Final Chapters

Why are endings so difficult? I find it difficult to end a lot of things, reading a ‘good’ read, I will eek out the final pages. Don’t get me started on food, I eat so damn slow because I like to savour every grain! The same applies with my writing, my children’s book still needs revising after receiving a cold reception and I am on the home straight of completing my novel with only 20,000 more words to write (based on my outline).

The ending of the novel was always going to be a struggle for me because the story is based (drum roll please) on my life, and I don’t mean to point out the obvious but you may have noticed my life hasn’t ended. So I am trying to figure out how best to close the book, which chapter in my life would I like to end the story at, or do I leave it open?

Earlier in the year I blogged about the inner child. I am a 31 year with a very young mind, often juvenile but I enjoy that part of my personality. It’s important to me to try to keep my life light and to be fair I believe children have the best philosophy towards life – keep it simple and have fun! Why do we as adults confuse things?

Now let me tell you how I realised one of my childhood dreams of playing Mas in the Carnival parade. Yes I done it, and it was one of the most empowering things I have done in a long time. The rejection from PRH did dampen my spirits but I had other positive things such as playing Mas to focus on which helped me to keep looking ahead. My children and I enjoyed ‘family day’ on the Sunday and we saw the traditional parade. My daughter absolutely loved it and danced all day with a smile from ear to ear. My experience on the Monday is hard to describe. I felt truly connected with my culture, the sun was beaming so we could have been on any Island and the beats of the soca music vibrated through my body mimicking my heart, releasing good old endorphins. I was pumped but it was a natural high that I’m guilty of trying to create through drinking wine (shock horror!). I won’t go too much into the negativity reported by the mass media, I personally think it’s propaganda to help shut down a gathering of people enjoying and celebrating their culture, but I can say all I witnessed was love and good vibes.

Back to how this relates to my story! Being in the Carnival reminded me of a time when I was in Trinidad and Tobago. I refused to participate or enjoy the Carnival which is truly a shame as T&T is where Carnival originates from. This is retold in my novel but I hold negative memories about that time so I guess my inner child wanted to recreate and make a new memory to overwrite the bad one. Does that make sense? Anyway it worked and now I am underway to completing the final chapters. I have one more writer’s initiative scheme up my sleeve too which I will fill you in closer to the time. The deadline to submit is 20th September so I better crack on!

Thanks again to all the wonderful people reading this and spurring me on, it means so much to have supportive people in my live.

 

Janique x

Rejection

Hey,

I’m back from my week-long pity party after receiving the dreaded ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ email from Penguin Random House (PRH) disappointment is an understatement for how I felt but here I am, still writing.

The feedback was generic but did give some insight into to where I may have gone wrong. A lesson learnt from this experience I can tell you that! To help me overcome this stumbling block I registered on PRH writer’s academy scheme, on 22nd August I participated in the first webinar and learnt new tools on how to overcome writer’s block (I’ll share the slides in another blog). One of my challenges with writing is my environment, having two small children and working full-time tires me out. I do struggle to find the time and when I do, I’m battling with other thoughts running through my mind. Writing doesn’t come easy sometimes but when it does, it brings me so much freedom.  I am truly happy with my pen and notepad, pouring out my feelings and thoughts. So I will continue documenting this journey in the hope it will inspire someone else to follow what they truly love doing – even if it doesn’t pay the bills!

So what’s next? I have a few goals to complete before the end of the year and then I will consider other options that await me.  The first goal is to submit 5000 words to Myslexia by 20th September (Novel must be at least 50k), it’s another writer’s initiative that I hope will get my story noticed and then who knows?

I realised I didn’t make it clear I have two pieces of work I’m hoping to publish – oops, sorry to those that are not telepathic. The first story is my children’s book, the story that  started this journey! I received tumble weeds with this so it is currently on the back burner (but not forgotten!) until I can come back to it with fresh eyes (new POV). The second is my first draft of a novel aimed at young adults/adults. This story is close to my heart as it is based on my upbringing, which was unique – well it was back in 1994 and I feel it is still relevant to share the story. When I heard that PRH were looking for writers like me I decided that my story and my upbringing fitted the criteria. Either the story was not for them or my writing needs more polishing. I definitely am open to constructive criticism, just need to seek the right counsel before submitting to a Publishing House again.

A few of my followers on Instagram (who are writer’s) shared how they dealt with rejection. It was nice to hear that they too went through what I am going through, and they went on to be published. I was never majorly into social media before but Instagram has been such a wonderful source of inspiration/support and it’s a fantastic forum to share your work. I’ve connected with other aspiring authors as well as authors who have been kind enough to speak to me in private. I am so fortunate to have family, friends and strangers show such kindness and support my journey. It truly helps me to keep my head up, and to remain focused on my goal. In the words of Cassius Clay:

‘He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life’

I will continue to push my dream. I will succeed, I’m sure of it.

