It’s taken these surreal times for me to appreciate the outstanding locations and crowded book launches I’ve enjoyed. The most special was the launch of Oxford Castaways in the Cast Gallery of the Ashmolean which Sir Roger Bannister wound up, with appropriately, statues of ancient Greek athletes behind him.
OC3 was in the superb Maths Institute and was compered by Roger’s daughter Charlotte .
Brushstrokes in Time was launched in Blackwell’s – below my friend the best selling Italian author Simonetta Agnello Hornby who I met when we both moved to Kennington as young mothers. Seen here with Justin who lived with her for a while when he was at UCL.
and Sculpting the Elephant in the Jam Factory – which is the name Gill Hedge and I gave Coopers Oxford Marmalade Factory when we ran an art and antiques centre there. Can you see Legs Larry Smith, Dwina Gibb, Katlin and John Matthews , Ray Foulk , James and Joanna Harrison?
My family and villagers mostly came to Kennington Village Centre where we had an Indian evening with food, film , dance and music and Weimin He sketched and compered by Korky Paul.
Poems in an Exhibition was in the room which was the oldest library in Oxford in St Mary’s, with this amazing view from the window.
Yesterday Nancy Mudenyo Hunt and I held copies of Not so Black and White but in these surreal times we cannot look forward to the exciting fundraising launches ( for the Nasio Trust) we had planned.For now The best we can do is offer to take part in zoom Q&As for book groups , libraries and community groups . If you are interested please let me, Nancy or the Nasio Trust know .
REV’D CHARLOTTE BANNISTER-PARKER
(Associate Chaplain to the Bishop of Oxford, Associate Minister, The University Church, Visiting Research Fellow, St Benets, Oxford.)
‘Not so Black and White’ looks at the cross-cultural life of an inspiring young woman Precious, caught between two worlds of the UK and Kenya. The authors manage to weave these worlds together in a proactive way that challenges the reader to take a fresh look at critical issues that are of huge importance in our world today. From gang violence and racial tension in London to arranged marriages, girl child education, and tribal expectations in Kenya. An uplifting and captivating read.
Thanks to Petya Tsankova for the fabulous book cover!
I’ve had Whats App calls with my fellow author of Not So Black and White . Nancy is working hard to find shelter and food for families made homeless because of the severe flooding in Western Kenya . While ‘Not So Black and White’ is fiction and the main character Precious Mukosi is a work of our imagination, the authenticity of the novel is down to Nancy’s life experiences both in Kenya and in the UK .There is no doubt in my mind that she deserved the NatWest 2015 Award for Most Inspirational Woman! (pic)
We have decided to self- publish our novel through OxfordeBooks in June so the income from the sales @ £2.99 can go to the Nasio Trust. Any additional income stream is welcome because charities cannot mount fundraising events. My desire is that more people will come to know about Nancy Mudenyo Hunt and the Nasio Trust and hopefully be moved by our novel.
See below to understand why she was given that MOST INSPIRATIONAL WOMAN award.!
Nancy Mudenyo Hunt.
Nancy Mudenyo Hunt is an inspirational leader who impacts on the lives of so many people. Her way of thinking and responding to problems, and challenging those who say it can’t be done, breaks through boundaries to meet a need.
Nancy was born and grew up in a small village called Musanda in western Kenya, the 13th child of the Chief’s first wife. Those early life experiences gave her insight and empathy.
Having had a successful career as a leadership trainer for senior police officers and then running her own training consultancy, she gave that up to tackle the plight of orphaned and disadvantaged children in western Kenya. All aspects of a vulnerable child’s life are covered, supporting their emotional, physical and psycho-social development through access to education, emotional support, advocacy, food security, health and welfare service. Through supporting children in their communities, rather than in orphanages, they are enabled to reach their full potential and able to support themselves, their families and their community. The projects are geared towards breaking the cycle of poverty. Some of the earliest beneficiaries have graduated – a previously unheard of achievement from their background. Two exceptional students have been given scholarships to study in the USA.
Nancy’s leadership has had a profound impact in this area of high poverty levels. Not only has she set up the infrastructure to support the health and educational needs of children, she had the vision to build a medical centre in this remote rural area. This facility now treats 10,000 patients a year and provides maternity support for the delivery of around 50 babies a month and provides immunisations to keep them safe.
While working for Thames Valley Police a programme to help young people who had lost direction was born. Nancy, with police colleagues, developed a unique programme culminating in volunteering at the Nasio projects in Kenya. This life-changing programme has taken over 200 young people from South Oxfordshire to Kenya, many of whom were disadvantaged or otherwise vulnerable. The connection between two very different communities had a profound effect on the young people, discovering how communities with little material wealth are rich is other ways, changing their lives for good. Nancy, has just written a novel ‘Not so Black and White’with me. It is inspired by her life experiences in the UK and western Kenya in transforming lives. It draws out the common humanity that lies beyond differences of nationality, culture, race or class and is aimed to cast light on issues that affect many young people today.
Another example of how Nancy thinks is the Spirulina project – a solution to feeding malnourished children with a healthy diet and provide a sustainable income for women. The potential to scale the project across East Africa to provide income and improve health is being now being developed with interested partners.
