THAT book

“You know… I don’t actually like reading…”

Kwasi told me… and upon seeing my eyes widen and eyebrows touch my hairline (probably), he was quick to expand the statement “unless it the books you give me.”

So we started to talk.

Why doesn’t Kwasi like to read books?

They don’t get him excited, he’s not interested, most of the reading he does, is reading for schoolwork. He’d rather sit down with his brother and play on the xbox or laptop. The usual things you’d expect to hear from a teenage boy who is justifying why he doesn’t make the time to read for pleasure.

The biggest reason though, Kwasi can’t find a book that he feels is for him.

He hadn’t had that book yet.

The book that made him excited to read.

I remember back in the early 2000s when my brother borrowed that very first copy of Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak from the school library. Omari wasn’t a reader like I was, so it was really weird for our parents to see the boy who’d rather be biking on the street or watching Dragon Ball Z curled up with a book in his hand all of the sudden.

It set off a chain reaction in him.

He didn’t want to borrow from the school anymore, he wanted a copy that was his alone (seriously, he would not share, when I wanted to read them, I had to buy my own copies when I wanted to read it). And then, every time he saw a new addition had been released, he’d head down to the local WH Smith with mum and a tenner to get his fix.

After encountering this book, my brother actively started looking for books to read, first, books by Darren Shan, after all, he devoured the Saga of Darren Shan, why wouldn’t he also enjoy the Demonata series or The Thin Executioner? After literally exhausting his complete Darren Shan collection, my brother went on to Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider, and Justin Somper’s Vampirates (absolute banger of a book series tbh).

(To tell you how much my brother and I appreciate Darren Shan’s horror writing; there is a small bookshelf in our upstairs hallway stocked with a near complete list of Darren Shan’s bibliography… and we both got hyped at our big university ages when we found out that Darren Shan had been releasing instalments of Zom-B.)

Omari had found his book.

It’s harder when the book recipient has particular tastes. Kwasi’s not big into magic, so fantasy is out of the question (which as a devotee to SFF, dissertation on High Fantasy writer, broke my heart). A lot of the books I read at Kwasi’s age had female protagonists, great for me, but I he’d wasn’t interested in Georgia Nicholson’s confessional diary and similar titles. It takes time, patience and experimentation to help a kid find that book.

But I found that book.

Malorie Blackman’s Boys Don’t Cry.

I actually got a text from Kwasi thanking me for finding that book for him, and if I could get him some more Malorie Blackman books. Since then I have been, mostly books that I’ve read and loved myself. I know his mum takes him and his siblings to the library as often as she can, and I give him names of books I remember reading, or authors I think he’d enjoy. For his fourteenth birthday, he got an entire book series (Gone by Michael Grant) and he’s currently working his way through those.

Seeing him carry around a copy of these books with the cracked spine and doggy eared pages doesn’t inspire anger in me it might some other book lovers- after all, the books are his now, I should just be glad he’s finally found joy in reading.

What’s good Twenty Eighteen?

At the end of 2017 I said to myself, you’re already making the moves Fayola, you know what your goals are, it doesn’t matter when you start them or when you achieve them as long as you’re striving towards them.

Last year my most important goal was to get a job in publishing. It was one of the few I ended up achieving. (unpacking from undergrad after…. 3 years… was also one of these things).

I set myself this challenge in January… it didn’t happen for the longest time. It wasn’t until the summer that I was actually going to interviews on the regular and actually landed an internship which eventually led to me looking experienced and comfortable enough to get hired full time at my job (which I started at the end of October).

I know what sort of things I’ll be trying to make progress on this year.

I want to complete the renovation of my room aka reclaiming my space at home, knowing that I’ll be living at home for a long while still.

I want to learn how to drive, I still can’t drive. On this year where I’ll be living for a whole quarter century, I think it’s time I actually step up, plan it and follow through.

I want to be healthier to myself. Get a better relationship with food and exercise. To be healthier with the boundaries I set and enforce with my loved ones. To be able to say “no” with my chest and not feel bad about being pliable, unavailable or too broke for something else.

I want to take time to enjoy myself, attend more events, travel more, try new hobbies until I find something that I don’t want to stop.

I want to be the best version of myself possible, but of course I want that every year.

I want to replenish my savings account, which has suffered over the few years of my unemployment.

