When Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie addressed the TED Conference in 2009, she spoke of the danger of the single story: a distorted, one-dimensional view of Africa that sees the continent only through a prism of war, disease, poverty, starvation and corruption. In his acclaimed Granta piece, “How to write about Africa”, the late Binyavanga Wainaina brilliantly satirised this narrow perspective on Africa, seen all too often in both fiction and non-fiction.
Short Story Day Africa was established to celebrate the diversity of Africa’s voices: to tell you who we really are and what we love: love to eat, read, talk, write about. We want to bring you the scents on our street corners, the gossip from our neighbours, the strains of the music we dance to. Because we have something to tell the world. About us. In our own voices.
Over the past decade, the publishing industry has become risk-averse. The industry is constantly described as conservative. Manuscripts are rejected for being too cerebral, challenging, supposedly unsellable in a market that wants only apple pie. One result is that alternative publishing models have grown up around writers looking for new routes to reach readers. However, indie publishers are often (unfairly) perceived as exploitative, and the work they produced is often prejudged as subpar. African writers face an additional challenge: to “write what we like”, in the words of South African Black Consciousness icon Steve Biko, we need to decolonise the spaces we live in – and that includes the literary sphere.
It was in this climate that Short Story Day Africa was formed. In the eight years since it was formed around a kitchen table, the SSDA team has developed a survival ethos: to subvert and reclaim. Reclaim the place of the short story. Reclaim a space for non-conformist writing. Subvert ideas about what it means to be a writer in Africa. Subvert ideas about what makes a story African.
Short Story Day Africa has published six anthologies (with the seventh in progress) and 122 writers. We have helped develop writers (often being the first publisher to work with them) who have gone on to win or be shortlisted for multiple awards, including the Short.Sharp.Stories Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Caine Prize for African Writing, the African Speculative Fiction Society NOMMO awards, the Brittle Paper Awards, and others. These include Okwiri Oudor, Efemia Chela, Megan Ross, Stacey Hardy, Michael Yee, Derek Lubangakene, Sibongile Fisher, Cherrie Kandie, Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor, Innocent Chizaram Ilo, Idza Luhumyo, Harriet Anena, Mary Ononokopono and Cat Hellisen. Many more have gone on to publish further short stories, screenplays, dramas, poetry and novels. Others have been shortlisted for or won prestigious writing residencies, or have been accepted for Masters in Creative Writing programs around the world. Our editing fellows have gone on to secure jobs in the growing and dynamic publishing industry across the continent.
In 2015, we began running workshops across the continent for writers who lacked access to conventional creative writing programmes. Since then we have run 30 workshops in nine countries across the continent. These are designed for and by African writers, engage with local context, follow organic and non-hierarchical processes, and are facilitated by local writers – creating decolonised and decolonising spaces. A place at a Short Story Day Africa Flow Workshop has become highly sought after, with many participants going on to receive accolades and publication. With your help, we hope to expand these workshops and bring the creative flow to many more writers and editors in Africa (our workshops now include an editing component as well).
We don’t dictate genre or publish only literary fiction (whatever that is): our authors have produced ghost stories, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, romance, comedy, travelogues and horror, as well as genre-defying works. They explore urgent and absorbing concerns of the continent, such as slavery, gender-based violence, environmental tumult and refugee movements, but provide fresh and subversive insights and twists.
We are also unusual in that by providing strong and careful editing support, we enable fresh new voices to hold their own against experienced and professional writers. Our commitment to thorough development and line editing means that authors for whom English is only a second, third or even a fourth language can now publish in the dominant Anglophone literary environment – another means of reclaiming and subverting the colonial space, of broadening the range of voices ringing out across the continent.
Short Story Day Africa may be tiny, but it is integral to the African literary sphere. We invite you to be part of this team. The rewards are huge, and you’ll be part of an exciting movement that is creating not so much a legacy as a nexus of navigation patterns into the future.
