Writing Crowd

Siana Bangura – Founding Editor, Blogger and Poet

2014 was a beautiful yet challenging year for me, but one of the highlights apart from marrying my best friend was helping Radio Plus Coventry pioneer a brand new course delivering media & employability skills to help people looking to move into the Radio industry. This is where I met Siana. She is such a talented, creative and outspoken woman who has achieved so much in her twenties. She is a joy to be around and when you are in her presence the conversation is thought provoking, fruitful and eye opening. I hope you enjoy reading through her interview and don’t miss out on her latest poem which we have linked at the bottom! If you live in London, check out her facebook for up and coming poetry nights she may be attending. You wouldn’t want to miss it! – Lisa

1. How long have you been writing poetry for and what inspired you to start?
I’ve been writing creatively for a long as I can remember (just like everybody says!). Running away with my imagination and seeking comfort in books, poetry, the writing of others was always my favourite pastime. So that’s how I started I guess. When I was younger I used to write quite dark stuff and some of my poetry got published in school anthologies, things like that. I remember I wrote a poem called ‘The Eye of the Sea’ when I was in primary school. I came across it a few years ago and laughed so hard. It was rubbish but for me, at the time, it was my Magnum opus.

I used to write short stories and was working on a novel when I was about twelve I think. It was a detective type thing and the main character was based on Hercule Poirot. I think the same things that inspire me to write now are the same things that inspired me to write back then too. I needed my voice to be heard and sometimes it’s easier to do so through performance or by using characters. Escapism can be very healing. Injustice makes me write. Anger leads me to my pen. Joy and love cause me to write. I stopped writing poetry for a long time though simply because life got in the way and I got ‘too old’ for it. I started to think it was a bit cheesy and felt a bit embarrassed about being so deep within my emotions. I decided I was ‘too busy’ for poetry. I turned my attention to music journalism and album reviews, fashion blogging, and politics.

However, in October 2013 I had a life-changing encounter with someone from my past. It was very quick but made a huge impact on me and because I wasn’t able to coherently talk about how I felt about that encounter and how much it hurt, so I went back to being the little girl who hid under the dining room table and found comfort in her writing. I found a quiet space and I wrote ‘The Stranger’. After I wrote this poem, I performed it in November at a monthly spoken word event in London called Poetry Luv. I had forgotten how exhilarating it is to be on stage and perform. It was also a very cathartic experience too – in the audience were my best friends as well as people I did not know. They all said my poem touched them deeply. One of my friends cried a lot and this told me that I had to pick up from where I left things. I started writing more and more, fitting it in every day (which wasn’t actually that hard after all – it never is when it’s something you love doing), and I started immersing myself in London’s spoken word scene, going to the numerous events, introducing myself to other poets, and understanding the culture. It was all really eye-opening for me.

2. Besides poetry – you have some other creative outlets, what are they?
I am really into photography (again, just like everyone else, right?) and I was taking it very seriously during university. I even had my own small business going but again, I ended up turning my attentions to other things. I really enjoy portraiture and capturing people, especially faces in black and white.There is so much history in someone’s face and so many stories. There is so much power in that stillness. I am also a big fan of fashion and I sew a bit. I would love to have my own blazer line – bold colours, power shoulders, gold buttons, and asymmetry. I used to make bags for friends at school from old jeans. They were quite good, even if I do say so myself!

I enjoy theatre too and one day I’d love to be back on stage performing in a role of some sort. In October 2014 I co-produced a one- woman comedy called Fierce, by Kathryn Griffiths. I’d never done anything like that before. I really loved seeing it all come to life on stage. Kathryn is a phenomenal performer. In a past life I also used to sing a bit and play the violin. I do wish I had stuck at those things and tried harder with the guitar but heck, some of us are better positioned to appreciate the music of others rather than make our own and there is no shame in that. I keep telling myself I’m going to learn the saxophone… we shall see.