I want to continue using the bullet journal method- because in the month that I haven’t been… my life has been a small, small mess.

I’m also going to take the time to acknowledge that even though I only achieved a few things, they were good things. And honestly, that was an achievement in and of itself.

Bookgiving 2017

In this 2017 all my kids getting books and pyjamas because we want to encourage them to (what?) READ and get enough SLEEP (and give their parents a break in this coming 2018th year of our Lord). Some of my kids’ families don’t celebrate Christmas- which is why this is about book-giving.

I try my best to find brown protagonists for my brown babies, introduce them to familiar folklore or re-imaginings of things they may have heard sitting in Grandma’s lap. Because that’s what Book Aunties DO!

I got 9 kids to shop for aged 2 to 13 years.


Afia is my little Ghana princess, my baby ghel. My dolly-child. She loves Disney princesses, legos and taking care of her two big brothers, even when they are mean. A serious petite madam who is always excited to read to me.

What they got: Ada Twist, Scientist Andrea Beatley, With Love from Anna Hibiscus Atinuke

Why I bought it: With Love from Anna Hibiscus was a request, lads, when you get that premier book from a series you are SET. Here is proof- the next book in the Anna Hibiscus series was a request. Like Pokémon- Afia’s trying to catch ’em all! Ada Twist, Scientist is a fun book about a little girl who’s smart as HELL and has a supportive family who encourage her all through her life- just like my girl! Plus it’s cute AF!

Kwasi has been through a lot in his short 13 years. Sometimes I know I spoil and indulge him because I know I want him to feel loved and supported, and now I’m seeing the teen angst and anger sweep through him. I try to find him books that are a bit more mature now so he doesn’t feel like he’s being talked down to.

What they got: Pigeon English Stephen Kelman, The Spider Weaver Margaret Musgrove

Why I bought it: Pidgin English, I wanted to give my boy some more male protagonists who are also black because Mallory Blackman’s Boys Don’t Cry was such a success. The Spider Weaver because well… his mum is always telling me about how  her brothers weave Kente and I didn’t know this story that comes with a mini-history lesson on the fabric. I assume he had too, but I always remember loving having physical copies of Trini folk-tales, not just memories of the oral and thought he’d enjoy the same.

Lizzie is the sweetest little thing! She’s such a nice big sister and is learning how to read for herself, though she still needs help. Her mum was doing my hair and Lizzie came to keep me company all day and read Jack and the Beanstalk with me (her favourite part, that she can recite by heart- little actress in the making: FEE FI FO FUM I SMELL THE PONG OF AN ENGLISHMAN (the publisher changed it from “blood” I guess to make it more child-friendly? don’t @ me)

What they got: Lila and the Secret of the Rain David Conway

Why I bought it: I wanted a cute picture book! Also… like, do y’all know how deep picture books are getting nowadays? I literally love it. This is a cute story about trying to do your best for your community… and the joy when it prevails.

Hannah is my baby sister (who’s 13)! If not in blood, then by face. When we are out together, especially at weddings people are always saying how nice it is to see sisters with our age gap (lol) get on so well. She’s bi-lingual! My girl speaks Twi, cause her daddy taught her, she’s a lil mix of the islands and the motherland, sweetest thing.

What they got: Pigeon English Stephen Kelman

Why I bought it: Honestly I heard bits about this book for the longest while and yes, I bought it TWICE. My girl’s dad is Jamaican and Ghanaian, like I said, she speak Twi! I don’t come across books for kids this age with African protagonists, and even then, harder still for me to find a Ghanaian protagonist? Plus this book is doing bits on the english secondary school curriculum I heard?

Ramalah I’m dying with all these Tweens. Ramalah is a bright girl, she can bake cakes, brownies and doughnuts as well as her professional baker mum. One problem…. she don’t like to read all that much.  Book shopping for Ramalah is like a science experiment, I’m still on the look out for that book that will let her see reading can be fun.

What they got: Zahrah the Windseeker Nnedi Okorafor

Why I bought it: I had so much fun reading Zahrah the Windseeker. It was the first Nnedi Okorafor book that I ever read and it spurred me into reading as much of her work as I could. It feels like Sci-fi and Fantasy all based in Nigerian cultures. The setting is very mystical and feels very solar punk (the people live in interactive house trees, you can GROW computers from seeds!) and the cultures of the characters are vivid af.

