Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Goodbye to International Chick Lit Month

Well that was the month that was, the first ever International Chick Lit Month took place in May. Celebrated avidly by Chick Lit is Not Dead, Chick Lit Club and Novelicious, I decided to mark the occasion as well. The event saw interviews with the wonderful ladies from Chick Lit is Not Dead, I asked some of my favourite bloggers to tell me about their favourite Chick Lit title, I also caught up with publicist, Hannah Hargrave who told me what it was like to promote Chick Lit books and I also got the chance to interview one of my favourite authors, Lisa Jewell who talked about her new book, The Making of Us. I have had a blast and learnt lots about the genre and this event had made me appreciate it more. It is really great to know that so many people love Chick Lit books. Roll on next year.

If you missed out on the event them just click here to read all the past International Chick Lit Month blog posts here.

Fire in Babylon

I have never been a real fan of cricket, when I was growing up it was all about athletics, gymnastics and figure skating. In fact my only direct exposure to the sport was a few years ago when I attended a hospitality event in Manchester with a bunch of cricket stars such as Sir Viv Richards, Curtly Ambrose and Henry Olonga. It was a great day and I sort of got an idea of how massive cricket really is. I heard about Fire of Babylon a few weeks ago by chance through an email from a mate and the promo copy gave me an insight into what  it was about. Fire in Babylon captures the spirit of the West Indian cricket team and how their performances united countries from the West Indies and inspired them during traumatic times. The documentary features cricket super stars such as Viv Richards, Joel Garner, Clive Lloyd, Michael Holding and Colin Croft who made up what is now regarded as one of the best West Indies team the world has ever seen. Armed with lots of talent, determination and a hell of a load of pride, this team brought the world to its knees and a nation to its feet. This amazing team played during the era of the mid 70s and early 80s and experienced daunting times such as playing to an aggressive and racially abusive Australian team and audience. As well as a condescending and superior English team and public who deemed the West Indian players to be nothing more than clowns.

The gallant West Indian players rose to the occasion and gave both teams thrashings that they would never forget and as a result not only earned them the respect of the Australian and English players but their friendship as well. Ian Botham and Viv Richards went on to become great friends and many of the Australian players are still mates with that West Indian team. On top of this they were playing during the turbulent era of apartheid in South Africa; race riots in England and civil unrest in the Caribbean. They sure as hell kicked ass and turned cricket into a power sport. I loved watching this film because it really showed a beautiful side of cricket and I am a sucker for a good sport documentary and this one really lived up to the hype. I have always been fascinated by the run and jump that the players adopted when they approach the batsmen and this is shown in great detail with slow motion and still footage. The cinematography which is mostly taken from the 70s and 80s is magically remastered and set to an electric soundtrack which I just need to get my pretty hands on. The West Indian cricket team are interviewed and shared their experiences with us. Seriously, the 90 minutes went bit too quick and it left me wanting more. Stevan Riley does a thumping job and really conveys the feeling and deep emotion of that era. I am so getting this on DVD when it is released next week.

Check out the fabulous Fire in Babylon website.

Fire in Babylon is released on DVD on 6th June and you can get it from there outlets.

Check out a clip from the premiere in London with interviews from some of the cricket team and crew.

Monday, 30 May 2011

The I'mPOSSIBLE Conversation

Michelle and Barack Obamas took the country by storm last week during another trip to the UK and they set off to France leaving us all longing for more. However it was their first visit in 2009 that made us all fall in love with them particularly Michelle who won the hearts of women around the world when she uttered those words that it is cool to be smart. Michelle O telling women to embrace their smartness was a real moment and taught us that we needed to claim our power. As well as sport stars, singers and actresses we need to start worshipping women who have done well in the workplace. Enter The I'mPOSSIBLE Conversation which is a series of intimate events which bring British women of colour together to share their experiences. Imagine Inside the Actor's Studio meshed with Oprah's Legend Luncheon and you get the gist. The event will be hosted by actress, Tameka Empson who plays Kim Fox in EastEnders and she will be chairing a fantastic panel that consists of critic and author, Bonnie Greer, journalist, Charlene White, comedienne and playwright, Angie LeMar, journalist and author, Precious Williams and ex Channel 4 daytime time commissioner, Angela Ferreira.

