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Why I changed the title of my short story from THAT STUPID STINKING BLACK GIRL to I AM ENOUGH!

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​My short story, titled I am enough released on 25 May 2018, on Africa Day. This little piece of work has had quite an interesting journey. It started as a few minutes of quick writing to get out an idea that I had been stewing on for a very long time; years in fact. It wasn’t really an actual story idea. Just a few thoughts about dreaming bigger than your circumstances. What I did know for sure what that I often found myself thinking back to specific times in my life people were kind to me and how that shaped me as a person over the years. And I began to think about how things like poverty, race, education (or lack of it) can shape a child as he or she grows. It made me question my own ideas of what I thought I deserved in this life. I didn’t go to university so how could I try to climb the corporate ladder? I didn’t have anything more than a B average for English in high school so how could I even think of becoming an author. My father, the most talented musician and so incredibly smart spent most of his life without any work, so who did I think I was trying to act like I deserved more than a government house and minimum wage like the people I grew up around.

All these thoughts kept me in the box I thought I deserved to be in, for almost all my adult life. The box of suppressed dreams: KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN AND BE QUIET. The box of mediocrity: NOT BAD BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH. The box of fear: EVEN IF YOU TRY NO ONE WILL CARE AND PLUS, WHAT IF YOU FAIL.

I am enough started off as Fresh potatoes and river water. It was just my way of making sense of my childhood and to remember my childhood home. It was never intended to be shared with anyone other than my husband.

In 2015, I entered the story into a short story competition, where the theme was “The Gift”. It was then that Phumzile, the star in my story, began to grow. I asked myself what would have been the best thing that could have ever happened to me as a child. Immediately, I knew. The Gift that I gave Phumzile had to be The Gift of being liked for who she was. The gift of being seen. I needed to show the incredible impact that adults make on the lives of little children. I remember, when I was about 11, I decided, in addition to being a writer, I also  wanted to be a famous Hollywood movie star and so I started by being first in line for auditions in church and school plays. Once, while I stood nearby, the elders at church were deciding on the cast for that year’s Christmas play. One elder suggested that I be cast in a certain part. The elder next to him glanced over at me, rolled her eyes, scrunched up her face and said “NO, she can’t act”.

Now for a child who wanted to be a famous Hollywood movie star, there couldn’t have been a worse thing to overhear. As adults, we don’t realise how much power our words wield. Whether it is something said in jest, in passing or when we think children are too young to understand, sometimes our words remain for a long time after we’ve said them. Sometimes, while we easily forget our careless words, the child never, ever can forget. Another time, someone said of me that I tried too hard to be pretty. I didn’t wear make up for years after that because I didn’t want to be the girl who tried too hard to be pretty.

So, Fresh potatoes and river waterbecame Do you like me, maybe? for the short story competition. I didn’t win but my writing was recognised for having great potential. This year – 2018- my publisher thought it was (good) enough (!) to publish. We talked at length about the title and decided that the story needed a title that held adults accountable for their words, when used to label, belittle and hurt. So we decided that the title needed to be the lie that Phumzile believed for so many years until someone came into her life and broke that lie. The lie was that she was THAT STUPID STINKING BLACK GIRL WHO CAN’T SPEAK ENGLISH. And so, Phumzile’s story got itself yet another name. Everything was set for publication – cover design, editing, and then!  A key decision maker involved in the publishing process raised the issue of racial sensitivity within the scope of freedom of expression.

​How far was too far? Did we go too far with THAT STUPID STINKING BLACK GIRL WHO CAN’T SPEAK ENGLISH? We dropped the “Black” but that felt like we were trying to hide Phumzile’s “truth” because that is what she was called in the story and why were we hiding Phumzile’s ethnicity from the title anyway? An executive decision was taken. We would revert to the true essence of the story: THE power of VALIDATION and the power of being LIKED for who you are. The power of believing that you are simply ENOUGH. Enough for you and enough for everyone else. We needed to focus on what brought the real Phumzile to life, what had awakened the greatness that lay still in her little heart. Not focus on the lie that she believed. We needed the title to be a declaration of THE TRUTH and not THE LIE. We needed for the one reading, that it must be a PROCLAMATION that builds up!

The choice was obvious. I am enough was the simple truth that Phumzile needed to believe and
when she did, with an adult rooting for her from the side lines, she was amazing. It’s a funny thing. When we know that we are enough, we are able to do and be more than we ever thought possible. It’s as if we become more than enough. And that is what we needed to show in the title. I just want to stop here for a minute and talk about the amazing staff at Ant Colony Press. The collaborative approach to these important discussions really just blew my mind.

Phumzile represents the innocence of children. The incredible power of validation. The incredible power of words to destroy and to mend. She represents the withered little plant that needs only one drop of life, to grow strong and beautiful. She shows that beauty is not what can be seen or praised but that beauty is the human who is truly everything she was born to be, outside of her ethnicity, her outward appearance or her past. I am enough glimpses into the heart of the woman that little girl became at the most validating moment in her life. I am enough is the truest representation of a forgotten little girl who learned to dream.  From the title to the last full stop.

It is my wish that those who read Phumzile’s story will know that it takes so little to bring a child to life. That every child has, in them, greatness and it is from this standpoint that we must root for them and build them up. Not tear them down from the seat of judgement over the colour of their skin, their economic shortcomings or perceived lack of intelligence. And that every person reading would know this one thing: You, just the way you are, are ENOUGH! And when you believe that, you will be ALL that you were meant to be.