Sam is the most serious six year-old you ever met. Despite thanking me for his gift, he let me known that he mostly reads non-fiction and would like a book about science, space, dinosaurs, history or archeology. Yes, in that order. So yes, I have work to do.

What they got: Anna Hibiscus Atinuke

Why I bought it: I’ve had great success buying Anna Hibiscus titles. All the kids I’ve previously bought it for love it. I especially buy these books for my little Naija babies because they’re books their parents love reading these short stories to them as well, as the characters go through situations that the parents may’ve had in Nigeria and tell their kids about when parents go into one of those “back in my day” times.

Shamfa My sweet angel, the love of my life, the light in my heart. My little clone! Who was also born in December. The Terrible Twos are here, and even though she can’t read- she will remind her big, big sisters that what they’ve got in their hands are “[her] book!”

What they got: Twelve Dancing Princesses, Rapunzel, The Princess and the Pea Rachel Isadora

Why I bought it: It was my baby’s birthday. She loves being read to. I love reading books to her! So does her mum and dad. The main pull of purchasing these Rachel Isadora versions of classic fairy tales- my uncle and his partner are very afrocentric and loved that these stories were being given a different cultural setting than the ones we grew up on.

Taymiyah is easy to shop for. My girl will read any and everything under the sun. She’s bendy so I was gonna look into some kid-yoga books, but then I remember just how much she loves reading a book where she and the protagonist are the exact same age.

What they got: President of the Whole Fifth Grade Sherri Winston

Why I bought it: Like I said- easy buy. Taymiyah just went into year six. Last year, I got my girl a book with a protagonist of the similar age- her mum reported that she did not put down that book at all (and is still revisiting it). The cover art of this novel looked cute, and it’s a series! So if she loves it… thats a few gifting opportunities sorted (who doesn’t love a complete set?).

Yaw– Recently bespectacled, my tiny professor. He whinges often, but loves to ask questions. My boy’s first words were chiding Oscar Pistorius for the crocodile tears at the sentencing hearing- he pays more attention to the news than I did… and he was also the easiest to shop for as he’d been asking for one particular book since it came out.

What they got: Jaden Toussaint- The Greatest Episode 1 Marti Dumas , The Getaway Jeff Kinney

Why I bought it: Yaw been asking for The Getaway since it’s pub-date. I promised him I’d get it for his birthday, but it wasn’t published until well after. He lives for this series. Because this birthday he just got the promise of the Getaway and some legos- Jaden Toussaint was a fun extra- this was the best choice, my boy is smart and inquisitive and I thought he’d enjoy a book with a child genius protagonist.


That’s it all folks.

Bookgiving 2017, all done.

Book Auntie antics- over!

Balloon Jokes

Everyone knows that really cringe joke about the family of balloons right?

There’s baby balloon, mummy balloon and daddy balloon. The parental balloons are sleeping in bed when the baby balloon decides they want to sleep next to their parents- but there is no space for them in the bed! So, they deflate daddy a little… still not enough room. They deflate mummy a little, still not enough room- and so, baby balloon deflates themselves.

The parental balloons wake up in the morning and realise what has happened the night before and daddy has to have a stern word with his child! 

“Son,” he says (in all the versions of the joke I’ve heard baby balloon is assumed to be a boy, probably because sexism and male seen as the default BUT THATS NOT THE POINT) “Not only have you let me down… You’ve let your mother down… and most importantly- you’ve let yourself down.”

It is supposed to be a ha-ha balloon parenting joke, because he disappointed them but he also deflated them! Hilarious word play. On an average day, I’m so into wordplay. On the majority of days this summer though…

Not so much. I’m no longer crying all the time- which is great. But I am sleeping a lot more, and stressing so much over things that are taking me forever to address. I can’t really tell the time, because it seems like a bit of a blur and also- time isn’t real.

And yet, I am giving myself the stern talking to that daddy balloon is giving his child. I am wondering if this behaviour is letting down my family- but most importantly myself.

