Tag Archives: writing

Puukki, Reinikka win Helsinki City Library writing competition

Puukki, Reinikka win Helsinki City Library writing competition


The winners of the writing competition held by Helsinki City Library have been selected, said the City of Helsinki in a press release on Monday.

Aada Puukki, 17, from Uusikaupunki won the award from in the youth category while Matti Reinikka, 39, from Helsinki won the award in the adult category.

The theme of ‘hope’ inspired almost 300 writers. The competition attracted texts by writers of different ages around Finland.

The majority of the writers entered a text in Finnish, but some also wrote in English or Swedish.

Many of the writers approached the theme of hope through the pandemic. Experiences of war were also present.

According to the jury of the adult category, the texts’ level of quality varied, but there was still a host of high-quality texts. The task of selecting the top three participants in each category evoked emotions among the jury.

“It was fascinating to see a cross-section of life during the pandemic. We would have liked to see more narrative elements, unconventional approaches, and vivid imagination in the texts. But maybe people just are preoccupied with the pandemic, at the moment,” said the jury, consisting of employees of Helsinki City Library.

The texts entered by young people also dealt with COVID-19. The jury of the youth category said the level of quality was good but the finalists still stood out from the crowd.

The winners will receive gift cards for a bookshop. The best pieces of writing will be published on the Helmet website of the Metropolitan Area libraries.

The winners of the youth category (aged 12–20) were (1). Aada Puukki for writing ‘Sky so Bright.’ The poem flows and shines. Great language and wonderful poetic images. (2). Aaria Sitomaniemi for ‘Toivoa’, an imaginative and flowing text, captivating and makes you want to know the rest of Ylva’s story. And (3). Sinianna Paukkunen for ‘Toivo’, a poem which describes how much hope there still is in simple everyday life.

The winners of the adult category were (1). Matti Reinikka for ToivontuojatplaneettaPohs-VT:ltä, an absurd and warm sci-fi story that surprises the reader. (2). Christopher Ryan for ‘Toivo’, a short story with beautiful language, and (3). Elli Valtonen for Kanipäivä, a story with edge and fresh narration of a veterinarian’s challenges in the face of a apocalypse of rabbits.





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Puukki, Reinikka win Helsinki Library writing awards

Puukki, Reinikka win Helsinki Library writing awards


The winners of the writing competition held by Helsinki City Library have been selected, said the City of Helsinki in a press release on Monday.

Aada Puukki, 17, from Uusikaupunki won the award from youth category while Matti Reinikka, 39, from Helsinki won the award from the adult category.

The theme of ‘hope’ inspired almost 300 writers. The competition attracted texts by writers of different ages around Finland.

The majority of the writers entered a text in Finnish, but some also wrote in English or Swedish.

Many of the writers approached the theme of hope through the pandemic. Experiences of war were also present.

According to the jury of the adult category, the texts’ level of quality varied, but there was still a host of high-quality texts. The task of selecting the top three evoked emotions in the jury.

“It was fascinating to see a cross-section of life during the pandemic. We would have liked to see more narrative elements, unconventional approaches and vivid imagination in the texts. But maybe people just are preoccupied with the pandemic, at the moment,” said the jury, consisting of employees of Helsinki City Library.

The texts entered by young people also dealt with COVID-19. The jury of the youth category said that the level of quality was good, but the finalists still stood out from the crowd.

The winners will receive gift cards for a bookshop. The best pieces of writing will be published on the Helmet website of the Metropolitan Area libraries.

The winners of the youth category (aged 12–20) were 1. Aada Puukki for the writing Sky so bright. The poem flows and shines. Great language and wonderful poetic images. 2. Aaria Sitomaniemi for Toivoa, an imaginative and flowing text, captivating and makes you want to know the rest of Ylva’s story. And 3. Sinianna Paukkunen for Toivo, a poem shows how much hope there is in simple everyday life.

The winners of the adult category were 1. Matti Reinikka for Toivontuojat planeetta Pohs-VT:ltä, an absurd and warm sci-fi story surprises the reader. 2. Christopher Ryan for Toivo, a short story with beautiful language and 3. Elli Valtonen for Kanipäivä, an edgy story with fresh narration of a veterinarian’s challenges when facing a rabbit apocalypse.





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Last chance to enter creative writing competition

Last chance to enter creative writing competition


The deadline is looming for young budding authors to be part of a new exclusive story collection commissioned by one of Scotland’s leading hotel groups.

Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels has tasked children aged 5-14 to submit a short story of up to 200 words, fact or fiction, with 30 shortlisted stories being printed in a limited edition book to feature at all eight hotels.

The deadline for entries is Monday March 1.

The hotels have been inundated with short tales and creative writing but are encouraging youngsters to not miss out on being considered and submit their story before the deadline.

The submissions will be read by a panel of independent judges – John Bray, Helen Grant and Susy McPhee – selected with help from Strathearn Arts.

The entries will be split into three age categories with ten shortlisted from each category to feature in the book, but one story from each age group will also be brought to life in an illustration for the book – as well as the three authors winning a family hotel stay.

The book will be created by summer and if restrictions allow, shortlisted entries will be welcomed to a Mini Book Festival at Crieff Hydro Hotel in July to be presented with their prizes.

