Monday, 16 December 2013

Notes from Porcupine's 'resident Writer'


The process of publishing is a bit like driving along a scenic route. New features appear on the horizon, some more remarkable than others, and steadily loom larger. Just so with manuscripts as they are transformed into books. Closest to the Porcupine bus as it trundles towards 2014 are several interesting publications. Here are brief descriptions of a few of them.

Faces and Footsteps by Morag Wade Mackay is the story of the author’s brush with death after a devastating motor cycle accident when she was seventeen. She lost an arm, and had numerous operations on her hips and legs. It’s a harrowing story, but one also of great courage and determination to live. This book is about to be printed.

Kate Shuttleworth Langa has written My Cousin’s Cousin, a South African saga that provides a view of a changing South Africa through the eyes of three families, all closely intertwined. There’s some powerful writing when one of the heroines, Susanna Malan, becomes involved with a political prisoner on Robben Island. The book is in the early stages of layout. Look out for it early next year.

A little further away, but rapidly approaching, is Deadly Justice by John Gosebo. This novel contains some gripping courtroom scenes, and probes into the darker reaches of tender fraud and government corruption in contemporary South Africa. We’re in the final stages of editing.

We’ve just started editing another interesting manuscript. Now that I am a Man by Monelo Nxozi is about the charismatic mega churches that operated in the old Ciskei when the author was growing up there. The book is an insider look at that part of the Eastern Cape where so many men are either pastors or what someone refers to as ‘tender pushers’.

In the middle distance, there’s a book by Hans Beukes which has no title yet. It’s part personal story and part history. His focus is the transformation of South West Africa into Namibia. Beukes was born in Rehoboth. While studying at UCT he was offered a scholarship to Oslo University. The authorities refused him a passport. He has now lived in Norway for forty years.

Everyone at Porcupine is looking forward to our scenic driving in the New Year.

Coolie Come Out and Fight : Franschoek Tatler, 01 December 2013

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Branding and Marketing YOU through Teams: Media Update,November 2013

Donna Rachelson presents a must-read for marketers

Published: 19 November 2013

Author Donna Rachelson is a branding and marketing specialist who has gained valuable insights into how teams work together. Luckily, she shares these insights in her second book titled Branding & Marketing You through Teams.

Donna Rachelson presents a must-read for marketers
Packed with real life case studies, inspirational quotes and insights, the book is a must-read for marketers, team leaders and anyone who wants to take their business to the next level.

The impetus for the book was a need to unravel the mystery of what drives an individual to perform well in a team. Rachelson reveals the mystery not through intangible theories but with real-life revelations gained from spending time with a number of South Africa’s high-performing teams.

Rachelson spent many hours with these teams, which include Microsoft Services Management, MTN-Qhubeka, Protea Hotels Group, Sanlam Personal Finance, Gift of the Givers and Demographica.

With a chapter dedicated to each company, the lessons are presented as conversations which are not only easy to follow but provide eye-opening learnings into what, exactly, makes for team brilliance.

Chris Moerdyk says this about Rachelson’s book: “There is no greater way in my opinion, of illustrating the power of marketing and particularly its branding component, than through the use of case histories. And this is what Rachelson does so well. She avoids all the clich├ęs and airy-fairy theory that pervades and obfuscates the marketing industry today and just gets right to where the proof of the marketing pudding lies.”

Rachelson asks the questions that get to nitty-gritty of what excellent teams are all about – across personality types, innate ability to work with others, emotional intelligence and leadership. The insights that struck me the most were the ones from Microsoft and Gift of the Givers. Microsoft’s approach is an anti-hero one, they don’t condone a hero culture where one individual takes the credit.

The Microsoft Services Management team works towards the greater good of the client, even if it means bringing in a competitor to do the work, a concept that throws out the notion of competition and embraces and practices the concept of “co-opetition”. These individuals truly understand the meaning of client service.

Gift of the Givers practices the ideology of total transparency. Even in the media. Founder and chairman Dr Imtiaz Sooliman has a “tell in like it is” approach to media. He repeatedly tells members of the press, “Report what you want to report. Good or bad”.

It is not a provocation, but another example of the organisations’ totally transparent approach. Another salient point that allows the NGO to stand out of the “donation clutter” is to do things quickly. The team shares a common purpose and vision and volunteers for the crisis team are selected with care.

