Banned Books Week - The 10 most challenged titles of 2013

21-27 September 2014 is Banned Books Week

What is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is the book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, book stores and libraries. More than 11 000 books have been challenged since 1982.

The 10 most challenged titles of 2013 were:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

If you want to find out which books were the most challenged over the past 13 years, follow this link: The Top Ten Challenged Books Lists: 2001-2013

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10 Quotes About Banned Books

 by Amanda Patterson

Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Inspiration for Writers from Walt Disney

    Seven Quotes

    Quotable - Walt Disney

    • You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.
    • There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.
    • We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
    • All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
    • The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
    • We are not trying to entertain the critics. I'll take my chances with the public.

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Five golden rules for submitting your work to agents or publishers

    We are always asked about how writers submit their work to publishers and agents. We found this great post on the Scottish Book Trust website, and they have kindly allowed us to share their advice with you. You can also explore their other writing advice, competitions and opportunities for writers.

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    Five golden rules for submitting your work to agents or publishers

    Have you finished writing your novel? Is it in the best shape possible? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then you’re ready to submit your manuscript. Don’t waste time by sending out vague ideas or a half-finished novel. Aside from anything else publishers and agents need to know that you have the commitment to complete the book before they take it on. Check your manuscript carefully for spelling and punctuation errors.

    1. Read the submission guidelines carefully
    Make sure your submission meets the publisher’s requirements. Each publisher will have different preferences so don’t assume that one approach will fit all. Make them aware that you’ve paid attention to their requirements and backlist. Sending irrelevant work not only wastes your time but it may hamper your chances of success.

    2. Do your research
    Don’t rely on sending your manuscript out on a whim. Research prospective agents or publishers carefully and decide where your work will sit best. Research the backlist of titles or authors they’ve represented and demonstrate this in your cover letter. If you don’t know where to start, research the publication history of an author whose writing you would compare your own to. Find out who their agent is and continue your research from there.

    3. Don’t turn up unannounced
    Never be tempted to ‘drop in’ to see if a publisher or agent has read your manuscript yet. Not only is it invasive, but it’ll also make them far less likely to pick up your submission from the pile.

    4. Don’t rely on one submission
    If you pin all your hopes on a single submission, you will be disappointed. Instead, research the market carefully and submit your work to as many relevant places as possible. Keep track of your submissions to avoid confusion or repeat submissions.

    5. Be patient
    Publishers are very busy and receive so many manuscripts each week that it will take time to respond to your submission, if at all. Some publishers may give you an idea of how long it will take to respond, while others may specify that they only reply to the submissions they want to follow up on.

    Source: Scottish Book Trust

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    South African resources

    If you want to submit books to publishers in South Africa, visit PASA, The Publisher’s Association of South Africa. They have various publishers  listed, including these fiction publishers.

    If you want to self-publish in South Africa, contact Quickfox Publishing, MyEbook, Wright Publishing, and MegaDigital.

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Dire Consequences - How to get your characters into trouble

    ‘In nature, there are neither rewards nor punishments–there are consequences.’ ~Robert G. Ingersoll

    Does the punishment fit the crime? 

    One of the reasons there’s such outrage and controversy over Oscar Pistorius’s verdict of culpable homicide is that people are dissatisfied with the less than spectacular outcome of one of the decade’s most sensational trails. There should be massive consequences for a bad deed, shouldn’t there?

    Unlike real life, writers can make fictional characters face consequences. You can do this by exaggerating or amplifying the results of your character’s actions, or by exposing something that has been hidden.

    1.   Exaggerate

    Consequence is the result of our actions or our inaction. In a satisfying story, the character’s decision must be a result of facing a problem or a result of careless or impulsive behaviour. Bad behaviour works best.

    • Example: A teenage girl decides to sneak of the house to go to a party. She thinks the only the consequence will be to be grounded by her parents—until she and her friends are involved in a car accident. The police arrive and they’ve been drinking. The problem is now bigger.
    • But good intentions, as the saying goes, can set your character on the road to hell. Example: A businessman stops to give a lift to a woman and her toddler, only to be pursued by the woman’s violent estranged husband. Again, we exaggerate the consequence to create more conflict.

