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Helen Moffett

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

We are family (1): some of my sisters and me

karina beautifulinvisible-others-cover1I’m taking part in the blog-hopping challenge some of you may have seen going round, having been invited by Karina and Alex. First order of business: Karina has just had her exquisite first novel Invisible Others published — always a wonderful milestone, even though she has been a force for good as a short story author, editor, Gordimer scholar and reviewer ever since she came to these shores. Karina came to South Africa from her native Poland via Austria and the US (yes, she has stories to tell) and is married to Andre Brink. She is a Cat Person — I could say a great deal more about our friendship, but that alone explains so much. Here’s her blog-hop — enjoy.

ALEX-AT-BEAUTIES-LAUNCHdevilskeinfront-final-for-bus-cardThe other blogger who asked me to hop along is well-known in South African booky circles. Alex Smith, who’s produced three distinctly original (some would even say unusual) novels and a fascinating memoir of a year in China, Drinking from the Dragon’s Well, is about to release her latest novel, Devilskein and Dearlove. Alex’s literary output is mind-boggling (she is also a short story author of note, and has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize), especially considering she is the mother of a very active toddler, Elias, who has us all enthralled. Her own blog-hop piece is here.

Here are my answers to the blog-hop questions:

What am I working on?

As usual, Other People’s writing. Also as usual, revising stuff already in the factory, including bread-and-butter projects like a university textbook, updates to my MS on sexual violence (worthy but grim stuff I can only do in short bursts), and something lovely — a reprint of my poetry anthology, Strange Fruit. And final page proofs for the third book in the Girl Walks In series by Helena S. Paige (the pen-name under which Paige Nick, Sarah Lotz and I write erotica) have just arrived in my inbox — it’s called A Girl Walks Into A Blind Date. This is a funny stage — so much wrapping up at the same time as new ideas and projects are fermenting. I don’t want to jinx any of the new stuff by talking about it yet.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Girl wallpaperThis question made me giggle. I write academic essays and book chapters, poetry, short stories, a blog in which I swear like a trooper, commercial AND literary erotica, university textbooks, and compile anthologies. And I co-wrote a book on cricket and co-produced and scripted two cricket documentaries. When it comes to writing, my multiple personalities really do come out to play. So my general response to genre is “Aha! A new one to try!” In terms of difference, I rather like what the editors of a book on intellectual traditions in South Africa (coming out from UKZN Press later this year) said about my chapter: that it was “incendiary”. That does set quite a bit of my writing apart, I think. I hope so.

Why do I write what I do?

One word: deadlines.

How does my writing process work?

It depends what I’m working on. Because I was an academic writer before I was any other kind of writer, my first decades of writing always felt like homework to me. There certainly wasn’t a muse hanging about, and it was years before I felt that delicious sensation my mother calls “writer’s rush”. Truthfully, my passion lies with editing, itself a transmuted form of the joy I used to feel teaching university students. I get deeply absorbed by some of the more serious material I write, but what drives the process is either political conviction (as in my feminist writings) or a commission. But there’s no doubt that some of the writing I’ve done — certainly the anthologising — has been pure pleasure. Writing commercial genre fiction as part of a team over the past year has been an astonishing amount of fun, and I’d love to do more. Collaborating with other authors feeds into my writing in a way that’s intensely satisfying.

The only time I feel like a Proper Writer, however, is when a poem arrives — I find they fly into my head and flap at me until I write them down. At least half die in the process, and the other half need weeks and months of recrafting, and then about half of those I have the courage to show others, and a handful of those get published…

On to the next two women writers I’ve invited to join the hopathon:

robyn novelrobyn-250Robyn Goss published her first novel, And So Say All Of Us, with Oshun. She registered on my radar when I edited a short-story collection, 180 degrees, to which she contributed a wonderful tale about a woman supposedly undergoing “menopause” — but actually transforming into a cat. Robyn then had two children and moved to Switzerland, and am I now very slowly editing her next novel, parts of which make me wheeze with laughter. She is a genuinely funny writer, but don’t take my word for it: read her blog here, especially the posts about parenting. In fact, I insist you read this one.

London Cape Town JoburgZukiswaZukiswa Wanner really needs no introduction, especially as she’s just whirled through the country promoting her latest novel London Cape Town Joburg. I’m halfway through it, and as always, the pages turn themselves. I love the way she handles Deep Tough Chewy topics with entertaining ease. Interesting aside: both she and Robyn had their first novels (in Zuki’s case, The Madams) published by Oshun, an imprint of Struik that focused on publishing books for women. In her role as commissioning editor, Michelle Matthews launched not a few impressive writing careers — Zukiswa has three acclaimed novels and a comic non-fiction book, Maid in SA, under her belt. She lives in Kenya at present, but you can visit her blog right here. Here’s possibly my favourite of her posts.

Thanks to Karina and Alex for asking me to hop, and happy hopping to Robyn and Zukiswa.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    May 30th, 2014 @20:01 #

    Love the block with the views of some of the international 'Girl' covers ... Kommt Eine Frau in Eine Bar. The Girl books are a jolly fantastic achievement, simultaneously hilarious and glorious.


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