Thursday, 21 December 2017

Get Over Your Broken Heart....

(courtesy of internet)

When your heart is aching, the world looks grey. The flowers lose their fragrance. The birds’ chirping irritates you, all you want is to toss pebbles for them to scatter as further away from you as possible. Seeing what’s right in the world has become nothing but a futile attempt. You curl into a ball in your bed as you cover your head with a blanket and nurse that ache inside of you. Right now, darkness and pain are all you know. 

For reasons you cannot fathom, you seek out that jolt inside your heart. You do it daily, seamlessly, for it has become your constant companion. Because without that ache gnawing away at you, there is nothing else. Without it, you cannot make sense of what has happened to you. You can’t explain how it is that the world has lost its meaning. Why you can’t laugh. Why you can’t be happy for others. Why you can’t celebrate their victories. Only your pain helps you to make sense of it all.

There is a reason why you, the broken-hearted will not let go of your pain. To let go of that ache means forgetting that which caused it in the first place. Did you lose your only child? To no longer grieve is to let the child go. To undermine the memories of the one whose birth you heralded with ululation, song and dance. To turn your back on the pride you felt as it lay nestling in your arms. To cease being its mother.

Did you lose your lover? The one you had come to care for deeply? The one who meant the world to you? You know letting go of your broken heart is to kiss them farewell. You know it would be the final nail in the coffin for you will have to move on with your life. Moving on means letting your once treasured memories fade. It means acknowledging that the person you once held dear to your heart no longer matters to you. It means admitting their lack of significance in your life. It means, soon, you won’t remember that special bond you once shared. You won’t recall the way they once made you laugh. The way they once made your heart surge with joy. That is the part that scares you the most, isn’t it? 

So, you hold on to that pain for as long as possible. Because keeping it buried deep in your heart justifies your anger. Your sadness. Your lack of motivation. Your persistent loss of appetite. Your insomnia. Your depression. It explains why the object of your torment is still in your life. Why you keep their photos pinned to your wall. Why you cannot open your heart to other possibilities. Why you cannot love again. Somehow, the pain you feel has become your twisted source of comfort. I am right, aren't I? 

Often, you, the broken-hearted are the master at defending the status quo. You hide away from those who tell you everything is going to be alright. You shun their words of encouragement. When they insist you will smile again. Love again. Go out again. Laugh again. Their platitudes enrage you. Patronise you. Let them try walking in your shoes. Let them experience the kind of pain that suffocates you and makes you sink daily. Let them handle the confusion and desperation that comes with holding on to the very devil that threatens your existence. I imagine you telling them. Right now, the last thing you want to hear is that your misery can be conquered. That you have the power to move on and be happy again.  

Sometimes you say things that hurt others, especially the ones you love. Those you need the most. It is not because you don't care. You do. Of course, you do. You say these things because it is the only way you know how to deal with that gripping pain inside of you. It has manifested into the dragon that spits fire. A venom that quickly spreads and destroys anything and everything in its path. As you watch the demon encroach further into your territory, you sink deeper into the black hole. You are fighting a losing battle.

Listen to me, I understand. Your soul has blackened, and you do not know how to cleanse it. You have dug yourself a deep hole from which you cannot get out. Some may suggest therapy. Some will swear by the pill. But it takes a real friend. A real friend to make you understand that only you have the power to save yourself. It takes a person who genuinely cares to utter some harsh truths to you. It takes a genuine heart to drag you out of your bed. To slap you in the face and tell you to get a grip. The kind of friend who will stand with you in your hopelessness and demand that you toughen up and face this monster. 

Because right now, tough love is what you need. Get out of bed. Wash your hair. Go outside and sniff the hope that’s out there. Because there is hope. And to borrow words from a movie - 'You shall be well. You shall be yourself again. You shall be perfectly content.'

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Books That Have Challenged Me Over The Years

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." Mark Twain

I have devoured many books over the years, and the following is a list of some of them. The list is not exhaustive, and I've picked the ones that struck a chord with me and left a lasting impression. Before we get to that, let me go off on a tangent and tell you how I pick my reads.

How I select books to read.
When they tell you, a book is judged by its cover, believe them. Upon entering a shop, the first thing I do is walk over to the shelves marked according to genre and scan for the covers that catch my eye, assuming I have not predetermined the novel I want to read. Call me superficial, but jackets have a knack for drawing me in. For me, less is more. I like to be intrigued. Challenged. Give me a puzzle to put together as I unravel the tale.

Once I spot the one, I zoom in on the title, flip the book over and read the blurb. It is true what they say about the hook. I’m always looking for that thing that arouses my curiosity and piques my interest. The promise of what's inside and the reason to keep reading.
Reviews make or break an author. You better believe it. Some reviewers do know how to spoil it for everybody. Some are fair, some, well, darn obnoxious. I am sympathetic when it comes to reviews because I know how it feels to be told your writing is a dud. 

The author’s use of language is of great importance to me. I flip through random pages, poring over the author's writing style. By doing this I'm trying to see if I resonate with the author's voice. The author and I need to have that chemistry. I love books that are simple and yet sophisticated. I don't want the kind of distraction that comes with trying to decipher the author's intended meaning (Ernest Hemmingway will be spinning in his grave). Just write what you mean, and I will thank you for it. 

Then there is word of mouth. That book on everyone’s lips. The hype on social media, radio and television. All these channels guide me to my next read.