No matter how qualified a person is, selection depends on whether they have the psychological, emotional and physical resilience to deal with trauma, tragedy and disaster response and if that person can truly function as part of a team.

With regards to marketing, the brand identity is one of professionalism and visibility. Each volunteer team member wears a custom-made shirt with the South African flag on the left sleeve. Gift of the Givers functions as a professional organisation where “perfection is not good enough” - the team needs to go beyond this, even in its branding.

Rachelson believes that a good “outro” is as important as a good “intro” and she therefore leaves the reader with an extensive list of her learnings from the teams she interviewed. Branding & Marketing You through Teams is not only a quintessential guide to creating and maintaining a great team but a guide on how to market a company through that team. Valuable reading indeed.

Branding & Marketing You through Teams by Rachelson is available at all good bookstores across South Africa as well as and as an eBook on

Why Israel?: Fordsburg Community Newspaper, September 2013

Why Israel? : Al-Qalam, October 2013

Blaze- The Beginnings:Drum, October 2013

Bob Mabena’s son launches book

Seventeen-year-old Reneiloe Mabena is the latest addition to South Africa’s list of young writers. Reneiloe, better known as Nay, is the son of famous Kaya FM breakfast show host Bob Mabena.
Nay is fast becoming a teen trailblazer, following the launch of his book Blaze, written in the genre of young adult science-fiction. He is a refreshing young talent entering the literary scene, having started writing the seven novel series at the age of 15 on his BlackBerry.
To date he has completed three of the books in the series and is already gaining some respect in literary circles. Zandile Nzalo and Bob Mabena, Nay’s parents who have careers in journalism attribute the success of the book to Nay’s humility and family support. Bob says his son should never forget what he tells him every day when he picks him up from school; “There’s a lot of love here for you, don’t hold back, just keep up the good work”.
Nay and his family have big dreams and they want to see them grow into a valuable brand. They are currently working on securing the rights to turn the story into a PlayStation game. They hope that one day it could be reproduced as a movie and possibly a comic book.
He is also a proud student of St David’s Marist college in Sandton and is highly revered by his English teacher and headmaster, Malcom Williams, who believes that the standard of Nay’s literary project can be equated to the work of Harry Potter author, JK Rowling. “To be a successful writer you need to be imaginative, original, hard-working and entertaining,” he said.
Some of Nay’s friends, who attended the first book launch at Montecasino in Joburg, said they were not completely surprised by the style in which the book was written because it explores many facets of Nay’s personality and they believe they can identify with it. Seventeen-year-old Dean Ralphs, Nay’s classmate, said he was surprised to find out that his friend was launching a book.
“When I get a chance to read it, I’m expecting to see his funny and creative side shine through.” When asked if he thought his friend would start acting differently once he becomes an even bigger success he replied that he doesn’t believe Nay would change because he’s pretty laid back and treats everyone with respect.He
5FM DJ Kabelo “KB” Ngakane, who attended the event with his wife, said he has known Mabena since he was a toddler and shelves his copy of Blaze between his favourite fiction and self-help books.
-DRUM reporter

Blaze- The Beginnings:Read Educational Trust,October 2013

In the Hot Seat with Reneiloe ‘Nay’ Mabena

“In order for true inspiration to be achieved, my innocence must be set free. I can’t think of anything to do with euphemism; it needs to be in its purest form, otherwise I won’t be able to get my message across”, – Reneiloe ‘Nay’ Mabena
Seventeen-year-old  Reneiloe Mabena is the latest addition to South Africa’s list of young black writers, having written and published his first book, Blaze – the beginning. Born on July 31, 1996 to parents Zandile Nzalo and Bob Mabena,  the young man – also known as Nay – took an interest  in writing at a very tender age.
The budding novelist was swept by inspiration to conjure the story of Blaze when he was only 12 years old. His love for television shows and anime led to the need for him to create and bring to life a masterpiece that would combine all the creative thinking behind his favourite shows. He started this journey by drawing comics and that’s when the idea came to life.
A product of IR Griffiths Primary in Blaigowrie, Nay is currently doing his grade 11 at St David’s Marist College in Inanda. His first ambition is to become an animator and his second is to study law.  However writing is his first love and he is inspired by authors such as JK Rowling, Robert Muchamore and Lian Hearn, among others.
Nay is an Ambassador for Readathon and his other interests include playing basketball, rugby, sketching – and he enjoys cooking pasta. He has also completed the St David’s peer counselling programme, a course aimed at assisting students facing difficulties within and outside the school environment. The knowledge gained will provide him with the necessary skills  he will apply as a counsellor in his matric year.

