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DIARY – on the progress of Kapelo’s Quest
ALL the HIGHS and LOWS
16 September 2005 – Wake up with this sentence in mind: “There comes a time when old is new and mysteries are reality.” I write it down on the first slip of paper I can find.
Why? Because I KNOW it’s the first sentence of a novel, however contradictory and confusing I think it sounds. Once I’m fully awake (that usually takes a while) I’m ready to start this new venture. I pull out an A4-Exercise Book, and in no time I’ve filled a few pages. I write – not type!! Only once my novel is finished, am I forced to tackle my computer’s keyboard (with only one finger, because I never learned to type ‘properly’). It’s slow going but at the same time, an opportunity for me to edit what I wrote.
20 September – I write in the margin: attended Veronica’s birthday party. Why the note?
I greatly admire Veronica Devine and think she's a phenomenal woman and leader – a real icon in our society. Under her and my friend Annatjie’s guidance, I grew as a person and developed a strong ambition to make a success of anything I start. Veronica was the owner and leader of the South African Direct Selling Company (Cosmetics), which I worked for as an area or regional manager for over 21 years. Annatjie, on the other hand, introduced me first to the product and then to the company, before we became firm friends. During those days/years, I learned to believe in myself as well as to dream, and then to actually taste and smell success. This was a paradigm shift for me – I developed a different mindset from what I was accustomed to whilst growing up.
So, I haven’t got a full day ahead to write. This sentence reminds me of a postcard I once bought during a trip to the UK. It reads: “So I haven’t written much lately. So what? Neither has Shakespeare.” Checking how I’ve progressed with the manuscript, I see I’ve almost finished 5 chapters. This also means I’ve almost filled the 72 pages of the first exercise book. If you’d ask me, I couldn’t say how many chapters there will be in total. While I write, I watch that my chapters are more or less of the same length, but how and when the novel will end, my characters (in the novel) will decide.
23 September – I’m starting Chapter 9 and have a lot of fun writing. I do experience one problem, though. In the past (actually, for more or less twenty years already), I’ve only written novels with adults as readers in mind – at times, quite erotic stuff. Now I’m writing for a completely different and younger market – but my main character is threatening to have an affair!! Even if he’s a boy on the verge of manhood, he’s not supposed to have an intimate relationship. I mean, he can do what he likes, but he’s not going to share that on paper.
Finally, I know that this novel is going to be called KAPELO’S QUEST.
24 September – I spend most of the day with research on the internet. Although I’m fully prepared for this novel, since I did most of the research beforehand, I still reach a point when I want to confirm certain facts before I commit them to text. In actual fact, I did a lot of research on African folklore and myths, before that first sentence for this novel ‘popped’ into my head 8 days ago. Just before then, I argued with myself that since I was not successful through the years of finding a publisher for one of my novels (I received a few encouraging remarks, yes, but never a commitment), I would now turn my attention to what I LOVED as a child – reading fairytales and fables in German (see link: MEET THE AUTHOR). Since I live in South Africa (yes, I am AN AFRICAN at heart if not according to my skin colour), I was thinking of studying what is available with regard to African legends and myths. After many hours, actually, days of research, I happened upon a site on the internet under “Sacred Texts”. What a discovery!!! After absorbing that until late into the night – voila!! The first sentence (mentioned above) popped up in my sleep and I woke up with it in mind.
What I need to clarify today, is the exact procedure regarding the Umhlanga ceremony – a ritual, which takes place on a yearly basis to this day, particularly in Swaziland, but also amongst some of the amaZulu. Since I’m a tourist guide by profession for the last 9 years, I’m fully aware what this ceremony entails, but still wish to get my facts completely ‘straight’ before I include that in my novel.
30 September – Note in margin: tomorrow I fly to Cape Town and then go on a 2-week tour!! Damn!!! Wish to finish the novel instead. I’m busy with Chapter 16 – no end in sight yet, although I know I’m close.
After this one, more tours follow, so that I’m ‘on the road’ for two-and a half months. That’s life. Since I earn a living now from guiding German tourists through our beautiful country, and love introducing them to our fascinating kaleidoscope of people and cultures, I have no reason to complain. I do enjoy my job (I’m working for a tour operator, Studiosus, based in Munich, Germany), but since writing is my passion, there are times when I wish I could only concentrate on this.