Sponsors on board are Mizani which is L'Oreal's global premium range for afro hair and B.Hive where the event is taking place. Set up by PR guru, Lynne Franks, B.Hive is an innovative workspace for women entrepreneurs to run their businesses and meet like minded women. "The I'mPOSSIBLE Conversation is a groundbreaking event for the UK and women of colour as it puts their stories, unabridged into the public domain in a way that's empowering and inspiring," says Simone Bresi-Ando who founded I'mPOSSIBLE in 2009. I am really looking forward to this event because not only is the B.Hive a gorgeous venue that I have been meaning to explore, it will be amazing to be in the presence of such amazing women and hear what they have to say. I expect the event to be sensational.

The I'mPOSSIBLE Conversation takes place on Wednesday 15th June at 6.15pm at B.Hive, 26-27 Southampton St, WC2E 7RS. Tickets are £25.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

In the Editor's Chair - Cynthia Lawrence-John

I do love conceptual magazines although they can be a little out there, they are very beautiful and inspirational. Enter Volt magazine which is a biannual publication that is a creative hybrid that shows off the work by from some of the directional fashion talent from all over the world. Volt covers British fashion, beauty and talent the work of photographers, stylists and artists. It was launched in 2007 in the midst of a very glamorous party in London and this was followed by a launch in Berlin a year later. Volt's online editor is Cynthia Lawrence-John who is a top stylist who was has worked with Sugababes, the Ting Tings, Kanye West, VV Brown, Lady Gaga and Rihanna. She took five minutes out of her busy schedule to tell me all about the publication.

How did you get into magazines?
I have worked in the magazine world since I was about 24, when I graduated with a photography degree from LCP (London College of Printing). My first job in a magazine publishing company was at Natmags/ Hearst publishing, as a Picture Editor which taught me a tremendous amount, much of which I still use today. I was also the Fashion Director of Sleaze magazine. Volt magazine was the original idea of Rui Faria, who is the editor-in-chief and also a beauty photographer. My initial job was fashion director but now I also work on the marketing side.

Describe the concept of Volt magazine and the idea behind the name.
Volt magazine is a biannual and is published as a Spring/Summer edition and an Autumn/Winter edition. The concept is for each image to stand up in its own right, as a beautiful image. It is unbound and over sized so that the magazine does not have the same format and constraints as traditional print magazines. Volt magazine aims to 'slow down' the viewing process...the large unbound format forces the viewer to actually 'LOOK' at the pages and content, as opposed to 'skim' the content. In each issue we like to commission well-established photographers and image-makers, as well as upcoming talent. We also like to feature well established brands alongside new design talent.

The design is very slick and very modern, how did you decide on the art design of the publication?
The art direction of Volt magazine has been a very organic process. Volt is not about following trends in design or a grid. Each story is designed with the concept of the story in mind, however the design does not take over from the story. In terms of the style of photography, it varies from issue to issue. I love photography, which has a cinematic feel and also documentary/reportage. Rui loves full on glamour fashion. I guess Volt is really a combination of the two. I love models that are ‘real’, with an inspiring personality. I love fashion and clothes, but it is important to me, particularly in my work that the models own ‘person’ comes across even if they are playing a character in a story.
Who is behind Volt magazine?
Volt is a surprisingly small team; Rui Faria came up with the original concept, he is a beauty photographer as well as running a photography agency called Areia. I am the fashion director, as well as working on the marketing and special projects alongside Rui. Jason Leung is the menswear fashion editor, Linda Ohstrom is our incredibly talented and wonderful beauty editor, Katie Baron is our features editor and on the design side is Angelo Pandelidis. Voltcafe, the online sister title to Volt magazine is very important, Anna Bang is the features editors on Voltcafe. We also have a team of amazing interns and students who are absolutely vital to the magazine.