It would be really cool to make a spoken word EP and fill it with musical interludes as well as poetry. So much of what I write could be turned into music – that’s the beauty of poetry. In fact, I often sing my lines when it comes to committing my poems to memory. It helps. I’d need to have singing lessons though if I was going to take it more seriously as I don’t know how to breathe and sing simultaneously! No formal technique. I had a dream a while back, in which I did a remake of Saint Etienne’s ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ and it went straight to number one worldwide. It was a one-hit wonder though. I am really keen to learn more about the technical aspects of production like mixing your voice and using studio equipment, producing, things like that. I know how to do some of these things as I was a radio DJ for three years and produced my own shows in Cambridge but I’m rusty now.

3. Where do you spend most of your time?
I spend most of my time in London. I work in Central London as a journalist and then most weekends or after work I’ll have an event to attend. I go to a lot of poetry events these days. I used to go to concerts more than I do now but I’m seeing FKA Twigs this month (February) and I’m super psyched about that.

When I’m at home I try to make sure I spend time with my mum and my younger sister. I am really loving Orange is the New Black on Netflix – I’m behind everyone else because I don’t watch TV much but whenever I can steal a couple of hours I will get stuck into an episode or two. As well as being hilarious, I think the way the creators have played with stereotypes of intersections like race, gender, and sexuality is really clever.

In terms of specific places, I love visiting the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton. I love Brixton in general. I love Peckham too as I lived there last year and found a lot of wonderful gems, Peckham’s best kept secrets that many people are only discovering now. I love South London as that is where I am from. It’s taken me ten years to finally love that place.

4. What is your biggest dream?
To touch and positively affect as many people with my creative work and my political activism as Maya Angelou did. How I’ll do that is anybody’s guess.

5. For someone looking to start a blog – what advice could you give them?
It’s important for women, ethnic minorities, young people, and other marginalised groups especially to have their voices heard. We have to carve our own spaces in which we can be visible. I started blogging regularly when I was fifteen I think and have not stopped since.

I decided that I would put a flag in my little corner of the Internet and make it clear that it is my space. I have been through a lot of blogs but I think my current one, dontgotheresiana.com , is right for me right now. I finally got the tone and feel I wanted. I really wanted someone to hire me as a journalist when I left university and nobody did and so I thought to myself, ‘you know what? I am going to make myself an editor’. And I did. I was also really fed up of not really having somewhere for Black British women to speak about their lived experiences so those two things led me to create No Fly on the WALL.

6. Who inspires you as a creative individual?
It’s not so much who inspires me to create as it is what inspires me to create. I would say for now, the Zeitgeist is pushing me to write and create. The current mood of my generation is one of unrest and desire for change. I strongly believe the revolution is ours. So I write poetry that explores things like abandonment and absent fathers, racism and white supremacy, shadeism, Islamophobia, Jihad, corrupt political systems, betrayal, but also sisterhood, Feminism, and love.
My latest poem is called ‘Elephant’. On the surface, you could say it’s about racism. The ‘elephant’ is a very bitter, lost, sad, frightened white man who now hates all people of colour. You get small insights into the potential reasons why he is like this. He has also suffered and he is a victim of capitalism and failed democracy. He has been failed too. This man embodies all the things I’ve read, conversations I’ve had, tweets I’ve seen, and Facebook posts I’ve scoffed at. There really are people who will argue that ‘Africans have nothing to be proud of’ and that ‘White people built the modern world and this is a white man’s world’ and the rest of us are just living in it, despite the fact that non-white folk are the world’s global majority. The global South if you will.

The poem is also about hypocrisy and contradictions – something we are all guilty of. But the effects of all these negative things live forever within us and we do remember, just like elephants. The memory of an elephant is imperative to its survival so it can’t afford to forget about those who have killed its mother or its children. I find my environment inspires me. I also have some very talented people in my circles who I really respect so keeping a close eye on them encourages me to always bring my A game and make sure my shit is tight. I want to be respected by my peers for the work I put in and the stuff I put out there. I’m not afraid to admit that.

7. Do you read any blogs and if so what are you favourites?
I read and write for VS Notebook, which is an upcoming and exciting platform for writers and other creatives. There is always a lot of diverse content on the site and the editors are cool too. I often read For Harriet, which is a blog focused on Black women (mainly African-American women).

