Posts Tagged "author"

Joanne Harris: Changing The World One Story at a Time

Posted by on Jul 12, 2014

  “You don’t write because

someone sets assignments!

You write because you need to write,

or because you hope someone will listen

or because writing will mend something

broken inside you or

bring something back to life.” 

Blackberry Wine

Author Joanne Harris describes the Butterfly Effect of a story she once read in a dentist’s waiting room, which would help save lives decades later, half way across the world.

She  has always had a particular interest in the power of words, having been brought up with French as a first language among a Yorkshire family who spoke no French and a Breton family who spoke no English.  

She considers the inconsistencies in the ways we are taught to regard the power of words, and the power of story telling in our lives. She also shares shares the wisest thing she has ever been told.

Joanne achieved world wide recognition with her third novel, the award-winning Chocolat which translated into the hugely popular film starting Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. Since then, all her books have been best sellers in the UK.

Joanne Harris is a patron of the charities Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and Plan UK, and has travelled to Togo and to the Congo to report on their work. An account of her visit to the Congo was published in Writing on the Edge, a collection of essays by noted literary figures, with photographs by Tom Craig, in 2010. She has also donated short stories to a number of charity anthologies, notably Piggybank Kids, the Woodland Trust, the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition and Breast Cancer UK.

In 2013 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. 


Stories featured in the following anthologies:

  • Magic (2002)A collection of stories in aid of Piggybank Kids.
  • Bosom Buddies (2003)A collection of stories in aid of Breast Cancer UK.
  • Journey to the Sea (2005)A collection of stories in aid of Piggybank Kids.
  • Mums – a Celebration of Motherhood (2006)A collection of stories in aid of Piggybank Kids.
  • Dads – a Celebration of Fatherhood (2007)A collection in aid of Piggybank Kids.
  • In Bed With… (2009)A collection of erotic stories by well-known female writers.
  • Because I am A Girl (2010)Charity anthology in aid of Plan UK.
  • Stories (2010) A collection of fantasy tales, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio.
  • Writing on the Edge (2010): A collection of eyewitness

Awards and Honours

Harris’ books are now published in over fifty countries and have won a number of UK and international awards, including:

  • Chocolat: Creative Freedom Award (2000); Whittaker Gold Award (2001). Shortlisted: Whitbread Novel of the Year Award (2000), Scripter Award (2001); film version nominated for 8 BAFTAs and 5 Oscars.[7] Whittaker Platinum Award(2012).
  • Blackberry Wine: 2000 Winner of both the Foreign and International categories of the Salon du Livre Gourmand (France).
  • Five Quarters of the Orange: Shortlisted: 2002 RNA Novel of the Year; Author of the Year 2002; WHSmith Award 2002 (UK).
  • The French Kitchen: (a cookbook with Fran Warde): 2005 Winner of the Golden Ladle for Best Recipe Book (softcover) in the World Food Media Awards.[8]
  • Gentlemen & Players: Shortlisted for the Edgar Award, 2007 (USA)[7] and the Grand Prix du Polar de Cognac (France).[9]
  • Flavours of Childhood: (a piece co-written for the Radio 4 series First Taste with poet Sean o’Brien) Winner of the Glenfiddich Award, 2006.[10]

In 2004, she was a judge for the Whitbread Prize (now the Costa), and in 2005, was a judge for the Orange Prize.[11]

In 2013 she was on the judging panel of the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science [12] and chaired the Desmond Elliott Prize.[13]

She is the holder of honorary doctorates in literature from the University of Huddersfield and the University of Sheffield, and is an Honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge.


She works from a shed in her back garden [15] and is active on Twitter, where she is known as @joannechocolat, and tumblr, ( ) which she uses, along with her website’s message board, to answer questions from her fans. She is married, and lives in Yorkshire with her husband Kevin and daughter Anouchka.

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Why is it Always Four in the Morning?

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014

If Aliens were to float around examining our culture for a while, they may well decide that four in the morning has a special significance in our culture. It might take them longer to figure out why.

Rives - Four o Clock in the Morning - Calvin and Hobbes exampleWhich is what American performance poet, storyteller and author, John G. Rives discovered after reading a poem which he couldn’t get out of his head.

Most of us have had that experience but this one was so convincing that what began as a minor obsession ended up as the creation of the Museum of Four in the Morning…

If you doubt the significance, watch the TED Talk presentation.

If you know why this phenomenon exists, please post your wisdom on the forums.

