Debut author wins publishing deal and R35 000

Aspiring writer finally had his dreams come true when he won big at the Dinaane Debut Fiction Awards. His first novel Dub Steps has been published and is available at Exclusive Books. 

WINNING NOVEL: Dub Steps in its published form.

WINNING NOVEL: Dub Steps in its published form.                                                                                                          Photo: Katleho Sekhotho

ANDREW MILLER was named the winner of the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award for his debut novel Dub Steps along with a cash prize of R35 000 on Tuesday evening.

“I’ve never won anything,” said Miller, trembling in disbelief.

Dub Steps has been published by Jacana Media and is also available at Exclusive Books. The award ceremony was held at the Wits Writing Centre.

He told Wits Vuvuzela the reason he writes, “For many years I wrote in self-defence – as a way of processing and understanding my place in the world. I’ve got older and realised what an honour it is for someone to read anything I’ve written. I’ve started to care much more about the structure of stories and the idea of entertaining a reader.”

Miller was 15 years old when he began to fiddle with poetry, that ‘fiddling’ turned into ‘longer form stuff’ when he was 21.

Wits Vuvuzela also spoke to Neilwe Mashigo from Jacana Media, the publishers behind Miller’s novel.

The real challenge is doing a lot of hard work alone in a room all by yourself.

Mashigo addressed the concern of aspiring writers trying to get their work published, “Unfortunately not everyone can be published, and publishers are different in what they want published. “

“As an aspiring writer, you need to research the various publishing companies and the types of books they publish. Then you need to see where your manuscript can likely fit in,” he said.

Miller spoke about the challenges ambitious writers’ face including making sure there was enough time to write, “I think the big trap is focusing on self-promotion and selling your work.”

“The real challenge is doing a lot of hard work alone in a room all by yourself.”

On the other hand, Miller speaks about not isolating yourself to do your writing. He suggests that as a writer you might have to dabble in public speaking or journalism to be able to make a living while writing, “The days of sitting along in your room cranking out novels are long gone.”

Kopano Motlwa author of Coconut is a former recipient of the Dinaane Award and her novel has been translated into Swedish and Dutch with a French translation currently underway. Matlwa’s Coconut is a set work at schools across South Africa.

The Dinaane Awards was open to unpublished English language manuscripts by debut writers, it was judged by a panel of three judges: Maureen Isaacson, Fred Khumalo and head judge Pamela Nichols.

COOL KID: Bookstore “bookie”- Moshe Mashela

Photo: Lameez Omarjee

Photo: Lameez Omarjee

With dreads hanging over his eyes and a backpack, Moshe Mashela looks like a typical student.  However, this third year BCom Law student has a cool job as part-time staff manager at a bookstore.

What are some of the challenges you face in juggling a part-time job and university?

The biggest challenge is time and energy. You have less time for school, but you manage your time properly.  Luckily, shifts are flexible.

 What are some of the difficulties of the job?

It’s retail so there are difficult customers. The worst ones try to get their way by shouting at or insulting staff. One of their favourite lines is: “Call your manager.” Most people are nice and reasonable.  The women are pretty decent, although you sometimes get hit on by old men and women, which is not cool.

A challenge is when people describe books they are looking for too vaguely. We just plain don’t have a mental index of blue books with red writing about a lady or a cat, so we usually tell them there’s not much we can do without a title or an author, or a key word at least. No matter how vague a description, we’ll still do our best to help them find it.

 What are some of the best things about this job?

Interacting with people. You meet really nice people at bookstores and you have to get to know them to know what kind of books they like, and recommend something else they might like.  You also learn a lot from them. They end up recommending books to you. The staff, which has become more of a family than anything else. The books, obviously the books. And, I’m not going to lie, it helps to have an income.

 Any funny stories while you’ve been at work?

There’s this little boy, he sincerely thinks that he’s a wizard, and is convinced that we’re hiding our “real” spell books somewhere, and keeps asking for them. There was a lady once who asked for a book she saw in a dream. People sometimes get mixed up and ask for books by Jane Eyre, or when the next installment of Anne Frank’s diary will be released.