Post archive

Turning to the right - is it an age thing?

As a lifelong left-leaning type, I'm confused by my recent urge to steer to the right.  It's so perplexing that I've -

 a) told myself I must be imagining it and
 b) flatly denied it to the perceptive who've noticed my change of tack.

As a young woman, my mother was a communist.  Her parents had been members of the party, too.  My dad was a communist in Pakistan in the 1950s, when his brand of politics was banned.  His beliefs could - potentially - have lead to imprisonment, torture, even death.  

I walk in big footsteps.  What right do I have to disregard where I come from, after the risks my parents took?

It's said that the older we get, the more traditional we become, but I swore that'd never happen to me. When, over the years, my disillusioned grandfather shifted his loyalties from communist to labour to liberal, I felt disappointed in him.  As he'd spent his working life firstly as a miner and, later, in the mills, I didn't understand how he could change political allegiance.  

I was a leftie born and bred.  At uni, I loathed the students who were Tory, rugger bugger toffs and hung out with the football-crazy workers instead.  After uni, I sought employment at left-leaning organisations, including the BBC.  It seemed to me that right-wing people were posh, venal, selfish and narrow-minded while high-minded lefties were fairer, kinder and altogether brighter.

Now that I'm pushing 50, things don't seem as clear-cut.  I'm as open-minded as I ever was, so it's not that my advancing years have brought out the reactionary in me.  I still describe myself as a humanist and a feminist, yet hesitate to sing the praises of the Labour Party, as I once did.  Slowly, despite myself, my politics are changing - but I cannot say why, because I just don't know.

It's the local elections next week.  I'll be standing in the booth, ready to vote and, for the first time in my life, no longer sure where I shall place my cross.

Largin' It!

I'm off to Ibiza next weekend clubbing with hubby's daughter and her boyfriend, both in their 20's.  Hubby and I are in our 40's.  We'll be raving, chilling, larging etc etc.  Isn't that the sort of thing that young people do on the White Isle?  I hope we can hack it, that we have the energy to keep going.  We're heading for Pacha, the legendary super-club, where the dj for the night will be man of the moment, David Guetta.  What shall I wear?  Hot pants and a bikini top are de rigeur - but I'm way past those comedy outfits.  I'm a mama grizzly.  That's what post-menopausal woman in the States are calling themselves, where it's okay to be middle-aged and still have a life.  Here in the UK, we're more buttoned-up with our stiff upper lips, and all that.  What would a mama grizzly wear to a super-club?  Perhaps the woman who coined the phrase - Sarah Palin - would have a view?  Anyway, I'll report back on the fun and frolics on my return.  Hasta la vista, baby!

Bhutto, The Movie

I've just got back from a screening of the new movie, 'Bhutto', which traces the life and death of Benazir Bhutto.  It portrays them as a mythical family, riven with Shakespearean drama.  The film was followed by a Q and A with the producer, a man from San Francisco who runs a direct mail company for political campaigners, including Hillary Clinton.  Not much of a link there to Pakistan!  But he was so filled with a passion to tell Benazir's story that he spent 2.5 years of his life on the film and raised the $3m dollars it took to make it, all on his own.

It's a fantastic documentary, very interesting, carefully-researched, and compellingly-told.  It makes you cry for the loss of such a brave woman, who obviously adored her kids.  But I left the film feeling empty about the future of the country.  Its message is that Pakistan is so mired in corruption and vested interests that it will be hard for democracy to ever be more than fledgling, before the army seizes control again. 


East is East and West is West

I met film producer, Leslee Udwin, at the Oxford Union last week.  She was there to talk about the dearth of women in the movie industry and also about making West is West - the sequel to East is East.  In the new film, the northern, mixed race family gets taken by Dad to Pakistan, to get their errant, westernised ways sorted out. 

'That's what I'm writing about,' I told her.  'That same culture clash, but from a girl's viewpoint.'  I explained that I wanted to write something as comical as both of her movies, but was finding it a struggle.  Leslee listened sympathetically when I said, 'The pressure put on girls to conform in that culture is much stronger, which means there's less to laugh about.'          

On a lighter note, I've become friends with TV presenter, Saira Khan, who, it turns out, is fun, modern and a Muslim.  So you see, it is possible!

