My Lab

Touching My Dreams – Checklist One

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This was what I woke up to this morning and it made me smile because it is so close to the truth. The truth that this week has been a flurry of exciting happenings that bridge the gap between my dreams and reality. It’s almost as if the bridge is about to close, ready for me to just walk across. I can see where I am going and I know I will get there, I’m not there yet but I am so close and it’s only within my reach. So I decided to start writing a checklist of things to help those who want to pursue their dreams and make the cross to reality. I am still a working progress but that doesn’t mean I can’t give a helping hand to those at the start line. Before I begin I would like to thank Juanita Johnson for sharing the image above on Facebook this morning, you don’t know how much that has made me realise my own development and how close I am to getting to where I want to be.

If you didn’t already know, my big goals are two things. First to be a published chick-lit author, it has been my dream since I was nine-years old and I have never stopped wanting to be a writer because it is something that I have always been confident that I am good at being and doing. My second goal is to create a platform that supports and connects female writers, authors and story tellers, helping them to achieve their goals and be a supporting mechanism along the way – I am half way there with this, there is a whole cosmos of things that I have yet to do and add to this platform – The “magical, the illuminating” Book Club – but that’s okay because the journey has just begun and is a long way from the ending.

So here are the first things on my checklist:

The hardest part is taking that first step. 

When you have an idea, sometimes setting it into motion is that scariest part. You worry no one will “get it”, that it won’t be successful and that it will fail before it can even take off – so why bother? There is a mantra that I like to remember whenever I start to doubt myself – “The hardest thing you will ever have to do is live your life” – what does that have to do with an idea? Well, it has everything to do with it. Everyday we live, we do things consciously and sub-conciously, we wake up subconsciously but we consciously decide to lie-in and hit snooze ten times instead of actually getting up. To get up is a decision we make that starts our day whether it be productive or not, but it is a first step into whatever we do; we enter a day not knowing what is to come, what is going to happen, whether it will be a bad day or a great one. This is the same thing with an idea or taking that leap into that dream career or the first step on the right path. You don’t know what will happen after you take that first step, but as soon as you do you are open to a world of possibilities that are within your reach. So don’t be afraid, the beginning is the best part, take that step and begin what could be the greatest day of your life.

Patience may be a virtue but it isn’t automatic, it comes over time.¬†

Patience is not one of my strongest attributes. When I was in Primary school I couldn’t wait to get to Secondary School, when I was in Secondary school I couldn’t wait to get to college etc, etc. Now, I am twenty and pursuing my dreams because that’s my next destination, but now I have much more patience than I did before. When you begin your journey it might seem like a long-haul, it might seem that it will take years to get to your destination and that is okay. When I began my journey I was impatient for things to happen, to get from A to B for C to fall into place, but as I have gone further on I have learnt to be more patient. Patience and perseverance are not things that happen overnight, they come with time so don’t worry if your struggle to be more patient, you will get there.

Remember to breathe.  

It sounds silly because breathing is something we do involuntarily every day. But when we are stressed, find ourselves faced with a difficult problem, sometimes we find it hard to breathe and sometimes we forget to breathe altogether. I can remember when I first started having driving lessons and whenever I found something difficult I would hold my breath and wish and hope that everything will turn out fine, which is better than stopping in the middle of the road but not good if I passed out because I would never realise that I was actually holding my breath until I started breathing again or when my instructor would tell me to “just breathe”. Not everyone does this and some people are able to laugh in the face of stress. But for those that can’t, try and remember to breathe no matter how hard the situation is, I find that breathing exercises help me find some calm when things get a little too much and I take a few minutes to refocus myself as it is hard to keep focused when stressed. This point is a continuos thing to remember throughout your journey and beyond so don’t forget it.

So those are my first three points on the checklist – I hope you will find them at least one if not all useful.

So…

Take the first step.

Patience and perseverance comes over time.

Remember to breathe.

 

Next time we will explore worth, quantity vs. quality and support networks.

 

All the best with your journey,

 

J x

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Book Club, Publishing Kitt, The Bookroom, Women-kind

The Year of Reading Women, but women don’t make up most of the author percentage.