    2.   Amplify

    As a writer, another technique you can use is amplification – make a relatively small problem much worse. This works well when you want to create a sense of absurdity or comedy in your story. 
    • Example: A neurotic boyfriend believes that if he doesn’t find the perfect engagement ring for his girlfriend, their marriage will be doomed. He can’t seem to find what he’s looking for—so the frustrated fiancée ends up dumping him.
    • Example: A writer's criticism of another author turns into a lifelong literary feud.

    Source for comic

    3.   Expose

    Sometimes a character’s deepest fear is to be exposed—to a secret, the truth, pain. It’s human nature to avoid suffering at all costs but as a writer you must become a bit of a sadist. Find a way to tap into a character’s fear and make that fear tangible in every scene of your story. 
    • Example: A timid kid is tormented by a school bully to the point where his only choice is to continue being hurt or to fight back—the pain of humiliation must become stronger than a fear of weakness.

    PS: I’ll kill you 

    Of course, the possibility of death is the greatest consequence. Don’t be afraid to push your character to the edge—where their decisions will mean they will either live or die. 

    • Example: An unarmed detective is held at gunpoint by a kidnapper and must use his training and instinct to talk his way out of being shot in the head.

    The Easy Way or The Hard Way

    As writers, we can’t shield our characters from pain or consequence. Go for total exposure. Make it massively difficult for them to achieve the thing they want or to solve a problem. When it comes to the easy way or the hard way, the hard way is always better.

     by Anthony Ehlers

    (If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy Five Lifelines for Writers with Deadlines)

    Anthony has facilitated courses for Writers Write since 2007. Published both locally and internationally, he was twice a runner-up in the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa short story competition. In 2013, his crime short story was included in Bloody Satisfied, an anthology sponsored by the National Arts Festival SA. As a scriptwriter, he has written three television features. In 2014, his short films were short-listed for the Jameson First Shot competition, as well as the European Independent Film Festival. Follow Anthony on Twitter and Facebook.

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write
     - Write to communicate

    The Cell Phone Reaction – How to make the most of your scenes

    Jeffrey Archer spends three years plotting. Stephen King says he doesn’t plot. John Grisham uses a master plot formula. Whichever way works for you, you still have to get from scene one to scene 60. The question is how? The easy answer is by writing. No sh*t, right? Is that all?

    I have mentioned before that I like to plan, but I don’t do much more than an outline. In this post, Why Writers Should Always Make a Scene, I explained why I list my scenes and how I keep track. My first outline has around 20 scenes. 

    Sometimes I stare at the list all day and think I have exhausted all the avenues. I think this story is dead and I suck. I am convinced there is not one single scenario I can add, or worse, I start improvising 40 extra scenes because I have to and that becomes forced. When I start adding scenes simply to make up numbers I am going to write myself into trouble.

    What can I do? Once the tears have dried and the Xanax has kicked in, I’ll go back and think about what I want to do. 

    First, I will confirm my story goal. 
    Second, I check that every scene I already have has a goal. The scene goal should be either to move my protagonist closer or further from the story goal. The scenes that are forced will fall away.
    Third, I will have fewer scenes. Bad, right? Not really. Try this. I will make sure I am utilising my existing scenes. I have to make the most of them. 

    The Cell Phone Reaction

    Let’s say my protagonist is having a lovely afternoon. She has just solved a difficult work problem. She left early to celebrate and is on her way home when her phone dies. The battery is flat.

    Think of three reactions she could have: 

    1. She can ignore it. Nothing is urgent. She is happy to have a tech-free afternoon. Who is desperate to get hold of her?
    2. She can stop and buy a charger for her car. 
    3. She can stop at her best friend’s house for a chat and use her charger. 