21 December – Today is one of the few days when I battle to get started. Whilst away from home, I occasionally thought of where my novel is going and how it’s going to end. I’ll share a secret – I actually fear finishing a novel. Why? Because in the past, I’ve started writing many novels, but was seldom able to end them satisfactorily. Or one book leads to another. This I already know will also be the case now. Kapelo’s Quest will be the first book of a trilogy.
24 December – The festive season ‘overcomes’ me, also my birthday soon after. I’m enjoying the holiday with my family: my Austrian-born husband, Richard, oldest daughter Natascha (we call her ‘Putzi’, and now Dr Putzi, because she’s a medical doctor busy specialising in Obstetrics and Gynaecology) and her doctor-husband, Quinton, as well as his parents. (Quinton’s mom, Edna, assisted me by correcting my often clumsy use of the English language in a previous manuscript). Specifically at this time of the year, I terribly miss my ‘baby’, Tanja (nickname “Mecki”), who for over 4 years already, lives and works in Cambridge in the UK. I’ve visited her there and really like the place (if not the weather!), but now I wish she was here with us.
14 February 2006 – a new year started more than a month ago, and already it’s Valentine’s Day.
I’ve finally started writing more ‘seriously’ again – Chapter 18. The end of this novel is now in sight!
15 February – Today, I’m proud to say, I finished Kapelo’s Quest around lunch-time. And for once: the ending happened ‘naturally’. GREAT!!! 19 chapters in total.
1 April – this is NOT a joke!! (Look at the date today!?) I finished typing and saving my manuscript, Kapelo’s Quest, on the computer.
It’s also Reni’s birthday today. She’s my best friend from our last 2 years as boarders in high school – at Hermannsburg, in the KwaZulu-Natal province. Because Reni lives in Namibia, I send her an SMS instead of calling her. Thinking about our wonderful days as scholars in Hermannsburg, makes me feel home-sick. Yes, I really loved attending this particular boarding school, and often return as an old-scholar. I also attend or organise reunions. Perhaps one day I’ll write a novel about life as a boarder in this idyllic and rural setting? I certainly will write lyrically about those days in my memoirs one day – if the ‘mood’ is right to do that. Our two daughters also attended this school as boarders for the last 5 years of their life as pupils.
28 April – This is the date an e-mail is posted to me with the following short question: What happened with your novel?
7 May – I get a wonderful surprise!!! My daughter, Mecki, (living in the UK) phones to say she’s coming back to South Africa. The original plan was that she would come for a visit, but now the exiting news is that she decided to come back home for good.
I only get the e-mail, dated 28 April, today, because I was away with a tour-group until yesterday. I can’t believe my eyes!! This is the question of a man, who I approached almost a year ago, on 20 May 2005, to be exact. At the time, I sent him a synopsis and the first 3 chapters of a novel, which I still hope will also be published one day, called “After the Scattering” (a historical novel set in the Kingdom of Lesotho – definitely an adult novel!!). This man now wants to know what happened to “After the Scattering”.
Is this luck, or what? He doesn’t know that I’ve stopped looking for a publisher for this novel because firstly, he didn’t respond right away once I ‘corrected’ my synopsis, which he suggested at the time I do to impress him and ‘an elusive Hollywood producer’ (his words, not mine). Secondly, I had entered “After the Scattering” to another local publisher for their yearly book-award (not with the specific goal to win a literary award, but mainly because the opportunity of a possible publishing contract other than for the winner, was part of the deal). When I heard nothing once the competition was over and won, I phoned, only to be told to come and fetch my manuscript if I wanted it back. That’s rather shabby treatment, I thought. Three months down the line and no comments, no thank you for entering, etc – just come and get it. I don’t know if anybody ever bothered to even have a look at my manuscript. Well, that certainly had a demoralising effect on me. For at least a while, but then I ‘dusted’ myself off, and the rest is history, as the saying goes – I changed my approach and started writing Kapelo’s Quest.
I write back by e-mail: Good question – I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw your response, almost a year later (sic). Finding a publisher is a VERY ‘painful’ process……… In the mean time I wrote another novel and I’m concentrating on finding a publisher for that now. I’m including the synopsis in case you are interested.
He emails back the same day: PS. Send me something of your new novel. Liked your synopsis.
Let me explain – more than a year ago, there was an article in our Sunday newspaper on ‘Stories wanted’ and it mentioned a new publishing house in South Africa that is actively looking for manuscripts. Of course I couldn’t resist the temptation and submitted the synopsis and a couple of chapters to the e-mail address given. At the time, my ‘material’ didn’t impress – but now this!? He explains he was out of the country to promote his own book and that he’s working on special editions for one of our Nobel prize-winners (literature).
