In this episode, I talk about the wonderful women who inspired the dedications of my books. I hope you enjoy it!
The links mentioned in the podcast:
In case you’d prefer to read the episode, here you go:
Hello, and welcome to Book Talk with Yolandie.
This is the place where we’ll chat about my books, discuss my writing process, and many other bookish topics.
Hi there, friends!
Let’s talk about dedications. Both my books are dedicated to amazing, strong women, and they deserve to be celebrated. I’m actually kind of shocked that I haven’t blogged or talked about why I chose them for the dedications before, but okay.
My creativity has been running on the dry side. Between extreme hyperfocus and random life stress, finding inspiration hasn’t been the easiest lately and all new ideas have left the building. Luckily, past-me had the idea to prep a list of ideas for writers on Instagram, to which I’ll link in the description.
And I don’t want to shamelessly plug my own writing here, but I did loads of research for that post and it has some real gems thrown in the mix. It surprises me that I’ve never referenced my own list before, but here we are. I promise to reference it in the future!
Anyway. One of the ideas on this list was to post about dedications, and that item totally jumped out at me. It was such an ‘of course’ moment, I actually grew a bit emotional.
Because, you see, the ladies in the dedications of my books both mean so much to me. They filled my life with incredible joy and love, and taught me lessons that will stay with me forever. Sadly, both passed away, each while I was writing the book dedicated to them.
So, I’d like to warn you that this episode will likely become a tiny bit emotional. I’ve practised it a time or two, and I haven’t been able to get through this script without getting all teary-eyed, but I’ll try to keep it level this time.
Also, there is mention of medical conditions in this episode. Not a lot, and not in detail, but I just wanted to let you know. If that kind of thing makes you uncomfortable, you might not want to continue listening.
Let’s get started.
A Study of Ash & Smoke is dedicated to my Ouma, and A Trial of Sparks & Kindling to my Aunt Flora. I’ve written tributes to both these wonderful women on my blog, to which I’ll also link in the description if you’re interested.
My grandmother was one of those people whose door was always open. She’d literally move the food from her own plate to feed guests, and was always ready with a word of wisdom or a hug.
My aunt inherited this from her. She, too, would give her last cent if it meant brightening someone else’s day. I have never known anyone else as charitable in my life. They were open and giving, gentle and kind, but fierce in their protection of the family.
I relate a lot to my Ouma. In terms of personality, we were quite similar. I think in the same way, and we had the same ideas about the important things in life. She was a bit shy, like me, but extroverted when she needed to be. She was an artist, too. Her wood carvings are legendary, and I’m so grateful to own one of her works.
She never finished high school. In those days, money was tight, and she’d been forced to work hard from an extremely young age. She’d known sacrifice and had known struggle, but somehow remained the most generous of people. And maybe her knowledge hadn’t come from books, but she’d been street smart. Also, you know, she understood people. She knew where things were at.
She had a whip-like sense of humour. Dry, but sly. She’d get this really naughty twinkle in her eyes, then drop this one-liner that had everyone in stitches. She always cooked enough to feed the entire neighbourhood. I swear, I’ve never been in that house where there hadn’t been leftovers in abundance in her fridge.
Her routine was crafted around the airing times of her favourite soap operas. Ouma could tell you things about Days of our Lives that the cast probably couldn’t tell you about their own characters. She loved her soapies.
The switch of her earpiece had a magical no-bullshit filter. If she didn’t want to hear a conversation, she sure as heck wouldn’t, but she’d pick up on the things she wasn’t meant to hear just fine.
She used a specific kind of body lotion. The yellow Vaseline kind I now use because the scent reminds me of her.
She was full of life. She had the most beautiful smile. Gave the best hugs. She’d truly loved without judgement or boundaries. Everyone had been welcome in her heart.
My aunt inherited those from Ouma, too.
Aunt Flora was universally beloved. She went out of her way to make everyone feel special. I don’t think I’ve ever created anything that she didn’t support. When I made beaded jewellery as a kid, she was the first in line to buy my products. When I wrote my first novel, she bought the first copy. When I’d completed my make-up artistry qualifications, she made use of my services. Art, baked goods, whatever. If someone in the family was selling something, she was ready to support their dreams.
She basically single handedly clothed my child for the first year of her life. She was just so excited about a new baby in the family that she couldn’t help herself. She was this way with every new family member, and burst with pride at all of the cousins’ achievements.
Like Ouma, she was always ready to feed the entire street. People passed through her house constantly, and neighbours or friends were always dropping in. I think it’s because they couldn’t stay away. Her magnetism drew everyone in.
And I know we sing about the dead as though they were perfect. But being human won’t ever diminish what these ladies meant to me. In fact, I think their humanity just highlights their capacity for compassion. It makes me strive harder to be as loving and open, as willing to listen, as judgement-free, and as charitable.
They carried me through some of the most difficult times in my life, and I know I wouldn’t have been the person I am without their influence.
My grandmother had a long battle with cancer. This meant many ups and downs. Lots of heartache. But we were lucky enough to have the chance to say goodbye before the end. We were lucky enough for her to meet Kayla.
We’d been living in Germany for only a few months when the news finally came. Finances were tight, so we couldn’t afford to fly back to South Africa for the funeral, but the family video called us in.
With my aunt, on the other hand, the news came out of nowhere. The most random of things had happened–she’d bought a pair of new shoes, and they’d chafed her heel. The wound wouldn’t heal properly due to diabetes, which led to a partial amputation of her foot, and from there her doctors were forced to amputate more and more of her leg, until she finally passed due to septicemia. We couldn’t attend her funeral either, because we’d just moved to Calgary and finances were tight.
It’s tough, being an immigrant. Sometimes the distance is more tangible than others, and my grandmother and aunt’s funerals were two of those occasions. I’d have loved the opportunity to mourn among loved ones. I’d have loved being able to celebrate their colourful lives and toast their existence with family.
But in the end, the only thing I could do to show how much they’d meant to me, the only tiny token I could offer, was to write their names in my books.
And maybe it sounds like a trifling thing, something insignificant, but to me, it’s the highest honour I could give. It’s a twenty cannon salute kind of thing. A shiny golden award kind of thing.
Because the books wouldn’t have existed in the first place if these two women hadn’t taught me that being kind and soft isn’t a bad thing. That being a woman means more than doing what society expects of us.
They taught me that strength comes with gentle eyes sometimes. That steel can be wrapped in caring words and loving hugs. That fighting for a dream has value, and that hard work will pay off.
They taught me to surround myself with people who would stick by me no matter what. That loyalty has meaning, but loyalty doesn’t mean being walked over. They showed me that an act of charity can change the course of a life.
I honestly think it’s their fault that I cry every time I kill off a character. I feel every bad thing that happens to the cast of my stories as though it were happening to me, because I had role models showing me how to live that way. In the long run, I think in addition to moulding me into a better person, their empathy will make me a better writer.
Of course, I’m really grateful to the strong women remaining in my family. Amazing role models to look up to, even while I’m on the other side of the planet. Thank you all for being a part of my heart.
And thank you so much for listening to this tribute. The more emotional content is the most difficult to put out there, but it’s so important for writers (and other content creators) to share our experiences. I think these kinds of posts unify us in shared experiences, which is so important in a time where there are so many things that want to polarise and divide us.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this talk. I appreciate your support!
Thank you for listening to Book Talk with Yolandie! If you’d like to connect, I’m on Facebook and Instagram, and you can also find me on my website, www.yolandiehorak.com.
The music is River Meditation by Jason Shaw.