The eight hotels within the family are all set in iconic and picturesque Scottish locations, an ideal setting for a fairytale or action adventure and kids are encouraged to submit their true or fictional story based or inspired by one of the hotels.

Nic Oldham, head of customer and commercial at Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels, said: ‘We eagerly anticipate restrictions lifting so we can experience our own adventures again but we’ve been inspired by the fantastic creativity of the children’s stories we’ve received so far – the judges will certainly have a tough job on their hands.

‘We would welcome any last minute entries and would encourage youngsters to let their imagination run wild in the final days of the competition.’

Entries should be submitted by Monday,  March 1 to nsw@crieffhydro.com.

To keep up to date on the latest news and events at Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels, and to read the full competition details, terms and conditions visit www.crieffhydrofamily.com/national-storytelling-week



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Nan Shepherd: The trailblazing explorer whose writing brought the Cairngorms to life

Nan Shepherd: The trailblazing explorer whose writing brought the Cairngorms to life


Nan Shepherd was a pioneering adventurer, writer and explorer who penned a seminal book about the Cairngorms. As today (February 23) marks 40 years since the north-east icon died, Gayle Ritchie looks at her life and legacy.

Nan Shepherd’s book, The Living Mountain, is a literary masterpiece.

But despite featuring on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s £5 note against the backdrop of her beloved Cairngorms, many people are unaware of Nan’s legacy.

Born in 1893 in East Peterculter in Deeside, Nan went on to become a pioneering adventurer, writer and explorer.

She published her first novel, The Quarry Wood, in 1928 and two more followed in the 1930s.

All three books are set in insular country communities, looking at women torn between family and the exciting new opportunities offered by the modern age, with the harsh north-east landscape as background.

© Shutterstock
Nan Shepherd – a quiet pioneer.

As she moved into her late 30s, Nan began to roam the foothills of the eastern Cairngorms, about 50 miles from her home.

She was fascinated by what happened to mind and matter at height.

She wrote to a friend in 1940: “To apprehend things – walking on a hill, seeing the light change, the mist, the dark, being aware, using the whole of one’s body to instruct the spirit… it dissolves one’s being. I am no longer myself but part of a life beyond myself.”

By the summer of 1945 she had completed a book on what she called the “total mountain”.

Nan Shepherd in September 1964.

She sent the manuscript to her friend and fellow novelist Neil Gunn.

Although he enjoyed it, he was dubious about it being published and so it sat gathering dust in a drawer for 32 years.

It was finally published as The Living Mountain in 1977, four years before Shepherd’s death – on February 23 1981 – and has been growing in influence since.

Each chapter of the book mixes field notes, lyrical memoir, oral history, natural history and an almost zen-like meditation of the nature of landscape and consciousness.


A meditation

Today, The Living Mountain is acclaimed as “one of the finest books ever written on nature and landscape in Britain”.

Many claim their vision of the Cairngorms is radically altered when they read the poetic and philosophical journey “into” the mountains, regarding it as a “meditation” and not a “manifesto”.

Rather than walking “up” a mountain, Nan suggests we walk “into” them, which encourages us to explore ourselves as well as the landscape.

Climbers scaling Lochnagar in the Cairngorms.

An extract from her book states: “Beginners want the startling view, the horrid pinnacle, sips of beer and tea, instead of milk.”

For Nan, it wasn’t about conquering the summit, bagging a Munro or anything along those lines.

Rather, she went “stravaigin” around the mountain, exploring it in great detail, describing herself as “a peerer into nooks and crannies”.

She wrote: “Often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend, with no intention but to be with him.”

Corrour Bothy in the Cairngorms.

Although Nan spent years walking into the Cairngorms, she understood she would never know them completely.

The capacity of the mountain to keep its secrets and spring surprises always intrigued her.

Often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend, with no intention but to be with him.”

Nan Shepherd

One of those secrets was a tiny body of water tucked under a ring of cliffs, 3,000ft above sea level and miles from the nearest road – Loch Coire an Lochain.

She wrote: “It cannot be seen until one stands almost on its lip, the inaccessibility of this loch is part of its power. Silence belongs to it.”


Inspiring modern day nature writers

In 2019, Merryn Glover became the first ever writer-in-residence for the Cairngorms National Park, leading to an increasing focus on nature in her work.

She is currently writing The Hidden Fires: A Cairngorms Journey with Nan Shepherd.

Merryn first became aware of Nan’s work after stumbling on a copy of The Living Mountain in a book shop about a decade ago.

“She was an exceptional writer and thinker for her time, but also a deep and attentive lover of the natural world, and she brought these two threads together in all of her writing, but particularly in The Living Mountain,” muses Merryn, who lives in Kincraig.

“She was quietly non-conformist and drew from wide reading and philosophical probing to develop her own unique perspective on what it means to be a fully conscious and embodied human being in a dynamic, physical world.”

Nan Shepherd in September 1976.

Nan’s greatest achievement, in Merryn’s opinion, was to: “hold faith with the power and importance of literature even when her own had fallen out of prominence”.

She says: “She did not become bitter or reclusive, but continued to champion other writers and the Scottish literary scene for all of her life.

“Second to that, I think her courage and belief to self-publish The Living Mountain after it had been rejected and sat in a drawer for over thirty years.”