8 May – My email to him reads: I’m happy to hear you liked the synopsis – I really believe this novel of mine is special. Herewith the first 3 chapters in attachments……… Kind regards, Angelika (pseudonym – Liz Brand – part of my second and maiden names; ‘easier’ to the ear than my German name & ‘difficult-to-pronounce’-surname).
9 May – I get a long e-mail back, containing constructive criticism – that the writing is clumsy in places (I’m fully aware of this because English isn’t my home-language), and that the characters and plot develop too slowly – instant satisfaction is ‘the name of the game’ (my conclusion, but he does insinuate this). He continues to say that writing is always an act of great spirit and deep passion – you have to connect with this to bring out your best work (his words – very inspiring). I think you should re-write your story. Don’t give up…… PS. I prefer your real name to pseudonym – stick to it.
Well, I accept his advice and decide to ‘buckle down’ and do as suggested – to revisit my novel. But with regard to using a pseudonym, I stubbornly refuse to reconsider. For whatever reason, Liz Brand just ‘sounds’ right to me.
10 May – I write an e-mail, thanking him for the effort to critically evaluate my work and tell him more about myself (to explain why I have a ‘clumsy writing style’), etc.
11 May – His response: First off, I think you can write and obviously have a talent (great, a writer needs to occasionally hear this from someone ‘in the know’). He then goes on to offer help by suggesting I approach a freelance editor, which he’s willing to organise on my behalf. He also invites me to attend his workshop. Always willing to learn something new, I enrol for his writing course.
23 May – We agree on the date I’ll attend the workshop. He also informs me that he has my edited pages (I submitted the first chapter for editing) and asks for my fax no. so he can send the edited pages to me. I supply that and am very grateful.
10 June – I attend the one-day workshop, lunch included, and am introduced to the others attending, as someone, who has written a book (surprise, surprise, I think, because there are dozens of ‘books’ hidden in my closet). I enjoy the day and find it constructive, even if at times, I feel like a fool during certain exercises, before I get the hang of things. I ask about my edited pages, because they were never faxed to me. He says he wanted to give them to me today, but forgot them in his office at work. I’m disappointed, but go home, motivated by what I learned during the workshop.
Sad part – A publishing contract was never mentioned, and I never saw my supposedly edited (and paid for) chapter either. Whatever, I will find someone else to help me or somehow do it myself.
11 June – During a conversation with my daughter, Mecki (who returned to South Africa a couple of days ago and temporarily lives with us until she finds work and a place of her own), she offers to read Kapelo’s Quest with the objective to possibly assist me. She can sense how despondent I am right then. This comes as a surprise, because Mecki has never in the past revealed an interest in reading any of my stuff. But, I guess, the new approach I chose for this novel interests Mecki whilst before, only our other daughter, Putzi, and one of my sisters, Petra, used to ‘devour’ what I wrote then.
13 June – Mecki positively criticises my work and we start talking about it. She doesn’t simply suggest changes, but asks me important questions: what do I want to achieve? What is the guiding theme throughout the book? What do I really think is THE QUEST? etc. Very helpful; very sobering. For the very first time, I have a direct perspective of how an ‘outsider’ evaluates what I write. Not just the obvious – a character driven versus a prosaic text; or a plot-driven novel, etc. I’m amazed at Mecki’s insight and start to think of her as my ‘lucky charm’ – she arrived back home at a very critical point in my life as a writer. I think of other prospective writers and wonder if they are as lucky as I am to have a ‘guiding light’ like Mecki in their lives – ‘appearing’ at the exact moment, when the situation is critical.
I start to rewrite my novel – and feel confident that I can do it now on my own, although I would have appreciated to see what an editor did with my first chapter (for which I paid but never received, as mentioned above). I’m doing just fine with Mecki’s valuable input now, but still, I think, the comparison, in retrospect, would have been interesting. I also make use of the notes I got during the workshop, which I apply where necessary. The combination is ‘potent’ and I feel confident in the knowledge that soon, I can approach publishers with the ‘new’ Kapelo’s Quest.
July – I make a list of publishers, who concentrate on books for children, because this novel is written with teenagers in mind (other than ‘adults young at heart’). I refer to “The Writer’s Handbook”, updated on a yearly basis, and on which I’ve depended in the past. It’s rather expensive in South Africa, but worth it if one is looking for information on publishers overseas, etc. I also buy Basil van Rooyen’s “Get Your Book Published in 30 (Relatively) Easy Steps”, which states on the cover that it’s “A Hands-on Guide for South African Authors”. Note to myself – call yourself an author from now on, not just a writer!
