Wednesday, 15 August 2012

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

On Tuesday 7th August, Jozi had snow! Even though in winter our temperature at night often drops below zero, and frost is not uncommon, snow is pretty rare. In fact, the number of times it has snowed here over the last century can be counted on one hand: May 1956, August 1962, June 1964, and September 1981. Followed by a further three times over the past six years: August 2006, June 2007, and now most recently, August 2012 - all of which I have been lucky enough to experience firsthand. But last week's snowfall was by far the most fun, as I had a little person to share it with. Not that he’ll remember any of it in years to come, but at least I have the pictures to back up my story!

Meanwhile, in downtown Jozi...

On Wednesday there was absolutely no sign of the previous day's snowfall, but it was still bitterly cold...

Then on Thursday 9th August (Women’s Day here in SA), we went to Audi Centre Northcliff and signed an offer to purchase a new Audi A1 Sportback (to replace the Range Rover Sport, which we are in the process of selling privately). The model I've ordered is the 1.4 TFSI Ambition 6-speed manual, in 'glacier white'. Identical to the one in the pics below. How beautiful!?

Later that afternoon, after a full day of eating out and shopping (sheesh, who doesn't love a public holiday!?), I got Goran, who is not quite 18-months old (adjusted age) to stand against a little growth chart we came across. He measured in at just over 80cm tall, and I think it's going to be interesting to see how he progresses over the next six months, as you can usually predict someone's adult height by doubling the number on their second birthday.

On Saturday I went along to a Women’s Day Picnic, organised by my mate Jessica, in the huge garden behind the (new) premises of her über cute Pin Ups Hair Studio. Apart from the looong drive out to Benoni (original stomping ground of one Charlize Theron), and the continual gusts of August wind that made any attempts at looking groomed and poised null and void (I should’ve worn a damn hat), it really was the most fantastic gathering. A fab platform for female owners of small businesses to promote their products and services, and a lovely unpretentious environment for networking and making new friends.

Apart from the dozen or so charming fleamarket-type stalls, selling everything from jewellery and cupcakes to sex toys and handbags, the highlights for me were a tongue-in-cheek burlesque performance by Miss Oh!, and an inspiring talk by local artist and motivational speaker Jessica Webster. In 2006, the then-25-year-old was shot in an armed robbery and paralysed from the waist down. But that sure as shit didn’t kill her spirit, and she has gone on to achieve amazing things: from three critically acclaimed solo exhibitions, to (currently in the process of) writing her PhD, and learning to walk again. Gone is the wheelchair, and in three years from now she says she wants to be mobile without the crutches. A truly humbling encounter indeed.

Above: Jessica, owner of Pin Ups

Above: Jessica Webster
 Below: Cerberus as the Devouring and Entangling Aspect of the Prima Materia, by Jessica Webster (2009) - oil paint and wax on canvas

Above: An ancient pic of my cuzzie Alouise and me (lying on the pony), wearing a Scandinavian-style hoodie my mom knitted for me, circa 1977
Below: Goran wearing the exact same hoodie. Can I have a hell yeah for pucker vintage, darling!

This weekend I turn 38. If you had told me twenty years ago - a first-year design student in the grip of a crippling identity crisis, running around in a haphazard, undiagnosed, unmedicated haze - that I would not only live to see my 38th birthday, but that I would actually be happy, healthy, married, and a mom to boot, I would've collapsed laughing. Amazing how things turn out. And how much there is to live for. Although I've made a lot of mistakes, I also have a lot to be proud of, and I certainly have no regrets. My new goal is to be a published novelist before my 40th birthday. Which means, once again, that I will be trying to take a hiatus from this blog, in order to focus on my research and my writing.

Until we meet long, and thanks for all the fish!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Best bloody fun I've had all year!

Wow. What an insanely busy spell. Busy, and super productive. Full of dead bodies and detectives (in the literary sense, don't worry!), networking and workshopping, at various coffee shops, ad agencies and art galleries around Jozi. All part of the city's (second) annual Bloody Book Week, brainchild of the pint-sized Jenny Crwys-Williams, who is by far the best read and most eloquent radio talk-show host in SA today. I absolutely adore her irreverent, opinionated and witty style, and her support of local writing talent. As much as I would've loved to attend each and every one of the thirty events scheduled over five days, I had to narrow it down to only those that my babysitters and budget would allow...

Above: Jenny Crwys-Williams

On Friday 3rd August I went to the Ladykillers breakfast panel discussion at Jacobs Board Game Café in Parkhurst, where I soaked up as much insider information and inspiration as I possibly could from four published crime writers, of both fiction and non-fiction: Jassy MackenzieJeffery DeaverSean Newman and Karyn Maughan.

I had a good chuckle when Jenny told the people from CNA (who was sponsoring the event) to remove the Fifty Shades of Grey titles from the makeshift sales table. EL James alongside the likes of Jeffery "The Bone Collector" Deaver? Sacrilege, darling! And on top of an amazing goodie bag that we all got to take home, I was one of two guests to win a bottle of glühwein. (Not in quite the same league as the heavenly-scented hand-brewed stuff we sipped under the Charles Bridge, but pretty yummy nevertheless).