Nan’s work has inspired Merryn in a multitude of ways.

“I am the same age she was when writing The Living Mountain – in my early 50s– and it’s reassuring that another bookish, middle-aged woman of no great athleticism can explore the Cairngorms with confidence, including alone,” she reflects.

“I am inspired by her to slow down and take time enjoying these hills and observing things with both patience and a spirit of friendly companionship with the place.

“I keep finding more layers of richness in her writing which constantly challenge me to work on my own.”


The Hidden Fires

Merryn’s book, The Hidden Fires, is due to be published in 2022.

She describes it as a conversation across time between two women walking and writing the Cairngorms 75 years apart.

“As I explore both the range and The Living Mountain, I compare my own journey with hers and explore what has changed since her time, both in the mountains and for the people who come to them,” says Merryn.

Merryn Glover.

“It may seem like it must be a one-sided conversation, as she cannot directly reply to me, but it’s been fascinating how my own questions and thinking are often answered by things I find in her writing – not just The Living Mountain, but her other works as well.

“It is a little like her view of her relationship with the mountain. ‘Something moves between me and it,’ she writes. ‘Place and a mind may interpenetrate till the nature of both is altered.’

“The same seems true of my relationship with her. As I penetrate more deeply into both the mountain and her mind, something moves between me and her. Capturing that movement is the essence of this book.”


Nan’s relevance in 2021

Merryn believes today’s climate crisis means Nan’s writing is “more relevant than ever” in 2021.

“She was writing before that was a recognised challenge, but her engagement with nature was so observant and devoted, and her philosophy of universal connectedness so prophetic, that she paves the way for a passionate ecological vision,” she says.

“Her example is also inspirational for other women wanting to be in mountains and, or, write about nature.

The front cover of Nan’s seminal work, The Living Mountain, first published in 1977.

“It is great to see Nan receiving the acclaim she deserves and her writing gaining prominence again as a result.”

Merryn writes fiction, drama and poetry, with plays and stories broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and Radio Scotland.

Her first novel, A House Called Askival, was set in India, where she grew up, and her upcoming novel, Of Stone and Sky, due out in May, is set in Badenoch where she now lives.


Nan’s CV

Anna “Nan” Shepherd was born on February 11 1893 at Westerton Cottage, East Peterculter, then in Deeside, a few miles from Aberdeen.

Shortly after her birth, her family moved to Dunvegan, Cults, a suburb of Aberdeen, where she then lived for most of her life.

She died aged 88 at Aberdeen’s Woodend Hospital on February 23 1981.

© DC Thomson
Nan Shepherd as depicted on the 2016 Royal Bank of Scotland £5 note.

She attended Aberdeen High School for Girls, graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1915, and went on to lecture at the Aberdeen College of Education.

She retired from teaching in 1956 but edited the Aberdeen University Review until 1963.

The university awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1964.

The Royal Bank of Scotland featured an image of Nan against the backdrop of the Cairngorms on a new £5 bank note in 2016.

 



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An anthology of Indians writing prose and poetry in English

An anthology of Indians writing prose and poetry in English



Vishnu Makhijani

It is an anthology that took 10 years to compile but that is not surprising given that it takes in 200 years of Indians writing prose and poetry in English – and what emerges is a priceless collection of something that has never been attempted before.

“We started talking about the book, or one like it, about eight or ten years ago. But it was only an idea and it never got anywhere, mainly because I did not know where to begin or where to find the essays, especially of the 19th century,” said editor, poet-translator-anthologist Arvind Krishna Mehrotra.

“At first I thought of restricting the book to essays written since independence, then pushed it back to cover the 20th century, then decided to take in the whole period of writing in English in India, from around the 1820s to the present. We have never had a selection of essays for the general reader before and I thought that if we were going to do one we may as well include the 19th century, particularly since I knew at least two essays that I wanted to include – the ones by (poet and assistant headmaster of Hindu College Calcutta Henry Louis Vivian) Derozio and (author-historian-poet), Shoshee Chunder Dutt. They would otherwise have remained buried in books that only a handful of specialists would ever read. Which is sad, for the essays, when they were written, were aimed at the magazine or newspaper reader of the time and not for the specialist of the future,” Mehrotra explained.

Given his vast research, does he see the writing in English evolving over the 200 years that the book covers?

“Unlike science, literature does not evolve. Unlike economies, it does not stagnate or grow. Something written let’s say in the 1870s, Shoshee Chunder’s ‘Street Music of Calcutta’ for example, might have been written yesterday in Delhi, if anyone in Delhi had the brains to listen to street cries and write an essay on the subject. The essay (or poem) is immersed in the moment, but it is a moment that’s been illuminated and which the passage of time cannot darken. Literature does not evolve but neither does it fade. Parts of it can of course be neglected and sink into obscurity. ‘The Book of Indian Essays’ is an attempt at rescuing a few pieces of prose before they disappeared altogether, though their sentences, had you stumbled upon them, would have lost none of their newness and surprise, as Derozio’s and Shoshee Chunder’s have not,” said Mehrotra. 

He also noted that while Indians have been writing prose for 200 years, yet when we think of literary prose we think only of the novel.