    Source for Image

    Now think of three scenarios that can happen if:

    She ignores it: 
    a) Her boss is calling to say her plan failed. He can’t get hold of her so her pushy colleague takes over. 
    b) Her husband was in an accident, he called to say goodbye and she missed his final words.
    c) Her mother freaks out when she can’t get hold of her and she arrives home to find her house inundated by cops and her hysterical mother directing the search for her mangled body. 

    She buys a charger: 
    a) She runs into an ex-boyfriend at the store. They go for a drink.
    b) She sees her husband walking in with another woman. They are very cosy. 
    c) The store she is in is robbed and she is taken hostage. 

    She visits her BFF’s house:
    a) She arrives at her friend’s house to find her husband’s car in her friend’s drive way. Why is he here?
    b) Her friend is drunk at 3pm. 
    c) Her friend isn’t there, but she finds her friend’s neighbour snooping around the back of the house.

    Not all of scenarios are going to work for your story, but one or two should add to your plot. Now improvise three more scenarios for the ones you chose. Look at how far a dead cell phone can go.

    As writers we introduce and add as we go along. Sometimes we should stop and look at what we have and consider what we can use again. A dead cell phone can go from an annoying inconvenience to a sub-plot.

     by Mia Botha

    Mia Botha facilitates for Writers Write. She is also a novelist, a ghost writer, and the winner of the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa Competition. When she isn’t writing, she is the mother of two children and the wife of a very lucky man. Follow Mia on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter

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      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

      Writers Write - Write to communicate

      10 Short Story Competitions To Enter Before The End Of 2014

      Do you like writing short stories? Last year we came up with a popular post, titled 10 brilliant reasons to write short stories. Now we've listed 10 Short Story Competitions that are still open for entries this year.

      1. Short Sharp Stories - Incredible Journey - Enter by 30 November 2014

      2. 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize - Enter by 15 November 2014

      3. TechSmart Gigabyte South African Sci-Fi Short Story Competition - Enter by 31 October 2014

      4. The Nova Short Story Competition - Enter by 30 September 2014

      5. Black Pear Press Short Story Competition! - Enter by 26 September 2014

      6. Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition - Enter by 17 November 2014

      7. Hackney Literary Award for Short Stories - Enter by 30 November 2014

      8. The Bloody Parchment Short Story Competition 2014 - Enter by 31 October 2014

      9. The Fish Short Story Prize - Enter by 30 November 2014

      10. InkTears International Short Story Competition 2014 - Enter by 30 November 2014

      If you're looking for inspiration, read our Top 20 Short Story Quotes

      If you want to learn how to write a great short story, join us for Short Cuts on 5 October 2014 in Johannesburg. Send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

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       by Amanda Patterson
      Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand

      ~~~~~
      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

      Writers Write - Write to communicate


      Three simple ways to get your hero to make a stand

      ‘The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there…and still on your feet.’ Stephen King

      Readers do not want to read books about eternal cowards, characters who avoid problems, and people who never learn to fight back. 

      As a reader, I am not looking for superman in every character, but I do want characters to find that extraordinary something they never knew they had, or to admit that they will never have it. I want them to make a stand. If they don’t, I feel as if I am watching a tacky reality television show where nothing changes. But how do novelists get characters to make this stand? 

      If you are struggling to get your character to show his true colours, here are three ways to force your hero to act:

      1. A Relentless Antagonist. Use a villain who will not wait for things to happen. He will force your protagonist to fight or surrender. He could do this physically, or he could manipulate him into a situation where the protagonist is forced to make a choice. This adversary will block escape routes and remove your hero’s lifelines. The villain could threaten the protagonist’s life, or the life of someone he cares about. He could spread rumours and tell lies about the hero and force him to lose his wife, his home, his job.
      2. Lock the Doors. Put your protagonist in a setting where he is forced to confront the antagonist. This is also a great way to introduce setting without boring your reader. If you make the environment part of the problem, it becomes easier to describe. You can place them in a social setting, like the hero’s daughter’s wedding, where it is not easy for him to walk out. You can literally let the antagonist lock him up somewhere, or you can place the adversaries on a train or a plane.
      3. Set the Timer. Give your protagonist a time where he has to do something or face terrible consequences. This technique allows you to force his hand. There is no more time for him to think or plan. He has to react and fight back, or lose. It does not have to be a melodramatic deadline, such as saving the world. He may have to get to the airport by midnight because his long-lost son is leaving town for good. Does he have the courage to finally tell him that he loves him? He may have to be at work by 8am or he will lose his job. Can he show that he is responsible, or does he finally have the courage to leave a job he hates?

