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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Book to movie: Tess by Tracey Farren

Black & White_ Low Res-7Tess book coverModjaji Books and The Book Lounge are very excited to invite you to the launch of TESS by Tracey Farren. TESS is the movie tie-in version of Tracey’s first novel that we originally published as Whiplash back in 2008. For the Cape Town launch of the novel, we are hosting a discussion between Tracey Farren (the author) and Meg Rickards (the director of the movie) about the process of turning the novel Whiplash into the movie Tess. Colleen Higgs the publisher will host the discussion. We’d love to see you there.

The movie opens in South Africa at Ster Kinekor cinemas on the 24th February. The movie has already won several awards and received high praise from reviewers.

‘[Tess] digs its nails into you from the word go … raw, tender, and laugh-out-loud funny – a kickarse gem of a book. Told with startling poetry in the grittiest of emotional landscapes, [it] puts Farren on the map as a wordsmith of astonishing talent.’ – Joanne Fedler

‘Farren shows that she has a true gift for getting into the hearts of very ordinary people while astutely setting the South African sociopolitical context.’ Jane Rosenthal, Mail & Guardian

When the book was published as Whiplash by an unknown debut author in 2008, it was short listed for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize in 2009, and the author received A White Ribbon Award from the Women Demand Dignity Advocacy Group.

A gut wrenching story of a Muizenberg sex worker, Tess who pops painkillers by the handful and sells her body to strangers. When a condom breaks, Tess’s life swings one eighty degrees. She gives up her drugs until she can get to an abortion clinic. Her cold turkey opens up a window in her mind, whipping Tess into a shattering understanding of how she got here. Tess’s quirky humour, raw honesty and deep love of beauty lead her to find redemption in astonishing places. This book has a huge heart, like Tess, revealing that there is something in everyone that cannot be touched. Not by human hands. Not ever.

Tracey Farren lives a stone’s throw from the Cape Point with some children, a luthier and a pack of dogs. She has a psychology honours degree and worked as a freelance journalist for several years before her muse called her to fiction. Tess is a new edition of her first acclaimed, award-winning novel, Whiplash. Her second novel, Snake was published in to critical acclaim and she has just finished writing her third novel, The Rig.

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Brazilian edition of Futhi Ntshingila’s Do Not Go Gentle published

Sem GentilezaThis week sees the publication of Futhi Ntshingila’s second novel, Do Not Go Gentle, into Portuguese. Brazilian publishers, Dublinense have translated the novel into Portuguese and now it is out.

Both Gustavo Faraon and I were participants in the 2012 Frankfurt Invitation Programme, which is where we met and when we met to look at each other’s catalogues the following year, the seeds of this translation project were sown. Here is the English translation from google translate of the press release put out by Dublinense on June 22nd, 2016.

“This is not just any book.
Without kindness (Direct Translation of Sem Gentileza – the Portuguese title) was written by Futhi Ntshingila. She’s a South African. She’s Zulu.

Although so rich in features – and here counted with the paints only a culture that is not our own, from an imaginary one so different and in a way so own -, stories very similar to this sprout for all corners of the world. Are stories of women who have not been given a choice not to be resist and try, like her, preserve her own integrity.
Women that need to be strong – only because they are women.

The journey that led to the publication of this book began, in fact, to meet the publisher modjaji books, from Cape Town, and his incredible publisher militant Colleen Higgs. The Publisher, baptized in tribute to the goddess of the rain, there is to give space to the South African women, whose voices vibrant remained relegated to the sidelines and in the shade since forever.

This editorial project was really inspiring to us. And it seemed clear that it was necessary to bring the books that Colleen edited for an even bigger audience, to Brazil, for you. We were reading and analyzing various titles, and it was clear that the stories could be unique, but together they reflected an issue that is not limited to a specific region or culture. And so we come to this novel which we believe to be very representative.

Our Brazilian edition in Portuguese of without kindness is the first in a foreign language. The own author now is dedicated to translate it to isizulu.
That is why, for us, this is not just any book. It points to something that we want to pursue.

That this book find many readers and readers in Brazil, and that this will allow us to continue bringing many other stories that help to give a voice to those who do not have.”

Gustavo Faraon of Dublinense at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2015

Gustavo Faraon of Dublinense at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2015

We hope that Futhi will be invited to a literary festival and will be able to go to Brazil later this year to meet her new audience.

As the press release says, Modjaji is looking to bring out an isiZulu edition of Do Not Go Gentle in 2017. Futhi is doing the translation herself. Watch this space!

