All through my working life I have been helped by generous people. I began writing at an early age but was soon side-tracked by life: marriage, a wayward husband, three babies, one of them severely deaf kept me preoccupied by other matters, but at the back of my mind there was always the desire to write. I read as much as I could, told stories to little groups of children on the beach, took occasional writing courses, studied psychology until my children were old enough to stand on their own feet.
Then I went back to school (Columbia) and soon found an editor at Knopf, Gordon Lish. So much has been written about this legendary editor who has been called all sorts of things including the Magus of Minimalism. I can only say here that I learned a lot from him. He was a generous teacher who sat for six hours once a week, sharing with his students what he knew about writing. He published three of my first books with Knopf. For my first novel, “The Perfect Place,” I wanted to write out of rage about the death of my sister, and he made me understand that a victim on the page does not work as she does not work in life. It was a valuable lesson.
When the book was finished I was lucky enough to find generous readers willing to give me public praise. I remember the thrill of getting a comment from John Coetzee, my fellow countryman, a wonderful writer ("Disgrace") who eventually won the Nobel Prize. D.M. Thomas ("The White Hotel") also read and praised in a blurb. What generosity from these famous writers to reach out to an unknown South African woman, and to strike up what became in the case of John Coetzee the beginning of a correspondence filled with words of encouragement which sustained me through the many vicissitudes of the writing life.