Describe a day in the life of Cynthia Lawrence-John.
A day in my life is very varied! Which is why I love what I do. Aside from working as fashion director on Volt and Voltcafe, I am also a freelance stylist. One day I may be prepping for a fashion editorial, the next day researching photographers and new talent for upcoming issues of Volt or Voltcafe. The next day I may be doing a fitting for a music video or film, the next consulting for a brand, my days are never the same and I do not get bored, which is very important to me. I do not like to feel in a rut whether it be a creative rut or a career rut. I like to feel I am always learning something new.

Which blogs do you check out regularly?
To be honest, I must confess I don’t really check blogs on a regular basis. Maybe I should as there are some great ones. I do look at Lulu Kennedy’s blog and Sharmadean Reid as I find them both very inspiring and I like their take on life. I love The Sartorialist but when I do have time to read, I am more likely to pick up a book than to check blogs maybe I am just old fashioned?

What magazines do you read?
I love I-D, Fantastic Man, Twin, Another and Another Man, Teen Vogue, L’official and BUTT, although I do read others but I don’t want to go on.

What tips do you have for anyone who wants to become a magazine editor?
For anybody who wants to become an editor on a magazine I guess the main thing is to have a voracious appetite for all facets of the magazine world. I never studied fashion, my background is more in the theoretical side of image making and fashion, as opposed to the practical side of things. But I      enjoy both equally. I always want to keep learning and it is important to me to continue evolving. I learn as much from the young interns who come into magazine as they do from me. In any field always be open and ready to learn and take on board new ideas.

Issue 9 of Volt magazine is out now.

Check out the Volt website here.

You can follow Cynthia on Twitter.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Why I Hate Bridget Jones

The most famous Chick Lit of all time and the one that really set it all off. Bridget Jones's Diary is named by The Guardian as one of the ten novels that defined the 20th century. The now iconic book written by Helen Fielding was inspired by her very popular single girl about town column in The Independent. Not too dissimilar from Candace Bushnell who also kicked off her career at the same time, where she penned her own column for The New York Observer. Well I never got round to reading Bridget Jones but I did watch the film when it was released back in 2001 (my god that was ten years ago) and how appropriate was that film to my life and state of mind back then. Bridget Jones, played by Renee Zellweger is a curvy, nice middle class girl who works for a publishing company. Work is an interesting word as Bridget seems to spend most of her time dreamy over Daniel Cleaver played by Hugh Grant who she believes is her Mr Right and obsessing over her weight. She keeps a diary that monitors every pound she has lost and or put on and also how many glasses of wine she has consumed. She meets Mark Darcy played by Colin Firth at her parent's Christmas Party and despite encouragement by both their parents, the two fail to hit it off. Mark thinks Bridget is a ditzy bimbo and Bridget writes Mark off as a stuck up snob. After spending New Year's Eve alone she decides to turn her life around by losing weight, drinking less wine and finding herself a nice man. I totally loved this film when I first saw it but now I can barely watch it without cringing. I really feel that Bridget Jones gives single women and chick flicks a bad name with her constant scatty and needy ways.

Below I have listed he things I dislike about Bridget Jones's Diary:

It reinforces the stereotype that women need a man in order to complete them and if they never find the one then they are destined for a life of loneliness and will eventually turn into a psycho.
This notion that we all need a man to complete us is frankly patronising and out of sync. More and more of us live alone and also lead content lives without a man and children while managing not to have an emotional breakdown.

That the Brits are upper class twats who say fuck, bollocks and bugger a lot. 
Seriously? Who talks like that? Britain comprises of England, Scotland and Wales, three countries that have very different accents and that is not taking into consideration all the different regional dialects. To portray Brits as people who only talk like they have tomatoes in their mouths is just ridiculous.

