Why I am a privileged writer …

This is the piece I have written for Luna’s Little Library Diversity Month. It was hard to choose a subject this year. I felt stuck for choice. I sometimes feel that all we need is a reboot of the Black And White Minstrels Show for the full 1970s flashback to be complete. Or perhaps I should stop channeling my inner pessimism. Perhaps.

Although it took me a while to get published, I never doubted the fact that I could write. I also know that I have an upbringing that, eventually, has endowed me with confidence in certain settings.

So, before we celebrate an increase in UK-based writers who are not white, I want to explore why people like me get through and others may not.

https://lunaslittlelibrary.wordpress.com/2017/11/21/i-am-a-writer-with-privilege-by-patrice-lawrence-diversitymonth/

 

 

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Who needs security? Aka Swapping a life of employment to be a freelancing writer.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. As is any day, to be honest.  For the generation before me, I am at the age when you should be counting down – ten years, nine years, eight – to claiming your state pension.  Whereas I am embarking on a life of insecurity, hustle and potential impecunity.

Friday was my last day at the wonderful Spread The Word, in Deptford, working with London’s writers. (If you’re ever short of a writing prompt, can I recommend Deptford Market? The clash of bike speakers between the Rasta guy cycling by booming dub and the old white guy blasting Rainbow’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ is a play waiting to happen.)

From tomorrow, no more Pay As You Earn tax deductions. No more prepaid National Insurance. No more contractual hours.

Why am I doing this? It’s time. I have wanted to write all my life, but only now feel able to be a writer. Nearly every job I have had since teenage years has fed into my writing, from a two-week stint cleaning St Francis psychiatric hospital (previously Brighton County Borough Asylum) where my parents, stepdad and virtually everyone else I knew worked to my jobs in London with families involved with social services or affected by imprisonment. St Francis

The stint in Brook young people’s sexual health clinics was particularly insightful and rather useful for Indigo Donut

But also, I’ve had a chance to reflect on Orangeboy and the potential for Indigo Donut. I wrote about subjects I care deeply about and they have given me a springboard and platform to explore those topics in different ways with young people – creative, innovative and knowledgeable young people, that never fail to impress me.

So what’s next?

The pragmatic stuff – sorting out income and expenditure spreadsheets, being way more rigorous about keeping and storing receipts and organising an effective invoicing system. Oh, the excitement.

I need a proper website. I’ve been putting that one on hold for a while. A horrible amount of while. But at the moment people contact me in different ways – via my agent or Sarah, my publicist, at Hachette. Some come directly via Twitter, Facebook or email. It’s hard to keep up. I need to be way more strategic.

Hachette have offered to help me put together a school leaflet. It’s time, it’s time.

And this week – up to Bath tonight for two school events in Bath and Bristol tomorrow supporting the Bath Literature Festival. Then a meeting on Tuesday with the fabulous Hackney Museum to talk about how Orangeboy, a Hackney-set book about a young, black geeky guy who gets pulled into an underworld, can be used as a discussion point for a project with local men. 20170629_084127.jpg

There’s a meeting with my agent, Caroline Sheldon, to discuss freelance opportunities – we are both excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. And a rather wonderful opportunity to talk Black writing and activism in Writing in the Age of Black Lives Matter at Brixton Library on 4th October with Patrick Vernon and Jackee Holder.

I also need to do a bit of writing …

So, come on this new journey with me! I’ll be keeping you posted.

Patrice x

 

 

My partner knows a coroner. I never saw that coming. (Notes from a debut YA author.)

Yah!  I have a two-book deal with Hodder!  I have signed on the dotted line for my first young adult novel as well as another stand alone one to follow.   I am actually being paid money for this.  Yay, again!  Last Man Standing, will be published in March 2016, Indigo Donut, (title may change…) in March 2017. This is good news.

Actually, it’s amazingly excellent news.  Such good news that it  made our local paper, as well as The Voice newspaper, the website of a prolific local blogger and our local freebie. I was even interviewed on Colourful Radio, sitting in the corner of a north London park, on a bench between the goats and the deer, on my way to work.

And I have wanted to be a writer since.  Just since.

So, how did this deal come about?  I researched the young adult market – that is, loitered with intent in Charing Cross Road Foyles and scanned my daughter’s shelves.  She’s into manga.  Not helpful.  I also started planning a crime novel set in 1940s Port of Pain, a society still facing up to the impact of the second world war, colonial rule and a programme of de-slumming and emigration.  If you’ve seen Errol John’s play ‘Moon On A Rainbow Shawl’, you know what I mean.  A setting ripe for drama and random poisoning.

I took my collection of ideas to an Arvon crime-writing course, tutored by Dreda Say Mitchell and Frances Fyfield.  About halfway through the week, we were given an exercise to help us hide information – a sentence that had to be embedded within a paragraph or so.  The rest of the group had to guess the sentence.  I was presented with ‘He woke up dreaming of yellow’.  So – what was on my mind?

The obvious.  Mustard.

A few weeks earlier, my daughter and I had used the day of a teachers’ strike to check out Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.  Everything was so pricey that after a couple of rides – her, not me, I’m a coward – we only had money left for one hot dog to share. So – what if?  What if two young people are at a fairground? It’s their first date and the boy is a bit uncertain.  He hates mustard but he’s going to eat that hot dog the girl’s just bought him because it’s a sign.  She’s claiming him.  The date’s going well and then what’s the very worst thing that can happen?  After I wrote that, I just carried on writing.

There was no plan.  Characters emerged from a murky subconscious and vicarious wish fulfillment.  The mother I’d like to be, the 15-year-old I wish I’d been, the big brother I wanted, were all there on the page.  And what was at the core?  The press release mentions gangs, drugs and guns, but that wasn’t what really interested me.  I wanted my protagonist, Marlon, to be a lovely young man, a bit quiet, a bit geeky and with an enduring love for vinyl records.  I was fascinated by what would tip a boy like that over.  Why would Marlon Sunday, who can name every Earth, Wind and Fire album in order, risk destroying his family and his future?

First draft done, after a thorough critique from my writing group, priceless mentoring and the complete removal of a subplot, I was getting there. The book had always been like a jigsaw, but now I had the right number of pieces.  I had to keep trying until the picture looked right.

Caroline Sheldon, my agent, sent it to a number of publishers. My first meeting with Hodder was in an office with a wonderful view and premium biscuits.  I fell in love and eventually it was requited.

So what have I learnt from this so far?

1. My partner knows a coroner.  I honestly never saw that coming.

2. Local newspapers really like good news. So –

3. It’s good to have a couple of decent hi res pics to send off.  My hair is its own lifeform.  In the photos you will see it trying to escape.

4. I somehow have to balance shameless and modest self-publicity.  Haven’t quite worked out that one yet.  However, promotion is vital.

5. The joy of getting to the 300th edit.  There will be more polishing, but I feel that we’re nearly there.  (Aren’t we?  Say ‘yes’!)

6. How pleased and encouraging my friends are!

7. I have a full time job, a teenage daughter, a needy cat and a heavy clad allotment.  I should learn to multitask.

I’ll (try and) keep you posted about book cover selection, promotion and all those new experiences as as we edge towards publication. Px

From disco-y wetlook to virgin Brazilian

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In homage to Americanah’, a spot more hair business.  There was actually a sign in a local hairdresser advertising Virgin Brazilian hair.  We weren’t sure if the adjective was being applied to the donator or the hair itself.  I’m afraid I was too much of a coward to ask.

Anyway, it makes the days of wetlook and gericurl seem so much more innocent.