Monday 28 March 2011

Sharing the Pie

I had intended to reveal the cover of my novel today, but you’re going to have to wait until next week for that happy event! Over the weekend I was disappointed and my inner equilibrium disturbed. I need to share my thoughts on that.

Writing is a tough career choice. The writing world is full of a huge number of talented people and a limited number of readers. The writing pie is only so big.

Or so I’m told.

I think differently. I think that we can all have a slice of the pie, because there is space ‘out there’ for all our stories to be told. Each writer’s voice is unique and there is a place in this world for that voice to be heard…if we all respect each other and help each other and share in each other’s successes as much as we empathise with each other’s disappointments.

I discovered, though, that the most unexpected people don’t feel like this. To some, their hunger—for fame, for success, for money, or whatever—is so great that they’ll lie (by omission or commission) to friends and colleagues, they’ll use the work and effort of others without acknowledgment and, yes, hungrily grab a slice of pie without so much as a public thank-you.

Will I stop helping those who turn to me for writing advice or assistance? Of course not.

Although, because of other commitments, there may be future times I’ll be unable to help as much as I’d like to, I will, as much as I’m physically able, continue to help those who ask.

Am I a fool? Shouldn’t I retreat into the laager to protect myself and my own writing dreams and ambitions?

I’d rather let the spiritual law of Karma come into play: for every act and choice we make, there is a consequence. And, like love, the writing pie is infinite. The more we put into it, the more it will grow and grow. Those who feed greedily at the trough will, at first, get a bigger slice of the pie because their need is clearly greater.

Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Ghandhi said, ‘The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed.’

If my need for fame and success and wealth is less than another’s, leaving me with a smaller piece of the pie, well, so be it.

Insha'Allah. God's Will. Karma.

Perhaps, in future, I will again be disappointed when someone I liked and trusted, rushes to gobble at the pie, trampling my good will along the way. But, as the heart-warming thanks from writers Damaria Senne and Tiah Marie Beautement and the unexpected kindness of others such as Robert Wilkinson, remind me, there are still many more people out there in the writing world who are happy to share the pie. And it’s those generous writers, who act rather than compete, who continue to make the writing pie delicious and help restore my inner equilibrium.
If you're a follower, don't forget to leave a comment for another chance to win one of those four copies of the brilliant anthology of short stories "Notes from Underground" that are up for grabs! Competition details HERE.
Remember to visit my blog next week to tell me what you think of my book cover!
Free Image from ClipArt

Monday 21 March 2011

Happiness is...publication (and free books for you!)

I’m thrilled to announce that the Literary Lab anthology of short stories “Notes from Underground” is now available for sale at in both Kindle and print editions.

Why am I so happy about this?

Because I’m one of the lucky authors who was included in this interesting and diverse anthology. My short story “Whispers of Love” and my poem “Triptych of Love” are included, as well as one of my watercolours. Not that I’m very good at drawing, but occasionally the urge overwhelms me and I draw something. This particular watercolour is called “Trance” and was inspired by San art.

I call myself “lucky” to be included in “Notes from Underground” because having read the other 24 short stories in this anthology, I’m rather daunted by the high standard, wide-ranging topics and creative vision of the other authors. Watch out for my detailed review coming soon on Amazon and Goodreads.

“Notes” was an exciting project to be involved in. As writers, we had no limits. As the trio of writers/editors in charge of The Literary Lab put it: “to celebrate artistic freedom, we put together a collection of stories that were accepted before they were actually written. Our fellow writers gained entry into the anthology by impressing us with past work or proposals. From those early applications, we selected twenty-five of our favourite writers and told them simply that they had ten pages with which they could do whatever they want. We received poetry, artwork, and some amazing short stories that are both traditional and experimental. Writers challenged themselves, and only themselves, to see what they could truly create when they weren’t worried about rejection. In “Notes From Underground” readers will find a range of emotions and personalities that is as broad as the range of writers that frequent our great online community. We hope you enjoy this collection as much as we do!”

And because happiness deserves to be shared four (yes, 4!) lucky readers of this blog will receive a copy (in their choice of Kindle or print edition ) of “Notes from Underground”.

All you have to do is leave a comment on any blog post I write between today (21 March 2011) and Thursday 21 April 2011 (inclusive). Prizes are open only to people who follow me on my Blog, or on one of my social media sites.  So if you don't connect with me on my blog or any of those social media sites, hurry to my “Join Me on Social Media” tag above and connect. Then leave a comment telling me which of my social media sites you’ve joined.

All names in the comments section will be put in a hat and drawn (with the assistance of the lovely Theodorable) on Thursday 21 April 2011. For every comment you make on a new blogpost, you get another entry into the competition (that is, one comment on ten new blogposts = 10 entries into draw, but ten comments on the same blogpost = 1 entry into draw.)