“The ‘essay’ brings only the school essay to mind. Those of us who read and write English in India might find it hard to name an essay even by someone like R K Narayan as easily as we would one of his novels, say ‘Swami and Friends’ or ‘The Guide’. Our inability to recall essays is largely due to the strange paradox that while the form itself remains invisible, it is everywhere present. The paradox becomes even more strange when we realise that some of our finest writers of English prose did not write novels at all, they wrote essays. The anthology is an attempt at making what has always been present also permanently visible,” Mehrotra explained.

To this end, the 45 essayists in the anthology include some of the best-known Indian writers of English, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Aubrey Menen, G V Desani, Dom Moraes, Sheila Dhar, Madhur Jaffrey, Amitav Ghosh, Anita Desai, Chitrita Banerji, Mukul Kesavan and Pankaj Mishra, to mention just a few.

Working as an alternative history, the anthology is impressive in its range, taking in the reflective essay, the luminous memoir, the essay disguised as a story, the memorable prefatory article, the newspaper column that transcends its humdrum origins, the gossip piece that oozes literariness, the forgotten flower in the long-dead magazine, the satirical putdown – all of them find a place.

This is Mehrotra’s 21st work. How does he find the time and energy for this?

“Time is something we are always short of but in this I was fortunate. I retired from my job the day it started. Since I started at a young age, at 21, I retired early. You could say that I have been retired all my well-paid working life. The job I had was teaching English at the University of Allahabad. It was as undemanding on my time as it was on my mind. The only way to keep the mind from rotting away and falling off and immersing it in Sangam was to write or translate or edit books,” Mehrotra concluded.

 (IANS)



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Granite Noir: Stellar line-up in store as Aberdeen’s crime writing festival goes online

Granite Noir: Stellar line-up in store as Aberdeen’s crime writing festival goes online


Granite Noir has unveiled a glittering line-up of world-class crime writers – including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Jo Nesbo and David Baldacci – when it returns next month.

While Aberdeen’s award-winning crime writing festival is moving online due to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers say its mix of live streaming and pre-recorded messages offers the best of Granite Noir and hope it can reach an even wider audience when it runs from February 19 to February 21.

Jane Spiers, chief executive of Aberdeen Performing Arts, which produces the event, said: “Obviously this year is a bit different, being online, but we are still bringing the best of Granite Noir, the essence of Granite Noir.

Jane Spiers, chief executive of Aberdeen Performing Arts is looking forward to Granite Noir.

“It will have everything you would expect to see – the Nordic contingent, the Scottish writers, the household names, the ones to watch. I’m looking forward to it.

Online reach knows no bounds

The festival will see authors from across Scotland, Scandinavia and the US taking part in the three-day digital event. Also included in the line-up are writers such as Camilla Läckberg, Attica Locke,  Peter May, Jo Nesbo, and the north-east’s own Stuart MacBride, who is the ambassador for Granite Noir.

Jane added the move to online presents opportunities for Granite Noir, which has gone from strength-to-strength since it began.

“There is a brilliant opportunity to broaden our audience base. We have already built up a following across the UK and globally. Online our reach knows no bounds.”

Jane said the stellar line-up is a reflection of the growing renown of Granite Noir since its inception.

Jo Nesbo will be making his first Granite Noir appearance.

“We have built up a fantastic reputation over the past five years. We give all our authors an incredibly warm welcome. The world of crime writing is a small world. People go to crime festivals, they talk and Granite Noir has become one of the go-to festivals for crime writing and not just in the UK, but across the globe.”

Sense of a live audience

She said she was particularly thrilled by the coup of securing Scandinavian best-seller Jo Nesbo, creator of Harry Hole, and top American writer David Baldacci, who will be talking about his life and work and his thrilling Atlee Pine Trilogy.

“Jo Nesbo has been on our wish list for five years. He has to be one of the most sought-after crime writers on the planet. He’s such an interesting character – crime writer, footballer, chart-topping musician and creator of the classic Harry Hole series,” said Jane.

Top US author David Baldacci will be speaking from his home in Virginia.

“We will be speaking to David Baldacci live from Virginia. Anybody who loves an action-packed thriller has to be there to listen to him. He has so many fantastic series.”

Both authors, and most of the Granite Noir events, will be live streamed.

Jane said: “We are trying to recreate that sense of being in front of a live audience, the intimacy and opportunity to connect with authors and ask questions.”

Granite Noir is offered free, in recognition from APA for the support it has been shown by the public since having to close its venues – His Majesty’s, the Music Hall and The Lemon Tree – during the pandemic.

Free festival to say ‘thank you’

Jane said: “It’s a thank you, first of all, for our audiences. We have been blown away by the generous donations we have had over the past 10 months. It also makes it much more accessible.

“There are no barriers to joining us for Granite Noir,” said Jane, adding that during events people would be asked to donate for future Granite Noirs and APA.”

“Also, we really want to continue to engage with our audiences. We feel that Granite Noir, if we make it a free event, is ideal.”

Stuart MacBride returns as the ambassador for Granite Noir.

Homegrown talent taking part includes best-selling Scottish author Peter May who discusses his novel Lockdown.  First written in 2005, this prescient book set against a background of a deadly influenza pandemic was finally published this year.

Stuart MacBride joins Ian Rankin to explore the way fashions come and go in literature, the persistent rumour that the police procedural is dead and how and why they’ve chosen the protagonists in their own work.