Afro Punk is awesome for fashion and music and on Facebook they often share stuff from other platforms too. Asylum 33 is cool, a real visual feast. Those are my regulars right now but I spend so much time online I am always coming across new blogs, new people, new writers and that is exciting.

8. How do you keep yourself inspired?
I think being inspired and motivated can be conflated. I often do it. In general, I am a really motivated person. I tend to plough through tiredness and generally manage to keep high spirits because there is so much culture to witness and participate in everywhere.
I get tired sometimes when it comes to my more political work though – some of us call it ‘the burden of being “conscious”’. Sometimes you get writers’ block or you feel like your work isn’t as good as that person’s or that person’s, especially if you’ve been to a show or read something amazing. But it works the other way also – seeing how great others are reminds you of how good you already are and how great you could be. At least that is the case for me.

I keep reading, watching, writing, discussing and then everything just flows. I tell myself our generation needs another Maya Angelou or bell hooks, or Alice Walker. I tell myself we need a ‘For Coloured Girls’ choreopoem for the women of today. And I tell myself that there is no reason why one day I can’t be the one to write it and I tell myself that there is no reason to put limits on what I can achieve because others will do that for me. That’s the nature of our present society. It can be hard to be original. It’s a special currency. Everybody is out here in the wild trying to ‘make it’ as a creative and often it seems like we all want to do the same things and all want to go for the same limited opportunities, start the same platforms. The creative world sometimes feels congested and claustrophobic and even the word ‘creative’ is overused I guess. It can all be so loud. That’s why you have to remember to take some time to sit with yourself quietly and recharge your batteries. After a long day at work you might not feel like going to your laptop and finishing off your novel or polishing off your track and that’s okay but most of the time you will want to do those things because that is what you love.

Love, self-love, is so powerful. We are in our element when we are doing what we love and being all that we can be. What we have in common is that we all want to be happy. My quest for happiness and feeling satisfied with my life is a strong fuel of inspiration – it is one of my many motivations. I want to be able to say I made the most of my time here, while I had it. I want to be sure to leave a positive and meaningful legacy like the people I admire.

9. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I don’t have much spare time! But I like going to the movies. I like going to art galleries. I love reading and all of those things inevitably make me want to write something.

10. Where can our readers find you online?
I have quite a big online presence I hear so I’m not hard to find!
You can keep up with me by visiting my personal blog: dontgotheresiana.com
You can also check out my work within the Feminist movement by visiting: noflyonthewall.com and attending one of our No Fly on the WALL Academy events and workshops.
I am a fan of micro-blogging too. The power of social media fascinates me. Catch me on Twitter here: @sianaarrgh I share some of my spoken word poetry on Sound Cloud: soundcloud.com/sianaarrgh

Check out my latest poem, ‘Elephant’, here: 

E.Earle – Writer and Author

So recently The Creative Crowd caught up with Elizabeth Roberts-Earle to find out how she started out fulfilling her dreams to become a writer. She gave us some great tips to share with you all and reveals what is next in the chapter of her adventurous life. Elizabeth is an incredible human being who I met funnily enough through social media and from there a beautiful friendship blossomed. She is passionate about telling stories and will have you laughing by the end of the first chapter from her book ‘A girl with nine lives’. Take a read through our interview to hear what she had to say.

1. When did you start writing and how did the idea of your first book come about?
I started writing at a really young age. I remember being upset with how The Labyrinth ended and decided the way I could have the ending I wanted was to write it myself. I then discovered the joy of creating worlds that I could happily lose myself into and live out my alternative lives. I remember thinking, “wouldn’t it be really good if this happened?” and then realized it can! I’ll just write it! My first full length novel was complete when I was thirteen years old. I sent it off to Harper Collins, including a set of illustrations I had done specially. Harper Collins returned my manuscript and drawings with a kind letter to keep on writing, but it wasn’t for them. It was that first refusal and propelled me to carry on.

