Thursday, 30 August 2012

On Becoming an Editor

“There's no way a person becomes an editor. One simply decides that one is, and sets about doing it.” (courtesy of www.crazyindustry.blogspot.co.uk)

Umm, if I'd known this when I set about seeking contributions for my first anthology Brown Eyes, I may have been heard screaming, that can't be right – but there's some truth in those words.

I can't speak for other editors out there; my reality has to be different. Why? Because it wasn't until my publisher Jeremy Thompson (of Troubadour) sent me the Brown Eyes front cover proof, which stated my name in fairly large print followed by 'Editor'. At first, I was a bit taken aback having perceived myself as a writer first and foremost and an anthology creator at best (yeah, I was driving in fog!).

So I immediately got on the phone and called Jeremy for clarity – the conversation went something like this:

“Hi Jeremy, how are you?”
“Hi Nicole, I'm fine, you?”
“Yes, I'm good, look Jeremy, the book cover's great but it says I'm the Editor.”
“Well, you are the Editor, Nicole, as in you've commissioned the work and had overall responsibility along with the control of book design and so on and so forth.”

It didn't take longer than a few seconds for the penny to drop and for my somewhat slightly embarrassed self to say, “Of course Jeremy, I just hadn't quite seen it but, you’re right!”

Not wanting to continue driving in fog by this new revelatory discovery, I still needed more clarification (yeah I know!) so I browsed the Internet and lo and behold, I found this to be absolutely spot on. Jeremy was of course 100% correct and I felt reassured when I saw before me a list of an Editor's Role:
  • Developing a clear vision for the book
  • Appointing contributors and editing and approving their contributions
  • Liaising with Publishers re: publishing and/or marketing contracts
  • Deciding on book title, what text to use, book cover design, book size, number of copies printed and book leaflets, etc.
  • Checking the book proofs and preparing the index
  • Keeping the project on schedule and to length
  • Assisting in the marketing of the book

Yet behind the scenes of the Editor Role, I have to add it helps a lot if you also love (or at least like a lot) language, words in any form, i.e. books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc. I've definitely got a passion and that's why I've often got my head in a book – yeah it helps if you read extensively. Funnily enough, in the 80's I used to teach typing at an Adult Education Institute and would spot an error a mile away, much to the dismay of my students. This in-built word radar approach helps a lot when you're proofreading.

My route to Editor-hood was through the freelance writer one, although that's not essential of course, but I'm glad that's how I stumbled into editing. There is definitely an art to editing, except you're much more business-like about it, ensuring there's an acceptable structure and that the end product is worthy of a space on the book shelves. Adopting a schizophrenic-like approach that embraces creativity and business can help, as you really need to wear both these hats simultaneously, but it's a different artistic process this editing lark, especially when editing creative works like poems and personal writing as was the case for me. Guidelines need to be followed, criteria developed and strongly adhered to particularly as two of my books were funded by the Arts Council England, and so you learn on the job. By my third book though, I had enough experience to confidently enjoy the whole artistic and business-like process as I knew so much more this time around.

I'd really like to hear from any Editors or would be Editors out there, so please do feel free to make a comment or ask me a question. I'll do my best to answer your queries!

For more on becoming an editor – check out:

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

In Conversation with Adelaide Damoah


Adelaide Damoah is a British artist and writer of Ghanaian descent whose work combines African and Western influences while highlighting social issues. Adelaide's début exhibition entitled Black Brits, (2006) was featured on BBC News, Channel 5 News and other regional and local media outlets in the UK. Adelaide has had four solo shows to date in the UK including Supermodels, Black Lipstick, and a domestic violence exhibition for a registered charity, the National Centre for Domestic Violence. Adelaide is currently working on a series of Art Success interviews, which are published via a popular arts and culture magazine in the UK called Lime, her own blog and an art blog called Contemporary and Modern Art. Adelaide will be publishing 100 of her Art Success series interviews in a book in 2013.

Nicole Moore (NM): In your biography, at your website: http://www.damoaharts.com/ you state, 'I paint because I have always had an inherent need to express myself creatively.' Could you elaborate?

