It’s November 30th as I write this. The last day of the NaNoWriMo challenge that has taken over my life for the past thirty days.
The first time I attempted this challenge, I was highly motivated to win. I had joined an online writing community, I attended write-ins, I didn’t have a job or class to go to so I could literally designate entire days to upping my word count and fleshing out my characters.
Not so much.
I went in blind, with nothing but a brief idea of what I wanted to occur in my story. I found that as I am a frequent reader of sequential works, I’ve picked up the habit of working with trilogies in mind (Thank you Robin Hobb) and even though I have hit the 50k word mark… The story has not progressed as far as I wanted it to… but then there’s always book two and three!
This year, I’m an MA student 2 months in with a lot more on my plate. November is busy enough with the countdown for Christmas starting and a lot of family birthdays to prepare for. I got distracted often… There was an entire week where I didn’t write a single thing! And then there were the nights that I would spend on my google documents, struggling to catch up to the recommended word count (Do not recommend).
Skipping 1667 words a day is totally fine if you miss one day… when you miss several days… multiple times… and you’re demanding more of yourself than ever before… you might stress yourself into illness.
Which I did.
And it wasn’t fun.
But I’ve finally completed something. Too often I’ve become swept up in a monthly challenge only to have my enthusiasm fade out as the days progressed. I’m talking about the Monster Girl Challenge on my IG and the Journal Writing Challenge I started on Tumblr… wow.
It feels good to finish something creative that isn’t for class.
I’ve always had a big sense of admiration towards authors and writers who churn out worlds and characters every year. Now, having completed the process myself (minus all the editors and beta readers because I’m not planning on submitting this novel for publication), that respect and awe has increased five times over.
Even though my novel isn’t the best… and hasn’t ended up as I had hoped, but I’m happy with what I’ve achieved. I mean, 50023 words in thirty days on top of an MA course? That’s an achievement. I’m crying.
I’m like the proud parent of an ugly baby*, no one can tell me a thing.
*No harm intended, most babies are cute, some just need to grow into their features.
In my lectures, we are always talking about how those who work in the Publishing Industry are the “gate-keepers” of culture and the “taste-makers”. While boasting the title of The Industry most populated by women in comparison to other professions, there is still under-representation in terms of racial and ethnic diversity. It’s no longer difficult for me to find a book with a deeply complicated female lead, but as a reader and a lover of books, it is still disheartening to struggle so hard to find myself reflected physically and culturally in literature without having my identity as a black woman reduced to a cheap 2-D stereotype…
Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Kamaria Press, Grace-Emmanuelle Kabeya (born of Congo and more widely travelled than anyone I’ve known) felt the same way. At twenty years of age she is already being the change she wants to see in the world, and please pardon my use of a tired cliché, but there is no other way to describe what she has achieved in the past year while still studying at University (she’s clearly saturated in that Black Girl Magic).
So what can I say about Kamaria Press?
Other than to compliment the name choice as though I would when introduced to a new baby. “Kamaria” means “As bright as the moon” in Swahili, and honestly its a surprise that with my book of African baby names, one of my future daughters hasn’t already been blessed with this parental dream. It is such a wonderful sentiment, especially during these dark times when my generation are truly coming to terms as to the hatred Blackness inspires in some people’s hearts.
The team collaboration of several young, black women from different parts of the African diaspora. As Viola Davis said, “the only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity”, Grace and everyone at Kamaria Press are extending the opportunity to writers whose voices and stories have been ignored with claims of their life experiences being “unrealistic” or “un-relatable”.
Last Friday, Kamaria Press announced it’s arrival at a lively event in which Grace’s inspiration and goals for the Non-Profit Publishing house were explained to the attendees. I had never been so grateful to find an event invite on Twitter, and instantly invited friends on my course who I knew this would interest. It was our first group outing together and our first Launch Event. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we definitely came away inspired by the team and their achievements.
Not only are they taking on the role of a black-voice-amplifier, but Grace’s intentions for Kamaria Press go beyond uplifting the voices of African and Afro-Caribbean creative writers. All of the profit from the company’s first anthology of short stories (due this December) will go towards providing the children of a Zimbabwean school with the books they require to continue to the next grade, with plans to expand the project as the company grows. We were also serenaded by a singer-songwriter Dinachi who ensnared the room with two original songs and a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. It was clear that Kamaria Press’ launch event was not just about lifting themselves, but granting us all the chance to get our shine on.
