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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Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle… by Elmore Leonard

 I absolutely luv this list on the rules of writing- especially the last one! Published in the New York Times in 2001 it’s a timeless list I hope all you budding (and published) writers will find useful- I know I did!

 

WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle 

 By Elmore Leonard  (Published: July 16, 2001)

1. Never open a book with weather.

If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2. Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s ”Sweet Thursday,” but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: ”I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”

3. Never use a verb other than ”said” to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with ”she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ”said” . . .

. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ”full of rape and adverbs.”

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6. Never use the words ”suddenly” or ”all hell broke loose.”

This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use ”suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories ”Close Range.”

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s ”Hills Like White Elephants” what do the ”American and the girl with him” look like? ”She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

 

Brilliant stuff! Read the full article here:!

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My LitFactor article is up!

I wrote an article recently about working a day job and writing.

Whilst a bit tongue n cheek, I did include some truths…                                         litfactor

LitFactor is a literary matchmaker, designed to unite unpublished authors with literary agents, online, to support the discovery of new writing talent.

Click here to read the article!

 

Enjoy,

 

Lola

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Where is Half of a Yellow Sun?

I am of course referring to the movie adaptation of  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s lovely novel ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’.  I read this book many moons ago and have been waiting for the film adaptation to appear at the cinema (I already have my movie partner  -YBS that’s you!)

I just need the date, movie peeps! Having researched online, all I can find is ‘awaiting a UK release date’.  In the meantime, here’s a lil video about the movie.

 [media url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xrdaf2pq3Q&feature=youtu.be”]

I am sooo looking forward to the current batch of movies starring Black/British actors.   The films ’12Years a Slave’ and ‘Mandela’ are musts for me and The Butler, which I saw last month, was a phenomenal movie.  I am soooo proud of Idris, Chiwetel and David.

At this point, I have to mention a movie I saw on the plane this week called ‘Fruitvale Station’. This stars a wonderful actor named Michael B Jordan (no, not the sportsman!) who is absolutely brilliant. I am not sure if we will get a release date here in the UK but I really hope so. Everyone should watch this movie. Oh and I must also mention another movie I watched on the plane; ‘Parkland’ about the events after the assassination of  President John F Kennedy. Only a few days before, I visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Deeley Plaza, where the assassination took place and it was very eerie indeed. So, watching the film so soon after was helpful. It focused on people we have not heard much about over the years,  like the doctor who treated the president and what he went through on that day.

 

At this rate, I will have no time to write!!

Until next time,

 

Lola

 

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Happy New 2014!!

Day two of the New Year already!!

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I am bleary eyed and jet-lagged having just stepped  off a plane from Texas, but I wanted to say HAPPY NEW YEAR (again) to everyone!

I love this time of year (apart from the dodgy weather) as it’s a chance for renewal. To start afresh. Write a novel, learn to drive… whatever you want.  You can do anything!! (at least it feels like you can!)

I always feel so hopeful these first few days of the year… the trick is to still have that hope six months from now. Well, let’s all take one day at a time and start today. The road ahead might be  a bit bumpy but… actually let me hand over to Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington:

“Think of failure as a stepping stone to success. Clearly drive, IQ, and hard work are incredibly important. But ultimately what matters most is resilience–the ability to quickly rebound from failures, indeed to see failure as a stepping stone to success.”

Well put.

(PS : I hope you like the new look website!)

2014

 

 

Lola

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MADIBA

 

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”  – Nelson Mandela

We can all learn a lot from this wonderful man.

Rest in Paradise, Madiba.

 

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How To Write Your First Novel!

Yes, yes, yes, It’s been a while… but I’m going to try and  update this blog as much as possible, starting today… So in the name of utter laziness, I am posting a very lovely article  from someone else. I found it yesterday whilst researching (procrastinating) and it’s called ‘How to Write Your First Novel…’ and I just HAD to share (on Facebook, Twitter and now here). I luv the fact that an array of successful authors are letting you into their own stories, thoughts and experiences. It’s great and I hope that any budding authors out there get something out of it. Read it here NOW! 

 

Okay back to my blog… so what’s coming up soon?Articles-(again from other people) including a new author on her road to that first publication and a wonderful writer, who after a ten year hiatus, is back in the publishing game- and  shocked at how much it’s changed. Plus, much, much more!

So, yes, admittedly, I’ve been rather lackadaisical when it comes to this blog,  BUT NO MORE! I am back.

For now.

Promise.

Sort of.

Okay, okay, I am.

Just for you.

Lola

 

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The last post of 2012…

 

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.

– Anonymous 

*

It’s been a while folks. 

Hardly any social media and NO blogging (after I promised to be updating my Blog regularly, how rude of me!)

A lot can happen in a few months.

2012 has been life changing, heady, happy, dream making, nightmare forming, an absolute heart breaker of a year. Bookwise, I published my beloved novel BEING LARA in April of 2012 in the whole of the United States.  Seeing it displayed in stores like Barnes and Noble and Target and at the airport as I was just about to catch a flight felt AMAZING. Another dream came true in 2012 – a wonderful book review appeared in Ebony magazine for err… MY BOOK!! – and that too felt absolutely amazing.

Add in a few crazy occurrences in between (good and bad) and it had already been a ‘different’ year.  Then in September of 2012 I lost my beautiful Mama.

As I said, 2012 has been different.

As Mary Mary so beautifully sang; ‘I survive’.

Thanks be to God

Thanks to my WONDERFUL family and friends (the ones who are also your family, regardless of blood) who have been ace (you know who you are).

For a while there, it was hard to write, hard to breath but I am still here. Nothing will ever feel normal again, but perhaps it’s time to embrace a ‘new normal’.

Time will tell.

So for now… I’m all about resuming with the novel I had started writing in July. That part at least feels… normal… (now I just have to figure out how to stop starting sentences with ‘But’ and ‘ And’… any ideas?)

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU AND NEVER STOP CHASING THOSE DREAMS OR REACHING FOR THE STARS… NEVER STOP BELIEVING!!

LOLA

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5 Ways to Avoid Writing that Book…

5 Ways To Avoid Writing That Book…
  1. Whilst researching ‘the next big scene’ online- you are instantly captivated by fascinating Youtube clips of twin cats singing along to Jay Z 
  2. You just HAVE to watch another episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta… or any other reality show which has ZERO to do with any scientific book research
  3. One of the chores you used to detest, suddenly becomes ‘the most important task in the world’.  Basically,  the toilet MUST be cleaned- TODAY and RIGHT NOW
  4. You ask yourself over and over again, ‘Do my fingernails need paining?’ You sometimes answer: ‘Yes, of course they do- this cotton candy pink will look so pretty against the  keyboard…’
  5. The following old faithfuls constantly appear in your head: ‘I’m just not in the mood/I have yet to really feel the characters/I just can’t visualise the storyline yet/I need to brainstorm/I must plan the story first

If all this sounds annoyingly familiar, here’s my scientifically studied remedy… Plonk yourself in front of the computer or traditional notebook (if you are one of those long-handers I secretly envy) and JUST GET ON WITH IT!!

And that’s it.

(Oh actually, you’ll also need to switch off the Wi- Fi, mobile phone(s), TV, MP3 player…)

And if you do manage to squeeze out 500 words and they only look mildly better than the musings of a five year old – never fear; ‘It’s better to edit ‘rubbish’ than a blank page.

Basically, it’s pretty impossible to edit NOTHING.

Happy Writing!
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