The beauty of writing festivals is that they bring together some of the best authors on a shared platform, where an explosion of excellence can happen.
This year 16 writers, storytellers, singers and known names in the world of literature will attend the 21st Time of the Writer Festival in Durban, starting tomorrow, 12 March, and running until Saturday.
This year’s theme for one of the longest-running literature festivals on the continent is Changing the Narrative and will include writers, both local and international, who will give talks and engage with fellow writers, while sharing industry tips and advice to those attending.
Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, whose debut book Democracy and Delusion has started a national conversation about the state of politics in the country, particularly among the youth, will attend for the first time.
“That the book has gone past bestseller status is a message in itself that young people want to engage in politics and that they do actually care,” he said.
Mpofu-Walsh, who also released a hip-hop album of the same name, said writing festivals have created a divide, but that it can help to be something positive.
“Some writing festivals have been quite exclusionary and therefore reinforce problems, but festivals such as Time of the Writer help to take literature where it needs to go and give younger voices and new writers a platform, so it can be something quite positive.”
He said writing should be explored more and aspiring writers shouldn’t be put off.
“For young people the voice in your head is always saying, ‘I need to wait before I can speak, I need to accrue more experience before I get to speak’, and you’ve got to silence that voice. The fact that you don’t have experience is exactly why you need to speak,” he said.
“Ageism is a reality in our society, but young writers need to draw inspiration from those who have come before us,” he said.
Fellow bestselling author Mohale Mashigo, whose debut novel The Yearning received rave reviews for her intricate storytelling, will present a workshop with Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo called the Art of Keeping Secrets.
“When I wrote The Yearning it was because we now had to do some healing work.
"I realised a lot of the reasons South Africa is unable to heal is because of the secrets we keep, which come back later to hurt us.
"It happens in relationships and on a national and international level, so I think the presentation is going to be about the secrets that everyone focuses on and the damage that those secrets sometimes cause,” she said.
Mashigo is looking forward to engaging other readers, as her inner “book nerd” craves this engagement.
“As a nation we’re quite in tune with one another but I realise that we’re quite provincial in many ways. Just because I’ve been to Johannesburg doesn’t mean readers in Durban know what’s happening there, so this is an opportunity to engage readers and writers.
“It’s so nice to sit down with other writers and readers. Sometimes I find people want to know when my book is going to be translated into their languages, or if I’ve ever thought about writing children’s books, so for me it’s about being able to sit down and listen to the readers,” she said.
We also asked international visitor, Zimbabwean-born and Philadelphia-based writer, musician and academic MK Asante what he was expecting from his visit to the festival.
“I’m interested in sharing my story and hearing yours. I’m particularly interested in the stories of South Africa’s youth! This is important to me and connects to my latest book, BUCK, a memoir of my coming-of-age journey in Philadelphia.”
For more information about the festival, visit the Time of the Writer Facebook page. Tickets are available at Computicket.