a recipe for dreaming



Before I could read I often tried to circumnavigate my mother towards toy stores. The moment I learnt how to read, books became my entire world. My mother had to change her route to try and avoid the local Dymocks store. It was here she spent so much money buying me books. I would hold up a book in my tiny hands and she would give me the ‘frown smile’ (where her eyes are frowning in disapproval at yet another book but she would be smiling to say she’ll give in anyway because my mum is the kindest, most generous person I’ve ever known).

She had always loved the author Bryce Courtenay so she would read The Power of One to me. If bile rises to my throat and tears well in my eyes when I hear of racism, it is all my mother’s doing. Her emotional character taught me so much about love.


One day I came home from school to find my mother excited, holding her car keys. Bryce Courtenay was at our local Dymocks signing copies of his new book. I was shocked. We didn’t have time to pick up a book for him to sign, so mum said I could pick any book I wanted and she would buy it for me. I picked up the one that spoke to me immediately.

A Recipe for Dreaming

And she let me buy two books. I waited in line. When my turn came, the lovely man was so thrilled to have an 8-year-old fan, exclaiming I had to be one of his youngest. He was jovial and excited by every person. He made me come around the table to sit next to him and he asked me what on earth a young thing like me was doing visiting an old thing like him. My mum said I wanted to be an author, just like him. That I would write stories in my notebooks. She told him how much I loved his book The Power of One with a big smile on her face, which meant that she had loved it too, but didn’t think she had any right to say so.

He declared with resolute determination, ‘Sheree, I will help you become a famous author one day. Bring your stories to me and I will help you publish them. You’re going to be famous one day, I can tell’.

And so he wrote in my book, The Potato Factory: ‘To Sheree, the Famous Author’.

And then in a recipe for dreaming, ‘To Sheree, the Dreamer.’


My older brother texted me just hours ago asking me if I had heard about Bryce dying of terminal cancer, with only months to live. I had not. (It was a big deal that I had met him at such a young age…my family saw it as a sign). My brother told me I had better finish that novel I had promised to Bryce.

The soul-crushing weight of my unfinished novel impacted me and my tears flooded the taxi I was in on the way home. The eight-year-old in me wants so desperately to finish writing it, chipping away at it every day, in order to show it to Bryce before he leaves us and fulfil a promise.

And I can’t help but think…if only I could fly.

‘We need to dream, as a soaring imagination is the glue that keeps our soul from shattering under the impact of a prosaic world’. – BC.

12 thoughts on “a recipe for dreaming

  1. This made me sad, Shazatron3000.

    I was sad to learn of his passing to begin with, of course; I always am deeply affected when an author whose work I’ve read and enjoyed, passes away. Some people don’t get it, they say you didn’t know that person, how can you be so sad?

    I think, even without childhood encounters like the lovely one you described, we connect deeply with those people who tell us stories that move us, change us, or make us think. Hell, even stories that simply thrilled us, or made us laugh, or helped us fall even more in love with books and adventure. So it hits us hard when we hear they’ll be gone soon, or are gone already, and we’ll never hear them tell us another tale, never be introduced to another excellent world or meet favourite characters one more time on a new journey.

    Too many storytellers have been lost to us these past few years. Though I’d like to think people like us are waiting in the wings to step up and fill the void with new voices…

  2. Whoops, didn’t mean to say that! A troubling slip, that.

    I think, subconsciously, whenever I hear someone’s going to pass away, I consider them already gone. It happened with my Grandma, just two months ago. I heard she was going to go and there was nothing we could do and I began grieving immediately. Two months of mourning before she even passed.

    I really shouldn’t approach it that way but that’s the way it’s happened thus far…

    • That’s really fascinating, I’ve never looked at it that way. Maybe it’s the eternal optimist in me though…(or just in denial). But I know what you mean about grieving immediately. I’ve been in awkward situations where families are discussing funeral arrangements before the person has even died. I don’t believe we die and disappear, i think the soul lives on and for that reason, I’m hesitant to actually give up on the person altogether. Only to miss them when they’re no longer physically with us…but I do think they’re always with us to some extent.

      • I think they remain with us, too. There’s something about the inevitability of it though, in Bryce Courtenay’s case and my grandmother’s, that led to a sense of loss and grieving immediately. I think it helped in some sense, when she actually passed, that I’d already been mourning and so it felt like it came to a natural close not too long thereafter.

        And thank you; I believe you expressed that sentiment on Facebook already but it never hurts to hear it again 🙂 I’m okay now.

  3. I am on holiday at the moment, back home in Zimbabwe for a few weeks. I live in the US now though.

    Yesterday, I was visiting a friend’s not-for-profit called Vanavevhu, an organization that empowers child-headed households, teaching them entrepreneurial skills, one of those rare organizations that actually does transparent, sustainable and effective work.

    Vanavevhu is currently closed for the Xmas season so we were just visiting the site, the beehives, the chickens, the candle-making area, the market gardening area (and particularly, the wonderful oyster mushrooms, which might still be a little too sophisticated for Bulawayo). In the recreation area, I immediately headed for the bookshelf, thinking that I might find some first edition treasure, perhaps a Roald Dahl or an Enid Blighton, or maybe a James Joyce… I’m always amazed how these treasures show up in the most random of places. Yesterday, however, I didn’t find one of these… instead, as I skimmed the titles on the shelf, my gaze fixated on “A Recipe for Dreaming.” Bryce Courtenay is, afterall, one of my favourites, and yet I had never read this one. I pulled it off the shelf, and asked my friend Liz, the founder of Vanavevhu, if I could borrow it as I didn’t have time for a quick read since we were still checking out all the cool stuff that Vanavevhu does.

    As we walked around the site, to my horror, I discovered that my friend Sandi had never read the “Power of One” 🙂 We talked about it, and about Bryce Courtenay, and I managed to flip through a page or two of the book in my hands. When we got back to the main industrial shed, I called for an impromptu reading… so with my three friends, I sat on the dusty floor and read them “A Recipe for Dreaming,” a book that thereafter, I decided would be my new standard gift for everyone in my life.

    This morning, I woke up and started to look for the book online, only to discover that Bryce Courtenay passed away in November. I never met him, but when I visited Australia in 2008/2009, I discovered one of his books at my dad’s friend’s house, addressed to him personally and signed. I don’t often get starstruck, but this was one of those rare occasions.

    Bryce Courtenay was to me, one of those living authors that I just sort of assumed would exist for forever. I am a little stunned to read of his passing, but I have a feeling that he would be tickled to know that his little book had been read among friends on a dusty African floor in the middle of nowhere, the perfect way to celebrate his life, his dreams, and all of ours.

    Thought this might be worth a share,


    • You’re most welcome. I used to write more often. Doesn’t happen so often anymore. But when i am inspired, it’s as though i don’t have a choice but to write. Thanks for inspiring me.

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