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Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Tales From The Trenches


The road to success is paved with Indiana Jones death-traps. Rolling boulders of procrastination, swinging axes of bad reviews, poison blow darts of self-doubt and soul-crushing humble pies to the face.  

I’m thrilled that The Shining Girls is doing so well and that I’m in the incredibly privileged position to have been able to tour my book across four continents. But while I’ve had awesome moments, there have been the not-so-awesome ones too.

There was that time where I was nervous and had a champagne cocktail with a sugared rim just before my event, and everyone was too polite to point out that I had tiny crystals on the tip of my nose through the entire reading.

Or my appearance in Houston, which had a modest crowd of 15 people, while the book store half a mile down the road, had 400 turn up for the launch of the cookbook from the blind Masterchef. I don’t know how you compete with THE BLIND MASTERCHEF.

Especially when she knows how to wield knives.


Just saying.   

But my worst moment from my entire career was doing a “reading” from Moxyland at the Cape Town Book Fair in 2007, in the booming warehouse space of the Cape Town convention centre.

It involved standing on the corner of a large stand and yelling at the disinterested passersby set on getting cheap picture books from the stall next door, while my husband and two best friends stood watching, quietly dying inside and willing me to skip to the end. I read two paragraphs and slunk away.

Because social media is all about the highlights reel and it’s easy to get the impression that it’s all beds of roses without getting stuck in the ass with the thorny bits,  I asked a couple of author friends who are doing pretty well right now to share a personal horror story from the trenches.

Joe abercrombie in a suit

I thought Joe Abercrombie was one of George RR Martin’s peers, cos he’s written almost as many doorstoppers, but turns out he’s my age and super-nice as well as being super-talented (and he looks oh-so-serious in a suit).

red country


He’s known as Lord Grimdark for the dark grit in his sprawling epic fantasies and he’s up for both the British Fantasy Award and the David Gemmell Award for Red Country. He has a YA coming out next year called Half A King. He was once accused of living in a jaded literary sewer.

Here’s the painful memory he shared with me when we were at the Celsius 232 festival in Spain: 

I have suffered several excruciating book events, but the one that remains foremost in the memory took place in Holland, when I was invited to deliver a lecture at a Medieval Fare.

I prepared obsessively, indeed I think I can safely say that lecture is the piece of writing I have spent most time on.  When I arrived, there were perhaps three hundred people in a huge room for the previous event – a short story contest.  I was horrified, but a little flattered.

My first book had only just come out in Holland and I hadn’t expected an audience anything like that size. I secreted myself at the back of the room and waited for the time of my lecture. As the short story competition ended, people began to filter out.

This I had of course expected.  

There were two hundred, then there were one hundred.  

Finally, there were two.

But they were treated to a superb performance.  

You bet.

Richard Kadrey

Richard Kadrey is one of my favourite people, not least for this post on his 20 year overnight success that’s worth reading as a reminder of how much guts and determination and bloody-minded persistence you need to make it as a writer.

kill city blues


He’s the author of the best-selling Sandman Slim series and a dark and gorgeous upcoming young adult novel, Dead Set, about a creepy music store that sells records of the dead.  

Here’s his worst ever event:

“I once did a mid-week reading at a big chain bookstore in Santa Monica. The entire audience was a couple of bookstore employees and two homeless people who wandered in because they spotted chairs and free coffee.

The bookstore staff immediately retreated to the back of the room, leaving me to chat up the homeless people. The man wanted to talk about King Kong. At any pause in the incredibly strained conversation, he’d jump in with a question or observation about the movie.

The homeless woman was on a lot of medication or too little medication. She was completely out of synch with everyone else. Whatever question the bookstore staff shouted at me from the safety of the rafters, I’d answer, and she would then repeat the question as if she’d just thought of it.

The entire hour-long session went like that. The staff shouting half-hearted book questions. The man asking if King Kong really was that tall or what is a trick? And the woman asking whatever the staff had just asked me.