The year of reading women

2014 is the year of reading women, however the bigger percentage of authors are male! Should we really just be encouraging reading or encouraging women to fight the good fight of becoming a writer and making their dreams a reality? 

This year the Guardian wrote an article that explored the issue that “female authors are marginalised by newspapers and literary journals, and their books are given ‘girly’ covers.” Their plea was was ¬†“Take action against this inequality by making sure the next book you read is by a woman” I think that this is fantastic. Of course it is, I’m a woman and I’m also a writer that hopes to become a published author someday and I would like to believe that my books are not just successful but read by a range of people. But, here comes the obligatory but, I’m not sure if it is enough. Of course it is a benchmark, a start place however, but is it enough? Or is it a completely different fight altogether?

Since I was about eight years old I wanted to be one of two things (or both if I could swindle it), an author or a singer and by being a singer it means that I would have wanted to write my own songs; I distinctly remember singing Norah Jones “I don’t know why” on a rainy Saturday afternoon and wishing I could be a singer, just like her. For the past 12 years I have written song lyrics, poetry and stories. I absolutely love writing. Sometimes I thank the advancement of mobile phones that have a “notes” app that I can go into when I’m on the bus or in a queue and a idea pops into my head, because I don’t have to carry round a notepad all the time. It’s great that I can do it anywhere, wherever creativity decides to drop an idea bomb and log it somewhere.

Very gradually I began writing more than I did sing and the hunger to become a writer/published author became (in the words of Stephen Fry on the Twinging’s ad) gruelling and it still is. But the one thing aside dream, hope and determination I have are people that encourage me and tell me that I can do it!I am fortunate to be surrounded by family, friends and colleagues that believe in me and my talents and the ambition that I have to become something that many dream of but very often are not able to achieve.

I run a Birmingham based project called The Book Club¬†¬†that encapsulates strong female characters and female voices, written by both men and women but we are guilty (however not sorry) of inviting more female authors and poets than male to our events to read, perform and excite our audience each month. The purpose of this is to encourage more people to read the word created by women and the word of the woman. This month we had Sci-Fi and Fantasy author Carmen Cupuano. Her genre of writing is one not often found in the female gender of authors which is interestingly pointed out in this article on XXFactor, asking why there aren’t more female Sci-Fi writers, so having Carmen at The Book Club was almost like hitting a gold mine, she is a rare breed of author. However, one of the things that spoke out to me when Carmen was telling us about her background what that she did not have the support of someone extremely close to her when she chose to down tools and pick up a pen and begin writing her series “The Owners”. Personally I would hope that any of my close ones would be on board if I chose to pursue a writing career later in life. Luckily, Carmen ignored the lack of support and did it anyway and if last week’s edition of The Book Club was anything to go by, we were all glad that she did.

So what am I trying to say? I have taken a very personal and opinionated route to explain this but in a very roundabout way, my point is that whilst urging people to read more books written by women is fantastic, sexism exists in every art industry, in every industry, somewhere and it does need to stop but, the bigger picture is that more male authors are being published than female, although most of the worlds readers are – FEMALE. Yes, funny isn’t it? Here come the numbers, this is part a research compiled by Vida, featured by the Guardian in 2010:

“In the US, The New York Review of Books shows a stronger bias. Among authors reviewed, 83% are men (306 compared to 59 women and 306 men), and the same statistic is true of reviewers (200 men, 39 women). The New York Times Book Review fares better, with only 60% of reviewers men (438 compared to 295 women). Of the authors with books reviewed, 65% were by men (524 compared to 283 by women).”

Number are boggling for me, but I got it and they aren’t blurred lines. It is loud and clear that men dominate the literary industry and, without sounding too frustrated, I want that to change! But it isn’t just the literary industry, the songwriters of the music industry is pretty daunting too in it’s numbers.

Last night I listened to a talk by Charlotte Church about Women in Music and I almost swallowed my own tongue when I heard this, “PRS claims that only 13 percent of writers (songwriters) registered are female” You can listen to the whole talk here¬†and I recommend that anybody does. But what an outstandingly harrowing number and just shows what influence female writers have in the music industry. And I must question, what are the un-registered writers? Are they too afraid to make their stamp on the industry or have they been shunned? Where are they? Can we encourage them to come forward, raise their hands and say “I did this. I am great, I am talented, you don’t have to like¬†me, but believe in me and my work.”

