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Interview with Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0 Author Jonno Proudfoot

Cover_HR jonno portrait
Jonno Proudfoot is a food expert, entrepreneur and adventurer, and the driving force behind the Real Meal Revolution brand. He conceptualised and co-authored the bestselling Real Meal Revolution and Real Meal Revolution: Raising Superheroes, both of which have been published internationally by the Little, Brown Book Group. He is the MD of the Real Meal Revolution diet company, which specialises in online and face-to-face weight-loss and healthy-eating support. Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0, published in December 2016, is his third book.

The original Real Meal Revolution book was launched in November 2013 and has been a publishing sensation in South Africa. What have you been up to since?
Short answer: a lot.
The success of the first book was so sudden and overwhelming that it was difficult to work out what to do next. It’s still on the weekly bestseller lists more than three years later, and I believe we’ve now sold upwards of 250,000 copies, which is incredible in the small South African market.

So where do you go from there?
A very good question!
There were some important personal milestones for me that came in relatively quick succession after the book was released: I had the opportunity to complete a dream adventure with a good friend, swimming the 450kilometres from Mozambique to Madagascar on an epic seven-week journey; I got married; and then my wife Kate fell pregnant not too long after that, an even more epic journey.
From a business perspective, I had registered the trademark for “the Real Meal Revolution” and had always intended to do “something” with the brand – I just wasn’t sure exactly what. I envisioned the business as a healthy eating and lifestyle support company based on the principles set out in the book, and once it was up and running properly the first product we sold from our website was an online weight-loss course with lectures by Prof Noakes and Sally-Ann Creed and cooking lessons from me. It had hundreds of recipes, a shopping list generator and most importantly a meal tracker that clients could use to track their carbs.
Since then, the website has seen a huge amount of traffic and the business has progressed quite radically. Today, we specialise in teaching people to adapt to a low-carb diet. We’ve had close on four million hits since 2015, with an enormous amount of customer feedback to help us refine the Real Meal Revolution approach. The new book is very much a result of this ongoing process.

This is in fact the third Real Meal Revolution book. The first was the original red science-cum-diet-cum-recipe book that has become so recognisable to South African bookstore goers. The second was Real Meal Revolution: Raising Superheroes, on children’s nutrition and also with full-colour recipes. How is the new book different from the others?
This a smaller-format black-and-white book and it’s completely “how-to”-focused – a handbook to help you to Bant as effectively as possible. Basically we’ve taken three years of Banting feedback from thousands of our readers and customers and refined the Real Meal Revolution diet to its most practical, workable form.
There are important staple recipes in the back of the book but this isn’t an inspirational cookbook like the first two books. Rather, I would say it provides the new framework for our next 20 cookbooks.

So is this book a “better version” of the original Real Meal Revolution or something different? If I’ve bought that book already, why should I buy this one?
I must be clear on this: the first Real Meal book remains, in my opinion, an incredible and almost authoritative introduction to LCHF (low-carb high-fat) eating. If you’re new to the concept of Banting, you pretty much have to buy that book because it gives you all the basic LCHF recipes that you can’t do without, from cauli-rice to courgetinni and all the rest. You also get the detailed science to get your head around making the switch from low-fat to low-carb eating. But the actual dietary advice was quite general and now seems relatively rudimentary.
Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0 assumes a level of understanding of LCHF eating and it only touches on the science so that it can focus on nailing the how-to aspect – which is the diet and the lifestyle. The approach is more nuanced and sophisticated yet far easier to follow.
So if you really need an LCHF diet that works because you need to shed kilos or you have specific health concerns, or if you’ve tried Banting and fallen off the wagon, then this is the book for you.
In short, Banting 2.0 is a framework that the Real Meal Revolution company now uses to usher people who want to lose weight and rejuvenate their health into a low-carb healthy-eating lifestyle. It could be seen as our company manifesto.

