All Posts By Lola Jaye

Writing Coach Rosemary Dun on First Drafts & The Alchemy of Teaching Creative Writing…

 

Shoes and $&!££y First Drafts: The Alchemy of Teaching Creative Writing           

 

I teach creative writing both at an adult education centre and for The Open University. I approach all my classes with the same two goals: to pass on what I wish I’d known when I first started writing creatively, and to help new writers get in touch with their subconscious from which all creativity flows. Over the years I’ve witnessed magic in both my own and my students’ writing and lives. 

Raymond Carver wrote: “It’s possible, in a poem or short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring—with immense, even startling power.” And that “a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing- a sunset or an old shoe- in absolute and simple amazement.” 

We live in a text-based world which isn’t necessarily conducive to creative writing. We write – text messages, emails, facebook, work reports – daily. But is this “creative writing”? 

For me, there are two components to creative writing.                                                                        

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The Craft = ways of doing (i.e. the nuts & bolts)

The Art = ways of seeing (or perceiving – i.e. your view of the world).

Often, in order to access the “Art” of the process a good start is to move away from the keyboard. With freewriting by hand you’re outwitting your inner critic or editor, and telling your subconscious that you’re writing creatively. I like to get my students to free-write with pen and paper, to draw with crayon, to write in the dark – to dance and sing and pay attention to their writing. And to also develop the close observation, the being specific, the employment of all five senses, the showing with scenes, the day-dreaming.

 

I’m a big fan of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down The Bones, her timed freewriting exercises, and the writing of “$&!££y first drafts”, through which you can discover your voice, help your characters take on lives of their own, and channel flow and natural rhythms. Freewriting can take you to a trance-like state, and to where magic and alchemy can happen.  You begin to dream your writing. It comes and finds you (so do carry a small notebook and pen with you for when that happens). Your subconscious works away at plot problems, comes up with solutions, with new avenues, and with terrific unforced and specific prose and – Halleluah – before you know it, you’re a writer.   Teaching creative writing is such a privilege. I’m often humbled by students who have a breakthrough, or by those who say their lives are changed and enriched forever because writing is now in it. Most recently, a student confided that – after years of trying IVF and all but giving up – she felt “something unlock, and that she now has her long-dreamed-for baby. She’s convinced this is all down to a practice of free-writing. And who am I to say otherwise?  

Magic can, and does happen. Not always. But when it does … it’s … magic! All I ask of my students is to be open, to be brave, to trust in the process and their own innate story-telling abilities – and to let go of the wanting everything to be perfect. Embrace those shitty first drafts!

And so, thanks to all who have shared the magic, for those who are writing magic, and for the magic yet to come. Oh, and do start staring at those old shoes!

Rosemary Dun is a published writer of short stories and poetry.  She has performed poetry and run workshops at literary festivals. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University  and teaches creative writing at Degree level for The Open University.  Rosemary’s latest novel is with her literary agent ready for submission (good luck gal!).

Contact Rosemary via her website for  mentoring or tutoring  www.rosemarydun.co.uk 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Like buses…

 …You wait for one post and two arrive at once.

I’ve been in Atlanta since June, so I do have an excuse (sort of).

During this time, I’ve been blessed to visit New Orleans and attend the Essence Festival for the very first time. Lots of celebrities were present and I did manage to listen to Alicia Keyes talk about the AIDS crisis, Mary J Blige sing her heart out and observe many just mulling around (sometimes aimlessly). I kept my cool though (unlike when I met Will Smith way back in 2008!)

* So there is something up with my computer today and I can’t post any pictures. Just know that a very nice picture would have gone here! 

 The history of New Orleans is fascinating. The Spanish and French influences in the architecture make it like no other US city I have ever been to.  Such a short visit this time, I did get to attend a drumming session in Louis Armstrong Park. If you get a chance to visit New Orleans make sure you check it out. These men and women meet every week in the spot where hundreds of years ago, African slaves danced and sang songs of their homeland.  When asked if they make every Sunday, one of the participants said; “We try never to miss a  Sunday.”  What heartfelt dedication.

What about the food? Well, the influences of those ancestors forcibly removed from Africa to the USA during the time of slavery is very real and present. I tried Gumbo for the first time and this immediatly reminded me of a Nigerian dish called Peppe Soup. I also had the best hot dog I have ever tasted  (please trust me on this) situated across the road from Louis Armstrong Park, called Dreamy Weenies!

