Prince Harry to Visit Lesotho

Royals and celebrities alike tend to focus on one cause or charity, and Prince Harry of Wales has chosen his cause as helping children in Lesotho. Makes some sense: Lesotho was once the British Protectorate of Basutoland. The charity Prince Harry founded, along with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, is called Sentebale. Sentebale is a sort of compound Sesotho word that means “don’t forget me.” The organization seems well-run. I’ve attended some of their events and know some of the people who work, or worked, for them.

This month, on February 27th, Harry will drop into Lesotho for a brief visit, which he doesn’t get to do often. And when I say brief, I mean brief — less than a day, according to this news release from the Sentebale website.

But how lucky for little Lesotho to be chosen as the philanthropic target for one of the English-speaking world’s most recognizable characters.

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Videos Related to The Mountain School

I came to Lesotho at the right time in terms of technology. Digital cameras had just become affordable, and though mine didn’t take a high-quality picture, it did have a video mode.

Here are some videos taken during the time I lived in Ts’oeneng (except for the taxi rank video, which was taken on a visit in 2010). I chose them for their relevance to The Mountain School. Enjoy.

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From The Hobbit to The Mountain School

My wife was reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit last week. She finished it and she picked up The Mountain School. I had a surreal moment when I looked over to see her face buried in the open book, my book — She’s reading my book! Like it’s any other book. It’s just a book that she’s reading right now, and it happens to be one that I wrote.

I was in the kitchen, and she was in a chair in the other room. She laughed shortly, “Hah.”

“What is it? You think something’s funny? What?”

I wanted so badly to know, but I couldn’t ask. How annoying it would be for her to have me asking about every reaction she had. It had to be enough that she was reacting to the book at all. The scariest thing for a writer is to put something out there and then for people to read it calmly and finish it and then never think of it again. That’s the scariest thing to me anyway.

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Photos for Each Part

I’ve put up a few select photos to enhance your Mountain School reading. For each of the four parts of the book, there are images of some of the people and places you encounter. Find the photos nestled under the “Book” page.

And here’s an extra picture that didn’t fit neatly into one of the parts:

We're having pork in the school lunch on this day
We’ll be having pork in the school lunch on this day
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About the Cover

I had a photo and a general vision for how I wanted the cover to look, and a graphic designer friend, Julie Rubtchinsky, made it happen.The_Mountain_School_Cover_for_Kindle

First, about the photo. These are my students. Do they look like students? It was a day of celebration they called Letsatsi la Moetlo, or Cultural Day, where they each dressed like a different character found in Lesotho: miners, boys just finished with initiation, girls just finished with initiation, ntlamu dancers, shepherds, mothers, fathers, and on and on. At the point this photo was taken, we were all marching through the village toward the chief’s house. That was how we started the day.IMG_2030

Here’s a photo of me with Chief Thabo once we arrived at his house.

(Both this photo and the cover photo were taken by a student named Lerato Thaki.)

And about the design for the book cover. I chose the typeface Ride My Bike because I thought it looked a little bit like chalk written on the road. It also looked like it could be words coming from the silhouetted boy’s mouth. Julie took the typeface and the photo and wrapped it around, manipulated this and that, rearranged some words on the back, thickened a font, extended a line, and did some other magic on her Mac until it became what it is. She has a design company called Open Swim Creative, and I think she did a great job.

A couple more tidbits that you might never know: The mountain in the background is Kolo Mountain. And if you look at the spine of the print copy of the book, you mostly see one girl; that girl is the chief’s daughter, Nthabiseng Mokhele.

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Final Proof, and Poof!

The final proof copy just arrived and it looked as expected, so I approved it for publication and . . .  The Mountain School is now alive on Amazon. It’s out of my hands.

There’s this moment that I’ll never get back, this moment right now when I’m the only one with the book, and I know what it contains and why I wrote it. Nonetheless, it’s been that way for years. I no longer want to keep it to myself. I’m so eager to get it into your hands, and to hear what you think it contains and why I have written it.

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Paper Makes the Mistakes Pop

mistakesI had edited the manuscript innumerable times — spellchecked, considered grammar, etc — but when I got the proof copy in the mail little errors popped up all over the pages. Well, not all over. It’s just that I expected there to be none, and there were more than a couple.

Still, the proof copy of the book looks like a book. That was the amazing part: seeing the manuscript transform from the computer screen to physical pages. The friends who saw it thought the same. They said, “It’s . . . a book! A real book!”

I’m glad I took the time to read the whole thing through, correct the mistakes, and resubmit my files. Books live a long time. Typos and such inevitably creep into every book, but the fewer the less distracting to the story, the message.

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Submission Day

Today the manuscript and cover images got submitted for review. Hopefully, by New Year’s I’ll have a proof copy arrive in the mail. This is a huge milestone. I’ve written and edited, and had people read and send feedback, and edited some more for years, and at last I’ve sent the hundreds of pages off for the final step before the book is out in the world and, in a sense, no longer mine anymore. It deserves a celebration.

So I went to In-N-Out. I got a cheeseburger, fries, and a strawberry shake, and I brought into the restaurant my friend Nate Denver’s new book, Haunted Armor. Both the meal and opening up Nate’s book were my rewards for finishing my material for submission.

I loved the idea that as my own book is on the cusp of publication, I got to dig into a friend’s fresh creativity. The cover is gorgeously original, and every 50-word story within was packed with enough provocation that I only got through nine before I slurped the bottom of my shake.

Then I looked up to find an In-N-Out worker at my table. “Hi. I wanted to give you this card from the company and say, Merry Christmas,” she said. I recognized her because earlier she had asked me how my meal was. I said thanks and wished her a Merry Christmas too. I opened the envelope and inside was a custom In-N-Out card showing a scene with snow falling over the iconic palm trees of the company’s logo. I opened the card and covering both pages were signatures in different pens and in different colors from a few dozen employees.

Merry Christmas and Happy Submission Day.

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Three Years Learning as a Peace Corps Teacher in Lesotho, Africa