time in Senegal Myambo has absorbed the culture and atmosphere of this vibrant, largely Moslem country. Readers will look forward to an equally powerful story set in her native Zimbabwe.

The judge’s panel for this year’s Caine Prize, now in its 13th year, included Zimbabwean performance poet and cultural consultant, Chirikure Chirikure. Full of praise for the encouragement it affords African writers, he expressed the hope that the Caine Prize ‘would remain as bold and solid as the baobab tree.’
Previous Zimbabwean winners of this prize include Brian Chikwava (2004) and NoViolet Bulawayo (2011).

Reviewed by Diana Rodrigues

Monday, October 15, 2012

'amaBooks and Worldreader

'amaBooks are working with Worldreader to help make good creative writing available to young people across Africa and elsewhere.

As a first step, stories from Silent Cry: Echoes of Young Zimbabwe Voices, and selected stories from other 'amaBooks collections, are available to read free of charge on mobile feature phones using the Worldreader App.

With the first-ever book application available for feature phones, Worldreader is turning on its head the notion that reading e-books requires an e-reader, tablet or smart phone.

In order to achieve this ground-breaking feat, Worldreader has partnered with biNu, an App developer based in Sydney. biNu’s patented technology effectively turns a feature phone into a smart phone—enabling millions of people in the world’s poorest places access to Facebook, Twitter, Local News, Google—and, now, the Worldreader Book App, and so to stories from Zimbabwean writers.
To give you an idea of the enormous scope and potential: feature phones are the largest and fastest growing segment of the global mobile market, with over 60% of the global mobile market share of almost 5 billion mobile subscribers. As of April 27 2012, the Worldreader App is on 3.9 million mobile phones, mostly in India and Africa, and Worldreader hope to reach 10 million by the end of 2012.
As well as stories from the collection being available through feature phones, Silent Cry: Echoes of Young Zimbabwe Voices will be available on e-readers as part of Worldreader programmes.

Silent Cry: Echoes of Young Zimbabwe Voices is a book of twenty-eight stories and fourteen poems, written by thirty-three young people from Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo. The pieces cover many issues, including family, gender, relationships, race, alienation, disability, AIDS, border jumping and the struggle to survive in Zimbabwe.

Silent Cry: Echoes of Young Zimbabwe Voices is available on a print-on-demand basis or as an ebook through the African Books Collective

More information about the Worldreader programme can be found at

Photographs of children in school benefitting from the presence of e-readers are reproduced courtesy of Worldreader

Friday, October 12, 2012

Narrating the Zimbabwean nation: a conversation with John Eppel

John Eppel interviewed in Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Africa

Volume 17. Issue 1, 2012


In this interview, John Eppel, a veteran of Zimbabwean writing, confirms his reputation as an “angry jester”, determined to expose what he describes as “humbug”, wherever he sees it. With his satires, Eppel has stirred the national literature with subversive laughter, ridiculing both Rhodesian society under Ian Smith and post-independence society under Robert Mugabe. With his poetry, he innovatively marries European forms with southern African content. During the crisis of the 2000s he refused exile and has been consistently critical of political and social corruption and injustice from within Zimbabwe's borders.

The full interview with Drew Shaw of the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo can be found at:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bryony Rheam interviewed on BBC Focus on Africa

Bola Mosuro interviewed Bryony Rheam about her novel This September Sun on the October 2 edition of Focus on Africa on the BBC World Service.
Please click on the link below to access the podcast of that edition of Focus on Africa.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Violette Kee-Tui wins Yvonne Vera Award at Intwasa 2012

Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo has announced this year’s winner of The Yvonne Vera Award for short story writing. This year’s winner is Violette Kee-Tui with her short story Tattered Cloth. The short story was adjudged the best out of 81 short stories submitted this year. The Intwasa Short Story Competition is an annually event organised by Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo. Violette Kee-Tui’s Tattered Cloth faced stiff competition from Sipho Mpofu’s A Congenial Man and Nixon Nembaware’s The Rain God of Nyatanga Hill.  For her efforts Violette Kee –Tui won $500. The Yvonne Vera award is supported by Hivos and the Norwegian Embassy and seeks to promote and honour creative writing, particularly short story writing in Zimbabwe.
In short Tattered Cloth is the story of forbidden love, and a relationship that is doomed from the beginning. It is well told and almost seamless. The judges fell in love with the story and heaped praise upon praise on Violette Kee-Tui’s narrative skills. 
Previous winners of the Intwasa Short Story Competition, which has developed into Zimbabwe's leading writing competition, include 'amaBooks writers Thabisani Ndlovu, Bryony Rheam, Chaltone Tshabangu, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma and Bongani Ncube.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Business of Writing workshop at Intwasa 2012

Over 50 writers, both established and emerging, attended the Business of Writing workshop on Saturday 22 September in the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. The workshop was part of the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo and was supported by the British Council. It was facilitated by Jane Morris and Brian Jones of 'amaBooks, with Mgcini Nyoni of Poetry Bulawayo and writer Naison Tfwala.
Mgcini concentrated on online publishing and Naison on the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing. Brian and Jane led discussion on the relationship between writers and publishers. Among subjects touched on were the changing world of publishing with the growth of self-publishing and the introduction of ebooks and digital printing. Opportunities for writers looked at included joining writers' groups, attendance at workshops, entering competitions, residencies and submitting work to poetry and story websites and blogs. The role of publishers in developing the skills of writers through constructive feedback on their submissions was an area of debate. It was great to see so many writers coming to the workshop and we hope to run more in the future.

Photograph courtesy of Batsirai Chigama

Friday, September 14, 2012

amaBooks at the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo 2012

Thursday 20 September at 5.30pm at the National Gallery in Bulawayo

Opening of the Intwasa Visual Arts Exhibition, where copies of African Violet, the Caine Prize 2012 anthology, will be available. 'amaBooks will also be involved in the launch of Shadows, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma's debut novel, during the opening. Free admission.

Friday 21 September at 2.30pm at the Bulawayo Large City Hall

Song of the Carnivores, composed and arranged by Richard Sisson, features choirs of schoolchildren from across Bulawayo, with poetry readings and talks about the five large endangered carnivores: lion, leopard, wild dog, hyena and cheetah. Free admission.

Friday 21 September at 5.00pm at the National Gallery in Bulawayo

Announcement of the winners of the Yvonne Vera Award - the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo Short Story Award, which has developed into one of Zimbabwe's leading writings prizes. The announcement will take place during the launch of Ericah Gwetai's book Embracing the Cactus. Free admission.

Saturday 22 September at 10.00am at the National Gallery in Bulawayo

The Business of Writing. The workshop targets writers, dealing with the whole process of writing from creation, editing, publishing and marketing of literary works. 'amaBooks, together with two self-published writers, Mgcini Nyoni and Naison Tfwala, will facilitate the workshop. Free admission, but please register beforehand with the Intwasa office, 403 LAPF House, 8th Ave, Bulawayo, or (09)63928.

Friday, September 7, 2012

'amaBooks titles now available in South African copy shops

Several 'amaBooks publications can now be legally printed in copy shops across South Africa, through Paperight.

Paperight is a website that lets a copy shop, at present only in South Africa, print books for customers legally and quickly. 
Customers probably already ask the shop to photocopy books for them, but it’s illegal to copy without permission. Paperight gives the outlet a legal way to print books. Paperight have already got the publisher’s permission on your behalf.
The Paperight site is so fast and easy to use that it saves time and money, and is more cost-effective for customers than finding or copying traditional books.
Once the copy shop registers on the Paperight website (which is free and quick to do), it can choose from a whole library of books to print, as customers ask for them.
Publishers charge a small rights fee for each copy printed. When Paperight charges a rights fee, it is just added to the customer’s normal printing and binding charge. The overall cost to a customer is less than buying a traditional copy of a book, it is legal, and writers and publishers get their fair share.