 * picture

So I am back in Atlanta (home away from home) and continuing to sample what this city has to offer. The weather has been great, except for the almost daily rain…  I guess there had to be a reason for all the lovely trees.

Unlike many of it’s residents, I’m not driving whilst in Atlanta so have been getting around on the MARTA train and bus system. Now I am used to the fast and plentiful London transport system, so let’s just say that when the local bus only runs once every hour and not on the weekends, this becomes VERY INTERESTING.

But I am enjoying this ride.

Atlanta has the sunshine, the odd celebrity walking around any given area-but the best thing about here?  The people.

I like to just talk to people, find out their story. Is this because of blatant nosiness or fodder for a future book? Who knows?  But I have met so many wonderful people on this journey so far. In New Orleans I met a former 1960’s civil rights worker, now a retired Pastor who was once babysat by Mahalia Jackson; the man who drove my hotel shuttle bus each day, disclosed that he had once been tortured by the Taliban in  Afghanistan.  The list is endless and I get to add to it every single day.

It’s the southern hospitality that keeps bringing me back to Atlanta, without a doubt- oh and the sunshine!

So, as the title of this blog post suggests, you’re getting two posts for the price of one.

Next up, writing coach Rosemary Dun let’s us in to the world of First Drafts & The Alchemy of Teaching Creative Writing…

Enjoy (and sorry for the lack of pics- they were good too- blame the computer or slow internet connection!!)

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Thank You For The Rainbows Dr Maya Angelou

 

“You may write me down in history          10344813_690940090972459_7465878395489131365_n

With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise. ”

Earlier this year, I decided to purchase the entire volume of Dr Maya Angelou’s autobiography. Since then I have devoured each word, marvelling over the prose and vivid descriptions of her subjects; gasping periodically at the scenarios of a life lived by this one woman.

I am currently on volume 3:  The Heart of A Woman. Only this morning, I sat on the tube reading it with a smile on my face (as usual) as I read a passage confirming Dr Angelou had lived in the very area of London I now reside. This small minute detail thrilling every part of me; in some way ‘linking’ me with this wonderfully courageous, spirited and amazing woman.

When the news broke of her spiritual ascension I knew that although the world of literature and humanity as a whole had lost something beautiful,  heaven had gained a new freedom fighting, deeply loving, witty, humble and courageous human being.

Rest in Paradise Dr Angelou.

 

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An Author’s Take On Traditional vs E- Publishing!

Helloooo,

What’s your view on the E-publishing phenomenon? I thought it best to ask someone in the know, so my May interview is with Author/Realtor and ordained Minister Timmothy B McCann! –

Here are his views on the self publishing phenomenon!

Attention writers of every elk! You stand on the precipice of an amazing day in writing, where you can curse the light or embrace its warmth. Why? Because you can contribute to the world in a way you have never contributed before.

Would you find it hard to believe that the next Anna Karenina could have gone to the grave with its author? Would you find it shocking that an agent could have passed on the next Madame Bovary and said “This is not plausible?” Believe it or not a tale as powerful as War and Peace sits on a five inch “floppy disk” somewhere and the world will never hear the story. Why? Because of access.

The e-publishing phenomena is the greatest thing to happen to writers since Gutenberg invented the printing press. And before you consider that to be a hyperbolic statement allow me to explain.

Prior to Johannes Gutenberg creating what would be later known as “movable type,” disseminating information was very difficult. For approximately 4,500 years before the printing press, ideas were engraved or tediously written on surfaces such as stone, clay, papyrus, wax, and parchment. Can you just imagine how mind-numbing it must have been for a creative mind moving at the speed of light? To have to have the patience to share a story when it could take hours upon hours to write the first draft of a single paragraph? When some experts say we can mentally process over 600 words every sixty seconds, would you have the patience to carve one or two words a minute into stone?

Well, just as man made a monumental leap from stone to clay. From clay to papyrus, wax and eventually parchment. And from parchment to computers, we are in the midst of taking yet another leap when it comes to the dissemination of our thoughts and ideas.

