JANUARY 2022

Happy New Year

January, the month of the zodiac signs of Capricorn and Aquarius and the full moon is the wolf moon. The start of the year when we make resolutions, write on the new page in our diaries and hope that the year is going to be full of better things. It is also the coldest month of the year, we want to be cosy around a fire reading a book or two. Well, my January this year began with the very good news of a dream of mine becoming a reality. Since I arrived in Scotland in 1969 and slowly integrated to life here, worked, paid my taxes, put my roots here I had hoped to leave a small legacy that would be meaningful for all. With my passion for reading books and since 2008 becoming a writer I’ve wanted to see more books by people of colour on the bookshelves of all our bookshops. The idea of establishing a prize for writers of colour slowly took shape. I am thrilled that the Kavya Prize has been launched in 2022, the Year of Stories, Scotland. Voices of multi-cultural Scotland will be heard. I was lucky to find a kind benefactor (who wishes to remains anonymous) who gave a generous donation to make it possible. I approached Zoe Strachan at Glasgow University and a whole team there helped the process get underway.

Choosing the name of this prize was not easy. As always ancient civilisation with the world’s oldest books in Sanskrit was the perfect choice. Kavya is a popular and well recognised word in Sanskrit and refers to a literary style or a completed body of literature that was used in Indian courts of the Maharajahs who nurtured the cultural arts in India.

The launch of the Kavya Prize has been well received. We just need publishers to send books over for the adjudication. It’s an exciting time in the Scottish literary scene. This will keep me busy for a while.

Meanwhile writing for, and reading at events must go on. I am thrilled to be invited by St Mungo’s Mirrorball to read at their January showcase on the 20th along with a wonderful line up of amazing poets.

https://stmungosmirrorball.wordpress.com/

I wish you all a wonderful NEW YEAR filled with love, joy, good health and happiness.

Goodbye 2021

Life sucks. 2021 saw the demise of two of my husband’s close family. Not through Covid, but not being able to attend their funerals is unpleasant. Other stresses don’t help, so goodbye to my annus horribilis. Have to just keep going and hope for better times.

The last two months of 2021 was busy. The highlight of November for me was the invitation by Scottish Geopoetics to read poems, along with three other poets at the COP 26 event. Covid -19 was still raging. The fact that world leaders and thousands of visitors had arrived in Glasgow, was exciting and worrying in case the virus would affect the participants. Emboldened that I was vaccinated, I entered the tent where RSK solutions were hosting the event. There were huge banners of our poems and the corporate delegates enjoyed the poems and music provided by Scottish Geopoetics. It was a break from their talks and presentations on how to get to net zero on carbon emissions in each of their businesses. An interesting start to November and highly satisfying that poets could contribute to saving the Earth from man’s destruction.

This was followed by two interesting ‘climate change’ events I participated in- ‘Poetry India and Scotland’ : https://beinghumanfestival.org/events/poetry-and-climate-crisis-scotland-and-india?fbclid=IwAR3wUb9rDAT1V2MZ6Tr3jYAbyaYpgKzZGmmTKfUQBE47ZSJat4mPZq5xUsU

Milngavie Heritage centre had published an updated issue of Neil Orr’s ‘Milngavie, the village’ and I was proud to be invited to contribute a poem and my memories of living in the village.

The final event for November was celebrating St Andrews Night with the Federation of Writers wonderful poetry and prose readings.

Ringwood Crime Night

December started with a visit to Eastwood Writers launch of their anthology. Good to see another writers’ group going from strength to strength. This was followed later in the week with Ringwood Publishing’s ‘Crime Night’ ( see video above). A really enjoyable event with six of us Ringwood crime writers discussing our writing followed by some incisive questions from the audience. The Federation of Writers, Scotland’s event Tinsel Tales when the new Makar and Scriever are ‘crowned’ was to be at Perth but the appearance of Omicron changed it into another Zoom event. It was sad to end my Scrievership 2021 on zoom. However I made the effort to meet with Moira McPartlin, the new Scriever for 2022 in person to hand over the shield. I am sure she will make a wonderful ambassador for the Federation of Writers, Scotland. A poetry class on December 17th and a couple of poems sent away for an audio anthology saw the ‘writerly’ year come to a close. The tail end of the year is time to spend with loved ones.

Will 2022 be a much better year? It is the Chinese Year of the Black Water Tiger. Let it start with a roar!

October- Happy Book Birthday

Murder at the Mela’s birthday, published on 28 October 2020

A Covid Year has flown by and my third novel celebrates its first birthday this month. Despite the pandemic, I’ve tried my best to promote the book digitally appearing at various book festivals, events and book groups who were kind enough to invite me when they discussed MATM. DI Patel is popular and there is a cry for the next book in the series.

October also saw a hybrid use of zoom and face to face meetings at Bearsden Writers. We are all coping the best way we can with the invisible Corona virus still holding the world to ransom. Our writers group has managed a ‘Walk and Write’ meeting, a face to face workshop on ‘How to Write a Synopsis’ -the dreaded bugbear of most writers. We’ve had a Halloween Competition. My October dates in the diary were filled with writing and meeting up with friends. I met my friend’s second grandson for the first time. He is nearly a year old.

