Notes from NCTE

NCTE was held in St. Louis this year. The view wasn’t so bad.

November was a busy month here at Catalyst/Story Press Africa HQ. Our authors were shining at other blogs and getting stellar reviews for their great work. Meanwhile, our publisher, editor,  and general get-things-done-er, Jessica has been pretty busy, too. She’s been donning her cloak (she switched the cape out for it) at readings and conferences across the country in promotion for her new book, Broken Circle (Akashic Books), with (of course) a healthy dose of Catalyst thrown in.

The sibling duo at this year’s NCTE conference.


Most recently, Jessica and her co-author (her brother Matt) were at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference and the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) in St. Louis. Jessica presented on books and social justice at NCTE, and the duo were also being awesome on a panel at ALAN. And two of our books, We Kiss Them With Rain and Shaka Rising were presented in front of nearly 600 educators at ALAN.

And you know what? You know why we do this thing we do? Why we play with words, arranging and rearranging them, turning them over, just to make sure that for a minute, for a page, for a paragraph, for a sentence someone gets to find themselves in book? I could tell you, but I think Matt said it way better than I could on the panel.

In recounting his struggles with reading as a child and how much teachers, storytellers, and people who love literature can make a difference in helping a kid see themselves in words, Matt (beautifully) said:

“In your classrooms, you are a family. You can help give kids who need it an identity, a story of themselves, that helps them make it.”

That’s why we do it. Every reader was that kid once, and maybe still is. Each of our books, from the darkest crime novel to an educational graphic novel, is about reaching a reader.

One thing I’ve always loved is hearing one of our authors, Martin Steyn (Dark Traces) talk about what got him into writing. It was reading Stephen King and losing himself in that world that made want to create that feeling for someone else. It’s unbearably cool that we get to do that here, that we get to share stories and let storytellers do their thing.

Story Press Africa in the Publisher Spotlight Booth at NCTE.

Chanette Paul Guest Posts at Crime Thriller Hound

Chanette Paul’s newest release, the continent and era spanning thriller Sacrificed was featured as the book of the week at the site Crime Thriller Hound, a site promoting “the best in crime and thriller fiction.” She was also invited to write a guest post for the site on her experiences of writing and place.

Some highlights:

On writing about Belgium:

Once I started writing, it dawned on me that I wasn’t so much a novelist attempting to set a story in a foreign European country, but rather a novelist from Africa writing from an African perspective.

On bridging the gap between South African and foreign readers:

The historic and political context needed clarification to an international audience without stunting the flow of the story –which is difficult enough – but I also had to avoid boring my South African readers.

On writing about her home:

I learned to look through intercontinental eyes and rediscover the mystery and uniqueness of the continent I live on and love.

Head over to Crime Thriller Hound to read her full essay

#WritingCrime Wrap-up

On October 10, we hosted a Twitter conversation between Brussels Noir editor Michel Dufranne ( and our own Chanette Paul (). These two great writers were talking all things #WritingCrime. We’re hoping that this first of many author conversations we host. If you missed their chat, here are a few highlights:

On what makes Belgium such an intriguing setting for their work:

SacrificedChanette: As my Mom was Dutch I’ve always had a great interest in the Low Countries and understand the language. That made it easier to try and figure out how Belgians think, how they see the world. The parallels between the Belgian Congo and South Africa’s apartheid years made a perfect background for my story. The parallels between the Belgian Congo and South Africa’s apartheid years made a perfect background for my story. South Africa’s current problems strongly echo the consequences after the Belgian Congo became independent.

Michel: Brussels is a concentrate of diversities: a city as large as a village, 1 million inhabitants capital of EU and NATO, a French-speaking city in the heart of Flanders, a city made up of a multitude of communities. Like any cocktail the mix can be indigestible and explosive. Perfect for

On bringing social issues into crime writing:

Chanette: I want to entertain, not to educate. If something can be learned from my books it is a bonus. However, it would please me if Sacrificed gives insight into the complicated and conflicted life we live in South Africa/Africa. If it draws attention to the grey areas between white and black, good and evil, good intentions and bad intentions.

Michel: [I’m tired] of hearing the international media say “Brussels decided…” Brussels can’t be summarized in its role as the capital of the EU. Brussels is my city. Brussels is complex.

On love of place:

Chanette: Sacrificed explores to a great extend how one can still deeply love a country that has turned inside out. How you can love a country that has been become so dangerous the free live barricaded behind bars? But it also explores what happens when one feels a country has been stolen from you, how you view descendants and accomplices of the thieves that stole your country and mistreated its inhabitants. It explores one’s inexplicable emotional entanglement with your place of birth.

Michel: I have the right to criticize my mother, but anyone who wants to criticize her must be wary because I will defend her!

On Diversity in Crime Fiction and Beyond

Michel: It’s a recent and social fight. Most of the time heroes are white people. For young readers some projects integrate more diversity of society (e.g. Seuls), but it’s the same for all “archetypes;” There’s no fat heroes, there are few women…

Advice for young female writers entering the genre:

Chanette: Be brave! Write and believe in yourself and what you have to say.


Sacrificed is available for purchase now at Amazon and IndieBound. Visit Akashic Books for more information on Brussels Noir, and their entire Noir series.




Jessica Powers Interviewed by Literary Ashland

Check out this great interview with the awesome publisher/editor/writer/teacher/have we missed anything? Jessica Powers over at Literary Ashland! Some highlights:

On choosing the name Catalyst:

Books are my friends, my mentors, my spiritual advisors and my spiritual practice, my intellectual stimulation, my downtime. I believe strongly in the power of books to change individuals and, by changing individuals, to change communities and institutions and perhaps even nations. So I do see my books as a “catalyst for change,” specifically, change in mindset, values, and understandings of North Americans & Europeans towards Africa and Africans.

