Farewell and tribute to Anne Schuster



Anne Schuster is moving to Kleinmond, from where she will run writing retreats and a scaled-down writing workshop programme. This event, organised by the women who are members of her monthly writing groups, honoured her contribution to many, many writers.

‘In writing with others, without pretension, without competition and without trying to impress, there is an extraordinary connection of creative energies.’ ~ Anne Schuster

Farewell to Anne Schuster

Christine Coates and Maire Fisher

With thanks to BOOK SA,  Bridgett Whyte, Christine Coates and Maire Fisher for the pics and to Daniel Fisher for the music.

There are so many lovely photos that won’t fit here, that rather than making lots of small collages of small pictures, I’ve put them together into two movies with two songs as backing tracks. The music is slightly jumpy, but I couldn’t make files that were too big, so please forgive this. You’ll find the links  below.

On Wednesday 20 October, 2010 Ann Donald generously opened the doors of Kalk Bay Books to the Monthlies, and we gathered to pay tribute to Anne Schuster, a remarkable woman, a gifted writer and writing teacher who has worked with women’s groups in Cape Town for more than a decade.

Preparations started well before 20.10.2010. Ilze Olkers, another exceptional facilitator, consulted with members of the group and so a fine plan was hatched. Each Monthly would write a tribute to Anne, on a postcard. These would, if possible, include words from ‘Writing is Learning to Die’, a poem written by Anne in her novel, Foolish Delusions:

Writing is Learning to Die
Anne Schuster

I lie on the inside of the night
at the edge of the wound
scratching the dark with my eyelids
ready to write the story
which I cannot bear to remember

What is it that makes one dare?

I write as if the secret that is in me
were before me
galloping ahead of me and beyond –
a night-ride to the very edge of the world
where all the dragons live

What is it that makes one dare?

I let go into a moment of nothing
allow a force that I am not
recount my story to me
allow it’s breath to enter me
inspire me – and

I hear writing write.

The postcards were then given to Christine Coates, story-teller, poet and book-maker extraordinaire. She became, in her own words ‘totally absorbed and compulsively obsessed’ as she created A Renga Book for Anne to Read and Play with at Leisure, made of recycled watercolour paintings, layered and folded into an accordion book with pages, envelopes, packets of surprises.

It’s impossible to describe how beautiful the book is; hopefully the photographs will help to show what an inspired creation it is.

Cynthia Mac Pherson kindly arrived early to fill vases with an abundance of proteas and bougainvillea and Cathwrynn, the lovely and willing assistant at KBB helped us to clear the decks for the evening.

As Anne and Annemarie arrived they were sung to their seat by Daniel Fisher (Maire Fisher’s son).

Shaida Ali, newly published author of Not a Fairy Tale, then welcomed everyone in fine sparkling style:

Anne, if at this moment, you’re feeling overwhelmed, take three conscious breaths.  Hand on your heart for extra credit.

Thank you to Kalk Bay Books for the use of this fine venue. To the Mighty Monthlies who have participated in this mostly surprise, thank you.

Anne, your writing workshops have brought us much light, laughter and love. You’ve taught us that with stubs of pencils or fancy pens, we can open up cans of worms, free jinn from bottles, break locks on closets where bones were turning brittle. You’ve shown – without telling – that our non-dominant hands hold golden keys to secret words. Your workshops have been magical journeys. They’ve been gifts. So tonight it’s our turn to provide you with a gift or two or three.

Here’s the first. After long hours of deliberation the judges have agreed that you’re the most deserving recipient of: The Sparkly Chocolate Cupcake Award for Most Fabulous Writing Teacher and here to present it is my lovely blonde associate, Ms Wordsmith herself, Nella Freund.

The next award is another mouthful. It’s the Sparkly Chocolate Cupcake Award For Best Cloak and Dagger Mostly Surprise Farewell Party Assistant Planner. And it goes to Annemarie. Thank you Nella.

We are here, Anne, to rejoice in your move to Kleinmond. And we’re delighted that you’re not abandoning us: We love our new roles as Quarterlies. Thank you, Anne.

Christine, one of the original Monthlies, took us back to the first workshops, recalling the events that happened along the way. She presented Anne with her Renga Book, and as a true devotee, proceeded to show not tell her how it worked (as well as all the tributes from the Monthlies, Anne has been set games and writing exercises which involve pink and green slips …).

Christine said that the book represents the texture and richness of Anne’s influence on the writing and lives of many women.

The idea taken from a Japanese poetry form made by many

Maire introduced Daniel’s next song, and explained that both songs, ‘That’s All’ and ‘You were Always on my Mind’ had been chosen specifically:

When we started writing with Anne something new came into our lives. Not quite human, somewhat otherworldly, drawn from our depths, floating in the air around us.  Shape-shifting, elusive, at times shy, at other times demanding, once this Protean creature moved in, she was here to stay. We’d find her wallowing in our bath, eavesdropping in restaurants, trying on the clothes in our wardrobe, watching our neighbours and prodding us to find out where they’d been.

Some of the monthlies treated her like a beloved friend, like visiting royalty even, communicating with her daily, helping her with her chores, seeing what she’d like to eat and  drink.  Often they’d travel many, many miles, through strange and unexplored terrain, guided by instinct and discipline, to provide her with exactly what she needed to flourish. For these monthlies, her shadowy form became solid and robust.

Sadly … other monthlies neglected her terribly, and she languished, patiently hoping for a morsel here, a crumb there, a small change of scenery, or simply a thin sliver of sunlight.

With deep gratitude we thank Anne for fostering this complex, complicated, frustrating, rewarding and exciting relationship.

We dedicate both of the songs tonight to that abundantly generous, ever-giving and ever-forgiving creature, Our Writing.

Ilze then invited the monthlies to share in an open-mic session, to read the poems they had written for Anne, or to say something to her.  A stream of Monthlies shared their words, including poems from the mezzanine balcony by Sue Bust and Brigitte Murphy …

Time for the grand finale: the presentation of two Dutch bicycles specially chosen for Anne and Annemarie’s forthcoming move to Kleinmond. As Mish Damstra and Shaida wheeled out the bikes which Mish had garlanded  with flowers and festooned with flags, the Monthlies joined in a ragged but rousing rendition of ‘Annie, Annie, here is a bike for you’ (Maire’s version of ‘Daisy Daisy’):

Annie, Annie, here is a bike for you
Specially bought for the grand Klienmond debut
We hope it brings years of pleasure
As you enjoy your leisure
May you feel swell as you ring your bell
On the bike that we chose for you.

Dearest Annemarie, we also got one for you
Specially bought to give you the thanks you’re due
Our thoughts on this were not random
In fact they rode in tandem
Cos you’ll both look sweet
Upon the seats
Of the bikes that we bought for two!

(The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be

the vehicle of novelists and poets. ~ Christopher Morley)



Bikes that we bought for two!

Ilze then ended by asking us to think about the web that connects us all, that allows us to be where we are, who we are. We sat in silence as she chimed her Tibetan bells 12 times. One chime for each of the years the Monthlies have been writing together.

Cupcakes for all – Shaida and Mish handing out the sparkly stuff

One comment on “Farewell and tribute to Anne Schuster

  1. Thanks and thanks and thanks. To Anne, Maire, the committee, the Mighties – from beginnings to ends, in every language and every mother tongue – blessings

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