Can you give some examples of how the “new” Banting 2.0 differs from the original Banting as described in the red book?
Sure. For one, we found that many readers of the original book ended up simply cooking from the book and winging the diet – perhaps there was too much science or we weren’t clear enough. So we’ve tried to be as straightforward and methodical as possible in Banting 2.0. The approach has four phases, with a clear way to calculate how long you should be in each stage, depending on your needs. There’s a starting point and a defined goal, and a large resource of tools to move you forward.
Importantly, we’ve recognised the importance of lifestyle when it comes to health and weight loss. You can’t expect to be optimally healthy if you’re not sleeping well or you’re chronically stressed out. Diet, sleep, exercise and stress management are all linked. Similarly, goal-setting and your mental approach is also critical, so we’ve incorporated these elements as well.
From a technical point of view, we now know how best to Bant to avoid many of the side effects that are common for those who might have gone cold turkey before. In particular, we’ve seen the enormous benefit of restoring gut health to assist with this and to push you through the dreaded plateau. The science on gut health has taken enormous strides in the three short years since the original Real Meal was published and has come to be seen as a fundamental aspect of human health. We follow all the top LCHF and other dietary resources around the world on a daily basis, so we’ve been sure to incorporate all the newest science into our diet. This is probably most noticeable in our new refined lists, which I’m perhaps most proud of. The book is in black and white, but there is a full-colour pull-out of the lists for your fridge – up to date and easy to follow.

The book is written by you “and the Real Meal Revolution team”, without any of the authors from the original book. How are you qualified to write the book?
Great question. The first point to acknowledge is that this was an enormous team effort and I hope that is made prominent enough in the book. The most important thing to remember is that Banting 2.0 is for the most part a summary of all of the feedback we have received from our customers. We had collated it simply for our own team, but the info in it was so valuable that we realised we needed to publish it. We then called in the medical and dietary experts to ensure the science and advice was accurate and properly conveyed.
So the “Real Meal Revolution team” mentioned on the cover of the book includes an LCHF medical expert, a dietitian who has trained and worked in the UK, Australia and South Africa, and numerous members of the company who work with active Banters on a daily basis, have collated the data from thousands of clients and know what works in the real world.
From my personal point of view, I have achieved a world first in endurance swimming and I am a chef with experience in catering at events for thousands of people. I hope that means I’m qualified to offer advice on setting goals, practical eating and writing shopping lists! Beyond that, I’ve been in what is essentially a brand-new health field since the very beginning, and I’ve seen the confusion and problems that it can cause at a user level. But I’m essentially just a name for the company as a whole.

Some people might ask, “Where’s Tim Noakes?” Have you “appropriated” his revolution?
Haha. No, I don’t think I’ve appropriated the revolution at all. Prof certainly gained all the headlines before the original book was even an idea in my head – which is why I approached him in the first place with the plan to make that book – and he drove the publicity of it after publication with amazing stamina and enthusiasm. I think it’s fair to say that without Tim Noakes, the Real Meal Revolution would have sold a fraction of what it did. But I was always intent on owning and developing the Real Meal Revolution brand.

Professor Noakes and “the Real Meal Revolution” are seen to be linked by many in the Banting community. What’s your relationship now and why wasn’t he a part of the new book?
I had the honour of working with Prof on the first two Real Meal Revolution books and on a weekly basis with the business for two years. We’re still in touch but our two organisations parted ways in the middle of 2016, which was understandable given our different priorities and platforms. I would say we both have the same end goal – to change the way South Africa and the world eats – but we were pulling in different directions, and both entities were struggling to achieve what they wanted to within the constraints of a contract we had drafted more than two years before at a stage when we didn’t even know what we wanted to do.
Along the way, the two other original authors have also gone their separate ways. I don’t think LCHF eating is a brand or business priority for David Grier, while Sally-Ann Creed has pursued it in the way that works for her.
I think the Real Meal Revolution brand and Prof will always be linked in people’s heads –as may be expected, given the incredible impact of the original book – but The Noakes Foundation will come to be recognised for its outstanding scientific research while I hope the Real Meal Revolution company will be recognised as the go-to for recipes and lifestyle advice in response to that science (and the science of all the other experts).
Though it was based on a lot of the work we did together, the new book was the company’s first project without Tim. You will notice it is much more consumer-focused and is very light on the science. For the most part, we have referred readers to the experts in the LCHF community, should they wish to find out more.
Readers who need practical advice in changing their lives will benefit from this book in a big way. That was always my personal strength and it’s the company’s strength so we’re now fully focused on it.