Do Not Go Gentle

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Here’s a little thank you gift from Modjaji Books

Book MarkWe’re giving all of our Facebook Friends and Likers a small gift – a R100 voucher to buy books off our website. Choose your book/s and when you check out, use the coupon “facebook” (all lower space and no quotation marks) to claim your R100 voucher. It’s a small way of saying thank you! The R100 gift voucher is on offer till the end of July 2015.

Small Print
*You do need to LIKE our Facebook page in order to take advantage of this offer.
*Only one voucher per person.

Our website is

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Modjaji Books has a new partner!

Emily BWe are delighted to introduce Emily Buchanan, who joined us in August 2014. Emily brings enthusiasm, great ideas and experience in finance and publishing. She is a recent graduate of UCT’s Creative Writing masters programme.

Modjaji Books was founded in 2007 by Colleen Higgs, who has worked with freelance specialists and young interns to build the press. Modjaji has grown into an established small feminist press with a strong list of seventy titles including novels, memoirs, short stories and poetry.

Colleen acknowledges that she would not have been able to do what she has done without the help of a great many people, including independent bookstores and booksellers, Megadigital printers, Blue Weaver Marketing, the writers, many friends, editors, illustrators and designers, media people and of course readers, who have all assisted, supported and rooted for Modjaji.

Modjaji Books hopes to maintain her practice of mentoring and publishing southern African women’s voices, and to continue to expand her authors’ readership in South Africa and in the rest of the world.

To see more about our work check out the Modjaji Books website here

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Yewande Omotoso’s fabulous Bom Boy on Etisalat prize shortlist

Bom Boy by Yewande OmotosoYewande Omotoso does it again, Bom Boy has been shortlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize. My inbox has been pinging with queries from agents, requests for review copies from places as far afield as the UK and Ghana, and the Nigerian press is full of the short-list story. The other two authors and books that are on the list are No Violet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names and Karen Jennings’ Finding Soutbek. The short-list thrills me because all of them are women. And they are all wonderful women. Karen Jennings worked for Modjaji as an intern a couple of years ago, and she is still a firm friend of mine and of Modjaji Books. I would be thrilled if any of the authors won.

I really commend Etisalat and the prize organisers for the way they have thought through the prize, they are taking the three short-listed writers on a three city book tour. The books they are buying are creating distribution pathways within Africa, so that links are built up and the way is paved for future book sales into the sites that are identified.

This is a big deal for Modjaji Books, especially as the prize organisers have decided to, as part of the prize, buy 1000 copies of the three short-listed titles for book clubs, libraries and other institutions all over Africa. Usually only the authors get a prize, and in South Africa, being short-listed or even winning a prize doesn’t necessarily mean that sales shoot up. Sure – you might sell an additional 50 or 100 copies of a ‘literary’ novel, but never 1000 copies.

The Nigerian press has taken up the prize with great gusto, here is a link and here is another. Because of Yewande’s Nigerian origins – she seems to be their favourite.

The Blogosphere has lit up with news of the shortlist too. 9jaFlave has carried the story, and so has Kinnareads. James Murua’s blog features the story too.

Now we wait till the 23rd February, Lagos, to hear who is the winner. But so far, all three authors and their publishers are winners.

Bom Boy

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Small Publishers’ Catalogue: Africa, 2013 out soon, order now

The Small Publishers’ Catalogue: Africa, 2013 will be available from next week. We will be posting out copies to all the listees, and our Indiegogo sponsors and advertisers. If you would like a copy – we can let you have one for R110 (including postage within SA). It will be selling in stores for R150. Email me at cdhiggs at if you would like to order a copy. It will be available in better bookstores towards the end of May.

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Book Launch: Shooting Snakes by Maren Bodenstein

Modjaji Books and Love Books are delighted to invite you the launch of Maren Bodenstein’s debut novel.

Maren Bodenstein will be in conversation with Lize Kriel (cultural historian teaching in the Visual Studies Programme at the University of Pretoria and has a special interest in the missionaries who were active in what is now Limpopo).

About Shooting Snakes:
An old man, Johannes, spends much of his days sitting on the veranda overlooking the dusty veld. He remembers his childhood on a remote mission station in Venda and the internment of his father in a British camp at Koffiefontein during World War II. His reminiscences of his sister and of freely connecting with the people and the world around them, are disturbed by the arrival of his daughter Susanna, who forces her father to confront her anger with him. As his health deteriorates, Johannes remembers his father’s return to the mission station that resulted in tragic consequences.