The work that I do inspires girls and women to write, to me it is imperative that women follow their dreams because who shouldn’t be allowed to follow their dreams? Of course as a writer my focus is on boosting writers and storytellers. Hell, women are the best storytellers – if you’ve heard women gossip then you will know that they are great at telling stories just generally. But it shouldn’t be the radical female authors such as Austen, the Bront√ę sisters, Maya Angelou or¬†Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that gain the most praise and attention, every female writer deserves to be up there with their work which is my The Book Club is so important for me. There are masses of girls and young women like me in the world with a dream to become an author who need support, guidance and at least just one person out there who believes in them.

Reading the work of female authors to beat the sexism in the industry is important of course it is, especially if we want them to stand out. However, what about the up and coming authors, to beat the stereotypes and prejudice for them would be fantastic, but the fact that men are published more than women supports a sexist issue, it’s not a conspiracy theory or a blame by pointing fingers, it’s just simply a fact. I believe the two plights go hand in hand and should be tackled to support one another.

So can we begin to support those up and coming female authors who are talented, who have a story to be told, who write Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels and especially the ones who have no one that believe in them? Surely if there are more female authors being published, there are more female authors to be read, heard from and loved.

 

Sources: Here and here.

 

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Publishing Kitt

Publishing Kitt: You don’t have to be alone.

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And you’re not alone!

Yesterday I attended an inter-generation event called ‘Bridge the Gap’ and a poet/writer that I have recently met was there also. We had a fantastic conversation about the road to getting published and just by talking to Nina I realised something, publishing is not something you have to be alone in and you are not alone! Just like any new journey the path can be daunting, unexpected and long; throw in a mass of rejection letters and emails and it becomes very harrowing. But, ¬†not only is there hope at the end of the tunnel but there there is help, support and an array of understanding people there every step of the way.

So talk to fellow authors and writers. Even bloggers have to submit their work to get it published on a reputable site. The point is that those who are also on the same road as you know what you are talking about and how you feel, regardless of their genre, age or status, they are still on that same road. So talk to them, they might have some valuable tips and ideas for you and you might even find that have some advice to share with them.

Talk to the ones who have been there and done it! At the beginning of this year I sent a message to my literary idol Jill Mansell. I had asked her for advice about writing and connecting with your characters and whether it’s wrong to stop writing one novel and begin another, honestly I was not expecting a reply. However a few hours later she messaged me back with probably the most precious advice I’ve been given to date and it’s stuck with me ever since. So do reach out to your idols, I’m not suggesting you hound them with messages but even if they are John Grisham, they might reply, they might not. They will most definitely be busy working on a new bestseller but, once you send your message out into the cosmic void, it is there for them to pick up. But most importantly they have been through the exact same journey as us and they know precisely how you are feeling.

So talk to your writing peers, tell them how it’s going, tell them if you’re fed up and worried you’ll never be successful; address those fears and let someone help you. A few words of reassurance, encouragement and inspiration can go a long way when you’re wishing on stars and praying to the gods for your dream career!

Don’t be alone!

Jx

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My Lab

Get Back On It

Project You

Yesterday was an off-day. You woke up and didn’t feel too great about life. You didn’t want to get out of bed. When you did, you looked in the mirror and didn’t love the person looking back.

These days happen and there isn’t a lot we can do about it. It is hard to be happy all the time and it is important that we allow ourselves to take time to rest. Take time for ourselves to process our lives and just appreciate the journeys we are on.

It is just one day. Ride the storm. Be miserable for a day and get it out of your system. Indulge in duvet days, movies, candlelit bubble baths and yummy food. Spoil yourself with self-love and be gentle with the soul that you are. Take a break from social media and call friends instead. Go with the motion of the misery that tries…

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Publishing Kitt

Publishing Kitt: Would I date my agent?