As always, the festival will explore the ties between the north-east of Scotland and Scandinavia.

Camilla Läckberg, the Queen of Swedish crime fiction with books published in more than 60 countries, discusses her latest novel The Gilded Cage with Alex Clark.

Ian Rankin makes a welcome return to the crime writing festival.

Stina Jackson won the Best Swedish Crime Award of 2018 and is joined in a panel discussion by Iceland’s Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir and the UK’s Lesley Kara to explore the concept of revenge in their writing.

Taking advantage of online

Jane said that one feature of the online festival will be the use of podcasts. Scotland’s iconic crime author Val McDermid will be joining Backlisted Podcast – which explores classic novels of the past – to discuss a work by Inverness-born Josephine Tey, who was prolific from the 1930s to the 1950s. This is the 125th anniversary of her birth.

True crime will be reflected in podcasts from Isla Traquair, who fronts The Storyteller, and Candice Gaines of Crime Noir.

Jane said: “Being online and going digital has given us a chance to think a little differently and take advantage of it and not be constrained by it.”

As always, the festival will feature new and upcoming authors. Three exciting new voices come together in a special Granite Noir showcase to discuss their debut novels.  Femi Kayode, Susie Yang and Saima Mir have written crime novels set in Nigeria, America and the UK’s Pakistani community respectively.

The hugely-popular Scottish author Val McDermid will be taking part.

Jane said: “I’m really excited about that. You might come to see the household names, but I hope people will pick something they don’t know and something new to read, which will stay with you.”

A popular feature of past Granite Noirs has been the deep dive into the criminal history of Aberdeen. This year, City Archivist Phil Astley will be expanding on his Criminal Portraits blog, featuring mugshots from the Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives which featured in the festival last year.

Aberdeen is a star of festival

Jane said: “He will be taking a deep dive into five of the criminal portraits and the criminal underworld in Aberdeen. I think that will be quite exciting.”

There will also be events for younger readers, as well as workshops exploring tips and advice for up-and-coming crime writers. There will also be a chance to take part in a Locked Door escaped game from your own home.

And while an online event for 2021, the festival’s Aberdeen setting is still key.

Jane said: “We have built the identity of Granite Noir around the city, its stories, its history its heritage. One of the biggest challenges has been trying to stay true to that in the digital world, but I’m confident we have done that.

Councillor Marie Boulton is looking forward to the festival.

“I want people to go away knowing that Granite Noir comes from Aberdeen and the north-east and, literally, you couldn’t see it anywhere else.”

“Granite Noir this year is more than a placeholder. We are not just keeping the seat warm for Granite Noir 2022. So come along and try everything.”

Line-up is fantastic

Granite Noir is produced by APA on behalf of partners, Aberdeen Library Service, Aberdeen City and Shire Archives and the Belmont Filmhouse. Granite Noir 2021 is supported by Aberdeen City Council, Creative Scotland and EventScotland.

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokeswoman, said: “It’s great to see the line-up include the fantastic Jo Nesbo make his first appearance at Granite Noir along with other superstars of the genre such as Val McDermid whom we are delighted to welcome back. There’s also Aberdeen City Council’s very own Phil Astley to talk us through the fascinating histories of some infamous locals!”

Full programme details for Granite Noir 2021 can be found at www.granitenoir.com

 

 



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Vietnamese officials conclude training on proposal writing – ASEAN

Vietnamese officials conclude training on proposal writing – ASEAN


SINGAPORE, 15 January 2021 – Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, supported by the Republic Polytechnic and the ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC), is organising a series of trainings on Project Proposal Writing for officials in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam (CLMV).

The second training for Vietnamese officials kicked off on 4 January and concluded on 15 January. It is the second of four scheduled trainings hosted by the Singapore Cooperation Centre in Ha Noi, through an online platform.

The Republic Polytechnic facilitated the first half of the training from 4 to 8 January. Meanwhile ASEC, through its Programme Cooperation and Project Management Division (PCPMD), facilitated the second half from 11 to 15 January, particularly to train Vietnam’s future project proponents on the development and management of ASEAN cooperation projects (ACPs).

ASEC invited the Program Planning and Monitoring Support Unit of the ASEAN–Australia Development Cooperation Program Phase II (AADCP II) to share their experience on project proposal development and monitoring and evaluation from an ASEAN partner’s perspective.

ASEC’s Finance and Budget Division was also invited to share project budget formulation and project fund disbursements, as well as reporting.

Through various exercises and group work, the training enhanced participants’ knowledge and understanding of ACPs, the processes throughout the ASEAN project cycle and how to apply a results-based management approach in developing project proposal.

At the training, facilitators shared knowledge and best practices on how to develop a regional project proposal, how ASEC appraises a project proposal, and how to implement, monitor, evaluate and close a project.

Following the 4.5 days training with ASEC, participants developed four drafts of regional project proposals in the areas of agriculture, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), environment, and disaster management. Upon completion, each participant received a joint certificate issued by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ASEAN Secretariat.,

The third training, for Myanmar officials, is scheduled for 2 – 16 February 2021.