Adelaide (AD): I was always a dreamy child. I would sit in my room and stare out of the window wistfully. I fantasised about strange creatures and other worldly things and I would do my best to draw them. I drew all over my note books and even my bedroom wall, much to my parents chagrin. In secondary school, I took GCSE art. It was then that I learned about the artist Frida Kahlo and how she expressed herself, her life experiences, emotions, dreams and fantasies, through her work. I became fascinated with her after seeing an exhibition of her work in London. This was in the 90's. One of our projects was called “Myself.” We were told to look at the work of Frida Kahlo and absorb how she expressed “herself” through her work. How she documented “herstory.” I ended up producing a painting of myself, a self-portrait. The face was smiling slightly, but her forehead was opened up and there was a crying eye inside. From that point on I was hooked! Expressing my teen angst in that way soothed my soul. After that, every relationship became punctuated with some piece of artwork; physical pain was expressed through my work. Emotional pain, joy, pleasure...everything I could express, I expressed in strange fantasy like drawings, from childhood, all the way through university and into my working life as an adult. It is the way I have always been and the way I always will be. It is just who I am.

NM: When did you start painting?

AD: I used acrylics and water colours from secondary school onwards as a hobby. I started to use oils in around 2000. I bought an oil painting instruction book and taught myself out of boredom and sheer pain during a time when I was not very well.

NM: What influences your art?

AD: Everything and nothing. I am someone who believes that art is a visual representation of the spirit of the times. Zeitgeist. Social issues, current events, the goings on in my own little world, my emotional state, a pretty or handsome face, love, sex, relationships, nature, a colour, a song, beauty other artists or simply just the need to create. It is difficult to explain... Other artists influence me a lot. Especially since I have been doing the Art Success interview series.

NM: In your video Adelaide Damoah the Painter, you say that 'art came from a point of pain'. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

AD: I kind of eluded to it earlier. In the year 2000, I was diagnosed with a debilitating chronic illness called endometriosis. It has since progressed and I now also have adenomyosis. The short version is that it is a painful condition which affects the womb of some women. I have had lots of medical procedures and hormone treatments. After my initial diagnosis, I was off sick for roughly five months. I had gotten used to using art as a crutch for emotional issues anyway. This was like a continuation. The illness freed me to an extent. It gave me more time to express myself in the way that I wanted to. In a way which took me to another place in my head and made me feel so much better about the rest of the world. That is what I meant by that statement. Essentially, my work took on a new life and I was able to take it more seriously because of the pain of my condition. If it were not for endo, I would not have been an artist.

NM: Your first exhibition was called Black Brits, what inspired you to choose this theme?

AD: In 2005, I met a business man who convinced me that I was ready to have an exhibition. At the time, I only had quite small scale works which were very personal to me. I have always had an interest in social issues and race is a subject which is particularly close to my heart. I knew that I wanted to make large works and I knew that I wanted the work to be reflective of something real. One night, after a heavy night with some of my best friends, we sat and talked. I had made a number of paintings for them already, so they knew my work and I had known them since I was a teen, so they knew me. We got to discussing race and how we felt as black British young people. We moved on to how certain iconic people were elevated beyond their race while us ordinary folk sometimes felt that it was an impenetrable barrier to a lot of things,not that that stopped us of course. We mulled over what Princess Diana would look like if she were born black and if she would ever have been a princess in the UK if she were. It is obvious what the answer is to that one...anyway, that is how the idea was born. A deep conversation between intoxicated friends!

NM: What made you choose the theme of Supermodels in your next Exhibition?

AD: I was really very interested in social issues and capturing the spirit of the times. The issue in 2006 which caught the imaginations of so many people around the world for some reason was the size zero debate. The whole thing was sparked off because a model by the name of Anna Carolina Reston died from anorexia-related complications. Apparently, many people were telling her that she needed to lose weight in order to make it as a model in the fashion industry. I am sure it was more complicated than that, but ultimately, she developed anorexia nervosa and it killed her. Discussions about how the media and fashion models impacted the mental health and self-esteem of young people were raging via all media outlets. It was a subject which could not be ignored and that got my creative juices flowing and Supermodels was born. After much discussion with close friends, especially my best friend, I started making the work.

