Saturday, 27 October 2012

Mslexia Call for Submissions: Memoir (and other things...)

Mslexia Magazine are currently seeking short (up to 2,200 words) narrative non-fiction submissions in the form of memoir for the New Writing section of the March 2013 issue of Mslexia.  Cast your mind years back to your childhood, or just a few hours back to last night - or to any destination in between - and send in a slice of your life.  Up to two submissions can be submitted.
Deadline: 10 December 2012.

There's no entry fee and Mslexia pay for all the pieces they publish.  Submissions are judged by a high-profile guest judge who introduces and comments on each piece in her selection - an invaluable addition to any author's CV.

MONOLOGUE: 'the hairdresser'
Especially for writers of script (but anyone is welcome to submit) send up to 200 words on any topic in a single character's voice. Mslexia are looking for monologues in the voice of a hairdresser.
Deadline: 14 January 2013

If writing a full length memoir excerpt doesn't appeal, why not try your hand at something smaller but no less perfectly formed.  Fans of new media are invited to submit A Week of Tweets about their writing and/or life - or to apply for a three-month 'residency' on the Mslexia Blog.  
Deadline: 14 January 2013

For detailed submission guidelines, please visit:

Finally if you'd like to advertise your writing group or promote your latest book, writing class, or blog, Mslexia have just launched a new Noticeboard section in the magazine, which will allow you to reach 27,000+ readers.  Prices start from just £20.  Contact Victoria on 0191 233 3860 or email:

That's it for now - it's over to you!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Blog Action Day - Toni Morrison; A Writer's Influence

The theme for this year's Blog Action Day is The Power of We and because it embraces community, equality and freedom, I knew I wanted to focus on writing within a 'community' and this is something Shangwe is all about.  So it gives me great pleasure in celebrating and honouring Toni Morrison today.

Identify one writer whose work has been in some way influential to the development of my own creative writing process, it has to be Toni Morrison. Why? If there's one writer who I want to watch and learn from it's Toni Morrison. To start with I'm already hooked ever since I started reading her works some 17 years ago and I have collected all of her novels and have even delivered a Shangwe writing workshop in 2004 on Beloved her master-work thus far, published in 1987.

I need to state that Morrison was expected to excel, even though she had to contend with the racial prejudice that accompanied growing up in an educational system that ignored the contributions of non-whites. Morrison entered Howard University in Washington, D.C., changed her first name from Chloe to Toni, and began studying under strong African-American spokesmen, including poet Sterling Brown and philosopher and critic Alain Locke, a Rhodes scholar who edited The New Negro. She graduated with a B.A. in 1953 and completed a master's degree in English at Cornell two years later, with a concentration in the works of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner.

The Bluest Eye is where I want to focus, it being her first published novel, and one that I've re-read over the last few weeks, with fresh eyes. The novel focuses on Pecola Breedlove, a lonely, young black girl living in Ohio in the late 1940s. Through Pecola, Morrison exposes the power and cruelty of white, middle-class American definitions of beauty. Pecola is driven mad by her consuming obsession for white skin and blonde hair – and not just blue eyes, but the bluest ones. A victim of popular white culture and its pervasive advertising, Pecola believes that people would value her more if she weren't black. If she were white, blonde, and very blue-eyed, she would be loved. Pecola is abused by almost everyone in the novel so I urge you to read the book for yourself as my focus here is with the way that Pecola, a little black girl in the 1940s, still resides in a few black girls and women around the globe now, in our modern 21st century.

Moving on now as this blog post is meant to be a celebratory one! I have to say that Toni Morrison's works have not only educated and enlightened me, they have made a difference to my own creative writing choices. It is a subtle writing process that I'm talking about and when I reflect back on the compiling of Brown Eyes, my first anthology of black and mixed-race women's writing, it is here where Toni Morrison's influence lies. Of course I cannot say that it was only Morrison's influences that led me to taking the plunge into what was then an unknown business, i.e. putting a book together, etc. There were many influences that come to mind, many black female writers from Africa, the US, the Caribbean and the UK, whose works impressed upon my writing choices.

However, what made Morrison particularly influential was that her writing choices of works made no apology for an all-black cast, for exploring and exposing those taboo subjects of racial and sexual tensions within a historical context and from an African-American female perspective. Not only did this provide me, a Black-British/mixed-race woman living in London, with a wonderful literary landscape in which to delve - for Morrison's works have such depth, even a re-read is a 'new' experience - it gave me the authority, the guts to write exactly what I wanted, from a black female perspective with confidence and a vision that this is the work I am meant to do!

My third anthology Hair Power Skin Revolution through the genre of poetry and personal essays, explores and captures where black and mixed-race women are with their perspectives on hair and skin – and again we see similarities to Pecola Breedlove in that women are still coming to terms with and battling those Euro-centric perceptions of 'white' beauty, of straightened versus 'natural' hair, of why over the last 10 years, skin lightening creams are selling more now than ever before! There is obviously a huge difference now to the 1940's in that we do have the freedom to reject those wider notions of what 'beauty' is. I've long ago stopped buying those glossy women's magazines, since they aren't talking to, let alone representative, of me and many women I know.

Much good writing is multi-layered and complex. It is precisely this diversity and complexity, which makes literature rewarding and exhilarating. What I love and admire most about Morrison is that she is a spellbinding weaver of stories, which mix both the historical real and the magical, supernatural and the imaginative in people's lives. More importantly, as a key African-American female writer, Morrison has rewritten and revitalised a history, which largely ignored African-Americans and women in particular.

A Nobel prize winner and major voice in Black writing, Morrison said she set out to write the novels which she wanted to read, but couldn't find – novels about the joys and pains of everyday life for African-American people, at different points in history. Morrison's work is energetic and lively; it is beautifully, lyrically and dramatically written, and engages the reader in compelling issues about equality, and racial and sexual politics. It is also immensely entertaining, tragic, ironic, amusing, and enriched with fascinating details of people's lives. Her stories are gripping, emotional, drawn from both a literary and an oral tradition; they appeal to a wide and international readership. Not an 'easy' read but Morrison always rewards the reader by way of her language devices and choices. It's well worth the 'work'.

That I get so much value as a writer/reader when I engage with Morrison's works is putting it mildly. Despite the thousands of miles that separate me from Morrison physically, I feel connected to her works on so many different and wider levels. I embrace the similarities and the differences and share my ideas and perspectives learned along the way.

So while I continue to keep an eye on Toni Morrison and her literature, I feel particularly safe, secure and free to continue exploring my own creative writing on issues of race, relationships, identity, gender and community, thereby airing my voice(s) and simultaneously discovering new insights into the art of creativity.