HAPPY NEW YEAR FOLKS!

Changes.

 Sometimes, they are good, sometimes they are just…bad.

 Leaving the day job and trekking to the States was probably not the work of a sane woman but it felt right and still does.  A new country (one incased in a new civil rights battle that included protests in major cities) different culture… The changes were coming at me like a mass of tennis balls.  It felt exciting, raw and challenging. I was ready. 

Ready Set Go.

 And then the unthinkable happened.

 I lost a dear brother. Sudden and unexpected (as if deaths are ever expected).

 The inevitable fall out of grief is that you turn into a complete shadow of your former self and walking around like a zombie becomes both normal and acceptable.  On one such day, I found a child.

 I literally, found a a two year old girl walking along the street dressed in a princess nightie and cute lil’ slippers.  This already unusual scene quickly took on an urgency, when she decided it would be quite nice to walk into oncoming traffic.  Running across the road, I managed to coax her away from the road, take her by the hand and call the police.

She clung to me trustingly as the police asked questions she refused to answer and after an hour they managed to locate  her father (who’d fallen asleep whilst looking after her).  This clever little girl had managed to maneuver herself out onto the street  and away from a gated community and in the potential path of oncoming traffic and opportunist child-snathers.

 This was a long day,  yet one that, thank God, ended well. I hadn’t even noticed the change in my mood. Albeit temporarily, it had indeed changed.

Hope.

You see, before I’d decided to take that route, I had sort of wrestled with the reasons as to why it would be better to take the OTHER route. An almost comical scene which undoubtedly led me to where I was able to see that beautiful little girl.

 I do believe God put me in the right place at the right time as I was the only person on the street that afternoon.

 Later that night, the child’s mother called and in between gulps of tears, said; “You saved the most precious thing in my life today, how can I ever repay you? Thank you.”

But perhaps that little girl called Olivia actually helped ME.

 As I wait to see in the New Year here in Atlanta, the recent memories of loss and the feelings that accompany them are surfacing.  But I will not discount the greatness that has also occurred during the past twelve months. Walking from a car accident unscathed, tasting chicken and waffles for the first time and almost passing out because of how wonderful they tasted; the beauty of New Orleans; warm sunshine in December.

 The fact I am here typing this Blog, is a blessing I do not take for granted.

 See ya later 2014… and hellooo 2015.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!

 

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When In Rome…

So, I’m still in America where I’m spending my first Thanksgiving!!  Hurraaah! The irony is, I will be spending the day with some wonderful Ex Pats from the UK!  I am taking along a rather large cheesecake as my contribution. I did have fantasies about turning up with a wildly inappropriately delicious Cheesecake from The Factory Cheesecake, but you know, Kroger next door is closer and as usual, I left it all to the very last minute!

Those who know me, are aware of my preference for all things sweet.  Admittedly, when I first arrived here from across the pond, I couldn’t get enough of ‘Sprinkles’, cupcakes,  ‘A Piece of Cake’ Red Velvet and of course the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake from CF. But having now exhausted such lusts, I can go whole weeks without them.  And my stomach is soooo appreciative of this!

 As for writing novels, I’m still ‘in’ – however like many, I have given myself  the day off today.  I may not be an American, but when in Rome…
 
 happy_thanksgiving_c_09
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Things Can Only Get Better…

 

sun

Having been in Atlanta on and off for the best part of four months, a lot has happened to take my focus away from writing. Moving to a new country, finding a place to live, and losing my dear brother.

It has been a trying and testing time.

But I have recently been able to continue with the writing, attempt to construct a story out of nothing and locate the mojo that keeps threatening to leave!

I thank God that the sun is still shining- a wonderful thing indeed!

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Award Winning Author Sade Adeniran Talks African Writers & Podcasts…

Sade’s World Short Story Podcasts

Over to you, Sade!

Thanks Lola for letting me be your guest blogger and talk about my project Sade’s World Short Story Podcasts. Before I get into that, a little bit about me for those who have never heard my name. I’m a writer and a filmmaker, if I had to, I’d define myself as a storyteller. People always ask you, what made you want to become a writer? The first time I heard that question I was stumped because it wasn’t something I’d thought about becoming. Like most Nigerian children I had one of four choices, Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant or Engineer. Unfortunately for me, the only subjects I passed when I finished school were English and English Literature. I would call myself an accidental writer, it started with me writing letters to my father whenever we got into it and grew from there. I’m one of those people who finds the words to say days after an argument has ended, which is why writing suits me. Writing is about rewriting. So far I’ve managed to write for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service, I’ve also written pieces for theatre. My debut novel, Imagine This won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and it’s the same book, which I’ve adapted into a screenplay and is currently in development.
Sade

Like my debut novel, which was self-published, Sade’s World Short Story Podcasts also had an unorthodox beginning. As well as looking for finance for my film scripts, I’m also in the throes of putting together a collection of my short stories. Because it’s been a while since I put anything out there, I thought I’d try and build up an audience and test the waters by making a selection of the stories into podcasts. My favourite podcasts that I subscribe to are, The New Yorker and Selected Shorts (PRI). I wanted to do something similar to Selected Shorts, which uses well-known actors of stage and screen. So I went looking for some great Actresses and found them in Dona Croll and Joy Elias-Riwan and they did a brilliant job. I made four podcasts and it would have ended there if I hadn’t attended a British Council event exploring contemporary writing and the creative future of Nigeria. It was here that a young lady wanted to know how she could get hold of stories written by African writers. A refrain I hear too often at events.

Living in the UK we know we have issues about diversity in the media. I’m one of the many people who complain bitterly about why I don’t see a reflection of my reality on the page, in film, on television, in magazines and so forth. What Irealised is that, I can’t wait for someone to change things for me, I’ve got to be that change I want to see in the world. So my short story podcasts which started out as a marketing tool for my upcoming collection grew wings and became a project which is about celebrating and showcasing African Writers and stories.

Since the beginning of time, when we existed in caves, stories have defined us. It is stories that give meaning and context to our lives. Author Junot Diaz wrote, “if you want to make a human being a monster, deny them at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” We don’t see ourselves reflected in the stories we read or in the films we watch, but we exist. So this is my way of redressing the balance, my ultimate goal is to create a weekly podcast showcasing short stories by African writers, this of course depends on how much money we’re able to raise from our crowd funding campaign.

There are lots of online outlets for short story writers, however the way we read stories is changing. No one I know has time to read because they’re so busy getting a life. With a podcast, you can listen on your way to work, while you’re making dinner for the kids, in the gym or wherever. It’ll be tales by moonlight without the moon, the log fire and the raffia mat. It also makes sense to make them as podcast instead of an online magazine, because most Africans have access to the Internet through their mobile phone providers, which means they’ll be able to download and listen for free.

Sade’s World Short Story Podcasts is vital to me as a Writer because telling our stories is important, it is a gift for future generations. We tell stories, not only to evolve and grow as people, but also to make a difference in the world and broaden the perspectives of all human beings.

Thanks Sade!

If you’d like to support Sade’s campaign.  Head over to her page and make a donation. Alternatively you can help her spread the word by liking and sharing the FaceBook page.

Twitter: @Imagine_This

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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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