An alternative pregnancy reading list

Falling pregnant is a beautiful, mythical experience rich with opportunities for growth and self-love. It is also a rude induction into a world where, as a woman, you acutely realise that your body and your choices have become part of the public domain. Yet no matter how vocal others are about your physical appearance and the impending challenges of motherhood, it is difficult to find reading material that is real, but also supportive. I have found myself craving tenderness, humour and real stories. Here are a few books that have really helped me. 

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Surround yourself with other writers

I have always believed myself to be a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to work and writing. Looking back, I think this was rooted in pride and a young writer's arrogance that my talent was all I needed to sustain a creative career. 

Yet over three years ago I found myself sitting in a coffee shop, anxiously scanning for the faces of the new members of my writing group. I had met Cath once before at a Writivism workshop in Cape Town, while Blaize had responded to my call for writing group participants over Twitter. It was just us three, a very small gang, and I was as nervous as someone on a first date. 

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Building books and babies

Suddenly, it is the middle of winter and I am at the start of my third trimester. I am beginning to wonder just how I am going to look back on this time, whether it will feel as ordinary as it does now, or morph into something sacred. Growing a book and a baby to fruition at once is both beautiful and demanding. The parallels could inspire all sorts of obvious metaphors, the sheer labour of it all. However, I think my two greatest lessons have been patience, and acceptance of the gap between expectation and reality. 

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Read South African writers not because they are local, but because they're good

For a long time, I have felt uncomfortable about the way we discuss South African writers. Bookstores and reviewers are championed for their 'support' of our authors and readers are asked to buy more South African books. I love many South African books and authors, but I feel that in our persistent cheerleading of African writers, we remove the power from the conversation and miss the point entirely. We shouldn't be reading local authors as a favour to them or the industry, we should be reading them because they are good. 

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Females are strong as hell | Spire Book Review

Spire, Fiona Snyckers' latest release, was one of the of those books I went into knowing very little about, yet it grabbed me by its icy fist from the very first page. Caroline is a virologist who has travelled to a remote site on the South Pole to spend the winter conducting experiments on a petrifying arsenal of diseases. She is young, beautiful, accomplished and excited to prove herself. However, from the moment she arrives, things go wrong.

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The map is not the territory

In another lifetime, I sat in a social worker's office with an old bar heater rumbling between us as we tried to talk through my sexual assault. Like many women in my situation, I didn't feel I deserved to be there, I didn't feel like my reactions followed the script or that I was 'recovering right.' It was my most acute experience of how pre-defined the experience of womanhood could be, and how I often fell flailing outside those lines. The social worker, an incredible literary woman who would later help me recover through books and poetry, said something to me I will always remember: 

The map is not the territory. 

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Your next book club read just got a lot more chilling

My walk through Delta park this past Sunday was a little different. As I wound my way past the cluster of bright jungle gyms and children's parties I looked a little closer at the families playing there, imagining each of their stories, scratching at the surface of their domestic bliss. It's no wonder, because this is where my latest read, The Park, has its chilling beginning. 

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Good Me Bad Me - My thriller of 2017

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land is not a comfortable read. It's a compulsive, read-through-the-night-while-drinking-all-the-hot-chocolate read. But isn't that what you want from a thriller? 

I have been on a steady diet of psychological thrillers while finishing up the edits to my own. Usually I tear through them and forget the plot (and even the title) entirely. But Good Me Bad Me has stuck for a number of reasons: 

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The biggest lesson I have learnt as a writer

After months of writing and editing, hunched over my computer with the devil-may-care attitude of someone who is consciously disregarding their spasming neck, I have finished my latest book. My days are no longer spent muttering dialogue under my breath or boring my closest friends and family on the latest plot kink I have worked out. The end came with a swell of jubilation. A few wonderful, respected agents are reading the full manuscript, and my readers are saying everything I hoped they would say about the new version. 

And yet, I find myself feeling empty.

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Author Interview | Gail Schimmel

Gail Schimmel writes the kind of novels that grab your hand and tug you through the story. They are the kind of books you want to have on hand when you need to buy a book to relax with on holiday, or to read when you are struggling to keep your eyes open on a Thursday night. 

In fact, I had to tear myself away from Gail Schimmel's latest release, The Park, to write up her interview. I enjoy a good domestic suspense thriller under any circumstances, but even more so when the unsettling atmosphere is created somewhere close to home. Gail's story revolves around a park somewhere in Johannesburg, where three mothers meet with sinister consequences. 

I met with Gail a few weeks ago to discuss her novel and writing process. 

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Books I'm looking forward to in 2017

Hey friends. 

2017 has begun with a lot of questions. Politically, socially, environmentally, it is easy to look around and wonder 'are we going to be OK?' I can't predict what Trump is going to do next or which celebrity is going to pass away, but I can make sure you're reading something great when the apocalypse comes. I've found some amazing books by local, African and international female writers, that all have a cracking plot in common. 

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Meet the author | Mike Nicol

Mike Nicol is, without a doubt, one of South Africa's most prolific authors. His works have been published across the globe, and his uniquely South African brand of crime and espionage thrillers have a loyal following. Yet for all his success, he is not seduced by the hype and remains humble on the subject of his career and his writing process. As a new writer, it was a privilege to sit down with a master and hear how its done. 

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Meet the author | Jolyn Phillips

A few months ago I walked into The Book Lounge for the first time. Eager to buy a piece of the store's atmosphere and of Cape Town itself, I picked up a thin short story book with a sunny, brightly coloured cover. I knew nothing about Jolyn Phillps then, but felt an affinity toward this small South African book. Only later when I read it later did I realise that its size was misleading - I didn't have a book in my bag, I had a world. 

Jolyn's stories mainly capture the characters of Gansbaai. Her musical, urgent phrasing is unlike anything you have read before, but it is not idiosyncratic or gimmicky. Rather, her voice pulls you instantly into her world. She answered these questions for me from somewhere in Genadendal, and I am so happy to bring more of her words to you.

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