If you’re reading, thank you!

Janique x

My true colours

The phrase ‘showing your true colours’ in my experience is often used in a negative way, to highlight all the flaws of an individual. However over the last few months I’ve realised that it is these flaws that make us who we are. Whether you love me or hate me, I’m imperfect and I’m OK about that. I am not here to be a cookie cut shaped woman who bends at the knee. I’m just here doing ‘me’ and you are there, doing ‘you’.

One of the many inspiring women that I follow on Instagram is Lucille Loveday. This woman is all about the empowerment of women, the struggle, the love, motherhood, sisterhood and everything under the matriarchal sun. She is the epitome of modern feminism, in my opinion. By following her, it has ignited my inner she-wolf. She’s always been there, just comatosed after years of indoctrination. Thank you Lucille for being you, keeping it raw and real and reminding me of the brilliance of womanhood. I am here to tell my story. To allow you to witness my growth as a writer. My fear is indescribable but  it is this fear that keeps me going, I genuinely thrive off of this energy and believe me, it keeps me humble.

At the moment I am waiting to hear whether or not I have been selected by Penguin to attend one of their insight days. This potential door opener would enable me to meet with editors and other aspiring authors, something I have never experienced and to be honest didn’t think it would be possible until I heard about the scheme. The wait has been agonising to say the least but it has encouraged me to focus on other things, so here I am writing  to avoid taxing my mind on thinking ‘Have I been selected?! ‘

So the point of this blog was to share my true colours. I’m not really good at describing myself so prefer to use analogies. My sun sign (astronomically speaking) is Scorpio, I can identify with many of the said traits but I’m sure many people who are not Scorpio can do the same (hahaha) but anyway, I get enjoyment from astrology and it inspired me to write the following piece:

Mars & Pluto

Release the magma from within, Mars.

Let it erupt into the atmosphere and transcend to the icy plains of Pluto.

Be patient.

In time you will see the beauty of your anger as the Phoenix rises from the ashes.

What does this even mean? Scorpio is ruled by two planets. Mars and Pluto. Mars being hot, fiery and the leader whilst Pluto is dark, cold and all about transformation after death. I often feel that my own character is a little Jekyll and Hyde, one of my imperfections, but hey it’s me and I accept it. I often have this internal conflict with myself, tearing myself up to pieces until I either crack and diminish or erupt and ascend. I take it as it comes and try to learn from all of my experiences. One moment I am full of confidence with my writing and the next I am teetering on the edge waiting for Penguin to confirm if the door will be opened for me.

What are my true colours, you ask? A typical rainbow trying to shine through the aftermath of rain. Neither perfect weather but beautiful none the less.

Stay tuned, I’ll update after 16th August.

Janique x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WriteNow

I finally have some exciting news to share with you all!! I’ve just submitted part of my manuscript to Penguin Random House UK. This is not an ordinary submission, this is an application to be one of the 10 hopefuls that are selected to be mentored to publication. This scheme is known as WriteNow and Penguin are looking for writers that are currently under represented on the UK’s bookshelves. There are no guarantees the aspiring author will be published but this opportunity is still gold dust. I could potentially be mentored by one of the leading editors at Penguin and have access to exceptional talent, opportunity and advice.

After hitting a brick wall over the last couple of months and sitting in silence waiting for a sniff of feedback from other publishers I am grateful this door of opportunity presented itself to me. To be fair, I must acknowledge it was a really good friend that brought the scheme to my attention. I’d made it clear I was struggling with the process and to be honest, feeling sorry for myself! She messaged me with the link to the scheme and said ‘You must do this, darling’. I was so touched that I blubbered (easily done nowadays) at the thought of her thinking of me and cheering me on hypothetically.

I’ve realised that I am not good at deadlines, particularly the ones I set for myself. I don’t know why but I shift and turn and avoid what I need to do to see results. Maybe it is a confidence thing, lack of self-discipline or just lame excuses? The scheme is based on deadlines, but they are hard deadlines. I miss these and my opportunities go bye bye, so my fire is fuelled right now. I don’t like to be defeated so my energy is at an all time high. I’ve not felt this excited about writing for a very long time.

