The Life Righting Collective runs courses to encourage self-exploration through life writing, raises funds for course fees and brings people together to share their stories and grow community.

I have now had a chance to read the first Anthology of SA stories from the Life Righting Collective, in total! 


Many of them are deeply moving and beautiful and I am certainly going to alert people in my areas of research (historical studies of health and medicine; history and memory work; trauma studies; humanities and arts studies of bodies) to this collection  ... and I am delighted that the stories/poems are collected in this way and exist --  for reading; for teaching; for thinking; for course design and more.


Dawn I wish you and your collective all the best as you grow and extend this work.

Catherine Burns
Associate Professor Historical & Heritage Studies
Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender

The Life Righting Collective's first anthology This Is How It Is has been published by Jacana Press and is for sale in bookstores countrywide. There are 54 real life stories and poems packed between the covers; extraordinary pieces written by ordinary people with rich, vital stories to share. At various launches around the country, authors will be invited to read their stories and be acknowledged for their contribution to the anthology. However, there are six stories and poems in the anthology whose authors can never be publicly acknowledged as they have elected to use a nom de plume and remain anonymous.

Why would they do that?

What is it about these six pieces where the true identity of the writer needs to be hidden? Why is there a need to protect themselves,  their families and the people they write about? Perhaps it is because what they write about is too painful to admit to family and friends, or what they share is somehow unacceptable, taboo.

These six pieces explore topics such as mental illness and illicit love affairs, sexuality and suicide. These are not comfortable subjects, not easily spoken about and sometimes there is a struggle to even find the language to write about such things; often there is an element of shame. Nevertheless, they are realities that exist in many of our lives and I believe they need to come to the surface to be seen.

In this day and age of apparent tolerance and transparency, where the most revealing and intimate of topics can be publicly discussed online for every stranger to see, we still remain at risk for being shamed for who we are, what we think, feel and do by those who are closest to us, in our own communities.

Shame makes us especially vulnerable.

If  you have heard of  Dr Brene Brown, you will know she is a researcher on shame and vulnerability.

This is what she says:

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. 

Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. 

I was pleased to have had the opportunity to speak about this at the recent LRC Authors' launch at the Crypt. I'm happy I also get to write about it here and pay tribute to the courage of these anonymous authors, who despite doubt and fear of repercussions, have still stepped forward to share their powerful stories, allowing themselves and the issues they write about, to be seen and known.

Image credit: Invisible World - Magritte

We are pleased to say that the LRC anthology This Is How It Is  is on track, with the expected date for printing in May. We've been advised by our publisher at Jacana to hold the date of the launch for a few weeks after publication to ensure that the books have been distributed and are available in book shops around SA. So we don't have an exact date yet, but you will know as soon as we do.

Our executive committee is meeting on 21st April to plan marketing, which Jacana will be helping us with, which will include launches in as many centres as we can, newspaper, radio and television interviews, slots at book fairs, articles in magazines and newspapers, and talks at book clubs and other forums. We have already been promised a slot for the poets in the anthology to appear at the MacGregor Poetry Festival in August, and will be on a panel at the Open Book Festival in September in Cape Town. And Sara-Jayne King has offered to have us on her book show. We will be in touch with more details.

If you have any contacts in the world of radio, television, newspapers, or friends who review or who have blogs about books, etc, please let us know. We are a merry but small band, and need all the help we can get to promote the book, and the work of the Life Righting Collective. Essentially, we all need to work together to knock everyone's socks off about this fantastic book. Funds  that we raise from selling the book will go towards distributing free copies to under-resourced schools and community libraries, and towards the cost of publishing a second anthology, hopefully next year.

It is important that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, so please let us know if you have a contact who is willing to do a feature or any kind of promotion once the book is out. Email with details please.

Now we need to let people know what lies in store for them. Please keep checking our Life Righting Collective Facebook Page , and share relevant info about the book with EVERYONE as soon as we post it.

Thank you to everyone who has been so enthusiastic and willing to help get this anthology off the ground. We're about to take off.  Watch the sky!

The Life Righting Collective runs courses to encourage self-exploration through life writing, raises funds for course fees and brings people together to share their stories and grow community.
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