When I graduated from my English and Philosophy degree with a 2:2, I felt like a failure. I know now that I wasn’t, but I’d expected a 2:1 and was told that you know, after university you won’t be considered for a job if you got anything less than a 2:1 (thats how common the degree was getting amongst applicants). After a year of, struggling to break into the field I wanted toLondon, I decided to start an MA course to improve my “employability”.

This time last year I was accepting my place at Kingston University and contacting my old lecturers for educational references. This year, I’m staring at a half-written dissertation and wondering if I did well enough to get a passing grade, and if my overall grade is worth getting a private loan for £8k.

Transitional periods are scary. Despite being 23, there’s nothing I’d like to do more than crawl into my parents bed and hide from the world in that tiny safe space. Maybe one day I’ll be able to laugh at the balloon joke again without igniting anxiety and causing me to doubt myself.

Stretched thin: A learning curve

It’s summer term.

Well, it would be the summer term, if I was still taking classes.

I’ve learned about my limits. I’ve learned about prioritising. I’ve learned about self care.

So, after the Easter break, I had an overloaded schedule. I was travelling and working almost every single day of the week… and I was not coping well. What exactly was taking up my time?

  • Researching and writing assignments for my MA.
  • Attending the final few days of lectures.
  • Working 3-4 days a week at my university on a charity campaign.
  • Interning 3 days a week at a company in North London.
  • Babysitting after these various classes and jobs.
  • Looking for & applying post grad jobs and internships.
  • Trying to squeeze socialising into the few hours I had to spare.

I don’t want to complain about it, because I signed up for all of this. I was stubborn. I refused to reach out for help, or prioritise properly out of pride, and to be honest I suffered for it- but damn, did I learn.

Basically… I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating right. I only had one working hand and, to be honest, I’m still working on rehydrating myself because despite all of the above, I was still trying to act like I could handle it. Like I wasn’t struggling. Like I had the time to go out with friends and attend events because to present anything other than the image perfection (even if I was failing to juggle everything) was something I could not do.

I need to be able to understand that while I can do so many things at once, doesn’t mean that I should– especially when I’m trying to perform at a high standard. Because I’m still recovering from a burn out. So I need to learn how to say “No.” Which funnily enough was one of the things we were taught on the course, clearly it has taken a while to sink in.

I need to be able to ask for help. Suffering in silence is not cool, it doesn’t make me stronger- only tired. Despite my broken hand, I was still trying to perform as though I had both hands at my disposal. And never actually able to reach those goals, which had me feeling down because I knew people who had situations that I saw as “harder” than mine continuing to do great things- and I’m terribly self-critizing. And I’ve not been able to break the habit of comparing myself to others just yet.

I need to feel comfortable unplugged. I spent almost every waking hour on the in front of a luminously bright screen, which did not help me get as much sleep as I needed. (I believe it has something to do with the blue screen?) I’ve recently downloaded a set off applications that mimic artificial light when the sun goes down- so that my brain knows the time to sleep is soon. I’ve even started to leave my laptop downstairs and my phone across the room instead of giving into temptation of accessing them when I’m frustrated by how long it’s taking for sleep to visit me.

I need to make time for myself, I need to take care of myself. It’s not normal to literally be crying over spilled milk  (in private, quietly and ashamed) because everything else has you so high strung that a small spill feels like the end of the world. In joining my council library, I’ve given myself access to thousands of books with no extra stress on my wallet, which has given me the opportunity to actually read for pleasure with no guilt, and I have never been more thankful.

And now, as my load has lightened, I honestly do not need to put myself through so much stress again in the year. Having this experience so close to the three months that I have to  work on my dissertation? I’m trying to find the silver lining. Kinda succeeding too.

 

& then I broke my hand…

I have had such a good few months. I levelled up successfully to 23 years on Earth, started my internship, managed to get along well at my part-time fundraising job, finalised my dissertation title and topic, attended the London Book Fair, gave the last of my presentations and started to work on my last 3 essay assignments.

And then I broke my hand. (23 years of my life gone without serious injury, until Friday 15th April 2016)

My left ring finger to be exact. A spiral fracture. I actually can’t use my pinkie finger because the two are taped together, and every time I try to use my middle finger in any way- I hiss like a cat being lowered into a flea bath (it hurts like hell). Oh, and my injury is now in a plaster cast so I have a greying Zoidburg claw instead of a left hand.