Like I said, Penguin are admirably mentoring aspiring authors  from black, asian and minority ethnic group (BAME), lesbian, gay, bi sexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities. As well as writers with a disability or have come from a socio-ecomomic disadvantage. These writers are currently under represented meaning their stories are not heard. I have the up most respect that such a large Publishing House are using their commercial kudos to help those that are in the minority. They are taking advantage of their big voice (and a risk), for those with a smaller one and helping them be heard. It’s so noble and heart warming and my objective is to become of the 10. So this is the deal, extracted from their website:

How do I apply?

As part of your application we’ll ask you to tell us about your book. What’s it called? What’s it about? What makes it special? We’ll also ask you to send us up to 1,000 words – it could be the opening chapter, or a later section of your book which you’re particularly proud of. It’s up to you.

In 250 words, we will also ask you to tell us how you meet our criteria.

Editors from across Penguin Random House will assess your application, considering your talent and ability as a writer as well as the originality of your story or idea. We’ll invite 50 writers to each of our insight days.

Important Dates

Step One: Applying to attend an insight day

Tuesday 13 June – applications open

Sunday 16 July – applications close at midnight

Wednesday 16 August – We’ll let you know if you’ve been accepted. We’ll also ask you to send us a further 5,000 words for your one-to-one session with an editor

Wednesday 30 August – Last day to send us 5,000 words

Saturday 9 September – WriteNow London

Saturday 16 September – WriteNow Bristol

Saturday 23 September – WriteNow Newcastle

Step Two: Shortlisting for the WriteNow mentoring programme

Monday 2 October: We’ll be in touch to let you know if you’ve been shortlisted for the mentoring programme. At this point, we’ll ask you to send us your full manuscript

Monday 16 October: Deadline to send us your full manuscript

November: We’ll arrange a short phone call with each of the writers who have been shortlisted for mentoring during November, while giving our editors time to read your full manuscripts

Monday 4 December: We’ll announce the 10 writers who’ve made it onto our mentoring programme

You can find out more for yourself at the following link:

Penguin Random House: WriteNow

That’s all for now,  but please stay tuned for more updates as and when I hear.

Love,

Janique

Sticking my head in the sand…

I mentioned earlier that I submitted my script for critiquing but never followed up with an update. The reason being, is that I received constructive criticism (like I asked for!) about my main character and I didn’t know how to process the information. So like an ostrich, I stuck my head in the sand, simply because I didn’t know how to move forward with my writing.

The last few weeks I have been in a bit of a writer’s funk. My thoughts swinging from one extreme to another. Add being a mother to two small children to the mix, and functioning on limited sleep has my head swirling. Some might see the ostrich sticking its head in the sand as a negative but for me I’ve utilised the time to collect my thoughts. When I finally resurfaced this week I saw one of the most inspiring posts on my Instagram feed by Cherise Lily Nana. The act of balancing life and achieving all our goals is fairly idealistic, especially when life is just one big juggling act. One is bound to drop a ball, but that’s fine – don’t beat yourself up about it. Rather than spreading yourself so thinly you inadvertently neglect aspects of your life, Nana discusses the act of tilting. Tilting is where you tilt your energy into one part of your life and frequently rotate, helping your goals and life in general receive equal amounts of your energy. This resonated so deeply and helped spring me into action, so here I am writing.

Nana has also kindly offered a free eBook titled ‘Muse – a journey in creative self-discovery through the muses’. I wasn’t in a position to take up her mentoring services but this book just ignites so much of my passion for my creative side. I started reading last night and already getting so much from her words. I also really appreciate the mini tasks after each chapter, again helping me to focus on my dream and to hone my craft. Thank you Cherise. Your act of kindness has helped so much!

Getting back to my writer’s funk. I find that it helps when I write a bit of poetry, some self-expression really gets my creative juices flowing and helps put me back in the right frame of mind. Earlier this week I wrote a very short poem, a poem about sentimental value. It was very simplistic, but writing down how I feel is such a relief. By reliving my memories also triggers my emotions which is great for writing, in my opinion.

To help me overcome my writer’s funk I’ve finally found a way to help me process the criticism given to me about my character. It has been such a tumbling block having my character unpeeled, I had built him up to be perfect when there were glaringly obvious flaws. I just felt so motionless but remembered I have an amazing friend in my life that can help me authenticate my character. My friend is a child psychiatrist and see’s the type of traits that I was trying to portray in my character. I know her insight will cement my thoughts with my character and it will help me get back on track to submitting to publishers. Yes, yes I know that deadline is well overdue, I’m now attempting tilting 🙂

For anyone reading that may be struggling with an aspect of their life and they are accused of sticking their head in the sand. It’s ok, everyone is different. Some look beautiful on the surface, but are kicking relentlessly to not spoil the facade of their perfection (swan) whilst there are people like me, that happily show all their flaws, head in sand, bum in air (ostrich) as long as we all achieve what we set out to do it doesn’t really matter how we got there. Focus on yourself and what you’re doing and don’t mind others, admire their beauty and work on your own.