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In his 90s, Doug Roche keeps writing and living a full life

In his 90s, Doug Roche keeps writing and living a full life


Article content continued

He is up at 6 a.m. watching the news, reading his morning papers, getting down to writing. He took three and a half months for his current book, five to six hours of writing a day.

“Biden will bring a sense of co-operation to the office, a reaching out,” said Roche, who met the President-elect once in 2001 when both were senators and, as he jokingly says “I know a lot more Prime Ministers.”.

“Our world has a triple emergency: climate change, nuclear weapons proliferation and coronarvirus. Each has a profound influence on our our lives. We have to co-operate to survive. We need to pull down the emissions, pull back the nuclear weapons and have a vaccine. It’s so much common sense.”

His first book about the Second Vatican council was in 1968 after he came here after being offered a job founding editor of Western Catholic Reporter three years before.

“Fifty-two years ago, my god,” says Roche.

The undefeated Progressive Conservative MP for 12 years, later Canadian ambassador for disarmament, senator and university professor, is a vociferous reader. He once had 6000 books before downsizing to 1000 –biographies, history, politics and two shelves of books about nuclear weapons.

“I don’t spend money on common vices,” laughed Roche

He also has a couple of books by Roger Angell, maybe the greatest baseball essayist ever, a regular contributor to the New Yorker magazine for almost 75 years

“Angell just turned 100,” said Roche, who loves the Toronto Blue Jays.



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Challenging Historical and Contemporary Notions of Blackness in British Writing

Challenging Historical and Contemporary Notions of Blackness in British Writing


Chinua Achebe famously argued that ‘Art is not intended to put people down. If so, then art would ultimately discredit itself’[1] and it is precisely this ‘discredit’ that Black British autobiographical accounts aim to identify through their various challenges to the notions of Blackness. Inherently imbued with an agency, autobiographical accounts clearly present the voices that would be silenced in other forms of literature due to their status as a minority. For the purpose of this essay Blackness will be defined as the ‘property or quality of being black in colour’[2] and the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano will be used to understand its foundations. In addition, Jackie Kay’s novel Trumpet will be analysed to explore more contemporary notions. As a novel published in towards the end of the twentieth century, Kay’s work provides the chronological antithesis to Equiano’s narrative which serves as one of the earliest accounts.

As one of the earliest autobiographical accounts charting the Black British experience, Equiano’s narrative serves as a key starting point to the introduction and understanding of the preconceived foundations of Blackness. Whilst this fact has resulted in much scholarly analysis of the narrative, it can be argued that the most important aspect in understanding the concept of Blackness is found in the opening chapter. Beginning his narrative with a description of his early childhood in Eboe, Equiano presents a description of African life that is uniquely free of a Eurocentric lens. Through a methodical listing of traditional culture, ranging from marriage to tribal warfare, readers are presented with a concise but detailed description of life before his enslavement.

With Equiano’s account, readers are presented with an unexploited form of identity and therefore, can be regarded as a reworking of his Blackness outside of the mandates of the colonial British society he is a part of in his adulthood. Transforming notions of British Blackness Equiano’s specific presentation of culture adheres to the definitions of a civilised society, providing a direct challenge to social rhetoric such as that from Scottish philosopher David Hume who suggested ‘there scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that complexion[3]. As a member of the upper echelons of British society, Hume’s quote not only provides an insight into the fact that Blackness historically had been defined by the proponents of the empire, but the mention of ‘complexion’ introduces the racialisation of society.

Strengthening the inference that Equiano’s writing itself builds a sense of Blackness, is his specific choice to discuss Africa at the beginning of his narrative. As it documents Equiano’s life before slavery, its placement at the beginning of his narrative it is uniquely imbued with a freedom outside of the social white conscious of which traces can be found throughout the rest of the text. Whilst it could be argued that this is due to the narratives chronological form, when examined alongside the awareness and agency of his writing this seems rather reductive. Instead it could be inferred that the discussion of Eboe early in his work functions as a marker for his reader towards an intent to redefine his Blackness trough his own memories.

Exposing the reality that Blackness, in the sense with which it is considered today, is a direct product of the heavy racialisation that gave rise to slavery and the attempted erasure of any African identity. A reality accepted by Equiano himself who states that whilst he ‘did not consider himself European he believed himself to be a ‘favourite of heaven’[4], in comparison to the suffering to his countrymen, and thus directly address the agency of society in which heaven is only afforded to those who are racially white. Through his direct acknowledgement of racial inequalities readers are encouraged to understand that Blackness originated as an abstract form of conscious identity that historically worked as a means of both the social separation on the basis of race but also a justification for global colonialism. Therefore, by looking at what is widely regarded as a key foundation of Black literature in Britain, it can be suggested that historical autobiographies documenting Blackness aim to challenge Blackness by reclaiming the original individuality of African identity. Further adding to this inference is the fact that writers such as Frantz Fanon emphasising three centuries later that his words would represent the Antillean experience and that it would not be able to cover the entirety of what ones Blackness would constitute[5]

Inferring from Fanon’s comments that historically the term of Blackness has been utilised in the erasure and oppression of the peoples possessing it, Equiano’s specific descriptions of Eboe undermine the concept and become a daring challenge to the powers of society. Recreating a detailed image of his Africa, from the ‘3400 miles from Senegal to Angola’, to the ‘Kingdom of Abyssinia near 1500 miles from its beginning’[6], Equiano describes the natural wealth of his country and thus reclaims the grandeur of Eboe in a way that frees it from Western commercialisation[7]. Whilst the economic capital of Africa had been well noted, becoming the primary reason behind Western colonialism, Equiano’s description away from ideas of monetary profit further expands the image of the continent away from the definitions of a Eurocentric lens.

