Saturday, 17 August 2013

It begins with a Story...

I have just had a most extraordinary and rewarding few days in Cradock, in the Karoo region of South Africa. Cradock is the town to which my grandparents migrated, over a hundred years ago. Today, it is still at the heart of a thriving merino sheep farming community, but also a centre of burgeoning creativity with artists, writers and foodies making it a lively and rewarding place to spend a few days, a few months... forever?

I went back to Cradock to be a speaker at the Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival, an annual event celebrating literature both local and international. The festival was inspired by the life and work of Olive Schreiner, author of the late 1800s classic "The Story of an African Farm".

We stayed in the famous Tuishuise, the restored artisan's cottages, complete with Victorian-era furnishings, high pressed ceilings, and original wooden floors. I spoke to an audience at the historic Victoria Manor on Market Square, a key location in my novel The Housemaid's Daughter. The attendees had come from near and far and it was immensely rewarding to hear their wonderful feedback on my book, given that many of them know the area and its history intimately.

But for me, the most rewarding part of the festival was not the hubbub around the official talk and signings, but the morning session I spent with a group of about 50 young people, taking part in a lively workshop running alongside the main festival. They came from the Upstart Youth Development Project in Grahamstown, from various local Cradock high schools, and from the Get Ahead Project school in Queenstown. This latter group included the members of the school's brand new Nal'ibali Book Club, whose first read, I am thrilled to say, was The Housemaid's Daughter.

I wrote about the Nal'ibali Book Club in a previous blog, and described how it was started by an inspirational Canadian teacher on an assignment there. Well... when she heard that I was due to speak at the Schreiner festival - a couple of hours car journey across the Karoo from Queenstown - she was determined to help the members of the Book Club get there to meet me and talk about their response to the book. Funds were raised, a coach was hired, and they arrived in high spirits. I spoke about the book, about creativity, about reading, about their hopes and dreams for the future...
Nal'ibali means "it begins with a story"...
It was a delight for me to be a small part of their stories...


  1. Indeed it was great to hear the very voice of the author of 'The House maid's Daughter' It was a dream come true! I have read several novels, but I have never had a chance to interact with the author of any of them. Thank you Barbara for the opportunity given to our students and all the experiences you shared with us. Thumbs up!
    Didas (Get Ahead College)

  2. I loved meeting all of you!
    Keep reading!
    Kind regards

  3. Am just about to finish reading the book...what can i is really really a great read!!!!!