NM: How difficult has it been to establish yourself as an artist in such a tough and competitive market?

AD: Firstly, I am no where near being established. I have been in the game for just six years. I have a long way to go and a lot to learn and I relish the challenge. Yes, it has been challenging to say the least. Apart from one, I have organised and funded all of my solo shows myself with the help of close friends and family who really believe in me. To get to this point, I have had knockbacks and issues, but that is what it is all about; the journey, enjoying the journey and attacking the challenges because that is what these things that others call obstacles are. They are little challenges. I would not use the word difficult. I would say to date, I have faced a number of challenges and I am still facing different challenges all the time. I get nervous, I get doubts, but deep down, there is a will and a stubborn drive that will not let me quit. This is it for me. This is my life. Art is my husband.

NM: How did it feel to see your art work merged with the article I wrote, Exploring Black Sexuality, published in Trespass Magazine in 2008?

AD: I was deeply flattered! Flattered because the piece itself was insightful and intriguing and much of what was written expressed my own thoughts and feelings about my own sexuality as a black woman. Specifically, as a black woman who was born and bred in the UK where confusing messages regarding my looks and hence my sexuality were sometimes sent and painfully received. I felt that my Black Lipstick paintings which illustrated the piece went well with it. Also, much like the article itself, Black Lipstick was about much more than its title.

NM: Adelaide, please share any tips for those aspiring painters out there?

AD:
  • Learn. Every day, learn your craft. Practice every single day. Go to university if you can. Never ever stop learning.
  • Understand that it will take time and sacrifice. Patience, diligence, tenacity. You must have all of these qualities in order to progress as an artist or as any kind of freelance or self-employed person. Know that the formula for success is 10,000 hours of practice, or 10 years before you will start to see some “success.” Art stars rarely get launched overnight or straight out of university. For most people, it takes serious work. You must have the passion for your art if you are to last. It must be like food for you otherwise you may as well get a nine-to-five job.
  • Be prepared. There is no such thing as luck. 'Luck is where preparation meets opportunity'. That is one of my favourite sayings, alongside 'Procrastination is a thief of time!' So work all the time. Keep producing work and learning everything you can about the art world and the business of art.
  • Be social. Network. This can mean going to art events if you can afford to. Socialise online. Social media is your friend. I have sold work and had well-attended exhibitions all because of social media. If not for social media, I would not be able to afford to pay for publicists and advertising to promote my shows.
  • Be friends with other artists. No one understands what you are going through more than other artists! Having a support system of artist practitioners is so important for morale. In addition, hang around with artists who are better than you! Learn from them. Do not be threatened. Everyone has their own unique journey and you can always learn from the next person. By hanging around with those who are more skilled than you, unwittingly, you stretch yourself and challenge yourself to be better. Asking questions helps form relationships and most artists are happy to help or give advice when asked nicely. Aside from this, artists often recommend each other to their respective galleries and galleries listen to their artists.
Links:
Contemporary and Modern Art Blog: http://contemporaryandmodernart.blogspot.co.uk

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Discovering the Form of Writing You Were Meant For


On 11th August, I led a Workshop at Wellingborough African & Caribbean Association, with the theme: 

Discovering the Form of Writing You Were Meant For
 
Here are the workshop notes:

Finding the right form is important for any writer. Just like an athlete has to pick what kind of sport to dedicate themselves to, or a musician has to pick what kind of instrument to play, a writer needs to know what form fits them best.

Trial & error led me to a form that fit me:

  1. Poetry: Less is more; with poems I get to use personal & diverse themes, experiment with form, add images (photo poems) and they don't usually take as long as a short story or a whole novel!
  2. Personal Essay: Conversational, range of themes i.e. personal & political, not academic, and most important a free form usually of between 1,000 – 2,000 words.
    The above 1 & 2 were great forms to express myself creatively and yet I could get an opinion or perspective out there. They are why I produced 3 anthologies of this type of writing.
  3. Blogs: In form, blog writing is closest to a personal essay or an opinion piece; the basic short form of non-fiction. I find this type of writing liberating as it's immediate and interactive – and I can add images, You tube videos and broadcast rather than waiting for a book publisher!
  4. Children's Writing: Both non-fiction and fiction – a more recent discovery and one that I wasn't sure of (I found this a real challenge) but interested enough to sign up for a course at Academy of Children's Writing; I forced myself to write the assignments at the beginning; having completed 8 out of 10 assignments, this writing genre is definitely growing on me. I want to finish what I started.
To Be a Writer You Need 3 Important Things (i.e. Qualities)