Museum of four in the Morning


 Rives - Four o Clock in the Morning - Comic book examples

In an earlier appearance at TED Talks, Rives performed one of his poems, sharing what it would be like…

If I Controlled the Internet

If I controlled the internet
You could auction your broken heart
on Ebay…

Presentations by Rives at TED  include

  • “If I controlled the Internet”
  • “A mockingbird remix of TED2006”
  • “The 4 a.m. mystery”
  • “A story of mixed emoticons”
  • “Reinventing the encyclopedia game”
  • “The Museum of Four in the Morning”

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Maya Angelou: The Song Bird Flies

Posted by on May 28, 2014

I’ve learned that people will forget

what you said,

people will forget what you did,

but people will never forget

how you made them feel.

— Maya Angelou —


Maya Angelou, a voice that inspired generations through powerful prose and poetry and the light of a fiery and shining soul, has died at the age of 86. 

Like thousands of others, I discovered the power of  Maya Angelou’s writing when I came across  the book “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” – seven words that I couldn’t get out of my head, and never left my heart. Why would someone put something as beautiful and free as a bird into a cage? And why would a caged bird choose to sing?

Three year old Maya and her brother Bailey Junior were sent  to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas after their parents divorce. Maya spent 10 years discovering what it was like to grow up in one of America’s poorest regions with all the prejudice and racial segregation of the Deep South (such as the white dentist who refused to treat Maya’s rotting teeth, even when reminded by her grandmother that she had lent him money during the Depression).

Maya was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St Louis, Missouri on 4 April 1928 and the name Maya originated from her brother’s way of saying “My-a sister”.

The Silent Voice
At the age of 7, when visiting her mother in St Louis, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. When she told her family what had happened, the man was arrested, tried and released, but was murdered shortly afterwards. For the next five years, Maya Angelou didn’t speak:

“When I heard about his murder, I thought my voice had killed a man and so it wasn’t safe to speak.
“After a while, I no longer knew why I didn’t speak, I simply didn’t speak.”

During her silence, she read incessantly and was eventually persuaded to speak again by Mrs. Bertha Flowers, “the aristocrat of Black Stamps” who encouraged her reading, and recognising her love of poetry told her that to be fully experienced, poetry had to be read aloud. “You will never love poetry until you actually feel it come across your tongue, through your teeth, over your lips.”



Maya Angelou went on to have an extraordinary career which she writes about in her books, including becoming San Francisco’s first female cable car conductor at 15, the experience of being a young mother at 16, time as a dancer, waitress, prostitute, actor and singer, travelling around Europe and Africa with the Opera Porgy and Bess, her involvement with the civil rights movement, working with both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and experiencing the trauma of both their assassinations – King was killed on her birthday.

She writes of falling in love with South African civil rights activist Vusuma Make and moving to Cairo with him, practicing as a journalist in Egypt and later in Ghana during the time of decolonisation, her son’s car accident and the years after her return to the US in 1965 and her decision to start writing “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”.

Other autobiographical books that followed the Caged Bird include
“Gather Together in My Name “(1974),
“Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas” (1976),
“The Heart of a Woman” (1981),
“All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes” (1986), 
“A Song Flung Up to Heaven” (2002), and
“Mom & Me & Mom” (2013, at the age of 85).

Maya Angelou used the same “writing ritual” for many years and described her writing process as regimented.

The Ritual involved getting up at five in the morning and booking into a hotel room where the staff have been instructed to remove all pictures from the walls. She has a bottle of sherry, a deck of playing cards, a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus and the Bible, and she writes on legal pads.

She places herself back in the time she is writing about, even when traumatic and plays solitaire she says to reach a place of enchantment and access her memories more effectively. “It may take an hour to get into it, but once I’m in it—ha! It’s so delicious!”. It is not the process which she finds cathartic but rather the relief that she finds in “telling the truth”.

“I try to get there around seven, and work until around two in the afternoon … Maybe after dinner I’ll read to [my husband, Paul du Feu] what I have written that day. He doesn’t comment. I don’t invite comments from anybody but my editor.”

Angelou has credited African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar along with Shakespeare for inspiring her “writing ambition” and the title of her first book comes from Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy.”

I know why

the caged bird sings, ah me,

When his wing is bruised

and his bosom sore,

When he beats his bars

and would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

But a prayer that he sends

from his heart’s deep core,

But a plea, that upward

to Heaven he flings –

I know why

the caged bird sings.

