About Helen

Photo: Martine Bisagne

Photo: Martine Bisagne

I'm an editor, writer, poet, teacher, and scholar.

As an editor, I'm an amalgam of a supervisor, mentor, advisor and sounding-board, as well as someone who re-arranges words, checks facts, and nags about details. I believe that editor and author should meet as professionals with equally valuable skills in a spirit of collaboration, and that both parties should learn and grow from the experience.

Although I started out as an academic, then an academic editor, in the last twenty years I’ve been lucky to work with some of the African continent’s brightest literary and academic writers, including (and this is not even vaguely an exhaustive list) Lauren Beukes, Zakes Mda, Ivan Vladislavic, Sarah Lotz, Thando Mgqolozana, Diane Awerbuck, Gabeba Baderoon, Nadia Davids, Jacqui L’Ange, Petina Gappah, Jamala Safari, Liesl Jobson, and Sindiwe Magona.

I also work on the other side of the author/editor relationship. I've released two collections of poetry: Strange Fruit, published in 2009 by Modjaji Books; and Prunings, published in 2016 by uHlanga. John Eppel found Strange Fruit a “compelling” read, containing “a poetry of glittering surfaces”. (LitNet found the poems “altogether edible”.) Prunings likewise has been lauded for its “wonder” and “power” in the Cape Times

I've also had huge fun producing commercial fiction, notably the A Girl Walks In choose-your-own-erotic-adventure trilogy I co-wrote with Sarah Lotz and Paige Nick under the nom de plume Helena S. Paige. A Girl Walks Into a BarA Girl Walks Into A Wedding, and A Girl Walks Into A Blind Date have been translated into twenty-one languages, including Catalan and traditional Mandarin.

I love collaborations, and two of my favourite projects have been Migrations: New short stories from Africa, which I co-edited with Efemia Chela and Bongani Kona, as part of the Short Story Day Africa editoring mentorship; and Stray: An anthology of animal stories and poems, co-edited with Diane Awerbuck. The cover was designed by Joey Hi-Fi, the international award-winning designer who does the covers for Lauren Beukes’s books, and the proceeds benefit TEARS, a local animal charity.

Away from creative writing, I work as a teacher: I love it more than anything else. While life has conspired to lead me away from university teaching, I still manage to train and facilitate workshops, both in South Africa and abroad. Some of my clients include the African Gender Institute, the Centre for Conflict Resolution, the Human Sciences Research Council, and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. This overlaps with my activist hat. My work on sexual violence has been used for training purposes by Rape Crisis Cape Town, UN-INSTRAW, Womankind UK and the National Resource Center for Sexual Violence in the United States. It is emotionally draining but necessary work.

Until the tide of sexual violence abates in South Africa, I have to find comfort in other work (and my two felines, Meg and Lily.) Most notably, I spent ten unforgettable years working on the late cricket guru Bob Woolmer's magnum opus, Bob Woolmer's Art and Science Of Cricket, with a team that included co-author Tim Noakes and editor Tom Eaton. I have also worked on an anthology of landscape writing, several university textbooks, and much more besides.

You can find out more about all of my books here.