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There’s no real post today as writing continues, so this is just a quick update.

I have done the first draft of the spooky poem.  It’s about ghostly visitations and I am enjoying writing it.  It has a proper rhyme scheme, which I don’t normally use, but it’s fun to try.

I have started work on a poem about environmental differences which was inspired one lunchtime – I work in an industrial area which is surrounded by countryside so depending which direction I look I can see either fork lift trucks or fields. That got me thinking about the juxtaposition of the two, which led to the original draft of the poem.

I still have one more to write up before Thursday’s writing group but I am happy with progress.

I haven’t been reading but that’s ok for now.  I will pick up on a new book when I feel I can give it a bit of focus.

So that’s where I am now – I keep on keeping on!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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It’s taken a little longer than expected but I have finally finished Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, a book that I chose as I wanted to see how difference was approached.

The key characteristic this book covers is race, but class, education and culture are also addressed to greater or lesser degrees.

The book focusses on the stories of Ifemelu and Obinze, who fall in love in school and imagine a future for themselves as a couple.

However due to the frustrations of life in Nigeria at the time, Ifemelu chooses to travel to the U.S. to complete her education and Obinze stays in Nigeria to support his mother.

This break takes the novel in two directions – documented, beautiful Ifemelu struggles with race in the U.S. but her legal status gives her a degree of security and her relationships – first with a rich white American and then with a black Harvard professor – both soothe and frustrate her.  Meanwhile Obinze makes his way to the UK, overstating his visa and surviving via shared national insurance numbers, where there is a crackdown on undocumented immigrants, and he lives in a state of fear and panic every day.

As Ifemelu makes a career as a blogger on matters of race in the U.S., Obinze finds himself on the wrong side of the law in the UK and has to restart his life in a new, democratic Nigeria.

I won’t say more about the story but there were a few things that stood out to me.

This book made me think about race in a different way.  Ifemelu notes that she ‘discovered race in America’, and that is how it feels. She understood her position in society in Nigeria, and the relative position of others, and she understood the kudos given to those of her school friends who travelled to the U.S. or UK.  But colour, and its context, were not uppermost in her mind.  You see, as she sees, the strange gradient of colour that informs her America.  Equally, you feel the cold, outsider status Obinze experiences as he tries to stay under the radar in the UK.

For me that was eye opening: the feelings people have about race, the explanations given via Ifemelu’s blog on why white people cannot understand the issues, the basic notion that people don’t know how to talk about race.  All these things are obvious – but some people can forget it more than others.

Also, both characters are interesting, flawed people who make some poor choices with the feeling of utter desperation: it gave context to their need to leave Nigeria, at the same time as showing the life they chose instead wasn’t guaranteed. It proved that the grass is not always greener and particularly for Obinze that proved to be the case.

It was an absorbing and interesting insight.

What didn’t work so well for me was Ifemelu’s romantic life.  It made her exceptional in some ways, and in others made me feel she was reimagining her aunt’s life: plucked from poverty and offered a life most people can only dream about.  I think the interracial aspects were muted by the sense of privilege – we didn’t see the challenges faced by the two of them.  The underlying idea that this relationship was somehow related to her green card is only really mentioned when the relationship is long over.

Perhaps there were subtleties which escaped me, or terms used which have a different context in US English, which said more than I realised here in the book.  Both are of course entirely possible!

I enjoyed the story in Nigeria which was eye-opening and, eventually, hopeful.  I found Obinze’s time in the UK painful and heard-rending.  I found Ifemelu’s early exposure to the U.S. emotionally painful.  It was only the relationship with the uber-rich, super-handsome, all-round good guy that jarred with me because it didn’t feel real.

Despite that, I would be happy to read it again.  At its core, it is the story of a defining love crushed by desperation, guilt and shame, and the hope that one day your path will take you where your heart wants to go.

As a writer, it has given me a lot to think about!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

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I am still working my way through Americanah, but my brain is on a go slow and I am taking my sweet time over it!

So far I am enjoying the read, and am picking up on the subtle and not so subtle impact of difference within the story – views on class, finances, background, outlook, expectations, colour, nationality are all inbuilt, but I don’t feel hit over the head by any of them due to the way they are covered.

