Tuesday 3 May 2016

#SAIR2016 Was Amazing!

This past Saturday (30 April), I attended the SAIR Bookfest in Johannesburg, South Africa.

It was the first in-person writing event that I'd ever attended, and I think it was a good one to cut my teeth on.

We had some pretty illustrious guests and speakers, including:
  • Carlyle Labuschagne (Author of The Broken Trilogy, and our hostess for the afternoon)
  • Joanne McGregor (Author of a number of books for both adults and young adults, including Recoil and Scarred)
  • Fred Strydom (Author of the speculative fiction novel, The Raft)
  • Erika Bester (Founder of Fire Quill Publishing), and
  • Sonia Killik (Autor of the non-fiction book Birth, the book that is changing the way women see childbirth)

Reading Promotes Empathy

According to Fred Strydom, the biggest problem we have in South Africa at the moment is a lack of empathy: people are simply incapable of understanding the circumstances of others.

And that's something, says Fred, that watching TV and movies will never teach you. Those mediums are far too passive. But, when you read a book, you are spending days, weeks, or months, inside the mind of another person - the character. You get to understand where the person's coming from and why they make the choices they do. Do that enough times, and you become practised in the art of seeing things from another person's point of view. You learn empathy.

Truly profound!

Other Authors in Attendance

Some other authors were also there, promoting their newest releases, and talking about their publishing journeys:

  • Jean Archary, author of Taylor's Birthday Surprise, a picture book for teaching children about money
  • Megan Werner, author of It's Up To Me, which she published at the age of fourteen!
  • Elaine Pillay, author of Zwai and the Little Creature, who had a funny story about why you shouldn't send an angry e-mail to your publisher

Samm Marshall - Is Reading Dead?

Also in attendance was Samm Marshall, who is the current presenter of the SABC morning show, Morning Live. This man is passionate about books!

Something he said struck me as very profound. According to a recent survey, only something like 40% of South Africans can read. This is something we get very sad about, and we're angry to hear about libraries and bookstores closing down all over the country, and the fact that so many schools don't even have libraries.

But maybe that's not what we should be focussing on. Let's instead start focussing on how many kids are learning to read. Let's focus on the good news of a school getting a new library, of a bookstore deciding to stock independently published books... the more we focus on how reading is dead (which it's not), the more we perpetuate the idea amongst our kids and their parents that reading is dead, and boring, and dead-boring, and that all those other forms of entertainment are so much better.

We really need to stop doing that.

Our Guest of Honour - The Pavement Bookworm

This of course dovetails nicely into the whole reason for holding the festival. As a community, we committed to donating a thousand books to Philani Dladla's Pavement Bookworm Foundation.

We reached this goal, and it's going to make a massive difference in the lives of disadvantaged kids all over the country. And Philani himself is such a wonderful, humble man. Here is is, trying to speak, but unable to find the words:

A Digital Publisher in Africa

Then, we heard from David Henderson, who is the founder of MyeBook, talking about what it's like to be a digital publisher in Africa, and how Amazon and the other online retailers treat us differently.

We certainly have a tougher time of it than our American and UK counterparts, but the good news is that there is also lots of opportunity.

Need an Editor?

Finally, the afternoon was closed off by Lia Marus, Marketing and communication coordinator at the Professional Editors Guild. All authors need editors, and if you need one, you can find one at www.editors.org.za.

More Photos

There are loads more photos of the event over on my Facebook Page. Go take a look, and give me a Like while you're there.

About Graham Downs

I'm a self-published fiction author living in South Africa. At the moment, I write short stories, novelettes, and flash fiction collections, in a range of genres. These books are perfect for people who long to read, but don't have the time, because they can be read in short, sharp bursts, like during your lunch break, or while your baby's catching a nap!

To find out more about me, and what I have on offer, go take a look at my website, at http://www.grahamdowns.co.za/.

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