For registered outlets near to you, if you are in South Africa, please look at the Paperight website

The available titles are:

Dancing with Life: Tales from the Township (Christopher Mlalazi)
Hatchings (John Eppel)
Intwasa Poetry
Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe
Short Writings from Bulawayo I, II and III
White Man Crawling (John Eppel)
Zimbabwe's Cultural Heritage (Pathisa Nyathi)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Where to Now? published in the UK

Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe is published this month in the United Kingdom by Parthian Books. Parthian's information about the collection states:
"Meet the prostitute who gets the better of her brothers when they try to marry her off, the wife who is absolved of adultery, the hero who drowns in a bowser of cheap beer, the poetry slammer who doesn’t get to perform his final poem, and many more.
The writing in this collection of short stories from Zimbabwe, edited by Jane Morris, is at times dark, at times laced with comedy. Set against the backdrop of Zimbabwe’s ‘lost decade’ of rampant inflation, violence, economic collapse and the flight of many of its citizens, its people are left to wonder – Where to now?
Penned by a range of award-winning Zimbabwean authors. Editor Jane Morris runs Zimbabwean publishing house ‘amaBooks with Brian Jones. She is originally from Ebbw Vale, Wales, and comes back to visit whenever she can. 
Comes with a glossary of Zimbabwean terms."

The book can be purchased directly from Parthian on

Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Caine Prize anthology published in Zimbabwe

'amaBooks are delighted to have published African Violet, the 2012 Caine Prize anthology, joining other African publishers Cassava Republic in Nigeria, Jacana Media in South Africa, FEMRITE in Uganda, Sub-Saharan Publishers in Ghana, Bookworld Publishers in Zambia and Kwani? in Kenya in their commitment to making good stories from Africa available to be read across the African continent. The book is also published by New Internationalist in the United Kingdom.
       The Caine Prize for African Writing collection showcases short stories in English by writers from across the African continent. For the first time, the 2012 anthology is published in Zimbabwe.
Selected from 122 stories from 14 African countries, this anthology contains the stories from the 13th annual Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist, along with those from the 10th Caine Prize workshop for African writers, which was held in South Africa earlier in the year.
The Caine Prize is recognized as Africa’s leading literary competition, often referred to as ‘Africa’s Booker’. The book contains contributions from two Zimbabwean writers, Melissa Tandiwe Myambo, whose story La Salle de Départ was shortlisted for the 2012 prize, and Tendai Rinos Mwanakana.
The winner of the £10,000 Caine Prize for this year is Rotimi Babatunde for his short story entitled Bombay’s Republic, which deals with the story of a Nigerian soldier fighting in the Burma campaign of World War Two. The other authors shortlisted for the Caine Prize appearing in the publication are Billy Kahora (Kenya); Stanley Kenani (Malawi); and Constance Myburgh (South Africa).
The other stories in the collection are by Mehul Gohil (Kenya), Grace Khunou (South Africa), Lauri Kubuitsile (Botswana), BM Kunga (Kenya), Waigwa Ndiang’ui (Kenya), Yewande Omotoso (Nigeria / South Africa), Beatrice Lamwaka (Uganda), Rehana Rossouw (South Africa) and Rachel Zadok (South Africa).

‘Dazzling and splendidly diverse’ – The Times, London

‘A vital collection drawing on a rich treasury of material’ – The Guardian, London

‘Africa’s most important literary award’ – International Herald Tribune

'Over the past ten years, the Caine Prize has done a great deal to foster writing in Africa and bring exciting new African writers to the attention of wider audiences' - J. M. Coetzee