Nancy’s commitment to help people is further demonstrated by her support in Oldonyosambu, Tanzania. She discovered children were being born with severe abnormalities due to excessive fluoride in the water, a problem first identified in the 1960s. She visited the community, identified their needs and organised funding and installation of rainwater collection tanks to allow children to drink safe water while a longer-term solution is found.
Nancy has also been instrumental in persuading central government to build a technical college for 1,000 students which is giving further opportunities to this neglected community to find their route out of poverty.
Other initiatives include providing Peer Educators for sexual health for young people across the county, partnering with One Acre Fund to provide food security for 1,000 subsistence farmers, eradicating jiggers and establishing a programme to give additional support to exceptional students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Currently Nancy is in Kenya and has taken the initiative (to fill a gap left by the Kenyan authorities) to set up and lead a team of 1,000 Peer Educators and local government workers to sensitise the communities on Covid-19 and how to keep safe. The community has now been hit with floods resulting in 68 families losing their homes, their crops and their livestock. They are in temporary accommodation in a primary school. She has raised £50,000 to provide food, clothing and essential items for those whose homes and small incomes have disappeared and is now turning to rebuilding their lives.
These videos will give you a flavour of what Nasio does and the personality of Nancy.
I’ve just sent this 600 word feature to James Harrison for the www.oxfordindiebookfair.co.uk booklet. As well as exhibitor lists, plans of the building and the events program the free oxib booklet will have a super variety of book and creativity related features . I have just sent off my contribution . I could have called it JUST DO IT!
SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER by Sylvia Vetta
I don’t want to discourage you but to warn you that it won’t be easy and you’ll need determination and to make sacrifices unless you have a private income. In my second published novel Sculpting the Elephant, Harry King is a young artist who, like most of us, needs to earn a living so he opens a shop in Walton Street, Oxford called Decorator’s where he sells C20th design and his own work. My advice in other words to would-be artists, writers and actors is clichéd but holds true: “Have a second string to your bow.”
Many artists also teach or do graphic design. When I was in the antiques trade I met some actors who traded to secure an income when they were ‘resting’. I know actors, writers and artists who often work on cruise ship giving talks and workshops to supplement their income (nice work if you can get it).
Back in the day I was privileged to interview Colin Dexter the author of the successful Inspector Morse books. As he told me his story I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing so I asked Colin ‘Have I understood correctly – you wrote nearly all the Morse novels while you were working full time at the Oxford Delegacy [for school examinations]?’
He replied in the affirmative so I asked him,
‘How did you do it?’
‘It was like this. I came home from work, had supper, listened to [Radio 4’s] The Archers, went to the pub for pint or two and worked out that if I then wrote a page a day after 365 days I had written a book,’ said Colin. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a Dorothy (his wife) to get supper ready on the table after work… but the thought is a good one.
I was a passionate reader from the day I joined Luton Library aged seven. My background was such that I couldn’t imagine myself becoming a writer and maybe that was fortunate. I got a lot of life experience before I started writing seriously. When I was director of Oxford Antiques Centre at the Jam Factory, The Oxford Times gave me my first opportunity to write professionally and I was soon writing for four magazines. When I stopped trading in 2005 I was able to devote myself to writing fulltime because our mortgage was paid and our children grown up so I could be free! I studied on the Diploma in Creative Writing Course at Oxford and that gave me the confidence that I could write fiction. The wonderful Jenny Lewis who will perform at the Oxford Indie Book Fair also instilled a belief that I could write poetry. A good writing course helps .It makes you write outside your comfort zone.
I was fortunate, having written for newspapers and magazines, because I became aware that once your copy has left your computer the editor will do what he or she likes with it—often adapting it to fit their readership… but occasionally I did sigh. Then I shrugged my shoulders because I learned not to be precious about my words. When Claret Press offered to publish my first novel Brushstrokes in Time, I discovered that Katie Isbester is a fine editor. She has since told me that I am easy to work with. So my advice is be open minded, listen to advice and be prepared to change your work drastically if necessary.
There were equally talented students on my Diploma Course who could write like a dream, but they haven’t been published and I have. Why? I write and write and write. Basically you have to do it. If you have a great idea and a passion to write it down—do it.
Best of Luck!
PS Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (Bloomsbury £25) is useful to own or to refer to in your local library.
Yesterday Ray Foulk, James Harrison, Andy Severn and I celebrated the launch of the first Oxford Indie Book Fair which will take place April 4 10.30am -5pm @ Wesley Memorial Halls New Inn Hall Street Oxford. (next to St Peter’s College)
Oxford is blessed with an internationally celebrated literary festival which runs from 27 March to April 5 .The Financial Times sponsored festival is now in its twenty fourth year and locals have noticed it grow and change. The line-ups for the festival tend to be famous established authors, media celebrities and politicians and so the tickets have inevitably risen in price.
Oxford is a major city of arts and letters, renowned for writing and publishing and we felt it is time for the ever-growing indie sector to have a stronger voice. If the Oxford Indie Book Fair on April 4 is a success we see it as a spring board to a fringe festival next year. The event itself is not only about selling books although there will be 40 exhibitors, it will include performance art, performance poetry, as well as a fascinating diversity of talks.