I was sent back to my childhood, remembering Mary Hoffman’s “Amazing Grace” in which Grace, a young black girl is told that she cant play peter pan 1) because she’s a girl and 2) because she’s black. With some encouragement from her mother and grandmother, Grace regains her confidence and convinces others that her gender and race would not limit to what she could do. I was so shook remembering the feelings inspired by this book that when babysitting on Sunday night, I found a copy to share with my precious “Ghana Princess” Afiyah and she adored it as much as I had at her age.
Funnily enough the theme of Amazing Grace mimics the theme of what Grace’s mentor told us, and I may be paraphrasing here:”It’s not enough to have dreams. A dream is not reality. When you set yourself goals, then you know that you are working towards something real.”
In the past I had felt cheated as a reader, which is why I decided to enter Publishing, with companies like Kamaria Press on the rise, and my fellow black publishing students by my side (#squad) I know that I will not be a lone voice yelling into the abyss. And for that, I am glad.
Follow @Kamaria_Press on Twitter for more exciting updates!
This is the first post in the +XP tag. As with many a video game, this tag is for my writing about things I’m learning or experiencing. Like a treasured starter Pokémon, when I gather enough XP I can evolve.
So it’s happened. Ya girl’s working on ways to make herself indispensable. My generation “the millennials” and the babies who come after us are children of the digital age… and people expect us to know everything about everything (after all, we’re always on our phones and laptops). And so, after years on numerous blogging platforms with customization-enabled layouts… I’m formally learning how to code HTML and CSS.
I mean, I’m pretty prepared. I’ve had an account for codeacademy.com for a while now, and not to brag, I’ve been personalising my tumblr CSS for years now. I figured that since I mostly stay home on my days off, school work at some level of completion, with “nothing to do” I should finally acknowledge the codeacademy logo winking at me from my bookmarks bar.
“No!” I said, “I will not waste this Wednesday sleeping and catching up on my shows! I will be productive.”
And so there I was. About three hours (and a 45 minute curry break) later. Multiple badges on my coding profile and with enough basic skill to create my own basic web layout as well as a social media account reminiscent of my days on piczo and bebo.
What I didn’t expect was for it to be so much fun writing the code. I felt like I was in a potions class in Hogwarts, following a specific formula to get an outcome. I can see now why there are so many stories of children and young adults creating apps and selling them for millions.
Yes, the pages looked basic and no, no one else can see them, and no I’m not getting a certificate at the end.
I do have a profile I can link as proof of my blood, sweat and raspberry Kool-aid flavoured tears.
And I can now say “I can code” and not be exaggerating, because technically I can.
This week has been different than what I’ve gotten used to over the past two months. It’s broken my schedule, and for a while my motivation. The thing that’s messed me up? The common cold… To everyone else it’s a nuisance for me it’s one of those medicine chugging, tissue paper piling up in rubbish bags, late night wheezing and sleep depriving illness. I am a wimp who can’t function well when ill.
It hit right smack in the middle of my first reading week, which was also my first week away from my job in about six months. I’d expected to spend the week catching up on my reading, socializing and sleeping, but no… that was not on the cards for me. Other than one outing to the cinema and a ridiculously quiet night at a ‘spoons, I couldn’t muster up the will to leave my warm home.
All the cold and flu remedies became redundant Monday evening. No combination of rum, honey, ginger and lemon, no Antihistamine, no Olbas oil in my pillow, no Vicks rubdown could prevent me from e-mailing in to my lecturers with a very sorry, much more formal “I’m ill, I can’t come in.” in the morning. So my Tuesday, which I usually spend on campus from twelve to eight, was instead spent in bed with fluids and a bin by my side as I drifted in and out to sleep with a old podcasts playing in the background. It’s been only one day since, and I already feel better. My head is clearer, as are my sinuses, and not spending two hours a day on public transport, packed like sardines with other equally sick people has really helped.
In my slight increase of health, I’ve found that I’m a bit of the domestic goddess now (I can fold fitted sheets correctly apparently). All the chores that I left abandoned for the past week, and the schoolwork I had put aside in order to focus on healing have been initiated. I’ve submitted one of my assessments and am working on the second all the while looking for a placement. It’s taken a while but I think I’m finally in tune with this MA student thing. I’m feeling accomplished like.
And I know I love my course. I was so devastated that I had to taken even one day off, it was definitely academic FOMO. Though I’m not sure how much I would have learned with my head aching to high heaven and trying not to disturb my classmates with my constant sneezing, sniffling and wheezing. I just know I’m excited to head back next week.