“In Shooting Snakes the past is a powerful and insistent presence. In the beguiling rhythms of the narrative, its carefully plotted to-and-fro chronology, lies a profound understanding of the vexed relationship between past and present. In this skilfully wrought novel, Maren Bodenstein brings to light a little-known aspect of South African history.”
David Medalie

“This poignant, poetic novel interweaves a 1940s German mission childhood in the Venda heartland with the stark present for an ailing father and his troubled daughter. The evocative images and provocative questions persist long after the final page.”
Beverley Naidoo

More about Maren Bodenstein:
Maren grew up in the tiny village of Hermannsburg in Natal which was established around 1856 to provide support to German Lutheran missionaries in Zululand. Here they came to learn Zulu before being posted into remote rural areas and could send their children to receive a German Lutheran education. Maren’s family is deeply rooted in this history – with one great-grandfather a missionary in India and another in the Transkei. Both her parents went to school in Hermannsburg and later returned there to teach. Maren runs a retreat centre in the Magaliesberg with her husband.

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 19 February 2013
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, Bamboo Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg
  • Guest Speaker: Lize Kriel
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • RSVP: Kate Rogan, Love Books, Shooting SnakesBook Details

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Cover revealed for Small Publishers’ Catalogue 2013: Africa

We’ve got a cover! Always feels like I almost have the book in my hands when I see the cover. This cover was designed by Toni Olivier of TnT Designs.

We’re busy collating all the listing information, logos, and adverts. We’re delighted that Blue Weaver who handle our marketing and distribution into the South African book trade have taken space. So have Adams Booksellers in KZN, thanks to Cedric Sissing, who is also one of those passionate booksellers without whom the world would be a poorer place.

The catalogue will be out in March 2013 if all goes well. I did mention that Mega Digital are sponsoring the printing?

To follow the whole story of this catalogue just scroll back up this blog.

I think we are going to get listings from Mauritian publishers, and a few others are still to confirm their adverts. This really feels like a community effort. We appreciate the interest in being part of this project, I hope it will bear fruit for all those involved.

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The Small Publishers’ Catalogue, Africa, 2013 project featured in Publishing Perspectives

2013 has gotten off to a good start with the feature about The Small Publishers’ Catalogue, Africa, 2013 project in Publishing Perspectives. Only 8 days to go on the Indiegogo Campaign to raise some of the money necessary to pull the project together I’m hoping that the feature in Publishing Perspectives will energise the campaign into meeting our modest target of USD3000.

African Books Collective, Bookslive, Porcupine Press, NELM, Deep South, the Rhodes University MA, Judy Croome, Helen Moffett, Black Letter Media and quite a few others have taken out advertising space in the Catalogue. We are looking to double if not treble the listings. If you want to list or advertise, don’t hesitate to contact me .

And while earlier editions were very much South Africa oriented, the 2013 version is designed to be much more comprehensive. In addition, Higgs adds that, “my dream is to be able to compile a list of African literary magazines and to publish some new articles that will be of interest and value to publishers and to writers and others in the book world in Africa and to those interested in books in Africa.

Read the full article in Publishing Perspectives by clicking here

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Notes from a Frankfurt Book Fair first-timer

I was fortunate to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair as a participant in their Invitation Programme from the 7th to the 17th October. The person who did all the organisation for us was Corry von Mayenburg, who has been to the Cape Town Book Fair a few times. She and her team were incredibly well organised, accommodating, kind, and responsive.


1. Spending ten days with ‘my people’, other small and/or activist independent publishers, (quite a few of whom are also writers, even poets!) from all over the “South” or the developing world. It was incredible not having to do any small talk but to leap straight into intense discussion, joking, riffing, telling stories, teasing gently, playing games with language and meaning, as though we had known each other all our lives. There was lots of shop talk too: print runs, contracts, how to sell rights, book design, dealing with authors, leads for selling rights, publishing mistakes and how to fix them, who we get to do our covers, using up extra card in a print run to make post cards or bookmarks or invitations, distribution issues and how to solve them, industry gossip from mainstream connections, stories about our work.

The other publishers came from North Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt; West Africa – Senegal and Togo; Central Africa – Uganda, Middle East – Syria and Lebanon. Central and South America – Venezuela, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Argentina and Peru. South Africa (me) and Zimbabwe. Asia: India, Iran, Bhutan, Cambodia and Singapore. Eastern Europe – Croatia and Romania. As I was an AFS foreign exchange student in 1980/81 this Frankfurt experience reminded me of AFS, the part of meeting people form other countries and forming friendships quickly and easily. It turned out that Oscar Castillo from Costa Rica had also been an AFS student though a few years before me.