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

'amaBooks as e-books through the African Books Collective

The African Books Collective now sell 'amaBooks e-books on their website

Dancing with Life: Tales from the Township


Intwasa Poetry

Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe

Short Writings from Bulawayo

Short Writings from Bulawayo II

Short Writings from Bulawayo III

Silent Cry: Echoes of Young Zimbabwe Voices

White Man Crawling

Zimbabwe's Cultural Heritage

Intwasa shortlists 10 stories for the Yvonne Vera Award

10 short stories have been shortlisted for the Intwasa Short Story Competition (Yvonne Vera Award) with eight from Bulawayo and the remaining two from Harare. This year there were 81 short stories submitted for the competition, a 26 percent drop from last year’s number of 110. There were 60 males and 21 females who entered the competition.
The competition was inaugurated in the first year of the festival and is an annual literary event seeking to promote original creative writing talent in English.
In 2011 the award was named the Yvonne Vera Award and carries a $500 cash prize.
He said as organisers they were impressed by the quality of stories submitted.
“Forty-four per cent of the entries were from Bulawayo, seventeen per cent from Harare with the rest coming from across Zimbabwe, with one entry from South Africa and one from Algeria. Sixty submissions were from males and twenty-one from females,” said Baya.
He said there were a variety of short stories that were submitted, from love stories to stories about rural life.
It was encouraging to see a wide variety of subject areas in the stories, from teenage love stories to stories of traditional rural life. The judges were also pleased to see the use of humour, which enlivened many of the submissions, and, generally, the good command of language,” said Baya.
However, he said some plots were too complex and the characters were poorly developed.
“There was an overuse of descriptive passages at the expense of moving the story forward. In good fiction a writer will ‘show and not tell’. In several of the stories there were too long descriptions of the main character’s state of mind and emotions,” said Baya. “Several of the plots were overly complex and the characters poorly developed. The endings of many of the stories were unconvincing.”
“Writers do also need to check the spelling, punctuation and general grammar before submitting their work, whether to a competition or to a publisher,” said Baya.
The shortlist will be trimmed to five nominees on 7 September. Intwasa Arts Festival KoBulawayo will run from 18 to 22 September under the theme Bulawayo Blooming.

Below is the list of the 10 writers whose short stories have been shortlisted:

Blessing Hungwe    Coming Out
Violette Kee-Tui    Tattered Cloth   
Mandla Khumalo-    Fading Memories   
Sipho Mpofu    A Congenial Man   
Mahluli Ndlovu    It's Not a Man's World   
Nixon Nembaware    The Rain God of Nyatanga Hill   
Babusi Nyoni    Foolishness
Mgcini Nyoni    Crying Still       
Khotso Sibanda    Not Guilty as Charged   
Chaltone Tshabangu     Scheherazade of a Sort

Three of the shortlisted writers have been previously published by 'amaBooks: Babusi Nyoni in Silent Cry: Echoes of Young Zimbabwe Voices, Mgcini Nyoni in Intwasa Poetry and Chaltone Tshabangu in Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Where to Now? review in The Zimbabwean

Where To Now?

Published by amaBooks
Genre - Fiction

Review by Jerá


Where To Now?Short Stories from Zimbabwe, published by ’amaBooks and edited by Jane Morris, is an anthology of 16 potent short stories by Zimbabwean writers. It is the 5th anthology in the short writings series that have been released by ’amaBooks and follows up from the acclaimed 4th collection – Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe.  This latest book is a co-publication with Parthian Books of the United Kingdom and – having been launched at the Jozi Book Fair and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, as part of the Intwasa Arts Festival – will be launched in the United Kingdom later this year.

Blessing Musariri.
Blessing Musariri
By blending the works of new writers with more established authors, ’amaBooks seeks to promote previously unpublished writers.  Names that are immediately recognizable, among the array of writers, are award winning playwright, Raisedon Baya, award winning author, John Eppel and Oxfam Novib PEN Freedom of Expression award winner and NAMA award winner, Christopher Mlalazi.  Award winning author of children’s books, Blessing Musariri, winner of the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association’s Best First Book Prize in 2010, Bryony Rheam and woman of the moment, 2011 Caine Prize winner, NoViolet Bulawayo, also grace this collection.

