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Sarah Britten

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

When blogging is bad for your health

I have reached the conclusion that blogging is bad for my health. Not only does it encourage me to hunch over a laptop and peer at a screen, thus exacerbating chronic back, neck and shoulder pain, it’s also bad for my mental equilibrium.

Frankly, blogging is bloody depressing. It’s soul-destroying when your blog doesn’t attract reads. It’s devastating when it sinks down the Amatomu rankings. And even if it does attract comments, usually a sign that what you have written has resonated with someone, somewhere, it rapidly descends into nasty personal attack and ignores the issue at hand.

So why do it? Why subject oneself to needless torment when one’s time could be used far more productively in other endeavours, like doing the ironing or cooking two weeks’ supply of lentils (if you freeze them, they last really well).

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Do bloggers have to like their readers?

Should bloggers like their readers? This is something that has worried me a little – not a lot, you understand; there are so many other, more important things worth developing an ulcer over – ever since I started blogging.

Since the advantage of blogging over other forms of writing is its interactivity, the comments facility is central to a good blog, and one that in many ways provides its raison d’etre. So what does a blogger do about his or her readers? What if the comments on one’s blog end up defining and positioning one’s writing by default?

Writing a blog on South African insults was always going to be a tricky proposition. I knew this was always a risk, that I would end up being some kind of poster girl for the type of person who writes letters to the Citizen signed “Candida Pax”, but it really came home to me on an interview on Weekend Live, when I was asked why targeted the ANC and whether I was a member of the DA. I was so appalled I changed the subject.

Reading over the comments on The South African Insult, it would appear that most of my readers, at the least the ones who feel moved to respond in writing, veer toward the conservative end of the spectrum (and that’s putting it delicately). As John Robbie of 702 might say, there’s nothing wrong with that, though there are those comments which I find racist, even offensive (collecting insults, it should be noted, does not inure one to their effect). I resist the temptation to edit or remove any genuine comment because to do so would be hypocritical, and hope that readers will be able to separate my quotes and the comments on them from me personally.

Make no mistake, I am very grateful to and appreciative of my readers, even if there are points on which we disagree vehemently. But when there’s no balance, it’s a little worrying. I’d love a comment from the odd liberal or black nationalist. Just to even things out a little.

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I think I would like to be famous

I think I would like to be famous. I really would, because it would mean that I was successful and my books were selling and I was making money. I think that would be quite nice.

Charlene Smith has her doubts about fame though. “I’ve been in journalism long enough to have some name recognition and, regrettably, face recognition too,” she writes. Fame is fleeting, and it sets people up for disappointment when they meet the object of their admiration. Besides, your readers will never know all of you.

I found this article surprising because I’ve never really associated “fame” with writers, not in South Africa at any rate, where writers remain largely invisible. (Does Spud author John Van der Ruit get mobbed by groupies wherever he goes? I doubt it, simply because most people don’t know what he looks like.) Fame is for people like Khanyasile Mbau. How many writers anywhere become famous, really famous in the Lindsay Lohan, cellulite in the pages of Heat magazine sense? Or even major celebrities? Jeffrey Archer is one, perhaps, or JK Rowling. Maybe Jackie Collins.

Charlene Smith says she never keeps any of her articles or watches any of her interviews. I find that strange too: how else to, if not remember what you once did, then at least show someone else? I left a mark upon the world: I wrote something and it was read; here is the proof. I am far too self-conscious to read any of my own writing once it is published, and for the same reason, I never, ever watch my interviews. But my family faithfully cut out every copy and file it away, evidence of the achievements of their offspring.

Ah, that weasel word, achievement. I’d still settle for the writerly version of fame, name, if not face recognition. Sales. A nice fat bank balance and a house in Languedoc-Rousillon with a nice view, and all the freedom in the world to write, do nothing but write.

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A book lunch

lunchYesterday I had lunch with a few choice media people to announce the launch of the new book, McBride of Frankenmanto: the Return of the South African Insult. Scintillating discussion topics included evil subeditors who write headlines that get writers into trouble, and why Andrew Donaldson calls Ronald Suresh Roberts “Kevin”.

In the shot, from left to right: Andrew Donaldson, Sunday Times columnist, who first created Frankenmanto; me; Jane Lewis of 30 Degrees South, my publishers; the one and only David Bullard; Oliver Roberts, who writes for the Sunday Times Lifestyle; Pippa of Women and Home and James Clarke, long time columnist for The Star.

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The dog ate my book!

dogXian, the wicked book-eating dog.

Today I presented my mother with a copy of my new book, McBride of Frankenmanto: The Return of the South African Insult. This evening, as I was filling my car ahead of the 43c petrol price hike, I read an sms from my brother informing me that my parents’ mad chow chow, Xian, had eaten said book.

My brother says that I should take this as an endorsement, as Xian only eats books he likes.


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A Moosa good show

I saw Riaad Moosa’s one man show, Strictly Halaal, on Saturday night, and was very impressed. It can’t be easy to fill such a big theatre, yet tickets were sold out for this show and all of the others.

There was a lot of new material (probably the biggest challenge for local comedians), though the joke that got the biggest laugh was one of his old ones: “The only time an Indian holds a rugby ball is when he’s putting a price on it.”


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The Wonders of Berocca Calcium

This morning a colleague, the analytics director of the marketing services agency where I work, very kindly let me have his last Berocca Calcium. It was a genuinely merciful gesture, because I have developed something of a pschologically dependent relationship with Berocca. It tastes foul, it doesn’t always dissolve properly if you drop the tablet into too little water, but it works.

Ah, Berocca. A product I grew up loathing because my mother used to force me to drink the odd glass. At high school, I used BioPlus syrup – once decanting almost an entire bottle into my plastic juice bottle in order to survive my final Std 9 practical art exam – but eventually had to give it up because all that caffeine gave me heart palpitations.


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Welcome to the Sarah Britten Blog

Sarah BrittenWelcome to my blog! The fact that it is up is nothing short of a miracle, since I am something of a virtuoso in the art of procrastination. Also, I was stuck in a lift for over an hour on Friday, drove all the way to Bela-Bela for a writing workshop before I realised I’d left my laptop at home, and my credit card keeps being rejected.

In fact, one of my motivations for wanting a blog is to force myself into accountability. A blog is at least publicly visible, which implies a certain obligation to get something written on a vaguely regular basis. Currently, I have three novels in various stages of undevelopment, and I am working on a companion volume to The Art of the South African Insult, which, all things being equal, will be out by this Christmas.


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