Open Book Festival 2022

It was smaller, more intimate, but simply fabulous; and the new venue – Bertha House – with its beautiful spaces and light, is a great hit. The conversation were engaging and inspiring. Books were acquired, signed and eagerly dipped into. I think we all were feeling re-energised by these two days of listening to our literary heroes and discovering new voices.

It was fantastic to hear Joy Watson talk in public about her debut novel – The Other Me – for the first time and to see her signing copies of the book afterwards. And Nancy Richards told more beautiful stories about her memoir – or ‘mumoir’, as she call the memoir about her mum, The Skipper’s Daughter.

The festival offered a few workshops in the runup to the main event and Karavan Press authors Melissa A. Volker and Lester Walbrugh participated in the non-fiction and script writing workshops respectively.

Thank you to Vasti, Frankie, Mervyn and the entire Book Lounge team, all the sponsors, the Bertha House and all the amazing authors for these few days of literary magic!

We are all looking forward to the next one – pandemic etc. allowing – in September!

Open Book Festival 2022 – Opening Bash

Open Book Festival is back! Different season (autumn), different venue (Bertha House), different format (no parallel events and Covid-19-protocol-limited seats), different wine sponsor (Farm Boy) – but same old great stories to be told. It’s a miracle that it is happening at all. Most of us realise how hard everyone involved had to work in order to make this a reality and we are immensely grateful. We can’t wait! The opening bash was small and intimate, but absolutely inspiring, as always. Karavan Press will be launching a new title at the festival – this is where the first copies of Joy Watson’s debut novel The Other Me will be available for the first time to the general public, so grab one while you can, because one never knows when a first edition might become a true collector’s item 🙂 And Nancy Richards will be there, her memoir, The Skipper’s Daughter, sailing the literary world and taking it by storm.

Looking forward to a weekend of engaging conversations and lots of literary fun!

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!

Karavan Press Literary Festival 2021

What a day of literary delight! Among the doom and gloom of the latest news cycle and despite this weekend’s weather chaos, we made literary magic happen. The (inaugural?) Karavan Press Literary Festival was a resounding success on all fronts (even the Skype connections went smoothly and turned the festival into a transcontinental – Africa / Europe / South America – event!) and I cannot thank the writers and readers who made it possible enough — you make everything worthwhile. Thank you!

10:00-11:00 GOING WILD

Penny Haw discusses the young adult stories included in Going Wild and Other Stories with editor Helen Moffett and contributors Qarnita Loxton, Sally Partridge and Lester Walbrugh

11:30-12:30 LET’S TALK ABOUT …

… the tough life topics: Nancy Richards in conversation with Cathy Park Kelly, James Leatt, Sue Brown and Joanne Hichens about their memoirs and the topics of grief, faith and abuse

13:30-14:30 WRITING WOMEN

Consuelo Roland interviews Melissa A. Volker, Penny Haw, Dawn Garisch, Joanne Hichens and Qarnita Loxton about their writing lives and the women characters they create across genres (literary fiction, chicklit, romance, crime and women’s fiction)

15:00-16:00 SWITCHING GENRES

Joy Watson, Lester Walbrugh, Stephen Symonsand Justin Fox discuss their upcoming books, two debut novels, a debut short story collection and a poetry volume respectively, with their publisher Karina M. Szczurek

16:30-17:30 LIFE WRITING

Dawn Garisch of the Life Righting Collective talks to Charlotte Mande Ilunga, Nancy Richards and Robert Hamblin about life and writing

If there ever was a moving literary event, this was it! To find out more about this amazing initiative, click here:

LIFE RIGHTING COLLECTIVE

18:00-19:00 MIGRATIONS

Karen Jennings and Nick Mulgrew talk to John Maytham about their migratory lives and the themes of land, belonging and migration in their novels, An Island and A Hibiscus Coast

Being currently in Brazil (Karen) and Scotland (Nick), the two authors joined our live audience via Skype and I am grateful to my brother Krystian (in Austria) who helped me set up the connection.

My gratitude to all Karavan Press writers and guests who gave of their time, talent, expertise and extraordinary creativity to make this festival a soul-nourishing event. A special thank you to the authors chairing the individual events.

And thank you to all the fabulous readers who attended throughout the day and have been supporting our efforts in these tough times by buying, sharing and reading our books.

A purring thank you to my Furry Family who welcomed all the visitors into our home and listened in on the sessions.

Poetry in McGregor 2021

The first Poetry in McGregor Festival Karavan Press poets participated in at a group event and it was a total success. Because of his academic commitments which took him to Pretoria this past weekend, Stephen Symons could not be with us, but John Maytham kindly agreed to read from Stephen’s poetry collections, FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT and Small Souls (a very limited special edition of his latest poems, not for sale, but the poems included will feature in Stephen’s forthcoming Selected Poems). Dawn Garisch and Justin Fox answered a few general questions about their poetry and read from their own collections, Disturbance and Beat Routes respectively, and it was obvious from the reactions of the audience that I am not the only one in love with the way these three poets craft words into art. Thank you to everyone who attended and who asked questions and bought books! We are grateful for the enthusiasm and generosity with which we have been received.

The rest of the festival was an immersion in words. ‘You are a river that cannot be denied,’ Malika Ndlovu began her reading at the festival with this line and reminded us that ‘love is persistently at work’, that ‘in my heart it is harvest time’, that ‘we are found’ – and so it felt, the bounty and the homecoming we experienced at the feast of poetry that was Poetry in McGregor this weekend.

During his performance of a script that Finuala Dowling compiled for him during lockdown, “Ice Cream, Thank You”, John Maytham quoted the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski: ‘praise the mutilated world’. The last twenty months have brought many of us to our knees, or worse. To be celebrating the written word among poets in front of live audiences was truly healing.

Poetry is ‘necessary’, Lara Kirsten said during her reading. Thank goodness there are so many fine poets who hold this truth close to their hearts and share it with us so abundantly.

It was also a joy to tell one of the young poets attending that it will be an honour to publish (hopefully, in the near future) the stunning poetry manuscript she had shared with me earlier this year. I hope that she will be reading from her debut collection at the next Poetry in McGregor Festival. Watch this space!

Thank you to all who make Poetry in McGregor possible! You are all ‘necessary’ and I am deeply grateful.

Literary greetings, Karina