That single women are ditzy airheads who make bad decisions and cannot cook and live in domestic chaos. 
This never fails to annoy me. Most single females are not all airheads who can barely find their way out of a paper bag, we are strong, independent women who juggle careers, family, friends and a mortgage - and we cook too.

That Hugh Grant needs to be in every Brit movie in order for it to be a success. 
There was a time back in the day when Hugh Grant was a serious actor but that all changed when Four Weddings and a Funeral became a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic. It is amazing what success does to a man, since then Hugh had elevated his then girlfriend, Elizabeth Hurley to celebrity life, hooked up with a prostitute and is now the figurehead for Brit romcoms. Someone send him his pension book.

That modern women smoke like chimney pots and drink like fishes. 
Strangely enough some of us actually value our bodies and apart from the odd drink here and there we like to look after it. This does not include drinking more booze than your body weight and smoking like a fish wife.

Overall Bridget Jones's Diary leaves a lot to desire and really sets women back a few decades.I pray that they do not make another movie.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Promoting Chick Lit

Working for a book publishers is a dream for a huge book lover like me; imagine being surrounded by gorgeous titles all day. Brings me out in trembles as I write. A good few years ago I read Bestseller by Olivia Goldsmith which gave me a real indicator about how the publishing industry works and how crucial the departments such as sales, editorial, marketing and PR are to the success of a title. Because She Can by Bridie Clark also provided us with a pop cultural view of the book industry and how they analyse trends in order to shift books. I was introduced to the Sphere clan at the launch of From Notting Hill with Love Actually and I was struck by how much passion they had for the books they were working on. I caught up with Hannah Hargrave, the acting publicity manager at Little, Brown Book Group (which owns Sphere) and she gave me the lowdown on the publicity department and what exactly goes on in there.

Describe your role at Sphere.
As Acting Publicity Manager at Little, Brown Book Group – looking after the Sphere list primarily – I work in an incredibly busy publicity department. Everyday I handle a huge number of media enquiries, with requests for review copies, interviews and features with our many authors coming in from the national and regional newspapers, magazines, websites, TV and radio stations. I plan and carry out publicity campaigns for around four new titles a month, and this involves writing press releases, sending out review copies to all the literary editors and key reviewers, and pitching to journalists in order to persuade them to feature our authors. I also need to stay in constant contact with my authors and keep them updated on any news of coverage, as well as manage their interview and events schedules, which can involve promotional book signings and festival appearances across the country. With so many amazing authors on our list it can get very hectic!

How do you define Chick Lit?
Chick lit is often dismissed as being formulaic, sentimental froth – the desperate single woman seeking a Mr Darcy figure has her happy ending, all bound together with a pastel pink cover! However, the genre is as strong and as vibrant as ever, with an incredible range of themes, characters, dilemmas, humour and romance. Books published today need to offer readers more than the usual girl-meets-boy story, and our key authors, including Jenny Colgan, Fiona Walker and Dorothy Koomson – to name but a few – write books that are genuinely funny, compelling, gripping, emotional and intelligent. And I think that good chick lit is defined in the same way.

Name a few of your favourite Chick Lit books.
I have a very long list, but it would definitely include The Imperfect Girlfriend by Lucy-Anne Holmes, Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding (classic!), Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, My Best Friend’s Girl by Dorothy Koomson and I am currently loving Victoria Fox’s Hollywood Sinners (although technically this is more of a bonkbuster!).
What sort of tactics do you use to promote a Chick Lit novel?
It does depend on the book I’m working on, but I’m always willing to give anything and everything a go, and authors always have lots of good ideas themselves. At the moment I am fully embracing digital strategies – using Twitter, Facebook, blogs and websites to create as much buzz as possible. I’ve also sent out treats with review copies (cakes and chocolate always go down well!), created themed parties with costumes and props, and wrapped books in luxury paper and ribbon to make them look and feel extra special. If it will give us an extra national review – and more sales – it’s always worth a try.

