The New Year feels Old


It’s strange that as a woman of color in today’s world, I’m not allowed to be angry, passionate and truthful about what’s happening around me without being labeled ‘an angry black woman’. Whether it’s on politics on a global scale or what’s happening in the romance writing industry—her writing groups and organizations, to her publishers and leaders.

Like so many people I watched Oprah’s speech and as it built momentum, as she gave a history lesson while inspiring, while firing up, while being unapologetically a black woman…I wondered,  is that what’s required of all women of color around the world, in their industries? Do we all have to be an Oprah? While our counterparts are what? Becky with the good hair? Who, with not even half my qualifications and a single woman, still gets a bank loan to buy a house in an area my parents had to pool both their incomes to be able to buy in?  (Btw if you have to look up what ‘Becky with the good hair’ means, than you know nothing of black womanhood.)

Yes I went there. In South Africa, like so many other countries human capital favors the colonizer not the colonized. But I digress.

Then after Oprah’s speech, Ivanka Trump happened. My kneejerk reaction was a laugh of derision, like Chrissy Teigen I found her tweet disgusting. I was also ready to say “go away”, you’re not part of the movement, the conversation, so don’t insinuate yourself here.

But was her behavior surprising to me? No. I’ve seen it and experienced it too many times through the Ivanka Trumps of the world to be surprised. What is surprising however is that the Ivanka Trumps don’t even know they are Ivanka Trumps? Call it being blind to privilege—the privilege of being able to express yourself without being labeled—or centuries of systems built to validate, either way it’s glaringly obvious that in 2018 we are still far from eroding this level of ignorance and reasoning.

Last year The Ripped Bodice bookstore did a study on how many romance books were written by nonwhite authors. The study gained attention from numerous news outlets even the New York Times. But no one in my local (SA) writing groups/organizations mentioned it. Of course the study was done in the US, but since the racial issues and tensions in the US parallel so much of what happened and is happening in SA, I find the lack of attention and discussion interesting.

Like the New York Times article’s title stated, “[I’m] in love with Romance Novels, but not their lack of diversity.” I read them and I buy them by the truck load.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bashing post. Definitely not written as a ‘Storming of the Bastille’. Though since I’ve entered the publishing world, I have taken note of ‘the royals’ of industry no one’s allowed to speak against. And no I’m not going into specifics this is not an exposé, I actually want a writing career *wink*

The New Year feels old.

At thirty-three (in February I turn thirty-four), I’m fed-up with old issues becoming ‘new’ resolutions. Call it what you want, but 2018 isn’t going to be much different than 2017. I even heard Seth Meyers repeat a joke British actor Hugh Laurie made at the 2017 Golden Globes in his victory speech. And yep, much of Meyers opening at the Golden Globes wasn’t fresh either…seriously, they could’ve asked Trevor Noah to do it. At least his perspective would’ve been fresh and his jokes not a repeat of what someone with a more posh accent said.

And therein lies the problem, the Golden Globes (like so many other award shows, institutions and corporations) unapologetically, like the rest of the ‘royals of industry’, flaunts who they are, what they believe and stand for, in our faces. It’s an indication of how ingrained and insidious everything is. Am I a bit jaded? Yes. I’m excited for what I have planned for this year. But unlike years before, I’m not looking at the industry with wide-eyed-wonder. I’m not assuming the playing field is level for me in South Africa or abroad, because it’s not. I’m not going to look for fairness because this industry (publishing) doesn’t operate that way. None of them seem to.

And no, I’m not okay with things.

“I wished I believed you when you told me this is my home….” ~ Lorde, Hard Feelings.


Born To…

Today has been one of those funny days when I`ve been surrounded by inspiring stories from inspirational people, who`s worked hard for every single piece of success they`ve achieved and who still, even after having reached the summit of the mountain still was able to stay humble, be grateful and pay it forward.

