My Writing

My Guest Blog for Leila Rasheed, Writer Children’s Books

Image provided by Leila Rasheed.

Image provided by Leila Rasheed.

I wrote a guest blog about finding a character I could relate to for Leila Rasheed, who writes books for children. It’s about finding a character we can relate to, and one which stays in our memory long after reading the book.

I first met her when I was on the MA in Writing course at the University of Warwick, and met her recently at a Writer’s Networking event run by Writing West Midlands. We were discussing the lack of diversity of characters in books for children even today, as discussed in the Walter Dean Myers article. I told her about a character I had connected with when I was young because she was ‘someone like me’. But as an adult, I was afraid to re-read the book in case I was disappointed.

Leila invited me to write a guest blog for her about my experience of revisiting the book. If you would like to read it the whole of my blog, and the Q&A with Leila, you can find it in Leila’s blog.

West of No East by Bobby Nayyar

Image courtesy of Bobby Nayyar at Limehouse Books

Image courtesy of Bobby Nayyar at Limehouse Books

West of No East by Bobby Nayyar packs into a small book many of the issues facing people in multicultural, contemporary Britain today. It tells of difficult relationships, be they marital, friendships, work or parental. Difficult economic times increase pressures on already fragile relationships. Clashing cultures add extra heat into the mix.

Continue reading

Black Country to Red Earth – Video Of Me Reading A Story

Last week, I attended a public lecture ‘Black Country to Red Earth’ given by Candi Miller in the International Centre, University of Wolverhampton on Thursday 19th April 2012.

Stories galore for telling and reading.

Stories galore for telling and reading.

It was a great evening of sharing information about The San Peoples of the Kalahari Desert, who are considered to be the oldest race in the world. Some of their storytellers were filmed telling stories, including Beesa Boo who told the story of The Spider Man. Continue reading

Writing Exercise

IMG_3104If you’re stuck for something to write about, take a look around you. Describe what is in your favourite room in the place where you live. What’s there? Is everything where it should be? If not, why not? Describe the colours, the textures, the sounds around you. What do these remind you of? Did you choose them yourself, or are they a glimpse into someone else’s taste? Why? How do these things make you feel, and why? What is your favourite thing in the room? Is it an item, a colour, a texture, a material, a smell, a piece of furniture or a piece of jewellery you keep in that room? Or is it the view from the window? Why is it so special to you? What memories are connected with it?

Out of all these things, choose something to write about. For example, about the memories connected to your favourite item from that room. If you choose to try this exercise, try writing as many words as you like, until the piece feels ‘finished’ to you. Then shake it up a little and try writing it in a different tense, or changing the point of view.

 

 

Mirror, Mirror: Alternative Point of View

I am sure the Queen will appear again soon, with her illusions and delusions of grandeur. I have never seen anyone so vain before. There is no denying it, the nasty old witch is the fairest in the land. But I cannot help wondering what the King would say if he were to discover that his wife is a six hundred year old hag who finds her youth and beauty in potions and spells.

It is not only the Queen who suffers from the disease called Vanity. Her husband also comes to admire himself. ‘How handsome are you?’ he asks as he struts around, preening like a peacock. Ugly duckling would be closer to the truth.

I lost count long ago of how many women have looked into my frame and dreamed of being the most beautiful. Oh, if only I could tell them what I really thought of them! ‘Tis a pity I am not allowed to speak to anyone but my mistress.  There is much I could have told them. But it is probably just as well…

Things can get so tedious and predictable sometimes. Methinks ’tis time for a change. Here comes my Queen.

‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’

My shimmering pane, have I got news for HER, today!

 

On Starting Writing

The first step to writing is to actually start writing. Do that and you’re well on your way. It sounds easy. I know it isn’t. We find a million ways of procrastinating and doing anything but write. But you must start getting your story down. It doesn’t matter how: on paper, in a notebook, onto a laptop – anything you prefer. Or try drawing a mind map or spidergram of ideas and things you want to tell the reader about.

Once you have these basics, you can start building on them. Work out what works best for you:

– work on one idea at a time

– get notes down for anything you can think of, as you go along

– a combination of both

It’s all about experimenting and finding out what works best for you. Try it. If it doesn’t work, try something else.

Salt and Honey by Candi Miller: Book Review

Image courtesy of Tindal Street Press, and permission from Candi Miller.

Salt and Honey by Candi Miller is an epic saga posing as a small book which deals with issues of major importance not only in Africa but on a global level too: persecution of ethnic minorities; apartheid; inequality; and mixed race relationships.  These are slipped seamlessly into the narrative. Reflections on the class divide and social commentary are effortless and non-judgmental. Candi Miller does not preach to her readers, she just presents things as they are.  This treatment of issues that matter to all of us worldwide makes Salt and Honey very easy to read. We do not feel as if we’re being directed to feel a certain way about the issues that are presented or about the fascinating characters; we are left to make our own minds up.

The book is full of beautiful words and imagery which take us into an unfamiliar landscape. The world of Koba is one that will be unknown to many, but the author weaves it in a way which feels like a blanket: it becomes familiar rather than foreign in her expert hands.

Changes made to the text for the Tindal Street Press edition of Salt and Honey have helped to make an already great book even better. The glossary of words is helpful, but not complete.

Despite Candi Miller’s attempts to explain the sounds of the different clicks in the Ju’hoansi language, these are not easy to grasp unless you are a linguist, or hear someone vocalise them. With this in mind, I can’t wait to listen to an audio version of this book.

Candi Miller, Salt and Honey  (Birmingham: Tindal Street Press, 2011)

Candi Miller, Salt and Honey (London: Legend Press, 2006)

Getting Started With Writing

The first step to writing is to actually start writing. Do that and you’re well on your way. It sounds easy. I know it isn’t. We find a million ways of procrastinating and doing anything but write. But you must start getting your story down. It doesn’t matter how: on paper, in a notebook, onto a laptop – anything you prefer. Or try drawing a mind map or spidergram of ideas and things you want to tell the reader about.

Once you have these basics, you can start building on them. Work out what works best for you:

– work on one idea at a time

– get notes down for anything you can think of, as you go along

– a combination of both

It’s all about experimenting and finding out what works best for you. Try it. If it doesn’t work, try something else.

You never know when ideas or writing snippets and opportunities will come your way, so always carry a notebook to jot things down so you don’t forget.