Tag Archives: NoViolet Bulawayo

NoViolet Bulawayo wins 2014 Zora Neale Hurston/ Richard Wright Legacy Award


 NoViolet Bulawayo inner magazine page

In my last post, 13 Lessons I Learned From Blogging, a few hours ago I described NoViolet Bulawayo as “one of the hottest literary talents to come out of Zimbabwe.” It might have sounded hyperbolic, but she reinforced my observations by clinching the 2014 Zora Neale Hurston/ Richard Wright Legacy Award for her awesome fictional debut, We Need New Names

She received the prestigous 2014 Hurston/ Wright Legacy Award for fiction on Friday at the Carnegie Library in Northwest Washington.

This award is a fitting reward for a young literary star on the rise. Her debut novel has taken the world by storm and caused such a sensation, I can only imagine what her future work will do.

Inner pages on an article on NoViolet Bulawayo

An article, on NoViolet Bulawayo talking about her craft, I stumbled on in the New Books magazine in my local library and I took the pictures. Little did I know I would be using them in this article.

The award is a literary prize awarded by the National Community of  Black Writers. It is the first of its kind to be awarded to black American writers. Richard Wright (Black Boy and Native Son) and Zora Neale Hurston, the awards namesakes, are two of the most influential black American authors.

I first heard of NoViolet Bulawayo when I started writing for the South African Newspaper in London.

In fact, her short story, Hitting Budapest (the first chapter), an extract from her debut, was nominated for the Caine Prize in African Writing in 2011.

My very first assignment was to interview her with regards to that nomination. We were both just beginning our respective journeys and I was humbled and inspired by her humble and focussed approach.

I have watched her rise. She is a phenomenal woman and sister. She is unpretentious. She has an aura and cool, calm collected-ness and confidence that comes with people who are blessed with talent, humility and drive.

She is not a diva. Considering her accomplishments, you could forgive her. But she has remained grounded and approachable and in touch with her humble roots which she has used as a launching pad to dizzing heights. Only she knows where she is in orbit with the Stars.

She went on to win the coveted Caine Prize in African writing that year and has soared to greater heights since then, racking up a host of nominations and awards, including the Man Booker Prize 2013 the Guardian First Book Award, the Pen Hemingway Award, LA Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award, the Etisalat Prize for Literature and ultimately the 2014 Zora Neale Hurston/ Richard Wright Legacy Award.

She has been recognised by various prestigious publications and organisations. The list is too long to mention individually.

NoViolet Bulawayo FC

NoViolet Bulawayo, one of Zimbabwe’s best intellectual exports, a rising star on the literature scene. I stumbled upon this magazine in my local library.

NoViolet Bulawayo has come a long way since I first interviewed her in 2011, reviewed her debut, wrote an essay about her for my publishing module and chatted to her numerous times. She is a true inspiration for our generation.

Over the years, I have chatted to her on a range of subjects and she is an exceptional person, very grounded, polite and giving.

During those conversations she was always encouraging and pushing me to publish my book and sharing advice. I was flattered she recognised my talent without ever getting to read my work. She is such a giving person.

I got to know her “almost” as a friend. And I am so happy for her success in the way I’d be proud of my own sister or kinswoman who had achieved some phenomenal success.

Her coup is spectacular considering the strength of the other nominees and finalists in the fiction category. Some of them are legends by right and some are accomplished writers with several novels to their names. They are:

  • Every Boy Should Have A Man by Preston L. Allen (Akashic);
  • The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson (Bloomsbury);
  • See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid (Farrar, Straus & Giroux);
  • The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (Penguin);
  • The Gospel According to Cane by Courttia Newland (Akashic).

Previous winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Uwem Akpan, Aminatta Forna, Kwame Dawes and Junot Diaz. NoViolet Bulawayo is in distinguished literary company and all the names above put her win into context.

I can imagine women ululating and dancing within Zimbabwe and the Diaspora at the literary success of one of her most distinguished daughters of the soil. I say makorokoto, amhlope, congratulations sister. You gone and done us proud.

Front Cover of We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

The award winning debut, We Need New Names, by Zimbabwean Literary sensation NoViolet Bulawayo.

You can read, Hitting Budapest, an extract from NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut novel We Need New Names here. I recommend you get your copy from Amazon, the library or any of your local booksellers. It is a great read. Trust me on this one. You won’t regret it.

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13 Lessons I Learned From Blogging


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I started blogging late in life and like Cato [Censorius]  the Censor I am learning in my old age. I have picked up a few things, 13 to be precise, and I thought it would be a good idea to share my experience with you. The order below is random.