As a writer, there is nothing worse than to have the following thought: The creative side of me is saying I should write it like this because I don’t think there has been a book writtenthis way before. But the commercial side of me is pushing me to write it like that because that is what the editor/agent feels the public will want to read. Regrettably, the way this is resolved by many writers is to simply sacrifice the creative side of their nature begging them to do this and simply do that in order to get published. This is literary blasphemy. Timm B. McCann

The advantages of e-publishing are as follows:

INTIMACY: Because you do not have the corporate behemoth known as a publisher standing between you and the public, you can create stories that an editor may not know how to pitch to the powers that be in an editorial board room. FINANCIAL: Imagine this. Imagine receiving 70% of the sales price of your book in weeks! AVOID THE BOX: You can write anything you like whenever you like. This is frowned upon by publishers. For instance I have a book of love stories  –Nine Faces of Love– plus a book entitledWhat Does It Mean to be a Christian Part 1.  How many publishers would allow such a thing?  RIGHTS: You own them all!

My fellow writer you have the opportunity to tell your grandchildren you stood on the precipice of literary change and took advantage of it—without cursing the light of a new day. Why? Because you now have access and access is power. This is a moment we’ve never seen before and my parting advice to you is simply, carpe diem!

 

Thanks Timm!

 

Timmothy B. McCann is a bestselling author and currently owns and operates a real estate brokerage and E Publishing company in Atlanta Ga. He has taught a course on the collegiate level entitled “The Art Of Commercial Fiction” and before E – publishing, penned four novels with Harper Collins and Kensington Books; Until… AlwaysForever and Emotions

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Lean IN!!

Hello!

Lean In Book!

 

Isn’t time flying by?

As we move into spring it’s so good to see a hint of the sun and that lovely pink tree showing off it’s blooms on my road.

This month saw my article/page appear in the UK edition of Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ book especially targeted to Graduates.

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and a very inspirational woman.  She  highlighted the conversation on feminism in the workplace with her March 2013 book; “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” which  sold nearly 150,000 copies in its first week!

I’ll be posting my little contribution in the coming weeks! Promise!!!!

I also left my work with the NHS  and have been writing like  a maniac ever since.
A busy month but I have remembered my promise to keep this Blog updated regularly… And an interview is coming up VERY soon.

For now, gotta go. See you soon!

 Love, love, love,

Lola

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The Writing Journey Of A Soon To Be Published Author…

Hello All…

I had the pleasure of chatting with fab and soon to be published author Irenosen Okojie. Look out for her guys! Having secured an agent, it’s only a matter of time until she’s snapped up by a major publisher! For now, she’s been gracious enough to write about her writing journey so far…

Enjoy!

My Writing Journey by Irenosen Okojie 

I may have had ink stains on my tiny hands in my mother’s womb. I suspect during the birth, after her face crumpled in relief at the prospect of fitting into her clothes again, my first wail was bewilderment in foreign surroundings and the second and third shrieks, frustration at being unable to document my infant arrival into this world; to not yet feel the strokes of a pen or flick a written page.

Fast forward to adolescence and I was well and truly addicted to a drug. Reading. Most teenage girls were obsessed with boys but I coveted books; the smell of them, feel of them and emotions they evoked. Literature was magical, it transformed the mundane into the extraordinary, planted a seed in me that had lofty ambitions. I hid novels inside my supplementary science books, often reading in class, piled into WH Smiths on smoggy days clutching wrinkled five pound notes. I liked that you could be wandering down Carnaby Street holding a weathered copy of Chinua Achibe’s Things Fall Apart and simultaneously be in Africa. I was one of those kids with the disposition of someone much more adult. You know the ones, seemingly born mature. I began to write, scribbled diary entries full of wry observations, poems jotted down with a fountain pen I always had to shake several times so the ink could come through. There was so much in my head; I thought I’d combust from carrying its weight. Writing offered me a space to explore, create, play, offload and dream.

Years later, I joined a young writer’s development programme run by Spread The Word. It paired aspiring writers and poets with established mentors. What began as a short story developed into a novel. Over the next two to three years, I had regular meetings with my mentor who offered feedback and encouragement. We’d also set deadlines and mark milestones which meant the work was progressing, growing. Writing a novel is like being dumped in a small boat at sea. You have no idea where you’re going or how you’ll get there but somehow you muddle through. Bit by bit, chapter by chapter, you create a book, similar to building a puzzle. Writing is tough, daunting, isolating and at times frustrating. It’s also illuminating, exciting and fulfilling. It’s been a thread that’s snaked through my life. No matter the circumstances, I always wrote. I’m miserable when I don’t. I wrote on rumbling trains, mountains, hospital isles, music festivals, in sleep. I wrote at the end of new beginnings and the beginning of fresh endings. I work in the arts which meant always interacting with other writers, poets, illustrators and musicians. This also spurred me on. I kept reading, all kinds of books because I can’t stand literary snobs and believe every genre has its place and value. I attended literature events to meet and connect with other writers. After all, no woman is an island. I redrafted the novel, sought advice. I kept working on the craft.