This is the third Real Meal Revolution book. How did the writing and production process differ from the others?
Great question.
The original was one massive adrenalin rush. We wrote it in about a month and sent it to print 63 days after starting. Design, photography, writing, editing and the rest was insanely rushed, hugely energised and super fun.
With the second book, Raising Superheroes, we actually published it ourselves, which made sense at the time as it allowed us to retain copyright of all the material involved, among other things. We had the luxury of production values that were off the charts, thanks to the success of the first book, and it was ultimately a lesson in publishing. In the world of publishing, authors often talk about how publishers are a nightmare, while publishers often talk about authors being the nightmare. I found it hugely valuable to see it from both sides. I have the utmost respect for publishers as a result of my experience with Raising Superheroes. It’s an incredible book, it sold over 25,000 copies, which is amazing, and I am extremely proud of it – and I know Prof Noakes is too. But it occupied a lot of our time and energy!
With Banting 2.0, I opted not to publish through Real Meal Revolution. It was easier to hand it over and Burnet Media, who had assisted on Raising Superheroes, did a cracking job. Most importantly, the book does what I wanted it to do: it offers the right advice in the right way. With Banting 2.0, the toughest part of the production was getting the lists to match the right phases, and to offer an approach that was accessible to the different Banting levels. It was something that went back and forth until the minute before the book went to print – and even afterwards! The publishing process allowed us to focus three years of work, research and data gathering into one, unified document.

What do you hope to achieve with Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0?
My hope is that the methodology in this book will accelerate the growth of LCHF and Banting as a movement. We have approximately 350 certified Banting coaches around the country and world (and counting) and they’ve taken to the book with great enthusiasm, while individual sales are going well. We’re on to our second print run, and we’ve signed a deal to publish the book internationally through Little, Brown in the UK.
Because the steps are so clear in this book, it makes Banting easier to adopt, thus making it easier to spread. We’re using it to drive the business forward and in time I would like the Real Meal Revolution to affect millions of people around the world.

And where to from here for Real Meal Revolution the company?
The world! We have set a goal to change 100 million lives by 28 February 2025. There aren’t even 100 million South Africans. I see this going global and I don’t want to stop until we reach our target.

• For cover image, author image or more information on the book, contact info@burnetmedia.co.za.
• For more information on the Real Meal Revolution company, contact info@realmealrevolution.com or see www.realmealrevolution.com.

Note to editors: this Q&A is free for use, provided it is accompanied by the information below and that any edits are approved – send to info@burnetmedia.co.za:
• Real Meal Revolution: Banting 2.0 is available in all good bookstores and online. Recommended retail price is R190.

In memory of Aubrey Krüger, ocean tamer

Aubrey Krüger, the draughtsman who helped bring into existence one of the great South African inventions, the dolos, died recently in East London. This entry on him (and Eric Merrifield, who was initially given all the credit) is an extract from 50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans.

Eric Merrifield & Aubrey Krüger

Eric Merrifield: 1914 ­– 1 December 1982

Aubrey Krüger: 1935 – July 2016

Harbour engineers; inventors; ocean tamers

Sometimes in life the simple route is best. Take the mousetrap, for example. In 1894 William C Hooker, of Abingdon, Illinois, patented the first-ever spring-loaded snap-trap. It is a “spring-actuated jaw” attached to a wooden board, with a hinged trigger on one side and a locking bar on the other. Bait is placed on the trigger, the jaw is primed, and when your resident mouse comes tiptoeing along for a nibble the locking bar disengages and the jaw slams shut. Bye-bye, mousy. This simple device is so effective at what it does that in more than a century since its invention no-one has come up with a better, more efficient, more cost-effective way of catching mice. Not for nothing the phrase, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”

In the 1960s, South Africa came up with an invention that is not only simpler than the mousetrap, but one that has a far mightier role to play around the world. It is the dolos, a giant, oddly shaped concrete construction with no moving parts whatsoever, and its job is to tame oceans. Plonk several hundred, or even several thousand, of them in a row along a harbour breakwater or a shoreline and they offer immense protection against the relentless erosive power of the sea.

The dolos takes its name from the Afrikaans term for an ox’s knucklebone because of their similarity in shape, often described as “an H with one leg turned through 90 degrees”. It is slightly more refined than that – there’s a bit of a taper in the design and there are usually eight angled surfaces, not four – but that’s pretty much it. The key to success is the way they interact with each other when packed together. Unlike rectangular breakwater blocks that aquaplane and move about in heavy running seas, dolosse scatter the energy of the waves and actually lock closer together over time. Even though they can weigh up to thirty tons, they are also easier to handle than rectangular blocks.

About the only thing complicated about the dolos is working out who invented it. For a long time the East London harbour engineer Eric Merrifield was given all the credit. Dolosse were originally known as Merrifield Blocks and he received the international Shell Design Award, among other prizes, for his efforts. But after Merrifield’s death, the unheralded Aubrey Krüger, a junior draughtsman, claimed to have come up with the prototype of the dolos, using several sections of broomstick and some string. Merrifield, so this version of the story goes, was simply the man in charge who had dished out the instructions for a new concrete structure to be designed, and then managed the invention into being. Either way, they both worked for the South African Railway & Harbour Services at the time and, since it was invented on company time, the dolos was considered its property. And it was never patented. Given that there are – from Tristan da Cunha to Hong Kong harbour and throughout more than a hundred countries in between – millions and millions of the things holding back the ocean all around the world, that was probably not the soundest financial decision ever made.