— Paul Laurence Dunbar —





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The Girl With No Name

Posted by on Apr 11, 2013

Marina Chapman is a British housewife living in Bradford in Yorkshire and is married to a church organist. This doesn’t sound  particularly unusual but her life story is anything but normal.

Chapman says that she was kidnapped in Columbia at the age of 5, presumably for ransom and later abandoned in a remote village and left for dead in the middle of the jungle.

She was adopted by a troupe of Capuchin monkeys who fed her and helped her to adjust to their lifestyle. She spotted the monkeys in the jungle and started eating their discarded fruit and nuts, eventually forgetting her parents and even her own name.

She spent about five years with the monkeys before being found by hunters and sold into human slavery to a brothel in Cucuta in exchange for a parrot

Her feral instincts helped her to escape from this and live as a street kid, before being adopted by a loving family in Bogota as a teenager and giving herself the name of Marina.

View the Book – UK
The Girl with No Name: The Incredible True Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys

View the Book – USA
The Girl With No Name: The Incredible True Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys

Andrew Lounie, the book’s agent says:

“She was confronted by about twenty curious capuchin monkeys,”
By following them and copying what they ate and drank, their social activities, their language, Marina gradually became part of the family for five extraordinary years. They fought, played and shared tender and terrifying experiences. Marina developed extraordinary super-human abilities such as tree-climbing, stealth and animal communication.”

Once while living with the monkeys, she ate too many of a certain type of berry and became very ill with stomach cramps and nausea. She thought one of the monkeys was trying to kill her because it took her down to the river and kept pushing her head into the water.

She says she looked into the eyes of the monkey and knew it wasn’t a bad monkey. She then started drinking the water which helped her to vomit out the poison and flush out her system.

She made a trip to Britain in her mid-twenties with a family that employed her and while in Britain, met her husband John at a church in Bradford. They married and have two children.

“When we wanted food, we’d have to make noises for it,” her daughter said “All my school friends loved Mum as she was so unusual. She was childlike, too, in many ways.

Her daughters said the story made sense “When you are raised by her, you just find it normal.’

The daughters considered giving their mother a lie detector test, but instead they went to Colombia to try to verify her story. They say they tracked down locations and found people whom they claim corroborated their mother’s story outside the jungle.

“Mom seemed more excited about finding her monkey family,’’ Joanna Chapman explained. “She’s learned recently that monkeys can live up to 55 years, and she’s recently gone, ‘They might be alive, I might find the one.’”

“There’s no evidence she’s lying,’ according to Douglas Candland, a professor of psychology at Bucknell University specializing in feral children “What happens over time is of course the more you tell the story, some aspects of it get sharper, and some get forgotten.”

The Girl With No Name has been serialised in theMail on Sunday and The Sun. Numerous other papers and broadcasters have picked up on it including BBC Breakfast TV (10 April), Victoria Derbyshire, Radio 5 (10 April), Newsround, CBBC(10 April), This Morning, ITV (11 April), Saturday Live, Radio 4 (13 April) and first press interview The Guardian Weekend (13 April)

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Make Good Art: Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Address

Posted by on Feb 11, 2013

 When things get tough, this is what you should do:  Make good art.  

I’m serious.       Husband runs off with a politician — make good art.      

Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art.      

 IRS on your trail — make good art.      Cat exploded — make good art.      

 Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before    — make good art.

— Neil Gaiman —


Above: Neil Gaiman giving his commencement address at the University of the Arts Class of 2012

We’re moving into a New Galaxy in which we have the ability to discover the realm of the Legendary Beings – the RainbowZebra.

It is very appropriate that the people that have the privilege of opening the doors to the new realm are all those that keep the spirit of Creation alive within – and express it in their lives. The Artists, the Writers, the Musicians, the Storytellers, the Dancers, the Architects and all those that love the Creative Spirit.

One person who has kept this creative spirit alive more than most, is Neil Gaiman and in this video he shares some good advice for anyone interested in following the creative path.

Neil Gaiman started reading at four and always wanted to be a writer

His commencement address at the University of the Arts Class of 2012 is a classic. The author, who admits he never had a career path planned out, says he just had always made sure he was heading in the right direction to get to the “mountain” in the distance in his mind, that he wanted to “climb”.

Addressing the appreciative audience Gaiman says he just left school and started writing…and continued to write as a journalist, novelist, poet and graphic novelist most famous perhaps for his series of Graphic Novels: Sandman

If you wonder whether this strategy paid off for him, use the link to view a bibliography of his work, and scroll through the list of awards he has received, below.

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