Hermann Kesten Prize of German P.E.N. for Egyptian publisher Mohamed HashemThe publisher from Egypt, Mohamed Hashem, had been part of the Invitation Programme twice before is to receive the Herman Kesten Prize of the German P.E.N. – some of us attended the press conference where he and a publisher from Belarus were interviewed about their work. Hashem together with the famous writer Ibrahim Mansour, started Merit Publishing House. He and Merit have been honoured several times for their courageous work. And this year he lived through the Egyptian revolution, from Merit’s offices just off Tahrir Square. Read more about Mohamed Hashem here

2. Walid Soliman told about his first hand experience of living through the revolution in Tunisia and he gave us a background of what life in Tunisia has been like up to and post the revolution. Needless to say it has been a tough time as a publisher. The elections are happening as I write this, it remains to be seen what will happen, because even though they are rid of the old regime, it is not yet clear how the dust will settle.

3. Meeting two feminist press publishers (Susan Hawthorne from Spinifex – also a poet) and Urvashi Butalia from Zabaan Books in India and reconnecting with Hilda Twongyeirwe from Femrite in Uganda. I participated in a writers’ retreat in Kampala in 2008, which I wrote about here and here and in Home Away.

4. It was wonderful to see Bibi Bakare-Yusuf again, the driving force behind Cassava Republic Press from Nigeria. I met her a couple of years ago, just before the first Jozi Book Fair and then again at the Cape Town Book Fair. We have made plans to share ideas, strategies and find ways to collaborate.

5. The Weltempfang or Centre for Politics, Literature and Translation hosted a translation seminar in which a translator sat at a desk and did a live translation in front of a smallish relaxed audience. The book she was translating from English into German was The Fault of our Stars by John Green.

We also had various welcomes and farewells and events at the Weltempfang, a feast of talks and events, PEN related, social justice and the role of the writer and publisher in society, translation.

6. Speaking to publishers, agents and translators who were interested in Modjaji books, and finding I had polished up my “elevator pitch” in talking about Modjaji and about several authors and their books, in a way that made them sound sexy and saleable and fabulous. I realised that the pressure and intensity of Frankfurt ‘forced’ me to re-invent myself as someone much more confident, with the gift of the gab!

7. Learning about publishing issues from experienced German publishers and industry experts – including a book designer who is also the Director of the Stiftung Buchkunst (see below), a literary agent, rights specialists and a social media marketing campaign manager.

8. The exhibition of best designed books. I took pictures with my phone to remind me of some of the things I saw. This complemented the presentation we received from Uta Schneider, Executive Director of Stiftung Buchkunst (Book Art Foundation) based in Frankfurt and Leipzig. The books on exhibition were selected for typography, book-design, and book production.

Let’s have a book design award here, I think the folk at the Frankfurt Book Fair would be only too delighted to assist us in setting one up. I think it is a way of drawing attention to design, and promoting good design. We can think about our context and what kind of books we would like to reward. Well designed books don’t have to be expensive, they have to be thought about with imagination and creativity. We do already have very beautiful and imaginative books. It would be a way of drawing attention to books in a new way. Come on, let’s do this, South African Book Trade!

9. Lots of new publishing ideas, some of which might actually make some money; making new connections with people; things to follow up on, cool gifts for my daughter from the Gutenberg Museum which had a stand at the Fair.

10. Meeting people who were really interested in Modjaji’s books and were eager to meet and connect and find out if we might do business. (I also loved how people’s eyes would light up and say “Mandela?” when they heard I was from South Africa.)

11. Going all the way to Frankfurt to meet Libby Doyle who lives in Cape Town and having breakfast with Arthur Attwell at the hotel, and hearing more about his Paperight project.

1. Hall 8 on the first day of the Book Fair, it was like ADHD on steroids. And every book name or institution you have ever heard of in the English book world was there. I had an appointment with a publisher at the reception of HarperCollins. She got the date mixed up, so she didn’t turn up the first day. I felt like I would be moved along and wasn’t sure how long to wait so I didn’t seem desperate. A bit like a blind date in a new culture – what are the rules?

2. Making appointments, taking the risk of approaching a publisher, agent or scout, and then pitching a particular title

3. Realising again and forcefully what a tiny fish Modjaji Books is, and what a tiny pond South Africa is in the global context, and yet … it was also comforting, and a reminder to “think global, and act local”.

