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UNESCO Cities of Literature


Did you know that Durban, South Africa is one of UNESCO’s Cities of Literature? I did not and so have been doing a little snooping to see what it’s all about.

Why Creativity? Why Cities? ‘The crucial role of cities in promoting sustainable development focused on people and the respect of human rights is notably recognised in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes among its 17 goals a specific objective to ‘make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’ and identifies culture and creativity as one of the essential levers for action in this context.

It is first and foremost at local level that culture and creativity are lived and practised on a daily basis. It is therefore by stimulating cultural industries, supporting creation, promoting citizen and cultural participation and approaching the public sphere with a new perspective that public authorities, in cooperation with the private sector and civil society, can make the difference and support a more sustainable urban development suited to the practical needs of the local population.

In this context, cooperation and the sharing of experience and knowledge is crucial for making creativity a lever for urban development and conceiving of new solutions to tackle common challenges. In this regard, UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network offers unparalleled opportunities for cities to draw on peer learning processes and collaborative projects in order to fully capitalize on their creative assets and use this as a basis for building sustainable, inclusive and balanced development in economic, cultural, environmental and social terms.’

How amazing is this? For those who have published a children’s book, there is an opportunity for you:

GRÖNDAL’S HOUSE UNESCO CITIES OF LITERATURE RESIDENCY Go and check it out and if you choose to submit an entry, let know so that they can give you a letter confirming your association with Durban UNESCO City of Literature for the application process.

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On The Up-and-Up

Authors are creators. They want to write. What they don’t want to do is publish or market their books and this unfortunately leads to them being prime candidates for falling victim to the scams rife in the publishing industry. My heart breaks each time I receive a book which has been through a publishing process but there is no copyright page or there are more than three spelling / grammar errors on page one. I know they have paid thousands of rands to see their dream become a reality, but when they try to sell their books, they can’t because of the terrible quality of the product. They are never going to get that money back and are probably frightened away from the industry altogether.

Being an author is hard, hard work, but we do it because it is a passion. We need to tell our stories and we want others to enjoy and learn from them. So how are you, as a creative, going to ensure that your product is the best it can be and then avoid those awful scammers trying to steal not only your money (and sometimes even your manuscript), but also the months of hard work you have put into your creation?

In order to publish a book (physical or electronic) you need a manuscript (your words in a document); an editor to critically review your words and check your facts and time to make the necessary corrections; a professional book cover designer and formatter (NO! you cannot use any old designer as dimensions and colour set up are very important); a proofreader (who is not your Mom or a friend you think has a good vocabulary) to check the manuscript to make sure that there are no silly errors left behind after you have done the editors recommended changes and that the wording on the cover is correct; and a way of producing the final product – the ebook and /or the printed version. After you have done all of that, you need to sell the book…..more about that in future articles.

Now you have an idea of what is required, we can chat about what we call ‘vanity’ publishers. These are the scam artists mentioned earlier. They will charge you money, probably significant amounts of money, to publish your book. Think for a moment about the word ‘vanity’ – what does it mean? says ‘excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.; character or quality of being vain; conceit’ Does this sound appealing? I think not! These publishers are playing on YOUR vanity so that you will pay whatever amount they ask to publish your book. How are you going to avoid them?

First step is to check if they are on a blacklist such as this one from Writer Beware. There are many websites listing companies claiming to be publishing houses, who actually are not – Google is your friend, ASK. Carrying on with Google, do a search on the company / contractor you are planning to use. Do they have a website? Is there a proper email address (not gmail, yahoo or any other provider not linked to the name of the web site) associated with the site for inquiries? See what they have done. Pick an author or two, find them and ask them questions about the service they received from that publisher. You are an author, so you should know that in general, authors are happy to share this type of information with other authors. Did the publisher deliver everything they promised within the timeline stipulated? What was the quality of the final product? What is the feedback they are receiving from their readers on the quality of the publication (not the content, the final product). Join some author groups and check out the lay of the land. Ask for advice or recommendations – but ALWAYS do your research.

If you are going to pay someone for a service, make sure that they are great at what they do. Don’t be pulled into ‘vanity’ by promises from companies you don’t know; don’t hand over your hard earned cash before you are sure you are working with the right people. And MOST IMPORTANT, ensure there is some kind of non-disclosure agreement between you and whoever you choose to work with. You don’t want to find your words under someone else’s name…….