It`s amazing how some people get herald as ‘overnight’ successes when they`ve actually been working hard at it for most of their lives, especially for those who`ve felt born to do whatever it was they were doing. In the arts, I believe there`s an element of being born and sculpted to dance, sing, act, write etc. I honestly don`t believe people who wasn’t made for these industries would survive in them long. There`s a certain level of confidence, drive, faith and discipline needed especially when the going gets tough, because let`s face it peeps, aint no bodies parents going to tell them, “yes, go for the career where you`re not guaranteed of a steady income.”  Creative people are of the most misunderstood people, and as I wrote that sentence my mind went Van Gogh *shakes head* what an example!

But I`m not going into that, this post isn`t about being misunderstood, it`s about me experiencing a day of inspiring people starting with the reality TV (hey don`t stop reading! Reality TV can be good, it`s not always ratchet! *laughs* Love that word!) STARTING with the reality TV show Born to Dance Season 1. Twenty talented aspiring dancers competing for a chance of a lifetime with choreographer for the stars and dance director Laurieann Gibson.

LaTonya-SwannI don`t often follow reality shows religiously. In fact, I get bored with talent show competitions after the auditions. But with this show I got invested even more with every episode I watched. These women, each with their own story and dreams of making it to the end. Halfway through the show I felt like all of them were winners for what they had endured, how they gave it their all, but with competitions there`s got to be a victor and when, the show`s first winner, LaTonya Swann won, I was so happy for her. I cried. Yep, not ashamed to admit it, I was wiping my tears with a goofy smile on my face. I lived every second. The other two women, who had made it to the final with her, embraced her and you could literally feel the love they all had for each other through the screen. Yeah, I know impossible, but that`s how I the viewer experienced it. I was so inspired by just the camaraderie, the level of humbleness and gratitude expressed by the winner. And I realized something profound: people who make it to the top (and yes there are exceptions) all, have this great attitude. Yes talent, discipline and working hard goes along with it, but you know what, there are so many who do those things and never make it. What truly makes a difference is being a team player with a great attitude toward people and life. Born to Dance inspired me and taught me this truth about those who reach the summit.


The second inspiration of the day came in the form of Tamar Braxton who at age 36, after thirteen years of going through ups and downs, being dropped by record labels etc. came back stronger, more mature to receive three Grammy Nominations and winning three Soul Train Awards. I mean, goodness that`s a comeback if I ever saw one! And also, yes I have to add more, at an age when most people would think it`s too late. She`s not young anymore and wouldn`t keep up with all the young girls, at least that`s what they said. Instead, she kept working, she kept fighting and not only released her 2nd studio album after the thirteen year hiatus to critic acclaim but she had also pitched her family`s reality show The Braxton Family Values which spurned a spin-off of her own show Tamar & Vincent. Then she went on to be a TV presenter on The Real talk-show.  Her life story reads like a Liftetime Channel movie. People are always so up in arms when they hear about people like Tamar, who`s connected to a famous sister aka Toni Braxton and older sisters who also performed and who`s celebrities in their own right, that they couldn’t possibly have worked as hard as someone without the ‘connections’ *snorts* Trust me honey, no one would take you seriously if you didn`t have any talent, ask Paris Hilton *snap*


My third inspiring moment came from watching Jimmy Fallon interview Oprah Winfrey. The woman`s an icon. There`s nothing I could possibly list here that`s not in the public domain already. She`s a mogul, multi-faceted and if the words ‘everyone`s getting a car!” didn`t mean anything to you than well, you`ve been living under a rock! She`s an actress. Yeah, you knew that. See I can`t tell you anything! She`s got her own school in South Africa. Yep, you knew that too. She`s a John Travolta fan and giggles when she talks to him. Yeah, you pretty much knew that too *laughs* Her new movie`s definitely a must see. Her Master-class documentaries, something I love to watch and draw wisdom from. I honestly don`t know what to say more about her, because just the name Oprah says it all. So I`m done, I`m out- OPRAH.

And fourthly my inspiration for the day came from people I knew in my everyday writing world. This year my writing group, Romance writer`s of Organization of South Africa (ROSA) had made strides in the romance writing world in SA, from having our first ever romance conference in Johannesburg attended by acclaimed authors and major publishers` representatives to winning national awards for their work, to being interviewed via radio, podcast and television appearances.

