AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings to be launched at EB Cavendish

After the incredible journey that Karen Jennings and An Island have travelled since the publication of the highly acclaimed novel, it is simply wonderful to be able to finally launch the book officially at a bookshop in the company of the author, who is now living in South Africa again. Please join us on the 24th of March at Exclusive Books for this special occasion!

Karen will be in conversation with Karina Szczurek. We look forward to seeing you there and celebrating together!

Women power at Liberty Books

When Christy Weyer of Liberty Books mentioned the thematic connections she spotted between Cathy Park Kelly’s memoir, Boiling a Frog Slowly, and Penny Haw’s novel, The Wilderness Between Us, I was thrilled about the possibility of her exploring the themes in a conversation with the two authors. Last night, Christy made it happen, and it was magic! The three inspiring women spoke about relationships, abuse, survival and empowerment, and the people who gathered in the audience were enthralled.

Thank you, Christy, Cathy and Penny – and Liberty Books! And thank you to all who attended, especially those who shared their stories of abuse and survival.

We also celebrated the reprint of Cathy’s memoir, Boiling a Frog Slowly – congratulations, Cathy!

Cathy Park Kelly & Penny Haw at Liberty Books, 10 March 2022

When Christy Weyer of Liberty Books read Penny Haw’s novel, The Wilderness Between Us, and Cathy Park Kelly’s memoir, Boiling a Frog Slowly, she immediately saw the fascinating connection between the two books and offered to host an event with the authors. It’s happening at the bookshop on the 10th of March and you will not want to miss it!

“I’ve been fangirling about Cathy Park Kelly’s Boiling a Frog Slowly all the way down to my tippy toes and am delighted to announce that Cathy will be visiting Liberty on Thursday 10 March to discuss her heart-breaking, soul-healing, truth-telling and life-affirming memoir!
Cathy will be joined by another wonderful wordsmith who delves with sensitivity & acuity into women’s interior lives and relationships,” says Christy. “The Wilderness Between Us places a group of old friends on a hiking trail in the Tsitstikamma, puts them under pressure and then meticulously examines the fault-lines, fallout and freedom to find and fortify truer, stronger selves. With its emotional acuity and focus on relationships and resilience, The Wilderness Between Us resonates with Cathy Park Kelly’s Boiling a Frog Slowly, and I’m delighted to announce that Penny and Cathy will both be at Liberty Books on Thursday 10 March to discuss their beautiful books!”

Karavan Press authors at the Adam Small Fees

Cathy Park Kelly, Nancy Richards and Karen Jennings will be participating in the Adam Small Literary Festival in Pniel this year.

SATURDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 2022 
PNIEL MUSEUM TEETUIN

13.45 – 14.15: Cathy Park – Boiling a Frog Slowly: A Memoir of Love Gone Wrong
14.15 – 14.45: Nancy Richards – The Skipper's Daughter
14.45 – 15.15: Karen Jennings – An Island: Longlisted for Booker Prize

Adam Small Fees

Karen Jennings at the UCT Summer School 2022

“In the beginning was the word …”

Author and academic Karen Jennings continues to shine a light on words and stories in her UCT Summer School lecture series:

ONE IS NEVER ALONE: HOW SOCIAL INSECTS HAVE SCUTTLED ACROSS THE THRESHOLD BETWEEN SCIENCE AND LITERATURE THROUGH THE AGES.

Monday 24–Friday 28 January | 5.00 pm | COURSE FEES R375 (online)/R550 (in person)

This course looks at the fascinating way in which social insects have served as a uniting force between the two cultures of science and literature over the centuries. Starting in the Middle Ages, we examine the bee’s position in allegorical, religious teaching and commentary. Next, we briefly discuss the proliferation of bee books during the scientific revolution. The second lecture focuses on the West African scientific explorations into termites by fly-catcher Henry Smeathman and the consequences this research had for the Black poor of London. The third lecture remembers Romantic poet John Clare’s poems on ants and how they bring to the fore the negative consequences imposed on nature by the demands of capitalism which dominated the period. In addition, the course considers the popularity and influence of Victorian myrmecology. The fourth lecture explores the way in which both psychoanalysis and nationalism were influential in the scientific and poetic writings of Afrikaner hero Eugene Marais. Special attention is given, too, to the man he accused of plagiarising his work on termites – Maurice Maeterlinck. The lecture also touches on the rise of pulp science fiction. Finally, we arrive at the present day and the threat of bee extinction. We consider E.O. Wilson’s call for consilience and the growing popularity of eco-fiction.


Lecture titles

  1. The Medieval bee and the scientific bee
  2. Termites and slaves: Henry Smeathman
  3. The romance of ants and a dash of Victorian myrmecology
  4. Termites, nationalism and science fiction: Eugene Marais, Maurice Maeterlinck and David Keller
  5. The death of the bee

Wonderfully enlightening!

Stephen Symons will be reading at The Red Wheelbarrow on Thursday, 20th January, at 19:30

Stephen Symons will be The Red Wheelbarrow’s featured poet this week.

Stephen Symons has published poetry and short-fiction in journals, magazines and anthologies, locally and internationally. His debut collection, Questions for the Sea (uHlanga, 2016) received an honourable mention for the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, and was also shortlisted for the 2017 Ingrid Jonker Prize. His unpublished collection Spioenkop was a semi-finalist for the Hudson Prize for Poetry (USA) in 2015. Landscapes of Light and Loss (Dryad Press) was published in 2018, and For Everything That Is Pointless and Perfect (Karavan Press) in 2020. Small Souls, a collection of selected and new poems will be published in 2022 by Karavan Press.