Indie Authors Networking meets once a month at Skoobs Theatre of Books, Montecasino, Fourways, Johannesburg.

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Hopes and Dreams 2020

grass growing in stones

I’ve always had a problem with the mania around ‘setting goals’ for the New Year. 1st January is just another day, so why is there all this fuss over it? What makes it different to my birthday, or any other day of the year?

Many of us are blessed to be able to stop working for a period in December – whether we celebrate Christmas or not. Traditionally, many of our industries close from 16 December until the first week of January, forcing staff to take a break. This is also the time that schools close and the children are on holiday.

What is great about this (aside from having time to decompress!) is that we now have time to think about the things we have achieved, the people we’ve met and other recent accomplishments. We have the time to really think and do some introspection and this brings me to my dislike of the term ‘goal setting’ and all that it encompasses.

I’ve yet to achieve a goal and experience all the joy and fulfillment that is supposed to bring! You see, the problem with achieving your goal is that it is an end-point and there is nowhere else to go. You then have to set more goals, etc. etc. in a never-ending cycle. And what happens if you don’t achieve your goal? You feel awful, berate yourself, tell yourself that it HAS to be done and generally become a gibbering mess (as creatives are wont to do!) and end up achieving even less. states the following for the origin of the word ‘goal’:

1530s, “end point of a race,” of uncertain origin. It appears once before this (as gol), in a poem from early 14c. and with an apparent sense of “boundary, limit.” Perhaps from Old English *gal “obstacle, barrier,” a word implied by gælan “to hinder” and also found in compounds (singal, widgal). That would make it a variant or figurative use of Middle English gale “a way, course.” Also compare Old Norse geil “a narrow glen, a passage.” Or from Old French gaule “long pole, stake,” which is from Germanic. Sports sense of “place where the ball, etc. is put to score” is attested from 1540s. Figurative sense of “object of an effort” is from 1540s.

I only see the words ‘boundary’, ‘limit’, ‘obstacle’, and ‘barrier’. This is NOT what I want in my life! I want things I can aim for, aspire to, and actually have a chance of achieving! So, in order to keep the A-type personalities amongst us happy, instead of ‘goal-setting’, I suggest ‘hope-setting’. Let’s see what the origins of the word ‘Hope’ are:

Old English hopian “have the theological virtue of Hope; hope for (salvation, mercy), trust in (God’s word),” also “to have trust, have confidence; assume confidently or trust” (that something is or will be so), a word of unknown origin. Not the usual Germanic term for this, but in use in North Sea Germanic languages (cognates: Old Frisian hopia, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch, Dutch hopen; Middle High German hoffen “to hope,” which is borrowed from Low German). Some suggest a connection with hop (v.) on the notion of “leaping in expectation” [Klein].

Here I see words such as ‘trust’, ‘confidence’, and ‘leaping in expectation’ – so much more positive than the words for goal. This is much more encouraging. We are influenced greatly by the words we use and those that the people around us use. We believe the hype and follow the herd. Well, it’s time to STOP! It is time to listen to the words you use and understand the effect they have on you. Would you rather work towards an obstacle or leaping in expectation? I know which one I choose.

scrabble tile hope

Still not convinced? Read this article and let us know your thoughts.

Kim Hunter is a blogger, writer and advocate for independent authors, helping them to achieve their hopes is her hope for 2020. Kim can be found at

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The depressing stuff – only 2 of the findings from the PIRLS Report are listed but you can read the entire report here:

  • 78% of South African Grade 4 children were not able to reach the lowest benchmark compared to 4% internationally.
  • Grade 4 learners who attended schools in remote rural settings achieved significantly below the learners attending schools in densely populated urban and suburban areas.

The uplifting stuff:

  • We have super smart, interesting, and eccentric authors who don’t need to stand back for anyone.
  • South Africa is a diverse country with so many different cultures and learning from local authors about their identities in their storytelling is like eating ice cream on a very hot day!
  • We can introduce the world to OUR world.
  • We build our country when we #buylocal. Many people are involved in the production of a story – not just the author.
  • Our stories range from fun-loving to serious – all genres are represented (just like our Rainbow Nation!)
  • We can read in our home languages.
  • We are unique, and so are our stories.
  • We learn when we read.
  • And because we could meet them face to face. And do coffee. 

So, why NOT #ReadLocal?