  1. TALENT: Definition – a special natural ability or aptitude; a capacity for achievement or success. Anyone who has the inclination to write can do it. Writing is both an art and a craft – it can be learned and it must be practised. You do need some self-confidence tempered by self-criticism. You can only concentrate on the art of writing, when you've done the work in the craft of writing!
  2. DISCIPLINE: If you haven't got discipline – forget it! Seriously, it's not a game this writing lark. You make a commitment and you write everyday, or at least 5 days/week. You do this systematically, you don't let yourself stop. You make yourself write, even when you don't want to – there's no waiting for inspiration or the right vibe, or the right pen! (talking of writing tools – writing is one of the cheapest arts there is – just pen & paper!) And even, if you don't feel like it, you go against the grain and write! You need to break some barriers. This gives you a certain rhythm, like daily exercises that Olympic athletes do to achieve, so do writers need to keep the creative juices flowing daily.
    Example:
    For my recent assignment, a 1500 word mystery story for children, I gave myself a target/goal of 1 month (I'm not just writing this story, I'm doing other things). I wrote a plot outline, researched on the Internet, wrote the 1st draft by hand, at intervals of 300 words per day, (about 1 x A4 page), which meant I was connecting with the story, keeping in with the rhythm. I wrote some at home, some at a nice bar in Sywell and some in a café. Then I typed up the story, and finally, edited it down to 1500 words.
    TIPS:
    NB: Writing is always a work in progress until you submit the story i.e. let go of it.
    NB: Always finish what you've started!
    NB: You must give yourself targets/goals; no one else is going to do that, and even when you're writing for a competition or completing an assignment, no one will know/care if you don't meet the closing date/deadline!
  1. TEMPERAMENT: Mantra: 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!'
    It's so important that you don't give up and throw in the towel at the first hurdle. So you're going to need a particular temperament to keep going.
    Your writing may be good and you may have a best-seller in you, BUT, it is likely to be rejected, especially if you're an unknown, an unheard of writer.
    So you cannot be a shrinking violet, especially at the beginning.
    Example:
    JK Rowland is a BIG celebrity writer, she has sold millions of her Harry Potter books worldwide, and has become more than a millionaire, especially in the film industry as Warner Bros. had directed/produced her work.
    Initially her work was rejected by many publishers – about four – who must be kicking themselves right now. Eventually, she got her breakthrough with an agent/publisher – the rest is history.
    JK Rowland had a strategy; she planned/plotted all 7 Harry Potter novels and knew the story outcomes before she started. Discipline – she worked daily as a teacher and was a single parent. She wrote her books in cafés after school hours. She is a role model to follow. You have to do what it takes, go the extra mile, with your writing.

And finally some common tips:

Carry your tool-kit: This is a pen, portable notepad (or electronic substitute) Be ever ready to capture that thought, idea that may change the world! (Only joking...)

Read widely: Reading the work of others is a must and really can help boost your self-confidence as it is often inspiring and you absorb different expressions of language.

Write what you know: Write about what you know; what interests and inspires you. Start small – short stories can be a passport to or launch of your career as a writer. Study this though as the short story genre is vastly different to the novel. Your writing has to be tighter – less is more here!

Finish what you started: This gives you much-needed satisfaction and proves you have what it takes (discipline).

Seek constructive feedback: It's important that you air your writing, reading out-loud to yourself isn't quite enough. Be careful and choose people whose judgement you trust and respect and who you know appreciate your creativity.

