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SIX OF THE BEST BY BAME WRITERSThe Jhalak Prize was founded in 2016 to spotlight stellar work of British-resident writers of colour. The shortlist showcases writing across a range of genres and forms, by both début writers and established names. A seriously delicious shortlist to savour.SHORTLIST► The Girl of Ink and Stars,by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Chicken House). YA. A girl uses cartographic and star-reading skills to find her lost friend and save her home.► A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker). Crime fiction. A ScotlandYard detective tries to solve a political murder in Calcutta.► Speak Gigantular by Irenosen Okojie (Jacaranda). Short stories. Surreal tales of love, alienation and human experience.► Black And British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga (Macmillan). Non- fiction. An exploration of the relationship between the UK and the peoples of Africa.► The Bone Readers by Jacob Ross (Peepal Tree Press).Crime fiction. A plain-clothes policeman tries to unmask the cop who killed his mother.► Another Day In The Death Of America by Gary Younge (Faber). Non-fiction. Thestories of ten US children who were killed by gunfire on 23 November 2013.TRY THIS► Choose one of the books from the shortlist, but opt for one in a genre you wouldn’t normally pick, e.g. short stories if you prefer novels, crime if you prefer YA.► Read the book. (Enjoy!) ► Turn to page 76 anduse the third sentence as a jumping-off point for a piece of work in the same genre.The Art of Possible: new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action by Kate Tojeiro (Black Mustang Press) Kickstart Your Writing by Anita Belli (Createspace)BOOKS ABOUT WRITINGabout the experience. If you’re staring at a blank page, then follow Tojeiro’s advice and let your mind wander and see where it goes.Once you have your new- found idea, Kickstart Your Writing by Anita Belli offers guidance on taking the next steps. Usually writing guides have long overwritten introductions about the aim of the guide, but Belli dives straight in with workshops that are stimulating, inspiring and fun.Belli’s chapters cover everything from time- management to plot building. A key piece of her advice is to ‘ask questions’. Simple, I know, but what better way to get into your characters’ heads? By posing and answering questions, you can convey motives and desires succinctly and develop the well-rounded and compelling characters necessary for a captivating read.Even if you’re on the sixth edit of your book, Kickstart Your Writing offers nuggets of advice and technique that are well worth trying. ❐ KAY HADDENpropelled her through setbacks that would fell the hardiest of souls. It’s the spirit that means she deserves to succeed. ❐‘I had no idea thatI was writing a romantic comedy until it was pointed out to me’DANUTA KEAN is book news correspondent for the Guardian, and regularly contributes to mslexia, the Daily Mail and The Bookseller. She published Centre Stage (2016), a report on diversity in theatre for the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, andWriting theFuture(2015),whichlooked atdiversity inpublishing.She is@Danooshaon Twitter.KICKSTARTERSThe Art of Possible: new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action by Kate Tojeiro isn’tactivities that make you uncomfortable – including boredom – and to seek out new experiences as a way of gaining confidence in your personaland professional life. ‘Get uncomfortably bored,’ she writes. ‘If we allow a little boredomto give our minds a rest from the constant stimulation of technology, we will be allowing ourselves room to think more creatively.’So why not use this to kickstart your writing? You don’t have to bike in the Pyrenees,but perhaps try something you ordinarily wouldn’t, and writewith her ability to laugh at life full in the face. ‘I was able to use my own experiences to turn the book into a screwball comedy.’ Mamma Mia meets Jane Austen, but with less singing, as Dun describes it.Redrafting the book was hard enough, but the real hard work began with the book’s launchin August 2016. Aware of how stiff the competition is for début novelists to get reviews, let alone interviews, she contacted local media outlets and used social media and contacts to spread the word. Her own efforts, coupled with an Amazon price promotion, have paid off: the book has steadily climbed into the online bookseller’s top romantic reads, alongside such heavyweights as Jenny Colgan and Jill Mansell.‘There have been a couple of moments when I have become disheartened, but I have never completely given up hope,’ Dun says. This is the spirit thata book about creative writing and nor does it claim to be – so bear with me. Tojeiro’s book stems from her experience as an executive life coach and although her chapters are crammedwith anecdotes about her time biking in the Pyrenees, her advice is easily applicable to all endeavours, including writing.The Art of Possible doesn’t provide writing tips, but it can provide you with inspiration. Tojeiro urges you to consider.... Début Interview continuedwhile the main premise and characters in her novel were good, the plot needed work. Literary agent Kate Hordern also pointed out something else: though Dun fancied herself as a literary novelist, she is in fact a cracking genre storyteller. Until she accepted that, she wouldn’t get a deal.‘I had to get over myself,’ Dun says with typical directness. ‘Once I realised that, I went to town learning my craft. Plotting was the hardest thing to learn, but I realised once you havethe bare bones of the structure, you can explore the issues and characters. The plot gives you clarity with which you can work.’That the story is a romance has a certain irony for the divorcee. ‘I had no idea that I was writing a romantic comedy until it was pointed out to me,’ she says. Though insisting ‘I am terrible at romance’, she draws on her dating disasters as a single parent and seasons them66 Mar/Apr/May 2017 mslexia

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