Most of the stories are set against the backdrop of the country’s decade of hyper inflation, economic demise and political strife but, as displayed in this book, Zimbabwean writers do manage to find humour.  It is not all comedy.  The stories in the anthology are divergent in theme – from comic, tragic, social commentary and allegorical.

Caught in a compromising position, a wife outsmarts her husband in Mapfumo Chihota’s comical tale of spousal infidelity - A Beast and A Jete.  Set in rural Zimbabwe, this story leaves a lasting impression for its humour and its clever plot.

Barbara Mhangami’s Christina the Colourful, also within a rural setting, continues the theme of womanly triumph.  However, it is something of a paradox, in that the author illustrates the oppression of women, yet the main character’s chosen profession – prostitution – it can be argued, is one that perpetuates the very same oppression, from which women seek to flee.  However, as a story, Christina the Colourful is well constructed and stands out as one of the best written pieces of the anthology.

The poignant and tragic tale of sexual abuse, Making a Woman, by Thabisani Ndlovu, illustrates the prejudices existing in society, against people with physical disabilities and the social pressure on women to marry and enter into motherhood.  While Mongi, the lead character, a deaf woman, claims a victory of sorts over the men who abuse her, she is left mentally and physically scarred from the ordeal.

Snapshots, set in inflation ravaged Zimbabwe, will draw smiles and chuckles from every reader, before turning into a tragic narrative, in NoViolet Bulawayo’s characteristic style.  The characters, for their names and their quirks, will remain in readers’ minds, long after the story ends.  It is typical NoViolet; uncomplicated yet intense.

Crossroads illustrates the trials and tribulations faced by the Zimbabwean immigrant – from visa application to arrival in Mzansi – in search of a better life.  Precocious talent, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, in this story – as with all her previous works – is a sculptor of words.  Novuyo, who, at only 21, won the 2009 Intwasa Short Story Competition, is a skillful writer who, by her work, promises to emulate past literary greats, such as Yvonne Vera.

Nyevero Muza’s The Poetry Slammer is an unforgettable piece, whose concept is unique, in that there is a character within a character and a story within a story – Nhamo, the lead character is a writer, who invents the story of a performance poet and it is the latter character who dominates this memorable tale.

In this era, where professional women are forced to choose between boardroom success and family, Alone, by Fungai Machirori, is a relevant piece, which is notable for its superb construction and humour.

In this reviewer’s opinion, Sudden Death, by Blessing Musariri is the most outstanding story.  Musariri’s use of language and her writing style, which appears so effortless, will endear her to most readers. Rosanna, known to her colleagues as Agnes, is a care worker, living in England.  Together with her husband, Simba, they labour tirelessly to save for their dream home, back in Zimbabwe.  An unexpected telephone call brings bad news.  The humour of this tale turns into heartache.  This funny and, in some instances, quirky story deserves special mention among a line-up of 16 beautifully composed, expertly edited, fiction stories.

Where To Now? is a recommended read and would be a worthy addition to the bookshelf of any fan of Zimbabwean literature. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bryony Rheam to talk about her writing in Bulawayo

On Thursday 16 August, at 5.15pm, Zimbabwe Academy of Music, Trade Fair Grounds, Bulawayo, Bryony Rheam will talk about her novel 'This September Sun'. The book, first published by 'amaBooks, is a set 'A' level text for ZIMSEC Literature in English until 2017 and  has recently been published by Parthian Books in the United Kingdom.

Bryony will also be available to sign books on Friday 17 August from 11.30 to 12.30pm at Tendele Crafts, River Estate, Cnr. 12th/Oak Ave, Suburbs.

All Welcome. Free admission.

Bryony is working as a teacher in Zambia, but has returned to her home town of Bulawayo for the school holidays.