With all that, it still wasn’t as bad as reading at a posh Northern California bookstore where the patrons stared at me like I’d seized control of the podium and microphone at knifepoint. THAT was the longest hour of my life.

king kong

The Spark: Sharp Edges

The Spark is a series of guest blogs to highlight new African fiction, with writers talking about their books in their own words. (Writers, if you want to be a part of it, please check out the guidelines here.)

Sally Patridge (Or SA as she’s known on book jackets) is a hugely dedicated, hard-working and talented young writer who write provocative, timely and thoughtful YA with, well, sharp edges. She’s won the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel twice, first for her debut, The Goblet Club, about bullied teens, and for Dark Poppy’s Demise about the perils of online relationships. She’s also been short-listed for the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize and Fuse was an IBBY Honour Book

This is what lit up the story of Sharp Edges in her head: 


The Spark for Sharp Edges

Sally 2

Inspiration can come in many forms. Sometimes an idea will come to me in a dream, and then when morning comes I have a couple of minutes to capture it before it drifts off to wherever dreams go during the day. Or I could see someone walking down the street and think to myself, “I wonder what his deal is?”

That spark of inspiration is like nothing else in the world. It’s bright and clear and all encompassing. It’s a lightning bolt from the heavens landing squarely in the writer’s brain. Once it hits nothing else matters but the story.

For Sharp Edges, the spark was a picture of a girl on the Internet.

It was one of those work-avoidance sites like Pinterest or I don’t even remember what I was browsing for, although I suspect it was something geeky like Adventure Time cosplay or steampunk-inspired fashion. I wasn’t expecting a girl with the saddest eyes in the word to appear in the feed.  But she did. And it was one of those shadowy, haunting pictures that always get stuck in my mind.

Her story seemed obvious. A girl without a dad, out of her mind with grief, but with no one to talk to. Her suffering ran deep. She remembered her friend’s father who used to take them to the park and she screamed with exhilaration because he made the merry-go-round spin too fast.

The spark planted the seed and I couldn’t think of anything else.

Her name was V. So many things start with V. She was always a loner. The guys wanted her, but she was never really interested. Her friends loved her, but they didn’t really know her at all.

I should have saved the picture, but I didn’t. I haven’t been able to find it again either. But it doesn’t matter. The story was germinating.

The seed sprouted leaves – the other characters.  I created six friends that went to a music festival in the Cederberg, but only five returned. The girl that died haunted them all, leaving those already fragile creatures broken, full of sharp edges. 

The stem became the plot. The death became a murder. One of the remaining five was responsible, but which one? Each character remembered something different. Their suspicions broke them down further; destroying their relationships and friendships. 

From there the story grew further. Roots in the form of back-stories extended into the earth.

I wrote each chapter from the point of view of a different teenager, each with a unique perception of what happened. Each character was real and full of life, but like leaves slowly started to crisp around the edges before falling to the ground one by one.

Sharp Edges was never going to be a happy story. There were no bright blossoms to lighten the atmosphere.

But V. There will always be something special about V – the rose among the thorns, my dark girl from the Internet. She went to find the man that used to push her on the swings.

“I pick the petals from a white rose and think about turning around and going home. I haven’t spoken to Ashley since that weekend. Why would she care if I need someone to talk to? She has her own life, her own problems. She’ll probably think I’m pathetic, showing up on her doorstep, wet and miserable.

I’m about to go when the front door opens and Adam comes out, carrying a box of tools. He does a little double take when he sees me. I’m sure the sudden appearance of a drenched and bedraggled teenager in the front yard would give anyone a fright.

“Can I help you?”

For a second I’m not sure what to say. I stare at the crushed petals in my hand and slowly let them fall to the ground.”

That’s only part of the story though. One stem. Maybe one day I’ll tell the rest of it…

Watch the book trailer for Sharp Edges here:

Follow Sally on Twitter: @sapartridge

Visit her website:

Kindle edition coming soon. In the meantime buy Sharp Edges here or from your local indie bookstore.


I have a new short comic out, “Birdie” for DC Vertigo’s The Witching Houranthology, illustrated by amazing Cape Town artist Gerhard Human.

A little witch who scavenges the dumps of a future Cape Town for messages from the dead is dragged into solving a gang murder.