So, to Merrifield and Krüger and whoever else was involved in the creation of the dolos go great kudos and acknowledgment – but no financial fortune. Between them, they built a better ocean-restraining structure, but the world did not beat a path to their doors.

 

50 Brilliants cover _mini
Book details:

50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans by Alexander Parker & Tim Richman

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EAN: 9780987043719

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Oscar and OJ should start a club

Due to recent events we felt it was necessary to make this excerpt from our new book Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Kak? The Zuma Years available for everyone to read.

Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Kak? The Zuma Years, the newest book in the Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Kak? series, hit stores in the beginning of June as a part of Exclusive Books’ Homebru promotion. It is an entertaining read that discusses the everyday struggles in South Africans from AA to JZ and everything in between.

The Oscar Pistorius trial

Jesus wept.

For so many reasons.

Let me start by using this entry as a public service announcement to the rest of the world: contrary to some reports, Oscar Pistorius is not what all South African white guys are like. First, most of us can’t run 400 metres in 45 seconds. Second, most of us don’t shoot our girlfriends dead. Third, most of us have two legs.

That last point is an important one because, given the facts of the case, Oscar Pistorius did not have two… You know.

What I’m saying is that’s just one crazy man with a gun and the only reason it all got so hysterical and out of control and unbelievable – I mean, it was actually unbelievable – was because of the way the world saw him, both before and after he shot dead Reeva Steenkamp. Cut through the smoke, mirrors, press and PR and you’ve just got a nasty piece of work with a temper.

Listen, we’re used to being embarrassed by public figures: every apartheid leader there was; Mbeki, with his radical views on AIDs; Zuma, full stop; Heyneke Meyer singing the national anthem. Oscar, however, churned up some of the most cringe-worthy moments in living memory. Here they are in no particular order:

1) He was found not guilty of murder. Mind-boggling. The verdict was eventually overturned on appeal, yes, but only a judge could have talked herself into that one.

2) The dedicated Oscar Trial TV channel. There are near on 18,000 murders in South Africa every year but a famous killer gets his own TV show.

3) The media meltdown. Seasoned, educated and credible journalists reduced to headless Twitterbots sitting in the courtroom day after day reporting every banal word to the social media vultures. Ooh, want to know what they said at the trial today? Please, God, no.

4) The shoot-up in the restaurant. “Why,” the world asked, “did he fire a gun in a restaurant?” And all we as South Africans could do was shrug and say, “Joburg”.

5) The Pistorians. The who? The crazy, deluded, fame-hungry fans of Oscar Pistorius who dedicated their time to trying to defend the gun-touting hooligan’s actions both outside the court and all over social media. These are the kind of people who marry serial killers on death row. Or become serial killers on death row. They’ve now taken to wearing all white for some reason that nobody cares about.

6) The utter shit-show of the police investigation. Never mind the contamination of evidence; never mind the forensic incompetence that we’ve come to expect in every murder trial ever prosecuted in South Africa; at this particular crime scene the police stole two of Pistorius’s wristwatches. The fucking police stole his watches. And what’s worse, the presiding officer, having noticed the case of designer watches sitting so temptingly in the corner, specifically warned his underlings not to do it. And still they did it. And then it was reported to the entire world.

Watching the Oscar Pistorius trial unfold was like watching your child pull down his pants and take a dump in the middle of the aisle at your friend’s wedding: there was nothing you could do to stop it so you sat back and watched in utter horror just praying that somehow the rest of the world wouldn’t notice.

Sorry, world.

 

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Book details:

Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Kak? The Zuma Years by Tim Richman

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EAN: 9781928230335

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South African author, Lidudumalingani, wins prestigious Caine Prize writing award

LIDUDUMALINGANI - picBurnet Media is proud to announce that Lidudumalingani has won the 17th Caine Prize for African Writing for his story “Memories We Lost”, which first appeared in the Short.Sharp.Stories anthology Incredible Journey in 2015.

The Chair of Judges, Delia Jarrett-Macauley, announced Lidudumalingani as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a dinner held on Monday, 4 July at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

“The winning story explores a difficult subject: how traditional beliefs in a rural community are used to tackle schizophrenia,” she said. “This is a troubling piece, depicting the great love between two young siblings in a beautifully drawn Eastern Cape. Multi-layered, and gracefully narrated, this short story leaves the reader full of sympathy and wonder at the plight of its protagonists.”