Furthermore, with the assertion of Eboe’s natural wealth, as a means of addressing and inferring an opposition to the working relation between Europe and Africa, Equiano presents to his readers an independent narrative agency with the means to subvert social expectation. Showcasing an expanse of knowledge in conjunction to the awareness of social racialisation, Equiano from the beginning of his narrative responds to racist Western works and uses himself as evidence to contrast prevalent racial ideology. Lucid in his speech, Equiano’s transnational knowledge presents in opposition to the historically contemporary accounts of the time which, under the guise of established social authorities such as science, philosophy, and religion propelled ideas of racial ‘primitivity’. A contemporary and somewhat disciple of Hume[8], primitivity of the races found its foundations in works provided by the revered German writer and philosopher Immanuel Kant, who through a hierarchal ranking suggested a ‘scientific’ order to society. On the false claim of being a ‘natural science’, Kant placed the Black diaspora third, above the Indigenous peoples on the ground that they are unable to be educated and as a result in need of ownership[9]. Kant reduces those in possession of Blackness to just the physicality of the body by dismissing their intellectual potential and as such demonstrates the dehumanisation that Equiano directly challenges in his opening chapter. The works of both Kant and Hume present the ‘social capital’ of Blackness being just the physical body provides evidence of the historically held concept that Black identity only begun with slavery. The continued relationship between Black identity and the trauma of slavery further sheds light on the reality that the personability of Blackness that had begun to be reclaimed by Equiano and those like Fanon who followed after, have continued to battle the established Western authorities possess more of a more social influence.

Whilst the battle to redefine Blackness away from the definitions of western authority could be considered an inevitable reaction against the overt racism of historical society, the analysis of contemporary autobiographies presents a continuation of this process of transformation. Although not a strict autobiography, Jackie Kay’s Trumpet draws much of its content from its authors life[10] and explores the boundaries of the Black British diasporic identity to such detail that its analysis proves worthwhile in investigating the notions of Blackness in a contemporary context.

In particular Kay’s novel presents a continuation of the issue that the possession of Blackness dehumanises the individual into social property. Following the aftermath of the revelation that jazz musician Joss Moody had been assigned female gender at birth, the novel explores the public collapse and rewriting of his identity. The intrusive and disregarding nature of western authority is overtly presented in the novel through the characterisation of journalist Sophie Stones. Listing a seven-stage plan[11] through which she will systematically gain access to the private life and family of Joss Moody, Stones intentions are clearly expressed in the narrative to not only convey her intrusive but clinical nature in dealing with the memory of a deceased Black man.

Charting a quest to obtain items from his birth certificate to personal photos and interviews of those close to him, Stones presents a disregard for the life Moody had created for himself even when encouraged by his son to not ‘bother with this him/her… Just say him’[12], her initial reluctance becomes an act of direct defiance and transforms her disregard into disrespect. This incident forms a key moment in the novel as it overtly displays the dehumanisation of Joss Moody, dissecting his life under the guise of discovering the ‘truth’, Moody’s personal truth, which has already been ignored by the revelation of his gender, is now threatened by complete erasure. Believing she has the right to access all aspects of his life, Stones calculated research would have the power to replace the ‘facts’ of Moody’s life and erase Joss Moody to install in its place Josephine Moore. However, whilst it could be argued that the insensitivity displayed by Stones is not unique but rather a requirement of her job, this judgement becomes reductive when considered alongside Stones remarks regarding Moody’s professional career and that it is at this point that Kay decides to move the narrative to Scotland.

The change in location allocates an importance to the moment in the novel, Kay uses it to emphasise the oppressive quality Stone’s presents to not only Joss but also Colman. Delving into the complexities and differences of Blackness within Britain and as explained by Kay herself ‘Scotland more clearly subjects racial minorities to a process of double colonisation’[13], and it is precisely this that is mirrored within the narrative as through the combining of Stone’s and Scotland. As a global marker of Black experience, the character of Joss Moody suggests the possibility that the reconciliation of Blackness alongside Scottish identity could be achieved but this idea is quickly broken by the infiltration of Stone’s and her actions are clearly presented as an extreme of society not simply the product of her industry.

Furthermore, the use of Jazz as a medium of self-expression and performance further provides an interesting comparison to the concept that social views of gender are what are truly performative but Blackness as a concept is a personal truth. A transgender male, the revelation of Moody’s secret is presented as a violation that devastates both his family and his reputation as a revered musician. With the characters within the novel drawing attention to the body of Moody as a posed to his legacy, Kay presents a modern adaption of the historically held notion that the physicality of Black bodies still overcome their contributions to social culture.

Describing the bandages as ‘sticky and sweaty…as if she was removing skin’[14] , the intrusive description the post-mortem not only presents as a clear violation of Moody reveals the morbid interest in the black body. Despite being centuries apart, Kay’s novel and Equiano’s narrative both show British Blackness to be intrinsically linked to the physicality of the body and with the examination the identity of Joss Moody is destroyed and his existence effectively erasure. A process perpetuated by the medias hounding interest the loss of Moody’s identity also results in the loss of his work which, in the public eye no longer has the embodiment of an author and therefore is culturally devalued.

