Q&A: Words on the Times– Nick Mulgrew, founder & director of uHlanga Press

AiW note: To celebrate the past thirty years of independent publishing at African Books Collective (ABC), we are running a series highlighting the wonderful work of those who make up ABC. We will be talking to some of the publishers from the collective, gathering their Words on the Times, an AiW Q&A series that invites collective reflections on the way the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our work and our communities. Nick Mulgrew, uHlanga

ABC is an African owned, worldwide marketing and distribution outlet publishing books from Africa. ABC’s wide-ranging catalogues promote big and small academic presses, children’s books publishers, NGO and writers’ organisations, and literary presses. They also run the website readafricanbooks.com which profiles the work of African publishers and books. We started the series with a Q&A and Words on the Times with ABC CEO, Justin Cox

Today, we talk with Nick Mulgrew, founder and director of uHlanga Press

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Karavan Press to publish first poetry collection: FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT by STEPHEN SYMONS

It is with delight that I share the news of Karavan Press’s first poetry collection: FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT by Stephen Symons. As designer/typesetter, Stephen has been part of the Karavan Press family since the very beginning. It is wonderful to welcome him to the press as an author! Next year, we will also be publishing Stephen’s debut collection of short stories. But first: the poetry!

“Stephen Symons’s new collection is engineered for flight, gliding its way between the heavy and the weightless, memory and forgetting. It is a self-proclaimed ‘language of feathers’ that makes this flight possible, a spiritual athleticism that brings to mind George Herbert, whose idea was that the ‘fall furthers the flight in me.’ Symons’s skill is in creating a fathomable sphere for the dimensions of war, contextualizing the enormous facts with small detail, whether referencing Amichai’s ‘diameters of bombs/and sadness of open closets’ or exploring the weightless dross of childhood in the beautiful piece ‘My son was conscripted.’ Symons creates an epicentre of violence by means of an exquisite prose poem sequence that reverberates even to the quietest poems in the book. But the work, as in all of Symons’s poetry, keeps thrusting us back into the present with all its perfect natural math as counter to aftermath: a child’s laughter; sunlight trickling over mossed stones; a ballet of cormorants. This is a beautiful book by one of South Africa’s most tender poets of witness.”

— David Keplinger, author of Another City (Milkweed Editions, 2018), and The Long Answer: New and Selected Poems (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2020)

FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT by Stephen Symons will be published in November 2020.

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. His second collection, Landscapes of Light and Loss, was published by Dryad Press in 2018.

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.

Writing While Feminist – a writing prompt series.

Wonderful idea! Thank you, Jen.

Jen Thorpe

At the start of the COVID19 lock down I saw a lot of people saying that they were going to use this time to GET SHIT DONE. Hm, I thought, not me. I feel like I need a nap. Nap I have done, dear reader. Many a nap has been had.

But I have also been writing.

In 2019, I completed what I’m pretty sure will be my first of many times reading The Artists Way – an incredible book on creativity and living a creative life written by Julia Cameron. One of the things that I have found so helpful from that project was the morning pages. Cameron encourages you to write at least three pages in a journal every day as a practice, much like people who practice meditation. The aim of this writing isn’t to produce a masterpiece, or even to write anything useful. It’s more of…

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Lockdown musings on survival

The publishing industry has always included an element of chance that we all accept and live with. From the question of which manuscript gets published – through editing, proofreading, designing, printing, distribution and promotion – to finally book selling and buying, few things are predictable. We are part of a creative industry, sustained mostly by the sweat and blood of artists. There are few creative people in this for the money. If you are a writer, from your usual royalties, you might be able to buy yourself a packet of cigarettes on the black market right now. Hardly anyone can live off writing alone. We all hustle and keep other jobs to sustain our love for the written word.

But now, like many other sectors of the economy, we are all facing The Great Unknown, way beyond the usual Russian roulette that is writing and publishing. Books can still be written and prepared for printing, but they cannot be printed, distributed, sold and bought in bookshops right now. Unless they are ebooks, of course. But there is a reason why ebooks have not replaced the book in our lives, and I still can’t bring myself to consider ebooks seriously. I have not become a publisher to bring ebooks into this world. I am old-fashioned and stubborn that way. I have always been in love with the book as a physical object. Karavan Press has only one title available as an ebook and only because I promised the author that I would brave e-publishing for her. I did and we produced a great e-version of a beautiful real book, but I cannot imagine it without the real thing being in the world. What consequences the lockdown will have for publishing is extremely difficult to predict, like everything else right now, and I think we are all apprehensive. We are all busy reinventing the world. Or just sitting still and waiting. Karavan Press is probably the smallest fish in the local publishing pond; we only started bringing out books in July last year. For us, this is not only uncharted territory, this is “here be dragons”.

Jacana Media tweeted the following today: “ARE BOOKS ESSENTIAL? In our small book publishing industry in SA, we believe they are. But can we ask President Cyril Ramaphosa to reconsider the government’s stance that books are non-essential?”

