#WriterSpotlight – “Beautifully written work for me is like eating a particularly well cooked meal.” – Anthea


Every new interview on this series is an invitation into the world of an amazing writer. Today on the #WriterSpotlight series we are seeing the world through the eyes of the award winning writer, Anthea Paelo. We hope you love this interview as much as we do.

Hello, please introduce yourself.

Hello, I am Anthea Paelo, a writer, an economist, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and winner of the 2013 Writivism Award.

What do you do?

I’m an economist by profession. What that really means is that I do a lot of research wherein I have to read and write. This is great except for the part where the characters in my head have to be silent.

Your Twitter handle says Economist and lover of words. How did you discover your ‘love for words?’

I’m not sure that there was ever a “eureka” moment for me. I’ve always loved stories, first listening to them and then creating them myself. In the beginning it was about knowing what happened or what the plot was. Now it’s more about the phrasing and arrangement of words. If written well, they can create a range of emotions. Beautifully written work for me is like eating a particularly well cooked meal.

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the writing industry?

I’m not sure I am the right person to answer this question. In many ways I am still a novice and still learning how to write even as I write. I can only speak for myself. My biggest challenge is finding the time to write. If you use Google, you’ll find lots of articles and tips on how to find time. I try to follow the advice but life has a way of derailing even the best laid plans. I try to write as often as possible even if it’s just for me.

You are a past winner of the Writivism short story prize can you describe the experience?

Writivism was my first real foray into writing. It was wonderful experience to interact with other writers, have my work critiqued and benefit from the feedback of a mentor. It was a great learning experience.

Where is the weirdest place you have ever gotten inspiration?

Weirdness is subjective. Inspiration comes from different places and thoughts. I’ve got ideas in a classroom in the middle of a test. I’ve got it from staring at a particular ugly shade of green in a dress shop. From memories, dreams, family conversations. Anything really. Were any of them weird? I don’t know. They were sources of ideas.

How rewarding has writing been for you?

Deeply rewarding. You must have heard this a lot and I agree but a writer needs to write. It is not a choice. However I would be lying if I did not mention it’s down side. Writing well is hard work. It is a discipline. Writing requires several revisions. You’ll have to get rid of some characters you had fallen in love with. You also have to be willing to take some criticism. It is also absolutely terrifying to put your work out there. In many ways, writing is bits of us we choose to lay out on display and that makes us vulnerable. It is immensely difficult at least for me. It is also a source of intense gratification.

What’s the worst thing anyone has said about your article?

I’m not sure it was the worst thing but it is the critique that has stayed with me the longest. I was told my poetry was too simplistic. I was not disturbed by it. That was what I meant it to be. Poetry needn’t be difficult to be enjoyed. I did learn that I could be more strategic about work choice and still have my poetry be accessible.

Will you ever retire from writing?

Is that even possible for a writer?

What are your thoughts about the reading culture in South Africa?

Again I hesitate to make blanket statements about the industry. I do think that reading will never grow out of fashion. I’ve attended a number of book readings in Johannesburg that show that people love books. I do think that not everyone can afford the books but I’m not sure how to reconcile that with giving the writer compensation for what as I’ve said before is difficult work

What do you do in your leisure time?

Read and read. I do religiously follow some series on TV. On occasion I can be convinced to go outside and see what is happening in the real world.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’d tell her of course she can do it.

Do you consider writing as work or pleasure and why?

Both. Because like I mentioned earlier, it is immensely rewarding. Doing it well however requires discipline and hard work.

Any last words for upcoming writers?

I’m sure I’ve read this somewhere. Write when you feel like it and when you don’t. Write when it reads well and when it doesn’t. And if you’re not writing, read.


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