Questions Commonly Asked by Writers

Cathy Park Kelly

I love questions. Especially open-ended questions that somehow make us rethink what we thought we knew, that entice us to look at ourselves or at life from an unexpected angle.

And when I’m needing answers to questions that jostle restlessly inside me, I go to the page. As my pen shapes each word, as it moves from line to line, I know that eventually, the solutions will begin to form from the ink.

As writers contemplating any sort of creative project, we tend to have lots of queries. All About Writing recently hosted a webinar with me and my publisher, Karavan Press, attended by writers of all levels. The following are some of the questions that we didn’t have time to address online. I’ve picked two common ones that were asked in different ways by many of the attendees.

From Fred: My memoir is so personal that, as Karina…

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Of Canapés and Tricky Questions

Cathy Park Kelly

(Photo by Karina Szczurek,
Karavan Press)

In the years that I’ve been working on my memoir, there were many moments when I’d slump down after an uninspiring writing session, and question what I was doing. Joel would hug me and say: Let’s talk about your book launch.

Then we’d spend a few pleasant moments talking about where it would be, who would be there and what canapés (or knaps, as Joel calls them) would be served. Because the work as a writer and a memoirist of excavating the past for treasure can be lonely and often grubby, sometimes you have to borrow energy from future possibilities.

And finally, this future dream became a reality. Instead of a book store though, it took place in the cosy The Alma Café (usually a live music venue) surrounded by collections of old tins and music posters. (I would’ve been mightily tempted to break…

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SKIPPER…around the world

The most well-travelled Karavan Press title so far! Making waves across the world 🙂

From the moment that Karina of Karavan Press arrived in Rosebank, Cape Town with the first batch from the printers, to when a smaller stash arrived at a Putney front door in London, ‘Skipper’ was destined to travel. Here are some moments from her voyage…

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Review: An Island by Karen Jennings (2020)



Samuel has lived alone for a long time; one morning he finds the sea has brought someone to offer companionship and to threaten his solitude…

A young refugee washes up unconscious on the beach of a small island inhabited by no one but Samuel, an old lighthouse keeper. Unsettled, Samuel is soon swept up in memories of his former life on the mainland: a life that saw his country suffer under colonisers, then fight for independence, only to fall under the rule of a cruel dictator; and he recalls his own part in its history. In this new man’s presence he begins to consider, as he did in his youth, what is meant by land and to whom it should belong. To what lengths will a person go in order to ensure that what is theirs will not be taken from them?

A novel about guilt and fear, friendship…

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So Skipper was lucky, first to be able to come into existence through the skills, talents and care of Karina Szczurek founder of Karavan Press and designer Monique Cleghorn. Equally lucky to have had not one but two launches to put the wind in her sails. First at The Alma Cafe in Rosebank, then in Greyton, in Carol and Steve du Toit’s fabulously fertile garden. Below is a taste of how the boat floated….

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AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings – A little gem of a novel

Allaying Art

Karen Jennings’ short 2021 Booker Longlisted novel follows Samuel, an old man living on an island in an unknown African country and one day his routine is abruptly disturbed by a body of a refugee being washed up on the shore of the island.

This is a powerful little novel by a small independent press ( Holland House Books). The book definitely is not pitied by Booker judges due to its small publication but is selected because it’s an absolutely marvellous novel by a writer who has something important to say.

It’s remarkable how Jennings in such a small novel conveys so much about the post colonial perspective and rebellion against dictatorship in an African country but leaves much room for interpretation. I loved how she is touching political themes, environmental themes but not going into the depth of it, but just touching a surface level.

The book…

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Book Review: An Island


an island

This review was written for and first published by Bookmunch.

An Island tells the story of Samuel, who is seventy years old when the tale opens. For the previous twenty-three years he has tended a lighthouse on a rocky islet, where he cultivates vegetables and keeps chickens. Requested supplies are delivered by boat each fortnight. Other than these brief visits, he lives alone.

Occasional bodies are washed up on his shores, refugees who have perished and who he buries. The authorities have no interest in those whose skin colour and facial features mark them as foreign.

The book is structured across four days that unfold in short segments with many flashbacks. On the first day Samuel finds the body of a man who turns out not to be as dead as he first appears. Although unwelcome, Samuel cannot bring himself to leave the incomer to perish. With some difficulty…

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A Hibiscus Coast

Melissa A Volker

Book Review:

A Hibiscus Coast

by Nick Mulgrew

(Karavan Press)

In these turbulent South African times of violence and disquiet, many conversations have turned to emigration. In that context I found A Hibiscus Coast to be an honest, compelling and soothing look at family, migration and dispossession.

The author takes us to Durban North, 1997, where a suburban murder rocks a community, and drives one of its members to act upon a long held emigration strategy.

As in real life, nothing about emigration is simple. The characters are layered with different life events, losses and biases, and so we begin to see the messy, difficult, courageous and conflicted process unfold.

The main character, nineteen year old Mary, has to leave Durban ahead of her parents and is forced to make a new life for herself, within a South African ex-pat community in New Zealand.

Parallel to Mary’s story, we meet…

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SA Womxn Writers – Day 12: A Reflection on Publishing by Karina Szczurek of Karavan Press

Global Literature in Libraries Initiative

Karavan Press came into being in 2019 to offer authors a literary home for their books – home in the sense of shelter, safety and care.

As editor and publisher, I want to nurture authors and their creativity and establish strong bonds between writers and readers who are passionate about our words and stories. The vision for Karavan Press crystalised for me after reading Roberto Calasso’s L’impronta dell’editore (2013) and I was especially inspired by two South African literary projects founded around the same time and led by women: Rachel Zadok’s Short Story Day Africa (gallery below) and Joanne Hichens’s Short.Sharp.Stories (second gallery below).

The Short Story Day Africa Books

  • Rapunzel is Dead: ISBN: 9780620588850 GoodReads
  • Follow the Road: ISBN: 9781920590987 GoodReads
  • Feast, Famine and Potluck: ISBN: 9780620588874 GoodReads
  • Terra Incognita: ISBN: 9781920590918 GoodReads
  • Water: ISBN: 9781780263083 GoodReads
  • Migrations: ISBN: 9781780264059 GoodReads
  • ID: ISBN: 9781780264592 GoodReads
  • Hotel Africa: ISBN: 9781780265056

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