1] Write What You Know: It is the golden rule every student of creative writing is taught from day one. It applies to blogging as well. Writing what you know makes it easier to write about that subject.

It will flow better. Your authority and and knowledge will shine. Your passion will tell and your readers will feel it. You will succeed at it because you are doing something that you love and you are passionate about.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about what you don’t know. If you do, do your research before you write. Bloggers like journalists can do their research or interview experts and can become instant authorities on subjects they know little of prior to taking it on.

Challenge yourself!

2] Content Rules: Never publish sub-standard content. It must be well written, researched, structured, entertaining or engaging. Good content keeps readers coming back for more. Good content makes the audience share. Good content makes readers appreciate the effort you put in.

It makes them trust you. An article riddled with poor spelling or grammar looks bad. It is amateurish and if you can’t get the small details right, people won’t trust you with the bigger details such as facts or trust your opinion.

3] Be You: Alternatively, keep it real. Don’t try to be what you are not. Readers are intelligent and they can smell a fake. If you are true to yourself, your writing will come pouring out of you. Your voice will speak for itself.

I have heard of writers worrying or struggling to find their voice. They struggle because they are trying to be what they are not. Write as you speak and your personality will shine. Your voice will sound distinct and authentic.

4] Trust Yourself: I started blogging late because I wasn’t confident anyone would read what I wrote. My creative writing teacher encouraged me to blog but I couldn’t do it.

I was very conscious of my self and didn’ want people psychoanalysing me. I talked about these concerns in my very first post Yeah, I think a lot about shit.

Throwing myself into blogging excorsised my demons. I didn’t exactly know what I was going to write about but I shouldn’t have worried. The ideas and inspiration found me.

Other opportunities came from people who read my blog. Some articles are inspired. You wake up and they are just on your mind and they basically write themselves.

So, never doubt your talent or yourself. Trust yourself. Be confident. Once you get going, things happen as if they were ordained to, and the pieces come together like a jigsaw puzzle when you need them.

It reminds me of that quote often attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans. That the moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

5] Know Your audience: When I write fiction, I find it hard to picture my readers. I struggle in this respect.

However, the opposite is true when I write nonfiction for newspapers or online publications. I know who the reader is which makes it easier.

Overtime, I have evolved a sense of who my readers are on my blog. I can see their gravatars or pictures. I read their comments. and feedback. I communicate with them. This is  helpful. Slowly but surely, I am getting to know their tastes.

In addition, I also know that there are different audiences for different articles. There are posts that mainly appeal to other bloggers, poets or lovers of writing or books because they deal with writing. These are totally different to what other readers like who love political cum historical articles.

Some leave niche subjects. No two readers are the same.

You need to understand what your audience loves to read. The stats provided by the blog host will help you in that respect as illustrated below and show you what readers want.

Find topics that appeal to them and give them what they want. Don’t confine them to your own interests. Keep your eye on the stats!

Blog tags and categories

Breakdown of views per post or tags.

6] Love of Research and Writing: Blogging has reaffirmed that I love writing and researching. It gives me the freedom to broaden my horizons and an opportunity to indulge in what I love most.

It is rewarding. It is fun.

As much as I write about what I know, I back it up with research to cover any doubts and to doublecheck facts. I guess its a habit that comes from my background writing for newspapers and other online mediums.

My blogging has rejuvenated my fiction work and I am back to finishing my historical fiction novel. The two mutually feed off each other.

You can spring surprises on your readers and introduce them to something they might not know such as introducing new or rising stars on the arts scene as illustrated on the front cover of this magazine I stumbled on in my local library introducing, NoViolet Bulawayo, one of the hottest literary talents to come out of Zimbabwe.

NoViolet Bulawayo FC

NoViolet Bulawayo, one of Zimbabwe’s best intellectual exports, a rising star on the literature scene. I stumbled upon this magazine in my local library.

7] Continous Learning and Self Improvement: The internet is never stationary. It is always evolving. Blogging is always evolving too and it provides the opportunity for continous learning and self improvement.

The more you write and research, the wider and rounded your learning experience becomes. Research often opens up avenues and doors that you could never have imagined.

Apart from discovering interesting facts, this is a mine-full of inspiration and ideas to blog about or write a full fiction or nonfiction account.

I am learning more about HTML and WordPress and the functions and features I can add to my blogs to make them more interactive. There are still a host of features I am learning about and haven’t got round to utilising them yet.

Maybe if you are a tech whiz, give me a shout out. Let me know how you think I can improve my blog.