Above: Jassy Mackenzie and guest

Above: Jeffery Deaver and Jenny Crwys-Williams

Above: Jassy Mackenzie, Jeffery Deaver, Jenny Crwys-Williams, Sean Newman, and Karyn Maughan

Above: Winners of various prizes; that's me in the middle at the very back!

That afternoon I then moseyed along to 44 Stanley's Art On Paper gallery to check out the Incident Room exhibition, by award-winning contemporary artist Kathryn Smith. The kind of work she does is rather difficult to describe, but I found a review online which sums up her methodology quite nicely: "Smith is an intellectual artist, interested as much in ideas as execution, and in this high-tech era she uses the most convenient tools available to express those ideas: video and DVD, digital photography, scanned images and computer generated prints." - Kin Bentley for The Herald, Thursday 12 August 2004.

For this particular project Kathryn focused on the unsolved murder of 18-year-old Jacoba "Bubbles" Schroeder, which happened right here in Jozi, back in 1949. I spent a good hour there, chatting with her about the staggering amount of work that went into this exhibition, but could honestly have spent several more. Her tenacious research and meticulous attention to detail is unbelievable, and made me realise how much groundwork I've still got to do on my own novel (more info below) before it has a snowball's chance in hell of being taken seriously forensically. I was also interested to hear that she'd recently left her lecturing post at Stellenbosch University to (imminently) start her postgrad studies towards an Msc in Forensic Art at the University of Dundee in Scotland. I think it's a brilliant career move - a no-brainer really - and I reckon she's going to go on to do great things.

Kathryn's exhibition coincided with the recent publication of Bubblesby Rahla Xenopoulosa fictionalised first-person narrative, based on the same real-life murder mystery of Jacoba Schroeder. On a side note, Rahla is the sister of ex-Marie Claire, now-Glamour magazine editor, Pnina Fenster. I met and shared a cigarette with her at a Marie Claire reader breakfast I had helped organise when I was working for Caxton, circa 2001/2. Anyway, back to Rahla. Bubbles is her second book (for which, incidentally, she has just sold the film rights!). Her first title cuts much closer to the bone: A Memoir of Love and Madness: Living with Bipolar Disorder. It came out in 2009 and I can't believe this is the first I have heard about it. Needless to say I am keen to get my hands on a copy post-haste. As she said at her launch in Cape Town, there is still precious little literature about bipolar, and very few autobiographies tackling the subject. I firmly believe the more we sufferers can share with and learn from one other, the better. Below are some pics taken on Tuesday 31 July, the opening evening of the exhibition, which I was sadly unable to attend.

Above: Kathryn Smith

Above: Rahla Xenopoulos, Kathryn Smith, Jenny Crwys-Williams, and forensic pathologist Alan G Morris

I am absolutely in love with this entire ensemble!

Then on Saturday 4th August I made my way through to TBWA / Hunt Lascaris in the heart of Sandton (a stone's throw from where I used to work at Media24), for the much-anticipated Dial M for a Murderclass crime writing workshop in the auditorium (an early birthday pressie from my folks). Three hours later I walked away with a head full of insider information and a heart full of inspiration - this time from no less than five published crime writers, again of both fiction and non-fictionMike NicolMark GimenezJeffery DeaverJohn Connolly, and Andrew Brown.

Above: That's me in the green chair, like a real nerd in the very front row!

Above: Mike Nicol, Mark Gimenez (I just loved his Texan accent!), and Jeffery Deaver

Above: Mike Nicol, John Connolly (an utterly charming Irishman), and Jeffery Deaver

Above: Andrew Brown and Mike Nicol

All in all, an incredible experience. One which left me more motivated than I have been in a very long time. As many of you already know, I stopped working on my own crime fiction novel, Scarlet's Web, two years ago, shortly after finding out the shocking news that I was going to be a mom. The two main reasons I decided to shelve the project were because a) I struggled terribly with hyperemesis gravidarum and could barely keep a meal down, let alone write about the kind of stuff that would turn even the most cast-iron stomach, and because b) I felt that trying to tap into the darkest corners of my psyche in order to tell a gripping story simply wasn't conducive to the health of the tiny human growing inside me.

Since then, as this blog has probably highlighted, it's been one medical catastrophe after the next. Between Goran and I, in the space of 18 months, we have now seen the inside of Olivedale "Our Second Home" Hospital's maternity ward, NICU, ER, operating theatre (three times), general ward and paediatric ward (twice). Totally crazy. By anyone's standards.

Needless to say I haven't had the time or the inclination to do anything serious with my research or manuscript over this period. But thanks to the stellar group of authors I had the privilege of listening to and learning from over the course of this Bloody Book Week, I finally got the long-overdue kick up the backside and psychological wherewithal I needed to pull Scarlet's Web off the back burner, and am pleased to report that it's all systems go!