Be patient: Writing requires a lot of patience because it’s generally a solitary affair in which you patiently sketch out your words until you’re happy they appropriately portray your sentiments. Because the space in between unpublished and acknowledged published can be broad and long. Because a body of great work is usually crafted and does not appear instantly

Don’t give up the day job – writing is not a profession if you value job security!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

In Conversation with Nicola Greenwood


Nicola Greenwood has been writing poetry for as long as she can remember and her love of language is clearly evident in her poetic expressions. Since 2004, Nicola has been performing poetry at open-mic nights and book readings. She has been published in three Shangwe anthologies supporting monthly poetry nights as Resident Poet.  Nicola continues to explore poetry in new forms and in doing so is intent on providing a platform for other writers along the way.

It's seven years since I first met Nicola at the book launch of my first anthology Brown Eyes in September 2005. Nicola had thankfully contributed her poems to the book and was at the launch with family and friends.

To say we've been friends ever since is not quite accurate because Nicola has not only developed her writing in diverse and beautiful ways, she has supported Shangwe Creative Arts www.shangwe.com over the years by helping out with book readings along with more recently working in collaboration. So it is with great pleasure that I put the spotlight on Nicola:

Nicole Moore (NM): How did your interest in writing start?

Nicola: It was always there waiting to come out. I love words, I love language and I love to communicate through creativity. Poetry was a natural rhythm for me; it's my way to paint pictures in words.
NM: When did you start writing poetry?

Nicola: I've found bits and bobs of poetry scribbles from when I was 6 years old. I started in a very conscious way when I was 18 and have never looked back.
NM: How did it feel to see your work in print in my first anthology Brown Eyes?
Nicola: The silliest thing, I ended up on page 222 and with 2 being my lucky number I was ecstatic! I then shed a little tear of joy at the fact that my name was in print. Slowly it began to dawn on me that this was very special and I felt I had left a little bit of a legacy. Mostly I felt absolutely honoured to be part of such a wonderful collection with so many amazing writers.
NM: 'Writing for the page or the stage' – Does it matter?

Nicola: For me the rhythm of a poem is simply part of its expression; poetry is for consumption in whatever form this takes. What can be read in one's head can be voiced by one's lips. It's about an individual preference - it should only matter to that person.

NM: I know that you've been performing your poems over the years, did you find this hard at the beginning?

Nicola: I'm not sure I even remember how hard it was, there was a whole lot of gin and tonic involved for starters! I read my first poem as fast as I could, my legs wouldn't stop shaking and no matter how hard it was I knew this was the first of many readings. I had spent too long itching to get up. I was in a supportive environment and I tried not to guilt myself out about not being perfect first time; its about growth and development. You can only learn on the job with this and it really does get easier over time. I save the g&t's for the end of readings these days.

Nicole Moore & Nicola Greenwood
Poetry Cafe, Covent Garden - Book Reading Event
NM: Can you tell us something about the themes and the writing process of your poetry?

Nicola: Some people tell stories, some people take pictures, some people paint. I write for the same reasons that they create. It might be a situation that captures my attention, it might be an overwhelming emotion and sometimes its just a diary of my life. I start with a few words and then lose myself in getting everything I want to say down on paper, and its rhythm seems to finds its pace as I go but after that it might take 5 minutes to edit and more often it may take years. Sometimes I need to read aloud, sometimes I share with friends to get a bit of perspective. My themes range from love. pain, angst, farting and sometimes I just paint a picture of the place I’m in at that moment; the last poem I wrote was about being in London on a Sunday, because that was what I was doing!

NM: When you write, do you 'hear' your writing?

Nicola: Absolutely - I hear before I write, I sing and dance the words in my head before they hit the page. And then if I can read it the same way it sounded in my head (based on the words, grammar etc) then I know I've got it.

NM: Nicola, can you share any tips for those aspiring poets out there?
Nicola:

  • Write always - a line here or there.
  • Write even when you cannot write - I have many poems about not being able to think of anything  - shortly after things flow.
  • Go back, go back, go back, you never know when that finishing touch will hit.  If you like to read your work, then others surely will.
  • Think multi-dimensionally: words (double/triple meanings), rhythm as it sometimes evokes more than your words; you are stirring emotions and you have the power to take your readers there, so be aware of every dimension.
  • Share and trust your original intention.
To view Nicola's stories visit:http://cowbird.com/author/nicola-greenwood/