Sunday, July 02, 2006

Voice of SA children’s writers muted on the Internet

Yesterday a friend of mine sent me a lead to a writing project by the SA Department of Arts and Culture. They are looking for someone to compile content for a book they intend to publish on outstanding works of literature by women.

I don’t think the project is something I can undertake considering the demands of my fulltime job as a journalist and my own projects as a children’s writer, but it got me thinking: I don’t know as much about South African writers and their works as I should.

For the purpose of this blog, I will restrict myself to children’s writers and literature, although the sentiment actually covers a broader spectrum of South African literature. (blame it on the fact that I was not an English Lit. major)

Anyway, I have always found the Internet to be a good start when I’m looking for people, contact details, buildings, anything really.

So I decided to start by Googling the most famous SA children’s writer I could think of(Gcina Mhlope ) and learn more about her titles. If I found something interesting, I would follow links to her publishers and get purchasing information, maybe even buy something for my daughter.

A number of entries came up from my google search, including a detailed Wikipedia entry, but I could not find Gcina’s web site or blog. After an hour of searching, using derivatives of her name, I gave up. Evidence was mounting that she did not have a web site.

I looked up other well-known writers – including Dianne Case, Dianne Hofmeyr, Jenny Robsonand Chris Van Wyk.

The bibliographies I did find - published by other institutions to promote a specific project they are involved with - did not always give synopses of their books and/ whether the books was still in print and/how one could purchase a copy.

Obviously, I could go to the bookshop and look for whatever is available, but I think writers can use technology to help parents become more knowledgeable about their books. They can build a communication channel with their readers and help make the decision to buy easier.

South Africa writers can also use technology to tell our stories to the rest of the world, so our legends and contemporary stories also become part of the Western bedtime story culture.

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