Lots of South Africanisms and a call back to Zoo City in the story – and the art is just gorgeous and amazing.

birdie bw
birdie opening page
birdie birds

Gerhard posted a selection of sneak previews to his Behance page. Or pick up The Witching Hourat your local comic shop, my BUY page or on Comixology.

birdie witching hour covers

Here’s a page of his original inks: (Spot Lion’s Head in the background – and I love the Weber)

birdie bw 2

The Spark: Shadows

I’m very happy to have Zimbabwean writer Novuyo Rosa Tshuma writing the second ever installment of The Spark*, a guest blog series that highlights new African fiction.

novuyo small

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma is the latest in a spate of hot young Zimbabwean writers, from Tendai Huchu and Petina Gappah to Booker short-listee, NoViolet Bulawayo, who cut their teeth on crisp short stories.

Tshuma won the Yvonne Vera Award, was shortlisted for the Zimbabwe Achievers Literature Award and is currently a Maytag Fellow for MFA Creative Writing at Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Bulawayo describes her work as “fierce and unsentimental”, much like the raw and moving essay she wrote about what sparked these stories off in her head:



The Spark: Shadows by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma 

2010: New wave of xenophobic attacks, South Africa. There were things which had come to lodge themselves in my throat, like crust; a lot of anger and something unpleasant, like envy. Wanting to belong to spaces that seemed to hold on so firmly to their identity in the way I saw my own, as a ‘displaced’ Zimbabwean, tinged by a shade of, in this new environment called South Africa, insincerity. There is an unsettling sense of impermanence in being in a space that is not your own, in which you cannot fully invest as, for example, a voter, a builder, but rather exist as a rather parasitic form, sucking and being sucked, and hoping to plough your sweat back in your own country. It was this which forced me to sit down and have a conversation with my homeland.

The move from Zimbabwe to South Africa had been, for my family, although an improvement in the quality of living – no more scrambling for food or money – a rift in many other ways; displacement, the humiliation that sometimes comes with being a foreigner, the surface formation of friendships, impermanence. It made what I had experienced in my country all the more poignant, all the more bruising. It made me feel ‘raw’.

The early drafts of Shadows were a different kind of raw, though. Written in the first person female voice, in a township setting, which comes with all its patriarchal connotations, they read as a narrative whose struggle for female emancipation overshadowed all other aspects, something this story was not and could not be about. I switched to the male voice, and, ironically, Mpho, with all of his issues and entitlements and patriarchal tendencies, began to speak more honestly for me.

It’s strange, trying to write about the urban experience of my country in the past decade; one remembers not the pain, but the laughter. As Mpho says in Shadows, where I come from, people do not cry; we may make fun of our sorrow, even laugh at it, but we do not cry. And so, it’s not the long hours spent in mealie-meal queues one remembers, but the women squawking and clawing at one another as they fought over a bag of mealie-meal. How, in the face of severe shortages and those days of bloomas – that ugly, emaciated bun which substituted for real, yeasty, delicious bread – the baker suddenly had a power currency which had been formerly reserved for sugar daddies and businessmen. That memorable ruling party jingle that trended like the latest American R n B songs, that had children wriggling their behinds on dusty townships streets: ‘Tony Blair, the Blair-ya that I knowuuu is a toi-le-tee!’ The Blair toilet is a pit latrine used in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. It was designed in the 1970s courtesy of the Blair Research Institute.

We remember the loved ones we lost, and something clinches our chests; those we loved who could have been saved had there been half-way decent service at the hospitals, those we heard were being thrashed in the rural areas for practising the ‘wrong’ politics, those who dared to voice a different truth – the Jestina Mukokos the Owen Masekos. Those real and those who swelled into myth – because it was just so unbelievable, you see – who have become a cinematography of dancing Shadows. It makes one ask, ‘Who am I? What does it mean, to be Zimbabwean in this space and time? The individual and society, the personal and the political, self and country?’