Result: In his ‘Guide’, Basil lists websites of interest to someone, who wants to publish in SA. Amongst them is PASA’s website, on which I find a complete list of publishers, etc. who currently are members of PASA (Publishers’ Association of SA). The Writer’s Handbook, on the other hand, makes it very clear that these days, it’s virtually impossible to find a publisher in the UK without an agent!! In my situation, I think finding an agent is as difficult as securing a publisher. So should I go the South African route, even if I haven’t had any inspiring experiences so far? At least the British have mostly responded with encouraging remarks in the past. Although my novel has an African setting, I still lean towards approaching a publisher in the UK.
I decide to change my approach altogether and go the route I now use to gather information. The internet. I start to investigate which publishers (in the category applying to the market I’m seeking) have web-pages, or even better, e-mail addresses. Next, I compile a letter to the editor, explaining that I’m diversifying to a younger market, that I’m a tourist guide and therefore intimately familiar with the setting and subject matter. I ask them to consider what I’ve attached – a synopsis, and the first three chapters. BUT: I still hesitate. Who do I approach, UK or South African publishers?
I prepare myself for an upcoming tour, which will last for 3 weeks.
6 August – It’s the night before I leave, and Mecki wants to know what I’ve decided to do about sending the e-mail. She is shocked when I say I’m still in two minds about the whole affair and feel it’s presumptuous of me to approach an editor via an e-mail. Because Mecki insists and in the spur of the moment, I choose 4 UK publishers, simply because I have their e-mail addresses at hand, send the e-mails and go on tour. I decide to approach SA-publishers when I return and if I didn’t get a positive response from the UK.
7 August – Mecki phones me to say there are 3 (out of 4) responses to my e-mails. It’s Monday, one day after I dared to do something about getting Kapelo’s Quest published – and already 3 responses? I’m dumbstruck. I never thought it was that easy! Again I refer to Mecki as my lucky charm and can’t stop thinking how blessed I am to have two daughters, who each, in their respective ways, are so special and always prepared to assist, if required.
The responses are mainly acknowledgements of receipt and that in due course, I’ll be contacted. Nonetheless, I feel elated that without a supposedly mandatory agent, I might have ‘struck gold’ in the UK. I fantasise - is this what others call the “Big Break”? Like the gambler I once was (passionately playing Blackjack in Casinos or Poker with family and friends), have I hit a lucky streak?
5 September – I receive an e-mail which makes me feel warm and wanted. Strangely, it’s from a publisher in Cambridge, where Mecki lived for over 4 years. Even if Cambridge no longer means ‘home’ to my daughter, there certainly seems to be a message in this for me – a good omen? Other than our dogs, I also love horses and used to ride frequently whilst growing up on a farm (see link: Meet the Author). Horses = Pegasus!!?? Kapelo’s Quest = fable!! It’s all like a mystery to me, but in fact, reality, as Kapelo might point out to me (see: first sentence in Kapelo’s Quest).
The e-mail says: Thank you again for the sample of your work, and for your patience. We would now like to invite you to send us a copy of your full manuscript…………..
Without further ado, I comply. I send a hard copy by post and include a disk as requested.
16 September – I start writing the sequel to Kapelo’s Quest without knowing yet what Book II will be called. I also decline the other offer I received, because it was for a self-publishing contract (from the third respondent, I never heard a word again).
1 October – I start with Chapter 11 of what I by now call Kapelo’s Curse. Writing at this time of the year is frustrating because now, it’s the height of the tourist season in South Africa. In less than a week’s time, I’m booked for a tour again. I write so fast and furious that my right shoulder hurts and then cramps up. It’s not the first time that this has happened. There are also blisters on my second and middle fingers, which tend to develop into calluses.
6 October – I’ve almost finished writing Chapter 15, but have to leave.
14 November – In between tours, I’m home for a few days. I’m OFFERED A PUBLISHING CONTRACT WITH PEGASUS under their Vanguard Imprint!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At last it’s happening. Instead of feeling overly excited, as I expected would be the case, I’m suddenly having doubts. The editing process will only start now – what lies in store for me? I know I love writing and for ages have envisaged finally getting to where I am now. But however much (with the continuous input by Mecki) I’ve personally edited, rewritten and changed many passages in the novel, my writing style (called clumsy before), will probably never change. As many books as I’ve read through the years, almost all in English, it isn’t my ‘first’ language and therefore doesn’t come naturally to me. To write in German or Afrikaans (two languages I speak fluently), simply isn’t an option because since high school, where English was the language of instruction, all I’ve ever attempted to write since then, was in English (i.e. I find writing ‘coherently’ in the two other languages I speak even more difficult than expressing my thoughts in English). Complicated, hey?
