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Resurrecting the Bare-Bottomed Zebra

Have you ever heard of a “quagga?”

What’s black, and white, and red all over?

quagga zebra family losing stripes

Answers to these questions within my newly published essay at travel website, iExplore! Click here (or the photo above) to join me as I search for these “extinct” zebra, the elusive pygmy falcon, and capture a bit of travel photography along the way.

Love, MarLa

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Win A Signed Niq Mhlongo Book…or TWO!

I received so many responses to last week’s contest that I decided to create a new #contest to give away TWO MORE of Niq Mhlongo’s books, each autographed by him: After Tears and his newest release, Affluenza.

It’s easy to enter. Read today’s post, then follow the instructions at the bottom. Continue reading Win A Signed Niq Mhlongo Book…or TWO!

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Go For the Flowers, Stay for the Ghost

Postberg Flowers travel South Africa

I had a lot of fun writing October’s column for the Expat Focus website, and I hope you have as much fun reading it:

Go For the Flowers, Stay for the Ghost

And, as always, a few extra photos just for you…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thanks for reading. The best compliment you can give is to share my work, so if you enjoyed my Halloween piece, please pass it on, using one of the many share options on the Expat Focus website.

Love, MarLa

South Africa map rainbow

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Our Online Book Club is Being Taught in the Classroom!

I was happily surprised when a friend of mine just told me that she is planning to use our online book club in her class. I thought maybe she wanted to show her students the mind of an author at work, but she said her primary interest was in the questions themselves. She wants to show her writing students how to read as writers, and felt the questions coming in are exactly the way writers should be reading for the sake of their own craft.

Brilliant!

She isn’t one of my featured readers, so I didn’t even realize she was reading along. But after the latest Q&A with Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, she asked me for permission to use the site as a reference, and to print out portions of the Q&A to accompany passages from the books.

African literature reading

I was stoked. One of the best things I learned from my own writing professors was how to read like a writer. Reading is still enjoyable, but I rarely read without paying attention to craft. And the questions coming in from many of the featured readers for our online book club show that other writers read the same way.

Way Back Home Niq Mhlongo

As I’m looking through these questions coming in for October author, Niq Mhlongo, I can tell which questions are coming from writers versus those coming from the average reader. All questions are valid, of course, but it’s so much fun to see what each writer has been observing in a text, and what they ask of the author.

So who are these wonderful featured readers asking the brilliant questions? Well please take a look at their bios on the Featured Readers page, by clicking here. These readers, most of them already well-established writers, teachers and editors, are excellent at reading critically, and it shows through in their own work. Please take a little time to read their bios, and click through to their websites and read some of their work as well!

how to read like a writer

Are you a Creative Writing Teacher?

If you’re also a teacher of creative writing and you also find the Q&A something you can use in teaching your writing students how to read more critically, you’re more than welcome to direct them to the site, or print the Q&A. Just please make sure you talk about these wonderful authors who created all the interesting books to prompt those questions!

And please, I’d love to hear about how you use the material, and maybe even take a photo of you and your class so I can share you with the world!

Following are the July, August, and September Q&A with authors. You can join the book club at any time, whether you’re a writer or just an avid reader, by picking up a copy of the latest book and reading along. Then submit your questions by the middle Wednesday of each month to: marla@marlasinkdruzgal.com

July Q&A with Futhi Ntshingila

August Q&A with Nthikeng Mohlele

September Q&A with Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

I will be posting the Q&A for Niq Mhlongo by the end of October, and announce the winner of a signed book by Niq. In the meantime, please be reading Nothing Left to Steal, by Mzilikazi wa Afrika. Happy reading!

Love, MarLa

 

Upcoming Books:

November: Mzilikazi wa Afrika
Book(s): Nothing Left to Steal
Read-by Date: 11 November 2015 PRE-ORDER ASAP by emailing marla@marlasinkdruzgal.com . This book is currently only available as an e-book in the states, but I can ship a paperback to you from South Africa.

December: Mandla Langa
Book(s): The Texture of Shadows and The Lost Colours of the Chameleon
Read-by-Date:
16 December 2015  PRE-ORDER ASAP by emailing marla@marlasinkdruzgal.com . This book is currently only available as an e-book in the states, but I can ship a paperback to you from South Africa.

