Thursday, October 25, 2018

Announcing the 2019 Strelitzia Awards

One of the most rewarding aspects of running ROSA is seeing how we learn and grow. Every year we improve upon the last. We learn from our mistakes, we make changes, we push the envelope, and I’m sure those of you who have been here since the beginning will agree that ROSA today is a much better organization than the ROSA of five years ago.
This is why we always welcome feedback – we use it to improve not just the organization but the individuals within it.

Which is my long way of saying: following feedback from entrants, mentors and judges, we are once again making some changes to the Strelitzia Contest for unpublished authors.

What is new in the 2019 contest?

• The deadline for entries is much earlier this year, in order to provide more time for both the mentorship phase and the second round.

• Entrants will need to submit a synopsis and writing sample when entering. This will assist us in allocating appropriate mentors to entrants, and also encourages entrants to start working on their novels before they start working with a mentor.

• Finally, entrance will not be guaranteed in 2019. Sending in an entry form will not guarantee a place in the contest. Once all entries are received, only the ten strongest candidates will be accepted to proceed to the mentorship phase. This might seem cruel, and not in the ROSA spirit of developing beginner writers, but we need to bear in mind that this isn’t solely a mentorship program but also a contest, and as such it is only fair that writers who actually have a shot at winning the award be entered. Part of ROSA’s mission statement is to promote excellence in romance writing, and in order to promote excellence we need to set the bar high.

This last change might upset some prospective entrants, but please bear with me…

I’m not unhappy with my body shape, but if you meet me you’ll know in an instant that I don’t like exercise. I especially dislike running, so the chances of me getting up early to go for a quick 5km run before starting my day are even slimmer than my chances of winning the lottery (at least I buy lottery tickets!)

But I’ve just signed up to run the Comrades Marathon next year. That’s seven months away, so even though I’ve never even so much as run around the block, if I force myself out of bed one morning a week and go for a run, I have a real shot at a gold medal. You know why? Because I hired myself a trainer, and it’s the trainer’s job to get me there.

You’re laughing at me, aren’t you? You think I’m crazy. You’re shaking your head and thinking “Romy needs a serious reality check.”

That’s what these new contest requirements are: a reality check.

No one seriously believes that an unfit novice with no motivation is going to win the Comrades marathon just 7 months after taking up running. No one seriously believes that a beginner violinist will be able to play in a professional orchestra a few months after picking up a bow for the first time. No one believes that a running coach or violin teacher can work miracles.

Yet there are beginner writers who do expect these things. (Not too many, thank heavens, but a few!)

Just as it isn’t a running coach’s job to get me to gold medal status with virtually no effort on my part, it’s also not the Strelitzia mentor’s job to get a beginner writer to award-winning status in a matter of months with virtually no effort on the writer's part. If you want to win, you need to be prepared to do the work. You need to show the Strelitzia organizers and mentors you are serious about doing the work.

The one thing our 2018 Strelitzia finalists have in common is that they were disciplined enough to complete a full manuscript before the deadline. They took the advice of their mentors, they edited to the best of their ability given the very tight time constraints, and they had realistic expectations. They did the work.

And that right there is why we are introducing the new entry requirements - to ensure that more writers with this kind of dedication and motivation get a chance to enter.

For every entrant who hasn’t yet started to learn or practice the craft, who is not prepared to dedicate time to their writing, who believes that their writing is already award winning and that the mentor is wrong to suggest it’s not, or who spends the entire mentorship phase writing a first draft and then doesn’t have time to get the mentor’s feedback, it means that another writer who is serious about the craft and who is prepared to do the work, loses out on the chance to enter and receive the benefits of mentorship.

This contest also relies on attracting and retaining good quality mentors, and we can only achieve this if mentors feel that their efforts are valued, and that they are making a difference.

And so in the next Strelitzia contest we ask that entrants both manage their expectations and commit to doing the work. By entering a synopsis and writing sample you will show the organizers and mentors that you are not expecting your mentor to wave a magic wand and provide you with an award-winning entry even though you don’t have the time or dedication to write the book, learn the craft, or polish your work to be the best it possibly can be.

Every single one of our mentors is a published author because they had the dedication, made the time, and did the work. They will expect nothing less from their mentees.

If this blog post hasn't put you off entering, and you are determined to do the work, win the award, and take home the crystal trophy, then check out the entry guidelines and download an entry form from the ROSA website here.

PS: in the interests of full disclosure, I haven’t really signed up to run the Comrades next year. And no, I don’t plan on taking up professional running any time soon. (I’m going to use that time to write my next book instead.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Jayne Bauling on #ROSACon2018

Today's post is a guest post from author Jayne Bauling on her experience at our recent ROSACon 2018 conference for romance writers in Johannesburg.

