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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

My blog is moving

After ten years of being hosted by Bookslive, I’ve finally taken the plunge and merged my blog with my website www.sapartridge.com

In 2007, then editor Ben Williams sent me an email inviting me to start a blog at his new website, which soon became the hub of the South-African online literary community. I had just published my first novel, and knew absolutely no-one. Bookslive (then, book.co.za) quickly changed that. I made fast friends with resident bloggers, many of whom remain some of my closest friends. At the first Bookslive meet-up, I met many more faces that would become more than familiar over the years. Its been a wild and wonderful ten years, and I can’t imagine growing as a writer without this site.

So why the move?

I’ve been neglecting my website over the years. It hadn’t been updated in the last four years because frankly, it was built in such a way that I didn’t know how. All my news, musings and reviews went straight on to my blog and Twitter.

I’ve finally redone my website on a platform I can update on my own, and merged it with a blog so everything is in one central place. It’s not quite 100% finished (I’ve commissioned a designer to create an awesome header image for me), but will be in the next week or two.

You can find me at www.sapartridge.com

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

 

 

Trade Secrets

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It was such an honour to make the shortlist for the Short Sharp Story Award, and even more so to be included in the anthology. I learned a lot from the editor, Joanne, and I can honestly say my future work will benefit richly from the experience.

I am so, so passionate about short story writing. Short stories are little snippets of life. They capture the reader’s imagination in a few juicy bites, and usually have a little twist at the end to remember them by.

I can still remember reading Can Themba’s The Suit in school. It has stayed with me all this time.

Philemon lifted it gingerly under his arm and looked at the stark horror in Matilda’s eyes. She was not sitting up in bed. Her mouth twitched, but her throat raised no words.
“Ha”, he said, “I see we have a visitor,” indicating the blue suit. “We really must show some of our hospitality. But first, I must phone my boss that I can’t come to work today …”

So powerful.

I especially love writing short stories for children. I’ve contributed to school setwork anthologies and also the amazing Yoza initiative, which makes free short stories accessible to kids via their cell phones. In First Date, I wrote about a girl who is spirited away by a carousel pony. In Blue versus Red, two laser tag teams face off on the moon. And in The Battle, a group of trading card players take on an adversary that never plays fair.

But I don’t only write for children and teens. If an idea or character strikes me, I’ll write about it.

I’ve contributed to numerous anthologies and often submit to competitions. I’ve written about enterprising children in war-torn villages (Take Me Home United Road – shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize), clueless royals on holiday in Cape Town (The TouristStray, 2015), vampires from outer space (Planet XAfroSF, 2012), a haunted house in Mauritius (The ExpeditionHome Away, 2010), mermaids, ghosts, creepy kids, the devil, more vampires, clown cults and cursed villages

… I guess I have a fondness for the speculative. But that is the wonderful thing about short stories. You can write about absolutely anything. Even Hilary Mantel wrote about zombies in The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.

My favourite short story writers include China Miéville, Neil Gaiman, Karen Russell and of course the masters, HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe and Roald Dahl. I love how these writers are able to lace their stories with a touch of the fantastic and the surreal, creating rich, atmospheric tales that transport you somewhere completely wonderful, tales that you can completely lose yourself in.

Locally, there are some truly brilliant short story writers. Henrietta Rose-Innes, Diane Awerbuck, Ivan Vladislavic and Mary Watson, whose Caine-Prize winning story, Jungfrau, is just exquisite in every way.

The Virgin spent hours in the bathroom every evening. Naked she walked
to her bedroom, so lovely and proud she seemed tall; I followed faithfully, to
observe a ritual more awesome than church. With creams and powders she made
herself even cleaner for God. How he must love her, I thought. She spread his love
upon her as she rubbed her skin until it glowed and her smell spread through the
house, covering us all with the strength of her devotion. Then she went out, just
after my father came home, and stayed out until late.

I suppose every writer dreams of writing stories that touch their readers in some way.

Trade Secrets collection
For the Trade Secrets anthology, I wrote about an old witch living in Muizenberg, who makes her living telling fortunes in a most unusual way. I won’t say too much. It is a trade secret after all.

What I will tell you is that the story is called Kitchen Witch. It’s whimsical and light, and I hope it brings you as much joy to read as it did to write. Here’s a short extract.