In 2012 after a few rejections, I signed with my agent. I remember meeting her at Foyles Bookshop on Charring Cross road. We sat in the busy café. I shook rain off my umbrella, watching her over a steaming cup of peppermint tea as though she was a trick of light. I honed in on her words, ignoring the din of noise. Any minute now I thought, she’ll say she just wanted to meet and to try again down the line. I steeled myself, internally rationalising. Literary agents don’t waste time meeting writers they don’t want to represent. A week later, the contract arrived in the post. It was real.

Sometimes, I think of my journey so far. I think of that baby floating in the ether, tightly gripping her pen. As she grew into womanhood, awkwardly embracing all the stages it entails, I think of her changing those pens as if they’re gears.

  

 

Irenosen

Irenosen Okojie is a London based writer and freelance Arts Project Manager. Her work has been published by The Observer, The Guardian and Kwani literary magazine . Her short stories have been published internationally and she is penning her first novel and a collection of short stories. She is also the Prize Advocate for the SI Leeds Literary Prize.To submit please visit:www.sileedsliteraryprize.com

Visit Irenosen’s website: www.irenosenokojie.com

Follow her on Twitter: @IrenosenOkojie

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How to Juggle Writing With Raising A Young Family: YA Author Keris Stainton Reveals How She Does It!

 

The wonderful Keris Stainton is the author of three published YA novels with a few more to come this year. She home educates her two young sons and is addicted to tea and Twitter.

I had one question for Keris;               1600313_10152211160060972_2118264409_n

“How do you juggle writing with raising a family?”      

Here’s what she had to say…

” Writing and having children are, for me, inextricably linked. I’d always wanted to write and had dabbled for years and years, but it was having my first son, Harry (now 9) that made me finally decide to go for it. The full story involves a job in accountancy, a Paul McKenna book, a life coach, and Starbucks. But basically all you need to know is that I became horrified at the idea of one day telling my child that I’d always wanted to write, but had never really been brave enough. And so I started to write. At first I wrote for magazines and online, but when I was pregnant with my second son, Joe (now 5), I got a book deal and have subsequently had three young adult novels (and one New Adult novella) published, with another three due out this year. But I am always – always – looking for excuses not to write. The only time I ever willingly do housework is when I know I should be writing. I will phone annoying relatives. I will sort my receipts. I even, recently, googled how to fix a dripping tap (I didn’t go as far as actually fixing it though).

 

 

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I annoy myself. I can fill days with ‘busyness’ or ‘research’ while fretting constantly about the fact that I’m not writing. This also involves telling the boys I can’t take them to the park, we can’t make biscuits, no I can’t help you download yet another Minecraft mod – I’M WRITING. But I’m not. I’m avoiding writing. I learned recently that if I write first thing – very first thing – then all of the above can be avoided. A few weeks ago I dreamt that we were burgled and so I started taking my laptop up to bed with me. One morning, I sat up in bed, opened up the laptop and started to write. After half an hour or so, the boys got up and joined me in bed with their own technology. By 9am – AM! – I had my words for the day. The rest of the day was so easy, so breezy, so much fun that I keep wondering if I’d forgotten to do something important. But no, I’d just got it out of the way. (I just read this article by Merrill Markoe, which may explain why it works).  I will probably always avoid writing to some extent – I think it’s just human nature that if you know you have to do something, you’ll do all you can to put it off – but getting it out of the way early seems to be the key. Then you have the day free to be a parent, plus you also get to feel smug that your writing is done. Win-win.”

Thanks Keris!

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Birthdays, Elephants and… No Writing?

Hi All,

It’s been a great few weeks… 

I spent my birthday in Goa, India and it was amazing.

