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Novel Transcript Reading: Courage the Mouse, by Cornelia Fick

Novel Writing Festival

 

Performed by Laura Kyswaty

 Get to know the writer:

What is your story story about?

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about myself J. This is actually a story about following your destiny.

What genres would you say this story is in?

It’s a children’s story for ages 7-11

How would you describe this story in two words?

Adventure. Playfulness

What movie have you seen the most in your life?

Gone with the wind.

What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

The greatest love by Whitney Houston

Do you have an all-time favorite novel?

Mice and Men, John Steinberg. Recently The almanac of the dead by Leslie Silko

What motivated you to write this story?

I wrote it for my son and added pictures in water colour. The pictures were not very good because I have…

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Mary Oliver: The Artist’s Task

Wonderful essay on creativity

Vox Populi

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses…

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Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers’ Favorite

5star-flat-hr

Eye of a Needle: And Other Stories by Cornelia Fick is a gorgeous
collection of short and long stories, each suffused with unique
literary elements to entertain readers. The author captures the
reality of South Africa in vivid detail, in a voice that is clear and
absorbing. In “The Beggar,” the reader meets the “homeless writer”
and the circumstances that led him to miss his big dreams and set
up a home under the bridge. “Opposites Attract” features great
storytelling skills. There are stories of varying lengths, each looking
at a fragment of life through the narrator’s eyes, and at times the
reader can feel the indictment of the powers that be for the poverty
and injustice, or a celebration of love.
This collection features an exciting and delightful blend of flash
fiction and longer stories. The shorter ones are tightly written, and
the reader feels teased and wanting more once they complete
reading each story. The writing itself has many elements of
seduction woven into its fabric. The longer stories feature
compelling characters, great plots, and well-developed themes.
Some of the themes — love, social issues, poverty — are recurrent
in several stories. The characters that animate the plot lines are
well-imagined, most of them are plucked from ordinary life, and are
well-sculpted. What was most fascinating for me was the beautiful
and elegant writing. It is clean and polished, laden with vivid and
beautiful descriptions. Eye of a Needle: And Other Stories is a
gorgeous treat for fans of flash fiction and the short story, and
Cornelia Fick comes across as a mistress of the genre.

Being lost

I’m reading Rebecca Solnit’s book, A field guide to getting lost*, and I’m reminded of the recurring dreams I used to have not so long ago. That of being lost in a strange country or place, threatened by unknown ghosts, and out of my mind with panic and fear.

When I look back, at the time, there was a bloody conflict and somehow I’d found my place in the family hierarchy gone or mislaid. Relationships with other relatives had disappeared or become strained.

Due to my anger at being in this space, my primary relationship faltered. The dream appeared like tragic music to accompany my life. After or during the dream I would wake up in a cold sweat, my heart pounding. A mysterious chest pain appeared. I was experiencing being lost and I did not know how to be lost.

Solnit says in the first chapter ‘Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself come from, and where you will go.’

She suggests that children find it easier to be lost, citing the incident of a deaf boy who blew his whistle and when nobody came and night fell, he sensibly found a sheltered place to sleep.

When I was a teenager we regularly went to Johannesburg to visit my aunt. The distance from the bus stop in Bree Street to Bezvalley was intimidating for a thirteen-year-old, yet I never seemed to feel it. And making a wrong turn wasn’t disastrous because as long as you walked in the right direction you were fine. I wasn’t afraid.

Obviously I’d been better at getting lost then, assured of finding my way;  so what had changed? Why had I become fearful of the world and lost trust in myself and my ability to find my way in it? What was there in my life that had stripped away my confidence? These and other questions plagued me.

I sank into a depression. I have a picture with childhood friends at Gold Reef City, dressed in the clothes worn by women during the gold rush, to celebrate a birthday. My eyes are lifeless. I’m there but I’m not there. I had disappeared into a wall of misery from which I managed to function perfunctorily to enact the duties expected from me.

It was during this time that a writer friend suggested a course in creative writing. She had just completed it and couldn’t praise it enough.

I applied, was accepted and slowly wrote my way out of the dead-end my life had become.

I’m in Cape Town to do research for a historical novel and I have never been better. Yesterday I went to Bloubergstrand 45 kilometres away to interview a man who had traced 400 years of his ancestors, unusual in South Africa. Normally I would panic. But I was calm and made a wonderful friend.

When I started reading Solnit’s book I had one of those ‘a-ha’ moments people talk about. I don’t yet know how to be lost without fear overwhelming me but, inspired by this book, I’m working on it.