Rachel Zadok was born in Tel Aviv and raised in Johannesburg. She has a National Diploma in Fine Arts. In 2001, she escaped a career in advertising to become a writer, which she describes as being a little like running away to join the circus without the safety net. She is the author of two novels: Gem Squash Tokoloshe (2005), shortlisted for The Whitbread First Novel Award and The John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and longlisted for the IMPAC Award; and Sister-Sister (2013), shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Prize and The Herman Charles Bosman Prize, and longlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Award. She lives in Cape Town with her husband and daughter.
Born in Jelenia Góra, Poland, Karina M. Szczurek lived in Austria, the United States and Wales, before finding a home in South Africa. She is the author of Truer than Fiction: Nadine Gordimer Writing Post-Apartheid South Africa (2008), Invisible Others (2014) and The Fifth Mrs Brink (2017), and she is the editor of Touch: Stories of Contact (2009), Encounters with André Brink (2010), Contrary: Critical Responses to the Novels of André Brink(with Willie Burger, 2013), Water: New Short Fiction from Africa (with Nick Mulgrew, 2015), Misplaced and Other Stories: New Short Fiction from African Kids (2017, with Catherine Shepherd), and most recently, You Make Me Possible: The Love Letters of Karina M. Szczurek and André Brink (2018). Her play for young adults, A Change of Mind, won the MML Literature Award in the Category English Drama in 2012. She also writes short stories, essays, and poetry. In 2018, she received the Thomas Pringle Award for her book reviewing. She is a proud board member of PEN SA and SSDA.
Jason Mykl Snyman currently serves on the board of Short Story Day Africa and as the Fiction Editor for Expound magazine. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including New Contrast, Jalada Africa, Bloody Parchment, Kalahari Review, Helios Quarterly, The Examined Life Review, Expound and more.
Mary Watson is a lapsed academic from Cape Town now living on the west coast of Ireland. Her books include Moss (2004), a collection of connected short stories, The Cutting Room (2013),The Wren Hunt (2018) and the The Wickerlight (2019).
Helen Moffett is an author, editor, academic and activist. She lives in Cape Town and has published university textbooks, numerous academic pieces, a treasury of landscape writings (Lovely Beyond Any Singing), a cricket book (with the late Bob Woolmer and Tim Noakes), an animal charity anthology (Stray, with Diane Awerbuck), the Girl Walks Inerotica series (with Paige Nick and Sarah Lotz), two poetry collections (Strange Fruit and Prunings), a history of Rape Crisis (Cape Town), and a book of conserving water, 101 Water Wise Ways. She loves collaborations and is passionate about the Short Story Day Africa project.
Lizzy Attree has a PhD from SOAS, University of London, on “The Literary Responses to HIV and AIDS from South Africa and Zimbabwe from 1990-2005”. Her collection of interviews with the first African writers to write about HIV and AIDS from Zimbabwe and South Africa was published in 2010 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, and is entitled Blood on the Page. In 2010 she was Visiting Lecturer in the English Department at Rhodes University in South Africa. She taught African literature at Kings College London in 2015 as a temporary Lecturer and hopes to teach again in the future. She was the Director of the Caine Prize from 2014-2018 and is the co-founder of the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize. She sits on the Writivism Board of Trustees and has acted as a judge for Re-Imaged Folktales online. She is the Producer of 'Thinking Outside the Penalty Box' (an African Footballers project funded be Arts Council England) and a freelance writer, reviewer and critic.
PAYING IT FORWARD
Short Story Day Africa is a non-profit organisation that relies on the generosity of the African writing community for skills and funding.
If you'd like to offer up your skills, we're always on the look out for editors, proofreaders, illustrators, book designers, web designers, etc. If you’d like to promote us via your media outlet, exposure is always useful. If you're a writer and want to donate a story, please do so via one of our annual competitions.
We always need help paying our overheads and administration costs. If you'd like to help us with a large amount of funding, please e-mail us. For smaller donations, please donate via Paypal or if in South Africa, Snapscan.