10 December – I’m finally home for the festive season and will only guide tours again from February next year onwards.
13 December – The contract arrives, I sign and initial it as required, and send it off. At the same time, I write an e-mail to the publisher, informing him that I’ve posted the contract. I also have a few questions, which he answers convincingly.
20 December – Still absorbing what I think of as my good luck, I turn to the second book in the trilogy, which needs to be finished. I write throughout Christmas, which is a quiet period for us this year – just Mecki, Richard and I. In between playing some board-games or cards, which we, as a family, grew up with and always enjoy playing, I continue to write until 27 December.
14 January 2007 – A new year = a new beginning??? 2007, with emphasis on the number 7 (Mecki’s favourite number) and = the number of children in my family, of which I am the oldest – I remember that occasionally, we were called the “Von Trapp family” (also 7 kids) because my musical parents made us sometimes sing during certain, quite public, events, with dad playing the guitar (no, I never sang “Edelweiss”!! - oldest daughter = Liesl = Liz!??)
Today I’m ‘devoting’ my time to my writing again, which isn’t progressing as smoothly as often was the case in the past. Then with the post arrives an author’s questionnaire from the publisher, which I’m required to fill in, other than supplying additional information and two photos of myself. I also inform them that I’ll be ‘on the road again’ from 29 January to 11 April 2007.
25 January – I finish writing Book II, Kapelo’s Curse (also 19 chapters, just like Kapelo’s Quest). Ending this book also wasn’t a major issue, and I apply something of what I learned during the workshop in June last year: to ‘connect’ the first sentence of the book with the last one.
I look forward to writing Book III, which for once, I already know will be called Kapelo’s World, even before I’ve put pen to paper. What I don’t know for sure is if it genuinely will be the last – I did plan a trilogy!!?? With this in mind, I concentrate on the tours ahead for which I’m booked.
7 March – In the post, I receive my manuscript for proofreading, with corrections and suggestions for changes clearly marked by the publisher’s proof-reader. It’s the first part of the proofreading stage and I’m pleasantly surprised at how few alterations are suggested. I expected a major ‘overhaul’, now this? Too good to be true, I think. With Mecki’s valuable input, I obviously did a pretty good job.
Since I’m ‘in between’ tours, I have a chance to respond by adding my own corrections. I’m also requested to check and amend, if necessary, the Cover and Author’s blurbs, as well as the press release, which I helped to compile as part of the author’s questionnaire in January. As I was warned at the time the contract arrived, it will be a lengthy progress before my book ‘sees the light of day’ (my words, because I tend to compare the publishing process and publication date with being pregnant and giving birth). I’m learning to accept that one day, this ‘baby’ of mine will be born!!
11 March – I post the above mentioned, together with a dedication to my two daughters and what I also strongly believe needs to be included in my book: Acknowledgements. Tomorrow I leave for the next tour on my program as tourist guide.
11 April – I’m done with touring until the next tourist season starts again in our spring – to find what arrived in the post and what I call the “All Rights Reserved” page, stating: The right of Liz Brand to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. It also includes the ISBN number of my book!!
Holding this page in my hands is finally proof that I’ve ‘arrived’!!! For me, it’s the most exciting experience in this lengthy process, and finally, yes finally, I allow myself to feel proud of what I’ve achieved with the assistance of a publisher, who accepted my manuscript in what I think is the most unconventional way. Grateful for this, as well as full of confidence and overcome by pride, I show it off to Mecki and Richard, before I phone Putzi in Bloemfontein to share this exciting stage with her too. I’ve always loved her enthusiasm and now enjoy hearing her excited shriek over the telephone. When I speak to my sister, Petra, who lives in Durban, she congratulates and compliments me, saying that after repeated rejections through the years, if she was me, she would have ‘thrown in the towel’ long ago. What can I say? I just HAVE TO write.