It’s a long way from Zimbabwe to Swansea, but good stories travel well

It’s a long way from Zimbabwe to Swansea, but good stories travel well. Which is why Welsh publisher Parthian published the winner of the Zimbabwean Best First Book Award. Author, Bryony Rheam, basks in the background to This September Sun:

I’ve always believed I was born in the wrong age. I should have been born in the ’20s or ’30s and lived in a large house in the British countryside.
There would have been a cook, at least two maids, a gardener and perhaps even a nanny thrown in for good measure.
I’d go to boarding school and, in the holidays, I’d explore the nearby woods and find fairies and pixies and elves and we’d all have such splendid fun.
Considering the reading matter I was exposed to as a child, this idea of myself is not surprising.
Yes, Enid Blyton has a lot to answer for – and more so in the colonies where this idea of between-the-wars-Britain lived a far longer life than it did in Britain itself – but she wasn’t alone.
My maternal grandmother was a vociferous reader. She’d sit with a pile of books next to her and eat her way through them in a matter of days. She had a passion for crime novels and would send me off to the library every Friday afternoon to get in her week’s supply. Her choice of reading matter set a precedent that is hard to break and has sometimes been more of a curse than a blessing.
My gran loved Agatha Christie. I don’t know if she ever managed to read all of Christie’s novels, but some of them she read more than twice and would sit there saying, ‘Oh yes, I remember now, it’s the vicar who did it. He murdered his first wife and is being blackmailed by Miss Dimbleby who knew him many years before in Ceylon’.
I think, it was the feeling of something shared between my grandmother, my mother, my sister and myself.
Perhaps, if I got her the right books, I could make her happy, keep her talking and so forget the pain of her broken heart. She had lost her son when he was 21 and reading was one of her less harmful forms of escape.
I had never been to Britain, yet I loved everything I thought I knew about it: the tiny villages, cricket on the green, beautiful summer days, white Christmases, the trains that always ran on time.
It was a world that spun a magical web around me, that drew me in and which finally seemed more real than the world I really did live in.
Like Ellie in my novel, This September Sun, I never felt that I fitted into white Zimbabwean life. I despaired of the lack of culture and the small-mindedness; the propensity of the men to wear veldskoens and short shorts and for the women to grow hard and weather-beaten by the age of 30.
Those who did espouse any sort of knowledge of books and music were usually the elderly schoolteacher type who were stuck in their ways and ran the eisteddfodau and music festivals they organised with military precision, but no imagination.
Many people seem to think that This September Sun is a true story, which I suppose is a compliment.
There are reverberations of my grandmother and her love of Agatha Christie and the loss in her life in the character of Evelyn, the grandmother in the book, and of myself in the granddaughter, Ellie.
I do draw on personal experience, but I can honestly say that no event is absolutely true in the novel and no character is a true copy of someone I have met in real life.
White African writing often falls into the category of autobiography, written with the distance of time and place. With This September Sun, I wanted to write a mystery romance and deliberately shied away from making any political statement.
It chronicles the lives of two women of different generations and the challenges they face in their lives, beginning on the day Zimbabwe gets its independence from Britain, and it charts the changes, both good and bad in Zimbabwe over the next 25 or so years.
Set against this backdrop of political and social change, the book is testimony to the fact that, just as you cannot ignore the personal and familial circumstances that have created you, nor can you escape the impact your country’s history has on you.
This is something with which the main character, Ellie, struggles to come to terms.
Believing that her real roots are in the UK, she longs to leave small-town Bulawayo and a life of which she is almost scornful.
However, her expectations are never met and she finds life in England as empty and lonely.
Stories abound in Africa and they don’t all have to be about starvation, tyrannical leaders and disease.
Nor, for that matter, do they have to be of the swash-buckling Wilbur Smith type.
If my love of Agatha Christie taught me anything, it’s that everyone has a secret and everyone has a story, and often it’s the stories that people don’t mean to tell you that are the most interesting.
Countries change, wars end and dictators do eventually pass into insignificance.
A good story stays forever.
This September Sun is published in the UK by Parthian, £8.99

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