Wednesday, 22 November 2017

My Reaction to Mugabe Resigning....In The Newspapers

A coup that's not a coup. 

Zimbabweans demand Mugabe's resignation.

On the 21st of November 2017, Robert Mugabe resigned as the President of Zimbabwe following an unprecedented military intervention and intense pressure from the people of Zimbabwe. I exhaled with relief but Mugabe's departure left me feeling cheated and heartbroken. Click the link below to find out why.

Click link to read the full article

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Let's Talk Writing, Agents and Publishing...

Click to watch the video from the Festival of Writing 2017

It's been a while since I attended the York Festival of Writing in September 2017, but the memories are still fresh in my mind. The last September event was not my first. The first time I attended the Festival, I found myself very much out of my depth. Intimidated by the great minds floating around me. Still, I stayed the course and did what I had come to do. The experience opened my mind, and I took away a lot with me. Since then, there have been other events. For example, The Barelit Festival which I found inspirational and another eye-opener.

During the last event, I felt more prepared. Knew what to expect and felt determined to make the most of it. I met with agents who are the gatekeepers of the publishing industry. Met other authors in the same situation as me. We exchanged ideas, shared writing experiences and encouraged one another. I left the cold but peaceful York feeling more energised, motivated, determined and inspired. The highlight was listening and reading the positive and encouraging agents' feedback. 

I had submitted the first chapters of the manuscript I had been working on for the last eighteen months to two years to the agents for them to read in advance. Accompanied by the chapters was my query letter. Simply put, the query letter is the pitch of one's book (manuscript). In the query letter, the writer gives a concise description of their book, selling their idea and themselves as an author, to an agent. Also in this query letter, one needs to have a clear hook for their novel. The hook then develops into an elevator pitch which is a summation of the whole story in one or two sentences leaving out the boring bits! The elevator pitch expands into the query letter. Part of the query, the bit that talks about the book, will become the book blurb. Besides the query letter or cover letter, one then weaves the synopsis of the book which is a detailed summary in which you spill the beans of your plot. Confused yet?! Well, these are some of the few things a writer needs to grasp.

It has to be said that the traditional route to becoming a published author is not the only option. I self-published my first book A Life Steered, and I found the process satisfying. I’ve had positive reviews too. The reasons for choosing any given route are personal and valid. But for a writer to even begin to think about publishing or going through all that I've outlined above, one needs to write a brilliant book first. That is crucial.

I have matured in the way I understand writing, and I continue to mature. A few things have become clear to me - if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you cannot rush the process. You cannot give up. You should not be solely driven by what you think your readers expect you to write about, by money, neither should that determine or decide your narrative. Write what you want to write and from the heart. Write because you love to write. There will always be readers out there who will connect with your writing. What matters is that your writing comes from a genuine, heartfelt and inspired place. There will be agents, publishers who will appreciate your work and want to work with you. Those who will embrace your passion, ideas, style and want to sell your work. Learn to accept criticism and embrace rejection. Read, read, read, and keep honing your craft. We live in the 21st century, and we have options now. Different formats to suit our preferences and inclinations. Just make 'shite' happen. You are the master of your writing career.

During the festival, I met bestselling authors who spent years in what I call doldrums. They dealt with rejection and chose not to give up. They persevered, exercised resilience and patience, believed in themselves and their writing. Now they get to reap the rewards.

So, to those who keep asking 'When is the book coming out?', the answer is 'It will come out when it comes out.' I have completed two manuscripts in the last three years, which makes me very proud, and I will not rest until my two babies find their way in the world.

Take care!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Social Media And Me: Branding And More....