Another wonderful surprise is the fact that on this single piece of paper I can’t put down, is written: First published in 2007. So my ‘feeling’ at the beginning of the year that 2007 was going to be a good year for me, is confirmed now. I make a photo-copy of this to me most exciting evidence, which I present to my friend Audrey, who has always believed in my ability to eventually become a ‘published’ author instead of a ‘hearsay’ one. She believes in me without ever having read a single word I wrote.
18 April – I start writing Book III, Kapelo’s World.
2 May – I write an e-mail to the lady at Pegasus, who, with her colleagues, works with me on the production of my book, saying that my manuscript has arrived again and that presently, a friend (Johan), who has never seen the contents of my book before, is busy reading it with specific instructions. This is another stage of the proofreading process. I also enquire about photo- collages I created and which I thought might be included at the beginning of each chapter in the book. Originally I envisaged these as paintings, but instead assembled the collages, which I’m afraid to say, wasn’t done ‘professionally’. I have a ‘library’ of photos (mostly my own), but I still have to learn how to ‘manipulate’ my photos stored on the computer.
3 May – The lady in the production department responds, saying that she hasn’t seen the collages and apologises for the confusion. She also asks me to send them again on a disk.
7 May – I return the following by post: the manuscript with corrections/suggestions from Johan and also what I picked up whilst reading it for the umpteenth time; the signed proof certificate (in effect meaning that the proofreading process is nearing completion); a disk with the photo-collages (one per chapter) and the final author and cover blurbs. I also add a glossary, which I believe might assist the readers and as recommended by Johan.
17 May – I finally ‘buckle down’ and continue writing Kapelo’s World.
25 May – I am informed by the publisher that what I sent by post on 7 May, has arrived. I respond by saying that the proof of the cover hasn’t as yet reached me. I can’t wait to see it!!! With regard to the photo-collages, I accept that my ‘brief’ doesn’t include colour reproductions, but I’m not sure how effective they will be in a reduced state (from A4 to A5, the ‘size’ of the book) and in black and white, as I’m informed they are busy with.
5 June – I acknowledge receipt of the proof for the cover of Kapelo’s Quest. I write: I approve of the overall effect and love the ‘funky’ writing/font.
This sounds so ‘official’, even cold, I think, but who dares to express deep feelings in an official letter?? I don’t just approve, I’m bloody excited, which I secretively hope the recipient of my letter somehow knows and understands. I do suggest 3 minor changes, though, since the artist created what I see more as a North African setting, whilst Kapelo lives and moves in the north of OUR more southern part of the world.
Tonight I’m leaving in the company of my friends, Audrey and Suze, for a Mediterranean Cruise (once a year, I exchange my job as tourist guide for the role of a tourist). We are flying via Dubai and Milan (4 days) before we join a group of friends for the cruise. I make a photo-copy of the book-cover, and take it along to show off!!
19 June – We return home, and I actually feel quite let-down because for once, no exciting parcel from my publisher is waiting for me. I down-load the approx. thousand photos I ‘snapped’ during my trip overseas, and go to bed. Once I recover from the trip (it takes me 2 days, catching up on sleep after an exhilarating holiday but exhausting flights), I start thinking of ways on how I can personally contribute to the marketing, distribution and promotional process of my book, especially here in South Africa (since it will be ‘launched’ in the UK). I also reflect on the kaleidoscope of emotions, which I experienced during the whole process of finding and then securing a publisher. So far, I haven’t openly shared any of this, although I’m sure that someone reading this diary has either wondered about this, or has detected emotions between the lines which range from feeling mortified to frustrated, other than being uncertain about my potential as a writer on the one hand, and feeling elated, proud and satisfied on the other. In general, I rely heavily on my ability to ‘get up and go’ and not to allow negative feelings to get me down. Yet I’m human, and like most people, am sometimes overcome by depressive thoughts. Even when there is light at the end of the tunnel for me now with regard to the ‘birth’ of my first book, I still tend to wonder how it will be received by the general readership. After all, having a book published doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a success. At least in that regard I don’t have any misconceptions.
29 June – I write an e-mail to the publisher with regard to the promotional process of my book in future, especially in my country, South Africa. I re-confirm my commitment to anything, which is related to the promotional and marketing aspects, and suggest a few options of my own. I also ask for guidelines and wonder about translation rights, because my German tourists repeatedly confirmed that they love reading books, which originated in Africa (if not specifically from South Africa).
2 July – My e-mail is passed on to the Marketing Department, and the response entails that South African bookshops can order books from Gardners (in the UK) or directly from Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers Ltd. I also receive (in response to my request) an Information sheet with regard to how I can help with the marketing aspects of my book. Among many suggestions, one question catches and holds my attention: Are you interesting, do you have a personal story to tell? [Do I? This really gets me thinking].