Mpho’s mother, Mama… She is a mesh of everything, of stories I heard, people I knew, memories, histories, yearnings, make-believe, all meshed into one. It was only fitting for me that she be a prostitute, loaded with an animating history and a life that was not without its glorious, memorable moments, but a prostitute, nonetheless; how else to explain this incestuous act we as a people had been having with our country? Raping it, plundering it, all the while with big grins plastered on our faces? It had become a way of life, this, black market this, black market that, a new, suave level of bhundu economics, that was profiting a few and hurting many.

And then of course, these relations between people and country which are complicated, because they sometimes intersect intimately at smaller, less formal dialogues; the histories shared by Zimbabwe’s Ndebele and South Africa’s Zulu tribes which, given Zimbabwe’s delicate state, intensified identity disillusionment, leading Ndebele Zimbabweans to want to lay claim to a South African identity. This was done with a manic, utopic expectation that was at once painful and because false, led to further disillusionment. I was trying to explore, trying to remember, trying to conjure up, trying to deal with this ‘Zimbabwean humanity’, my humanity.

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma’s website

More on Shadows here

Buy the book in paperback from Amazon HERE or from Exclusive Books HERE

Buy the ebook from Amazon HERE or from Little White Bakkie (South Africa) HERE

(*The Spark is inspired by John Scalzi’s The Big Idea. African diaspora writers and publishers: want to write about your new-ish book? Please go to the debut post here and scroll to the bottom for guidelines on pitching.)


The Spark: Alex Latimer on The Space Race

Inspired by John Scalzi’s awesome The Big Idea, and with his blessing, I want to create a regular feature on this blog to highlight South African(ish) talent by letting local writers talk about what sparked this particular novel for them.

Want to write one? More details right at the end.

First up is Alex Latimer, who I first got to know through his awesome and slightly demented kids picture books featuring ninjas and devious rabbits and sunburned crocodiles and also a time-traveling pencil-throwing monkey.

His debut novel has the same wit and twisted charm – and a glorious flipbook animation illustration on the edge of the page –  but with a whole lot of skop, skiet en donner action too. I’ll let you tell him about it.  (Translation for non SA-readers: kick, shoot and beat-up – only much more punchy in original Afrikaans)



The Spark of The Space Race – Alex Latimer


Ideas for books come where and when you least expect them, like a dinosaur in your cupboard next Thursday. Here is the dinosaur that appeared in my cupboard:

Afrikaners are a fiercely pioneering people + they also built amazing technology like the Rooivalk helicopter and six and a half nuclear bombs = what if they used those nuclear bombs to build a spaceship in order to colonise a distant planet?

I thought it was a fun idea – and the more I looked into it, the more weird facts there were to bolster the theory. The Vela Incident was a nuclear double-flash just off the South Africa-owned Prince Edward Islands in 1979. Vastrap was South Africa’s nuclear testing site in the middle of the Northern Cape desert where nuclear weapons were stored and were due to be tested in two secret underground shafts. And nuclear space travel though dangerous, is also the only viable way of getting really far into deep space.

But when it came to writing a novel about it, I had a problem – travelling through space is really, really boring.

 Pages 1 to 6 could have read: “Wow, looking out at the star-speckled blackness of space is amazing, it simultaneously gives my lowly life more and less meaning.”

Then pages 7 – 250: “I’m tired of weeing in a bag and I wish that arsehole Francois never got on board.”

Equally, writing about life on other planets is hard – guys like Philip Pullman managed to create some entrancing worlds based on our own, but as soon as he tried something entirely new and made animals co-dependent on tree-nuts that they used as wheels, I was like… sorry Phil, I draw the line at tree-nut wheels.

So my solution was to set the whole book on earth. Nothing in my novel takes place in space. It’s all about how the original four Afrinauts that were meant to be on board this secret ship, never got on board – and how four random strangers managed to hijack the thing. (I couldn’t resist the idea of the very first South African space ship being hijacked.)

So here’s the set up:

Charlotte is a little over-protective of her sister, especially so when a stranger asks her out on a date. So she follows the poor guy out of town, all the way into the scrublands on the Kalahari desert and stumbles on to the supposedly ‘abandoned’ airbase of Vastrap. What she discovers will have her on the run with a total stranger in a hazmat suit, pursued by a crazy Angolan war veteran with a lot of motivation (millions worth) to make sure certain secrets stay that way.