The main character in Blaze – the beginning is Thando, a teenage boy who is possessed by a malevolent spirit. Although this spirit threatens to consume his body, it also gives him special powers, which he discovers he needs when planet Earth comes under threat from aliens. Thando faces a big decision: should he try to free himself from his demons, and risk the destruction of friends and family? Or should he use the demons’ power to save the planet?
The book is available from Porcupine Press’s website at R130, excluding postage, and will appear in major bookshops by November.

Blaze - The Beginning , Youth Village,November 2013

The budding novelist is Reneiloe Mabena, and his book is entitled Blaze – the beginning. The subtitle implies that there’ll be a middle and an end. So already there’s at least a trilogy developing in his youthful head.
Reneiloe, widely known to his friends as ‘Nay’, is a Grade 11 learner at St David’s Marist College in Inanda. His mother, Zandile Nzalo runs her own successful PR company, and his father, Bob Mabena, is the well-known radio presenter from Kaya FM.
The main character in Blaze – the beginning is Thando, a teenage boy who is possessed by a malevolent spirit. Although this spirit threatens to consume his body, it also gives him special powers, which he discovers he needs when planet Earth comes under threat from aliens. Thando faces a big decision. Should he try to free himself from his demons, and risk the destruction of friends and family? Or should he use the demons’ power to save the planet?

The book is available at all leading bookstores.

Leukaemia Unveiled Book Launch

Chanel reading from Leukaemia Unveiled at the book launch. Photo: Photo Addict.

On 9 May 2012 after extensive lobbying of local government the Aloe Igazi Haemotology unit was officially opened. A scant 12 days later the state of the art unit was dealt a body blow as the Eastern Cape Health Department failed to staff the unit with the promised staff of 22 nurses as, despite having advertised and recruited staff it had yet to appoint them as there was a moratorium (on hiring) because there was no money leaving the unit to stand empty.
In the midst of all these shenanigans it seemed that bureaucrats had forgotten their clients – the patients who had to now continue travelling to Cape Town for treatment. One of those who assisted at the 9 May opening and who had undergone extensive treatment in Cape Town was local lass, Chanel Wewege.
At the time I asked Chanel about her diagnosis and she explained that fateful day thus; “It was in early January 2005 that my life changed significantly. I was 17 with long, dark locks of hair and an enthusiastic personality. Young and completely oblivious to most things around me when an excruciating pain in my lower back brought me to Greenacres Hospital in the early hours of what was to be a very scary morning.
“My parents and brother were at my side as the nurses took my blood pressure and temperature. Just as I was about to be sent home with some pain pills, something quite amazing happened – Dr Swart walked by, noticed me on the examination bed and made her way toward us. “Are you always this pale?” she asked. I replied that I was generally pasty and that it had never bothered me before. She then did something unexpected and pricked my finger with a blood sugar needle, we were sent home and told that the results of the blood test would be called through to us.
“At home I immediately fell asleep on the couch and was soon woken by the sound of the phone ringing; Mom started crying and then started packing a bag with my clothes, puzzled and frightened I asked what was going on and all she said was that it was serious and we needed to get to the hospital.
“Back in the hospital trauma section’s office Dr Wickens sat across from us and his lips moved saying; “I am not going to beat around the bush.” I ran out and sat in the passage. A few seconds later I heard Mom scream; “No!!!”
“It was soon revealed to me that I had been diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukaemia, that I had had this disease for six months and that I needed to get to Cape Town as soon as possible. That was the first day I saw my Dad cry and the last time I’d see my Mom the same way ever again.”
At the time Chanel also proudly told me that she was writing a book about her experiences.
Fast forward to Thursday 21 November 2013 at the Galaxy Grill Restaurant in Port Elizabeth, and the launching of Chanel’s book, Leukaemia Unveiled.
Describing her book Chanel says; “If you are seeking a meaning in your own life and want to compare to others to see what it is you lack in yours, read Leukaemia Unveiled. It’s a story of Hope, Survival and the utter Unknown! If you have just been introduced to the disease either in yourself or through a loved one and you are looking for guidance and answers for what’s to come, Leukaemia Unveiled is an easy-to-read in depth look into ‘physically’ enduring this disease.”
When asked why she titled the book Leukaemia Unveiled, Wewege explained; “I wanted to denounce the stigma attached to Cancer. There are survival stories as well as tragedies, I wanted to give people a better insight into what ‘really’ happens when you’re in there. An Unveiling is almost like a ‘setting free’ and that is what I seek to do with this book.”
Fighting cancer can be a very long and lonely road that requires deep self introspection and masses of self confidence, especially in one so young, and Chanel has the following advice to fellow sufferers; “Use every ounce of your being to fight. Never give up! It’s a long, hard road and there will be many unfathomable experiences, but carry on. Faith is the answer, go deep inside your spiritual self and draw from the courage you possess! A lesson I learned in hospital is that there is no truer verse than; God shall not give you a task that He knows you cannot handle.”
I asked Chanel about the large tattoo on her arm and it’s significance; “I lost my father very tragically and I needed to release my anger somehow so I went searching through my dad’s Bible, for one well thumbed page, perhaps the page that he may have read the most and I stumbled upon this verse that he had underlined – and I decided to ink it on. The verse is in Revelations 9:11 – And then I SAW Heaven open, there was a white horse, it’s rider is called; Faithful and True, and it is with Justice that he judges and fights his battles.”

