Asian Women of Achievement Awards – I’ve been shortlisted!

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!

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Speaking of Clear Lines, we’ve recently sent out our Spring 2016 newsletter, which you can read here.  And on March 12, I had the opportunity to run an important discussion group on sexual assault and abuse at the Women of the World Festival (WOW) at the South Bank Centre, on behalf of Clear Lines.  This followed the Sexual Assault and Abuse: Giving Testimony session, where I spoke on the panel, chaired by Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the South Bank Centre. Overall, WOW was a fantastic weekend, full of inspiring talks and performances, addressing all sorts of issues related to achieving greater gender equality. Many thanks especially to the survivors, witnesses, and supporters who came shared, listened, and spoke out at our discussion group.

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Leading up to WOW, I wrote this opinion piece for The Huffington Post on the Oscars — did you notice the issue of sexual abuse was center-stage at the Academy Awards this year?  That’s progress!  As well as this blog post for Polis: Journalism and Society at the LSE, on the importance of celebrity, solidarity, and activism around sexual assault.

For now, I’m off to New England and New York for a short break, and will be back in London in mid-April… whereupon I’ll have to start working on my PhD upgrade in earnest. Lots of exciting things happening at the Department of Media and Communications at the LSE – we were recently ranked 3rd best Media Studies Department in the world… Not too shabby, eh?

 

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!

Just launched the Clear Lines Festival

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.

 

Shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger

A quick update, which is that I’ve now made the shortlist for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger 2015, for my upcoming novel Dark Chapter.  Which means I can now officially use that nifty logo you see right here.  Other authors shortlisted for the Daggers this year (albeit, not the Debut Dagger) include Dennis Lehane, Kate Mosse, and Dashiell Hammett… so overall, not bad company to be in!  (Yes, Dashiell Hammett’s been dead for a while, but some short stories of his were recently discovered and published for the first time.)

You can read the full shortlist here.  The winners will be announced at the CWA Dagger Awards on June 30th in London, to mark the the end of National Crime Reading Month.  Which reminds me, I should probably read a crime novel this month…  Does Crime and Punishment count?  I THINK SO.

Longlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger!

Another surprise recognition in the genre world… I’m thrilled to have been long listed for the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Debut Dagger Award 2015.  This is for the opening of Dark Chapter, my debut literary novel which I’ve been working on for…oh, a year and a half now. (The re-draft is 85% finished.)  So it’s good to be getting some recognition for all my work on it!  You can read more about the long list here.  The CWA is perhaps best known for the Gold Dagger, which in the past has been awarded to Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky, and Ian Rankin, among others.  Anyway, the shortlist will be announced May 15th at CrimeFest. Fingers crossed…

Also, a flash fiction piece of mine is now available to download on the nifty Quick Fictions app.  I wrote ‘Nabateans’ after my trip to Jordan last summer, and it’s now one of the many bite-size stories you can download and read while commuting, waiting, or for random in-between time. Each story is 300 words or less!  Quick Fictions is supported by Myriad Editions, and can be downloaded for only 79p here.  (Apparently, it’s ranked No. 5 among the UK’s paid apps.)

Shortlisted for The James White Award!

Some very unexpected news here — my short story “White Fur” has been shortlisted for The James White Award!  This is kinda surprising for me, especially since the competition is for science fiction, and… I don’t tend to write in that genre (even though I am a fan).  But encouraging to know that people think my stab at sci-fi is decent!  I guess you can say “White Fur” is a dystopian ecology tale and yes, it involves polar bears (my favorite animal).  Anyway the winner of the competition will be revealed Easter Sunday at 6pm, at Eastercon 2015 (the British National Science Fiction Convention).  The competition is named after  James White, the prolific sci-fi author behind the Sector General stories, and is a collaboration between the British Science Fiction Association and Interzone, the UK’s leading and longest-established science fiction magazine. Congrats to the other short-listed writers, and for the official announcement, click here.