*A field guide to being lost, Viking, Penguin Group (USA) INC 375 Hudson Street, New York, 2005.

On personal essays

 

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I’m a fiction writer. I prefer to clothe my deepest thoughts and concerns by inventing a character and giving him/her my views and problems. Cowardly I know, but I cringe at people who can write about their innermost being, even if it makes them look bad. I cringe on their behalf, but also on my own. I would never wash my thoughts in public, I think, while admiring their honesty and foolhardiness.

But then I start thinking, what would it take for me to do that?  Rinse my thoughts in public, that is.

I’m a private person, schooled on the idea ‘we don’t talk about that.’ I remember when I was about fifteen asking my grandmother about the sound in her hip when she walks. Every step would be accompanied by a loud click. In my young mind I had visions of her removing her underwear to show me the affected hip. Did it have a dent, what on earth caused that noise? It never affected her walk though, just accompanied it like drum sticks conjured up by her body. Click-clack-click.

Needless to say she told my mother and I got a hiding. I learned you don’t talk about grandmother’s click. I also acquired the reputation for being too curious, a bad thing. A child like that could stumble on family secrets.

I need the protection of anonymity. Then you’ll get the most honest feelings and deepest insights I can muster. But talk to me one on one, ask me to speak in front of a crowd, and I go dumb. That is why we are writers, I suppose. We can put on a coat of many colours and try to wow with our words.

But there’s always the possibility of growth: growing side-ways because of too many puddings, and growing intellectually and emotionally. I tried both. I joined this workshop on ‘what is a mind’. For the first time in my existence my brain actually grew painful with thinking.

People don’t tell you that, that thinking can be painful. That is why all those clever people start becoming weird. Their brains ache and they have to do something wack to find relief. (I’m trying to think if I know any clever people who are weird and I don’t. Eish. A personal essay is supposed to have facts so scratch that.)

While flirting with the idea of writing a ‘personal essay’ (just the name gives me the shivers) I stumbled on the quote: ‘At some point, all writers should attempt this form. It is at once a challenge of your talent but also a bearing of soul that is much more difficult to get right than novels or scripts or poems. I would challenge any writer to try it at least once.’ (http://litreactor.com/columns/up-close-and-personal-a-personality-expose-of-the-personal-essay)

Uh-huh. Now who can resist such a challenge? This woman, Taylor Houston – oh dear it may very well be a man – this man or woman, issues a direct challenge and I’m stepping up to the plate, or is it stepping off, because I’m out of my depth here.

People (this is me on my soap box) generally interpret themselves. Their honesty may therefore display who they think they are. And isn’t that fiction too? Everyone has a face that they present to the world. I haven’t discovered mine yet, so as soon as I know I’ll jump in and write my inner ear.

Welcoming the muse

fairy-1964203_1280In writing a poem I usually know what I want to say and how to say it, before I start. This involves thinking, planning, editing. During the past week, however, I had a different experience.

I started writing a poem to present at our monthly poetry group, Jozi House of Poetry, with the theme ‘new beginnings’. Pressure to produce something made me sit down to work. I wrote the first line, stolen from a random list in my diary, ‘God, mythology, creed’. I chewed the back of my pen, then another line popped into my head. Dutifully I wrote it down.

This happened for the entire poem, not being conscious of direction or theme, just writing what came to me, regardless.

After the last line I had no idea what the poem was about. But on reading it, I liked it.  It turned out to be one of my better poems.

That made me think that creative control isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. We are so steeped in writing advice and technique that it can stifle the process. Sometimes you just have to let go and welcome the muse.

How do you write poetry? What is your process? I would love to hear from you.

Book launch April 2017

 

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Wow, what a good start to the new year. The proof copy of my book arrived this morning and it is looking good. I’m looking forward to the launch in South Africa in April.

In the meantime I have to make a list of everything I want to do. First should be building the characters and story of my next novel. I’ve done some research (enough to get started) and will continue researching and writing with the goal to finish the first draft by September.

I’ve been reading up on what other writers have achieved in 2016 and their plans for this year. One writer said that she published five books last year. Five! I’m envious but at the same time I know that I won’t be able to do that. I need to think and read while I’m writing, a slow process.

I also want to look for an illustrator for my children’s book.

Next will be a workshop with Lydia Yuknavitch in May. I’m excited and scared. She is such a great writer and putting myself in the company of great writers awakens my chronic insecurity.

This year I want to submit more to literary magazines and competitions. Hopefully I can draw up a schedule and write new content. Yuknavitch’s workshop should produce good stories (I hope).

What are your plans for 2017?