1. The Iceland exhibition – in which Iceland as the Guest of Honour to the Fair offered something special, quiet time, a space to reflect and calm down. I loved the video installation cube that you can stand inside or lie down inside of, and experience Iceland – made me think of the movie The Tree of Life, and of Viking and Nordic myths and legends, of Ygdrassil, and of Iceland as the place where the umbilical cord or navel of the planet is, that connects the deep fiery interior with the surface of the earth, ice and fire, the northern lights, and hot geysers gushing out exhaling.

Another aspect of the exhibition was the way the rest of the space was made up, like several living rooms or libraries, furnished with couches, tables, bookshelves, muted lighting and the walls were large posters of people reading, until you realised that the posters were alive, and you could see the people’s eyes blink and a hand turn a page. Now and then a new person would start reading in a language unfamiliar to me. I rediscovered from a new perspective, the quiet joy of reading, by being able to watch these quiet, peaceful people reading.

I loved the range and beauty of the books on the Iceland exhibition and the tables at which you could sit down and read them, paging through books of wild looking ponies, remote hillsides with little if any evidence of human existence. I could have spent all day, or many days there.

It seems apt that Iceland was the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year.

2. I went twice to see the Twitter installation

13.10.2011, Installation at the Frankfurt Book Fair
KMS TEAM is the curator of an installation by Christopher P. Baker entitled “Murmur Study”, currently on display at the Frankfurt Book Fair in cooperation with Audi. The installation is an artistic exploration of the topic of networking. It consists of 132 thermal printers connected to a computer. A program written by the artist searches the social network Twitter for selected terms, such as “dialogue”, “idea” and “literature”, as well as emotional elements like emoticons. The corresponding tweets are then printed. This process creates a work of art that reflects what inspires and connects people around the world
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3. Being outside in the fresh, sometimes chilly air after too many hours indoors, in air-conditioned halls. I loved the stands selling Bratwurst and Beer outside, where you could join others taking a moment to eat and relax. You could also get pancakes with Nutella filling, I know some writer friends who would have loved that.

4. Wolf Hingst – My family had a foreign exchange student, Wolf Hingst, from Germany, to stay in 1985. I was at UCT and doing my H Dip Ed, sharing a flat in Rondebosch. I’d lost touch with him and in fact hadn’t seen him since 1985. Well the week before I left for Frankfurt I got an email from Wolf. He found me on Facebook while on the train during his regular commute, and he wrote to me. I was able to say that I would be in Germany in a week’s time. Amazingly he came by train from Hanover to see me. We clicked immediately and had a wonderful intense conversation. I hope to stay connected to Wolf now. He was able to explain lots of fascinating bits of German culture for me, also because he knows what South Africa is like. I learnt about German media and ‘verreine’ – co-operatives or associations that are at the heart of German social, cultural and sporting life.

Frankfurt Book Fairies

5. I loved the Carnival atmosphere of the Frankfurt Book Fair on the two public days when the young people come dressed up as fictional characters, many from Manga, but not only. I think there might be something that we, the SA book trade could pick up on? Allow young people free into the Cape Town Book Fair if they dress up as fictional characters? Or even the Book Lounge or Jozi Book Fair?

1. The amazing generosity of the German government and Litprom in bringing 23 publishers to get a foot in the door of the biggest and best Book Fair in the world.
2. In Frankfurt, the mixture of very old and new buildings, the understated details in buildings.
3. Seeing South African wine in a small neighbourhood supermarket.
4. The trains, run on time and are clean and fast and fabulous. We stayed 18kms away from the Book Fair and it took about 35 minutes to get between the hotel and the Fair.
5. The breakfast at the hotel, Bircher muesli and fresh fruit every morning, and many other delicious foods.
6. The Bauhaus style apartment buildings and orderly, well planned and well designed architecture.
7. The allotments alongside the railway track, carefully tended and fertile.
8. The forests that are still in evidence, especially near the Park Hotel and the patchwork of well cultivated fields of dark soil that you see from the train on the way to and from the “Messe” (Fairgrounds).
9. The Beer and the Riesling (sausages and sauerkraut not as much)

1. The collective presentation of titles from small and author publishers “Founded in 1979, the Group promotes small publishers without whose creativity and dedication the cultural diversity of books in Germany would not be possible in its present form” (from the Pocket Guide to the Fair).
2. The Comics Centre
3. The International Library Centre
4. The Booksellers Centre
5. The Children’s Book Forum
6. Some of the many discussions about Digital Publishing, Mobile publishing, and Digital rights.

For more photos have a look here and here.

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