I am drawn to stories that challenge my emotions. I am a sucker for love, a good murder and a cry, stories that make me want to explore what I don't know and what thought I knew already. Also, stories that make me uncomfortable and enable me to view the world from a different perspective. Sometimes I crave for tales that inject in me, some degree of nostalgia.
1. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Recommended by my daughter, this novel had me at ‘nurse.’ Where do I even begin? Critics refer to it as the To Kill a Mocking Bird of the 21st century. I agree 100 %. The story about a nurse (midwife to be exact) who could not carry out her sacred duties due to prejudice. Imagine wanting to save a child but you couldn’t because you are not allowed by the parents of that child. The nurse's only 'sin' is that she is black! The story is emotional I read it with tears rolling down my cheeks. I am a nurse so you can imagine my horror. The author, though white, did her research well. The way she addresses black people issues, her use of language. It was as if I was reading a book written by a black person. Some may feel such a story should have been written by a black person. Perhaps. But I have no doubt Jodi wrote the story that chose her. The author finishes by giving a heartrending commentary about race and our society today which meant more tears for me. I was emotionally exhausted by the time I finished reading Small Great Things. But reader, do not despair. The ending is quite encouraging.

2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
The story that had me at the edge of my seat. Quite a thriller. The suspense in this story, how twisted things get, is what keeps you flicking through the pages. A woman vanishes, and the husband’s life spirals out of control. Throughout the novel which is told by Nick and Amy's perspectives, we are left wondering if it really is Amy playing mind tricks on her husband. It appears she is, but why? How? At one point, I thought Nick Dunne was the one framing his own wife. Again, it’s about relationships. In this instance, marriage. How certain things we do and say affect our partner. Beware. You have been warned. Gone Girl is what I call a What the heck kinda story.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A great read, but not for the faint-hearted. There are challenging themes and some PI words. The storyteller is inquisitive. She is one of the Finch children who is intrigued by a strange man who lives next door. Then there is Atticus, the lawyer who faces the onerous task of defending an innocent ‘nigga’ in court. Because of this, he is dubbed a Nigga Lover. You can't help but feel for Atticus, and for Tom Robinson, of course. He has been wrongly accused after all. A great read, but difficult to swallow. The author shows a great deal of courage in telling her story, and I am not surprised it took Harper Lee a while for her book see the light of day. 

4. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Another gripping, emotional read. A story about marriage. Love and lies. There is a lot of pain in this book. But then again many great books draw from pain, tragedy and deceit. A lot draw from the African experience. The desperation that comes with wanting a child. The need to uphold certain expectations and sacrificing one's happiness along the way. Everyone is talking about this book, so, I had to discover for myself. I’m glad I did. 

5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I saw this on my Twitter timeline and found myself on Amazon clicking buy. This is a story of slavery. Of broken relationships. Societal prejudices. And more. A simple read. Fast-paced and the author seems to cram a few generations into one book. An emotional read I find, but then again, who isn’t touched by the evil of slavery. I have to say though that the ending was rather abrupt for me. I was left wanting more, hoping for more. I needed closure, perhaps. Oh, well. *sighs* 

6. The Power by Naomi Alderman
I stumbled upon this title when I searched best sellers on Amazon. Men are in trouble and guess who the troublemakers are. Women. You guessed right. They have mysterious powers that kill men and boys, and it is scaring the living daylights out of them. A certain reporter is on the case. There is some weird shite going on in this book one has no choice but to discover how it all ends. Is it any wonder Barack Obama endorsed this literary masterpiece?! Loved it.

7. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
I could identify with most themes in this book. The hope that all economic migrants carry when they move to another country. The disappointments they face when they realise that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. In the end, most long for home. Home is where the heart is. The immigrant realises that they do not have to be scared to return home. That if they try hard enough, they can dream again and make it in their own country. The main character in this book does just that. They go back home, eventually, after years of trying to make it in America. I wanted the protagonists to dream big. To have more ambition. To swing for the fence. I wanted more conflict. Stakes to rise a little higher. I craved for more drama. 

8. Under the Udala Trees by Chimelo Okparanta
It's possible this book would have eventually found its way into my hands had a friend not recommended it to me. A story about two girls who fall for each other. Unheard of during the time and place the author describes. I managed to finish the book as it addresses some real issues in our society today. Mother-daughter relationships, sexuality, sacrifice, religion and love. I am always drawn to themes that tug at my emotions. I learnt that you cannot sacrifice your happiness or change who you are to please others. You will regret, and it will haunt you until you develop the courage and resilience to go after what you want.

9. Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
I found this book, again, when I searched for best selling novels. Read the blurb, and I was hooked. A heart-warming story about lost objects that need rescuing. Each object has a story behind it. Interesting read. Kept me going as I wanted to know if the storyteller fulfilled her promise to return the lost things to their rightful owners. 

10. The Letter by Kathryn Hughes
A story about an abusive husband. About a letter that lost its way and was found years later. Love. A light read. One of those books I read when I need something to lighten my mood. Perhaps one cliché too many for me. But then again, some readers thrive on those. Just goes to show, the book business is subjective.

11. Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Another literary champion. A story about the experience of interracial couples. The relationship between two girls who come from different backgrounds and who view the world through different eyes. The author gives a realistic portrayal of Britain as a society. There are some lighter moments, but overall, I found the story somewhat depressing. Rather grim. I tend to navigate towards hope. But Zadie is undoubtedly a tremendous literary writer. 

12. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
You may be surprised I had not read this classic yet. Well, it was always at the back of my mind, and I kept putting it off for other reads. Eventually, I came around and read the novel. The author’s use of language is embellished, of course, but not in a discombobulating way. The author explores the society of the wealthy. Philandering husbands. Dreams. Tragedy. Love and complexities of relationships.

Besides the books I've listed above, I read I See You by Clare Mackintosh, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Together by Julie Cohen and the short story The Arrangements and the novella Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 

If one of your favourites is not on my list, why don't you pick a title from my list and give it a try? You never know, it may be the book that opens your eyes and grows you. 

Happy Holidays! 

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 develop. 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 a home. 

Take care!