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.
It 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.
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!
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 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.
For the past two weeks I’ve been at the Vermont Studio Center residency in Johnson, Vermont. I’m here with about fifteen other writers and some thirty artists who are all just taking the time to dedicate some work to the artistic practice of their choice. How cool? And I still have almost two weeks left!
It has been an incredible experience so far with opportunities to write, read, learn from other writers, listen to poetry, and observe some of the art that the artists are working on. While I’m here I’m working on a new novel as well as the edits for a second novel, but I’ve also managed to get some poetry and non-fiction writing happening. It is a great environment to focus in, helped tremendously by the provision of my own office, comfortable room, and three delicious meals a day. I keep getting the feeling that I’m at some amazing creative camp.
I have experienced my first snow storm with about half a metre of snow in two days. On the sunny days I have also spent a huge amount of time walking around Johnson on some of the river walks and up into the suburban mountains behind the town. Vermont is the state that is most covered in trees, and the views around Johnson are extremely scenic.
After four years at a desk job with limited creativity it is quite overwhelming to be given the space to create, and to write what I want to write. I hope you all get to take that opportunity some time in your life.