Second installment of my weekly doings. Well, after two intense days at uni and my final two shifts I finally got some time to relax… and now I feel less guilty about what I’m doing! The fact that a reading week is coming up sure does help. Anyway, this week… I’ve been:
Reading: Randolph Lalonde Origins (Spinward Fringe Book 0)
Something great about my iPhone is the Kindle app. I get to do reading on my four hours commuting to and from uni on the days I’m in. I’m making progress on a sci-fi novel named by. It’s got all the regular things I enjoy, humans, space battles, hints of aliens and strategy (because space wars are all about strategy).
Nifty little object that the MC has? A cool ass vaccum suit that deals with space-business… oh, and it comes out from a little bracelet from their hand and is crafted to their skin through microbes everyday after disintegrating all of the dead skin cells from their body… and of course, an A.I. personal assistant who is so advanced that it is just a hairs width away from being outlawed.
They’re fighting for resources for their artificial planet, going against some kind of big evil space corporation. So I guess they’re almost… space communists? I could be wrong in my interpretation. But I’m just starting and it is just so very cool.
If you’re sensing that I like crime shows… you are correct. Unforgotten is an ITV Drama, following the opening of a case in North London after a body is found buried in a cellar. So far, its tackled issues of sex, redemption, racism and is doing a very good job of showing the shift of personality through time in the persons of interest in the case. Of the multiple POI are a priest who’s known to having affairs, a former National Front member, a former gangster and a seemingly nice wheelchair-bound man with an abusive streak.
The murder isn’t even the most engaging facet of the series I believe. The interest of the cold case and the changes in the POI as the police attempt to get justice for the murder victim intrigues me more. I change my idea on who I think the murderer is about three times an episode before giving up on speculating. It’s all the fun guesswork of your everyday crime drama, with the added unreliability of narrative that I was first introduced to in E4s My Mad Fat Diary as the PCIs end up frustrated and running in circles due to the evasiveness of those they are investigating.
Listening to: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
I’m not usually a big fan of musicals. But I’ve been seeing rumblings about Hamilton: An American Musical, based on the founding father on the $10 bill’s life. It’s freely available on Spotify and has been since this September… since listening to it I haven’t raved about it enough. Hamilton goes gone against everything I thought musicals would be, I’ve listened to it in full over seven times in as many days. Lin-Manuel Miranda has ensnared me, I’ve never been so enthused about American History… to be expected from the man who penned the lyrics to the numbers in In the Heights (2008).
It’s so modern and raw and perfect. I mean, that the musical numbers are quite clearly hip-hop inspired bangers helps. The lyrics are madness, the wordplay is undeniably fantastic, Cabinet #1 is a rap battle that has me hollering at every punchline as though I’m in the ensemble. The cast are so brilliant, not only are they great at rapping at mad speeds and commanding attention through dynamic action and stage theatrics (major props to Daveez Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette and Renée Elise Goldsberry’s Angelica Schuyler personally). On top of it all, they are so talented in projecting the emotions in their performances. I wouldn’t be surprised if attending this musical feels more like a concert than anything else and I can’t wait for the Hamilton to come to the UK so I can see for myself.
I’ve startled my parents when I start rapping along to Guns and Ships in my room (LAFAYETTE!!!)… I’ve annoyed my poor neighbors wailing Helpless and Satisfied during the night and, to be fair, they’ve retorted with midnight fireworks… I’ve cried at Dear Theodosia and Its Quiet Uptown while trying to fall asleep…
I’m also, much more informed on the Alexander Hamilton’s (and his family and friends’) role in the founding of America… and wow. I’m impressed. Talk about being the change you want to see.
Misc: NanoWriMo has begun
I have updated my word count to 1690 on day one! I’m so excited. This week I’ve finalized my plot. I’m so happy to find out that so many of my fellow MA students are also taking part. Definitely more enthused than I was last year. I’m happy to produce a blurb to share. I’ll have you know that I don’t think it will turn out like the Riftwar Cycle at all, apart from the fact that I would categorize them both as “portal fantasy”.
A trip of self discovery
Kewoya’ana is a girl on the cusp of womanhood with no life plans as the world accelerates around her. Returning from a close friend’s wedding, she is transported to a strange land full of even stranger people she has heard of only through the smoke and shadows of her father’s educational fireside stories. She must develop understanding of this new world’s thoughts on gender, race and social standing in order to make her way back to the familiar…
If she fails she will remain an outcast on the fringes of society… something that never appeared to be an option in her childish fantasies of adulthood.