This short lecture is delivered by Abdulrazak Gurnah, the 2021 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
It is a concise, masterly exposition about the birth of the writing process in the young mind, as well as how, as a mature writer, the author begins to finally see the warped mirror reflecting the reality of the landscape of colonialism, racism and inequality.
In this video essay Abdulrazak Gurnah traces the arc of anger, joy, confusion and the quest for clarity in a troubled world. His writing is, in essence, a tool chipping away at the vaunting edifice of inequality, mis-direction by elites, cruelty and injustice.
It is a long journey from Zanzibar to the University of Kent, but the journey began with a sheet of paper and a pen.
In his opening stanza, Gurnah reads us an excerpt from the writings of Lawrence, that beautifully captures the experience of the young person discovering the illustrative power of reflection…a sensation, a memory, that any putative writer, in any setting will recognise immediately.
Masterly is too slight a word for this video essay, and it will remain laden with meaning and message for all of us as 2021 comes to an end…
We commend it to our readers, as we hopefully await sunnier uplands in 2022.
In the report, the USPS looked at how millennials view the postal service, how convenient they think it is and how well-disposed to a snail mail postal service they feel.
Surprisingly, for their age cohort, millennials see the Postal Service as valuable and have a high level of trust and satisfaction in it. Their deficits for the service are the irregularity of new service updates, identifying postal points and access to stamps.
The surveyed cohort saw great value and satisfaction in writing a letter, sending it to a loved one and appreciated the special-ness of the transaction via the post.
It seemed to us, that the Postal Service in the UK could become a significant player in improving literacy and considered authorship of correspondence, by taking the same approach to this age cohort. Enticing them to send more letters, write them more often and supporting the improvement of literacy skills as a side benefit too. Both social and economic uplift from a service central to all our lives.
This caught our imagination this morning, on a cold, not quite Christmas yet day.
We love writing, writers, writing initiatives and the rest, as you know. But in the hurly-burly of Zoom, email and e-comms, even though we are all standing still at the moment, we felt there must be space for the quiet reflection and the use of the good, old pen.
We are proud supporters of The St. Elizabeth Hospice.
You can support the Hospice and get creative with your writing talent by entering the The Henry Buckmaster Short Story Competition. Tell your story and support those who work to help others! ( We are remembering Henry too…).
The competition is open to anyone over the age of 18
To enter please make a donation to St. Elizabeth Hospice of £10 or more per entry. You may enter more than once.
We ask that your short story is a maximum of 3,000 words long
We ask that your short story is based around the themes of family, community or compassion
The competition is now open and will close at midnight on Sunday 14 June.
The winner will be announced on National Writing Day, the 26 June.
How To Enter
Once you have made your donation of £10 (if you are able to give more it would be very much appreciated) on the Here Together JustGiving Page we will be in contact with you regarding sending in your short story. The deadline for entries is midnight on Sunday 14 June.
Or, if crime fiction is your thing, you can even begin the calendar of events in the company of Val McDermid at the launch event: How the Dead Speak. On February 28th in the evening at Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford.
Young Essex has not been forgotten either – with a full range activities for the young reader. We particularly like the Manifesto for Essexlaunch, where young people can give voice to their thinking about Climate Change.
Also for Young Essex is a great idea, the pop-up storytelling armchair. Springing into events across a range of different locations in Chelmsford, Basildon and Harlow.
‘A super comfy treat for book lovers young and old to enjoy their favourite stories out loud! Free and open to all – come along and hear a story…’
Writing in The Guardian in late 2014 the author Rupert Wallis was minded to tell us that ‘…more and more not-so- young adults are reading YA fiction’ – which he declared was no bad thing. He went on…
‘The power of YA fiction to generate an emotional resonance around death should not be underestimated in UK society, where young adults spend a lot of time immersed in the artificial realities of cyberspace and gaming’.
Source: The Guardian, 18th August 2014.
Lynda Haddock, in her first novel, has wonderfully underscored the sentiment with her first novel Ellen Lives On. The book features the journey, the exploration of a new life and the acquisition of a new set of values, by the teenager Ellen.
For Ellen the journey is mapped from the suicide of her mother, an emergent rally to the cause of education and her exodus to the Metropolis in search new friends, political engagement and the forming of a new identity for herself.
‘One way of tackling the difficult questions raised by death is to feel connected to one another in addressing them, to feel human together…’ writes Wallis in his article. Indeed, the sensitively written, clear narrative from Lynda Haddock stirs up the emotions and will clearly illuminate a shared experience for teenagers suffering loss.
The new novel was enjoyed by the Books go Walkabout team in our office. Sue Martin, writing for our new season book list opined…
”A desperately moving novel about a young girl whose life changes forever when she returns home to find that her mother has committed suicide.
Ellen, a scholarship girl at a local grammar school in the 1970’s, finds that life is uncomfortable and fraught as soon as you are no longer the ‘norm’ pupil, let alone the trauma of discovering that she is alone in the world. Alone, that is, apart from her Grandfather, who is elderly and lives a long way from Ellen.
