On International Women’s Day – Defend Our Line in the Sand

It has been a hard week for women, a hard day. A hard month, a hard year, a hard lifetime. I could write this sentence at any moment in history and it would have been true. Even on the weeks and days when victories are won, the backlash is the shadow lurking behind them.

I spoke to someone recently about why I do the work I do. Why, she asked, did I think I’d chosen a career where the chance of success – of women being full free and equal in my lifetime – was so small?

I’m not a person who self-sabotages, and I’m not a masochist either, so the question gave me pause, and I took that pause to try and find the thing in me that makes me believe in the value of women’s activism and in broader gender activism today.

And it is this: I am defending the line in the sand that others before me have drawn, and I will never, ever, let that line be washed away. We have made progress, that progress was hard won, and we must defend it.

The beauty is – I’m not alone. Each day thousands of people around the world wake up and choose to speak our truth, to write our stories, to go to court in the name of justice, to be there for and with survivors of violence and to believe their stories, to demand reproductive justice, to rally against legislative inequality, to demand better representation in government, to demand safe transport and better pay, to demand the rights to our lives and homes and land — each day we do this and we dig that line deeper. We dig our heels in and we defend. We take steps forward and we advance in the name of justice and what we know to be right. Each day we draw strength from one another, and are grateful for the others who are with us. We draw this line in the sand around the world, and we will never, ever let this line be washed away.

This doesn’t mean that this is easy. It is hard to fight every day. It is very, very hard. And it is alienating sometimes. It can lead you to some dark places and make you doubt your sanity and make you feel different and alone and afraid. It can make you angry, so angry you explode like a bomb. It has cost hundreds of human rights defenders their lives. It can make you sad, so sad you can’t enjoy the things you used to enjoy anymore. It can give you headaches and back pain and body aches. It is not easy.

The patriarchal system forms the bricks of our culture, and the world continues to build systems and institutions with these bricks. This system of inequality so pervasive that at times it will try to convince you that the line is isn’t worth defending, that you’ve won already. Complacency is the threat we face. The misogynists are easy (more often than not) to spot, outright sexism and hatred – even easier. But the idea that we are fine now, that we can pack up and go home because of the the law will be enough, that idea is dangerous. It is not time to rest on our laurels.

The situation today demands constant vigilance. It demands courage. It requires that you find allies, and friends, and loved ones who will support you on those hard days. It requires self-awareness and self-care and paying attention to the signs that your body and heart give you that say that this might be a day for rest. It requires love and hope and passion.

For you, who is reading this today and feeling like International Women’s Day tomorrow is nothing more than ceremony. It isn’t. It is our legal line in the sand. It is our rallying point. It is our call to do more, to advance further, to remain aware, and to be brave.

As if it is a new year I wish for you, reading this now, a year of bravery and certainty that you are not alone. We are here with you, and we will never, ever give up.

See you at the line, today and always.

City Press Non-Fiction Award Seeks Entries

Press release non-fiction prize

 

Two weeks in France

I have had the extreme good fortune of being in France for the past two weeks at the CAMAC residency that I was crowdfunded / French Consulate funded to attend. As I’ve said similarly in a postcard that I’ll send to a friend this week:

I’m basically in Beauty and the Beast. With less beast and more cheese.

french me.jpgIt is truly phenomenal and thus far has been extremely productive. I’ve plotted ten chapters ahead in my new novel (not something that’s my strong point) and have been writing a lot. The space I’ve been provided is incredibly comfortable – a little double-storey cottage with ivy growing on the walls and a balconette where I am tempted to sing the few french songs I no non-stop.

The best thing about the location of this town is that there are roughly 100 people living here, there is NO shop at all, and the only things there are to do is write and walk and cycle and skip through the countryside singing and being creatively inspired (dear citizens of Marnay-Sur-Seine, if you’re wondering who that is singing Disney, it’s me. Desole, je ne suis pas desole <<– it’s so great here I’m making french jokes).

I’m here with incredible writers and artists from around the world (Brazil, Germany, USA, Australia, Japan) and I’m having the absolute very truly best time.

It has been a great opportunity to practice my French (which was dry as a day old baguette) and more importantly it has given me the space to take a few moments and ask myself why it is that I want to pursue this dream, and what I define success as.

As you’ll know if you follow the lovely Paige Nick, the South African publishing industry is full of wonderful people who work really hard to get great texts out there, BUT (big hairy butt), the South African readership is easily swayed by an international text, and by the next murder/thriller/erotica from that famous author who is a) likely to be non-South Africa, b) likely to be a man, and c) not going to help grow South African fiction.

BUY SOUTH AFRICAN BOOKS PEOPLE. AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT BUY AFRICAN BOOKS TOO!

The reason I say this is that for so many of us South African authors, success isn’t a million bucks and a book tour. Success is selling the books they printed (hopefully), but more importantly it’s liking the book that you wrote, and loving writing.

So I’m really grateful that I’m still proud of The Peculiars, and that I am still loving writing this next one. And I’m even more grateful for the very kind people who have sponsored this opportunity for me. I’m doing my best to make you proud.

my cottage.jpg
That’s my little cottage on the left. Office at the bottom and bedroom at the top.

 

The Other Stories Podcast, featuring moi!

In March when I was at the Vermont Studio Centre I was interviewed by Ilana Masad, creator of The Other Stories podcast. Ilana is an Israeli-American fiction writer, book critic, essayist, and editor for hire.

Ilana and I chatted about The Peculiars, and some new projects I’m working on, all from the comfort of our armchairs at the Red Mill lounge. If you’d like, you can take a listen here. Hope you enjoy it!

A month ’til France!

This time next month I start my two-month residency at the Camac Art Centre. Exciting!

In an ideal world I’d be brushing up on my French and increasing my wine consumption to prepare. In real life I’m working away to make sure I can take that time to sit and write, 8 hours per day, 6 days a week (one must rest at least one day, surely). I am really looking forward to getting stuck back in to the novel that I started in Vermont, and to working with those characters.

It will be a real challenge to stay focussed, and also to be away from my love and my cats for such an extended period. I am really in a happy place, planning my wedding and getting excited for the future. I’ll be meeting up with my fiance in Copenhagen after my trip for a pre-wedding-honeymoon in the Faroe Islands. Feeling very lucky!

I cannot wait to be there and safe and sitting at my desk again, blank pages before me. For now it’s all planning and slogging to make that a reality.

 

 

I’m going to France! Woohoo

I am happy to share the exciting news that my CAMAC residency is all paid up and I’ll be heading to France for June and July to write!

I just wanted to acknowledge the incredible individuals and families who have generously supported my online funding campaign. Without you all I never would have been able to enjoy this opportunity.

I would also like to thank the Fondation Tenot, who awarded me a discount of 1000 Euros on my fees for the residency. In addition, I have the pleasure of announcing that the French Consulate in South Africa has also provided me with funding of 1500 Euros towards my residency.

After my great experience at the Vermont Studio Centre this March, I’m 100% certain that I’m going to make your investments worth every penny. My characters are crawling through my imagination waiting to be let out onto the page again.

Thank you all!

France here I come! Woohoo.

 

The Peculiars has been long-listed for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

Exciting news! I found out yesterday that The Peculiars has made the longlist for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.

This list contains some incredible South African fiction, and I’m extremely honoured to have been included. Hold thumbs everyone!

Thanks to everyone who has read The Peculiars so far. I hope you enjoyed it!

If you haven’t got it yet, you can get it here in print, or here on Kindle.