Born in the village of Zikhovane in the Eastern Cape, Lidudumalingani is a writer, filmmaker and photographer. “Memories We Lost” is his second story to appear in a Short.Sharp.Stories anthology; “The Streetwalkers” was published in Adults Only in 2014.

The Caine Prize is Africa’s premier short-story-writing competition, with entrants drawn from African writers all around the world. As with previous winners, Lidudumalingani will be given the opportunity to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University, as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. He will also be invited to speak at the Library of Congress and take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, Storymoja in Nairobi and Ake Festival in Abeokuta, Nigeria.

The Short.Sharp.Stories anthologies were launched in 2013, in conjunction with the National Arts Festival, to foster creative writing in South Africa, providing for both new and established voices. The first collection was Bloody Satisfied, followed by Adults Only in 2014 and Incredible Journey in 2015.

Publisher Tim Richman of Burnet Media said, “The Caine Prize is wonderful recognition for a young South African talent, and also for the work of Joanne Hichens who curates the Short.Sharp.Stories awards and has edited all the anthologies to date. Deserved congratulations to both Lidudumalingani and Joanne, and to our other shortlisted writer Bongani Kona, as well as to all the writers published in the Short.Sharp.Stories anthologies.”

Coincidentally, the fourth Short.Sharp.Stories anthology, Die Laughing, published by Tattoo Press in conjunction with the National Arts Festival and Burnet Media, will be launched at the National Arts Festival on 6 July 2016.

For more information on this year’s Caine Prize, click here.

For more information on the Short.Sharp.Stories awards, click here.

All enquiries: info@burnetmedia.co.za

 

incredible journey cover copy Book details:

Incredible Journey: Stories that move you edited by Joanne Hichens
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EAN: 9781928230182
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Launching Under Devil’s Peak

Author with wife, Maureen_mini

Author Gavin Cooper with wife Maureen

Under Devil’s Peak by Gavin Cooper was released in late May 2016. It tells the story of the life and times of Advocate Wilfrid Cooper, a prominent legal name in South Africa in 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

The release was timed for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Hendrik Verwoerd in September 1966.  The assassin, Dmitri Tsafendas, was defended by Wilfrid Cooper, who saved him from the gallows. Wilfrid’s other high profile cases included those of Scissors Murderess Marlene Lehnberg, Steve Biko, Imam Haron and other political detainees who died in detention.

So far there have been two successful launches of the book in Cape Town. The first was held at Clarke’s Books in Long Street, with a full house of interested guests listening to Gavin, the author, talk about the process of turning his father’s life into an accessible and interesting popular history. This event was also the first time that Gavin Cooper, editor Russell Martin and publisher Tim Richman were together in the same room.

The second launch was held at Kalk Bay Books in Kalk Bay, with another full house, and this time Nancy Richards, the much-loved voice of books on SAfm Literature, interviewed Gavin. Another wonderful event.

Thanks to everyone involved!

Author & Nancy-mini

Nancy Richards interviewing Gavin Cooper at Kalk Bay Books

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Gavin Cooper signing books

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Editor Russell Martin, author Gavin Cooper and publisher Tim Richman

Clarke's bookshop-mini

Clarke’s Books storefront in Long Street with Under Devil’s Peak on display

 

Book details: Under Devil’s Peak: The life and times of Wilfrid Cooper, an advocate in the age of apartheid by Gavin Cooper

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EAN: 9781928230366

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Congrats to our Caine Prize Nominees!

It has been an exciting few months for the Short.Sharp.Stories anthologies!

LIDUDUMALINGANI - pic

Last month Joanne Hichens, editor and curator of the Short.Sharp.Stories awards, won the inaugural NIHSS Award for Adults Only, the 2014 anthology – a wonderful achievement. And this month we are proud to announce that two out of the five authors nominated for this year’s Caine Prize were recognised for their work in Incredible Journey, the 2015 Anthology. The winner, to be announced in July, will receive £10,000.

BONGANI KONA - pic

Bongani Kona from Zimbabwe was nominated for his story ‘At Your Requiem’ and Lidudumalingani from South Africa was nominated for his story ‘Memories We Lost’. Congratulations to both of them. You can read more about both authors and find their stories click here . And for more on this year’s awards click here.

For an interview with Lidudumalingani on his story from Incredible Journey click here .

For an interview with Bongani Kona on his story from Incredible Journey click here .