It’s a long book (477 pages) so I hope I feel the same by the end.  Watch this space!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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Normally I like to keep Thursday posts for random subjects, raising points outside of writing. However, it being the start of the new year and with a collection of new approaches to my writing, I wanted to share how it’s going…

1. Writing – well, so far I have focussed on creating a writing space in my home where I am free of distractions and can sit and write for at least an hour.  I have a new book in which to write and am currently exploring concepts and ideas which can feed into the development of previous plans.  This week is about setting the new pattern rather than producing anything particular, but in effect I am using writing exercises to see what ideas have staying power.  I have not yet explored other venues for writing but at the moment my ‘nook’ is working well.

2. Mentoring – I have found some more sources of mentoring but I have not yet committed to any particular resource or scheme.

3. Courses – I may have got a little carried away, as I have now signed up for 5 courses: 4 writing and one psychology.  They are all short, with short videos which I watch at lunch times.  I will see how I go, but I am enjoying the learning so far!

4. Reading – I am reading a very good book, quite slowly.  I am pleased not to feel under pressure to finish the story as I am savouring it!

So I am feeling pretty positive right now.  I need to keep on as I am, setting aside regular time to write, study and read – organisation is essential, and a bit of strictness with myself won’t do any harm either!

Maybe I will use Thursdays as my mid-week barometer for a while, and you can keep me on track!

I hope your new year targets are going well too!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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So it is that time of the year again, when I launch my Challenge Tuesday with a whizzbang starter and get a few under my belt to see me through the first few weeks.

Or not, as the case may be…

Firstly, I’ve got to report my final tally for 2016 being a vaguely disappointing 41 books. It’s not that bad a number, but more that I missed both my original and my revised targets that feels a little negative.

However, it has forced me to accept that I cannot do everything I might want to do – read, write, study, work, act, sew, crochet, play table tennis, go to the gym, spend time with loved ones…  There are only 24 hours in a day, and I like to spend some of them asleep.  I have to make better choices for my time.

So this year’s challenge is to read works with a view to enhancing my writing. It may be something from a relevant genre for style ideas, or a writer I admire for their strong prose or beautiful imagery, their use of themes or metaphors.  It might be research – a biography or history book, for example.  It might be poetry for the rhythm.  Who knows? There’s no set number, just a purpose.

Let’s see where that concept takes me!

In the meantime, here’s the list of books from 2016:

Book 1 – The Path of Daggers, by Robert Jordan

Book 2 – Winter’s Heart, by Robert Jordan

Book 3 – The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 4 – Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall  Smith

Book 5 – Morality for Beautiful Girls, by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 6 – The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 7 – The Merlin Conspiracy, by Diana Wynne Jones

Book 8 – A Little Love Song, by Michelle Magorian

Book 9 – Stone Mattress, by Margaret Atwood

Book 10 – What We Believe But Cannot Prove, edited by John Brockman

Book 11 – The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 12 – In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 13 – The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy

Book 14 – The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy

Book 15 – Summer, by Edith Wharton

Book 16 – The Double Clue, and other Hercule Poirot Stories, by Agatha Christie

Book 17 – The Dressmaker, by Rosalie Ham

Book 18 – The Beauties and the Furies, by Christina Stead

Book 19 – The Seance, by John Harwood

Book 20 – North of Nowhere, by Liz Kessler

Book 21 – A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin

Book 22 – The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula Le Guin

Book 23 – The Farthest Shore, by Ursula Le Guin

Book 24 – Tehanu, by Ursula Le Guin

Book 25 – A Spot of Bother, by Mark Haddon

Book 26 – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

Book 27 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

Book 28 – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

Book 29 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

Book 30 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling

Book 31 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling

Book 32 – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark

Book 33 – The Last Anniversary, by Liane Moriarty

Book 34 – Pyramid, by David Gibbins

Book 35 – My Soul To Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Book 36 – Willow, Wine, Mirror, Moon: Women’s Poems from Tang China, translated by Jeanne Larsen 

Book 37 – The Axeman’s Jazz, by Ray Celestin

Book 38 – Chocolat, by Joanne Harris

Book 39 – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Book 40 – Lady Oracle, by Margaret Atwood

Book 41 – A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees, by Kenkō; translated by Meredith McKinney

If you have any ideas for the 2017 list, please let me know in the comments – I’d love to know what makes you sit up and take notice, as a writer!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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