Thursday, 28 January 2016

Rolling with the punches

I'm totally stoked for Trevor Noah and his $3 million book deal. The dude is a legend, and I cannot WAIT to get my paws on a copy of his memoir when it comes out. "These are true stories - sometimes dark, occasionally bizarre, frequently tender, and always hilarious. Whether subsisting on caterpillars during months of extreme poverty or making comically hapless attempts at teenage romance, from the time he was thrown in jail to the time he was thrown from a speeding car driven by murderous gangsters..." C'mon, if that doesn't hook you, nothing will!


But I also feel fucking stupid. For thinking the likes of Pan Macmillan South Africa might actually be interested in publishing a memoir by a virtual unknown in 2016, when this is the kind of stuff they had going on behind the scenes. As you'll see from the screen grab below, of my Umbilicus 'Rejections' folder to date, the latest (local) one came from none other than PanMac SA, at pretty much the exact same time they must've been drawing up this Noah deal. Clearly, I didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell.

The only other local ladies who may consider a story like mine are Tracey McDonald of Tracey McDonald Publishers and Colleen Higgs of Modjaji Books, but neither are accepting unsolicited manuscripts until mid-2016 and 2017 respectively. Basically, I have exhausted all narrative non-fiction avenues on home turf, and have come to accept the probability that no trade publisher outside of our borders is going to be interested in a memoir by a paleface plebian from the tip of the Dark Continent (sadly, I ain't no Trevor Noah or Charlize Theron).

After a good, long think about the feedback and constructive criticism I have received from industry professionals over the past several months, about market trends and optimal shelf positioning for a contemporary story like mine, I eventually made the executive decision to change the names of all the characters in my book, repackage the story as an autobiographical novel, and target it at the Young Adult (YA) realistic fiction reader instead.

I also thought long and hard about the cutthroat nature of trade publishing in general, and the agony of spending the next year, or two years, or five years even, [re]submitting my manuscript to the fiction imprints of local publishers, plus UK and US literary agents, with absolutely no guarantee of ever securing a deal. Hey, if my track record on the narrative non-fiction side is anything to go by, what's to say my attempt at the fiction side will be any better?

So I decided to take the bull by the horns, stop the querying process with immediate effect, and am currently hard at work building my author website, creating a marketing plan and publicity campaign, and formatting my manuscript for self-publication in both print-on-demand (POD) and ebook (Mobi + ePub) formats, by mid-2016.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Hit the ground running

Bizarre to think we're less than a week away from the end of January already. The Christmas holidays and that horrific heatwave feel like a distant memory. Goran is settling nicely into 'big school'. My mom-in-law (who I've known since she was 38 - three years younger than I am now!) has just turned 60. And we're all back to some semblance of routine. Below is a collection of pics showing how the last three weeks have unfolded. 

Judging by how busy things have been round this neck of the woods, and how much writing I plan on doing this year (still in the process of submissions for my first book, whilst working on the second), I have a feeling I'll be blogging quite a bit less than I used to. But that's cool. For more regular updates, you can follow me on Instagram which, alongside Facebook, I tend to favour most for e-journaling these days. Wishing all my readers a peaceful and prosperous 2016!

Above: 6 January 2016 - Picnic at the Johannesburg Botanical Garden

Below: 7 January 2016 - The hottest day I have ever experienced in my 41 years on this planet. It was even too hot to wear a swimming cozzie, so I swam buck naked. Apologies to the neighbours.

Above: 10 January 2016 - Moody sunset from our patio

Below: 12 January 2016 - Informal meet-and-greet for the boys and their teachers at KEPS the day before school started

Above and below: We had to supply four ID-size photos for the boys' cubby-holes and lockers and things. I chose this one.

Above: The beautiful Berea Fire Station aka the 'Doll's House' is a national monument, just a stone's throw from the iconic Hillbrow Tower. Built in 1910, it is the oldest functioning fire station in Johannesburg, and in terms of architectural design, is considered a fine example of a "small Edwardian suburban fire station". I feel privileged to drive past this little gem on a daily basis during the school run home.

Below: 12 January 2016 - Goran opened his very own bank account

Below: 13 January 2016 - Up at sparrow's fart for the first day of 'big school'

Below: Settling into school life...

Above and below: 22 January 2016 - my dad flew up from Durban for the weekend and came with me to fetch Goran from school on Friday, so I took the opportunity to give him a very brief tour of the KES / KEPS campus. One of my absolute favourite buildings is the high school's assembly hall, which always reminds me of the Great Hall at Hogwarts.

Above: 22 January 2016 - Meeting my sixth nephew Hayden (seven months old) at OR Tambo International, en route back to Texas

Below: 22 January 2016 - My dad and I at my mom-in-law's 60th birthday dinner at The Meat Co. in Montecasino

Below: 23 January 2016 - My mom-in-law's 60th birthday lunch in the upstairs function room of The Silver Birch Restaurant at the Lifestyle Home Garden centre

Above: 24 January 2016 - Watching the planes from the viewing deck of the Wiesenhof restaurant at Lanseria airport

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Jozibelle for hire!

Right. Time to get back in the saddle and start actively marketing my skill set. Please read through what writing-related services I have to offer, and pass my details onto relevant parties - friends, family, colleagues, anyone and everyone you know - who may need my expertise, now or down the line. Your help is hugely appreciated! 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Five weddings and a funeral

Goran has attended no less than five family weddings and one funeral in his short lifetime - the latter when he was still a bun in my oven.

The most recent wedding was on 15th December 2015. Lee's cousin Jo tied the knot with her fiancée Sam. They had their bachelorette party at Fireman's Tavern the month prior (yes, the same place where we had Goran's fifth birthday party - it was how I got the idea!) And they had their wedding ceremony and reception at De Haven Oost in the village of Rayton, not far from the diamond mining town of Cullinan. (The famous Cullinan I Diamond, also known as the 'Great Star of Africa', is the largest cut clear diamond in the world. It was discovered in 1905, bought by the Transvaal government, and presented to King Edward VII - after whom Goran's school is named! In 1910 it was incorporated into the redesigned Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross - originally designed in 1661, which the monarch bears in the right hand during his or her coronation. This is one of two sceptres which form part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.)

After the wedding, Lee, Goran and I crashed overnight at a Cape Dutch-style guest house on a nearby working protea farm called Lieben Charm. And the following morning we drove through to Harrie's Pancakes in Cullinan for brunch, before heading back to Jozi.

Below: Bachelorette at Fireman's Tavern in Modderfontein

Below: Lieben Charm Guest Farm in Rayton

Below: Ceremony and reception at De Haven Oost Wedding Venue in Rayton

Below: The quaint Victorian village section of Cullinan

Cullinan is just 45 minutes from Joburg. A popular spot for wedding-goers, hungry and thirsty daytrippers, and bikers on a Sunday breakfast run.