The book has enough charm, action, serious insights and momentum to get a reader to the end without looking up at the page numbers for solace. But what I found strange about the finished book is that when I sent it to my publishers, they thought it was hilarious. The Space Race is weird and quirky and sometimes quite dark – and all that stuff can be hilarious if that’s your thing.

What was even stranger though is that in subsequent one-line write-ups someone decided to describe The Space Race as “a funny book”. For me it’s a funny book just like you might say, “What’s that funny smell in here.” or “I have a funny mole on my arm.”

The Space Race is my first novel, but my ninth published book – the previous eight have been kids picture books (The Boy Who Cried Ninja, Penguin’s Hidden Talent and Lion vs Rabbit) as well as a collection of illustrated works and two volumes of cartoons. So a novel is a strange new direction and I think I certainly brought some of the fun and quirkiness of my other books along.

My great fear though (besides being helicoptered and dropped in the middle of the ocean at night) is that some loving mom will pick up The Space Race and think that it’s “a funny book” for kids – and an eight-year old girl will read it and lie awake at night, confused and traumatised.

And that she will grow up to be a helicopter pilot.

Alex Latimer’s Web Site

Twitter: @almaxlat

Buy The Space Race on Amazon or support your friendly local book store.


Want to write a guest blog for The Spark?

Please read the following guidelines VERY CAREFULLY. Or your query will end up in my spam folder.

Please query me first, do NOT send me a completed essay.

You should be a South African or African writer, in the broadest and most inclusive sense of that.  I’m looking to highlight all kinds of writers across all kinds of fiction. 

You should have a new novel or short story collection out (allowing for a three month window. eg. if your book came out in the last three months, it’s eligible.) If it’s coming out later this year, query me now with the release date.

I’m not doing non-fiction at this time.

The book has to be published by an established third party publisher (ie. no vanity press, Smashwords, Amazon Digital Services etc, no self-published ebooks). Please don’t try to convince me otherwise. It’s my blog, my rules.

What I’m looking for:

You should be able to write a personal guest blog 400-1000 words that will give readers insight into what sparked off this book for you, what it’s about, what you put into it, how you built that spark into a blaze. It can be funny, moving, sad, gut-wrenching, silly, enraging as long as it’s personal. The idea is you get to talk about your work and pitch it to a potential new audience.

To query me, email me via my contact form with the words THE SPARK QUERY in the subject line.

In this pitch, please include your name, a sentence about you,  the title of the book, a sentence or two on what your spark was and what you’re going to write about and the book’s publication info (release date, publisher)

If I say yes, awesome, then I’ll slot you in and give you a deadline for your essay.

I’m not going to edit it for you, so please make sure you’re happy with it. And don’t miss your deadline!

Please write it in Word or Notes. Please include all formatting (ie. italicizing the title of your book, so I don’t have to)

Your essay should be accompanied by:

A low-res author photograph (for web, size should be around 200k is fine, 2MB is not)

A low-res cover image (seriously, please don’t send me high-res, it’s for web)

A link to your website and Twitter handle

A link to where to buy the book, ideally on Amazon, if possible, for international audiences.


(Almost) 100 Art Works, 1000 Hearts

jesse breytenbach

The Shining Girls Charity Art Show for Rape Crisis kicks off tonight at 5.30pm at the Cape Town School of Photography, 4th Floor 62 Roeland Street, Cape Town, with 95 works of art by 67 amazing local artists who have created original artworks on a page ripped out of my novel, selling for R1000 each.

If you can’t make the exhibition, or none of the artwork speaks to you, you can still support Rape Crisis, by signing up for the Thousand Hearts campaign at the exhibition or make a donation online. For R100 a month, you can make a meaningful difference.

I asked Rape Crisis’s indomitable director, Kath Dey, to write a guest post about what the organization does and what this means: 

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 12.39.33 PM


Almost seventy artists have each created a single unique piece inspired by The Shining Girls, a novel by award winning author Lauren Beukes, using pages torn from the book as their canvas. These artworks will be sold for R1000 each in support of the essential services offered by the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust (RCCTT). 