Social media is excellent for business. And for burgeoning authors too. I remember a time when I swore I would rather chew my leg than be seen on Facebook and Twitter. But, today, here I am blogging, tweeting and Facebooking my heart out. It is because I have since conceded the fact that the world has and is changing, and it will continue to do so. Not every writer tweets and/or Facebooks, but social media is playing a significant role in the success of most writers. Most reading material is now readily accessible online and I can reach many readers in a very short space of time just by clicking a button. To turn a blind eye to this truth is utter naivety. And, it is for these reasons that I reckon it does not hurt to be flexible in our approach.
I also must point out the fact that we are a gregarious society and with that comes the desire to be loved and to be accepted by those who see and hear us. There are those who will tell you that they do not care in the slightest. I am sorry, I do not buy that at all. We may want to appear as if we do not care but deep down, we do. There is a bound to be some person (s) or a certain group of people whose opinion matter to us. A family member, a friend, a church member, a colleague, a customer or indeed our fans. Take your pick. We care one way or the other.
It has become apparent to me that if I am selling a product or running a business campaign, I need to have some degree of influence. It is not enough for me to just display a product or talk about it, I ought to go a step further. Build a reputation, cultivate trust and form relationships with potential customers. It is crucial that they know and understand what it is that I stand for. What I am selling. They, in turn, will decide if my product is something they want to align themselves with. If you’re an author, this means having to answer that all dreaded question – ‘what do you write about?’ Come on. Can I not just be a writer? I hear you ask? Well, apparently not. You need to brand yourself.
I have embraced the idea of branding. Whether I am aware of it or not, I am always branding myself anyway. My choice of words and my inclination towards a certain genre and my passion as a whole. It’s all part of branding. I am still exploring my writing, in different ways. I am digging deep and discovering how I want the world to view me as a writer. What I stand for. What I am really about as an author.
I know what kind of message I want to send out into the world. To spread love and light being part of it. But, this process is not without some disastrous consequences. I have noticed that there is a real danger to lose ourselves in the process as we often get caught up in the idea of selling and end up selling our souls to the Devil. We gloss ourselves up as we pander to the society’s expectations. We throw away our values, compromise certain standards and sacrifice our dignity to please the customer. Nothing at all wrong with wanting to please that all-important customer. After all, that is why we do what we do, right? But at what cost?
Social media, as I have discovered, can be the making of us, but it can also destroy us and change us in so many ways. When we sell a product or indeed a piece of writing, it is not at all uncommon to give into the temptation of wanting to hide our true feelings and values. We may even change our words and/or rein in on our imagination and creativity for fear of being judged and rejected. When this happens, we present a fake persona, a packaged image which we feel will appeal to our potential customers and those watching.
I recently joined Instagram where every photograph is the picture of perfection. Facebook and Twitter too. We often select the best image of ourselves and/or indeed enhance it, with the help of certain apps, to present the best possible image to the world. Our lives, as far as social media is concerned, are always perfect. We are forever smiling, checking into fabulous places, jetting around the world and everything is splendid. Very few will dare reveal the not so appealing part of their lives and I can appreciate why. Studies have demonstrated how social media has and is playing a role in mental health problems such as depression, stress and anxiety. People are made to feel inadequate by comparing their lives to the illusions that they see on social media and I think this is tragic.
Back to authoring, I am reminded of a time when a friend suggested that I was better off using a different name to sell more books. A name which was easier to pronounce, perhaps which appealed to a certain kind of reader. Well, excuse me! I like my name just the way it is, thank you. If a reader chooses not to pick my book because of the name on the cover, then it is their loss. I genuinely believe that if it is my destiny to succeed as a writer, then I will succeed despite what my name looks or sounds like period. Changing my name or persona to pander to a certain customer is not going to make me a better writer by any means. It is only going to suffocate me and thwart my real potential as a writer, for no one looks like me, writes like me, thinks like me and is me. I am my own person and the world will just have to deal with that!
There are those who will tell you not to show the world what you believe. Your faith, spirituality, because not everybody goes to church or believes in what you believe. They will advise you to always be ‘politically correct’as not all your customers or readers will believe in what you believe. But, isn’t that defeating the whole purpose of branding? Can we ever appeal to everyone? I think not.
I understand, it is just business. I get it. Image and likeability are everything, but wouldn’t you rather be liked for being your true self, and acquire genuine followers than disappoint them when the real you surface? Isn’t it better and more satisfying to be admired for who you really are than spend a lifetime pretending to be something you are not? Because believe me, you cannot keep the charade forever and forever is too long a time to be suffocated.
How many people have been disappointed after meeting their crush for the first time and discovering that they look different from how they appeared on social media? How many fans have had their hearts broken when they discovered that their icon was leading a double life? How many celebrities that we loved and admired have committed suicide because they were tired of pretending to the world that they had everything under control? Their bodies got tired of eating relying on drugs just to please you the customer. They got tired of binge eating and then sticking their fingers down their throats to maintain a certain figure to please you, the customer. They got tired of bleaching their skin to appeal to your ideal. They got tired of spending money they did not have. They just got tired.
The society forgets that those who serve them are human beings too. They want to mold these people into something they are not. I am not naive so as not to understand that when you put yourself out there you subject yourself to all kinds of scrutiny. That is OK. But no one is perfect in this world. And when I say be your real self, I am not at all suggesting that you should go air your dirty laundry in public. My message is, be who you are, sell what you need to sell, build your brand without fear of being rejected. The people who matter will appreciate what you are offering regardless of your weight, the colour of your skin or how weird your name sounds.
The consequences of allowing ourselves to be driven by insignificant things are not worth the sacrifice in our lives. Our human dignity. Our peace and our own happiness. When our bodies and souls finally give up on us, the people we aim to please may mourn us for a while. But, soon, someone else will come along and steal their hearts and you will soon be forgotten. Therefore, my message is simple. Stop pretending and just be. There are people out there who will appreciate what you are offering anyway and decide to join you in your walk. When it is all said and done, wouldn’t it be a comforting thought to know that the legacy you leave behind is something borne of your genuine self? That which is purely you. UNIQUE!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Finding My Own Voice