Leukaemia Unveiled is available from Porcupine Press for R150.


Porcupine is undergoing a period of impressive growth. The publishing target we set for the current financial year was twenty new books. By the end of November (that’s for the first nine months of the year) already nineteen new Porcupine books have found their way onto bookshop shelves and book-selling websites. And there are a further fifteen books currently in various stages of production. They’ll all be appearing under the Porcupine imprint early in 2014. Now add to this the more than sixty titles we market and distribute for other parties. It's no wonder we’re bursting out of our converted garage premises.

This growth means that authors and book sellers are taking us seriously. One of the reasons for this is the excellence of our cover designs. Look at the covers pictured here: they’re colourful, inventive, and professional; most of them are done by Porcupine’s designer, Wim Rheeder, who works in Cape Town and sometimes on a farm near Oudtshoorn.

There can be little doubt that the complete range of services offered (and provided) by Porcupine is paying dividends. More and more people are knocking on our door. Many come to us through our website. Increasingly, though, people are being referred by those who have already experienced our professionalism. This certainly tells you something.

 Increasingly, too, Porcupine is stepping into that no-man’s-land between commercial and self-publishing. On selected titles (we select the ones which are the best, the most interesting, and the most saleable) we’re willing to subsidise up-front production costs to assist authors to get into the market. This gives author and publisher a joint stake in the commercial fortunes of the book. Talk to us. 

Notes from Porcupines' 'resident Writer'


Not surprisingly, Oman is full of mosques. Many are of great beauty, built with as much care and attention to detail as the cathedrals of Europe. Some are old and others are new. The Grand Mosque in Oman is only a dozen years old. The vintage of others takes the mind back into the long reaches of Middle Eastern history.

But the frequency of them soon engages the attention. We went to Sur, an ancient port city perched on the Omani coast as it turns left into the Persian Gulf. We saw men building dhows according to the traditional method. We stood close to the water, looking back at the city as it stretched around a placid bay. I noticed seven mosques, which I could easily photograph without moving my position. And I noticed, perhaps prosaically, that while they were immediately recognisable as mosques, they were all different.

Of course the Islamic faith is similarly configured. In Oman, the Ibadhi are in the majority, followed by the Sunni, with Shi’a making up a definite minority. Within these main divisions are quite a few others.

