- Category: TOW 2012
Cynthia Jele is a South African-born writer who grew up in a small border town in Mpumalanga. She graduated with a BTech in Environmental Health from the then Natal Technikon and obtained a BA in International Business from North Central College in Illinois.
Jele worked as a public health officer for the Mpumalanga Health Department, and then jetted to the United States where she spent a year as an au pair. She then went on to live in the United Kingdom for a year. Upon her return to South Africa, Jele worked as a management consultant. She has recently established an economic development consultancy, Lombuso Consulting Group.
Jele’s claim to fame was winning 1st and 4th prizes in the 2008 BTA/Anglo-Platinum Short Story Competition. Her debut novel - a story celebrating love and female friendships - Happiness is a Four-Letter Word, won the Best First Book category (Africa region) in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2011, as well as the 2011 M-Net Literary Award in the Film category. The novel was also shortlisted for the 2011 Booksellers Choice Award.
In 2006 Jele self-published a guide, So You Wanna Be an Au Pair, What Your Agency Will Never Tell.
On how her writing journey started, Jele muses, “I once attended a reading session given by an American author, where towards the end of her talk she took the audience through a short writing exercise: she read out a line from a new short story she was working on and asked the audience to complete the first two paragraphs. I remember the thrill of trying to put something on a piece of paper. When I got home, I pulled out my computer and wrote a short story. I haven’t stopped since.”
Happiness is a Four-Letter Word, Kwela Books, 2010