A Lancôme campaign, a live TV interview… People, remember my book!

We’re still in the buzz of International Women’s Day 2017, so I am very honoured (and slightly amused) to have been chosen by Lancôme as one of 40 powerful women to be featured in the My Shade My Power campaign for their new line of Teint Idole Ultra Wear foundation. 

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Wait, what? As their foundation comes in 40 shades of skin tone, the new campaign features 40 diverse women who have been impressive in different industries and professional fields. Very humbling to be in the same group as cultural icons like Gurinder Chadha, Bonnie Greer, and Malorie Blackman. The campaign will be in the UK and Ireland all spring, and you’ll soon see posters and handouts in stores as well!

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Aside from makeup ads (for which I did NOT get paid, but this underpaid writer could definitely use the money), I’ve been pretty busy writing and speaking.  I’ve started writing for Media Diversified, and my article on Hollywood’s Awards Season Obsession with Rape and Sexual Assault was quite popular.  It’s true: each year, prestige pictures roll out with plum roles for actors to play rape survivors and rapists (and hopefully win awards), but how well do these films reflect the lived reality of rape and sexual assault?

I was in New York and Boston earlier this week, and did a live TV interview with i24 News — on their program ‘Stateside’ with David Shuster.  The Marine photo scandal is still raging in the US, so they asked me to comment and gave me a chance to talk about my upcoming novel DARK CHAPTER.

Guess I can tick ‘live TV interview with international news channel in Times Square’ off my list!

In Boston, I’d been invited to speak at my alma mater Harvard’s 50th Anniversary Symposium for the Folklore and Mythology degree.  Yes, that’s what I got my BA in, and it was truly wonderful and reaffirming to talk about the impact of a humanities education on my life and how I am still using storytelling (to a very large degree!) in the work that I do.

Finally, my red-eye flight landed back in London on International Women’s Day, and I somehow made it through five hours of class to chair a fascinating panel discussion that evening for The Malala Fund.  This was on the importance of girls’ education worldwide, and followed a charity screening of the documentary ‘I AM MALALA.’  I had the chance to speak with an impressive panel of women working on gender equality, including representatives of Women 4 Africa, Educate Girls, The Malala Fund.

But there will be plenty more of such panels this weekend at the sold-out 7th annual Women of the World Festival at the SouthBank Centre.  It turns out I’m speaking/chairing at FOUR different events over the next few days there (all on rape and sexual assault, of course).   

Saturday, March 11, 3pm: Deciding Whose Story Gets Told 

Sunday, March 12, 11:30am: Q&A panel following the World Premiere of ‘Foreign Body’

Sunday, March 12, 6:15pm: Chairing the Discussion Group on Giving Testimony about Sexual Assault and Abuse

Tuesday, March 14, 5:30pm: Chairing a 7pm Discussion Group following South of Forgiveness

This last event is the re-programming of the controversial TED Talk speakers Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger (a rape survivor and her rapist who share the stage), which generated an angry online petition to have the event moved out of the WoW Festival.  WoW, to their credit, moved the event and have felt it was important to enable conversation with survivors to hear their thoughts on the topic.  So it promises to be a heady, but vital discussion.  Hope to see some of you at the SouthBank this weekend!

Cover reveal for DARK CHAPTER!

At long last, here is the cover reveal for the UK/Irish edition of my novel, DARK CHAPTER!

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In earlier versions of the design, the woman’s hair was blonde, so there was a bit of a tussle to ensure she was depicted as a woman of color, but we got there in the end!  I’m quite pleased with it: ominous, yet also somewhat redemptive in feel.  Hopefully, it says intelligent literary suspense to you.

Legend Press will be publishing the novel in hardcover 1st June 2017 in the UK/Ireland, and I look forward to seeing what over cover designs will be like for the other countries.  We’re just about to sign off on the final edit, so I’ll finally be putting to bed a novel I started writing three years ago.  (In fact, during NaNoWriMo 2013.)

In October, I also won 2nd place in the SI Leeds Literary Prize for the unpublished manuscript of DARK CHAPTER, which was a great honour.  Here’s myself and Jamilah Ahmed, the 3rd prize and Reader’s Choice winner, at the awards ceremony at the Ilkley Literature Festival.   Amita Murray won 1st place, and I can’t wait to see the writing from all the shortlisted authors being read out there.