2. Who is your favourite character in the The Girl With Nine Lives and why?
My favourite character, paws down has to be Benedict. I cannot walk the street without stopping to pet a cat if I see one. Benedict is based on my own childhood cat- a wonderful mangy beast that always walked me to school and sat in the garage with me as I waited for my mother to come home from work. He is a figure of stability in Ellena’s ever changing world- something solid and secure to grasp onto. I suppose he was in a way something for me as well.

Who inspires you creatively?
I am inspired by everyday authors who have finally made it. J.K Rowling of course is a huge inspiration for all the things she had to overcome, but I love the small success stories of someone deciding to write a book for the hell of it. I am inspired by people who simply decide to go for their dream. It’s not only the authors that inspire me. It’s other people who have decided to give up the jobs they hated and pursue their dream in flower arranging, wedding photography or opening a bookshop. It’s the courage of people who inspires me, the drive and determination to take that risk and pursue something they love. It’s that which makes me pick up my pen/boot up the laptop and start to write.

How do you deal with stress?
When I get stressed, my first instinct is to run away. I make the object of the stress a no-go zone and I avoid it at all costs and hope it goes away that way. I’ve learnt however, that it doesn’t always work. I’ve found the best way to handle it is to write all the things that are stressing you out and then next to them the solution. If there are jobs that I need to do, I will get them done as soon as possible- because they are within my power to change. With items of stress that I don’t have control over- that’s slightly different. I enjoy running a lot, so if I’m feeling pretty awful or wound up about something, I’ll call up a friend and go running. It’s an amazing feeling. Putting things into perspective also helps. Someone being mean to you at work? It doesn’t matter. Imagine your lifeline as a line of white string- that negative experience you’re having at that time is but a speck of black on there. It’s up to you to put as much colour with positive experiences as possible. It also depends on how much of your energy you’re willing to expel on someone who isn’t going to contribute anything to your life and who you will certainly not invite to your wedding. Most importantly- talk to someone. Share the stress. Share the thoughts. Share the weight.

What is your ultimate favourite book?
Favourite book? Oh goodness. I have so many favourite books for different reasons. The Labyrinth 1986 based on the actual film is one of my all-time favourites. I’ve read it the most. It is the most tattered collection of bits of paper you have ever seen, held together by 90’s tape. The book that inspired me to write more creatively is The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber. Its imagery is beautiful. The Bank Robber Diaries by Danny King always blows me away by its use of natural dialogue- I feel like I’m a social club when I’m reading it, its total unabashed and unashamed state when the characters converse makes me well up with joy. The Rachel Morgan Series by Kim Harrison inspired me to be myself and write what the hell I wanted to. Writing is completely self- indulgent, and I learnt finally that it was ok to be selfish. I didn’t have to write to impress- if I wrote for myself then that was good enough. You put a piece of your soul into every book you write- I’ve got more Horcruxes than Voldemort. Finally, Peter Pan by J.M Barrie, for giving me hope that there was a Never Neverland and I really wouldn’t have to grow up.

So we have heard via the grapevine you are going traveling soon – where are you planning to go and how are you feeling about going abroad?
I’m going to Australia and New Zealand in January! I’m so excited (and as each day passes) a little nervous too! I have dreamed of visiting New Zealand since I was 11 and I can’t believe I have a matter of months until I step into that beautiful place. It’s an opportunity I never thought I’d have again (long story). My folks live out there now and the thought of being with them for 60 days is wonderful. I’m also looking forward to the inspiration that travelling is going to give to my writing! If you could live anywhere in the Uk – where would you live and why? I would live in the Lake District, no shadow of a doubt. My partner went there to stay and we fell absolutely in love with the place. The Lake District represents renewal for me. My mother took me there on a family trip when I was going through an awful time at University. Seeing that everything was so much bigger than me, made my worries feel so insignificant. As long as places like that existed, I knew that I could find happiness.