How to get published, or not - as the case may be

How to get your book in front of agents?  This is what I have gleaned:

First, write your three sample chapters. As well as these you will need a 10 - 20 page outline explaining:

What the book is about and why what you have to say is important.

Why you decided to write the book and what’s special about you as the author.

Why the book needs to be written and published now.

Who your audience is and why your book will stand out.


Anything else about yourself or your project that makes you stand out.

Research into similar works that have already been published.

A complete chapter break-down.

A biographical note on your background, training and experience.

You must also include a covering letter to summarise who you are and what the book is about.

In terms of presentation, send unbound A4 pages in 12-point Times New Roman font, double- or 1.5-line-spaced and printed on one side of the paper only with wide margins. Pages should be numbered. Print your name and contact number/email address on the cover of your manuscript.

Then wait. Agents can take up to three months to give you a yea or nay. So don't send out to only one agent at a time. Send out your proposal in batches of, say, three at a time. Conventional wisdom dictates that if you get to be rejected by 15 agents, you need to take a long and hard look at your proposal and, if necessary, re-write from scratch.

Don't bother sending your work of genius to publishers because they rely on agents to sift the wheat from the chaff on their behalf. I get agent contact details from Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.

My non-fiction book proposal has been rejected by seven agents to date. Don't expect feedback on why you've been rejected because they won't give you any.

Finally, I would say that getting published is a rough and uphill struggle. You need to be either passionate about your project or just plain mad to want to even try and I hope you have better luck than I've had to date!



What I did in my hols

I have spent the past almost-fortnight here in Angmering-by-the-sea, in West Sussex.  I have spent my hols partly struggling with a piece for The Guardian which I have been asked to re-write.  The rest of my time has been occupied with: lying in the jacuzzi bath, comtemplating my newly-pink-painted toenails; slathering on face packs; plucking and preening areas in need of deforestation; sweating at the gym; walking on the beach, dodging dog shit and seaweed; experiencing the seedy casino and the camp vaudeville scene in Brighton but most of all, I've been missing my girls, who are on their hols with their dad, from whom I am divorced. 

That's the really cruddy thing about being divorced.  Instead of being able to relax and enjoy my seven days of freedom from my kids, safe in the knowledge that they are with their father, I worry about them getting sunburnt, staying up too late, fighting, drowning, their plane never returning...  My brain whirls with potential dangers they could get entangled with and then, as soon as I've started to allow my tense shoulders to relax, as the week passes, they are back - shouting, arms whirling, demanding and hungry.  The house is awash with light and sound again, after a week of partner and me, middle-aged plumpies in front of the telly, debating the merits of watching the golf versus Kanye West.

 Meanwhile, I wake up at 3am almost every night, thinking about the pitch for my proposed non-fiction book on mixedness which I've recently sent out to another three agents.  I'll get home to their rejections, I'm sure.  But I can't seem to let go of the idea - I still think it would be a brilliant book.  Wonder when or if the disappointment of being told 'no thanks' each time will get too big for me to bear.

My mixed race obsession

I've spent the major part of the last six months trying, unsuccesfully to date, to flog my proposed book on the British mixed race experience.   It's been my first attempt to get a non-fiction book (or, indeed, any book) published.   I warn anybody contemplating   pitching a non-fiction book that their   their existence from now on will be obsessively focussed on the seemingly impossible - to catch the eye of an agent.   I've read that you need to be rejected by at least 15 of these before beginning to accept it's not going to happen for you.   So far, I won an agent within two hours of just one email pitch who then, six months later, told me she could not find a publisher for it.   I rewrote the pitch and sent this second attempt out last week to two more agents.   Now the waiting begins - apparently they take up to eight weeks to get back   to the hapless   would-be author.  

Maybe I've not got the tone right, or my layout is poor, or I don't seem 'expert' enough, or whatever...   But I just can't believe my proposal hasn't been snapped up and subjected to (ha!) a ferocious bidding war, because the subject-matter is so timely.   Daily, we read gushing stories about Lewis Hamilton's winning streak, with never a word said about how his mixed-ness shaped his ambition and drive.   Because if you spend your whole life never quite fitting comfortably and instinctively into black or white, you're left, very often, with a raging desire to prove yourself to be the best.   That's what my book is about, how mixed people each individually find their own identity, but I need an agent before I can even start describing their experiences.  

Is there anyone out there who's interested and who shares my passion for the mixed race story?


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