ROSA Logo Revised

Writing contracts aren`t to be scoffed at and many a ROSA had a breakthrough year. I, myself got my 2nd writing contract from Decadent Publishing in February.  The support within the group`s phenomenal. From writing tips, Beta Reading, cooking recipes, social media and just sharing life. All of these women, each with their own stories/lives, still took the time out to give each other a virtual high five and with so many successes this year, it was a love fest.

I`m inspired by this. In an industry which we`re constantly reminded of how saturated it was, there`s no petty jealousies or cattiness when it came to the writing and books. I loved that. And another thing I learned as a side note. Make authentic, genuine connections with people. With the up come of e-publishers who require in their contracts that authors also promote their work, so many authors fall into the trap of pushing themselves on authors who they regard as successful and basically becoming a ‘you know what in you know where’. People will snuff you out if you`re connecting with them or sharing their Tweets/Facebook updates only because you want them to do the same for you. This group, unwittingly, taught me that. I`ve always been someone who rave about the things I love on my social networks and as a young person who were there at the start when social networks were becoming big (yep I`m that old), my social networks are extension of me. Like I recently heard said, social networks are the modern day dairy *laughs* I only share what I like, love, support, find amusing and inspiring. So here`s my deduction about making authentic connections with people in writing groups: if you`d never, ever, write about or mention an author in your ‘dairy’ or even recommend their work to anyone of your friends to read, you have no business ‘hounding’ them over social media *hands in the air” Just saying. Genuine and authentic. Remember those words.

*laughs* I just had to add the last bit of wisdom because you wouldn`t realize how important that is. Authors are the most *cough* temperamental *grin* people I`ve come across. You honestly don`t want to be labelled as a ‘stalker’. I`ve seen that word thrown around on my News Feed a lot this year.

Lastly, my final source of inspiration of the day came from …wait for it…my mother! Yep I`m corny like that. My mom is truly a phenomenal woman and person in her own right. She`s my go to person for business and marketing advice. And of course *cough* when I need advice in general. But she`s been my go to person in regards to the next step to take in the writing world, which books to go ahead with etc. This new year holds so much fresh beginnings in for her. She`s achieved so many successes in the retail industry, achieving Gold Status in Retail amongst other sales awards. She`s just finished her BA degree in Theology and Counselling and got offered a lecturing post at a local church though I don`t think she`ll be taking them up on it since she`s got big plans to put her new degree and business skills to good use. At the age of 56 (her birthday is on the 1st of January!) she`s still moving forward, still striving, working to better herself. She`s disciplined. She`s humble. She`s grateful for the life she`s led so far and looking forward with the excitement of a twenty year old to what lies ahead. I`m inspired. Every day, having a front seat to someone who`s beat the odds from being labelled the ‘black sheep of the family’, not supported, raising three kids (all with more than one degree and qualification behind their names which is a big deal if you consider the history of this country), who allowed life, her life, to be a teacher rather than viewing it as an enemy…how could I not be inspired?

Like I said above today was a day of being inspired. What all of these people mentioned have in common, they were all born to do what they`ve done and are still doing in life. They`ve reached the top level in their fields, but clearly not calling it quits. When you`re born to doing something you`ll never reach a point where you`ll retire from it, I`m thinking of Diane Von Furstenberg now. And with that I want to end this blog post with a favourite quote from hers, one woman`s success is an inspiration to everyone. I`m paraphrasing. I hope this post brings inspiration to make 2015 a year to keep working hard, to stay disciplined and most of all, write like your life depended on it! *laughs*


Here`s why Tyler Perry inspires me…



Imagine going after a dream/vision to the point where you found yourself living out of your car for six years. Tough, right?
Imagine holding on when no one seemed to want to invest in that dream/vision. Being so singularly purposed that you would not let go until you`ve quenched the desire…no, force that propelled you forward in spite of the odds stacked against you.
Now if you`ve seen a couple of shows of Oprah while she still had her talk-show or even viewed one of her episodes on OWN, you`d know she`s a great Tyler Perry supporter. She`s the one who brought his personal story to the forefront and showed the world, it wasn`t just adversity in terms of film making he had to overcome, but also some gritty personal demons. He`s become a spokesperson on child abuse and encouraging men to speak up on molestation. His life story reads like a Pulitzer Prize and all you`re able to do is take your hat off to someone who have done more than merely survive but also made a success of their lives by holding onto an unwavering faith and hope, in God and to see their dreams fulfilled.