As the African continent and the African Diaspora celebrate their unique heritage, culture and great strides made over the last 55 year and also engage in  important discussions about challenges facing the continent, I hope to see the African Child – the African Girl Child, to be exact, among the conversation topics in 2018.

I am Enough gives you the speed  flash fiction  and the power of a vignette. Read it here and please reach out and let me know what you thought:
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Publishing, Publishers and Ant Colony Press

In the world of publishing and publishers, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of rules, guidelines, checks and double checks and triple checks and more advice than you can make sense of. And when you finally meet THE ONE you look back and wonder what the fuss was all about.

My publisher, Ant Colony Press, who will bring my debut novel DEEP FLAMING RED to life in spring/summer this year is a vibrant, forward thinking, involved indie publisher. My journey with them has been incredible. Their submissions editor, Sarah (@agirl_whowrites Insta/Twitter)  is fabulous. She is an author herself so she can relate to both sides of the publishing experience (UNCONVENTIONAL, her romantic suspense novel written under the pen name Scarlet Birch is out now).

Sarah requested the full manuscript of Deep Flaming Red the same evening after receiving my query. Within two weeks I received detailed and encouraging feedback on the chapters she had read up until that point. Side note:  Sarah tweeted and posted on Facebook that she was really enjoying a romance submission about the time she gave me feedback. Imagine if she was talking about Deep Flaming Red! Oh, the stalking and obsessive tendencies of a writer! I should probably ask her about that!

Anyway, after only a few weeks and a few email exchanges, I was an Ant Colony Press author. The team at ACP are hands on. Passionate about your book as if they had penned it themselves. Tenacious, with an arresting (and growing) presence on social media. They engage REGULARLY with all their authors and have created platforms for their authors to support each other, to share experiences and ideas. It is the kind of “community” feel that all authors need. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this amazing “colony”.

If you’re putting together your list of publishers to query, ACP should absolutely be on that list. Look them up at antcolonypress.com . Here you will find book and author news, interviews with ACP authors and other indie authors, their submission guidelines and blog posts about writing, publishing and more.

ACP also takes it’s subscriber list very seriously, sending relevant, insightful and interesting content to their subscribers.  If you want to be kept in the loop, head over to this link to be added to ACP’s mailing list! https://mailchi.mp/7b2e22582ab3/email

Wherever you are in your publishing journey right now, just know that you will find THE ONE, just like I did!

Until next time!

Jen

 

 

 

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Meet Ethan

J.D. SAMSON_author

I wanted to tell you about a story that I have finished writing. It’s called Deep Flaming Red and I began writing the story in Feb 2013. It was complete by the following year but I had made so many mistakes that I felt like rewriting the whole thing! What did I do? Well, this:

  • I changed the POV half way through
  • I changed from present to past tense half way through
  • I made Scarlett (my female lead) a vegetarian and changed her back to meat-eating a dozen times
  • My male lead, Ethan, was so vulgar in his day to day speech that I had started to feel violated every time I tried to go back to edit
  • I changed the age gap from 7 years to six years to fives years and back to six years until I was not sure how old they were anymore

As you can…

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Featured Author: Robert B.L. – ARC copy giveaways

I really enjoyed the honesty in this interview. I think the author writes from a deep place and that is what draws people to stories. I wish him the very best!

Alyne Hart

jjBio:  I was born into the lower working class in Sweden, and raised by a single mother due to the death of my father. I’m no stranger to hardship and struggle. From hardship grows compassion, determination and the motivation to strive for something better. That’s a gift in my eyes. Writing is something I want to make my profession. I’m not only filled with stories, also the drive to finish them. I come from a family with no history of writing, nor any connections, and I hope someday someone will see the potential in me.
Why do I write? I write because my whole life I have felt like the dum athletic kid. I had trouble with multiple subjects in school and I never felt smart. Then, later on, I was determined to do something that people saw as intelligent. Writing has always been an interest already embedded in my DNA, but the spark lit the fire when…

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Serious update

Hi everyone

So a lot has happened since I last wrote on here. Reason I haven’t written? I lost the password. (I do that alot).

So. I wanted to share that I have signed with a wonderful independent publisher, Ant Colony Press. Deep Flaming Red will go through edits soon and should be out between July and September 2018.

I am so excited to share more of this journey with you!

My writing journey

And then there was Wattpad!

Hi guys

I mentioned last time that I had gotten onto Wattpad. Now, I’m not exactly sure how to weave my way through the site as yet but I did manage to post the prologue and first chapter of Deep Flaming Red. 

I went ballistic when I got my first comment. It was from a reader named imledstoryweaver (https://www.wattpad.com/user/imledstoryweaver) and she thought that the story sounded like a classic love story and she really wanted to read more.  You can have a look at the prologue + chapter 1 here: https://www.wattpad.com/user/flame81

My reader also told me that I should break the updates up so that it’s easier for the reader – important advice and I will definitely take heed!

Have you tried Wattpad? Or a similar platform to put your work in front of readers?

I would love to hear your experiences!

Till next time,

Jen

 

Quick random thoughts

What pad? – Quick random thought #2

So I’m a little late to the party, but I have discovered Wattpad. I’ve managed to publish the prologue and the first chapter of my book, Deep Flaming Red  on there, but I honestly can’t tell you how it happened.

Won’t you check it out and let me know what you think?

I think you’ll be able to find it here: https://www.wattpad.com/myworks

If that doesn’t work, maybe try my username: flame81?

Thanks a ton!