There are authors whose writings have informed my understanding and appreciation of writing as an art over the years. Maya Angelou, Tess Gerritsen, Diane Chamberlain, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Thomas Hardy, Chinua Achebe, Nicholas Sparks, Petina Gappah, Alice Walker, quite an eclectic selection. From time to time, I like to quote some of these writers in my writings too. Though I cite their examples, I find it more satisfying and pleasurable when I birth something of my own. A quote, a poem, an article or indeed a book. After all, genuine authorship entails being able to create own content!

Writers/authors will do well to read others and explore all kinds of genres. But in the end, they should be able to find their own voice. So, what does finding one’s voice mean? How does one even begin to find their own voice? Is it in the way a writer chooses their words, expressions, or is it in the way the reader responds to those words? 

Finding my own voice is and has been a process. A process those in the know will tell you spans for years. It has been and still is a process of finding, establishing my character as a writer. Depicting my true character in the way in which I present myself to the world through written word. It does not matter which words or phrases I use, rather, it is in the way in which my words and phrases give character to my writing.

The true nature of my writing should provoke, in my reader, certain thoughts, and feelings. This way the reader gets to experience where the writer’s heart and soul lie, and what it is that drives them as a person.

I also believe that most, if not all writers, are products of their experiences. In my view, experiences are a writer’s biggest resource from which to draw knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Ultimately, it is how we embrace and interpret those experiences which determine the end-product. Our message to the world. Our writings. That end-product is what becomes palpable and tangible when a writer presents themselves to the world regardless of which writing path they choose to take.

My voice is my tone, the vibe, and the understanding readers get when they read me. It is that which people can easily identify, that unique quality which separates you from other writers. When, in an instant, a reader identifies whose words they are reading the moment they pick up a book, a poem or indeed an article. It is only when this kind of familiarity begins to happen, that one can claim to have found their own writing voice.

Developing and establishing your own voice as a writer, I reckon, will give the reader the choice to choose you. Because, by the time they pick up your book, they would have already made up their mind about your kind of writing. They would've decided your writing appeals, inspires or speaks to their soul. I also think that the only reason a reader will keep coming back to a particular writer is because they are getting something that you as a writer alone can offer. That chemistry. That unique quality. Your voice!

Finding one’s voice is writing in a way that does not seek to deceive or betray what you represent as a person. As writers, we are encouraged to delve into uncharted territories and not to remain stuck in the comfort zone. We are encouraged to let ourselves go and to soar into the strange realms of imagination and create works of art. We are writers after all. One may wonder, though, if this process of creating, imagining and seeing yourself through strange eye lenses will betray your true character. I say, it does not

I believe that letting your imagination soar affords you the opportunity to develop certain facets of your character that you never knew existed. You cannot betray who you are by simply letting your creativity take you to greater heights. If anything, the writer grows and develops as a human being. They develop an appreciation of the unfamiliar and discover a new potential within themselves. This process could be the unveiling of their ‘new self’. The newness that the world has been waiting for. That person, the kind of writer, you were meant to become all along!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

My Phenomenal African Woman Nomination (PAWAfrica)

PAW stands for the Phenomenal African Woman. It is an international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)for the African Woman across all spheres and strata i.e. business, academia, government and other sectors] intended to ensure she takes her pride of place in nation building, enterprise and the furtherance of peace in the Continent.
To read my feature interview, click on here .