In addition to this it can be suggested that this intrinsic linking of the gendered body to the performative nature of Moody’s work is used to expose the reality that a gendered identity is a performative aspect that much of society adheres to and contrasts the inherent Blackness embodied by Moody and his son Colman. Having lived life as a man, Moody’s success in life evidences that the biological sex and social gender are not mutually exclusive with the latter being a performance of what is considered masculine or feminine. This is contrasted by Kay who presents Blackness as an immutable aspect of life through both the treatment of Joss’ and Colman’s reaction. As described by Matt Richardson, Joss is ‘no longer the exception’[15] and thus open to the racial prejudice of British society, something later mirrored by Colman who attempts to reclaim his Blackness through the prejudice idea of fetishizing of the Black body. Through this the silencing of what constitutes Blackness is exposed and in addition to the setting of Scotland the novel ‘Trumpet’ somewhat settles on a reality that whilst British Blackness is subjected to a social oppression that suggests it to be a fragile concept, Blackness – mirroring the sentiments of Equiano- is in fact a personal form of consciousness that can only be claimed by those that possess it. Finally finding a resolution with Colman accepting his father as a route back to reclaiming of his own masculinity and Blackness.

From the examinations of historical and contemporary autobiographies the definitions pertaining to the idea of Blackness have been constantly challenged and revised by Black authors. Through the presentation of their own life narratives, writers in conjunction to Equiano and Kay – who have formed the basis of analysis in this essay – have exemplified themselves in order to progress the definition beyond the formations of the allotted by the colonial society. Whilst Kay’s novel presents some of the progressions that have been made, its ability to draw comparisons to Equiano’s historical narrative also suggests the lengths of revision that still need to take place.

References

Equiano, Olaudah. The Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African, (New York: Longman African Writers, 1994).

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin White Mask, (New York: Grove Press INC, 1967).

Holago, Miasol Equibar. “Reading the Body Racial in Black Canadian/ Black Scottish Nonfiction: Dorothy Mills Proctor and Jackie Kay” African American Review, Vol. 51 no.3, 2018.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-hume-morality/ (last accessed 25/04/2020).

https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/history-of-slavery/africa-before-transatlantic-enslavement/ (last accessed 25/04/2020).

https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/price-of-britains-slave-trade-revealed (last accessed 08/12/2019).

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/blackness?s=t (last accessed 12/05/2020).

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/feb/22/classics.chinuaachebe (last accessed 12/05/2020).

Jaggi Maya, Dyer Richard, ‘Interview: Jackie Kay in Conversation to Maya Jaggi and Richard Dyer’, Wasafiri, 14:29 (July 2008).

Kay Jackie. Trumpet, (London: Picador, 1998).

Kleingeld, Pauline. ‘Kant’s Second Thoughts on Race’, The Philosophical Quarterly, 57, 229 (2007).

Richardson, Mat. ‘My Father didn’t have a Dick: social death and Jackie Kay’s Trumpet’, GLQ, 18, (2012).

Notes

[1] Chinua Achebe, 2003, Out of Africa, from Guardian Unlimited https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/feb/22/classics.chinuaachebe [last accessed 12/05/2020]

[2] ‘Blackness’ in https://www.dictionary.com/browse/blackness?s=t [last accessed 12/05/2020]

[3] https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/history-of-slavery/africa-before-transatlantic-enslavement/ [last accessed 25/04/2020]

[4] Olaudah Equiano, The Life of Olaudah Equiano, (New York: Longman African Writers, 1994) p.1

[5] Frantz, Fanon, Black Skin White Mask, (New York: Grove Press INC, 1967) p.109-39

[6] Olaudah Equiano, The Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African, (New York: Longman African Writers, 1994) p.2

[7] https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/price-of-britains-slave-trade-revealed last accessed 08/12/2019

[8] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-hume-morality/ [last accessed 25/04/2020]

[9] Pauline, Kleingeld. ‘Kant’s Second Thoughts on Race’, The Philosophical Quarterly, 57, 229 (2007), pp.573-92

[10] Maya Jaggi, Richard Dyer, ‘Interview: Jackie Kay in Conversation to Maya Jaggi and Richard Dyer’, Wasafiri, 14:29 (July 2008), 53-61.

[11] Jackie Kay, Trumpet, (London, Picador, 1998) p. 141-42.

[12] Jackie Kay, Trumpet, (London, Picador, 1998) p. 142.

[13] Miasol Equibar Holago. “Reading the Body Racial in Black Canadian/ Black Scottish Nonfiction: Dorothy Mills Proctor and Jackie Kay” African American Review, Vol. 51 no.3, 2018, p. 167-179.

[14] Jackie Kay, Trumpet, (London: Picador, 1998) p.

[15] Matt, Richardson. ‘My Father didn’t have a Dick: social death and Jackie Kay’s Trumpet’, GLQ, 18, (2012) pp.361-379


Written at: Goldsmiths University of London
Written for: Joan Anim-Addo
Date written: May 2020

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