Symons holds a PhD in History (University of Pretoria) and an MA in Creative Writing (University of Cape Town). He lives with his family in Oranjezicht, Cape Town.

**As always, the reading by the featured poet will be followed by an open mic session for poets from the audience. Poets are welcome to read from their own work as well as from the work of a favourite poet**

Join Zoom Meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9529041131?pwd=M2VUL3RNWGMvMFZCU1Zuemt6QnU3Zz09

Date: 20th January 2022
Time: 19:30 SAST

Meeting ID: 952 904 1131
Passcode: 12345

Poems by poets featured previously at TRW can be found here:
https://redwheelbarrowpoet.wixsite.com/website

Karavan Press in 2021

To say that 2021 was a rough year for Karavan Press would be a gross understatement. Sinking into debt and depression by the end of June, I did not think that we would make it despite some amazing things happening. That everything was still continuing relatively smoothly on the surface was due to the fact that I work with the kindest and most patient people – authors, editors, designers, printers, distributors and booksellers – and that we have the support of the most wonderful readers.

Yet, in June, due to all the challenges of the lockdown, it was difficult to see a future for Karavan Press. Then: I made one decision that felt crazy at the time; and a miracle happened.

The decision was to start distributing Karavan Press titles on a firm-sale basis from the 1st of July. I thought that this would result in hardly any sales to bookshops, because it shifted the risk of actually getting our books into readers’ hands to the booksellers. But the way they – the booksellers – responded was astounding. The support has been incredible. If you see a Karavan Press book on the shelves of a bookshop, it means that they really believe in it and in us. For this and so much more, I am deeply grateful to all the booksellers who have given us a chance despite the so much greater risk to themselves that they are now taking on our behalf. You are my heroes!

The miracle was the Booker longlisting of An Island by Karen Jennings. I loved An Island from the first page of the manuscript and knew that I would publish it no matter what. I would have been proud of having published it even if it had sold only a handful of copies. But, the Booker nomination catapulted the book into Karavan Press bestseller status, where it joined our other bestseller, Death and the After Parties by Joanne Hichens, also longlisted for a prestigious award this year, the Sunday Times / CNA Non-Fiction Award. And the nomination put us on an international map and opened new doors and possibilities. One of these is the establishment of The Island Prize. Founded by Karen Jennings and Holland House Books, her UK publisher, it is a prize for an African debut novel and might mean the beginning of a few stellar literary careers on the continent. To partner with Karen and Robert Peett of Holland House Books on this has been one of the great joys of 2021. Thank you to both for making miracles happen!

We had other stunning local and international award nominations and wins this year. Considering that we have been publishing only since mid-2019 and have only sixteen titles on our list so far, I am immensely proud of these achievements:

Sunday Times / CNA Fiction Award shortlist: Breaking Dawn by Dawn Garisch 
Sunday Times / CNA Non-Fiction Award longlist: Death and the After Parties by Joanne Hichens 
Page Turner Award longlist: A Fractured Land by Melissa A. Volker 
Booker longlist: An Island by Karen Jennings 
K. Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award: An Island by Karen Jennings
GBAS Book Cover Design Awards Poetry shortlist: Stephen Symons for Beat Routes by Justin Fox 
The Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Competition: ‘Small Souls’ by Stephen Symons 

Congratulations to all authors!

Another great decision this year was to welcome Penny Haw into the extended Karavan Press list as we partnered with her and Protea Distribution to distribute two of Penny’s books locally. And guess what: in August, her novel The Wilderness Between Us, published in the USA by Köehler Books, was named an award-winning finalist in the 2021 American Fiction Awards.

Other highlights of the year for Karavan Press were live events and special publications. Even with all the lockdown restrictions, we managed to share quite a few live events, including an entire one-day Karavan Press Literary Festival, with our readers. To talk books with other enthusiasts is always a pleasure and we hope to continue organising and participating in live events next year. As to special publications: one Karavan Press title – The Skipper’s Daughter by Nancy Richards – appeared in a highly limited hardcover edition, and another – Small Souls by Stephen Symons – was compiled and printed under the Karavan Press logo by Stephen after he won the inaugural Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Competition. Neither are available for distribution, but it is simply exciting to know that they exist. The good news is that the poems included in Small Souls will feature in an upcoming collection of Stephen’s selected poems. And this is only one of a few truly stunning books Karavan Press will be publishing next year.

We have survived, thrived against all odds – and! – we do have a future. I look forward to writing the next chapter with our authors. Thank you to them, to all other creatives who work with us, and to all our readers!

Karavan Press books of 2021:

Wishing you all a healthy Festive Season and a 2022 filled with literary magic!

THE POOL GUY by Melissa A. Volker launched at The Alma Café

Earlier tonight, surfers, romance enthusiasts, readers and writers gathered at The Alma Café to celebrate the launch of Melissa A. Volker’s novelette, The Pool Guy – “the holiday you need”, in the words of Qarnita Loxton. Melissa was in conversation with the wonderful book reviewer, Sammi Malunga.

You can find Sammi on Twitter and IG @sammikoalareads.

These are tough times, but thank goodness for uplifting stories that allow you to escape into a world where, despite challenges, you can expect a happy ending. In Melissa’s stories that ending always includes an empowered woman fighting for her dreams. And she gets the guy – the pool guy in this case! And everybody needs this pool guy in their lives – trust me! 🙂

Thank you to Melissa and Sammi for an entertaining evening of romance and laughter!

And thank you to everyone who attended and to The Alma Café for supporting the literary scene by making their music venue available for book launches and readings. You guys rock!