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Five New Books, Five New Voices at the Ek is ‘n Skrywer Launch

Five Fruits of the Ek is 'n Skrywer Competition SA PartridgeFour of the five winning authors in the Ek is ‘n Skrywer / I am a Writer competition gathered for the launch of their novels at a buzzing Neighbourhood Bar in Cape Town yesterday. “Buzzing” might be an understatment: when the friends, family and assorted hangers-on of four debut writers converge in one space, the result is extremely close quarters! Even the absent winner, who’s teaching English in Taiwan, was represented by a sizeable contingent.

Ek is ‘n Skrywer was sponsored jointly by Human & Rousseau, You and Huisgenoot magazines, SABC Education and RSG, but the driving force behind the initiative was NB’s Carina Diedericks-Hugo, who first hatched the idea in 2004 after wondering aloud, “Where are today’s young authors? Let’s find them!”

Derick Muller Kabous Meiring and Carina Diedericks-HugoNo easy task for a publisher, as anyone in the business will tell you. But after an extensive media campaign that inspired thousands of young people to put pen to paper, voices began to emerge that fit the mold. Strong voices; passionate voices; unusual voices; arresting voices. Eventually, five voices, who the edtiors simply couldn’t ignore. They are: Derick Muller (overall Afrikaans winner) and his Vuil Skottelgoed; SA Partridge (overall English winner) and her The Goblet Club; Martinus de Beer and Hemelhel; Brigette Labuschagne and Vyf, Ses, Skerp Mes; and Marion Erskine (the absentee) and Oos.

Martinus de Beer Daniel and Karin Schietekat and Bradley and Laura KirstenCarina, Kerneels Breytenbach and their colleague Kabous Meiring spent a few moments extolling the virtues of these new voices and thanking all who’d been involved – and then, appropriately, gave over the stage.

Martinus de Beer stood and spoke about mainstream culture – and how a person can get caught in its clutches. This is precisely what happens to his character in Hemelhel, who goes to a clinic for depression. “But it’s not One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” he said. Depression can have its light moments, too – and he has tried to capture the experience in the round.

SA Partridge Brigette and Riana LabuschagneBrigette Labuschagne hoped that Ek is ‘n Skrywer’s culmination would encourage more young people to read. She saw in the five books “a genre for everyone”. Her own book occupies the “social romance” niche, set as it is in District Six, and centred around forceful tales of love and crime.

Brigette Labuschagne Susie van Niekerk and Sannie WieseSA Partridge (who keeps a blog at BOOK SA) admitted to nerves beforehand, but then rose to advocate passionately for fiction that takes into account the teenage worldview. “They see the world in a different way,” she said. “It’s a unique time and more people should write about it.” Her novel leads the charge, treating a boy’s exile to a boarding school and an uncertain fate.

Kyle Pretorius and SA Partridge Graeme Coyne, Mark Laubser, Bianca Clarke and Ross BensimonFinally, Derick Muller spoke about the meaning behind the title of his book, Vuil Skottelgoed (“Dirty Dishes”). See SA Partridge’s admiring description of his performance in her post about the event. In a nutshell? “Seize the day!” Derick’s character rebels to pursue his dreams, rather than stick around and wait for the “dirty dishes” to pile up and be washed.

Tommy Benjamin and Geraldine Young(After the speeches, Muller – who plays in a band – was overheard mentioning some of his favourite punk acts: from early days, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, Adam and the Ants and the Clash; from more recently, No FX, Rancid, Propagandhi, Guttermouth and No Use for a Name. If he writes half as scorchingly as these bands play…)

Johan Grobler, Michiel Botha and Lauren RycroftAbsent Marion Erskine’s novel, meanwhile, concerns Louis, who arrives in Taiwan to teach English, with only one contact. He meets a group of South African youngsters and their Chinese friends, through whom he becomes acquainted with a completely foreign culture and what are to him the most outlandish customs… Marion, we missed you!

It’s a brave new world for these young authors, who are now “official”. Congratulations to them! Here are more snaps from the launch:

Derick Muller, Rayno von Schlicht, "Fromb" Mina Lombard and Pierce Muller

Warwick Levy and Chris Wilson

Cat Plint, Bruce Plint and Revo van Greunen

Christine Wessels and Derick Muller

Kabous Meiring, SA Partridge and Brigette Labuschagne

Carina Diedericks-Hugo

Kerneels Breytenbach

Martinus de Beer and Derick Muller

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