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New literature for young adults at Macmillan

Macmillan South Africa would like to invite writers to develop new youth literature.


Literature written in African languages for teenagers or young adults is an underdeveloped literary genre in South Africa. Although we have recently seen a growth in the number of novels, full-length dramas and short stories in the said languages, most titles seem to fall nicely into mainstream, ‘serious’ African literature.

Research shows that only the Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature and Siyagruva Series, are dedicated to producing literature for young adult readers in South Africa. It must be pointed out that Siyagruva titles (Robin Malan is the editor) are published in English and then later translated into African languages. On the other hand, the Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature encourages writing in all eleven official languages. Its contribution to the development of the youth genre is evident in the number of winning titles that are on the prescription list. One notable example is North-Western Setswana novelist, Kabelo Kgatea, whose novels (four have won the Sanlam Prize) are currently prescribed for high schools, including Grade 12. The major criticism about this prize is that it is awarded every second year and the entries per each respective African language hardly surpass 10. For example, in this year’s competition, no prize was awarded in the Nguni category.

As Macmillan South Africa (Pty) Ltd, we have identified this huge gap and resolved that there is an urgent need to develop this genre.

Problems with current literature

By being moralistic, criticising them, disapproving of things like their long uncombed hair and loud music, much literature in the market creates a distance between the reader and writer. Because of that, most of the works talk down to the reader. It is worth noting that when you write for the young adult, your readers have been criticised, belittled and talked down to before; and they hate it!

Most of the literature on the market also tends to use stilted language. This has to change if a writer is to win these readers’ attention and appreciation. We encourage writers to use contemporary, yet standard language. You may, however, teach them a word or two that they do not know but don’t make them read the novel or drama with the constant help of a dictionary.

The Future: What Macmillan is looking for

Macmillan South Africa would like to invite you as a writer to help us develop the new youth literature. Unlike Siyagruva Series and Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature which focus on the genre of the novel, we intend publishing novels, dramas and short stories in all of the eleven languages. We would like these books to be aimed at learners in Grades 10 to 12. You may write in any of the three abovementioned genres.

Youth novel
We’re looking for:
· Authentic youth novels
· Novels with a clear plot and development of characters
· Appropriate setting and background that learners can identify with
· Stories that are free from any form of bias and stereotyping, such as gender, ethnic, race and religion, unless used as a theme that is positively resolved.
· Novels that address issues of national concerns, HIV/Aids, social justice, child and human rights, should be treated with sensitivity (if they feature at all).

Things to remember when writing:
Be on the teenagers’ ‘side’. Do not pretend – they are good at picking up hypocrisy.
Do not come across as disapproving – teenagers fear rejection. Have a clear grasp of their fears, dreams, music, aspirations, likes and dislikes, etc. You do not have to like every aspect of their lives but unless you look at teenagers with affection and tolerance this genre is not for you.
Respect teenagers and try to communicate with them and understand their point of view.
Teenagers generally like things to happen fast so your story should be well-paced to grab their attention.
Use accessible, contemporary language.
Be as classless as possible in order to appeal across regional boundaries.
Write a story that is engaging, readable and enjoyable for learners of each age group.

Where themes are concerned, we are not going to be prescriptive. But it is highly recommended that writers dwell on contemporary themes. A story must be of sufficient general interest to their age group. We are looking for stories of between 96 and 168 pages, typed on New Times Roman (font size 12) on A4-sized paper, depicting the main character that your intended reader will easily identify with (the character should preferably be their age). In terms of word count, your novel could be between 30 000 to 40 00 for senior readers. The page numbers and word count given serve as guidelines rather than absolute rules.

Young adults want to read stories that deal with the kind of problems they have to face themselves, and there is no need to avoid unpleasant realities. However, please do avoid explicit vulgarity. They read newspapers and watch television; they know what is going on in the world and they need truth, not false protection.

Irrespective of the nature of the theme you are addressing, there are a few points worth pondering by the writers when writing:

Short Stories
We’re looking for:
· A wide variety of authentic texts.
· Different styles such as satire, humour, lyrical etc.
· Can include flashbacks, movement in time and space
· South African and African authors and stories
· Stories with a clear plot and story line
· Stories that do not exceed 12 pages (or a word count of between 1000 to 3000)

We’re looking for:
· Authentic drama texts such as stage plays, radio dramas and television dramas
· South African and Afrocentric theatre
· Traditional and contemporary themes
· Word count: approx. 15 000 words
· 1 Act, 2 Act or full-length dramas

As a requirement for the NCS, we would like to draw the writers’ attention to the following things that all submissions should include:

· Author’s biography
· A glossary of terms
· A short summary of the manuscript in English.

When you have an outline of your story, please submit a short synopsis in English to the Publisher:
English literature by email to Linda Naidoo:
Afrikaans literature by email to African languages literature by email to Dumisani Sibiya:

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