      If you do show me that your character has backbone, and that he is prepared to fight, I will probably enjoy your book. If you can show me how he changes and grows as a person, I will like it even more. Even if he tries and fails, I will know that there was something worthwhile in him.

       Atticus Finch makes his stand.

      As Stephen King says, ‘No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side. Or you don’t.’

      Show me that journey. Let your character make his stand.

      (If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy Seven Essential Things to Remember about Very Important Characters and 10 Essential Tips for Creating Antagonists

       by Amanda Patterson
      © Amanda Patterson
      Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand

      ~~~~~
      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

      Writers Write - Write to communicate

      Roald Dahl Day - Five quite interesting facts about the author

      13 September is known as Roald Dahl Day.

      Source for Image

      Roald Dahl was born 13 September 1916, and died 23 November 1990. He was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, fighter pilot and screenwriter. He became one of the world’s best-selling authors. Follow this link for 12 of our favourite Roald Dahl quotes.

      Five quite interesting facts about Roald Dahl 
      1. Dahl wrote 17 children’s books.
      2. Seven of his children’s book have been adapted into films.
      3. Since his death in 1990, more than 37 million copies of his books have sold in the UK alone - more than one million a year. 
      4. Dahl served in the Second World War as an RAF fighter pilot.
      5. He also wrote the screenplays for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.

      Last year we posted a beautiful letter he wrote to one of his fans. Read it here.

      Roald Dahl’s best-loved novels have been celebrated with this set of stamps.

       by Amanda Patterson

      Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand

      ~~~~~
      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

      Writers Write - Write to communicate

      Fallen Heroes – Creating characters by looking at real people

      Nobody falls harder than a hero. Think of all the heroes who have let us down. Tiger Woods, Oscar Pistorius, Hansie Cronje, OJ Simpson, Lance Armstrong - the list goes on and on. I am deliberately excluding politicians; a blog post only has so much space.

      It made me think about the kind of people they are. Keeping in mind, I don’t know them and this is just my perception. They seem to have everything. Their lives seem perfect. They have all worked incredibly hard to reach their goals. They were dedicated. They were heroes. We looked up to them. Then in one fell swoop, their castles collapsed. At least we thought it was one thing, but when the evidence became public, we realised that it was only a matter of time. Tiger was a busy man, Oscar and OJ had a history of violence, Hansie was fixing matches for years and Lance was only the champion of the Tour de Pharmacy.

      Focus Mia, this is a writing blog. So yes, to the writing. What do these people have to do with creating characters?

      All characters change. This is a non-negotiable. At the end of the book, your character must have experienced growth or change. A good writer understands that this is gradual. You can’t add a paragraph at the end of the book explaining his new mind-set. We don’t change overnight. Neither should our characters.

      Breaking Bad

      Take the series Breaking Bad. The writer, Vince Gilligan, set out to tell a story about a good man doing something deliberately bad, but with good intentions. Then, he turned his protagonist into an antagonist. Brilliantly. Michael Noble highlights the character’s journey in a post called Breaking Bad: when did you lose Walter White?

      Now, you don’t have to take it as far as that. Remember your character has a physical goal, and his physical goal will result in emotional change. How will you show me the change? Start with small things. Change his behaviour. Gradually.

      Think about what motivated these people in the beginning. They are all sports stars. They didn’t, as far as I know, plan on becoming philanderers, murderers or fraudsters. They were just doing what they loved. When did the one-night stand become a weekly appointment? When did a jealous tiff turn into a murderous rage? I am sure they had their reasons. Little things they told themselves to feel better about what they were doing.