 

 

 

incredible journey cover copy Book details:

Incredible Journey: Stories that move you edited by Joanne Hichens
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EAN: 9781928230182
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Alone Number 3 in South Africa!

We at Burnet Media are happy to announce that our most recent title, Alone: The Search for Brett Archibald, is currently number 3 on Nielson’s Overall Bestseller List in SA!

alone-LR

About the book: Alone: The Search for Brett Archibald is the incredible but true story of what it takes to defy needle-in-a-haystack odds and survive what should have been certain death. Outdoor savvy, astonishing imagination, mental toughness, a refusal to give up hope and a canny rescuer with an unbelievable background ultimately saw him through. Most of all this is a story of the power of the human spirit that defies rational explanation.

About the author: Brett Archibald is an international businessman and entrepreneur, who built an impressive global career, which included directorship positions with a worldwide hospitality and travel corporation in Johannesburg, Sydney, Hong Kong and London. He now lives in Cape Town where he is the chairman and shareholder of an event and hospitality company.

Stay tuned for news about upcoming launches.

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ISBN/EAN: 9781928230304
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Incredible Journey Teaser: Q&A with Stephen Symons

STEPHEN SYOMONS - pic

 

Stephen Symons is one of the 20 contributors to this year’s Short.Sharp.Stories anthology, Incredible Journey, with his story ‘Red Dust’. He is a lecturer, graphic designer and poet. His poetry and writing have been published in journals, magazines and various anthologies. He holds a masters in Creative Writing from UCT and is currently working on a PhD in African Studies that focuses of the experiences of ex-SADF conscripts.

 

You decided to set your story in the future in a dystopian society – why? How did the story evolve?
Red Dust is set some years in the future, in a South Africa that is slipping into irreversible oblivion. The slippage is the product of issues relating to land, ineffectual governance and avarice.

 

Red Dust grew from a short story that I’d written in a Creative Writing seminar at UCT. The initial story sparked a spirited response from colleagues so I thought the plot was worthy of further development. Although I remained faithful to the original structure, subsequent incarnations included the introduction of characters such as Billabong and Johan’s wife, Hestia. They formed sub-texts that I hoped would pique the reader’s interest and deepen the intrigue of the story.

 

In your bio you mentioned that the people of South Africa are bound to a “precarious future” – what did you mean by that?
South African history, both current and past, remains intimately connected to issues of land ownership. I think the very nature of those tenuous connections inevitably binds us to a variety of “precarious futures”.

 

Dystopian novels seem to be all the rage these days – why do you think that is?
I’m not actually a fan of dystopian novels, despite the imaginative and even visceral appeal of the scenarios they present. I think our fascination with these daunting futures is really an attempt to examine how human beings would respond and adapt to those scenarios. That is the lure in my work, at least. I think dystopian novels are in some instances vaguely prophetic – perhaps an attempt by writers at tempting fate? Two examples that spring to mind are Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints (1973) and even aspects of Orwell’s 1984 (1949).

 

What does this year’s topic, the ‘incredible journey’, mean to you?
We’re told that the journey is more important than the destination, yet what I find fascinating is how individuals react to the process of the journey. In that respect, ‘Red Dust’ actually focuses on incredible individual reactions to a series of forced journeys.

 

Describe your fiction writing process. Is it disciplined and 9-5pm or do you need to be in the mood?
I think the urge to write doesn’t keep business hours, so you need to write when you feel the “creative juices are flowing”. I have a full-time job and a family, so I often have to seek out those precious moments of peace; early morning or late at night, generally when the rest of the house is asleep. I would say that’s when I’m most productive.

 

You’re a poet and you write short stories – what’s the main difference in the writing process?
I believe that poetry and short stories, even prose in general, ultimately serve the same pleasure centres in our brains. Short stories and specifically poetry rely on condensed meaning despite obvious formal differences, yet more recently I’ve been blurring those boundaries via narrative prose poems. There are of course other overlapping categories relying on extreme brevity, such as flash fiction, but I guess flash fiction is stripped of the lyricism of prose poetry. The Pulitzer Prize winning collection 3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri exemplifies that blurring and even shifting of the boundaries between the two disciplines of poetry and the short story. It’s certainly worthy of further investigation.

What short story writing tip can you share?
I spent two years writing short stories during the course of my MA, and despite the advice and numerous tips of visiting authors I subsequently realised that the best path for any writer is to persevere and simply continue to write, and of course read widely.