Do you have any advice for fellow upcoming writers?
Advice- don’t stop. Don’t ever stop writing. Don’t ever write about something thinking about money, thinking about what people want to read- you need to be completely enwrapped and excited about your story. Put yourself in your main character’s shoes- live out your dreams and adventures. Be utterly selfish and indulgent in yourself. Get yourself a professional book cover designer. Make sure you edit, edit, edit! Do your research. Don’t think once you write a book that will be it. That’s only half the job. Learn how to promote yourself- social media, papers, blogs, everything. Learn the industry- what an agent does, what a publisher does, what a distributor, a promoter and a bookseller does. Keep in contact with your readers. Get reviews wherever you can. Give yourself a writing target- whether it’s 300 words a day- do it. Listen to other writers, read, read, read, write, write, write. Buy The Writers and Artists Yearbook. If you can’t get an agent, do it yourself. You’ll learn the trade, it’ll be tough and there will be many learning curves but it’ll be worth it. Also- email me! I’m always willing to help! Most importantly- write what you want to read.

Tea or Coffee?
How dare you. Tea of course. I only drink coffee when I solve crime.

You recently had a book signing at Fargo Village in Coventry, How was that?
The book signing at The Big Comfy Bookshop was utterly wonderful, inspiring, uplifting and just so amazing. I was so enraptured by Michael’s story (the bookshop owner’s) and it made me want to go home and write another book. Another reason why it was so lovely was because my mother flew from Australia to surprise me! It was very emotional and it made me really happy to see people interested in my book.

Where can our readers find your book online?
You can find my book on pretty much any online retailer but especially online at Amazon, available on paperback and kindle!

Paperback:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Girl-With-Nine-Lives/dp/1490383026/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415300188&sr=8-1&keywords=the+girl+with+nine+lives1&keywords=the+girl+with+nine+lives

Kindle:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Lives-Adventures-Benedict-Blackwellebook/dp/B00DACVG2G/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1415300188

Facebook link:
https://www.facebook.com/authoreearle?ref=hl

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/e_earle

”Elizabeth is now a full-time writer enjoying the preparations of travelling the other side of the world. In her spare time she enjoys hula hooping, arm wrestling at inappropriate times, hiking on National Trust walks and taking pictures of other people’s cats, and spending quality time with those she loves. She believes in being positive, the goodness of people and acts of kindness. The things she hates the most include mint chocolate, moths and inconsideration for others. Recently discovering exercise, Elizabeth sometimes likes to pretend that she is an Amazon warrior woman hunting prey when running next to someone on the treadmill. Elizabeth stops this fascination when the other person catches on that something isn’t quite right and moves on. Her favourite colour is green and she loves to be surprised with a cup of tea- no time is a bad time for a cup of tea. A believer in adventures, she is soon to be travelling across Australia and New Zealand with her partner to have some of her own.”

        

Photography by: Monique Jacklyn Photography

Mark Sephton – Author and Coach

Monday morning arrives and the first thing I like to start the day off with (that’s first things first in the office) is check the emails. Whilst doing this I came across a book launch invitation from Mark Sephton…WOW! What next I thought? Maybe world domination? I don’t know, but I have known Mark since I started presenting a show with Coventry local station, Radio Plus and he is definitely passionate about business and life! He’s one of those people who just carry around a bag of motivational quotes in his mind and you leave his presence thinking, maybe I ought to be more motivated and get stuff done. You need people like this in your life. So we asked Mark a couple of questions surrounding his book to encourage you creative writers to get planning and get that book you have always wanted to write OUT OF YOU!

1. So what is your main passion and when did you decide you wanted to write a book?
That’s a great question, my main passion is to influence as many people as I can for good, to get inside peoples heads and encourage them to become all that they desire to be. If we want our lives to change for the better, we must change the way we think, the way we act and the way we behave. In order for our external circumstances to change, we must be the author of the inside of our unique and powerful framework to grow beyond our current boundaries of knowledge and understanding. I have harboured a desire to write a book over the last 2 years and it was time to put that thought into action which is the premise of this book, create thoughts and then act on them.

