Review of Your Writing Coach by Jurgen Wolff (Non-Fiction)

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Title: Your Writing Coach: From Concept to Character, from Pitch to Publication

Author: Jurgen Wolff

Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing

Date of Publication: 2012

Edition: 2nd

Number of pages: 279

ISBN: 978-1-85788-577-4

 

There are a lot of people who shelter their dreams of becoming writers or better writers under layers of fear and a million excuses. Wolff comes in this book armed with all the tools to break down those walls by getting into the nitty-gritty of a writing career. There are countless books on writing but what a lot of people need is this sort of dissection that Wolff uses in his step-by-step guide.

This well-ordered book goes from shredding fears into its different types, to finding your niche through knowledge and experience, and using these to come up with ideas, marketing yourself and finding the motivation to never lose sight of your goals. The advice given can apply to a large audience; the novice, the budding writer, the discouraged and intimidated and even the ones who are already seasoned can still pick up a few tips.

Your Writing Coach presents its strategies and methods in an organised and easy-to-read manner. The arrangement of challenges, followed by tips and guides, real example stories and exercises makes the read practical and intelligible. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding language that burdens you with heavy words and a need to sound too sophisticated or too intelligent while you’re leafing through what’s supposed to make your life easier. Here, Wolff just speaks to you as someone sitting with you in a coffee shop enjoying a cappuccino. However, that doesn’t rob his content of its ability to approach the dirt of writing; he confronts the harsh realities of rejection, the competition in the field, procrastination, not finding time and space and not finding support.

The only thing that he could’ve given more of—although a complete list would require a larger book—is the different niches in writing. There are so many that writers can match their abilities and interests with but in this book the list is quite short. However, even in that shortage of niches he dives into each and every one he lists without holding back, explores them thoroughly and gives a full and clear direction on how to succeed in them. Overall it’s a gift, a great tool for sharpening that writing talent and making a success out of it.

A graduate at Stanford University, Jurgen Wolff is an author and teacher. He has a wealth of experience in this particular focus, as well as nine other books that are dedicated to honing and toning the writing muscle. His knowledge and skill shine in this work and also make him a credible and well-qualified coach.

I would recommend Your Writing Coach to anyone sitting on their dream of writing – students and non-students, anyone of any age and those lost and trying to find their way around the map of writing.

 

Book Review: God Help The Child by Toni Morrison

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“What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.” 

I have always wanted to read a Toni Morrison book, I’ve known about her for a while and I am sure I have shared a few quotes by her here and there but I never really got to reading one of her works. Finally, I walked into the bookstore with only the intention of getting any of her books. Well, actually I was looking for The Bluest Eye as it was recommended by a friend but it was out of stock so I picked up the only one they had, God Help the Child. I should’ve started reading her work sooner.

When light-skinned Sweetness gives birth to a blue-black skinned daughter she is shocked by the child’s colour and cannot accept it. The father’s child leaves her and she’s left to raise the child on her own in a society where different shades of skin colour are underlined. Sweetness does not show or give the child any affection. Her daughter testifies against a woman accused of a paedophilic crime, putting her in jail. Only then is Sweetness so proud of her that for the first time she gives her a bit of affection.

Years later, the daughter, Bride, is a successful business woman and absolutely stunning. Her skin gives her a unique element of beauty, giving her confidence even in her personal world where a part of her childhood haunts her. Her boyfriend Booker breaks up with her without much of an explanation. Both of them love each other but allow their childhood wounds to get in the way. Bride finds the woman she had testified against on the day of her release from prison, and offers her gifts to help her start over. It goes awfully sour. Bride ends up on a course to find Booker, whom she realises she didn’t know much about and wants to know why she broke up with him. All feelings are brought to the surface when they meet and they both discover deep truths about each other and how those revealed parts of them have shaped and led them to where they are.