Do you believe you have a role in promoting South Africans’ interest in reading?
We live in a society of tweets and truncated communication, but it’s encouraging when a reader comments on something I have written, particularly if it’s poetry. I believe the real challenge lies in cultivating a nation of active readers. I would add that producing engaging and challenging writing is the writer’s primary role in promoting South Africans’ interest in reading. Naturally, education is a skeleton key of sorts, so it’s always gratifying to be part of a venture that educates, promotes and presents new voices to the South African reading public.

 

What can we expect from you next?

Presently, my primary focus is on my doctoral thesis in African Studies and writing poetry. I’m hoping to find a local publisher for a poetry manuscript. Sadly, local custodianship for male English speaking poets remains rather limited. I’m also looking at publishing a collection of poetry in the US, where my collection Spioenkop was nominated as a semi-finalist for the Hudson Prize for Poetry.

 

Interview by Liz Sarant

 

 
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Book details:

Incredible Journey: Stories that move you edited by Joanne Hichens
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EAN: 9781928230182
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Incredible Journey Teaser: Q&A with Anirood Singh

ANIROOD SINGH - picAnirood Singh is one of the 20 contributors to this year’s Short.Sharp.Stories anthology, Incredible Journey with his story ‘Karma’s Map’. Singh is an advocate of the High Court, a nonexecutive director of companies and an advisor to the public sector. He is also an avid writer, with a master’s degree in creative writing from Rhodes University. As well as a number of non-fiction articles and conference papers, he has written two novels, a play, two screenplays that have been made into films, and a number of short stories.

 

As a repeat author how did writing this year’s story, ‘Karma’s Map’, differ from writing ‘Demon In The DNA’ for Bloody Satisfied?

‘Demon In The DNA’ was entirely a work of fiction in the crime genre. ‘Karma’s Map’ depicts the protagonist in my (as yet) unpublished novel, Karma on Trial. To this I added some of my personal experiences. So it is part fiction and part fact.

 

 

 

What inspired the theme of your story?

If it can be called inspiration, it was discovering that I suffered from prostatitis and I had to undergo a surgical procedure to survive. Prostate complications, added to diabetes and hypertension, can adversely affect one’s physical and mental state. However, one learns to cope with life’s slings and arrows. So I decided to write about prostate problems and their aftermath.

 

Your story starts by going through the traditional Indian nuptials. Can you comment on some of the traditions?

I am a non-practising Hindu and as such do not know much of Hinduism. As far as I know there are three types of Hindu weddings – Aryan, Sanathan and Vedic. These are still practised today, accompanied by great pomp and ceremony as well as high cost. In my opinion these nuptials are more of a showpiece than a simple marriage ceremony that could be undertaken at little or no cost at a temple. I believe some of the cultures, traditions and rituals practised by Hindus were based on or influenced by mythology. Hence, some of us South Africans of Indian descent do not understand the significance of many of these and simply follow family traditions.

 

You are quoted as saying “life begins with a death sentence” in your biography. Could you expand on that?

The belief by Hindus in karma, or fate, could mean that one’s life is mapped out beforehand and could be read in the stars by a seer or priest, in the stars. Such a person could reveal one’s future based on the person’s date and time of birth and other factors. It has been said that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life where one lives according to nature as one of God’s creatures. In this system humans are but caretakers of earth for future generations and our deaths commence at birth – one is born to die, or death is inevitable.

 

Why do you think it is important to write about the afflictions that are inevitably a part of growing older?

When some older folk talk to each other, often a part of the conversation is a catalogue of ailments discussed in order to elicit some sympathy or solace. It would be boring to write about them, especially in the absence of story. On the other hand, it may be educational, and entertaining, for others to learn of certain ailments which they themselves may encounter. However, I believe the writer must include some wit and humour – laughing in the face of impending or inevitable death.

 

What does this year’s topic, the ‘incredible journey’, mean to you?

A journey can take many forms, such as a voyage of discovery. However, I decided to write about something more mundane than adventurous, hence the prostate-based tale. I used real life to fashion a largely fictional story.

 

Describe your fiction writing process. Is it disciplined and 9-5pm or do you need to be in the mood?

I am semi-retired so have more time than the average working writer. I do not follow a strict writing regime but write (and read) whenever I can. This includes non-fiction and professional articles and papers, including legal opinions. I do not need to be in the mood because I don’t know what that is. I make notes as something comes to mind and later incorporate them into stories. I write at any time of the day.

 

What short story writing tip can you share?

Originally I believed in spontaneous writing, that is, free-writing based on a story idea and incorporating whatever comes to mind. I have since learned the value of writing to a plan, that is, using an outline. This is a road map, which should not be seen as a straitjacket but one that incorporates sufficient flexibility to enable the writer to take deviations through sub-plots, etc. However, one must remember that characters are the drivers.