This incredible event is part of a growing trend of support for the oldest women’s organisation dealing with adult rape in South Africa whose funding has been at risk for the past year.

Rape Crisis has been empowering women on the road to justice and supporting them on their journey to recovery since 1976.

We learn from every rape survivor that we meet just what it takes to walk such difficult paths and we make sure that these lessons endure and are shared.

Each year Rape Crisis offers face-to-face counselling to 650 individuals and families, the 24 hour help line offers information and advice to 4 000 callers, counsellors are there to greet and inform 2 800 survivors at two of Cape Town’s busiest Thuthuzela Care Centres and court supporters offer information and advice to 1 500 witnesses at five of Cape Town’s sexual offences courts, community educators offer talks and workshops to  more than 10 000 participants from community and professional groups and the organisation advocates for better implementation and better services for rape survivors together with more than 34 partners across South Africa in the women’s sector.

Our relationship with government, particularly at the provincial level, is collaborative (we share spaces at courts and health facilities with government service providers) but also challenging in that we provide well researched information that influences decision makers and that is based on the direct experience of the rape survivors we see.

It is this evidence, and the evidence gathered from within communities, that are used to drive advocacy campaigns to address flaws within the criminal justice system.

The basis of the services delivered by Rape Crisis is the work done by trained volunteers from within the communities it serves.

Last year when funds ran out the organisation was forced to retrench all but one staff member yet all of the others remained to work alongside volunteers for no pay. Rape Crisis receives funds for its work from a variety of sources including international donor agencies, the Provincial Government of the Western Cape’s Department of Social Development and from local South African corporations, trust funds and foundations.

 Each one of these sources is currently at risk.

That is why an event like this one is so extraordinary and so important. It has a champion in the person of Lauren Beukes.  It has support in the form of the great generosity of the curator, Jacki Lang, the Cape Town School of Photography and the artists, all of whom have given their time and resources for free so that all of the proceeds come directly to the organisation.

It creates an opportunity for people to come together for a wonderful evening of entertainment while at the same time supporting a great cause. The lucky ones will even come away with something beautiful to display to remind them that they helped make a real difference in the life of a rape survivor. 

TSG Art Show Invite Update

Curating The Shining Girls Charity Art Show

The Shining Girls Charity Art Show for Rape Crisis has its opening on Friday at the Cape Town School of Photography on Friday.  Curator Jacki Lang wrote a guest post for me about the experience of putting together an art show with me on a whim and a shoe-string.

I first met Jacki when she was a designer at iJusi. She went on to do pop-up exhibitions with Kim Stern, like Aisle 5, in South Africa, selling affordable art from kick-ass artists (where I picked up my Conrad Botes/Brett Murray Boogie Light) and then in London, including charity events like Napkin.

She’s been away in London for many years, but I’m delighted that she’s back and was willing to come on board to wrangle this project, organising sponsorship, so all our proceeds could go to Rape Crisis, finding an appropriate gallery space that we could still be part of the Open Book Festival and approaching our dream artists. I came up with the idea, she’s done all the hard work. I’ll let her tell you about it.

jacki lang



I have always loved collaborating on exhibitions and working with like-minded art and design junkies to curate exhibitions of new work that will inspire people: shows that ideally mean something, are for a good cause or tell an important story. This opportunity, to work with Lauren to curate the Shining Girls Charity Art Show, encompassed all of those elements and I jumped at the opportunity.

The experience has been all-consuming and incredible. From the moment we drew up our wish list of artists and started spreading the word, the show has taken off and I’ve been blown away by people’s generosity, their support of our idea and their willingness to take part. Of course there were the slightly uphill treks – hunts for spaces and sponsorships and the brilliant young South African artists we were unable to access (because their galleries said “no thanks”, or because they were being famous and fabulous somewhere else in the word – which we love them for). But all in all this was overshadowed by people who have been amazing and are enabling us to pull it all off on a shoestring.

Well, lets wait until Friday when we open the doors of the show before we say we’ve pulled it off, right?