But it was in particular the differing designs of the minarets, sometimes looking like rockets and sometimes like elongated wedding cakes, that seemed to point into the heart of the dangers of too glib generalisation and equally of attempts at a too rigid uniformity. It was the same with the dhows. They were immediately recognisable as dhows, but they were also all different in their detail.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Customer Centric Blueprint: Destiny Men, November 2013

Blaze - The beginnings: Daily sun, October 2013

Blaze - The beginnings: Sowetan, October 2013

Blaze - The Beginning: Drum Magazine, November 2013

Notes from Porcupine’s ‘resident writer’

I have now returned from the Middle East. I can report that Oman is extremely wealthy and ordered, and that Iran, in its geography and its past, is majestic.
In Oman’s capital city of Muscat, there is a massive place of worship called the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. This Sultan (Qaboos bin Said) has ruled Oman since the early 1970s. Everywhere, there is evidence of his lavish spending on the country he has so successfully ruled. The national Opera House, an edifice of white marble, is an imposing example. But the Grand Mosque is the pinnacle.
          My guide gave me some of the facts. It took six years to build, finally opening in 2001. The main minarets rear nearly 50 metres into Muscat’s deep blue sky. Inside the main space hangs a sparkling chandelier weighing 8,5 tons; and on the floor at 60 by 70 metres is the world’s largest carpet, comprising 1700-million knots and 28 colours. The carpet had been made in Iran by 600 people working fulltime for four years. The grandeur of the place – the acres of intricate mosaic, the symmetry of stained glass, the vistas from the formal gardens – reminded me of another place of worship I had visited some years before.
          The Basilica Notre-Dame de la Paix, the largest cathedral in Christendom, reared out of the African bush at Yamoussoukro, nominal capital of Cote d’Ivoire. This place of worship had also been built by a successful leader. In one of the stained-glass windows, Felix Houphouet-Boigny (president of Cote d’Ivoire from 1960 to 1993) is depicted kneeling before Christ, his arms outstretched is if in offering. ‘He is giving the church to God,’ someone had told me.
          The Grand Mosque was almost certainly a gift that had been given in similar humility. It struck me that these impulses, expressed by Christian and Muslim alike, bound the worshippers of the world together in a simple knot. But the thought seemed not to accord with reality.
          I asked my guide how much the Grand Mosque had cost to build. He smiled. ‘I always give the same answer,’ he said. ‘Only God knows.’

David Robbins.    

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Notes from Porcupine's 'resident writer'

I began writing in my teens and got a short story published when I was nineteen. I’ve been writing ever since, and I’ve just published my 20th book, a collection of stories entitled Oblique Light – published by Porcupine Press, of course.

These days, I write and work in my study which is directly above the Porcupine Office. My job at Porcupine is rather grandly named: I’m the Editorial Adviser. In practice, this means that I deal with authors who make contact with us. There are several of these each day, sometimes more. This has opened a window onto a world I know well. It is a world of writing and aspiration and often of long apprenticeship. It look me around 25 years of writing before my first book appeared in print. I must admit I enjoy my email conversations with other writers. I also enjoy looking at their work. Porcupine offers a free assessment service, and I’m usually the person who makes the assessments. The range of writing proficiency is quite as wide as the subjects with which the writing deals. I find it particularly interesting to remember how terrible I was when I began, and how slow and painstaking my progress has been over the years. I suppose one’s apprenticeship never really ends.

As well as chatting to authors about their work, I also do some editing of manuscripts – normally the ones that particularly interest me. And I even lay out actual books in InDesign, a software package I am gradually beginning to understand. There’s nothing quite as pleasing as a neat page of black type on a white or cream-coloured page. I often think, when I admire the prowess built into the software, of the early days of printing, the idea of moveable type and the massive impact on our lives that invention presaged.

With all this Porcupine work, do I have any time for my own writing? The answer is: yes, I do. I am never without a project. Later this month, I am travelling to the Middle East to work on my latest one. Perhaps I’ll write a few notes from Muscat or Iran in the days to come.

David Robbins.    

