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WATCH: A tour of where SA writers work

07 September, 12:08 PM

Ahead of the fourth annual Open Book festival News24's Erin Bates* and Aljoscha Kohlstock met five creators of fiction, poetry, comics and published manuscripts to see where they do their work.

uHlanga publisher and writer Nick Mulgrew works at a table in the bedroom of his city apartment in Gardens.

The artefact journeyed from home to home, and served as a dining room table before a slick of paint transformed it into his desk.

ABOVE: Poet, fiction writer and publisher Nick Mulgrew's tressle table desk was once a dining room table. He showed News24 around his work space, which is punctuated by shelves of books, religious icons and family photographs.

Poet Mbongeni Nomkonwana works from home in Delft, where he switches between handwriting and typing on a laptop.

He described occasionally writing on a taxi and working in town with other artists.

Nomkonwana often performs his poetry aloud, so having the space to speak the meter and rhyme is important.

ABOVE: Poet and actor Mbongeni Nomkonwana told News24 he varies his writing space, often writing at home between cleaning or going to a space in the Cape Town CBD. Here, Nomkonwana writes a work intended for spoken performance in a notebook.

Paul Crilley is a Scottish-born crime writer now based outside Durban. His writing nook is lined with rich calendar images and movie posters.

Like Mulgrew, Crilley has carried his desk with him for years. He said via Skype he obtained it when he was fourteen. 

The 'Poison City' author shared writing advice he received in reply to a letter to fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett.

ABOVE: Paul Crilley's desk includes science fiction paraphernalia, including novels, figurines and posters. The Scotsman lives in KwaZulu-Natal and has worked as a professional writer on films, computer games and - recently - comics. 

Another writer attending Open Book 2016 is Sam Wilson, who shared his creative habitat in Zandvlei.

Sometimes writing can be a lonely enterprise, and Wilson said working in the company of others - like Lauren Beukes - helped him push through near the deadlines for his novel 'Zodiac'.

ABOVE: Sam Wilson works as a director in animation. He has also written a speculative work of fiction using star signs (rather than nationality, religion or race) to segregate people. He is participating in panels during the Open Book programme for 2016.  

Finally we spoke to graphic artist and comic illustrator Danelle Malan at The Book Lounge in Cape Town's eastern precinct.

Malan confessed her working space, which she shares with her husbands and two cats, was cluttered and full of artefacts.

She described three stations on her desk; one for a computer, another for drying artworks and a third for her paints, brushes and pens. The Michaelis Art School graduate described the mural painted on the window of The Book Lounge.

ABOVE: Comics writer and illustrator Danelle Malan described her somewhat chaotic working space, which feeds into her illustrating. She and a fellow comics artist designed the Open Book mural featured on the window of an independent Cape Town bookstore, The Book Lounge.

Bookseller Mervyn Sloman founded Open Book in 2014. The event runs from Wednesday, 7 September to Sunday, 11 September in venues such as the Fugard Theatre, District Six Museum and Central Library in the City of Cape Town. The programme includes local writers, journalists, cartoonists and spoken word artists.

It incorporates talks and workshops, a festival of poetry and a celebration of comics, too.

All five creators News24 spoke to are listed in the 2016 festival programme.

ABOVE: The Open Book festival includes workshops, talks and some free events. It combines panel discussions, talks on fiction and non-fiction, poetry, comics and items for young readers.

Watch the video and explore the creative habitats of five South African artists, of prose, poetry and comics.

*Note: News24 reporter Erin Bates has worked in the book trade, both at Clarke's Bookshop on  Long Street and The Book Lounge on Roeland Street. She also held a panel discussion at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in 2014 and will be participating in Open Book 2016.

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