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Tracey Farren

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE


Snake is here at long last!
If you’re near Kalk Bay on Thursday the 27th October, please come for a glass of wine to send this strange (and, I hope, thrilling) book off into the wilderness.

27 October • 17:30

Kalk Bay Books

Main Road, Kalk Bay

Cape Town, South Africa


Kalk Bay Books and Modjaji Books are delighted to invite you to the launch of Snake by Tracey Farren. Snake is Tracey’s second novel, coming after Whiplash, a novel that caused quite a stir when it was published and which was short-listed for the Sunday Times Fiction Award in 2009.

Join the delightful, charismatic Sarah Lotz as she introduces Tracey Farren and talks to Tracey about Snake.


… “When the luminous stranger arrives on the farm, twelve year old Stella is convinced that Jerry has come to heal her family.

Now she tells the ‘terrible trouble’ to a tabloid journalist in an effort to save the little that is left.

The stage contains a metal wash tub, a traumatised child and a hard-hearted journalist. The script veers between love and violence, shining a naked bulb on psychosis and the preposterous ways in which people express their shame. Snake is a tabloid tale told in a young girl’s sincere, anxious voice, bringing humanity to the theatre of the insane.”

About the author:

Tracey lives in False Bay with her partner, some dogs and children of a range of ages. She has a psychology honours degree from UCT. She started out as a freelance journalist, publishing on a range of social issues before turning to fiction. In 2008, she published her first novel, Whiplash
(Modjaji Books). She won a White Ribbon award from Women Demand Dignity and Whiplash was short listed for the Sunday Times Fiction Award. Tracey then wrote Whiplash as a film script under the auspices of the National Film and Video Foundation. Snake is her second novel.

About Sarah Lotz:

Sarah is an award-winning author and scriptwriter. She has published three novels, Tooth and Nailed, Exhibit A and Pompidou Posse. She co-authored two novels, Deadlands (under the name Lily Herne with her daughter Suzannah Lotz) and The Mall (under the name S.L. Grey with Louis Greenberg).

Response to LAVA LAMP POEMS, By Colleen Higgs

I agree with Finuala Dowling when she said something like, don’t be fooled by the Lava Lamp, there is nothing vague or hippie about Colleen’s poetry. The poems are cut with a bald, bare-blade honesty, a mind that makes unusual matches. Colleen fits apartheid paranoia with stubborn partying, then sums up an insane epoch in a sentence, ‘One day the pool opened to all.’ This last line of ‘my Yeoville’ is the ending of furtiveness, fear and zealous defiance. I can smell the sun cream, I can feel the water up my nose, I can hear the muted squeals of other swimmers as I duck under. There is nothing fuzzy or blunted about these poems. Don’t be fooled by the lava lamp, its true, but the experience of reading Lava Lamp felt to me like sitting on that couch, ‘watching the lava lamp in the dark’. The poems read like an intimate chat, a merging of unguarded moments where Colleen shows the vivid images she has acquired from living, really living. She speaks of the past with a deep belly laugh. She shares the wisps of longing that stroke like thin fingers. She tells of the hurts that snag on the edge of memory and still drift or shudder in her heart.
The mood moves from mildness, ‘OK, as tepid as bathwater left overnight’, to the choking courage that soaks the poem, ‘Fish,’ about the fish her father marinated before he died. These memories are not nervous flash memories, quickly banished. They are a deliberate confidence, a careful, gentle telling in an unstraight line that makes me feel privileged, sometimes deliciously shocked. Except the shock waves never hit. They are deeply absorbed into my being, buffered by the unconditional affection, the matter of factness, the loyalty of beautiful language to a strong, rebellious character. The book is an experience of heat, luminescence, and the wackiness of existence. It is the experience of being mesmerised, in confidence, no drugs involved, watching that lava lamp.

News: Whiplash Film Script Commissioned

The National Film and Video Foundation have commissioned me to write Whiplash as a film script. I have a truly gifted script editor, Justine Loots, and am digging under the verbiage of the novel to find the bare bones. From here I’ll dress it in an entirely visual story. It is a strange, thrilling luxury to work more with images than words. This is my second film script, so I anticipate the surprising, manic momentum of the visual imagination. It’s like whipping aside a curtain in the mind and watching the possibilities play out in a certain quality of light. It is so different to novel writing, which seems so much more auditory to me. I’m busy punching out a Major Turning Points document. If there are any experienced feature directors or producers out there who are interested in the film adaptation, please contact my new literary agent, Maire Fisher at, 021-7820303

Whiplash e-Book

Thank you to my agent, Maire Fisher of Live Writing for visualising Whiplash as an e-book, then acting on the impulse in the space of days. I am quite amazed at how quickly this all transpired. Arthur at Electric Book Works worked startlingly fast, and of course Maire was there to crack back with the necessary data. This digital way collapses time and space in quite a wondrous, breathless way.

Whiplash made the Sunday Times shortlist

Isn’t that amazing? I am truly gratified that some wonderful judge saw merit in Tess’s insistence on telling her story in the only language that she could speak, a slang dialect delivered with disparaging frankness. The book is full of ‘trynas’ and ‘gonnas’, but Tess had no way of tempering her style. Thank you to those listened carefully and read between the lines.

It feels so wonderful to know that there are people in the literary establishment – other than brave, enthusiastic S.A readers – who are willing to be swept into wild worlds and expressive styles. I can’t help thinking that this is a thrilling green light for other writers who wish to explore eccentric voices.

