Wednesday, 21 August 2013

In Good Company

This morning, very cranky after the teens partied just about all night, I opened an envelope on the table. This is what I found inside:

This story was accepted around two years ago - perhaps more - and highlights the exquisite pain of being a short story writer. Previously, I had very ambitiously sent it to The Paris Review, and received my copy back with squiggles and crosses over it. I had the feeling it was some college graduate with a heavy hand and flicking pen. Rejection. Oh well. This is when Catherine-the-secretary kicks in. Revision. Review. New horizons. A new submission.

As the story deals with neo-colonialism in West Africa, I decided to try a review I used to subscribe to called Wasafiri. Fat chance. The story talks about Eugene, a failed British Ghanaian doctor, who travels home to assist his dying sister. Recently left by his girlfriend, he experiences his tropical homeland in a fray of discomfort and pain, reflecting at length on the failure of the independent government, on his sister's malady, the phony aid workers dotted throughout the country, the tricky power his old mother still has over him. And a terrible, irreparable secret he holds close to his soul.

Surprise. A year of so later I received a reply. They liked it. But it was way too long. Could I cut down by a third? Whaat? I tell you, I learnt more about words in that edit than I did in the whole 300-page-long experience of my novel edit last year. Judging, weighing up. What really counts, what adds to what you want to say. What do you want to say anyway?

It's one of my favourite stories. The first big piece I wrote after returning from Ghana to Europe. It means a lot. And as our household hero Ngugi wa Thiong'o is one of the esteemed members of the editorial boards, I decided I was going to get in there by hook or by crook.

And I did! Formal acceptance came a long while back, and now finally the review is here on my desk. With my name on the same page as my hero Ngugi wa Thiong'o (I'm not silly enough to print it here, but just believe me.) I even went up to Ngugi to have a dog-eared copy of 'Devil on the Cross' signed at the last Mantova Book Festival, and shyly said I had a story coming out in Wasafiri.

A wondering smile. A wonderful man. You can download 'Infection' through this link. And in next month's Wasafiri you can read Ngugi's compelling introductory article on Mazrui and Achebe, full of memories and reflections about the art and politics of these two great intellectuals of Africa.

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More astounding news from the ranch. PELT AND OTHER STORIES IS UP FOR PRE-ORDER! Here is the author-friendly link to my publisher where you can order a copy. It is also up on Amazon and will later be coming out in the USA and Australia, and well as a Kindle version. Publishing date is 2nd September 2013. More news on events shortly.

Excitement! This Corsican queen is organising her blog tour and book launch with a glass of Pastis..


  1. Ordered!
    And I am so looking forward to receiving it.
    You deserve this success Catherine. I am cheering LOUD for you. x

    1. Oh Yvonne thank you! It has been a really long road - as most short story writers know. I'm feeling so blessed for a mo', just waiting for review o'clock! Xcat