Off the back of the SI Leeds Literary Prize, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet US author Paul Beatty when he was in London for the Man Booker Prize Ceremony.  He eventually WON the Booker Prize for his hilarious novel THE SELLOUT, four days after this photo was taken!  Here he is at the Waterstones Piccadilly with me, SI Leeds shortlisted writer Stella Ahmadou, and the legendary Margaret Busby, who was the UK’s first black publisher back in the 1960s.  So inspiring for an encouraging, down-to-earth, bold and incisive writer like him to have won the UK’s top literary prize.

With Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty!

With Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty!

Upcoming readings for the SI Leeds Literary Prize

So, I’ve made it onto the shortlist for the 2016 SI Leeds Literary Prize!  The prize will be awarded on Wed, Oct 12th at the Ilkley Literature Festival, at a reading and event with Malika Booker.  On Sunday, Oct 9th, we’ll also be reading as part of the London Literature Festival at the SouthBank Centre, where award-winning writer Bernardine Evaristo will chair an important discussion on diversity in publishing and writing. Come join us at either event!

I already had a fantastic time at the first SI Leeds Literary Prize event at the Rich Mix on September 19th, which was hosted by Sunny Singh. It was a pleasure meeting the other shortlisted authors, each of whom has a unique and valuable perspective in her writing — and I look forward to seeing them again at the upcoming events!  Here’s all of us on stage at the Rich Mix event:

On stage looking a bit awkward at the Rich Mix!

On stage looking a bit awkward at the Rich Mix…

I’m shortlisted for the unpublished manuscript of my upcoming novel Dark Chapter, which my agents will be representing at the Frankfurt Book Fair.  Here’s their pre-Frankfurt newsletter.  They’ve been wonderfully supportive of me for the past year, and we’re all looking forward to the novel’s publication in 2017 in multiple countries!

In other news, I’m continuing to meet with other activists and artists on the issue of sexual assault and consent, both in the UK and elsewhere.  On September 16th, I attended the first-ever Being the Story event, which focused on storytelling to advance social justice and humanitarian causes.  I was asked by the organizers sounddelivery to write a guest-blog on my own uses of storytelling to address sexual assault, and you can read it here.

Reclaim the Night, Women of the World & more

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!

Reclaim UEA

In the meantime, remember to book your Saturday day passes for the Women of the World Festival at the South Bank Centre.  On Saturday, March 12th, I’ll be on the Rape: Giving Testimony panel AND I’ll be co-leading the discussion group afterward, on behalf of the Clear Lines Festival.  Hope to see you there!

Speaking of festivals, I had a fantastic time at the One Billion Rising Festival, where I chaired the opening and closing panels on Violence Against Women: How can we achieve revolutionary change?  Lots of lively and inspiring discussion, along with amazing women who approach the topic from various legal, health, and artistic angles in their work.

L-R: Thea Tadiar, Tessa Hart, me, Pavan Amara in One Billion Rising colors

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!

 

Upcoming festival talks in Feb and March

This week is the inaugural Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week in the UK, and I’ve been part of an active social media conversation at #ItsNotOk. I’ll also be chairing the opening panel at the One Billion Rising Festival on Sunday, Feb 7th.  We’ll discuss the importance of the One Billion Rising campaign and other activism movements against gender-based violence.  The talk is free (taking place right after The Vagina Monologues) and you can book tickets in advance here.  There’s also loads of other performances and workshops during the 7-day festival — be sure to check it out!

And in March, I’ll be speaking at the excellent Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre on Saturday the 12th.  The full programme isn’t up yet, but you can book a Saturday day pass — their lineup is never short of inspiring!

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:

A Swedish book deal & my current PhD research at the LSE

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!

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Alongside my creative writing, I’ve begun my PhD at the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. I’ll be researching the impact of social media on the public dialogue about rape and sexual assault — a very topical subject, and obviously, one which I feel strongly about, given my own experience and exploration of the issue. You can watch a video and read an article on my research here:

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.

Me and Kate Llewellyn representing Clear Lines

Me and Kate Llewellyn representing Clear Lines

Speaking of Clear Lines, we have begun to release videos from the festival online.  You can watch them for free here, including videos of me speaking on the panel about news coverage of sexual assault, commenting on what it’s like to have your own rape reported in the media.   There’s also videos from our Spoken Word Night, featuring some very talented poets, and more videos will pop up over the next few months.

You can read my end-of-2015 round-up here.  Looking forward to what 2016 will bring!

Prize nominations, a literary agent, a feature in the Irish Times — exciting stuff

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.

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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

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

Not bad! No.1 in The Irish Times Life & Style section

Clear Lines was a success!

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!