Friday, 7 October 2016

When She Cuts Her Hair - Flash Fiction

Spiwe entered Clementine’s bedroom and found her standing in front of the mirror, examining the short strands of hair above her ears.
     ‘I want to cut it even shorter. What do you think?’ Clementine said, turning her head sideways.
     Spiwe shrugged and regarded her. ‘Not sure. You know what they say. When a woman cuts her hair, there’s no going back,’ she said.
     Clementine gave a soft laugh. Through the mirror, her eyes darted from her head to the maid. ‘Don’t believe everything you hear,’ she said.
‘Everything?’ Spiwe positioned the broom she had in her hand on the floor, a few centimetres from Clementine, and began to sweep slowly and methodically.
     ‘That’s what I said,’ Clementine said pulling a tiny chunk of hair from the back of her head.
     Spiwe began to hum a tune, ‘Take it to the Lord in prayer.’
     Clementine stopped what she was doing.
     ‘If you have something to say Spiwe, just say it.’
     Spiwe’s mouth contorted to one side. ‘I have nothing to say.’
     ‘That’s not true and you know it. Each time you sing one of those church songs you always have something to say.’
     ‘It’s none of my business.’
     ‘Well, it is mine now.’
     Spiwe hesitated. ‘Okay, I don’t want you to get cross with me, ma’am. I just head th…’
     ‘First of all, do not call me ma’am. I’m not my mother. Second, I won’t get cross. We’re friends, remember?’ Clementine interrupted her.
     ‘Okay.’ Spiwe placed the broom against the wall and walked over to Clementine. ‘Is everything okay with you, child?’ She reached and touched her shoulder. ‘Only I heard ma’am say something over tell the phone.’
     Clementine arched her brow. ‘What did she say?’
     ‘That things ain’t right with you.’ Spiwe lowered her voice.
Clementine cleared her throat. ‘What things?’
     Spiwe shrugged. ‘I don’t know. It just got me wondering, that’s all,’ she replied.
     Clementine snorted. She liked Spiwe and regarded her as the sister she never had, though much older. But, the realisation that she possessed intimate details about her ordeal disturbed Clementine. She had seen how maids liked to huddle in fences’ corners, whispering about their employers. The last thing she needed was rumours spreading about her sad life. At that moment, Clementine wished she had not cut her hair. She had only done it to spite her mother for the way she badgered her to go to the salon and to get out of the house. Now, it seemed, Spiwe had seen it as a symbol of a turning point in her life.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

How To Fight For Love

I haven’t written about ‘lovethings’ for a while, so, I have decided to throw in a little blog for you today. My daughter calls these love blogs 'fluffy'. Well, who cares? Love makes the world go round, right? I’m afraid this piece is one of those lengthy ones, so, please, make yourself a brew and cuddle up on the sofa as you read. 

How to Fight for Love
Why won’t he/she hear me? Why is she/he shutting me out? What is happening to us? If you have ever found yourself on the brink of losing the love of your life, then you will know where I am going with this. You know you love him/her and yet for whatever reason, you cannot seem to agree on anything. It appears as if some kind of worm has penetrated your once solid relationship and all you have left are holes. Holes you cannot seem to fill no matter what you do or say. Have they fallen out of love? You wonder. So, what do you do when that happens? Do you just throw in the towel and hope that one day you will once again stumble upon another amazing love? Or do you stay and fight?

Someone once said, ‘There is value in the valley.’ I am inclined to agree. The reason being that when we find ourselves between a hard place and a rock, true value comes from the ability to sit back and reflect. Really reflect. No sugar-coating anything. Just being real with yourself as you try to understand and figure out where you went wrong. Once you’ve reflected, it is time to decide what you want. Do you want to fight or are you done? Most importantly, can you live with the end result, good or bad? The strength, energy, and skills you will need for this will make you a better person in the end.

This woman I know never knew what fighting for love meant until she met the love of her life. Here she was, nearly losing the man who had opened her eyes and her heart, her best friend. When she came to this place, she began to reflect on the good times. How it had all started.
She had loved him from the moment she laid my eyes on him. When he took her hand and twirled her on the dance floor in a club one night, and for the first time, her heart had pounded like it had never done before. As he had whispered in her ear, his voice serenading her, her heart had bubbled with joy. Her friends who had watched them from a distance had later told her what they had seen. ‘You are so good together. You look so happy.’ They hadn’t told her what the woman’s gut didn’t already know. She’d had already had an epiphany that she had met the one. If there’s such a thing.

