“The Hero’s Journey” by Sue Brown

Sue Brown and Cathy Park Kelly at the Karavan Press Literary Festival

I am looking through my notes from a ‘how to write’ course. They speak of ‘dramatic imperative’, and stories only as strong as their antagonists. And of that crisis near the end of the book when yet another cruel hurdle leaves us agonising over whether the protagonist, our exhausted hero, will be thwarted – or not – so close to the end of her long, hard journey.

It strikes me that Friday’s shock travel ban would make a perfect illustration of this. All those thousands of heroes who were feeling pretty wrecked after almost two years of the pandemic, but cautiously optimistic about being with family and friends for Christmas. Or of going on that adventure. Getting to that job. Having the holiday they have dreamt of and saved up for.

Antagonists can come in many guises, my notes teach. Oh boy! Here we have no shortage of examples of those. A lethal virus and its mutations. Trigger finger journalists. Powerful, prejudiced countries with fearful constituents and bunker mentality politicians. And last but not least our hero’s internal antagonist, who thought she could bear no more disappointment, injustice and loss. Who could not even cry as she stood with her packed suitcase this past weekend, negative Covid test in hand, staring in numb disbelief at a departures board.

What my writing course notes did not say was how to rescue my hero, to give her journey a happy ending. I want to write relief, an eleventh-hour rescue, and tears of joy and reunion into this tale, but even this writer’s inner protagonist is finding believable words of consolation hard to come by.

The notes did mention that what a hero wants and what she really needs may be in conflict. That what a hero usually needs, according to the great moralists, is to not get what she wants.

In Cathy Park Kelly’s inspiring memoir Boiling a Frog Slowly, she describes how reading the self-help gurus reinforced her self-doubt. Her belief that her abuser was right, his anger her fault, that it was she who needed changing. And that when she eventually left her partner, Eckhart Tolle and his ilk were summarily boxed and dropped off at a charity shop.

I think this new travel ban story is one in which our hopeful, seeking heroes should not be pushed any further, or encouraged to seek ever more transcendent states of self-actualisation.

Can’t they, please, just be allowed to get what they want for a change?

On New Year’s Eve of 2010, Sue Brown’s twelve-year-old son, Craig, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour. In the turmoil of the time, Sue instinctively turned her hand to writing. In 2017, six years after Craig had lost his battle with cancer, she published a memoir, The Twinkling of an Eye: A Mother’s Journey. She lives with her husband and their daughter in Cape Town. The family spends as much time as they can at Craig’s Cabin in Betty’s Bay. Sue continues to find hope and solace in the written word. Her new book, Earth to Mom: Personal Essays on Loss & Love, is a tribute to her son and the indelible mark he left on his family and friends.

Karavan Press title: Boiling a Frog Slowly by Cathy Park Kelly

The perfect match. Or so she thinks.

Her warmth and empathy. His charisma and ambition.

Yet, Cathy feels safer teaching battle-scarred gangsters in a prison classroom than at home with her own partner.

By day she walks on eggshells. At night she sleeps on the backseat of her car. Her safe place is an all-night roadhouse; her best friend, her journal.

The slow boil intensifies until, one day, Cathy finds her grandmother’s armoire smashed to pieces in her bedroom, a hammer on the floor, her life in splinters beside it.

Part memoir, part inspiration, Boiling a Frog Slowly is unflinching in its confrontation of abuse and utterly courageous in its portrayal of redemption.

 A story of loving, hurting, and healing – a gripping reminder that courage comes from within. Always.

– Tracy Going

A tale of insidious abuse told with heart-breaking honesty and humility. The triumphant ending is truly uplifting.

– Sue Nyathi

Publication date: November 2021

ISBN: 978-0-620-96482-1

CATHY PARK KELLY is a writer who lives with her husband and son in a sunny valley in Cape Town.

She has a BA (Hons) in Applied Linguistics and has had non-fiction essays and short stories published in several South African magazines and anthologies. Her first book, Inside Outside, a memoir of teaching juvenile offenders awaiting trial, was quoted extensively by the (then) South African Minister of Correctional Services in a speech. This is the closest she has come to Parliament.

She loves how stories can crack open doors and offer seams of light in the dark.

KARAVAN PRESS entries for the GBAS Book Cover Design Awards 2021

Celebrating the fabulous, multi-talented designers we work with:

Monique Cleghorn | Nick Mulgrew | Megan Ross | Stephen Symons

Not representing Karavan Press at the Awards this year, but hopefully next year again, is Megan Ross, who designed the stunning covers of Melissa A. Volker’s novels, A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker (2019). Melissa’s third novel is on its way …

In the meantime, Megan’s SSDA Disruption cover features at the Awards in 2021:

GBAS Book Cover Design Awards