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Shika Interview

Posted on 18 December 2009. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talkes to WW member Shika

Tell us all about your writing background- what youíve written, what youíre currently writing

I've written poems since I was very little and about ten years ago I decided to write a novel. That novel has morphed into two short stories, one poem and two novels based on the original idea which I have decided to leave to breathe for a while. This has opened up the space for something completely different and I am working on a contemporary thriller that I hope will force me to flex my plotting muscle.

Other work besides writing; ie. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring, and how it works/worked for/against your own writing

I'm a single mum working full-time in a corporate fifteen-hour-day-type-job. I am also doing an MA at Birkbeck and up until the beginning of the year I was a board member at Booktrust. I donít always succeed in finding the time to write everyday so I try to keep a sense of the story in my mind. This means memorising phrases, drawing pictures and storing photographs from magazines until I am able to find the time to write.

How did you start writing?

I'm pretty sure that I started writing when I was very young because I first came to the UK when I was six years old and I understand that my teachers had spoken to my mother about my poems prior to my departure from my native Ghana. My parents decided to return to Ghana when I was nine years old and my British teacher informed my mother that I was on my way to becoming a good poet and this would be lost if I returned to Africa. Cue me screaming at my mother saying, 'what are you sending me to Africa for?' as she dragged me from the school. This became a bit of a family joke and I did not write a single poem for the next eighteen years.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

My favourites are Claire Etcherelli; Salman Rushdie, Doris Lessing; Anne Michaels; Nadine Gordimer Rohinton Mistry, Amy Tan, Ben Okri, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Benjamin Zephaniah; Lemn Sissay. I admire African American performance poets for their lyrical content. Their work reminds me of village call and response rhythms back in Ghana.

How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication? Can you tell us about the process/journey? (or if you are still on it?)

I was short-listed in a Virago competition in 1996 for a poem titled, 'My Sister' and shortly after that another poem titled 'Why colour your judgement' was published in an anthology. I have published non-fiction articles on healthcare and the NHS and I was a speech writer for a government outsource agency which was pretty cool. But Iím still on the journey, waiting to bask in agent scented flattery and long term planning.

What's the worst thing about writing?

Well, there's a certain lack of credibility until one is published, no? I think blogging, competitions and opportunities to read work out can help but I think this legitimacy or lack thereof is a huge challenge for the unpublished writer.

The other issue is the lack of focussed support for those of us who are yet to bag an agent and or a publisher. It seems odd to me that here you have an industry that has to rely on a steady stream of new writers for content and yet does nothing to seek out, sustain or hone new talent. Seems like an odd way to plan for the long term and I'm not aware of any other industry that does not try to build long-term alliances with potential suppliers based on old-fashioned transparency and trust.

And the best?

I like the magic of writing. When out of nowhere, seemingly disparate strands of story transform into a vivid painting of John and Mary's early married life where you can smell the apple juice stain in the kitchen table even though they only shared their first kiss a few hundred words ago....

Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences/readers and if/how this affects/influences your writing

I attracted the attention of an editor at a large publishing house some years ago and (in theory) she is waiting for me to complete my book so she can read it. In practice, I have ditched said book but knowing that she was in the background gave me a sense of purpose. I recently read a poem I workshopped on Write Words at Writloud (www.writloud.co.uk) and received a great response to that. In fact, workshopping my poems here on WriteWords was a great confidence boost. My blog has been a great success in this regard especially since it is written in a particular voice. My short stories have been well received by lecturers and fellow students on the MA and that has helped with the self-doubt I tend to carry around but ultimately the best kind of response for me will be the knowledge that someone completely unconnected to me has bought and loved my book.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Steerpike`s sister at 21:20 on 19 December 2009  Report this post
Thanks for the interview Shika and good luck with the MA - don't know how you fit it all in!

MF at 14:13 on 20 December 2009  Report this post
Lovely interview, Shika! And do keep at it - you deserve to succeed.

Nik Perring at 14:10 on 21 December 2009  Report this post
Great interview, Shika. Wishing you all the best (and all you deserve).


Shika at 15:02 on 21 December 2009  Report this post
Aw thanks chaps! ;

Gillian75 at 13:56 on 22 December 2009  Report this post
Congrats on your success, Shika I admire how you put so much effort into writing, being a busy lady! (I love Amy Tan too.)

Best wishes for the future,

Gillian x

Account Closed at 21:41 on 22 December 2009  Report this post
A lovely interview, Shika.

Account Closed at 16:25 on 29 December 2009  Report this post
Yes, lovely indeed, Shika.

V`yonne at 16:56 on 29 December 2009  Report this post
Very good interview

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