Posts Tagged "women"

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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Sting: Rediscovering the Muse as The Last Ship Sails

Posted by on Jun 28, 2014

 “Some of the largest vessels ever

constructed on the planet were built

right at the end of my street.”


Sting grew up in the shadow of the shipyard, with giant ships rising into the air at the end of his street. Newcastle-Upon-Tyne was at the heart of the British shipbuilding industry.

Sting- The Last Ship

 The Dream

But instead of wanting to follow in the footsteps of generations of Tynesiders whose lives were inextricably linked with the docks and the shipbuilding industry, Sting had a different dream. It was one that grew exponentially with the discovery of a guitar in the attic at the age of 8 . “I was bequeathed a guitar and realised I had found a friend for life.”

 The dream would become his life and Gordon Sumner would become internationally known as the musician Sting, but first he had to turn his back on his roots and travel away. He had no desire to return to the traumatised society he witnessed during the closure of the ship building industry.

 “I believe there’s a symbiotic and intrinsic link between storytelling and community, between community and art, between community and science and technology , between community and economics.

It’s my belief that abstract economic theory that denies the needs of community or denies the contribution that community makes to economy is shortsighted, cruel and untenable”


 The muse Sting chose to follow as a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was one that would bring us such unforgettable songs as   “Roxanne”, “Fields of Gold”, “Message in a bottle”, “Every Breath You Take” and “Englishman in New York”.

 Sting’s astonishing success both as a member of “The Police” and during his solo career, together with his prolific song-writing ability made it particularly difficult for him to come to terms with a long period of “writer’s block” which  stretched into years of self-questioning.

 He eventually acknowledged a need to return to his roots in Newcastle, a decision which was to reunite him with his muse and he has spent the past few years working on a theatrical production called “The Last Ship” – inspired by the demise of the shipbuilding industry in the North East. 

Sting released the album “The Last Ship” in 2013 and the musical production launched its pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago last Wednesday with songwriters Paul Simon, James Taylor and Dennis DeYoung watching from the orchestra seats, according to the review by Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune.

Political Activism

A sense of the injustices caused by corrupted power led Sting along the path of political activism, participating in many of the focal moments in which creative artists have joined forces to raise international awareness of major issues: Band Aid, Live Aid, Feed the World”, Live8 etc.

 His long involvement with Amnesty International which  began with his appearance at the “Secret Policemen’s Other Ball” in 1981 has inspired some of the songs he has written.
“Before that I did not know about Amnesty, I did not know about its work, I did not know about torture in the world” .

 Sting’s song “They Dance Alone”  threw a spotlight on the plight of the mothers, wives and daughters of “The Disappeared” (political opponents killed by the Pinochet regime) in Chile. These women, under constant threat from Pinochet’s infamous death squads, were afraid to voice their opinions publicly but would pin photos of their missing loved ones to their clothing and dance in public places in unspoken outrage.

Dendropsophus Stingi and The Rainforest Foundation

Sting, his wife Trudi and Raoni Metuktire, a Kayapó Indian leader in Brazil, founded the “Rainforest Foundation” to help save the rainforests and protect the rights of the indigenous people living in them.  (In recognition of his “commitment and efforts to save the rain forest”, a species of Colombian tree frog, Dendropsophus stingi, was named after him.)

In addition to 16 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Emmy and several Oscar nominations. Sting has sold nearly 100 million records worldwide, was 62nd on Paste Magazine’s list of 100 Best Living Songwriters, 63rd on VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Rock” and 80th on A magazines “100 Greatest Musical Stars of the 20th Century”

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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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International Womens Day 2014: Inspiring Change

Posted by on Mar 8, 2014

 Every year the United Nations chooses a theme for International Womens Day
This year’s theme is “Inspiring Change” other themes have been:

There have been many changes since the first International Womens Day in 1908, but there is still a long way to go.
Looking at a list of some of the earlier themes chosen by the UN for International Womens Day and noticing how many times “Violence Against Women” occurs is a reminder of how serious that one single problem is. That is before one even starts to look at equal employment rights,  the right to vote, property rights, the right to education, birth control and reproductive rights and many other issues of gender equality and human rights for women.

 – 2013: A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women
– 2012: Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty
– 2011: Equal access to education, training and science and technology
– 2010: Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all
– 2009: Women and men united to end violence against women and girls
– 2008: Investing in Women and Girls
– 2007: Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls
– 2006: Women in decision-making
– 2005: Gender Equality Beyond 2005: Building a More Secure Future
– 2004: Women and HIV/AIDS
– 2003: Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals
– 2002: Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities
– 2001: Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts
– 2000: Women Uniting for Peace
1999: World Free of Violence against Women
– 1998: Women and Human Rights
– 1997: Women at the Peace Table
– 1996: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future
– 1975: United Nations recognizes International Women’s Day

Inspirational Quotations for Women

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” 
– Maya Angelou

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” 
– Anais Nin

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” 
– Mother Teresa

“It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union…. Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.” 
– Susan B. Anthony

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” 
– Diane Mariechild

“Most people who meet my wife quickly conclude that she is remarkable. They are right about this. She is smart, funny and thoroughly charming. Often, after hearing her speak at some function or working with her on a project, people will approach me and say something to the effect of, you know, I think the world of you, Barack, but your wife, wow!” 
Barack Obama, “The Audacity of Hope”