January through May, 2016
Thando Mgqolozana: A Man Who is Not a Man
Mamle Wolo: The Kaya-Girl – Please email me to pre-order this book. It is not yet available in the states. I have purchased several copies for my readers.
Carol Campbell: Esther’s House
Ekow Duker: Dying in New York
Wame Molefhe: Go Tell the Sun
Sabata-mpho Mokae: Kanakotsame: In My Times – Please email me to pre-order this book. It is not yet available in the states. I have purchased several signed copies for my readers.

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Around the World with the Poetry of Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

best African literature
Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

From South Africa, to America’s east and west coasts, to Europe and beyond, readers were traveling Continue reading Around the World with the Poetry of Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

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Heritage Day: Tongues of Their Mothers

travel Heritage Day South Africa 2015

I had so many ideas for a Heritage Day post today, but then I fell in love with a poem, and that made the decision for me.

Happy Heritage Day, readers. Following are a few photos of some beautiful South African ladies I know (and one lovely South African man) wearing traditional garments to celebrate today. Continue reading Heritage Day: Tongues of Their Mothers

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I Bet I Can Make a Niq Mhlongo Fan Out of You!

best African writers
Author Niq Mhlongo

I want to make a bet with you, dear reader.

If you can make it through a book by Niq Mhlongo and walk away without becoming a Niq Mhlongo fan, I’ll give you 50 Rand. Continue reading I Bet I Can Make a Niq Mhlongo Fan Out of You!

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The Way I Tour South Africa

best South African literature

My latest column is now online at Expat Focus. This month I write about literature as it relates to the way I travel.

Please click here to read this month’s column, then come back here for a few snapshots of places I’ve been, inspired by books I’ve read. Continue reading The Way I Tour South Africa

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45 Failures

Celebrate failure with me!

I created this for writers, but anyone can participate. It only takes a willingness to fail.

Commit to getting 45 REJECTIONS with me. If you get an acceptance along the way, great. We’ll dance for that together. But let’s focus on submitting and celebrating rejection, as part of the process of writing.

My personal goal is to get 45 rejections by the end of 2015.  However, since turnaround time can take awhile, I’ll also be satisfied if I just make myself submit 45 times.

You can set your number and deadline however YOU want, but make it high, and commit to it.
It can be the same piece, or it can be 45 different pieces. The point is to FAIL, to be REJECTED, to ACCEPT CRITICISM and stand tall…45 times.

Failure Meme Truman Capote quote overcoming fear of failure

I’ll be here to cheer you on, and push your rear back onto the bicycle, and patch up and scrapes and bruises from the falls. Isn’t it really funny how different we are from when we were children, and we really didn’t care how many times we fell off the bicycle, because we just knew that in the end, no matter what, we would ride the bike?

When did we stop that way of thinking?

I want to learn to be proud of failure, to show off my bloody elbows and my gravel road battle scars.

Join me?

 

What to Do:

Simply go to my new 45 Failures Page on this website, post your goal (number of rejections you want, and deadline for when you want them), and keep us updated. Feel free to post related things, like strategy, process, etc.

Post rejection letters. Give an ‘attaboy to your fellow writers. Maybe even connect with other writers and ask for suggestions if the same piece is repeatedly tanking. Maybe ask or share advice on places that might be a good fit for the material.


How it Started:

At the beginning of September, I read two things on the same day that struck a nerve:

1) Benjamin Percy, a writer whose work I admire, who I know has a huge network at his disposal, and who I respect for his ability to successfully navigate both literary and commercial circles, posted the following:

I’m guessing one out of every forty ideas I pitch — in magazines, comics, film/TV — gets any heat. You endure the no to get to the yes.

Seriously? All those connections and that talent (not to mention that persuasive voice) still only gets him a bite for 1 out of 40 ideas? Who am I to think that every third, or tenth, or even 20th submission should?

2) Ta-Nehisi Coates had a video on The Atlantic Facebook page, talking about failure and his early struggles writing for The Atlantic.
Some takeaways from that:

You try to go from really bad, to okay, to acceptable…I always consider the entire process about failure…Perseverance…I think that is just so key to writing.

Huh? This is one of the most influential writers on the market today, and he talks about being okay with just getting to “acceptable?” Who am I to obsess over being a perfectionist, when one of my writing heroes talks about the process being one of perseverance, failure and acceptance?

WHY 45? Because this is the year I turn 45, and I don’t think I’ve allowed myself 45 rejections in my life.

What do you think? Join me?

Please click here to go to the new 45 Failures page, and comment there with your goals and how you want encouragement/motivation, or join my event page on Facebook by clicking here.

Have a great week, readers!