Days, weeks and months followed and they soon arrived in ‘blissland’. Then life happened. The inevitable, that phase that every relationship goes through came.  Her partner became distant and emotionally shut down. The more she chased, the faster he ran. And, the harder she knocked, the tighter the hinge on his door became. They swiftly drifted apart and there was nothing she could do about it. Or was there?

Then, after she had spent many sleepless nights, she decided enough was enough. She was not going to just roll over and let her love die. So, she fought for her love.

If you’re going to fight, then fight for love. Another cliché I know. But, isn’t it true, though. If you cannot fight to preserve love, what else do you want to fight for? This love, I have to emphasise, does not have to be the romantic kind. It can be a friendship. A love between siblings or child and parent. Sometimes these relationships drift apart and people are left wondering, bewildered and confused. At times, because of pride or miscommunication, the love simply dies down and people spend the rest of their lives with scars. Scars they cannot get past.

So, how do you fight for love? Well, I reckon, in this kind of war, there are two crucial ingredients that need to be present.
1)       Both parties have to recognise what they have and what they have to lose.
2)       Both parties must be willing to get in the ring because it's a futile attempt to fight for someone who doesn't want you in the first place.

So, I am just going to expand on these two crucial points and break them down the best way I know how.

Common Cause
In the battle of love, you cannot win, unless both of you are on the same team and fighting for the same result. Broach the subject with patience, love, and understanding. If you are going to communicate then tell each other the truth. Holding back means you are willing your partner to fail. Because, how are they going to know how to proceed if you are not being real with them. Let them know where the holes in your relationship are and then give them the chance to fill them up. Be honest about your feelings and thoughts. That way, you are guiding and showing your partner how to love you. They will never know unless you’re honest with them. The truth will hurt but, if you are on the same team, it is easy to ride the tide.

Compassion suggests that you are able to place yourself in the other’s shoes. Getting to a place of understanding the other person and how your words and actions impact on their ability to love and understand you. When both of you are fighting for the same resolution, you find it to stop each other when you know a line is about to be crossed. You don’t stop them by pointing a finger, but by saying something which shows you’re operating from a place of compassion and understanding.

Trust/Respect/Honest Communication
Trust is earned and built through honest communication. Respect also comes in. so, resist the urge to entertain that negative voice which tells you not to believe anything they say. If you are ever in any doubt, now is the time to ask all the relevant questions. Even if you don’t like what you hear, be willing to tackle it with an open mind. Even if you don’t agree with what they are saying, let them know, but respect their opinion at the same time. After all, we are all individual beings entitled to our opinions according to how we view the world.

It is crucial that you reassure your partner of your devotion, commitment and love. Because you have found yourself in this painful, and uncertain place, the tendency is to entertain doubts. Do they love me at all? You may wonder from time to time. Know and realise that your partner needs to hear those words of reassurance, whatever they are. If it means reminding them why you love them in the first place, then, by all means, remind them. They need to hear that. It is hard right now, but as long as they know you love and appreciate them and have no intention of bolting on them, then you will be fine.

Change. Make amends. Do whatever you need to do to improve your relationship/friendship. As you work through your problems, lay your cards on the table. Specify what bothers you. If you both want to see an improvement, then the change should not be too difficult. This change will not happen overnight, so, exercise patience. Give the other person space and time to process everything. Reward positive change but not in a condescending and patronising manner. Show gratitude and be genuine in your thank yous. And when you change, be consistent. You will find that when you do this, nothing will seem like a chore because what you will get in return, will be ten times fold.

You will lose the fight if you don't learn to forgive. Forgive with all your heart and do not keep dragging up the past each time you have a disagreement because you cannot avoid conflict. It's part of life. What matters is how you fight. As you forgive, receive forgiveness, you are developing as a person. You learn to be humble, to love others unconditionally and to be accommodating. Overall, you develop resilience because as you tackle the challenge that comes with dealing with another human being, you discover your own strength and other qualities you never knew you had.


And, now, for that all important ingredient – love. I believe where there is love, real, genuine love, nothing is impossible to tackle. You are not afraid to lay bare your soul and to be really vulnerable. It may take a little while and the process may be emotionally taxing for both of you, but with the love that binds you, you will yield the results that you both want in the end. Talk, yell, cry, throw tantrums, break a cup or two even. As long as you do it for the right reasons, it will be alright. What you will end up with is a true acceptance of the other person - unconditional love.