I bought it in the morning, sacrificed a few hour of sleep and finished it by midnight. All read in a breath. It is a thin read but it is loaded with so much depth. There is a lot of hard truths concerning childhood pains and scars. The scars that constantly remind the adult bearers of those scars who they are, where they come from, and this novel shows that sometimes even in adulthood those scars can rule their owners.

Bride and Booker have a lot in common, in the way they hold on to things that happened to them years ago and without acknowledging it, they let those deep-seated issues form a crack between them. Morrison covers so much emotional breadth and depth. The characters are all believable and on point; you hate the husband who left, the mother who deprived her child of things that a child needed to feel and see, and you love and sympathise with the adult who still has a broken child in her.

If you’re into books that unwrap raw emotions, dig really deep and unfold the truth of human behaviour and actions then you will love this. This book might just turn you into a big Toni Morrison fan.

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(Image: The Marc Steiner Show)

Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. She showed an interest in literature at an early age. She Studied humanities at Howard and Cornell Universities, then had an academic career at Texas Southern University, Howard University, Yale and later at Princeton University. Her debut novel The Bluest Eyes came out in 1970, followed by a success of other novels such as Sula, Beloved, Home and many more, including this most recent one, God Help the Child. This multi-award winner has written plays, children’s literature, academic papers, non-fiction and articles. She has worked as an editor and literary critic.

Book Review: A Cowrie of Hope by Binwell Sinyangwe

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“When light streaks the sky, hope begins to burn.”

Publisher: Heinemann

Year: First published in 2000

The hardships of a mother to keep her children alive, to give them the best and create a better life for them, are hardly recognised or applauded. This is worse in poor societies where women labour and break their backs to ensure that their children are fed and are able to get an education. These are challenges that aren’t made any easier by patriarchal domination and the in-law system that can be harsh to them. Yet, for their children they manage to soldier on.

After Nasula’s husband dies his family takes all the money and the house that he had left behind for her and their only daughter, leaving her in dire poverty and forcing her to move back to her village. These are the nineties, a time of economic hardships and a disease that is going around consuming so many people. Nasula dreams of a better future for her daughter Sula, with education and independent of marriage. Sula is a brilliant pupil and she needs to continue with her schooling but money is a problem. Nasula needs to find a way to raise the large amount needed to pay for her fees. Her attempt to ask her in-laws only leaves her disappointed. A good friend advices her to go to Lusaka to go sell her in-demand bag of beans. After making the journey and ready to sell, a predator snatches her last hope of getting money to send her Sula to school. She might be forced to fight her way to find the thief or just give up and go home to tell her daughter that she has failed.

 

The wheels of the story move along swiftly and each chapter passes on the baton to the next without fail. It might be because I have spent years around Zambians but this book is written in true Zambian style. I can hear the accents, the voices, I can see the gestures and the small details that can be attributed to that particular people of the country. I can envision the setting in the book and together with Sinyangwe’s good hand, it becomes a pleasant read.

The way he uses characters and settings of the story to capture the realness of the period in which the story takes place is satisfying and the subjects that he brings to our attention are done so in an enlightening and easy to understand way. The way he leads us through the challenges that Nasula faces, the dangers in the city, the corruption, the hunger, the disease and the way a lot of matters are handled by the different characters in the book are close to the truth. It may be fiction but you can almost taste the realness of it all; the culture and the lives that these people lead. You are in Zambia.

It’s a well written story, it’s enjoyable and it’s a quick read. It doesn’t linger on the need for sympathy but rather refreshes you with the way the main character shows courage all the way. The strength of a mother. I think a lot of women, mothers even more, will enjoy this story. People who can relate to it on different levels and appreciate the way it speaks to them.

Binwell Sinyangwe is a Zambian novelist and poet who was born in 1956. He studied Industrial Economics at the Academy of Economic Sciences in Bucarest, Romania. A Cowrie of Hope is preceded by another novel, Quills of Desire. He has had a number of poems and articles published in various Zambian magazines and newspapers.