Personally, I am proud of everyone who has stuck their neck out for Whiplash during the past year. We have had quite a few rebuffs and a couple of attempts at strangulation, but we have also had the support of a rabble-rowsing, rebellious crowd of journalists and fellow writers who have demanded that Tess receive her equal human rights.

Thank you, in particular, to the panel at Women Demand Dignity and the Sunday Times panel for their very kind consideration – and I mean that in the truest sense of the phrase.

Sunday Independent, Book Launches of the year

Maureen Isaacson of the Sunday Independent included Whiplash in her list of Launches of the year. What a cool way for Whiplash to end the year! The book deserves a Christmas present.

Witness newspaper, Best Reads

Janet van Eeden put Whiplash right up there with her Best Reads of the year. I feel greatly honoured as I admire her writing. I am also in awe of the fact that she reads quantities of books with all neurons firing, producing reviews that are both generous and delightfully forensic.

Women Demand Dignity nomination

Wonderful news! We have just heard that I have been nominated for the White Ribbon Award by the lobby group, Women Demand Dignity (WDD). Here’s an extract from their letter:

‘WDD was founded by Jane Raphaely and Nomfundo Walaza. The objectives of the White Ribbon Awards, which are run annually, are as follows:

To acknowledge and honour those individuals who are actively making a difference in the fight against the violence and abuse of women and children in our society. Each of the awardees has passionately pursued an initiative or a way forward in this fight, and their efforts have been rewarded with success.

Women Demand Dignity (WDD) select possible nominees throughout the year through media coverage, research and nominations, and then the WDD group select the final awardees on the basis of the criteria listed above.

Below is the message that will be included in the press release re the announcement of the 2008 White Ribbon Awards:

Tracy Farren. In her debut novel, Whiplash (published by Modjaji Books), Tracy Farren takes us inside the world, the mind and the heart of a young prostitute who is hooked on Syndol and the lowest of low lives. Tess seems a classic victim until human contact and encouragement help her to break out of this trap and stop being a victim. The friendship between the women in the book and the strength that this gives them to break away and start again is a powerful message of hope, change and redemption.’

I have been fretting about the fact that writing fiction and running a family have left me with limited time to do community work. This nomination confirms to me that passionate writing is involved and helpful. Us writers need to fight the voices that insist that fiction is self indulgent, and think of it rather, as dedicated work in an untold history laboratory!

Book signing at Constantai Exclusives

On Saturday I sat at Constantia Exclusives with Peter Church, author of the novel, Dark Video. We had a fine time at the entrance to the store, drinking coffee, signing books and chatting to Exclusives customers. Peter and I are both highly social, so we reveled in the company. For me book signing is a great balancing activity after the solitude of writing. All those lovely people. All their nice smells and their wonderful stories! People seemed both intrigued and shy at the sight of us sitting behind a pile of books at the door. They tended to browse through the shop, circle a little, then come and question us. These encounters turned into wonderful conversations. It was brilliant that people were so honest. They quizzed us to establish whether our books could fit into their lives. A ‘not for me’ screen dropped over their eyes when they heard the words, ‘South African’. They were obviously encouraged when they heard, ‘intense psychological drama’ (Whiplash) or ‘hard hitting thriller,’ (Dark Video). They seemed to need a guarantee of entertainment. People tended to buy the books as gifts. The women’s ears pricked up when they heard that Whiplash was disturbing, yet spiritual and uplifting. They tended to buy the book for other women. Dark Video, on the other hand, seemed to appeal to people with adult children or grandchildren, as the protagonists in the story are UCT students. In reality, Whiplash is often greatly appreciated by men, and Dark Video appeals to people of all ages. The books are sure to work their way through the generations at home.

Happy reading and thanks to everyone who stopped to chat. A special thanks to Marilyn at Exclusives, who organized the morning and to Yaneska, the manager, who thought it was a great idea.

Durban Launch

We launched Whiplash in Durban last Thursday night at Adams bookshop, Musgrave Centre. I read extracts of the book, choosing a funny piece, a sad piece and, at the end, an unapologetically spiritual piece.

The humorous extract was taken from the scene where Tess and her prostitute friend Annie go to a banking tent at the Met – one of the premier horse races of the year. The men who gave them the tickets were drunk at the time on noble red wine and had forgotten about their generosity. They are horrified when the two women pitch up. Tess and Annie refuse to leave despite the men’s pleas, precipitating an embarrassing collision of mismatched worlds. The audience at the launch laughed at the stir caused by the unwanted guests.

The audience were probably curious about the contrasting emotional tones of the extracts. Bernice Stott, Anglican minister, visual artist and chairperson of Umthombo Street Children, South Africa, interviewed me afterwards, asking deeply analytical questions about my process and my motive for writing the book. Bernice gave me the opportunity to explain my fictional first person narrator in detail. I was able to tell of her cynicism, her yearnings, and her survival quest. Cedric Sissing of Adams Bookstores commented later, ‘I watched the audience warm to Tracey especially during Bernice’s questions and questions from the floor, and she scored brownie points as she answered what were some tough questions.’ Cedric closed the launch by saying that he was impatient to get home and finish reading Whiplash. Tess had already won him over and he was desperate to know how she would emerge from her last gruelling trial on the street.

Thanks to everyone at Adams for a lively, lovely evening!