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So I’ve decided to go out on a limb, take the traditional route and instead of heading for the straight self-publishing road, I’m going to search for a literary agent and then hedge my bets of getting published. I’ve heard all of the stories and I’ve been given the stern ‘set yourself up for disappointment’s, but I have to start somewhere right? Today I sent off my manuscript to a publishing house who are looking for new, first time authors and I thought, ‘Ooh that’s me!’ so I sent it off with a short and bubbly introductory description of myself and my book and hit send. And then a light bulb moment happened and so here is a new part of my blog that is documenting my road to getting published. I hope that fellow writers would like to join me on this journey, share their experiences and tips and in turn I will share any tips I find along my way.

For the past few months I have been searching and making a generic list of literary agents that could publish my alter ego Kitt Lovell – the fun, lovely, pink and wittily glittery-girly author who will be the young woman behind my books. Kit was born out of my diary – after reading an old diary entry and finding that when I was single I had taken on this persona of a chick lit/flick protagonist. After reading the entry written on New Year’s Day; “Tonights agenda: Eat Chocolate; Watch Sex and the City the movie (because nothing beats watching Carrie batter Big with a huge bunch of roses); And drink tea, because I drank all of the alcohol last night”, looking back and saying, ‘This is not me! Who is this girl? She is hilarious.’ I knew that Kit needed to be birthed, a part of me that I love and hold close and hopefully will be loved by all.

So this afternoon I began to narrow it down and continue my search, really reading the fine details of what they are looking for and deciding what kind of literary agent I am looking for. Alas I came to a conclusion – finding a literary agent is just like dating and now since most searches and submissions are made online it is very much like online dating. Not only do you need to qualify in terms of what the agent in question is looking for but it is also very important that the agent is someone you think you would like to work with and closely. Could you imagine sharing your most personal creation with this agent? Just like asking yourself when looking for potential date – could I imagine sharing a toothbrush with this person? It works both ways and so I decided to immensely clinch my search. Beggars¬†can¬†be choosers when it comes to the person who is handling a huge part of your life and that is why I decided to choose to submit to agents that I like the sound of, agents that are a reflection of me. If they are inviting and friendly, if they offer authors helpful advice I want them to represent me; that paired with someone who can get the job done and I am nearly on my way to ticking all of my ‘Must Have’ boxes.

Now to pop the big question – this is the question that rounds everything off and takes a stance on whether you submit your manuscript or not – would I date my agent? We have to remember that this is someone that we are going to work closely with, for years, and so it is a relationship that needs to start as it means to go on, much like starting any new relationship.

So now my list is shorter I can make the first step in sending my selling email which is like sending that first initial response to someone’s dating profile! So let’s see where it goes and I’ll let you know!

 

J x

 

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Book Club, Events

A Night with Maya Angelou

A Night with Maya Angelou.

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At a glance the night was a wonderful mix of a warming and magical ambience, beaming with a friendship of joy, honesty, knowledge and love. I cannot recall ever having to recover from a relaxing night out, so when I woke up this morning (having not touched a drop of alcohol last night) feeling as if I had drunk my own body weight of rum I needed to collect my thoughts and feelings of last night and get them down for everyone to see! Friday night we added to the new chapter to the life of Maya Angelou that opened after her passing in June – her legacy. Her legacy and lasting imprint that she has made through her lessons of kindness – her lessons were always kind, no matter how harrowing the story, her openness, the platform she has built to allow other women to raise their voices and her ability to make others feel as if they knew her personally. We opened the night with a speech from Maya Angelou – from the Glamour Women of the Year Awards in 2009 and set the night up for a whirlwind affair with an abundance of inspiration.

From her own works to pieces that were inspired by her, the night took form in a range of incredible performances that celebrated Maya’s work and her life. We opened the night with a beautiful young lady named Lauren Williams who is currently Birmingham’s Young Poet, her poem that was inspired by Maya’s poem ‘Still I Rise’, coloured the night with fresh hope – the perfect beginning to an illustrious night.

South African poet Tessa Lowe carried the night on with a deliciously wise section from Maya Angelou’s biography. Hearing a voice filled with knowledge tell a part of someone’s story that is in turn, filled with knowledge created the perfect mixture.