Tell me about your most recent campaign.
At the moment I’m working on a debut publishing in June – Laura’s Handmade Life by Amanda Addison - an irresistible cross between Slummy Mummy and Kirstie Allsopp's Homemade Home, with all the chaotic humour of family life combined with everything crafty - sewing, patchwork, knitting. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and there has already been a lot of interest from the women’s magazines. The editor, Caroline Hogg, who acquired the book, is a huge fan of crafts and she organised people in the office to get together and make some adorable flower brooches: They are all unique and hand-sewn, and will be sent out with a copy of the book to all the literary editors and reviewers across the national press, which will hopefully make it stand out from all the others they receive for that month. Amanda Addison is a graduate of the Chelsea School of Art, so I’ve been putting her forward for interviews and features as well. We will also be launching an incredible competition to win a sewing machine and some other crafty goodies. Caroline has created a Blue Peter style ‘how to make a book bag’ video, and we’re hoping that all those people who love sewing and making things will join in and send us pictures of their own creations! Again, websites and blogs are incredibly important to this campaign, and I’ve been contacting quite a few who are keen to review the book or run competitions - and help us with ours. Amanda will also be popping into local shops to sign copies.

How much input do the authors have in promoting their book?
Authors are essential to the publicity campaign. Early on we brainstorm ideas for features and news hooks, and I make sure they are happy to take part in interviews or events with bookshops, festivals and libraries. We also encourage authors to set up websites and Twitter feeds so that they can engage with their fans on a daily basis. I check press releases with authors, and make sure that any useful contacts they have in the media, or famous friends, get sent a copy too.

How would you say social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging have played a part in marketing the genre?
Social networking sites are vital in generating word of mouth excitement and getting your message straight to the fans. I always make sure that every book and author I work with has an online presence, and bloggers who review books are becoming increasingly powerful. Whereas a magazine will have one slot a week for a book review, websites can run limitless amounts of reviews and comments from fans. Increasingly chick lit readers are using these sites to determine which book they buy next, and I need to make sure that Sphere books are in all the right places.

You can follow Hannah on Twitter.

Friday, 20 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell

Despite the catastrophe that was Sex and the City 2 I still have an ongoing love affair with the TV series. Nothing can keep me away from that lovely pink boxset as I relive many memories of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte painting the city of NYC bright red. Despite what many short sighted people may think S&TC was not just about sex, it was about a deep friendship between four women. We saw how they bonded over the years and shared their lives with each other each and accepting one another's flaws without question. It was really quite beautiful to watch. I always wondered how Carrie and co met but strangely it was never discussed in the show. The second movie did give us an insight into this which to be honest was the only highlight but they did not go into much detail. This precious information is laid out to The Carrie Diaries which is a series of books written by Candace Bushnell who penned the book, Sex and the City. The series introduces us to Carrie as a teen when she is making her way through her last year at school, experimenting with boys, fashion, make up and her ideology. One thing she is not experimenting with is her dream to be a writer and she puts this into fruition by enrolling on a writing course in NYC. Summer and the City is the second book in the series which takes off where the first book left off with Carrie being mugged in New York as she arrives from her home town of Connecticut. With no money or clothes and no family or friends in the Big Apple she calls the cousin of her close friend - a Samantha Jones. Samantha takes her in for the night and of course takes her out to a party and from there on sort of acts as her guide around New York. Samantha is only a few years older than Carrie but with her own apartment, sexy clothes and a job in PR she is worlds apart. A few days later Carrie's luck takes a change for the better when she gets a call from a young lady saying she has found her bag. They arrange to meet so Carrie can collect it.- enter Miranda Hobbs. It is kind of delightful seeing Carrie meet the women who will turn out to be the most important people in her life, you feel like you are on a personal journey with her. We don't get to meet Charlotte in this book but she is spotted in Summer and the City so I guess she will make her appearance in the next title. This book may be written for teenagers but adults will enjoy it just as much.