3 July – I’m informed by email that the production month will hopefully be August. Bloody hell, that’s next month!!! What seemed like eternity, suddenly has changed to being just around the corner. I experience butterflies in the pit of my stomach.
4-5 July – Usually, I sleep like a log at night. I’m blessed with regard to that. Tonight, though, I simply can’t fall asleep. The reason? All kinds of thoughts flash through my mind in direct response to the ‘tips’ I received from the publisher. It’s like a question & answer session between me, myself and I:
1) What can I do to assist with the marketing process of my book in South Africa? Answer: take note of radio/TV personalities and/or programs featuring writers or new books on the market, other than investigating which distributors and bookstores I should approach, and how.
2) What else can I do? Answer: create and design a web-site. For example, this diary can represent a link on this web-site.
[Unfortunately, my husband, Richard, is sleeping, so I can’t ‘present’ this idea to him RIGHT NOW. After all, he is the computer expert in the family, BUT: I don’t have a clue if he can take care of the technical aspect, or if WE (because now he is involved too!!) have to ‘out-source’ this project. I certainly and already visualise what the home-page will look like (just as I could do when designing house-plans for us in the past without ever having studied Architecture – instead I obtained a BA Drama & Speech degree, and a couple of years later, enrolled at UNISA to continue my studies, concentrating on Psychology].
3) A prospect for the future – a ‘coffee-table book’ with mainly photos – what about “Kapelo’s World” versus “Author’s World’? Apart from the fact that I’m a passionate writer, I’m also a fanatic photographer. For example, one important goal in my life is to photograph and record as many kinds of birds as possible. (For anybody sharing a similar objective, I’ve so far stored hundreds of about 260 different southern African birds, since I acquired my first digital camera just over 2 years ago. That’s apart from a huge collection of photos on flora and fauna, etc, etc).
About the coffee-table book – I’m ‘shelving’ that, since now I’m only concentrating on “Kapelo’s World”. I decide that my Diary can represent one link on the home-page of my web-site, and another link could be a “Photo Gallery”. Good idea! It can visually ‘assist’ with what Kapelo’s World entails – African scenery, wild animals and birds, etc, featuring in Kapelo’s Quest, and now to be ‘borrowed’ from my vast photo-‘library’ – this site could also replace the photo-collages, which I already suspect will be too ineffective to be used in the book.
As I already indicated, these kind of thoughts prevent me from falling asleep. It’s almost 4 o’clock in the morning, but I’m having fun sharing this.
5 July – I ask Richard (actually I always call him ‘Schatz’ – German for ‘darling’) if he can/will design a web-site for me and according to my specifications. With the assistance of some of my photos, I show him what I mean. Richard says it’s a far more complicated process than I think, and that he’s never attempted something of the kind before (incorporating my photos as background, etc, versus designing a more ‘simple’ web-site for his company before). Richard also says my ‘hovering’ over him would pressurise him too much, which I believe means he’s not prepared to tackle the project.
7 July – The web-site is up (if not running as yet)!!!!! Richard has even posted an official enquiry to register my web-site. Contrary to what he expected, I left Richard in peace, and guess what? Since I didn’t ‘encroach’ on his space, he started to ‘play around’ and managed to produce what I think is even more stunning than I envisaged. Putzi ‘dials in’ from Bloemfontein, where she and her husband lived until now, but this young doctor-couple are about to move to Port Elizabeth. Putzi congratulates us for creating a great site together. Mecki also ‘checks it out’ and gives us the thumbs up.
10 July – I send an e-mail to my contact in the Marketing Department at Pegasus/Vanguard to tell them about my new venture and ask for more guidance. In an attachment, I include a copy/sample of what the home-page of my web-site will look like. They approve and give me the ‘go-ahead’ to launch my web-site with Diary et al whenever we are ready – even before my book ‘hits’ the book-shelves.
To catch up on what I seldom do these days, I go out to have coffee with a dear friend, Claire, and one of her three daughters, Sarah. I appreciate their enthusiasm about my upcoming book and success. Claire and I also admit to each other that our respective social lives aren’t as active as once was the case. She has a ‘good’ excuse because she recently lost her husband. In contrast, why is that the case with me? In all honesty, I have to admit that my world has started to mainly revolve around my job as a tourist guide and my passion as a writer (I’ll be an author soon!!). Have I become somewhat of a recluse when at home? Am I comfortable with this kind of lifestyle? Is this happening to other authors? I can understand that an introvert might tend to lead a reclusive lifestyle; but me?