Ballantine usually waited for her at the gate. The enticing smell of kabeljou should have had him mewling between her ankles by now. The cat was nowhere to be seen, but someone else was waiting. A young woman, with a sweep of dark hair tucked under a scarf, hovered near the pink hydrangeas, picking at the leaves and tearing them into strips, a large Tupperware container at her feet. Mrs Bailey’s client list consisted in the main of elderly women who knew the old ways and revered the craft. Most young women hadn’t even heard of the art, let alone believed in it. Mrs Bailey reckoned many of them would dismiss her as a feeble old fool… But thirty-something Eleanor February believed in her. It showed in the way her eyes widened as she spotted the old woman’s approach. “Mrs Bailey, you’re here,” said Eleanor with visible relief.

Open Book Short Story Workshop
Thankfully, advice for writing short stories is not a trade secret. I’ll be hosting a short story workshop at this year’s Open Book Festival and offering tips on getting the best out of your story. It’s a two-hour workshop, and I’ll be joined by Caine Prize winner Bushra al-Fadil, who will be answering questions about his experiences leading up to his win. It’s a free event, but booking is essential to secure a place.

Short story workshop:
Date: 09/09/2017
Venue: HCC Boardroom
Time: 10.00 – 12.00
Price: Free entry

Click here for more details.

What is your favourite short story? Tweet me @Sapartridge

 

LEGO book review: The Roanoke Girls

Roanoke

I know a few people who make a habit of not reading Next Big Thing books because ultimately, the end result never quite lives up to the hype. (I haven’t read The Girl on the Train and the movie’s already gone to DVD).

But sometimes it does.

I saw a few posts about The Roanoke Girls online and the title struck me because I had just finished watching American Horror Story Roanoke, which essentially scared my pants off. The book was getting a lot of hype, so I thought, why not, let me add it to the To Be Read tally I had running in my head.

I had just loaned the book I was currently reading, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, to a friend, (the book is making its rounds in her household), so I needed something new to sink my teeth into over the weekend.

Next Big Thing books are easy to spot. Just look among the floating displays at the front of any Exclusive Books store. I found and paid for my copy of The Roanoke Girls in seconds.

Oh my God.

This book was not what I was expecting at all. The plot is so twisted that my eyes nearly popped out my head. I absolutely loved it.

For the uninitiated, Lane Roanoke lives with her mother in New York. She’s dreamed about the Roanoke family home in Kansas her entire life – gleaned from the snatches her mother reveals. Mostly it’s a taboo subject. When her mother commits suicide, a social worker tells Lane her family are anxiously waiting to take her in.

The Roanoke Girls LEGO story At first, the sprawling estate in Osage Flats feels like home. Her cousin Allegra is mad and lovely, her gran is elegant old money and her grandfather is doting and wonderful. Lane inherits an instant best friend, a whole new wardrobe, and the family she’s always wanted.

Then Allegra shows Lane the portraits of the Roanoke Girls, the women in the Roanoke family tree – beautiful, dark and cursed. Some have gone missing. Most are dead. Lane and Allegra are the last Roanoke girls remaining, and because of a terrible family secret, they’re also doomed.

Lane can’t get away fast enough, and like her mother before her, puts the Roanoke home out of her mind. But years later she receives a call from her grandfather to say Allegra has gone missing, and Lane has no choice but to go back to find out the truth.

This is the type of novel I wish I had written. It’s fast-paced and filled with hooks to keep you wanting more – I was so bewitched I  read it in two sittings flat. The mystery element is one of the book’s most intriguing qualities. The magnificently flawed Lane takes a bull-in-a-china-shop approach to sleuthing, and her ferocity to discover what happened to her cousin stirs up a lot of dust in the sleepy small town.

The book also explores the role of women in society, but more than that, it looks at how women see themselves. Author Amy Engel doesn’t hold back. Lane recognises her own propensity for cruelty and malice when it comes to men, her own weakness to willingly overlook horror just to feel wanted and special.

But all that aside, what I loved most was the writing itself, which was as beautiful and haunting as the doomed women in the title. It evokes a wonderfully vivid picture of the drama unfolding, with the magnificent backdrop of dry whispering wheat fields and a sky full of stars.

It’s outstanding.

A final spoilery thought. This book gives “that look” in American Gothic a whole new meaning.

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see more of my LEGO stories on Tumblr.

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