      What changes us?

      Check out this list of 27 psychological reasons why good people do bad things. It is written about white-collar crime, but I found it very interesting. It’s all about the lies we tell ourselves. How we justify our behaviour. Use it to find a lie for your character.

      Primal Fear

      Primal Fear by William Diehl is another example. I haven’t read the book, which I am sure is better, but what I remember about the movie was my absolute belief in Aaron, the stuttering altar boy accused of murdering the Archbishop. He was brilliantly played by Edward Norton. Spoiler Alert: Richard Gere has to show that Aaron suffers from a personality disorder. He provokes Aaron to change into ‘Roy’ in court. This gets Aaron off on an insanity plea, but what I want you to notice is how Roy was introduced in the story. We get hints and tips as the story progresses that there is more to Aaron than we want to believe. Of course, there is a shock at the end, but I’ll let you enjoy that on your own.

      No one falls harder than a hero.

      Remember the rule of fiction: Find out what your characters fear losing the most and take it away from them. What did these men fear losing? What was it that compelled them to make the wrong decision? But remember that your characters, like these men, are responsible for their own folly. Don’t blame the whistle blower. Blame the doer. Make them accountable.

       by Mia Botha

      Mia Botha facilitates for Writers Write. She is also a novelist, a ghost writer, and the winner of the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa Competition. When she isn’t writing, she is the mother of two children and the wife of a very lucky man. Follow Mia on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter

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        Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

        Writers Write - Write to communicate

        Five Lifelines for Writers with Deadlines

        Just last week, I had a deadline for a script and felt the grip of familiar panic. Another writer friend of mine said she had to have a deadline or she would not finish anything—and I’m pretty much the same. ‘A deadline should be motivating but not overwhelming,’ I said. ‘Otherwise you tend to crack and not produce anything.’

        This time round, with a sense of calm and a loose but firm strategy, I made it to the deadline (OK, four days after the deadline—but I made it to the finish line).

        If you’re on deadline, here are five tips that may help you:

        1. Block out daily writing time. Plan your writing schedule in your diary. If you’re using an electronic diary, set an alarm reminder. At the same time, don’t be inflexible if things change—stress won’t help the creative process.
        2. Get up early. If you have a full-time job, set your alarm clock an hour or two earlier. This can be tough, especially if its winter or you’re not a morning person, but it’s uninterrupted time that will give you time to write with a fresh head.
        3. Use your lunch time. You’d be surprised how much you can write in an hour or even a half-hour. Take your tablet or notebook and sit in a quiet corner of the canteen or nearby coffee shop.
        4. Lock into your left brain. Before you start to write, make a bullet point list of everything absolutely essential that must go into a scene or chapter – this will stop you from going off track. Similarly, organise your notes and research in central files or folders so you don’t waste time looking for stuff.
        5. Unplug the Internet. This seems like such an obvious one, but it must be said. Email and Facebook are insidious distractions you may not even notice eating into your precious time. If you can bear it, switch your phone off too.

        Of course, while we’re locked into a deadline, some of us tend to resort to some less than healthy coping mechanisms—for me, it was too much coffee and snack food. This is never a good strategy long term –you still need to eat healthily, get (some) sleep. A walk now and then to clear your head is probably also a good idea.

        While there is a sort of exhausted relief at finishing your book or screenplay, there is also a poignant emptiness. It’s like driving home from a great party, knowing you should get some sleep but at the same time, wanting to hold on to the memories.

         by Anthony Ehlers


        Anthony has facilitated courses for Writers Write since 2007. Published both locally and internationally, he was twice a runner-up in the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa short story competition. In 2013, his crime short story was included in Bloody Satisfied, an anthology sponsored by the National Arts Festival SA. As a scriptwriter, he has written three television features. In 2014, his short films were short-listed for the Jameson First Shot competition, as well as the European Independent Film Festival. Follow Anthony on Twitter and Facebook.

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        Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.
        Writers Write - Write to communicate