The four winners will be announced on Friday 22 April 2011, so remember to come back and check to see if your name is up there. And there may even be more than a copy of "Notes" waiting for these lucky readers to claim...

As all sale proceeds of this anthology go towards charity, please help spread the word about this competition and the anthology. Anyone who reads it has a wonderful treat in store!

Monday 14 March 2011

The Prerogative of the Harlot

"What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power,
and power without responsibility is the prerogative of the harlot through the ages."
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley (1867-1947)

Am I the only one who feels that, as writers, we have a dichotomous responsibility to both our muse and our readers?

Scriptwriter Janet van Eerden’s post on LitNet had me brooding even more than I usually do on the issue of how we, as writers, can use the power we have-the power of words- responsibly.

As Janet points out, writers have a duty to their characters. To provide accurate historical context, a character should keep his or her integrity. Janet wrote a play where a character was a racial fanatic, and used the k-word. I recently wrote a short story about the Border War, where the main protagonist used the k-word at a dramatically intense moment. I found it difficult to actually write that word on paper. But if I hadn’t used it, the turning point wouldn’t have rung true. What was I to do? Erase the word-as painful as it will be to some potential readers of that story-or chose dialogue that’s historically accurate?

I used it and the story is the better for it. Does this mean artistic integrity is an excuse to allow the indiscriminate use of any offensive word in the name of one’s art? Certainly not!

Every writer has the perfect right to articulate his or her creative vision by whatever means possible. But can the gratuitous use of words or images intended to shock – from the f-word to the k-word (or the n-word in the USA) – ever serve any real purpose? Is it not an abuse of the power we, as writers, have when we overfill the pages with extreme images of destruction and hatred?

While we do have a responsibility to our characters, we also have a responsibility to our readers. To express something human-no matter how violent or ugly-as a way of exploring the human condition is part of the creative urge. However, to take a delight in representing the negative side of human nature only, or to wantonly disregard our readers’ sensitivities, is nothing short of the noxious screaming of an angry soul.

Writers need to be ever-aware that the power of words can influence readers in a myriad of ways, both good and bad. To use that power effectively, and for the greater good of all, is a responsibility we shouldn't ignore.

Readers, too, have a responsibility. Human history has produced many victims: Jews, gays, women and people of colour, to name but a few. While in no way wishing to diminish the effect of human cruelty on these sections of society, readers need to be sure that, when reading a novel-which is, after all, a work of the writer’s imagination-he does not allow his personal wounds to dictate his interpretation of the text. Judge Edward Cameron’s response to the movie version of Spud is a case in point, as is the fact that the Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird was the fourth most-challenged book of 2009 because use of the n-word offended readers.

The responsibility of the reader lies in understanding that the writer has a task to perform: to create a unique vision of the human condition, no matter whether that vision is high-brow literary or entertaining mass-market fiction. If readers demand that authors keep their characters politically, but not historically, correct to avoid hurting their sensibilities, that’s not respecting artistic vision, that’s insisting on the creation of a cult of victimhood.

The balance of power between writer and reader is a fine one. Writers have the power to destroy a reader’s peace of mind; readers have the power to destroy a writer’s career. And it is only the prerogative of the harlot to use power without responsibility. Writers and readers alike should respect each other and use their particular powers with caution, common sense and compassion.

Monday 7 March 2011

Mango Mania

Mangoes, my favourite fruit
If I’m ever unfortunate enough to end up on death row, and I’m asked what I want as my last supper, my answer will be the perfect mango.

This morning I had the perfect – I tell you, the perfect! – mango for breakfast. Not too juicy; not too hard. Neither too ripe nor too green; too big nor too small. Perfect for a late season fruit! When Husband got tired of all the slurping yum noises from the other side of the table, he asked, “What is it with you and mangoes?”

When I was growing up in Zvishavane, a small town in Zimbabwe, we had the biggest, greenest, most prolific mango tree in our back yard. During mango season, we’d walk out into the shade and pick our lunch: mangoes as big as my head (or so I thought!). Mom would then strip my sister and I to our naked selves, dump us in a large galvanised iron bath filled with cold water, and let us slurp our mangoes to our hearts’ content. When we were finished, she’d take the hose and spray us down until we were squeaky clean.

And the fun wasn’t finished, either. We’d then wash the hairy pips and, when they were dry, we’d comb the hairs into fancy styles and paint happy faces on the pips. Violá - we had new toys every time we ate a mango!

No wonder I love mangoes so much.

Image from Australia Primary Industries. Please contact me should there be copyright issues.