Kirsten Miller (1970 - ) was born in Port Elizabeth, and graduated with an Honours degree, Cum Laude in Drama in Education and Community Theatre from the University of Natal in 1993. Miller then undertook temporary lecturing work and lived for a short time in Mtunzini, the small north-coast town that was to become the setting for her first novel, All is Fish. The book was short-listed for the Jacana/EU Literary Award in 2005, and was published in 2007.
Miller spent two years in London and returned to South Africa to live in Cape Town , where she began to work with children with autism. She found herself immersed in a world that few people ever understand unless they are directly affected by it, and after ten years her experience in the field led to her book, Children on the Bridge – A Story of Autism in South Africa (Jacana, 2006), a story that describes her very personal journey through the world of autism and the families affected by it.
Aside from her two novels, Miller has also had short stories published. In 2008, she published A Time for Fairies and in 2009, she published Only in Art, which was nominated for the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award in 2009. She is also an established artist, having had her second art exhibition in 2008 at Johannesburg's Unit Gallery, alongside fellow artists Robyn Field and Patrick Mabena.
In 1999, she moved to Durban and began writing on a freelance basis. That same year she published her first short story in a small collection, Uncovered Mirrors , and was also short-listed for the Cosmopolitan/FNB Vita Short Story Competition. Miller later published short stories and numerous magazine articles, and was a finalist in the HSBC/SA PEN award in both 2005 and 2006. Her short stories ‘White Boy' and ‘The Chief's Spell' were published in African Compass and African Road (Spearhead 2005 and 2006).
Miller's passion for creativity has resulted in varied experiences including work as a teacher, a creativity lecturer and a dolphin show presenter. She is also a practicing artist with a passion for textiles. She completed a fibre-glass cow for Cow Parade SA and has had a solo exhibition at the Unity Gallery in Johannesburg in 2005. She now considers Durban her home, continues to write independently, and is working on her next couple of books.
She comments: “Writing is a way of seeing the world; it's becoming both the worm in the dust and the elevated eagle in order to eke out through craft what is worth re-creating on the page.”
“Reading this book is a bit like wading through an ocean of nostalgia for lost youth and broken dreams. It is an intense read from the very first page, but it is written with such honesty that you cannot help but take the bait and swim out even deeper.” - Natalie Bosman of All is Fish in The Citizen
In 2016, Miller was a winner in the "Best Unpublished Adventure Manuscript" category at the 2016 Inaugural Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize for her book The Hum of the Sun.
Extract from All is Fish
He pulled the hood of the anorak back from his head as I stepped aside from the doorway and he lumbered into the room, big, bulky and heavy footed. He nodded to me and his eyes flickered around the room. I could tell from the way he entered that he was no stranger to the house.
“Evening,” he muttered, his accented voice rough and dull.
“Hello.” I stuck out my hand. “I’m Simon. I’m staying with Jonathan for a while.”
He nodded. I couldn’t tell if this information was new to him or not but he did not take my offered hand. He walked across the living room and through the dark doorway at the other end. I felt tired and I sat down again in the chair to pour myself a fresh glass of wine. Five minutes later I heard the sound of the toilet flushing and the man came through tightening the belt on his trousers. He asked in his thick voice if I minded if he sat down and I made a hand gesture towards the couch but did not speak because if I did my answer wouldn’t have been honest. He positioned himself there in his wet garments, coughing and rubbing his face with both hands, which were rougher than his face. He was a man of physical labour and hard times. His skin was dull with a grey matt tinge to it and his eyes were small and set back into his head. They were blue but carried nothing I could read or could relate to. The water from his sodden clothes was still running off him and onto the carpet around his feet. I wished that I hadn’t opened the door at all, but now it was done. He was inside and I had no idea who he was or where he came from or even what to say to him. I rose from my chair and went into the kitchen to retrieve another wine glass.
When I returned he lit a cigarette and sat there smoking and looking at the wall. I poured from the bottle without asking if he wanted it and handed the crimson liquid to him. His bulbous nose and heavy eyes and the broken vessels that explored his face like tiny rivers left me with little doubt that he was a man who never refused a drink. He didn’t thank me but took it, gulped down some wine and then placed the glass on the floor at his feet. I asked him his name and he said it was Roelf Minnaar. I could think of nothing more to say to him.
After five minutes of silence I resigned myself to the fact that this man was not particularly garrulous and began to feel vaguely relieved. He could sit and drink and I could drink and not have to talk and eventually he would leave. Then he spoke.
“I live in a caravan,” he said.
I nodded and sat up. “Where abouts?”
He made a sideways head movement and told me it was in the park on the other side of town.
“I’m from Johannesburg,” I said and hated the clean sound of my voice. He nodded and drank more wine. Then he bent down and tapped the ash from his cigarette into the inner side of his shoe. I was about to get up to fetch an ashtray from the kitchen when I noticed there were at least three in the room already.
“You like ’Zini?” he asked.
“I grew up here,” I answered.
The man seemed not to hear me. He smoked his cigarette to the yellow filter and then turned it upside down and balanced it on the arm of the chair until it burned out. He drained his glass and I got up and filled it again while his eyes greedily followed the movements of the bottle. He downed the dark liquid, then put his head back and closed his weary eyes.
2006. Children on the Bridge: A Story of Autism in South Africa. Johannesburg: Jacana.
2008. A Time for Fairies. Illustrator: Shayle Bester. Publisher: Monique Bowmaker.
2014. Sister Moon. Cape Town: Umuzi.
1999. When the Master Calls. Uncovered Mirrors. Rondesbosch: Footprints Publishers (ed. Keith Adams).
2005. White Boy. In African Road. Claremont, South Africa: Spearhead Press.
2006. The Chief’s Spell. In African Compass. Claremont, South Africa: Spearhead Press.
2007. Chance Encounter. In Dinaane: Short Stories by South African Women. London: Telegram Books (ed. Maggie Davey).
2008. A Time for Fairies. Illustrated by Shayle Bester.
2009. Only in Art. In New Writing From Africa. Cape Town: Johnson & King James.
2011. Remember Joe (a short play) - Short, Sharp & Snappy - Junkets (ed. Robin Malan).
2012. Mobile - Africa Inside Out (A Time of the Writer Anthology). UKZN Press.