What a year! 75% and counting.

I can’t believe it’s October. Only a quarter of the year left to meet all the goals that were set at the beginning of the year. Now that we’re 75 percent done with 2017, I thought it would be cool to reflect on some of the fun things that I’ve been working on this year, and write down some of the stuff I’d still like to get done. You know – to make it public so I can’t slack off!

The year to date

At the end of February this year I resigned my full-time day job in gender research. After four years in the same job, I needed some new challenges, and a less toxic work environment. Burnout and high stress levels had dogged me for the six months preceding my decision to quite, and to be honest some of the symptoms still linger behind almost seven months out of the job. I’m using a really great meditation app called Calm to manage those niggles, and to try to generally live a more happy and peaceful life.

In March I travelled to Vermont, to pursue a residency at the Vermont Studio Centre. I had three days in New York before I went, where I experienced jet lag, the subway, the world’s largest bagels, and the hustle and bustle of a city that is electric with energy. Vermont was the exact opposite – chilled to the max. Literally – on one of the days I was there the temperature dropped to -24 degrees. My eyes, nose, and smile froze on my face. The writing was good, and I managed to get a large chunk of the novel I was working on done. The company was great too, and its so amazing to follow the journeys of the other artists and writers that I shared my month with.

During this time I also worked on a collection of feminist essays, and completed the first draft to be sent to the publisher. More on that later.

In April and May, I was back home in South Africa. I was lucky enough to be working on some really exciting projects. One was with Triangle Project and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute, looking at LGBTIQ political participation and influence in South African politics. This included qualitative and quantitative research, including interviews with South African politicians and civil society leaders. The report was finalised in September, and I’ll share it on the site as soon as I get the final copy. I also did a little bit of work with Mthente Research and Consulting Services, looking at an evaluation of the Cape Town Refugee Centre political participation project. Very interesting!

In June I jetted off to France for a two-month writing residency at the Camac Art Centre in Marnay Sur Seine. As you’ll have seen from some of my previous blogs, this was generously sponsored by my friends, family, and the French Consulate in Cape Town. I had an amazing time writing there, and wrote over 50 000 words of my new novel. So it’s really on the way. It was incredible to live with the other residents, learn from their skills and just generally to enjoy their company. My little cottage was a paradise and haven, and swimming in the Seine most nights was a definite highlight.

Even during this time the grindstone continued. I worked with the OECD on doing a legislative review of the gender rights laws of five African countries for their SIGI database. It’s a great resource for researchers so check it out. In this time I also worked with the Shukumisa Coalition on drafting a history document for the coalition looking at its history from its inception in the early 2000s, to the work it does now. Having been a member myself since 2010, it was a really rewarding project. In addition to this work I kept up with my blog and opinion piece writing for W24.co.za and Women and Girls Hub. More on that, here.

At the end of July I met my fiance in Copenhagen and after a few days there we took a two-week trip to the Faroe Islands to check out the puffins and the scenery. It is a breathtaking place that is definitely worth a visit. This was a sort of pre-wedding honeymoon for us after two-months apart, and it the perfect place to reconnect with one another and spend some time walking in nature.

August and September were filled with work of a different kind. I finished up the Triangle and Victory Institute report on LGBTIQ political participation, and went straight onto editing a book on Colombian Transitional Justice. I didn’t know very much about the conflict in Colombia, and it was a really stimulating experience.

With the help of editor extraordinaire, Helen Moffett, I also finalised the collection of feminist essays called Feminism Is, which you can expect to see on shelves in 2018. This collection features 31 contributions from South African feminists and you will need it and love it. I’m so proud of it.

October forwards

Last weekend I married my true love in an incredible setting near Helderstroom. We did things our way, which is usually a little weird, and it all came together perfectly. It was a happy, emotional, and wonderful day and I’m still basking in the glow of the love and support that all our friends and family sent our way.

sneak pewk-1
Thanks to Dearheart Photographers for capturing our day!

Although it was a total bummer to get back to work after the happiness and celebrations of this past weekend, I’m still glad that I’ve got some fun to look forward to in the coming months.

I’ll be working with the Women’s Legal Centre over the next month to deliver them an Annual Report that reflects their new strategic focus, and the amazing work that they do. I’m also doing bits and pieces of editing for a few clients, and some article writing work. If you’re in need of some writing, editing, or research work, get in touch with me!

Most importantly though, I’m committing myself to finishing the novel I’m working on, polishing it up, and sending it off for consideration. It’s the scariest part of writing, but I didn’t spend my time all over the world this year to keep something in my computer.

I turn 33 at the end of this month. Each year I normally set myself a reading project to try to keep the creativity flowing, as well as to be a bit more mindful about my reading choices (i.e. not just reading the white male western mainstream). This year my challenge to myself is to read at least two short stories a week, and to blog about them. It’s my weakest area of writing, and there’s no way I can get better at writing short stories if I don’t read more of them. So expect more of that in the weeks to come.

It has been a year of my life that will be VERY hard to top. Feeling like a lucky fish in the happiest of seas. I hope you do too!

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3 thoughts on “What a year! 75% and counting.

  1. Nice to read about your year, Jen, and lovely meeting you at Marnay. You and your husband (oooh, how does that feel now?) make such a cute couple. Yes, I agree, reading is such a big part of writing. At the moment I’m sitting in my room surrounded by printouts of my chapter and a bunch of books that inform the chapter. And I’m feeling woefully inadequate because I’ve just not read enough. And today I’m also thankful for having discovered this Bengali writer who has been famous in Kolkata but arrived on the international stage 47 years after the publication of his first novel simply because he never got translated until now. He’s fantastic. Read “Chowringhee” by Mani Sankar Mukherjee. He goes by the name Sankar most often.

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  2. Dear Jen. Thanks for sharing what sounds like a really full and fulfilling year. Congratulations on your wedding. Are you working towards a publication of your feminist writings? Nozizwe

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