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!

AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings shortlisted for the K. SELLO DUIKER MEMORIAL LITERARY AWARD

It gives us great joy to announce that An Island by Karen Jennings has been shortlisted for the K. SELLO DUIKER MEMORIAL LITERARY AWARD in the South African Literary Awards (SALA).

The shortlist also includes Lihle Sokapase’s Yapatyalaka Ibhobhile (isiXhosa) and Brian Fredericks’s As die Cape Flats kon praat (Afrikaans).

Congratulations to all shortlisted authors in this and all other categories!

A FRACTURED LAND by MELISSA A. VOLKER longlisted for the Page Turner Award – Book Award 2021!

Fantastic news! Melissa A. Volker’s A Fractured Land has been longlisted for the Page Turner Award – Book Award 2021.

Melissa A. Volker is a reader, writer, beauty therapist and water woman. She blogs about surfing and stand up paddle boarding; writes eco-fiction, romance and short stories. She lives in Cape Town with her husband, two daughters and a cat. Her first eco-romantic thriller, A Fractured Land, was published in the US in 2018 and was republished along with her second novel, Shadow Flicker, by Karavan Press in South Africa in 2019. Shadow Flicker won the Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa’s Strelitzia prize for the most promising manuscript in 2017. Melissa’s short story, ‘Spa Ritual’, was published in the South African anthology: Hair – Weaving and Unpicking Stories of Identity. Her new novelette, The Pool Guy, is coming soon.

Congratulations, Melissa!

BREAKING MILK by DAWN GARISCH shortlisted for the Sunday Times/CNA Fiction Award

FICTION AWARD

CRITERIA

The winner should be a novel of rare imagination and style, evocative, textured and a tale so compelling as to become an enduring landmark of contemporary fiction.

CHAIR OF JUDGES KEN BARRIS COMMENTS:

It is always difficult to select a shortlist in a competition at national level, and this year the fiction prize included books published in both 2019 and 2020. It was also a two-year period in which many of SA’s best and brightest novelists happened to publish, from gravitas-rich veterans to brilliant newcomers. It was a daunting but immensely enriching task for the panel, and we finally settled on five excellent novels.

Marguerite Poland is in scathing form in her heartbreaking tale of a young black missionary in the Eastern Cape, while Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu writes about colonialism and toxic masculinity with biting accuracy. Mark Winkler’s story is a subtle reflection on collective guilt and individual isolation, and Dawn Garisch’s portrayal of the struggle for connection is intelligently and beautifully observed. The youngest author in the line-up is Rešoketšwe Manenzhe with her engaging debut about migrancy and the destruction wreaked on a mixed-race family by the so-called Immorality Act.

FICTION AWARD SHORTLIST

Breaking Milk
Dawn Garisch (Karavan Press)

Set on a farm in the Eastern Cape, and taking place over one day, this is a finely wrought meditation on motherhood, not only in personal and human terms, but also with regards to ourselves as destructive children of the earth.

The History of Man
Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu (Penguin Fiction)

A brilliant portrait of a white, male colonialist seen through the eyes of a black woman writer. Emil Coetzee was a supporting character in Ndlovu’s prize-winning predecessor The Theory of Flight, and here she places him in the centre of the story, examining the forces that created this “man of empire”.

Scatterlings
Rešoketšwe Manenzhe (Jacana Media)

Taking place more than 100 years ago, this is a highly original novel about migrancy that incorporates myth and ritual and the stories of extraordinary ordinary women. On this journey, someone will get lost, someone will give up and turn back, and someone may go all the way to the end.

A Sin of Omission
Marguerite Poland (Penguin Fiction)

A wrenching, deeply felt story about Stephen Malusi Mzamane, a young Anglican priest, trained in England but now marooned in a rundown mission in Fort Beaufort. He is battling the prejudices of colonial society, and the church itself, when he is called to his mother’s rural home to inform her of his elder brother’s death.

Due South of Copenhagen
Mark Winkler (Umuzi)

A skilled examination of memory and culpability. Max Fritz lives quietly in a small Lowveld town, the editor of the local newspaper. Seemingly contented, he is shadowed by his childhood, and by the border war he was forced to take part in. When news of a boyhood friend reaches him, the past rears up painfully.

Read all about the Fiction & Non-Fiction shortlists here:

The 2021 Sunday Times/CNA Literary Awards shortlists