Greenock Writers invited me to give a talk on poetry. I chose the theme of ‘Burnished Leaves ‘ as it was Autumn. It was well received and the club member, Morris, wrote a lovely blog on the meeting.

https://www.greenockwriters.co.uk/october-20th-2021-poetry-talk-burnished-leaves-leela-soma/

October is Black History Month. I didn’t know that it had started 30 years ago in the United States. The death of George Floyd brought the month into more focus and the tireless work of eminent people like Professor Geoff Palmer is paying dividends.

I must mention Glasgow being the host of COP26. Two hundred world leaders are arriving in our city. Will it be empty words as Great Thunberg says… blah blah , blah? Or will the leaders act on their promises. Let’s wait and see.

July, August, September

Summer has whizzed by and autumn is well on its way. July passed by quickly, with my adjudications of Federation of Writers Scotland’s Vernal Equinox Competition and the Short Story competition for ‘Autumn Voices’. Also taking part in the Scottish Pen’s Penning magazine ‘Renewal’ launch was great and meeting the writers whose work I had chosen along with the board of S. PEN when I guest edited the magazine. You can read the whole issue here.

I also enjoyed taking part in Walking & Writing organised by Lapidus Scotland both at The Botanic Gardens and at The Kelvingrove Park.

August was exciting as I was invited to be on The Creative Conversations Conference, Moving the Centre: Towards a Radical Future organised at Glasgow University. It was good to connect with Suhayl Saadi and poet Luke Sutherland on the panel.

On the 14th of August I lead a workshop on ‘Using Indian Dance & Yoga as Prompts’ for the SBWN.

Then came our Bearsden Writers first Writing Festival on August 21st. The weather was dreich but the festival was a resounding success.

September looks like another busy month. Two events on the 29th, reading at Scottish Pen, followed by reading for the Open Book at the Wigtown Book Festival.

https://wigtownbookfestival.com/programme/event/428399136/

As the nights draw in it is good to be involved in various events. And I made my first bottles of apple jelly. Rather proud of that achievement. There are some wonderful festivals to look forward to from Halloween to Diwali and then Christmas. Hope you all have a good time too.

June 23rd #National Writing Day

‘Say it with words.’

‘There is a book inside everyone.’

‘You’ve have a story to tell.’

‘Write a novel in thirty days.’

If only it was that easy. Lockdown and stagnation has been harder to contend with. Some authors have penned two books or more. Some of us are busy promoting our books. With no book launches in person, zoom has taken over. Screen time has gone up exponentially. And writing? Well, fits and starts is all I can confess to.

June 1st started fine with a lovely poetry writing class with Open Book. A few poems penned and drafts to work on.

I watched in awe Jhumpa Lahiri’s new work in Italian and her translating the work back to English. A Pulitizer Prize winning author whose works I admire.

We enjoyed a lovely new ice cream parlour opening in our little town. Melts Milngavie had an excellent choice of tasty flavours and and added a little sweetness to our lives.

June 11th was an exciting day as I was part of a panel, on Publishing Scotland’s ‘The Scottish Books Long Weekend.’ Chaired by Russel McLean it was a great conversation with authors Robbie Morrison and Diarmid MacArthur. You can watch it on You Tube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W2QP203Ja0&list=PLsuF2Hvv-PhuABK6zGMFnfyAABclG8Hiv&index=4

The following week on June 16th the Ullapool Book Festival screened my chat with Chris Dolan on ‘Murder at the Mela’. His questions were well prepared and incisive and he made the conversation really interesting. The hour flew by. A prolific author, writer, musician whose new book is out now. He’s written some episodes of ‘Taggart,’ need I say more?

On 17th of June I got this on Facebook, a lovely review of ‘Murder at the Mela’ to wake up to. From Jaya Kumar. “I just loved reading your book. I am actually not very fond of the crime genre. I love your book because it was not just about crime. There were so many other elements in it, all dealt with so well. The characters were so true to life. I love how you brought out so many facets of life in Glasgow. I loved DI Patel! I loved how you brought out the relationship between him and Usma – all the difficulties they face and then his finally getting tempted into a relationship which would be so much easier to nurture – I’ve seen that happen to a friend of mine, so it’s so true to life. I loved the feisty Nadia – wish she didn’t have to die, but then there would be no story if she hadn’t! I love the way you brought out the stages in the development of Hanif’s character. His desire was to belong and almost getting initiated into fundamentalism, and his final rejection of that, for a better and more normal life. I never guessed the murderer, and that is the mark of a good thriller! All in all I think it’s a wonderful book! Lots more about the book that I liked but I’ll stop here for now….”

On 19th June Cathy Mc Sporran an OU lecturer, author and friend sent a really surprising news about my book being on Book Riot. Murder at the Mela was in this selection along with Ali Smith, Jackie Kay and Aminatta Forna! 9 Braw Contemporary Scottish Books That You Must Read> https://bookriot.com/contemporary-scottish-books/?fbclid=IwAR2gN9_aXwLfAC-ye02xRJ8x9N2d_P3QIqejnNKJbutf2X8ovjVGLOReSuI

I never knew of Book Riot so decided to google them. This is ‘about them “Book Riot is the largest independent editorial book site in North America, and home to a host of media, from podcasts to newsletters to original content, all designed around diverse readers and across all genres.”

June has been busy with other interesting matters. My writing group Bearsden Writers are busy preparing for a ‘Writing Festival ‘ on August 21st. An exciting new venture that we hope would continue every year. Look at the lovely poster on our website.

It may not be ‘Flaming June’ but a very productive and interesting month. Roll on July.