 

Do you believe you have a role in promoting South Africans’ interest in reading?

Yes. I am executive producer of a low-budget movie production company. I wish to turn some of my short stories into short feature films and perhaps hint at the importance of story and characterization. I also hope to publish some in serial form on Amazon.

 

Interview by Liz Sarant

 
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Book details:

Incredible Journey: Stories that move you edited by Joanne Hichens
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EAN: 9781928230182
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Incredible Journey Teaser: Q&A with Tebello Mzamo

TEBELLO MZAMO - picTebello Mzamo is one of the 20 contributors to this year’s Short.Sharp.Stories anthology, Incredible Journey, with her story ‘My Room’. She is studying towards an honours degree in English at the University of the Western Cape. The writing bug has bit, she tells us.

 

Your story focuses on a homosexual teen. What inspired the theme of your story? How did the story evolve?

The theme of the story was inspired by my cousin and from seeing the problem of homophobia that our society is still faced with, and also I just wanted to write in a way so that the reader listens carefully or tries to imagine what it can be like to be unaccepted for being him or herself. Originally, the story evolved from the character taking his life, but then I discovered, through the writing, that Katiso is someone who loves life.

 

Does the title ‘My Room’ have any significance?

I decided to title the story ‘My Room’ because my cousin used to talk about how he would sneak his partners into his room and tell his parents that they were just friends sleeping over. I found this both sad and intriguing at the same time.

 

What are your thoughts on the level of homophobia in South Africa today?

I think the level of homophobia in South Africa today is slowly progressing away from viewing homosexuals in a taboo light, though there is still discomfort and intolerance towards gays and lesbians.

 

Katiso, your main character, manages to own his sexuality in certain scenarios but not in others. Why is that?

When he’s at home, for example, his parents and uncle make it impossible for him to be who he is, simply because they just cannot tolerate or accept him as he is. They represent a level of authority that he can’t completely ignore. Bearing in mind that he, Katiso, as a man, has to prove his “manhood” to them, along with the generational gap that exists, it is not that easy to own his sexuality around them.

 

A theme throughout the story is Katiso’s relationship with his family – can you comment on how you developed that relationship?

These relationships came about by thinking about what it means to be a boy child. Boys have to prove themselves to their fathers but also to their uncles who can act as surrogate fathers. This becomes a whole lot harder and complicated when you are gay. Also, the relationship Katiso has with his family back in Lesotho is much more stifling. The relationship he has with his uncle, in Cape Town, is tense but ultimately more liberating. While he is chased out of the house he is given a sort of “free” space where he can exhale, though not completely.

 

Did you find it difficult writing from the perspective of a male?

No, not really. It was more of a challenge to write about a gay man facing the issues of circumcision because it involves nuances that may not be that complicated if it were about a straight man, for example. But the important thing was having to keep in mind that I had to write the character with honesty and integrity.

 

Describe your fiction writing process. Is it disciplined and 9-5pm or do you need to be in the mood?

My fiction writing process is definitely not disciplined. It’s more like I will write on any random day when I feel that I have to write something that keeps nagging me. I feel joyous feeling after that, especially when the writing goes well and everything falls into place.

 

What short story writing tip can you share?

I think one must be disciplined enough to stick to a theme when writing a short story. The story is short and one must be careful to avoid deviating from the point one is trying to make in the story. But also, don’t think too much about writing the perfect story – just connect with your story and have fun. Lastly, always believe that your story is worth telling and read as many books as possible!

 

Do you believe you have a role in promoting South Africans’ interest in reading?

Yes, I believe I do because not only do I write, but I often like to imagine how having a book store, either Exclusive Books or another bookstore at, say, Gugulethu Mall. This would impact the reading trend in South Africa. Surely, more people would be reading if they had better access to books? Getting easier access to books is the battle, particularly in our less advances township libraries. I have ambitions of playing a direct role in getting people to read. I want to do something worthwhile in promoting interest in reading. Thus, I volunteer at an Non-Profit Organisation, Let Us Be Brilliant, where we teach primary school learners to read and spell.

 

What can we expect from you next?

I’m looking forward to entering the competition again and I’m working towards my first novel.

 

Interview by Liz Sarant

 

If you wish to know more about the Let Us Be Brilliant Non-Profit Organisation please visit their Facebook page here.

 

incredible journey cover copy

Book details:

Incredible Journey: Stories that move you edited by Joanne Hichens
Book homepage
EAN: 9781928230182
Find this book with BOOK Finder!