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Closing the laptop and hanging out with other writers for a couple of days at festivals, fairs or conferences is always a pleasure. Of the seven book and/or writing events I’ve attended this year, ROSACon 2018 is in the top three for excellent organisation, so congratulations to Romy and her team. I love it when things run smoothly.

The other six were ‘work’, so the ROSA conference was a treat I decided to give myself, where I had nothing to do except listen to other people being informative and entertaining. I came home feeling updated and in touch – and so refreshed.

Melrose Place was the ideal venue, a comfortable and relaxing setting. The programme was well-balanced, with a stimulating variety of speakers and topics. There really was something for everyone, and sometimes something new: for example, I read very little paranormal fiction, romantic or otherwise, and will never attempt to write it (wait, never say never), but Sharonlee Holder’s session on Writing Paranormal was so much fun.

Sharonlee Holder's session on Writing Paranormal

There wasn’t a single session I didn’t enjoy and benefit from, out of those I attended. Thank you, everyone!

Something that struck me repeatedly was how supportive of each other all the ROSA writers were, published and yet-to-be alike. That’s something I appreciate about the South African writing community generally, but it was especially evident at the ROSA conference.

Thank you again, everyone, and congratulations to the Imbali and Strelitzia winners and finalists. Oh, and the goodie bags were amazingly generous!

Some of the goodie bag goodies

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Love over the cultural lines

Today's post is a guest post from Cliffordene Norton, editor at Lapa Uitgewers.

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Diversity has been a hot topic since I started working in the publishing industry and probably a long time before that. We live in a society where our racial and apartheid past has a huge influence on the way we currently view relationships between different races.

Image courtesy of Looks Like Me
In Afrikaans mainstream books these relationships are often not reflected or still representative of before 1994. From my point of view, diversity seems to be gaining momentum. I am a huge Marvel fan, and was so excited when Black Panther was released this year. I went to watch it three times in cinema and started following the #BlackPanther on Instagram. Since than I have seen countless posts on Instagram about why representation matters. These posts recently spiked again with Crazy Rich Asians.

Black Panther was a major influence and inspiration on the next generation of black kids. Looks Like Me, a UK talent and casting agency dedicated to raising the profile of underrepresented groups, commissioned photos where kids recreate the Black Panther characters.

It was evidence of the power of representation. I like to tell this story about my grade 8 class who got excited when we read Diekie Vannie Bo Kaap by Zulfah Otto Sallies. Everyone read, finished and enjoyed the book. We later performed scenes from the same book and it was the most interactive I’ve have ever experienced my fellow class mates with a book. It was also the first book where I could see my town, my people and some of my culture being authentically written about.

But for me the power of Diekie doesn’t just lie in its authenticity, it lies in the diverse characters in the book. There wasn’t just the maid cleaning the kitchen and cooking. Or the irresponsible taxi driver cutting you off or the blue overhaul worker making the main character feel unsafe. These characters were people I knew – people who were both right and wrong, educated and uneducated, successful and unsuccessful. They were just people, not stereotypes.

At the LAPA Uitgewers Writer’s Indaba in June this year Sophia Kapp cautioned Afrikaans writers about not just creating characters of colour that they know and are mentioned above. I want to add to that. Writers need to be careful about how their main characters interact or even think about other races. With the #BlackLivesMatter movement I think we’ve all become more vigilant about racial profiling. If your heroine, who forgot to lock her car doors, suddenly remembers when a group of blue overhaul workers crosses the road in front her, I immediately judge her. While safety must always come first, why does she associate danger with the race or class?

In the past (and I'm glad I haven’t read such characters in recent years) I’ve read romances where people of colour represent the negative aspects of humanity: laziness, self-entitlement, unattractiveness. It is a method sometimes used to show how the white hero or heroine possesses these traits – is the good in the world. I have come to ask myself: Does the character really possess good traits if it has to be compared to stereotypical version of another race? To me as a reader of colour it shows a lack of maturity in the character and the writer, because I never assumed every white man I have ever met is a racist or slave owner.

In her TED Talk, The danger of a single story, Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, talks about how one story creates stereotypes. Representation is a necessity, but diversity in the portrayal of racial characters is a bigger necessity.

There is a spectrum of diverse white characters in books. That is why we don’t see Mr Darcy or Voldemort in every white man we encounter. And that is where a writer’s power lies, they show not to judge a book by the colour of its cover.

Source: Jasper, M. 2018. Kids Recreate the Black Panther Character Posters in This Awesome Photo Series