‘We write because we must’

2013-08-20 00:00

THE Witness True Stories of KZN competition is now open for entries. We’ve asked last year’s winners and finalists to share ideas about writing and what the experience was like for them.

Kellie Steinke: Open category finalist (Wrote about a baby’s death)

1. What was the hardest part of writing your story?

Getting my bum on the chair to actually do the writing. Procrastination is a writer’s worst enemy.

2. How long did it take you to think of a story?

It changes from story to story. I do try to find a story to tell that is “bigger than the author”. Some years I had the piece I was going to write on the year before, other times the idea drifted for a couple of years before actually working on it.

3. What helped the writing process?

Just writing and re-writing. It always looks like a lost cause to begin with. I have to just get it down and then come back to it after a few days.

4. How was the response when your story was published?

This is what I love about writing: it’s the loneliest activity on the planet, but when it gets published, it morphs into one of the most social and interactive things. I have had quite a few people who find my phone number or my e-mail and get in touch to say how they felt about it. The most touching story is that related through another author at The Witness True Stories function 2012. He told me that a work colleague of his had gone on “pilgrimage” to the memorial of Baby Grace in Lidgetton because she read the story. When she arrived, there were fresh flowers placed next to the little brick. Neither of Baby Grace’s mommies put those flowers there.

5. What advice do you have for prospective writers?

Being a writer is not so much what you do as what you are. We write because we must, because we could not do otherwise, but like any art form, it’s a struggle sometimes. And remember that the road to being a writer is paved with rejection slips. Give yourself five minutes to cry, rant, yell and rave with pain. Then get back at it and go on.


There are again four categories: Open — with a prize of R10 000 for stories 1 500 words or less, and Snapshot, Schools and Opinion, which all have a prize of R3 000 and are for stories under 800 words. The closing date for entries is 8 am on August 26 and the winners will be announced in November.


• Stories must be true and have a strong KZN link.

• State clearly what category you are entering.

• Stories may be submitted by e-mail or post. Send your entries to: The Witness True Stories of KwaZulu-Natal Competition, P.O. Box 362, Pietermaritzburg, 3200, or e-mail shelaghm@witness.co.za

• Do not enclose pictures.

• Please include your full contact details in any e-mail attachments, not just in the message field.

• Be sure of your entry before you send it — “improved” versions won’t be accepted.

• Editing is at the discretion of The Witness.

• Manuscripts will not be returned.

• The competition is not open to salaried employees of The Witness.

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