Now movie-wise I`m well acquainted with his Madea franchise both in film and on-stage, I love the humour and high-stakes drama and how with his vision, Tyler Perry had filled a gap in the African-American movie market that reached even across the ocean to little old me in SA.
I wondered, if he had given up, threw away all his plays, gave up on a career in the film industry, where would Tyler Perry be right now? (Probably not in his car 🙂 ) If he had let the fire die out, chucked in and adhered to convention, the world would be missing a unique perspective.
As a writer this is important to me. Life stories like Perry`s is significant to me. You`ll find that before you can ‘sell’ your, writing/stories to the world, you first have to ‘sell’ it to yourself.
Recently I bumped into someone, an old colleague, she asked me what I`ve been busy with and I was kind of reluctant to tell her. For some reason I didn`t feel like sharing my writing with her. My mother was with me and like all mothers, she`s extremely proud of her kids achievements *rolls eyes*, so she tells this colleague about my book coming out this month. And when the colleague asked how she could find it, my mother again volunteered details.
I walked away from the experience a little shaken, because 1) her cynicism was obvious even to a blind person 2) I`m not prone to divulging information on my writing to people who`ve not been with me on the writing journey (and even then I tend to not give too much info) and 3) I simply didn`t feel like being judged *smile*
Yeah, people can say what they want but they don`t view ‘author’ as a career unless you`re on a Best Sellers list, success translates money and status, so anything before that, when you`re living in your car for six years you are a…failure. Of course no one would call Tyler Perry that *snort laughs* After all he made it. But what about those who are still transitioning? Who`s still climbing the mountain?
I walked away from the brief encounter wondering why…why again, did I let this wall of cynicism get under my skin. And this was what I came up with. I questioned my choices, career path, especially when others point at the obvious holes.
Someone said to me a couple of months ago, when I showed them the cover of my 1st release, an e-book, she`d only consider the book a ‘real’ book, when she got to hold it in her hands *shakes head* To someone who`ve spent months writing and self-editing, months pitching their book to publishers and then months on gruelling edits with a professional editor, while the rest of the world still went on, believe me, you come out of it knowing you`ve created a real book, no matter what format it first gets released in.
Incidents like this, probably plagued Perry`s life too, people who ignore the hard work and go straight for the jugular for reasons only they know, yet still he persisted, he stood alone on his hill, faced the mountain and decided to climb in spite of them.
I`ve come to this conclusion since facing my questions and hope that it would mean something to an aspiring author.
It`s okay to have doubts, everyone has them. It`s okay to question yourself, all great historians, inventors and leaders have done that. It`s okay to be afraid of your dream/vision because it`s so big, you`re not sure you`d achieve it. It`s okay to agree with ‘the other side’ when they say your book isn`t a ‘real’ book until they can buy it from a bookstore at their local mall, because you also want to see your book in a bookstore at your local mall. It`s okay. It`s -okay.
Everyone questions …it`s called being human.
What I would add is this: Don`t let them…the doubt, the fear, the inability to find answers quickly…take it (your dream) from you. We all have aspirations in life, to kill someone`s because you`re unable to see a way to them, is beyond evil to me (yes there is such a thing).
You`re unique, as cliché as that sounds, you are. Not everyone wants or needs the same things from life. Decide what you can`t live without, decide what you`re willing to endure for what you want in life, the sacrifices you`re willing to make and unapologetically live with them.
And that`s my final words  :)Find your Tyler Perry life story.

Happy writing.