2. In the work that you do, do you have to be quite self-motivated and what is your favourite inspirational quote?
The key to any great business and true fulfilment in life is doing what you love. I love entrepreneurship and I love helping people become themselves but better. I love the variety of entrepreneurs I work with, each at a different stage and often in a different industry, some are innovators, others creatives, some have products and some have services. I am totally motivated working with such trailblazing entrepreneurs all over the world, the great thing is, I learn from them also, their drive, desire and imagination is fascinating. Getting out of bed is an exciting prospect with all the amazing opportunities which lay at your feet. People who know me well will know I love my quotes. I have a couple “be you, everyone else is taken” and “if you don’t change direction you end up where you are now”.

3. What is the best way for aspiring authors to get started with planning to write a book?
The key is to START, I decided on Jan 1st 2014 that I would write every day Monday to Friday for 30 minutes, six months later I had a book at my finger tips, I believe each of us have a story to tell, people have different approaches, some hire  a book coach, you must find out what works for you and then get to work.

4. Who inspires you as a writer and coach?
Another great question. At the age of 24 I had only ever read one book from front to back and then someone told me that successful people read, so I started reading. Its true success does leave clues. I love reading John Maxwell’s books on leadership and Dani Johnson too, they are both great coaches to a vast amount of people. It seems common place for coaches and writers to write books, they are sharing their story and expertise every day of their lives, why not make that knowledge more accessible through writing a book and impacting on a larger community,

5. Do you enjoy travelling and where would you like to go next?
One of the quotes in the book is “Breaks lead to breakthrough” I am a huge advocate for taking time out, refocus and reenergise yourself, it helps you tap into your creative genius. I recently spent a month in the USA travelling a little around the great lakes. Discovering different cultures and worlds really helps open your eyes. When I was 18 I helped open an orphanage in Brazil. Often I find when I travel physically it speaks to me of an internal journey too, understanding and appreciating how others live and operate can be usually profound. I would love to travel to Bora Bora next, it looks incredibly beautiful, I don’t know many people who have vacated this island. I like going where others haven’t or at least very few.

6. What advice would you give to any creatives out there who are thinking of going self-employed?
Your business, product or service needs to solve a problem. If it doesn’t you are going to struggle. I have found that people have bought from me due to my enthusiasm, however that alone is not going to help expand and sustain your business though it will certainly help. You must find what you love, find a way to express it and surround yourself with people who believe in you and know how to get your product or services out there. You could be the greatest artist to have walked the earth but unless you know how to market, showcase and sell your art and brand you are going to find it difficult.

7. We have heard you have a book launch coming up soon? Where and when is this and how can our readers get involved?
‘Inside Job’ (title of my book) launches on November 20th and will be available on Amazon and some local book stores. I have organised a launch at 10am-11:30am at Costa coffee inside Next (retail store) at the Ricoh Arena Park in Coventry where I shall be reading a chapter of my book, signing copies and having pictures taken. It would be a great honour for readers to leave a review on Amazon and follow @insidejob2014 on twitter. For more information about ‘Inside Job’ check out this youtube video.

8. What do you do in your spare time?
Incredibly I don’t often struggle to switch off, I think it’s vital we take time to release our frustrations and also our creative side. I love to keep active, I play a number of different sports which are a great framework for socialising as well as raising my heart rate and keeping me healthy. I love to eat out at fancy restaurants, spending time with family and my beautiful kids.

9. Where can our readers find you online?
I am a huge fan of twitter, my handle is @sephtonmark I also produce weekly Youtube video’s to inspire and educate (http://www.youtube.com/markjamsephton). My website is www.marksephton.com and additional links to further social media platforms can be found from this site.

“Mark Sephton is the United Kingdom’s first personal mentor to entrepreneurs. His mission to help others has seen him break into global markets while working with startups and millionaire entrepreneurs around the world. Mark began his professional journey while working in the hospitality industry, where he served for 12 years. Mark’s love for personal development and self improvement took him on a series of life discoveries, during which time he took on many business and leadership courses and received a life coaching diploma. Mark has drilled down to the essence of these experiences and  created a business to help draw out the magnificent potential of each and every client. Through his enthusiasm and remarkable communicative ability, Mark has spoken on countless business stages, where he has shared his story, motivated attendees and promoted entrepreneurship.”