Press release: LitNet’s Kommadagga Workshop short story writers announced

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The Jakes Gerwel Foundation, LitNet and Huisgenoot are delighted to announce the names of the five writers chosen for the fourth annual Kommadagga Workshop on short story writing.

Alfred TM Rossouw, Daneel Jantjies, Susan Meiring, Theresa de Necker and Tshegofatso Nkwane are heading off to the last residency for this year at the historic Paulet House, the charming home-away-from-home the Jakes Gerwel Foundation has created for writers in the oasis town of Somerset East in the Eastern Cape.

After the mentorship, the writers’ short stories will be placed in Huisgenoot they also become eligible to contribute to the online literary magazine LitNet.

The writers will receive intensive mentoring over a three-week period under guidance of Fourie Botha and Thabiso Mahlape on the fine art of writing short stories. Over the past twenty years, Fourie Botha has gained the respect of award-winning writers, first as editor and then as publisher at Penguin Random House where he has also successfully launched many writers’ careers. He has published two collections of poems of his own, Donkerkamer and Krap uit die see, and is currently working as a literary agent. Thabiso Mahlape is the trailblazer publisher of Blackbird Books. After starting her career at Jacana Media, she became the first black woman with her own publishing imprint. She has used her expertise to successfully grow Blackbird Books since its establishment in 2015 and, in so doing, made her mark in the challenging publishing industry while also ensuring that black voices, stories and talents are developed, seen and heard.

The selected candidates are bubbling over with enthusiasm at their chance to hone their writing skills under the guidance of experienced mentors and are determined to make this chance count.

While Susan Meiring has referred to the diverse opportunities the Jakes Gerwel Foundation has created for artists to grow, Theresa de Necker expressed her amazement at the lengths to which the Foundation is going to facilitate learning opportunities for writers. Like many aspiring writers, Tshegofatso Nkwane says she always knew she wanted to write, but her particular journey towards embracing her passion has been a slow one due to her shyness of her own voice.

Daneel Jantjies applied for the Kommadagga mentorship as a ‘dare’ to herself to find her unique way of expressing herself: ‘I’m definitely looking forward to the quietness to focus fully on my writing. I know the workshop isn’t a shortcut to success, but it will bring me one step closer. I don’t see myself as a writer yet, but I do love the arts. I just want my work to come to life and help someone else who is struggling with the same issues as I am.’

Alfred T. M. Rossouw, who describes himself as a self-taught writer, remarked: ‘There comes a point in your writing journey where professionals help and peer exposure become necessary. There is only so much that you can learn from books about, say, character description and plot development. So, having the ear, eye and understanding of a mentor at your disposal and being in the company of other writers who are brilliant at what they do will certainly help fill in the gaps that you don’t know how to fill in yourself.’

More about the 2023 short story writers

Alfred T M Rossouw

Alfred TM Rossouw is a freelance writer and editor from Klerksdorp with over six years of experience in writing, blogging, reviewing books and editing. He has written for, among others, the Sunday Times, the FunDza Literacy Trust, Africanah.org, the BKO Poetry & Literature Magazine and ART STATE, an online arts platform for Mangaung. Besides the copy editing he has done; he was one of the editors for the book Sankomota: An Ode in One Album that was published by Geko Publishing in 2018. As an avid blogger who is intensely interested in literature and the arts, it is important to him to instil a love of reading and the arts in children. In 2021 he thus co-founded the Black and Bookish Literacy Project, an organisation aiming to transform school libraries in the Klerksdorp area into inviting reading spaces and helping teachers with reading and writing projects for their learners. He is also currently studying philosophy, economics and political sciences part time through Unisa.

Daneel Jantjies

Daneel Jantjies is a Swellendammer born and bred and describes herself as a ‘small town girl with big dreams’. She mainly writes poetry and short pieces that are inspired by her environment and its people: ‘Small villages, I reckon, are any writer’s dream. There is always something to notice or hear and the near silence of the countryside just gives you that more inspiration to write.’ She is very close to her family and they make up a big chunk of who she is. Also, the shared love of reading and writing, of literature and language, is something that has nourished her since her childhood. While Daneel, the writer, and Daneel, the ordinary person, are not always identical, her writing reflects the same person-centricity that her everyday interaction with people shows: ‘Life takes strange twists and turns, so if my writing can help or inspire someone, this will mean succeeding in my goal.’

Susan Meiring

Susan Meiring was born in Klawer in the Vanrhynsdorp district, grew up in Retreat and currently lives in Delft. Her career in writing took off in 2012 when a local newspaper accepted some of her short stories for publication. In 2016 her first Afrikaans book of fiction Dogters van die Sahara (Reach Publishers) was published. Her second book Tiaan en die Jagtersbende (2018) has been made possible by a generous grant from the National Library of South Africa. In 2020 this book was chosen for the Funda Mzantsi Championship in which many book clubs participate every year. She is currently also freelancing as an editor and field reporter. This enterprising mother and grandmother enjoy teaching young ones basic Khoesan words and clicks so that they can hold on to their heritage. She sees the chance to attend the Kommadagga Workshop as essential to her future as writer: ‘The valuable guidance will help me to develop my potential fully. I believe that my future writing, be it books or short stories, will testify to this. Many thanks to everyone who is making it possible for me to be mentored in this way.’

Theresa de Necker

Theresa de Necker completed her B.A. Law degree in 1991 at RAU. During her student years she was a keen journalist for the campus paper as well as the editor of her hostel’s magazine. In her second year she won the first prize in a writing competition with an English short story she had already written in school. After her studies she worked for a while and then travelled and worked overseas, including on a moshav in Israel as a farm worker. Back in South Africa she started her own enterprise and obtained, in 2001, her honours degree in human resource development. Over the next 22 years she would write business reports, subject guides and textbooks, newspaper reports, academic pieces, blogs and stories. To her, the Jakes Gerwel Foundation’s short story residency is the chance to hone her skills in storytelling and to work on the ‘finesse’ of her writing as well as the discipline to write productively. She has a passion for history, archaeology, ghost stories and cats and hopes to publish her first book soon.

Tshegofatso Nkwane

Tshegofatso Nkwane is a 26-year-old writer from Naledi, Soweto. After completing her studies in English literature and international relations at Wits University in 2019, she worked for Reos Partners, a global social impact company, for several years as consultant, facilitator, report writer and editor. Managing an international anti-racism project of Médecins sans Frontières and editing the PSET scenarios with JET Educational Services were two of the highlights during this time. She realised that she wanted to tell township stories and write about social justice and is now a full-time writer and aspiring novelist.

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