Shining Girls Art Show

I have even been fortunate enough to discover hidden parts of Cape Town below ground level and on roof tops in the emerging design-focused Fringe district on a hunt for exhibition venues, and after being away in London for the last 8 years, it’s been a brilliant and inspiring intro back into my home town. Everyone’s doors are surprisingly open and the spirit of collaboration is definitely in the air.

Most remarkable have been the artists, designers, photographers, illustrators, jewelery designers – all of them unbelievable, all of them local and all of them at the top of their games. And all of them happy to create new magnificent pieces of work with nothing in it for them, except to gift the sales of their creations to Rape Crisis.

Shining Girls Art Show

For me, watching the pieces trickling in, and seeing how each artist responded to the brief (customizing a torn page or two or three from The Shining Girls) has been overwhelming. Their time, effort and imagination is humbling and together the 60+ artists we have on board have created a collection of works on papers that have never been seen before and won’t exist as a group like this again. We’ve started framing the pieces and they all play so beautifully next to one another. There’s painting, embroidery, light boxes, leather, perspex, paper cutting, steelwork, spray painting… but now I’m giving it all away.

Come join us in the gorgeous light white gallery space at The Cape Town School of Photography, who have loaned us this haven for the show and who are photographing and documenting everything for us: the artworks, the process, the envelopes with scribbles on that the artists sent their work back in, and the remnants of book spines with pages violently ripped from them.

I have kept everything. This has been an experience worth capturing.

Shining Girls Art Show

Total book desecration for a totally good cause: The Shining Girls Charity Art Show

Shining Girls-23

Presenting The Shining Girls Charity Art Show for Rape Crisis! 

  • Opening night: Friday 6 September 2013
  • Time: 5.30pm
  • Venue: Cape Town School of Photography, 4th Floor, 62 Roeland Street, Cape Town (above Vida, opposite The Book Lounge) 
  • Exhibition runs until 13 September, open 9am-5pm daily. 

Curator Jacki Lang and I have been working together for the last couple of months to put together a charity art show loosely inspired by The Shining Girls as part of the The Open Book Festival.

The idea was to have amazing local talent create original, accessible art work from a page cruelly ripped out of my novel, all sold at the same affordable price, with all proceeds going to Rape Crisis.

We approached some of our favorite artists, illustrators, designers, photographers, architects and even ceramicists and jewellery designers to create an original piece of art on a page ripped out of The Shining Girls. They could do whatever they liked with it – paint over it, draw on it, cut it up or cross-stitch it, re-create a scene, riff off the general themes of the book or spark off one word that meant something to them.

Shining Girls-17

I’m thrilled to say we have over 50 artists participating including Zapiro, Conrad Botes, Faith 47, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Roger Ballen, Serge Alain Nitigeka, Wim Botha, Claudette Schreuders, Gabby Raaff, Frank van Reenen, Jordan Metcalf, Liza Grobler, Olaf Bischoff, Paul Senyol, Peter Eastman, Rikus Ferreira, Beth Diane Armstrong, Hannelie Taute and Joey Hi-Fi to name a few. To make sure the art stays accessible, we won’t be offering previews or reserves, but we will release some sneak peeks.

We’re hoping to raise R50 000 by selling the works at the incredibly affordable and democratic price of R1000 each.

Shining Girls-20

I’ve done charity art projects for all my previous books. (A little history on that here). The customised vinyl toy Zoo City Bares auction raised R18 000 for Hillbrow refugee kids organisation, The Suitcase Project, the Zoo City sloth lottery brought in R4000 for Khulisa who work with ex-offenders and sales of hand-made plush Moxyland monsters raised R12 000 for women’s group The Montagu Sew & Sews.

I wanted to do the same again for The Shining Girls and Rape Crisis seemed like the obvious choice. One of the major themes of the novel is what violence does to us and Rape Crisis deals with the real-world effects of that on a daily basis.

Shining Girls-18

Last year Rape Crisis faced closure and they are still not out of the woods financially in spite of the evident need for their essential services. Director Kathleen Dey says: “We were in part pulled back from the brink by the incredible support and generosity of our community of supporters, who gave generously of their time and money, and in part by the amazing dedication of our staff, who worked alongside our volunteers without pay for months on end.”

