Kensington resident wins the Golden Baobab Prize

Ms Karen Hurt, relaxing in the garden of her South Kensington home.

So said Ms Karen Hurt, a Kensington-based independent writer, editor, materials developer and writing workshop facilitator who won the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books.

She won with her book, titled What’s going on at 179 Jabulani Street?.

The story is set in Yeoville, and apart from addressing current topics in a way that children will find engaging, Ms Hurt learnt to shed her protector role and free her young protagonists when writing fiction.

“The protagonists of this adventure story are depicted as true children; up to pranks and trying to outwit grown-ups,” said Professor Esi Sutherland-Addy, a professor at the University of Ghana’s African Studies Department and a judge for the 2013 prize.

Ms Hurt’s win means she will have her book published and illustrated in 2015.

The book is targeted at 8 to 11 year olds. Ms Hurt, who holds a masters degree in creative writing from Wits University, believes children are different in what they read.

“To write for a multi age group range makes it interesting,” said Ms Hurt. She believes there are not enough books set on the continent. “I lived in Yeoville many years ago. A place grabs me and I feel drawn to it. Like many other places, Yeoville is a place in transition,” she said.

She believes that writers must respect their readers by doing research. “With fiction, I can do what I like. Research helped with the authenticity. To be a writer, one must also be a reader,” said Ms Hurt.

She said she never super-imposes the characters in her story to the readers. “When I mention a character named Jama in the story, I avoid describing what he looks like because I want to leave it to the imagination of the reader,” said Ms Hurt.

She said that reading stimulates the imagination.

“Pick up a pen and paper and start writing. Trust your imagination and get your story going.”

“I never thought of winning. It was truly amazing to hear I was on the shortlist."

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