On leaving academia:

When you have a real passion for research and writing academic articles and books, then those expectations don’t feel like a burden—but for me, they were a burden. I was grateful for my time there and very grateful for the mentors I had, but I felt freed upon leaving—freed to do what I am really called to do in life, which is to write, and also to help others write.

On what she looks for as a publisher:

I want to publish and read books that are fast reads, on the one hand, but layered with multiple and complex meanings.

Check out the complete interview at Literary Ashland.

Women in Translation Month, Futhi Ntshingila

We’ve loved seeing all of the awesome women being spotlighted as part of this year’s Women in Translation Month. Such an incredible and diverse group of writers. We’d like to introduce you to our own writers who are working in translation. You can read our first post here. Continue reading “Women in Translation Month, Futhi Ntshingila”

Women in Translation Month, Chanette Paul

In her post introducing this year’s Women in Translation Month, the event’s creator

People learning about the publishing imbalance in translation between men and women. People seeking out new and diverse literature by women writers from around the world. And people doing it not out of any sense of obligation or guilt, but because there are so many good books that this just becomes a month that focuses their reading.

It’s not just about this August, or next August, but about celebrating diverse literature every day. Expanding just one month’s reading list can open up a world of possibilities, of viewpoints, of ideas. It’s what we hope our books do for our readers, and, more to the point, what we hope reading does. We step outside of our lives every time we open a book, and whether that new experience brings us joy, or thrills, or sadness, or knowledge, we leave with more understanding. Now, more than ever, we need to look towards diverse voices and perspectives in art and listen to their stories.

As part of Women in Translation Month, we’d like to introduce you to some of our authors who are working in translation. First up, Chanette Paul:

Chanette is a South African author of more than 40 books in her native language Afrikaans. On October 10, we are pleased to release her first English-language novel Sacrificed (translated by Elsa Silke), a translation of Offerlam. Sacrificed follows Caz Colijn from the Congo’s diamond mines to Belgium’s finest art galleries, and from Africa’s civil unrest to its deeply spiritual roots in her search for the truth about her trouble past.

Continue reading “Women in Translation Month, Chanette Paul”

Interview with Catalyst Founder Jessica Powers

While at the recent ALA Conference, our superhero founder Jessica Powers took some time out to speak with Lisa Degliantoni from the podcast The Lisa D Show.

Their conversation covers Jessica’s road from African Studies PhD student to independent publisher (with a few stops along the way for teaching, motherhood, novel-writing and publishing, a long-time career as an editor, and, well, all the life that happened in between). Have a listen!





Tales from Booth 3120A: Catalyst Press at ALA Annual Conference

I’m going to pick just a few words to describe Catalyst’s weekend at the American Librarian Association‘s Annual Conference. Here goes: Authors, diversity, publishers, and superheroes. Stick with me. Continue reading “Tales from Booth 3120A: Catalyst Press at ALA Annual Conference”

Excerpt from Chanette Paul’s Novel Sacrificed

In Chanette Paul’s US debut, Sacrificed, we meet Caz Colijn, a woman whose quiet and secluded life is interrupted by new discoveries from her troubled past. Many thanks to Books Live for featuring this excerpt:

17 January 1961
Katanga, Congo

The night air reeked of savanna dust, sweat and fear. Of betrayal, greed and the thirst for power. A stench Ammie knew well.

César’s left hand gripped her arm. The right hand was clenched around her jaw.

“Watch, bitch,” he hissed in her ear. “Watch!”

Elijah stood under an acacia, a hare in the headlights. It was new moon. At the fringes of the pale smudge between somewhere and nowhere loomed the vague shapes of more trees. Somewhere to the left something rustled in the tall grass. A jackal howled in the distance, its mate echoing the mournful cry.

A command rang out, followed by the distinct sound of four rifles being cocked. She wanted to close her eyes but she kept staring as if her eyelids were starched.

Elijah coughed and spat out a gob of bloody mucus. His vest, once white, was smeared with soil, sweat, saliva, blood. One shoe was missing. He wasn’t looking at the soldiers with their rifles. From behind the lopsided spectacles on his battered face his eyes searched out her own. The glare on the lenses made it impossible to read the expression in his eyes.
Another command. Rifles raised to shoulders.

Read the rest at Books Live




Excerpt From Martin Steyn’s Novel Dark Traces

Many thanks to Books Live for publishing this excerpt from Martin Steyn’s upcoming novel, Dark Traces. Dark Traces, Steyn’s debut novel in English, follows Detective Jan Magson and Inspector Colin Menck as they race against the clock to search for a killer.

March 9, 2014. Sunday.

“Yet another Sunday lunch with the family interrupted by blood and maggots,” remarked Warrant Officer Colin Menck beside him. “What a great job we have, hey, Mags?”

Behind the wheel Warrant Officer Jan Magson did not respond. He simply continued along the meandering Vissershok Road out of Durbanville, looking for the murder scene.

“Casey has embarked on a grand campaign to get a horse for her birthday. Next year, when she turns ten. Because it’s a special birthday.”

Magson glanced at the horses looking out over the white wooden fence. Further on, on the opposite side of the road, a sign indicated the turn-off to the Meerendal Wine Estate. The rest was just vineyards, the green much too vivid. He didn’t want a new docket.

“So I’m talking to myself again today.”

Sometimes Menck was like a child whose mouth had to be in constant motion, opening and closing, emitting sound. “I didn’t sleep well,” said Magson.

“I don’t ask a lot. ‘Yes’. ‘Oh’. Even a grunt will do.

Read the rest at Books Live