Sad to see summer winding down, but I had a good one – hope you did too!Among other exciting news, I’m currently longlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize, which is awarded every two years to an outstanding unpublished fiction manuscript by a BAME woman writer. (BAME is the somewhat odd acronym used in the UK for a person of color, i.e. Black or Asian) The shortlist will be announced in late September. Of course, my entry is the as-yet-unpublished manuscript of my debut novel Dark Chapter, which will be published next June in the UK and Ireland, and September 2017 in the US and Canada, and elsewhere! I’m currently in the midst of the final edit, and have been going through draft cover designs for the UK hardcover.My agent will be selling rights to the finished manuscript at the Frankfurt Book Fair next month, to add to the four territories already sold.Big thanks to all the editors who have signed on already to bring Dark Chapter to readers around the world.This includes Lisanne Mathijssen at Harper Collins Holland, who will be publishing my book in Dutch!
One such editor, Gunilla Sondell, is a fiction editor at Norstedts, Sweden’s oldest publishing house.I had the pleasure of meeting Gunilla this summer when I spent a couple weeks wandering around Sweden.I got to stay at her rustic summer cottage, went for hikes in the forest, and picked a few mushrooms. A few days later, I got on a 21-hour train ride to Swedish Lapland, where I did some more hiking north of the Arctic Circle.Overall, it was a fantastic trip for me, and I kind of fell in love with the long days, fresh lakes, tall pine forests, and impressive mushrooms of Sweden in the summer. I’ll definitely be heading back.
A selfie with Gunilla, my Swedish editor, and my haul of freshly -picked chanterelles
YES – it’s finally, actually happening! I am absolutely beyond thrilled (and relieved) to announce my debut novel, Dark Chapter, will be published worldwide next year — in North America by Polis Books and in the UK/Ireland by Legend Press. Both are dynamic independent publishers, which have been going from strength to strength in recent years. So I am very pleased to be part of these teams on both sides of the Atlantic, and to work with them on finding innovative ways to connect with audiences. After all, one main reason I wrote this novel was to start a more public conversation about the many angles to sexual assault — and I’m glad to have two fantastic publishers make that possible in my home countries. My agents were thrilled to close these deals – here’s their announcement!
And here’s the Polis Books announcement. They call my novel ‘bold, riveting, and above all, human.’ I’m liking those words! I was very lucky to have these words of praise from New York Times-bestselling author Marti Leimbach:
Marti’s novel Age of Consent is out now, and the encouragement of other authors and advocates on this issue has been vital for me.
In Sweden, Norstedts (publisher of Stieg Larsson, Margaret Atwood, and Elena Ferrante, among others) have already signed up to publish Dark Chapter. So watch this space for news on publication dates and more publishers!
On June 23 and 27, I’ll chair the Q&A following performances of Foreign Body, a work-in-progress piece of physical theatre, which explores a woman’s memory of sexual assault and her interview with her perpetrator.The Q&A will be with Imogen Butler-Cole of The What Works (the theatre-maker who created and performs Foreign Body) and Marina Cantacuzino and Anne-Marie Cockburn of The Forgiveness Project. Marina founded the well-known project, and Anne-Marie’s own restorative process with the young man who supplied a fatal overdose of MDMA to her 15-year-old daughter is a remarkable journey, You can watch her story here. We’ll be discussing trauma, recovery, and restorative justice among other things — and do join us at either of the performances: at the Off Beat Festival in Oxford at 7:45pm on Thursday, June 23 (tickets £8/6) and at the RADA Festival in London at 4pm on Monday, June 27 (tickets £10/5).Hope to see you there!
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 Asian Women of Achievement Awards Dinner, where I was shortlisted in the Social and Humanitarian category.Although I didn’t win, it was truly inspiring to be among so many fantastic women, who have made such a difference in their work across a range of industries.Here’s me and the delightful Harleen Kaur, winner in the Sports category, who at 17-years-old is an international World Martial Kombat champion. It’ll be an honour to be part of a growing network of accomplished Asian women recognised by the Women of the Future Foundation — and I look forward to seeing our collective positive impact on society continue!
I’m very honored to have been shortlisted for the prestigious Asian Women of Achievement Awards in the Social and Humanitarian category, for my work on the issue of sexual assault and consent, including launching the Clear Lines Festival. The awards are meant ‘to celebrate the often unsung Asian heroines of British life’ so… hey, I appreciate that! Awards evening is May 12 at the London Hilton on Park Lane. Looking forward to it!
I’ve been invited to speak at the first-ever Reclaim the Night March at the University of East Anglia, so I’m headed to Norwich on Saturday, Feb 20th. Many thanks to the UEA Students’ Union for inviting me — I’m looking forward to hearing from other activists as we speak out about against rape, sexual assault, and gender-based violence. Never spoken at a rally before, but there’s always a first. And check out the DJ-style billing!