Elephants are some of the most beautiful and gracious creatures (in my humble opinion) and I had the privilege of spending my birthday  with them, ElehugCutbefore some birthday cake, lobster on the beach and partying the night away. A great birthday. I will confess that I did not write AT ALL on this trip- didn’t even make any notes… Total relaxation.

Now, I’m back  and the writing continues.  

And next week I have a lovely treat for you all, so stay tuned!

 

Lola

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Lola Interviews Blackhair magazine editor Keysha Davis……. about her favourite book of all time (and not one question about hair!!)

I promised you interviews and here’s one with the wonderful Keysha Davis! She’s an editor, blogger and freelance writer who specialises in hair & beauty, culture and women’s interest writing. Over the last four years Keysha has been at the helm of hair and lifestyle magazine, Blackhair, where she edits the magazine and is a very public face of the brand.  A magazine veteran, previous to this position, Keysha was the features and entertainment editor of Pride magazine for four years.  

Keysha

I just had ONE question for her…

“Keysha, tell me about your favourite book.”

“THE COLDEST WINTER EVER- THE BOOK I LOVE, BUT ASSUMED I WOULD HATE!
It’s taken me three days to confirm what book has had a profound impact on me. Three looong days. There were a few top contenders of course. Alice Sebold’s, The Lovely Bones, with its insightful narrative on death, loss and grief, touched me deeply when I first read it, but yet I’ve never had the inclination to pick it up again despite it being a beautifully written and poignant read. The same rule pretty much applies to other heartwrenching books such as V.C Andrews’ Flowers In The Attic and Constance Briscoe’s jaw-dropping memoir, Ugly.
 
But I had to think long and hard: what book rocked me to my core, forcing me to to look at the world through a different lens? What story presented fully fleshed out characters causing me to wonder how their lives panned out after I turned the last page? The answer was unexpected, but came to me after pondering for those few days. Wanna know what did it for me? It’s the best-selling novel The Coldest Winter Ever, written by former rapper, turned activist/writer – Sister Souljah. First published in 1999, the book is set in the projects of Brooklyn, New York and tells the story of Winter Santiaga, the teenage daughter of a notorious drug kingpin, whose stunning looks and substantial wealth acquired through her father’s illegal dealings, make her one of the most conceited, morally debased female protaganist’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about.
 
The books I enjoy the most are stories that transplant me into a new world and The Coldest Winter does this superbly. Through Souljah’s raw, authentic prose and vivid descriptions of inner city depravity, we are placed right alongside Winter as her world of privilege implodes when her father is arrested and sent to prison. Using her beauty, ruthlessness and street smarts, the feisty anti-heroine has to navigate life in the projects of Brooklyn on her own terms, which is done to often shocking, brutal and catastrophic consequences.
 
Sister Souljah exemplifies the type of courageousness in her writing that I could only dream of acquiring. There is no subject off limits, no situation deemed too risque to steer away from. The book tackles teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, using sexual currency as a means of financial gain, colourism, HIV and AIDS, family dysfunction, the failings of social services. And that’s just for starters. But what I absolutely admire is that these subjects aren’t just written about for sensationalism, entertainment, or to appease our voyeuristic curiosity. Through clever use of character placement, Winter falls under the tutelage of a wise, older sister type who gives voice to Sister Souljah’

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s socio-political ideals, offering solutions on how to cure the social ills that plague disadvantaged black communities.

 I think one of the main reasons why the book has had such a profound effect on me is it goes against pretty much everything I believed a book had to be in order to be successful. First of all,  how many books have you read where the protagonist has zero redeeming qualities, absolutely nada? And yet by the end we’re rooting for Winter… we may not like her, but we certainly wish her well. That surely takes some serious talent to pull off such a tricky feat. Secondly, my love of this novel reminds me of one of the most frequently peddled cliches, and I’m actually chuckling as I write this, but you really should never judge a book by its cover. I read this book almost six years after its release, despite it being highly recommended by several friends, and critically acclaimed. Although I don’t regard myself a book snob, I certainly couldn’t see the appeal of spending my precious reading time immersed in the world of black, inner city criminality, it’s not like the subject hasn’t been explored ad nauseam. But on this occasion I am happy to say I was wrong for pre-judging. Intelligently written, impactful, cinematic, insightful, honest and downright unputdownable – Sister Souljah has written a modern classic that will no doubt referenced and studied for years to come. “

Read Keysha’s blog atcocoadiaries.com

Thanks Keysha!

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