Love, MarLa

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What Will You Say to Phillippa Yaa de Villiers?

Welcome to September Book Club!

I’m so excited to share the work of award-winning South African author, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers.

Please read either Everyday Wife, or Taller Than Buildings, and submit your questions and comments by Wednesday, 16 September. I know my featured readers in the states are already either finished or in the process of reading. These are short books, so you could easily read both of them before mid-September, but at least please read one.

“Phillippa Yaa de Villiers illuminates relationships of many kinds and intensities – between lovers, children and parents, the politics of emotion shared and remembered and confronted, sustained across the distance of place or memory.”
-Margaret Busby

Taller Than Buildings Phillippa Yaa de VilliersThe author will answer your questions!

Like each of the authors before her (Futhi Ntshingila and Nthikeng Mohlele), Phillippa Yaa de Villiers has agreed to reply to your questions and comments on this site.
(To see how the Q&A went for July and August, please click here and here.)

Remember every question and photo you send enters you for a chance to win a signed book from the author!

How to Participate:

Read about her work below, and get your hands on one or both of these books if you haven’t already. If you’re in the states, Taller Than Buildings is available as a Kindle ebook, and Everyday Wife is available in paperback at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Please submit questions and/or photos by 16 September. For full details on our online book club, click here. If you or your book club would like to become Featured Readers, click here for details.

Submit by 16 September to marla@marlasinkdruzgal.com for a chance to win an autographed book from the author!

 

The Everyday Wife Phillippa Yaa de VilliersThe Everyday Wife

The Everyday Wife won the 2011 South African Literary Award for a poetry collection

The everyday wife is a handy little book of practical poetry for any occasion. Mischievous and profound words recreate everyday life in South Africa and other parts of the world. In this, her second volume of poetry, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers unravels the security blanket of routines, exposing the soul of the quotidian.

African Books Collective

 

Taller Than Buildings

“The poems in Taller than Buildings are stories about, and vignettes of life in and around South Africa. They’re crafted from sensitive observation and narrated with a verve, an energy that on reflection, renders the collection’s title particularly apt.”
Moira Richards, Rattle e-Review

Sample poem from Taller Than Buildings:

The River

One day the Hillbrow Tower started to cry.
Real tears poured down its sides
collected in the gutters,
and ran down Banket Street,
and when
the other buildings saw the tower’s sadness
they started to weep in sympathy.
Soon the whole city was sobbing,
the tears joined other tears
and filled the depressions and valleys.
They covered the koppies,
and collected in City Deep,
cascading over Gold Reef City
flooding Fordsburg
and soaking Soweto.
They flowed until they became a river
that carried us into the night,
where our dreams grew
taller than buildings
taller than buildings

About the Author

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers
Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers is a multi-award-winning writer, performer and editor. After writing television scripts for ten years, she won a place on the British Council/ Crossing Borders programme and a grant from the Centre for the Book to publish her first volume of poetry Taller than Buildings (2006). Her poetry and prose are widely published in journals and anthologies. Her one-woman show, Original Skin, has toured in South Africa and went abroad in 2010. She has performed her poetry from Cuba to Cape Town, Berlin to Harare and of course in her home town, Jozi where she lives with an assortment of animals and her son.
-source: African Books Collective

Upcoming Books:

*Please note: Due to transportation time to send books to the states, I needed to shuffle the order of the next few titles. Please begin reading one of Niq Mhlongo’s books for our October Book Club. Links to each of his books are below…

October: Niq Mhlongo
Book(s): Way Back Home, Dog Eat Dog, After Tears
Read-by-Date:
16 December 2015

November: Mzilikazi wa Afrika
Book(s): Nothing Left to Steal
Read-by Date: 11 November 2015 PRE-ORDER ASAP by emailing marla@marlasinkdruzgal.com . This book is currently only available as an e-book, but I can ship a paperback to you from South Africa.

December: Mandla Langa
Book(s): The Texture of Shadows
Read-by-Date:
16 December 2015  PRE-ORDER ASAP by emailing marla@marlasinkdruzgal.com . This book is currently only available as an e-book, but I can ship a paperback to you from South Africa.

January through May, 2016
Thando Mgqolozana: A Man Who is Not a Man
Mamle Wolo: The Kaya-Girl
Carol Campbell: Esther’s House
Ekow Duker: Dying in New York
Wame Molefhe: Go Tell the Sun
Sabata-mpho Mokae: Book launch this autumn, and he’s taking time for us online as well! Title to be announced in August.