It is important to open up this conversation. I was asked for comment and wrote the following:

“In general, I agree. Books are essential in ways that a tweet can’t articulate, but relaxing the lockdown for one form of creativity would not be fair to others. Also, I don’t want readers or booksellers risking lives, their own and others’. There must be other avenues of support.”

“As a reader, I am trying to support the book industry by pre-ordering and paying for books for after the lockdown and reading and reviewing the ones I already have at home. I’m not an ebook reader, so this is my way of sustaining the booksellers/publishers for now.”

“As a writer, luckily I still have some paid work. And, as always, I am mostly writing for the love of it. I have seen in the past that I can survive nearly anything as long as words are not taken away from me. I write because I don’t know how else to be.”

“As a publisher, I don’t know whether Karavan Press will survive the cash-flow situation in the next few weeks. We are infants in the business, but I will do whatever I can to keep our dreams alive. I am confident that together with our authors & readers we will pull through.”

How? I don’t know. But I think of the amazing people I work with at Karavan Press – writers, designers, editors, proofreaders, distributors, booksellers, festival organisers, interviewers, reviewers and, of course, readers – I picture their faces, real, individual faces, and I know that I believe in this literary ecosystem and I believe it is worth saving, sustaining and supporting. To do it financially, cash-flow will be essential, especially for the smaller and independent fish in the pond that are already swimming against impossible currents.

I think that it is important not to break the chain that links the writer to the reader, that is why as a reader I am pre-ordering books and paying for them now. I am happy to wait for them to be printed and delivered to the bookshops for me to pick up after the lockdown. Luckily, books don’t go off. My gut-feeling is that if the booksellers manage to survive, the rest of the system will pull through with them. Where the government could step in, apart from the general relief measures that are being introduced right now? Not sure. All I can think of are ideas I have seen elsewhere in the world. Acknowledge that writers are vital contributor to the well-being of society and pay them properly for their work. Offer extensive, well-monitored grant schemes for authors, editors, proofreaders, designers. Support literary festivals. Reconsider VAT for books. Make sure that every library in the country can buy books on a regular basis that is curated for their readers’ wishes and needs. None of this is easy – it hasn’t been before either.

I think what is most important right now is that as individuals and collectively we understand our own expectations and responsibilities and communicate with the relevant parties about solutions to problems that arise as we all stumble along. I have been in touch with Karavan Press authors – published and in the process of being published by Karavan Press – in the beginning of the lockdown and together we will attempt to get to the other side of this scary, unprecedented time. I have asked for patience and kindness. Their responses made me believe that we will make it. Together.

 

Strong voices with unique stories find a home at Karavan Press

Catrina Wessels Rights Management | Regtebestuur

A new arrival on the South African publishing landscape warrants celebration, especially if the driving force behind it is someone of the stature of Karina Szczurek. Karina has been active in the industry as a writer, editor and critic for many years, and, in 2019, decided to realise her dream of launching her own publishing house. Thus Karavan Press was born.

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Her stated aim with the venture is to provide a nurturing environment to those stories that would otherwise have been left out in the cold. The notion of “home” is a guiding principle for Karina and Karavan Press has truly become a home for the authors it has published thus far. Through her guidance their work has made an instant impact on the local literary scene, eliciting wonderful responses at book launches, literary festivals and in the media.

As an avid reader across genres, Karina has a finely honed…

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The Extraordinary Disappearance of Me

My last blog post was in JULY!!! What is wrong with me? Did I get writer’s block? Did I become a recluse? Did I surf too much?

NOOOO, none of the above. (I don’t believe in writer’s block, I love ALL the friends and it’s impossible to surf too much.)

Instead, I was carried away on the crazy wonderful roller coaster ride of publishing a book; and then the marketing roadshow that goes along with it. Thank you all for buying/reading the book, supporting the launches, sending messages and generally being awesome.

My first stop since my last blog post was the Montagu Book Festival. I’d been to Montagu once before on a road trip and loved it, so I was really stoked to be invited to their wonderful Literary event. We were hosted at the beautiful Monte Vista Boutique Hotel My friend and publisher, Karina Szczurek of Karavan…

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Karavan Press: A LitNet interview with founder and publisher, Karina M. Szczurek

What kind of books would you be interested in printing? And why?

Books I can be passionate about, of any genre, any length, but mainly literary fiction and non-fiction. I read extremely widely, and don’t want to box myself or Karavan Press writers and readers in. I want to nurture authors and their creativity, establish strong bonds between Karavan Press writers and readers, and offer a literary home for those who treasure words and stories. Excellence, integrity, and love for the book as an object are the cornerstones of what Karavan Press is about.

Click here to read the entire interview: LitNet

Printing pains

Apologies to our author Melissa A. Volker and all our Readers, but because of a glitch in the printing process the delivery of A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker to bookshops countrywide will be delayed. We hope it will be by only a few days. They are almost ready …

printing process