L-R: Thea Tadiar, Tessa Hart, me, Pavan Amara in One Billion Rising colors
And on Thursday, Feb 25th, I’m running part of an ‘impact’ seminar at the London School of Economics, for PhD students funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It’s on how academic researchers can have an impact outside the academy… the event’s closed to the public, but let’s hope there will be a trickle-down (or trickle-out?) effect!
Other than that, I’m plugging along on my PhD work at the LSE and continuing to collaborate with other artists, thinkers, and activists on the issue. Here’s a video of me speaking at last year’s Clear Lines Festival on media representations of sexual assault and what it’s like to have your own attack reported in the press:
Happy 2016! This update is very overdue, but I haven’t had much spare time these past few months, ever since starting my PhD. But more on that later…
The first bit of exciting news is that my debut novel Dark Chapter has its first publication deal — it’ll be coming out in Sweden in Spring 2017 thanks to Norstedts, one of Sweden’s most prestigious publishing houses. They also publish Margaret Atwood, Elena Ferrante, Colm Tóibín, and they discovered Stieg Larsson, so it’s not bad company to be in! The deal was listed at the top of Publishers Weekly Hot International Book Properties in November. I’m looking forward to publishers making the book available in other countries… I hope you are, too!
At the end of October, I spoke at the Feminism in London Conference, as a nominee for the annual Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize. I didn’t win in the end, but it was an honor to be at the awards ceremony, both as an Individual Award nominee and as a representative of the Clear Lines Festival (nominated for the Group Award). To have the chance to meet the other shortlisted women — and hear about their collective efforts working against gender-based violence — was nothing short of inspiring.
It’s been a busy few months for me since the Clear Lines Festival… I’ve been doubly shortlisted for the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize, awarded annually to recognize women working against male violence. This year for the individual prize, they focused on women who use writing in their activism, so I’m quite humbled to be nominated alongside other, more prolific women who write regularly for The Guardian or have had entire books published. Clear Lines was also nominated for the group prize, along with three fantastic organizations: Million Women Rise, Sisters Uncut, and Rights of Women. Anyway, I’ll be speaking on Sunday afternoon, October 25th, at the Feminism in London Conference, and the winners will be announced at the closing event shortly afterward.
A recent newspaper feature on me
As for my own book, well, I FINALLY finished my novel, Dark Chapter — and I’ve signed with The Pontas Agency, a very nifty boutique agency based in Barcelona, who specialize in representing international authors writing on globally relevant themes. Click here to read their announcement about me joining the Pontas fold. It’s very exciting to work with them and to join their distinguished list of clientele.
Me and Anna-Soler Pont, the Pontas CEO, right after I signed with them
The Irish Times have recently run this feature article on me and my experiences leading up to writing the novel. It opens with the first paragraph of Dark Chapter… Hope you enjoy the read!
Not bad! No.1 in The Irish Times Life & Style section
So the festival I decided to launch in April ended up happening July 30 – Aug 2 — and I’d say it was a success! The Clear Lines Festival had an estimated 500 people involved over the four days, including 60+ speakers and artists who wanted to help us start a new conversation about sexual assault and consent. People cried at our Theatre Night and laughed at our comedians, including the brilliant Tiff Stevenson, Josie Long and Bridget Christie — and there were heated discussions at many of our panels. A number of events were filled to capacity, and Channel 4 News even aired this nifty segment on us:
Overall, there was a lot of press generated about the festival. We were covered by The Telegraph, the Daily Mail, Time Out London, The Huffington Post, among others. And I had a live television interview on London Live and some live radio interviews on various local BBC stations. Check out our press here and you can read our wrap-up blog post on Clear Lines here.
A special shout-out to my festival Co-Founder Dr. Nina Burrowes, to our sponsors On Road Media and McAllister Olivarius, a dedicated Planning Committee, a great team of volunteers, and our 138 Crowdfunders… without whom the festival could not have happened!
After two months of hard work and a lot of enthusiasm, I’m very pleased to announce the launch of the Clear Lines Festival, the UK’s first-ever festival dedicated to talking about sexual assault through the arts and discussion. It’s something I co-founded in April (coincidentally, on the anniversary of my own rape) — over coffee with Dr. Nina Burrowes and a group of other amazing women, all of whom are passionate about wanting to change the public conversation about sexual abuse and assault. I personally believe the arts are one of the best ways to approach the issue, by bringing to light the human stories that underpin these experiences. So we’re putting together an exciting programme of artists, writers, comedians, performers, and filmmakers, who will be exploring the topic through their art — along with panel discussions and workshops featuring psychologists, experts, social workers, journalists, and survivors, among others. Nearly all events will be free to the public. The festival will run July 30 – Aug 2 in Central London.
At the moment, we’re busy crowd-funding so we can have enough funds to make the festival possible. We’ll need £3,500 for that — and if we reach our stretch target of £9,000, we’ll be able to film the events and post them online so others around the world can access them. So please do consider pledging if you can! You can watch a video of me talking about the festival here. Join us and together, let’s see if we can replace the silence and stigma that cloud this issue with insight, understanding, and community.