Short.Sharp.Stories anthology Fluid: interview with Lerato Moletsane, author of “Pink baloon trousers"

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Lerato Moletsane, an aspiring writer from the dusty yards of Dobsonville, knew from a young age that she would not allow a tough start in life to dictate her path. She is a self-confessed introvert who prefers writing to speaking. Her bold philosophy includes making peace with her past and owning her story – a journey of pain, willpower and personal enlightenment. She says of her story, “Pink balloon trousers”: “When I saw the Short.Sharp.Stories call for submissions, I thought it would be a great idea to take a break from writing my memoir and stretch my imagination a bit, a welcome distraction from my reality. Fluid grabbed my attention as I thought of my brother years back, when he used to wear pink balloon trousers before being metrosexual was a thing and MC Hammer was unknown.”

Below is a mini-interview between Karina Magdalena Szczurek and Lerato Moletsane, author of the short story “Pink balloon trousers, featured in the 2023 Short.Sharp.Stories anthology, Fluid.

KMS: What does your brother think of his pink balloon trousers being immortalised in a short story?

LM: Ha ha! He does not know, and I doubt he remembers his pink balloon trousers. I don’t talk much with my brothers, other than about family challenges.

KMS: Writing runs in your family. Your son, Tshidiso Moletsane, won the 2022 Sunday Times Fiction Award for his debut novel, Junx. Do you ever discuss each other’s writing at home?

LM: Nope. We really don’t talk much about “our other side”, and I was surprised when he showed me a mail from PRH accepting his manuscript – I was not aware that he was writing. He didn’t want me to read his work, and he does not want to read my work.

KMS: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

LM: I have always been good at making things up to a point where they seem believable – I guess I’m a good liar . In 1986, I told my friend that I wanted to be a writer, so writing has always been my desire; plus, I am not fond of talking – I’d rather write than talk. My English essays were always great and even won me an Oxford Dictionary in college. Years ago, I won R1 000 for a story I submitted to the Sowetan, and another story I wrote around 1994 was published by an organisation called Young Women’s Network.

KMS: What do you do when you are not writing?

LM: I love stories – any kind of story – from gossip to fiction and nonfiction (I’m not a fan of motivational reads). When I am not reading or watching Netflix or out at the theatre or cinema, I am daydreaming about my next adventure. In addition to being a masochist, I am an adrenalin junkie and, having summited Kilimanjaro last year, am thinking what else I should fill my bucket list with next.

KMS: What was it like for you to be part of the Short.Sharp.Stories experience?

LM: Wow! What an experience it was. December was not a good month for me, as I had some not-so-good news about my health; plus, I was writing my memoir, which took me to a very dark space. Writing for SSS was exactly what I needed, as it afforded me a chance to imagine. I only associated “fluid” with liquid substances, so the word had seldom made it into my everyday vocabulary. This theme helped in broadening my literary acumen and demonstrated that I am more than a one-track mind. For a while, I was able to have fun, learn and make up a story.

KMS: Will you be writing more short stories in the future?

LM: I am not much of a planner. I tend to do things on a whim, so I cannot say I will or won’t. However, I would like to hone my writing.

KMS: May I ask you to share more details about the memoir you are writing?

LM: I have been at this for years. It started on a more resentful and bitter note, but as I keep going back, I find that the tone has changed to compassion. Growing up, I told myself that I would never be like my mother or my father, who died by suicide. They are what’s keeping me alive.

KMS: Is writing part of your journey of “making peace with the past and owning your story”?

LM: Yes, it is part of my journey to self-acceptance and making peace with the person that I am. I feel like I am yet to be alive, and having my story out in the open will be my rebirth. The working title of my story is “Shame undone”.

KMS: Who inspires you as a woman and as a writer?

LM: As a woman, I feel inspired by my daughter, Katlego, and my son, Tshidiso. I am not maternal and I don’t know how to parent; however, seeing how they turned out, I believe that I did something right. I admire how they follow through on their wishes.

As a writer, I know that everyday life inspires me. I am inspired by that teenage girl who, after burying her father, does not have time to grieve because she must make sure that his siblings have food on the table – so, a day after the funeral, she continues her hair-plaiting business. I am inspired by that young boy who tells his mother that, since his father has passed, he is now the man of the house and will take care of her. I am inspired by people who believe in me – something that I battle to do for myself!

Also read:

Short.Sharp.Stories anthology Fluid: interview with Vuyokazi Ngemntu, author of “Mirror, Mirror"

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