Kapelo’s World (Book III) so far consists of 6 chapters, but as much as I enjoy writing again, Book III has to wait now. Instead I spend every available minute at home to plan and implement whatever I can think of to enhance my web-site. I promise my friend and fellow-tourist guide, Nick, we'll celebrate with a lunch out once the web-site is 'up-and-running'.
13 July – I send an e-mail to Putzi and ask her to read a short ‘Overview’ I wrote – with the intention to include that on the Photo Gallery site. Putzi is an excellent ‘candidate’, because she hasn’t read the book yet.
14 July – Putzi calls, and I explain why I sent the e-mail: I need to know if reading the Overview ‘enticed’ her to discover more, which means she’d have to read the book. As honest as she's known to be (and why I also thought of her as an ‘excellent candidate’), she says ‘no’. Now I need to know, why? Whilst chatting to her about it, I realise what I must change.
15 July – Putzi approves and is excited (I ‘hooked’ my first ‘fan’) after reading the re-written Overview (and getting some ‘inside information’ from me). I decide I want a second opinion from an equally honest person, so I send an e-mail with the attached and re-written Overview to my friend, Annatjie, without any instructions BUT to read it.
Annatjie sends an SMS to say she’s read the Overview, and I call her at her home in Port Elizabeth. When I ask her if she would buy the book now that she has read the ‘introduction’, she wants to know where and when!! In the same breath she tells me she got ‘goose bumps’ whilst reading some of the scenes, which she thinks I described in a 'lyrical' way. Now that comes as a surprise, because I see myself at being good at developing characters; but then, Annatjie loves nature (like a true South African) as well as folklore, and that’s how I managed to touch a ‘soft spot’ in her.
19 July – the website is up and running!!!!!!! (as you can see, of course). Just wanted to add this note to the diary and WELCOME you personally.
25 July – After the 3rd attempt, I’m now happy with the way the cover looks. I’m also informed by the publisher that I’ll be contacted by the Marketing Department once the publication date for my book is finalised.
3 August – By now, I’ve shared with many friends and acquaintances – via SMS or e-mail – that I’ve got the web-site up-and-running. Thank you for all the encouraging and congratulatory remarks, as well as those of you, who “visited” my guestbook on the website and posted your remarks. I’m very grateful!! Because of you, my guestbook is now “growing in size”.
12 August – I’m sitting here, crying. Why? I managed to transform myself into a reader whilst writing the last sentences of Kapelo’s World (Book III) – so emotional! While I write, I’m experiencing the final verbal exchanges between my characters as bitter-sweet.
With regard to the publishing date for Kapelo’s Quest, I haven’t heard anything from the Marketing Department yet. The suspense is killing me!!
18 August – Today I was finally notified that the publication date of my book is 28 August – “there being no unforeseen circumstances that may cause a delay”. That’s in 10 days time!!!!! I also received a copy of the press release – all terribly exciting. I have no idea what this entails but I’m mentally prepared for everything. To while away the time (ha-ha) I’m flying tomorrow to Cape Town to guide a tour group for 4 days.
Can’t wait to hold “my baby” in my hands – so far it was only a printed manuscript, but soon that will be in book-form!
28 August – I wake up, remembering that Antjie Krog came to visit me (in a dream) during the night. I find that strange in the sense that it might somehow be symbolic?? Antjie and I were “inmates” of the same hostel, Madelief, at the University of the Orange Free State (so called at the time). We would have been “roommates”, had someone else not requested that I share a room with her instead. The only “contact” I’ve had with Antjie since then is that I’ve bought and read her books, “Country of My Skull” being me favourite.
The BIG DAY has arrived. First thing, my husband checks amazon.com and finds – my book can be ordered here (CHECK: Where to Buy on my website).
7 September – Today I could finally touch and hug my “baby”!! A courier delivered a parcel at our doorstep, coming all the way from the UK. I realised it had to contain the promotional material I was waiting for plus the complimentary books I will mainly use to advertise my work and to hopefully persuade booksellers/-stores to stock my books here in South Africa.
16 September – The tourist season in this country is starting to get in full swing. From tomorrow onwards, I’ll constantly be “on the road again” until mid-December. In between, I’ll do what I can to promote my book – first on the list: booksellers; then I’ll start to approach the media for book reviews and hopefully, an interview or two.