Dianne Stewart on writing 'Nuances'

18 April 2021 - 00:00 By Dianne Stewart

Confined indoors, I needed a writing project. Sitting doggedly at my desk on a daily basis, Nuances, a collection of short stories, was conceived. As a multi-genre author, I chose short stories written for a diverse South African audience. I had already contributed to a South African literary journal and my short, "The Crash", had been prescribed in South African and Namibian high schools. I also had a number of completed short stories on file.

The modern reader is time stretched, so I selected the short story because it could be read in one sitting. Lorrie Moore, the author of Birds of America, says: "A short story is a photograph, a novel is a film." So in Nuances, I featured poignant moments in the everyday lives of the protagonists. Just as a photograph records significant events in one's lives, these short stories aim to do the same in a literary context.

I was privileged to have an accomplished short story writer and published author, Arja Salafranca, as my editor. It is difficult to look objectively at one's own work - she guided me as to which stories to include and added her editorial input.

Professor Lindy Stiebel, who with Niall McNulty published the wonderful documentary A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal, wrote an introduction for Nuances. One of the aims of their book was to create a literary archive of local KwaZulu-Natal writers, both past and present.

In her introduction to mine, Stiebel writes: "A few strands are common, however, to many of the short stories: Stewart's deep love of the natural world; her background in African Languages and the use of irony to give the reader pause and insight to other ways of 'reading' the scenes presented."

Some of the challenges I encountered with compiling this collection were the time it takes from the embryonic seed of the book to its finished product, especially when one is relying on other people. I was also challenged by the endless hours of proofreading common to all authors.

I am grateful to Jane Digby, an artist from the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, who provided an artwork for the cover. A dynamic painter, Jane has exhibited her art in Joburg, Durban and the UK. In October 2019, she participated in the Italian Biennale in Florence.

Nuances by Dianne Stewart is published by Fine Print Books, R240. Available at Exclusive Books and Bargain Books.