Taken in by her aunt and uncle, Ellen finds the welcome is short lived and that she is a burden to the family, simply used as the girl in the house to do all the chores. Her uncle tells her the sooner she finishes school and starts a job the sooner she can pay for her living.
After a series of heart-wrenching problems with friends, teachers and those who were meant to be supporting her, Ellen goes on the run. She finds friendship with people in a squat, her grandfather is taken into hospital and she abandons any hope of a career with prospects.
Eventually Social Services find Ellen and her life starts to rebuild, but never back to where it was and with very little hope of the future that had been planned.
A moving and poignant story for Young Adults and a thought provoking debut novel for Lynda Haddock.”
It is also, in its way, a primer for adults, the ‘not so young’ in Wallis’s narrative, to recognise the strains and pains of a teenager going through this crisis, such is the insight afforded the reader of any age by Lynda Haddock’s writing.
Lynda Haddock’s work joins a solid tradition of novels that seek to offer reflection and a way forward in the face of death and loss. From The Fault in Our Stars by John Green to Jacqueline Wilson’s Vicky Angel – the Haddock narrative deals with death, yes, but also in the exploration of self, equality and values – all of which are significant markers for young adults as they march forward into the 21st Century.
For Wallis ‘…the true significance of death in YA is that authors are reflecting back what they see everyday; namely, that death is ominously prevalent these days, whether in fiction or a national news broadcast or the obituary columns‘.
This is certainly true of the author Lynda Haddock, whose professional life before her novel encompassed education and the specialist support of children experiencing difficulty in their lives. The storytelling resonates with it.
The experience tellingly shows in the novel Ellen Lives On, and we hope it might become a staple of your library of resources – tendering a way into loss and bereavement that will be recognised by any teenager, whatever their culture, age or background.
We would commend Lynda Haddock’s publisher to note that the YA Book Prize for 2019 is now open for nominations.
Together, these 17 women—the “Primadonnas”—have worked to create a festival of brilliant writing, borne out of a desire to give prominence to work by women and spotlight authors from the margins—and to create a thoroughly joyous and accessible experience. There will be live music, films and comedy and all sorts of writing represented. ‘ Source: Primadonna web pages.
The dictionary defines a primadonna as a temperamental person, an unpredictable person, a self-important person! However, the event will be characterised by impeccable behaviour and scintillating intellectual challenges, given the stellar line-up of originators above.
The origins of the title are in the 18th Century, in Italy of course, where a literal translation is ‘first lady’. A veritable melange of premier writing and performance talent, we are sure.
E.M. Forster wrote …Beauty ought to look a little surprised: it is the emotion that best suits her face. The beauty who does not look surprised, who accepts her position as her due – she reminds us too much of a primadonna.
We are in for a surprising event, undoubtedly. Packing our tent and weekend bag as we write…
Congratulations to the Boudicca Press team for hitting their Kickstarter target with a whole week to go! Brilliant.
We recently featured the work of Boudicca Press, in promoting new writing for women and in their current process of coagulating new pieces to publish under the banner of Disturbing the Beast.
Disturbing the Beast is a collection of weird fiction stories by some of the best women writers in the UK, featuring Kirsty Logan, Aliya Whiteley and other talented up-and- coming writers. It’s the debut collection from the new literary press, Boudicca Press, who celebrate the strength, courage and literary talents of women.
Great news. Disturbing the BeastKickstarter launches 3rd September: Weird fiction
stories from some of the best women writers, including Aliya Whiteley, Kirsty
Logan and more.
The anthology will be funded by a Kickstarter campaign which launches on Monday 3rd September 2018 with a target of £2500.
Submissions, however, are still welcome from women writers until Friday 14th September. It is intended that the ultimate publication date for the work will be early in 2019.
Boudicca is keen to unearth challenging subjects in a healthy and respectful way, something that they feel is not often considered in mainstream, contemporary literature. The work is intended to celebrate women’s voices in the weird fiction genre, in a publishing industry where they feel women are under-represented.
Boudicca Press, creators of brave and powerful writing from women of weird fiction, are calling for submissions for their short story collections.
They are seeking…
Strong female-led stories
Stories that are filled with carefully considered, breath-taking prose
Stories that contain depth and reflection
Boudicca are encouraging female writers to submit original work, which involves lesser talked about female-centred topics such as sexual abuse, pregnancy issues and body image. ”Your work should be fiction, and not so on-the-nose of the issue”.
You must submit, as indicated, by Friday 14th September, 2018
“Boudicca Press celebrates the strength, courage and literary talents of women. We publish weird, literary and relationship fiction by women in the UK.
We love strong female-led stories filled with breath-taking prose, in the genre of weird, literary and relationship fiction. Stories that stay with you. Stories that are reflective and deep. Stories that empower women“.
Good luck and get writing today and we look forward to seeing your stories published. Congratulations to Boudicca Press for an empowering literary initiative…The team at conversationsEAST.