As the night took a turn – for the better – the guests were treated to an acoustic delight by multi-talented musician Alisha Kadir (who is also a talented poet). Who dished up with a blend of original songs and an incorporation of ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ into ‘If I Had A Boat’ by James Vincent McMorrow. Alisha set a relaxing tone with her alluring vocals and beautiful guitar chords.

After the break we were welcomed back by Nina Lewis, a poet who had just returned to the poetry scene, but you never would have thought that she had left! Her anthology of poems inspired by Maya Angelou captivated the guests. It was a pure joy to watch a creative in her element, reading her work, executed so delicately you couldn’t help but be moved.

And when we say the night had it all, it had it all. Dramatist Marlene McKenzie who is from the Shakti Women tribe but also runs a women’s theatre group, gave us a treat of reflection. She allowed us to explore our personal growth through a ten minute piece and a character that engaged and encouraged the audience to question their relationships with people who are producing negativity and self-doubt within our lives, the answers from the guests were inspiring to say the least!

Next former Birmingham Poet Laureate and a personal favourite, eloquent poet and play writer Jan Watts read two original poems, two insights to two personal lives inspired by Maya and how she had given women a platform to use their voices, Jan ended her section with a reading of Phenomenal Woman, the sparking, self-loving poem by the late Dr. Maya Angelou.

Before the night ended we asked Lauren to join us again and perform another poem, it was the the perfect end to the perfect night. A night that was shared by so many guests who all had the same thing in common, not just the love for a great woman but the experience of her, the ability to share their stories and raise their voices and this is the effect that Maya Angelou has reaped all over the world, in so many countries and in so many different women (and mens) lives.

 

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My Lab

Something New – Progress & Thank you!

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This year has been the start of a lot of new things, relationships, businesses and much more; including discovering that I’m actually capable of more than I believed that I was, I never believed the people that told me that I had the smarts and the strength, I just always lacked in confidence, but now I can actually say how proud I am from where I started to where I’ve arrived with much more adventures to be had and this time I’m not afraid of the adventure – I’m quite excited about it. If someone had told me last three years ago that I’d be doing an Eng Lit & Creative Writing degree and starting my career in writing I would have laughed at them. Only luck could determine whether I made it as a writer right? Well I’ve started to think that luck is a state of mind, if there is something reachable and achievable that you want, why not grab it? ¬†And I can honestly say that making your dream you own reality is a crazy but fabulous feeling of warm and glowiness – even on the hard days – I look around and see all of my progress and smile.

Since I’m self employed I don’t have a manager to give me ¬†progress report, I do however have a supportive boyfriend and network of friends, family and associates that will, without a doubt in their hearts (or minds), tell me how good¬†and¬†bad I’m doing which is important when it’s only you managing your business (work and life wise). So I have learnt one big important lesson – “A part of your life is only as good as the people your surround yourself with” – especially when you don’t have a great social life because your career side has become the biggest aspect of your life, you do begin to realise; ‘Who is there for me? Even if I haven’t seen so and so¬†in two months and I didn’t reply to their ¬†text until two in the morning because that’s the time that I finished working.’. They are still there because they understand the chasm between the two facets in your life¬†and¬†everything is most definitely a grey area. But funnily enough people who don’t have your best interests or just don’t understand that you are busy, not ignoring them; seem just flutter away, and that is fine because it’s their choice and life is full of them. So maybe we are better off without that extra bit around the edges, your group, your people become smaller but it doesn’t make you any less you, if not just a bit better, in fact you might not have noticed them pick up their coat, tip-toe out the door and silently shut it behind them. I want to thank everyone that has supported me and stuck by me; even when I haven’t been around they sure let me know about it and I appreciate that!

Today as this goes out into the inter-web void is my little (not so little) sister’s prom. Four years ago it was me leaving school with all of these plans and ideas of what I was going to go, what college and adult life was going to be and really, none of those plans, went¬†to¬†plan,¬†BUT, adult life has been good to me (so far). I just hope that my sister takes her time to really enjoy today, look beautiful (which she will of course), dance and have bundles of fun. And then the real fun begins, but she has a vast support network as I do and she has me for every day that isn’t a good one. So for now Jess… have fun tonight!

J x

 

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