Rapid Express, Fast Forward, doesn’t begin to describe the past few months for me and Modjaji Books.
The Cape Town Book Fair
Sharing a stand with LiveWriting and ‘back room renting’ to Wordsetc and Chimurenga was fabulous, because even though we only had a klein standtjie in the Small Publishers’ Pavilion there was always a buzz at Stand J8.3 and a small crowd of animatedly chatting people in the aisle.
The 4 new poetry books were launched at the Book Fair and were ready two weeks before the Fair, thanks to MegaDigital’s efficiency, and Natascha Mostert who did the book design for the 4 poetry books worked to very tight deadlines and did a brilliant job of the books, including designing the covers of Oleander and Please, Take Photographs. My friend Colleen Crawford Cousins made a beautiful cover for Burnt Offering that I think breaks new ground for poetry book covers. Hannah Morris, once again did a beautiful job of all the hand lettering and of the cover for Helen Moffett’s book, Strange Fruit.
The launch of the 4 new poetry books was a Book Fair hit. It happened at the end of a long two days at 5.30 pm at the DALRO space. All 4 poets were there, 2 of them travelled some distance to get there. Fiona Zerbst flew in from Rustenberg and Joan Metelerkamp drove down from Knysna. Thanks to the Cape 300 Foundation and to MegaDigital for sponsorship and support in publishing these books.
After the launch, a few of us had a post-launch celebration. We, that is to say, Helen, Fiona and some of her friends, Lauri Kubuitsile, Khosi Xaba, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Anne Landsman and I celebrated poetry, life, and friendship with bubbles at the Westin Hotel (used to be the Arabella Sheraton).
On the Saturday afternoon of the CTBF I facilitated a discussion and reading organised by the British Council. It featured Sindiwe Magona, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Khosi Xaba, Malika Ndlovu and Zena Edwards (UK). Lauri Kubuitsile who stayed with me over the Book Fair loved this session. Here’s her blog. It was wonderful and frustrating, like being at a 45 minute banquet and you don’t have plates. Each poet read one poem and spoke briefly about their work, their inspiratio and what they love. I could have listened to each one for hours. Because it was organised quite late in the day it featured in the programme, but only mentioned Zena Edwards. Lots of people who might like to have been there missed out, although the room was pretty full.
The last 6 weeks or so has seen a lot of publicity for Modjaji authors that I haven’t had time to put up here. So now I am making up for lost time. The Friday before the Book Fair, Gary Cummiskey had 2 articles in The Business Day, one of which was all about small publishing and Modjaji Books. It’s thrilling for me that what I am trying to do with Modjaji is supported so kindly by journalists and media people like Gary, Janet van Eeden, Ben (editor), and Phakama.
During the Book Fair I battled with laryngitis, but managed to keep the upper hand. But afterwards I was brought down with a deep exhaustion – was it the flu or just Post Cape Town Book Fair Stress Syndrome? Finally feeling myself again.
Brilliant to see Hilda Twongyeire from Femrite, Uganda at the Book Fair. I have some Femrite books available for sale if anyone is interested. I will do a separate post one of these days.
Malika Ndlovu’s Invisible Earthquake has been doing really well. We’re into a second print run. Every month since the book has come out, Malika has done a public appearance. In spite of the Book Fair being quite a manic space, there were many in her audience who were so moved by her reading that they were in tears. Litnet, 2nd July 2009 features a wonderful Janet van Eeden interview with Malika about Invisible Earthquake, why she wrote it and how she has experienced the publication of it.
Whiplash has been ordered into lots of book stores in numbers unheard of before for this small publisher.
Interested noises coming in for buying the foreign language rights for Whiplash. Please hold thumbs.
Hugh Hodge has kindly offered August to Modjaji poets, so each Monday in August will see a Modjaji poet at the mic in Obz at Off the Wall.
August will also see Modjaji Books at the Jozi Book Fair, I’m taking a stand there. It will be wonderful to meet up with Jozi bookish peeps and indie publishers. Nice for me to go back to Jozi, it’s my old home town.
August 1st is the date that the Sunday Times Literary Awards announces the winner. Modjaji Books is on the guest list for this occasion. I have to remind myself to breathe. It is a huge honour and thrill to have Whiplash and Tracey Farren on the shortlist. Makes me feel that all I have put into Whiplash was worth it after all.
Other good news for Modjaji Books – the Hiemstra Trust has awarded a small publishing subsidy for the book, Hester se Brood by Hester van der Walt, so that book will definitely be rolling off the presses before the end of the year. It’s great to get the support of a donor with such gravitas.
I’m sure there is more, but it will keep for another post.