“People think at the end of the day that a man is the only answer (to fulfillment). Actually a job is better for me.” 
– Princess Diana

“It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends.” 
– J. K. Rowling

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 
– Maya Angelou

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” 
– Alice Walker

“Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size.”
– Virginia Woolf

“Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the President’s spouse. I wish him well!”
– Barbara Bush

“The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.”
– Charles Malik

“A world without men would consists of a bunch of fat, happy women with no crime.” 
– Jennifer Love Hewitt

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One Billion Rising: Join V-Day on Valentines Day 2013

Posted by on Jan 23, 2013

What does ONE BILLION look like? On 14 February 2013, it will look like a REVOLUTION.
One In Three Women On The Planet Will Be Raped Or Beaten In Her Lifetime.
One Billion Women Violated Is An Atrocity.
One Billion Women Dancing Is A Revolution.

Join V-Day on

in your community &
Demand an
end to violence


On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, 14 February 2013, we are inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders.

What does ONE BILLION look like? On 14 February 2013, it will look like a REVOLUTION.


A global strike
An invitation to dance
A call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends
An act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers
A refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given
A new time and a new way of being


Eve Ensler is the founder of One Billion Rising

Eve Ensler, Tony Award winning playwright, performer, and activist, is the author of The Vagina Monologues, which has been translated into over 48 languages, performed in over 140 countries, including sold-out runs at both Off-Broadway’s Westside Theater and on London’s West End (2002 Olivier Award nomination, Best Entertainment), and has run for 10 years in Mexico City and Paris.

Over It

By Eve Ensler

I am over rape.

I am over rape culture, rape mentality, rape pages on Facebook.

I am over the thousands of people who signed those pages with their real names without shame.

I am over people demanding their right to rape pages, and calling it freedom of speech or justifying it as a joke.

I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don’t have a sense of humor, and women don’t have a sense of humor, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are really fucking funny. We just don’t think that uninvited penises up our anus, or our vagina is a laugh riot.

I am over how long it seems to take anyone to ever respond to rape.

I am over Facebook taking weeks to take down rape pages.

I am over the hundreds of thousands of women in Congo still waiting for the rapes to end and the rapists to be held accountable.

I am over the thousands of women in Bosnia, Burma, Pakistan, South Africa, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Afghanistan, Libya, you name a place, still waiting for justice.

I am over rape happening in broad daylight.

I am over the 207 clinics in Ecuador supported by the government that are capturing, raping, and torturing lesbians to make them straight.

I am over one in three women in the U.S military (Happy Veterans Day!) getting raped by their so-called “comrades.”

I am over the forces that deny women who have been raped the right to have an abortion.

I am over the fact that after four women came forward with allegations that Herman Cain groped them and grabbed them and humiliated them, he is still running for the President of the United States.

And I’m over CNBC debate host Maria Bartiromo getting booed when she asked him about it. She was booed, not Herman Cain.

Which reminds me, I am so over the students at Penn State who protested the justice system instead of the rapist pedophile of at least 8 boys, or his boss Joe Paterno, who did nothing to protect those children after knowing what was happening to them.

I am over rape victims becoming re-raped when they go public.

I am over starving Somali women being raped at the Dadaab in Kenya, and I am over women getting raped at Occupy Wall Street and being quiet about it because they were protecting a movement which is fighting to end the pillaging and raping of the economy and the earth, as if the rape of their bodies was something separate.

I am over women still being silent about rape, because they are made to believe it’s their fault or they did something to make it happen.

I am over violence against women not being a #1 international priority when one out of three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime – the destruction and muting and undermining of women is the destruction of life itself.

No women, no future, duh.

I am over this rape culture where the privileged with political and physical and economic might, take what and who they want, when they want it, as much as they want, any time they want it.

I am over the endless resurrection of the careers of rapists and sexual exploiters – film directors, world leaders, corporate executives, movie stars, athletes – while the lives of the women they violated are permanently destroyed, often forcing them to live in social and emotional exile.

I am over the passivity of good men. Where the hell are you?

You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren’t you standing with us? Why aren’t you driven to the point of madness and action by the rape and humiliation of us?

I am over years and years of being over rape.

And thinking about rape every day of my life since I was 5 years old.

And getting sick from rape, and depressed from rape, and enraged by rape.

And reading my insanely crowded inbox of rape horror stories every hour of every single day.

I am over being polite about rape. It’s been too long now, we have been too understanding.

We need to OCCUPYRAPE in every school, park, radio, TV station, household, office, factory, refugee camp, military base, back room, night club, alleyway, courtroom, UN office. We need people to truly try and imagine – once and for all – what it feels like to have your body invaded, your mind splintered, your soul shattered. We need you to let our rage and our compassion connect us together so we can change the paradigm of global rape.

There are approximately one billion women on the planet who have been violated.


The time is now. Prepare for the escalation.

Today it begins, moving toward 14 February 2013, when one billion women will rise to end rape.

Because we are over it.


Read Eve Ensler’s open letter to Todd Akin in The Huffington Post 

“Mr. Akin, your words have kept me awake.

As a rape survivor, I am reeling from your recent statement where you said you misspoke when you said that women do not get pregnant from legitimate rape, and that you were speaking “off the cuff.”

Clarification. You didn’t make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP.

You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.”

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