The Bullet Pen




Daring death on the 9373: Surfing Soweto

As far as weird sports go there’s planking, there’s free running and then there’s train surfing. In the documentary, Surfing Soweto, featured at Hackney Picture House this November as part of the Film Africa 2011 festival, Director Sarah Blecher explores why Soweto’s young, black, male population is fascinated with the extreme adrenaline sport of train surfing and risking life and limb performing acrobatic displays atop, beneath and alongside trains. High tension electric cables and the rising death toll aren’t deterrent enough.

It all started in 2006 with a rail guards’ strike. And with Bitchnigga, renowned in Soweto as the father of train surfing. What Blecher noticed back at the time were the one-liner obituaries: “young black man found dead on train tracks” and their growing frequencies in the daily newspapers. What she found out in the course of the four years it took to filmSurfing Soweto is not only that the cause of these deaths is train surfing, but that the sport has become rampant among adolescents in Soweto, has attracted a large female following, that their arena is the rooftop of the 9373 morning train conveying workers from Soweto to Johannesburg, that three boys – Bitchnigga, Lefa and Mzembe are the city’s champions, and that the sport claims the life of one in three participants. read more.


Africa’s Leading Literary Powerhouse – South Africa or 


David Njoku


African prize-winning authors

Summer 2012 and the eyes of the world turn to the city of London, England. People across the globe sit in beer parlours, shebeens, pubs, washing unhealthy snacks down with tankards of beer and cheering as the healthiest specimens of our nations run, jump and swim faster, higher, stronger.

But why stop at sportsmen? Why not pitch our countries’ plumbers against the world’s, our street-corner hookers, our brain surgeons? Why don’t Liberians sneer at Sierra Leoneans: “The barefoot kids hawking peanuts in your Kroo Bay slums are nothing compared to the former child soldiers weaving through traffic selling groundnuts in the misery of our West Point”? And why not stand our writing ‘athletes’ up against each other in a sort of literary Olympic Games and see which nation ends up on the podium? read more.

Eating Christmas in the Kalahari

Richard Lee

“Eating Christmas in the Kalahari” by Richard Lee is a perfect example of naive realism. Lee   thought that Christmas would be seen throughout the world in a similar manner.   As Lee stated, individual who celebrate this holiday feel “Christmas is supposed to be the day of friendship and brotherly love”(Lee, Eating Christmas in the Kalahari pg 20). Therefore, Lee wanted to give a gift out of the spirit of Christmas. The !Kung feel individuals’ should be humble about gift giving. If you are not modest, they will knock your ego down a few notches. Even though Lee’s feelings were hurt in this situation, it only occurred because of the cultural misunderstanding between Lee and the !Kung. The meaning of giving for the !Kung is dramatically different, than Lee has ever experienced. read more.


Sniff, sob, get out your hankies, the IMF is in town

Lee Mwiti

The more things change in Africa, the more they remain the same, especially when it concerns that all-knowing powerful institution known as the International Monetary Fund.

The negative effects of the much-maligned Structural Adjustment Programmes championed for the continent in the 1980s continue to linger to this day, but this has not stopped African countries queuing up for the quick fixes…. read more.

Simple but Effective Tips for More Engaging & Persuasive Writing

Reposted by: The Bullet Penner

Don’t just tell me your brother is talented… show me what he can do, and let me decide whether I’m impressed. To convince your readers, show, don’t just tell them what you want them to know.

There. I’ve just told you something. Pretty boring, huh? Now, let me show you.

My brother is talented.

There’s nothing informative, or engaging, or compelling about this sentence. You have no reason to believe or disbelieve me, and no reason to care. (TELLING is boring and unconvincing.)

My brother modifies sports car engines, competes in ballroom dance tournaments, and analyzes chess algorithms.

“Wow, that guy is talented,” you say to yourself. You didn’t need me to TELL you what you’re supposed to think, because I carefully chose those details. (They SHOW you the range of my brother’s talents.)


  1. Choose Specific Details That Show Your Point
  2. Give the Reader a Reason to Feel Your Emotions
  3. Provide Engaging Details That Imply the Main Point
  4. Show with Informative Details and/or  Emotional Language
  5. “Telling” States Facts; “Showing” Invites Deeper Understanding
  6. Showing Prefers the Specific to the General
  7. Sometimes, “Telling” Is Good

1) Choose Specific Details That Show Your Point

You won’t need to write a boring, uninformative and unpersuasive sentence like “Texting while driving is bad” if you can instead SHOW your point, through well-chosen details  (such as statistics, specific examples, or personal stories) that SHOW in a persuasive way.

Let’s consider this point: “This tired child needs a nap.” That’s pretty dry, so let’s try to make it more…  read more.

How to Write about Africa

Binyavanga Wainaina

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it—because you care…. read more.


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