If the femicide, rape and child abuse rates in this country make you angry, you can make a difference.  If you can’t make it to the exhibition, you can still support Rape Crisis for as little as R100 a month as part of the Hundred Hearts campaign.

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Huge thanks to Carola Koblitz, Pick ‘n’ Pay and my publisher Umuzi, for sponsoring the hard costs, to the Cape Town School of Photography for letting us exhibit in their beautiful gallery space and for photographing the artwork and the process, to the Open Book Festival for including us in their festivities, to Jacki Lang, who has been a rockstar goddess in pulling this whole thing together on passion, chutzpah and a shoe-string and especially to all the amazing artists who have created brand new original works for a great cause. 

Hope to see you there!

 Shining Girls-19

Taking down the murder wall

I was home sick yesterday, so I finally got round to taking down my Murder Wall, which I used to map out The Shining Girls, the killings, the movement of the objects, the various intersecting timelines.

Talk about unsnarling a knotty plot!

I get into what it all means, the power of Twitter and a hilarious, absurd, true anecdote about science fiction and the dark days of apartheid over at at Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast where you can also see a better photo of the Murder Wall in full.

Unsnarling the murder wall lauren with murder wall cu

(NB: the second photo is from a professional shoot by ace photographer Morne van Zyl taken a few months ago. I do NOT wear make-up and effortlessly tousled hair when I am down with a snotty, grotty cold. More like fleece dressing gown and socks and pathetic misery.)


Coming Up: The Shining Girls charity art show for Rape Crisis

So, so, so excited and happy to (pre)announce this.

Curator Jacki Lang and I are putting together a charity art show inspired by The Shining Girls with all proceeds going to Rape Crisis. The exhibition will run from 6-11 September in collaboration with the Open Book Festival in Cape Town’s fringe district.

We’re approaching a bunch of amazing South African artists, illustrators, street artists, photographers and designers to make an affordable original art work by customising a page ripped from the novel in whatever way they like.

We’re still finalising our contributors list, which is why this isn’t the official announcement, but I can confirm that Conrad Botes, Kudzanai Chiurai, Faith47, Joey Hi-Fi and DALEast are among the people who have already said yes!

We’ll be sending out a press release as soon as we’ve got everyone locked down. For more information, email Jacki Lang.


Here’s a little history on where this came from.

I love art and it often appears in my novels, from Moxyland’s bio-art monstrosity Woof ‘n’ Tweet to the art that hints at themes in the book mentioned in Zoo City, which I blogged about for Warren Ellis. 

Over the last few years, I’ve found a way to do cool collaborations with artists somehow inspired by my books to raise money for good causes and show off shit-hot local talent.

When Zoo City was released in in 2010, African Dope put together an official soundtrack, but I also approached Am I Collective to get hold of five of their blank vinyl toy bares and asked six local artists to customise them any way they liked, as long as it was somehow inspired by the novel.  The Zoo City Bares were auctioned off on BidorBuy and raised  R18 000 for Hillbrow refugee kids NGO The Suitcase Project.

01 Zoo City Bares in a row

When Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award, I was wearing a bespoke sloth scarf made by my friend Rhoda Rutherford, in imitation of Zinzi December’s sloth aposymbiote companion in the novel. Rhoda kindly  made up another one that we raffled off to raise R4000 for the incredibly inspiring offender rehabilitation organisation, Khulisa, who also had their members come and read the prison diaries chapters at the Zoo City celebration tour. (Watch the moving video of that here)

sloth lottery lauren in sloth tight cropsloth in a box

But it really all started with Moxyland. (Which also has its own official African Dope soundtrack). The cover monster on the original first edition from Jacana featured a wonderfully cute and creepy monster designed by Joey Hi-Fi and made up by Michelle Son. I immediately coveted one and my brilliant author friend Sarah Lotz and her mom took that a step further. They set up a women’s co-operative in the rural town of Montagu, equipped them with sewing machines and so the Montagu Sew & Sews was born and we raised  R12 000 for them selling limited edition Moxy monster toys.

Moxyland11 Moxy Launch Montagu Sew & Sews