The write stuff

30 May 2006

Graduate Sean O'Toole has been named as the winner of the 2006 HSBC/SA PEN Literary Award, presented by the South African Centre of International PEN (SA PEN) in partnership with HSBC Bank plc and New Africa Books. O'Toole's short story, The Road to Rephile, was selected as the winning entry by another writer-of-note with UCT ties - Nobel laureate J M Coetzee, an emeritus professor here. "It is a positive contribution (some readers might say too earnestly positive) to a new national literature," said Coetzee of the piece, which O'Toole penned while at UCT. O'Toole is now based in Johannesburg, where he works as a journalist and writer. Currently editor of Art South Africa, he writes a weekly column on photography for the Sunday Times. He also bagged the 2002 SL short fiction award. O'Toole completed his MA in creative writing (with distinction) at UCT in 2005, working under the supervision of acclaimed poet Professor Joan Hambidge. The Road to Rephile was one of the pieces he completed as part of the degree, a compilation he initially titled A Gift of Stones. A little tweaking and a renaming later, those stories have now been released by Double Storey Books as The Marquis of Mooikloof. "It is great to finally sense that there is something in my writing that could possibly appeal to a wider audience, and not just the friends I occasionally asked to read my stories," says O'Toole. The three winning stories of the PEN competition and 26 others that were short-listed have also been published by New Africa Books in the second of a series of three volumes of new creative writing, titled African Road - New Writing from Southern Africa 2006.

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