Joanna Harrison the director of Going on a Bear Hunt and the script writer for the latest Channel 4 Christmas film The Tiger who Came to Tea will give a presentation on animation. The ever popular Korky Paul will present Magic Moments with Winnie and Wilbur to under 8s. The aim is to have something for everyone of all ages and backgrounds. Go to https://www.oxfordindiebookfair.co.uk and click on What’s On. I’ll be talking about why mixed relationships inspired Sculpting the Elephant.
We are working on a logo. Here is one idea? Opinions welcome . Oxfordfolio published Bill Heine’s book Hunting the Shark . I sent Bill Heine the owner and John Buckley the artist who made it to Oxtopia and like Picasso’s Desmoiselles d ‘Avignon its was pretty radical at the time so I think it is appropriate. OxfordIndieBookFair Logo 3
Food will be provided by Puks and they will donate 10% of the profits to Asylum Welcome. It is one of the chosen charities of Lord Mayor of Oxford Cllr Craig Simmon’s who the organisers are delighted has agreed to open the event. The Oxford Mail has just flagged up the event and used a pic they used of me in a previous article.
Wesley Memorial Hall (next to St Peter’s College in New Inn Hall Street) Oxford.
The Lord Mayor of Oxford will open the 45 exhibitor fair which has a full programme of workshops, performances and talks – all free admission
They will include a workshop with world famous illustrator Korky Paul and ‘Animation’ presentation by Joanna Harrison of ‘The Snowman and the Snow Dog’ , ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ and ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea.’
Sylvia will talk about ‘Mixed Relationships and how they inspired Sculpting the Elephant .’@ 3pm
12.30 –12.50pm: Launch of ‘Around the World by Land, Sea and Air ’by Michael Harry.( Anglepoise) In conversation with film maker Richard Scrase on experiences on the Trans- Siberian railway .
1.0-pm – 1. 20: Performance poetry by Euton Daley ‘The Politics of Love’
1. 25 -1.45 Jenny Lewis and Adnan Al Sayegh will perform accompanied by music and dance with Confluence Collective
1.55 – 2.15. Lapa Performance Artists. Text in Performance Art – followed by more performances outside weather permitting.
The full programme will be published in late February .
Drawing on my experience – from which I created my novel Sculpting the Elephant – l’ll explore the dilemmas of identity in mixed- race relationships. Doors open at Abingdon Library at 7 pm on Thursday 21 November for Bombay Sapphire and Pakoras and a taste of England too . My talk starts at 7.30. All welcome .
Abingdon Library: The Charter, Abingdon. OX14 3LY Tel: 01235 520374
Thursday Nov 21 7 for 7.30: Tickets available on door £2 include Anglo/Indian refreshments.
Signing and Selling at Kennington Book Fair (Kennington Village Centre) Saturday Nov 30 10 am-1
Green Fair Oxford (with Oxfordfolio) @ Oxford Town Hall Sunday Dec 1 from 10am-4 pm.
I gave a similar talk at McGill University (Montreal) on October 30. Among the audience was a distinguished Professor of Computing. His 60th birthday was honoured by his research community with a three-day symposium, called Prakash Fest, held at Oxford University. Kerelan born Prakash made a comment that made me realise that I had got the character of Ramma right in Sculpting the Elephant. He said Ramma going alone to Oxford is rare. An Indian PhD student at McGill insisted to him, ‘I am here by myself for myself. I am not a wife!’ He said that was unusual because most female masters students accompany their husbands. I wanted Ramma to be a strong and independent woman but for readers to realise that was harder for her than for most Western women. I wanted Ramma to be like his PHD student!
Caroline Foulk – co- author of Picasso’s Revenge has just finished reading it and says
‘Sculpting the Elephant is a joy and the story is a unique gateway to Anglo-Indian culture – such an interesting flashpoint of cultures, and so rich with a sense of art and history. It reminded me of my joy for stories such as Jewel in the Crown. I hope I managed to capture my enthusiasm for it.’
Feed back about this talk from the fundraiser at Watlington Library CHAIRMAN OF TRUSTEES Dr Anna Tilley
The Friends of Watlington Library were delighted to welcome back accomplished local author Sylvia Vetta last week to talk about her recently published second novel, Sculpting the Elephant, an engaging love story set across two different cultures. Inspired by her own personal knowledge of marrying her Indian husband in 1960’s Britain and the challenges they faced, Sylvia pitched her talk around the very topical issue of Mixed- Race relationships, whilst deftly interweaving the creation of her two protagonists into her words. Sylvia is an eloquent and assured speaker and spoke movingly about her own experiences; a topic that is increasingly relevant in our multicultural society. Her talk was extremely personable and whilst offering an intimate insight into an important relevant issue, was entertaining and excellently pitched and provoked a number of questions from the floor and a real interest in reading what is a wonderful novel.
This was a second visit, following her talk on Brushstrokes in Time, a talk and book that were also extremely well received, and we look forward to hearing her speak on her next novel.