Do you know how hard it is to type with literally seven fingers? I never realised how much I used leftie so much, until it was gone from me. Washing my hair by myself is no longer possible (I guilt my mum into helping me), I have to wear a strange rubber thing over the plaster so as not to get it wet and ruin my body’s attempt of healing.

Exam and deadline season have been a right mess to deal with.

Yesterday was the date of my (only, and hopefully last) exam. Normally I would be excited at the prospect of enjoying summer evenings in the park, sipping on cider in between job applications . Now?

I just can’t wait to wash and moisturise my hand when the cast comes off…

To be able to type at full speed again because I have a dissertation coming up…

To take off the nail polish on the fingers obscured by plaster and bandages.

Adulting and Auditing- Building Reader Communities

Apparently I do not sit through enough lectures on my course.

Why do I say this? Because on Wednesday I attended a panel on Building Reader Communities at Greenwich University. Unlike my regularly scheduled lectures, this event was held in the evening, and also… there was wine (a major plus).

Building Reader Communities? I thought it would be focusing on something like what the Royal Burough of Greenwich is doing to improve literacy rates in the council. But that’s what happens when you click attend to an Eventbrite event that you haven’t read the description of properly.

I was wrong. But pleasantly surprised.

In as little words as possible, this panel was hosted with people with experience in building a repertoire with consumers, heavily featuring recommended reads or acts, online fundraising campaigns and general fan interaction. I casually called it the “fandom conversation”.

The panel consisted of 4 (originally 5) people whose interaction with their communities in the physical and online world helped them in their endeavours. Our panelists were the Co-Directors of the Greenwich Book Festival, Auriol Bishop and Alex Pheby; Meike Ziervogel, novelist and founder of Peirene Press (they do translated “un-sellable” books); Alexis Kennedy, CEO of Interactive Fiction Studio Failbetter Games and Kate Russel, a tech reporter and author of Elite: Mostly Harmless, a novel based in the Elite Game World who attended via pre-recorded message.

We discussed the various ways that they have used their position in reader communities to promote their work and courses simply through interaction. Alexis Kennedy and Kate Russel both talked about crowdfunding and appealing to existing markets looking for new products- which were games based on literature, and literature based on games respectively. Meike Ziervogel was passionate about how publishers can do more for their authors in representing and creating a brand that communities are curious about, and therefore investigate.  Auriol Bishop and Alex Pheby focused on how they try and elevate new author’s voices, especially those of Greenwich Uni’s Creative Writing students during the Greenwich Book Festival.

From them, I have learned 5 basic tips about building a reading community from. Below,  in no particular order are these 5 tips for building a successfully engaged, enthusiastic community, with some quotes from the panelists as back up.


Unfortunately due to drinking wine and taking notes,these quotes cannot be properly credited, which does suck tremendously.


1. Be aware of the fact that community and audience are not the same. A community is more likely to enjoy your product if it is interactive, and audience implies passive consumption of your product.

“Audience is passive.”

2.  Be genuine and interact with your community. Don’t just peddle your wares, take note of what others are doing and give them feedback because they will be more likely to return the favour. Interaction can also lead to hiring from the community.

“Find something you love and show interest in the genuine community.”

3. Be regular and consistent. Have a regular appointment to post a blog feature, set a number of tweets that need to be produced a day. Anything that keeps you constantly active in the community can only help.

“Keep the show on the road or you might not be able to continue to do so.”

4. Be creative. Pair this with consistency, find new or perfect old ways to engage with your community and bring fresh perspectives to them. Do not wait for your genius to be discovered, trust your gut and write for the sake of writing [if you write], not to sell.

“Go and create!”

5. Hold your nerve. In what you believe and in what you like and what you know the community has been proven to like, sometimes this is where bigger corporations can fail.

“We’re good at knowing whats good.”


Greenwich Book Festival is held during the 27th and 28th of May this year (2016).
Elite: Mostly Harmless Elite:Dangerous is available for sale on Amazon, Kate is working on the second instalment of the series.
Failbetter Games have just launched Fundbetter in order to crowdsource for the production of their smaller, narrative-drivenn games.
Peirine Press have recently announced a winner for their flash fiction online competition an will be publishing breach by Olumide Popoola & Annie Holmes in August (2016).

Technologic

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.

200_s

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.

But.

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.