I’ll update you next week about my character building exercise.

Stay tuned,

Janique x

Photocredit: sateenmuru_travels of Instagram

 

Retelling Tales

Over the last few weeks I’ve been binge borrowing Children’s books from the Library in an attempt to keep the creative juices flowing and to keep me writing! Some of the books have sparked a memory for me, a familiarity in the story that I’ve heard before. I am picking up on this more and more, and it’s not just in children’s books I see stories re-told. It is clear which story inspired an author to write a modern piece of adult literature. For example:

Adult literature

On Beauty (my old time favourite!) by Zadie Smith

Smith’s  tale of the Belsey and Kipps families shares plenty with Forster’s original work, It’s about a pair of families with very different ideals that become irrevocably linked over the years.  A lot of similarities with slight adjustments in Smith’s tale.

Back to the topic at hand….

Children Literature

Angelica Sproket’s Pockets by Quentin Blake:

The lady with many pockets, that holds all kinds of items. Socks, furniture, umbrella’s! It is very reminiscent of Mary Poppins.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The toy rabbit scared that he will be replaced one day. A toy with feelings? Toy Story comes to mind.

Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett

The blue chameleon looking for a mate, searches high and low. A similar story was written 40 years ago by Lionni

Is anything original anymore? As an aspiring author, how can I keep my story unique? I’ve been battling with this question, hence why this blog has taken me a while to publish. I’ve come to the conclusion that not one story is completely unique. It might be told slightly differently but generally, in my experience authors are basing their stories on old tales/experiences.

We generally have the same life experiences, upbringing, values and have read the same stories. In my opinion, this is what inspires us to write so of course we are going to read stories that sound familiar. So how can I, an aspiring author stand out from the crowd? After all, having read tons of books and poems, they have all to a certain extent inspired me to write and find a way of weaving themselves into my own storytelling.

My theory is that no story is completely unique but our voice is, only I (you) can produce that unique tone, style of writing that sets me apart from others. A tone I instantly recognise when reading a story is Julia Donaldson, she has a very distinctive style that I am striving to create for my own readers. That would be the ultimate achievement, being able to convey my snytax in such a way that reader’s would recognise my ‘voice’.

I’m practicing conveying my ‘voice’ by writing poems too, check them out on instagram @typeupjanique.

Love,

Janique

Literature; The Perfect Teacher

‘I think it is important for children to read different things to find out about their emotions and other people’s emotions. it is an enormous source of education and culture.’Quentin Blake

I previously wrote about how I reconnected with my inner child; whilst doing this I recollected some of my favourite children’s literature and sought them out at the library, I have a stack of Quentin Blake (who inspired this blog with his famous quote, see above), Roald Dahl, Rudyard Kipling and Lewis Carrol to name a few. It was really interesting re-reading and interpreting the stories as an adult, I certainly picked up on some of the veiled humour (and even the darkness) but as a child I wondered what emotions were provoked in me – other than happiness (and sometimes fear from said darkness!) I can’t really remember but I’m sure they helped shape me in some way.

Reading to our children and giving them the tools to read is crucial to their cognitive skills. I’m not a professional on the matter of child development but I strongly believe that reading is one of the fundamental tools in enabling them how to learn and express themselves. These little people are blank canvases and as parents, teachers, care providers and last but not least, children’s authors, we have a duty to help nurture these seeds with knowledge.  Encouraging them to develop their own personalities, to discover emotions and how we respond to them, giving them values and being socially aware. All of these skills are on some degree taught in children’s literature, there is always a moral to the story, teaching the child values that they can carry into adulthood.

Even in picture books, early learners are able to stimulate their minds by creating their own story (or how they interpret it) by simple visuals and then conversing with their care provider which then encourages language development. This early cognitive development helps children process information, holding their attention spans and creating memories. This gives them the building blocks for progressive learning, which I believe is a gentle and condusive way of teaching our children (but that’s just my personal opinion, I am no child psychologist!).

Of course, once we have developed these early cognitive skills we take this forward in adult hood. Are we still learning? Of course! Seeking out all kinds of literature as an adult is still just as important, I still need mental stimulation whether that is through a scholarly article, self-help book or a novel. The latter being my favourite to escape the reality of life but even then on some level I sometimes relate to a character and perhaps learn how to manage emotions/a situation. Literature never ceases to amaze and inspire me, it is an abundant source of knowledge which should never be underestimated.

Reading is so therapeutic too, lets not forget that!

Love,

Janique