Pandemic Novels, NFTs, Wattpad, Forgotten Books, UCT Library

Weekly musings on writers and writing, from Conked


Update from Rand

I have such fond memories of my times on the University of Cape Town campus, nestled on the slope of Table Mountain in South Africa. Sadly, some of the buildings were caught in a bushfire a few days ago that destroyed the Jagger Library. I used to study middle ages English there. Much history has been lost. It’s a reminder to us all that life is fleeting.

Things have also been moving at a rapid pace with the On Deck Fellowship, which has now started its third fellowship. I wish all Fellows well on their journey. Good news for fiction-writing Fellows is that one of our own and an alumni with me of ODW1, Matias Sanchez Sarmiento, has joined the team.

It’s been a big week for serialisation. Amazon has announced its serialisation platform, Kindle Vella, and Wattpad, which specialises in serialisation has announced its first Netflix series. I’d originally thought of serialising via Conked but feel that I’d obtain much more reach with Kindle Vella.

When I was more involved in the tech space the concept of mentoring was widespread. I’m intrigued by the writer’s mentoring landscape, especially for fiction writers. Farhana Shaikh, Managing Editor at Dahlia Publishing set up a two-year professional development scheme to support early-career writers take the next step. She wanted to help writers break out of the endless loop of workshops, while never progressing to publication. She discovered that the two biggest barriers were a lack of confidence and no access to professional support networks. She set up mentor-led masterclasses, which gave writers an opportunity to experiment with new creative approaches while unlearning what they’d simply picked up about what being a writer means. The overall scheme, though, was mentee-led, which meant writers could arrange one on one mentoring sessions as and when they needed them. Not only has she had much success in the UK with her program, The Middle Way Mentoring Project, but she has also called on other publishers to support such grassroots projects.

Lastly, from me, I’ve conked a piece on NFT’s, but also note that Wiley, the publishing house, has teamed with author Jon Fisher to create an NFT author trading card. It is part of a promotion for his forthcoming title, I Took the Only Path to See You. Is this the future for book marketing and promotion?

The first wave of pandemic novels is beginning in earnest, with Gary Shteyngart at the helm

Walker Caplan | Literary Hub | 16 April 2021

We will soon have a new epidemic - a wave of new novels staring Covid-19 and the impacts on the lives of the protagonists. "The latest writer to be infected" is Gary Shteyngart, whose novel 'Our Country Friends' follows the effects on friendships and relationships of a group who have created their own bubble in upstate New York. Then there is a collaboration edited by Margaret Atwood, with authors John Grisham, Dave Eggers, Diana Gabaldon, and more about neighbours in Manhattan exchanging stories on a rooftop when the rich have left the city for safer remote areas. We can expect more books after the life-changing experience of a pandemic that has swept our world. (342 words)

Could NFTs Work in Publishing?

Bill Rosenblatt | Publishers Weekly | 16 April 2021

Nonfungible tokens (or NFTs) are in the news a lot lately, even more so because they were used to sell a digital artwork for $69 million at auction. A form of blockchain technology, often used in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin NFTs represents a unique object vs a form of currency and just one person can buy or sell the object. While artworks can be owned, digital artwork like the one sold can still be viewed by others, so the 'owner' really just has 'bragging rights." As for books, the applications are not yet clear, especially with the need for rights holders to assign permission and the requirement for regulation around various uses. (1,395 words)

Canada’s Wattpad Has First Film Project With Netflix

Porter Anderson | Publishing Perspectives | 15 April 2021

Hot on the heels of the news about Amazon launching its Kindle Vella serialisation platform, now Wattpad has announced its first serial-based film deal with Netflix. It is based on Wattpad writer Ariana Godoy's A través de mi ventana (Through My Window) that attracted over 176 million reads, meaning a built-in audience. On Wattpad, YA is extremely popular with their audience - weighted to Generation Z and millennials, mostly female. The book was acquired by Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial and distributed to Spain, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and through partners in Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama, and beyond - expanding that audience to those who loved the book. (805 words)

The Novel as a Long Alto Saxophone Solo

Lucy Scholes | The Paris Review | 19 April 2021

Lucy Scholes has a column in Paris Review where she writes about those books that we have forgotten or that are long out of print. This Re-covered article celebrates the work of Carlene Hatcher Polite and her debut novel 'The Flagellats' and her subsequent and final novel Sister X and the Victims of Foul Play. Her debut was initially published in French in 1966, then in the original English in 1967. The French edition received far higher praise from critics than the English edition, although it was clear others could see "this young Black woman’s singular, if still rather raw and emergent, talent." (2,767 words)

The University of Cape Town’s African Studies Library, ravaged by wildfire, needs your help.

Walker Caplan | Literary Hub | 21 April 2021

Over last weekend, a wildfire destroyed the University of Cape Town's Jagger Reading Room, the location of printed and audiovisual material on African studies, rare manuscripts, film collections, and personal papers. Several other buildings on campus were also destroyed. Now there is a call out to any archivists who worked with the special collections to assess if they have any materials they have digitized. The article contains a link to a Google form for academics to input information as well as a link to a relief fund. Such a tragic loss of materials is heartbreaking. (237 words)


“Reading is entering into the consciousness of another human being.”
Gary Shteyngart

This post is only for subscribers of Conked, but please feel free forward it to any friends who deserve some entertainment today, especially if you think they might be interested in becoming Conked subscribers in the future.

Rand Leeb-du Toit, Conkerer

Editorial comments and conk suggestions to the Conkerer:

Conked is an EXOscalr House venture.