We love books. If we didn't, we wouldn't be running this project. We love books so much we want our anthologies to be loved by our readers. We want them to be cherished. We want readers to pet them. We want their cats to get jealous. As a collaboration, the content of SSDA books is partly up to us, the curators, but mostly up to the brave and imaginative writers who trust us with their stories. The rest – the editing, typesetting, cover design – is in our hands, and we want to honour the content you create with exceptional editing, design and a cover that encapsulates not only the pages, but the ideas they hold.
It's not an easy task. ID features twenty-one writers from all over the continent, with their own languages, cultures, viewpoints and ideas. (No, dear foreign reader, we Africans are not all the same.) Twenty-one stories sparked by a single idea and interpreted in a multitude of ways. A range of prose styles and tones that range from humorous to tragic, with every modulation between.
When we discussed the 2017 theme, ID, we decided to use the symbol of a barcode as a launchpad for ideas by writers, and this informed the initial beautiful cover concept by Nick Mulgrew, exquisitely interpreted and designed into a cover by Megan Ross. We even incorporated a barcode into the endpapers. Then we debated long and hard about whether to foil the cover (i.e., create a metallic finish). We knew this was risky – foiling a big area means that the cover is likely to get scratched, but we figured what makes us human if not our flaws? If we gloss-laminated the foil to protect it, we would lose the stunning effect in which the reader picks up the book and sees their own face mirrored in the cover – another play on the concepts of identity and id as part of ego. Yet books with scratched covers would not sell well in bookshops, as browsers and salespeople might think they were shop-soiled (instead of us being maybe a bit too clever for our own good). So we decided to do a limited print run of one hundred foiled unlaminated covers, which will be stamped with a special ID brand and numbered. These will be sold at the launch and sent to the writers who contributed. They’ll become collectors’ items to be treasured, so contact the Book Lounge if you want one of your own and you might get lucky. The rest of the print run will be gloss laminated, and just as lovely to look at.
Something that struck the editing mentor, Helen Moffett, was how the colours and stripes of the cover image matched the coat of her new rescue cat, Boykie, who was found injured to the point of death by the side of the road last year. His amazing recovery and adaptation to life with three legs coincided with the long journey to get ID into final shape and form. All through the summer, autumn and onset of winter 2018, as she worked with the enthusiastic and diligent editing mentees, Otieno Owino and Nebila Abdulmelik, and then with twenty-one authors, through all the to and fro of the stories and questions and rewrites and emails, Boykie rolled around on her keyboard or sat peering at her computer screen, “helping out”. In the process, he became the ID mascot, always inspiring and cheering on the editors. Here are some pictures of him admiring the incredible book – original, unique and handsome, both inside and out – the writers and SSDA have had the pleasure of creating.
The limited edition will be on sale at the launch on Thursday 5 July at the Book Lounge. To reserve a copy call the Book Lounge on 021 462 2425.