Inside MAI Blog: Thoughts on global publishing

The Sea, Stars and Creative Process in South Africa

A writing and publishing workshop started yesterday near the southern tip of the African continent. Twenty-five men and women from South Africa and Namibia have gathered at Wortelgat Conference Centre near Hermanus, South Africa.

Some of us trainers arrived a day early: Lawrence Darmani of Ghana, Pauline Hoggarth of Scotland, Heather Johnston and Estelle Kruger of South Africa, and me. So, my day actually began with a 10-kilometer run to the beach on the Indian Ocean. Allen Goddard of the A Rocha Christian environmental ministry, which organized the workshop with MAI, invited me to join him in the 6:30 a.m. jaunt.

We actually got lost on the way back through the sand dunes and vegetation. But it didn’t matter, because the participants wouldn’t arrive until later that day. When they did reach Wortelgat Conference Centre near Hermanus, South Africa, a different kind of journey began—an intense trek toward what we hope will be increased writing skills and the ultimate publication of articles and books by the men and women gathered here.

Many voiced their expectations for the workshop in the opening session. Things like:
*I want to write a book about reconciliation and finish it.
*I want to learn to write expositionally.
*I hope to distill the essence of the story I want to write.
*I want to grow in the gift of writing, so that others may grow and love God.
*I want to be inspired.
*I want to be more disciplined in my creative work.

We got off to a fast, thought-provoking start with presentations by highly regarded South African writer and educator Jonathan Jansen. A columnist for two South African newspapers and rector of the University of the Free State, Jansen described his role and writings in the pursuit of racial restoration and reconciliation in South Africa.

Writers in South Africa must ask themselves three questions, he said: How do you write honestly about complicity? How do you write simply about complexity? How do you write hopefully about calamity?

Asked how he confronts people guilty of racism or discrimination, Jonathan said, “I never tell people how bad they are; I start with how broken I am.”

On a lighter note, someone asked Jonathan how he finds time to write as a busy university president. Jonathan patted his stomach. “You can probably tell I like to eat. I also love to write. But nobody ever asks me, “How do you find time to eat?”

Jonathan did say he rises at 4 a.m. every morning for 3 hours of writing before he goes to his “day job.”

After the evening session, my day ended much as it began: enjoying the wonder of God’s creation. Spread across the night sky was the most marvelous display of stars that I have ever seen with the naked eye. The Milky Way spread half-way across the sky. One of the participants, John Roff, directed my vision to the Southern Cross, Orion and other constellations and stars.

May God the Creator inspire and equip these South African writers to compose words of beauty that display his glory like the rolling ocean and the glowing stars.

Photos above: Wortelgat Outreach Trust

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