Working with WordPress has also improved my knowledge of content management systems and all this experience is and will come in handy in other areas of my personal or professional career.

8] Do What Works For You: Writing regular articles is not easy. Well, let me speak for myself. I can go through anything between 6 – 20 drafts or revisions before I am happy to post.

I am not one of those prolific people who writes a blog a day or several a week or month. I write when I feel I like it. Right now, I am on a roll and blogging regularly.

However, there was a time when I was away for almost half a year or more and I missed blogging because of other commitments. I believe you shouldn’t just post anything because you feel pressured to.

Rather do it, when it is irrestibale and you have a burning urge to write and post. I can write a post in a day but it takes me hours especially if there are plenty of hyperlinks to add.

At times it can take me days because I go through numerous drafts or write in short bursts. That is what works for me. Everybody is different.

Writing and thinking are hard work; so, I understand people who can’t do it regularly. Consistency even if it is irregular consistency is good too.

I have massive respect for bloggers who blog every day or week. It takes great discipline and focus. Massive respect  prolific bloggers!

Blogging is not a competition but a medium for self exppression. Therefore, never feel the urge to compete with anyone. Do what works for you. Simples!

9] Content Creation and Intellectual Property: Blogging in a nutshell is content creation and intellectual property. There is an industry dedicated to content creation.

I do this as an aside. But I don’t own the intellectual property or copyright of the stuff I create because the person who commissions and pays for me to write owns it.

However, when you are blogging, you hold the copyright [intellectual property]. The great thing about it is that you write about things that you are passionate about and love.

I have written plenty of content for clients and some of it made me miserable. I felt like I was prostituting my talent. It restricted my style and voice. But here, I write what I like, how I want to without worrying about what the client will say.

There is so much freedom when you blog and create your own content and intellectual property. You don’t have to sound like a journalist and you can personalise your articles as much as you like. If your readers are happy then that is good for you.

10] Distribution: Distributing or getting people to know about your blog is a nightmare if you are not good at marketing or asking for help.

Authors who self publish understand early on in their careers that they will have to do a lot of marketing, publicity, advertising and distrubution of their books to sell anything.

The same applies to blogging. If you are serious, you can’t ignore the power of social media. With a social media presence, you can raise the profile of your blog, attract visitors and generate a buzz about your posts and encourage discussions.

The brilliant aspect of social media is that you can track down people who are interested in what you write about and share dierctly with them or online forums dedicated to your subject[s].

If you are social media savvy and have already built a community, your audience will do a lot of promoting for you by sharing, recommending, retweeting, and liking your content. Social media is a valuable asset in the distribution link.

Furthermore, it is free. I currently use Facebook and Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. I love using Facebook because it is popular and easier to distribute material.

Twitter follows next. I have had an account for a while but recently started using it more regularly to grow my presence on that platform. I am still trying to get to grips with it but I can see its potential.

I am not brilliant with Tumblr and Pinterest but I still use them. Hopefully, I will learn more and use them effectively.

LinkedIn is brilliant if you are doing anything that is business related. There are plenty of other platforms I haven’t touched on but there is no limit to the means available to you.

11] Learn From Other Bloggers: Read other blogs and learn from them. Be inspired by them. Ask questions and they will be happy to help you.

Note what they do right whether that is in the structuring or formatting of their blogs. You can learn a lot from other bloggers who have been doing this for ages.

12] Never Forget Context: Never assume your readers know everything you are talking about. Contextualise what you are saying and give them a point or points of reference.

I have noted that my readers are spread all over the world. Therefore, I find that as I write I constantly have to think of the context and frame it within the article. There are other times where I can’t always provide all the information I can.

Thegatvolblogger reader distribution map

An illustration of the distribution of people who view thegatvolblogger.

If there are things that you can’t explain within the article, do the hard work for the readers, and provide them with hyperlinks to a reliable source[s] that provide additional information.

13] Reward or Surprise the Reader: Provide readers with content thoughtfully put together that tells them something new or teaches them something that they didn’t already know.

I tend to provide videos/ films or doccies that they can watch online or links to materials they can access online that adds to what they are engaging with on my blog.

On average, I find a viewer can spend an hour engaging with some of my posts and a reader should feel that is an hour well spent.

These are some of the things that I have learnt as a blogger. I am still learning and hope to learn more and improve the quality of my content.

Please feel free to share your experiences, feedback or any advice relating to the issues I touched above. I hope you enjoyed this article. One love!

 

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Filed under About Writing, Creative Writing