Writer 2000: Bedfordview News, March 2013

Customer-Centric Blueprint: Business Brief, October 2013

Coolie come out and fight: Natal Witness, October 2013

Coolie come out and fight: Cape Times, September 2013

Coolie come out and fight: Tame Times,July 2013

Over The Moon:Weigh-Less,September 2013

Why Israel?: Lenasia Times, May 2013

The case for sanctions against apartheid Israel: Pretoria News, March 2013

Mahawaqa Revealed: Natal Witness, July 2013

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Book Review on Eich-Me-Real-Da by Prof. Anton Muller

Prof. Anton Muller
Eich-me-real-da, Elizabeth and Eliza were good friends at university, but as is wont to happen and despite the best of intentions, they eventually lost regular contact.  The reader joins the three ladies at a reunion breakfast (Elizabeth’s celebration of the big 50) where Elizabeth and her husband soon excuse themselves and depart , leaving  Eliza and Eich-me-real-da to catch up by exchanging a few notes in the margin. The life story of Eich-me-real-da unfolds along the lines of the men she gets involved with in her life, from Jacobus the dentist whom she married as a somewhat inexperienced lady (and prematurely lost due to his untimely death), and key encounters with men (her “convenient research samples”) (p. 34) who “assisted” her in the practical exploration of her feminine sensuality (the accumulation of her so-called erotic portfolio and her erotic capital (p. 34)).  The reader therefore meets Ahmed in Egypt (Chapter 5), Christos in Athens in Greece (Chapter 6), a blond Adonis in Sodwana (Chapter 7) and the silver-haired fox (Chapter 9). Chapter 8 refers to an interlude in Beijing, a precious experience “... not meant to be shared” (p. 127).  What happened in Beijing , remains in Beijing ...

After the passing of Jacobus and an unmistakeable awareness of a sensuality that did not reach full bloom in their relationship, Eich-me- a-real-da, as she states “... consciously became aware of the possibilities my senses posed. I decided to embark on a lifelong pursuit of pleasure. I chose to start to celebrate my sensuality!” (p. 31).  In this exploration, Eich-me-real-da commences with research on the sensual experiences of women and the outcomes of this research are reported and presented in Chapters 2, 3 and 4. In Chapter 2 a journey begins that commences with magazines for women and culminates in Chapter 3 where the concept of erotic capital is explored and illustrated employing a number of key resources and publications. In Chapter 4 the literature review is continued and augmented by visits to “sensuality boutiques” that provide literature and play products aimed at increasing sensual and erotic pleasure.  As the sensual exploration progressed, Eich-me-real-da’s  asset register had grown accordingly (p. 91). 

To stimulate and involve the reader, each chapter ends with a few pointers: an aphrodisiac, a Kama Sutra tip, suggestions for mood music, and a recipe for an appropriate cocktail.  Each chapter is also dedicated to the experiences that women typically make. The reader does of course soon come to the realisation that the novelette does not simply stagnate on the sensual level. The sensual level is but one dimension of a more profound canvas that relates to self-empowerment and self-knowledge that Eich-me-real-da is seeking and that she encourages other women to find (p. 31). An exploration of female sensuality (justified in its own right) is just a beginning, the foreground that aims at the empowerment of women as final destination: “I want to assist women to take control of their own sexual destiny at the moment of sensual awakening, or at the very least, to ignite sufficient curiosity to empower themselves with knowledge. Knowledge empowers one and provides one with the confidence to make informed decisions” (p. 157/158).

Cherylene writes easily and tends like Jilly Cooper to produce the so-called “one-liner” with an own dexterity.  The word play is at times subtle and at other times leaves little to the imagination:  “I had a screaming orgasm with a view of the Acropolis!” (p. 108). The novelette presents a pleasant reading experience, subtle, at other times hilarious, but never crude.  The ladies (and in some cases men!) will be swept up by Eich-me-real-da’s research and relationship journey through life in the interest of achieving (self)knowledge and (self)empowerment for every woman.  

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Porcupine has blog and facebook pages

After a long dormancy, due largely to lack of capacity in the start-up phases of the business, Porcupine Press now has an active on-line presence. Its facebook page and blog-site are up and running, thanks to the active involvement of Gabisile Dladla.

Gabisile, who understands the power of these communication tools, has long shown an interest in Porcupine. ‘Now, at last,’ Clare-Rose said, ‘we’ve been able to engage her on a part-time basis. Her inputs have already made a significant impact on our internet presence.’

Feel free to visit Porcupine’s facebook page for news on new titles, new authors, new services, and a whole lot of general chitchat about books and writers and publishing.

Planned for the future is a more or less regular column from Porcupine’s ‘writer in residence’ David Robbins. David serves as editorial adviser for Porcupine. He’s also an accomplished writer, having published with several major commercial publishing houses for more than 20 years before moving to Porcupine.