Summer and the City is available to buy now.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: My Favourite Chick Lit by Keysha Davis

Welcome to the My Favourite Chick Lit series where a few of my favourite writers and bloggers tell me about their best loved Chick Lit book is and why it is so important to them. This week I am featuring the lovely Keysha Davis, the editor of Black Hair and also the owner of The Cocoa Diaries which covers the UK entertainment scene.
When I discovered I was pregnant with my first child in late 2004, overnight I transformed from a career focused, go-getter, into a neurotic, baby obsessed mama to be. I’d immerse myself in book after book that would document in painstaking detail all the physical, emotional and psychological changes that I’d no doubt encounter on the journey to motherhood. It didn‘t stop there. Every evening I would arrive home and virtually fling myself on the sofa, packet of Jacobs crackers in hand (that’s all I could eat for four months) getting lost in episode after episode of pregnancy reality TV shows (this was before the days of One Born Every Minute). So in other words - I was pretty prepared. Right? The survey says (cue Family Fortunes buzzer) *Uh uh*. Fast forward nine months later and the baby arrives (yay). But after the adrenaline and euphoria wears off, I find myself spinning in a maelstrom of endless feeds, leaky nipples, irrational thoughts, sleep deprivation, chronic insecurity, and just a general laundry list of feelings that weren’t listed in those BLADDY BOOKS! 
On one particular lonesome trip with me and my bubby to Bromley I stumbled across a book in Waterstones. “Amy Crane is in crisis. Six months after giving birth, she’s still struggling with the transition from independent thirty something to muffin-middle mum. She can‘t remember the last time she had a wax. Or an orgasm” Wow, there’s my life on the back of a paperback, I thought to myself. Needless to say I quickly grabbed a copy, made my way to the cash point and that was it. Over the next five days or so I could be found within the pages of The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy by Polly Williams. Everything I needed to understand and fully process my experience of becoming a mum could be found in the pages of my new companion. Like me, Amy was struggling to navigate in her new role as primary caregiver. A professional in her early 30’s, up until this point Amy hadn’t really had to deal with much responsibility. Not only was she overwhelmed by the enormity of her new role, but there was also the insecurities she felt trying to live up the ‘yummy mummy’ description that has become the burden of the modern day mother, fuelled by unobtainable images of post natal celebrities in weekly glossies.
So Amy, trying to resurrect some semblance of her former life, starts hanging around with a woman named Alice who fits the yummy mummy prototype to a tee. With a healthy bank account, a hot hubby, a fancy pad and a cavalier attitude towards motherhood, Alice takes Amy under her wing and gives her an insight into what motherhood could be like if she were to up the ante on the fabulousity stakes. Amy attempts to do so to comical consequences. From replacing her drab Primark wardrobe with designer garb, joining a Pilates class and becoming enamoured by the charms of her instructor, to getting botox much to her husband’s dismay - Amy is relentless in her pursuit of ‘hot mama-hood’ and things become rather complicated in the process. Like all good chick lit books, the tone of The Rise & Fall of a Yummy Mummy is down to earth, light-hearted with a solid moral fable for you to ponder on. Polly Williams is a wonderful writer. I really like her short, snappy sentences, comedic timing and her ability to talk about the modern malaise of contemporary women without portraying us as martyrs and victims. I truly wish I had discovered this book before becoming a mum. If you’re currently up the duff, I’d strongly urge you to do away with the pregnancy manuals and make amazon your friend.
You can read Keysha's blog here and follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Jenny Lopez Has a Bad Week by Lindsey Kelk

Over the last year or so Lindsey Kelk has found her way into my heart and become one of my favorite authors. Her fantastic I Heart series has really caught the imagination of Chick Lit lovers all round the world with her protagonist, Angela Clark who moves to New York to start a brand new life. Oh how we have lived vicariously through her life as she lands a plum job on a magazine, nabs a herself a cute hipster boyfriend and travels to exciting cities such as LA and Paris to cover stories. Lindsey has been a very busy lady not only is she working on a new I Heart book she has also written a stand alone title called The Single Girls To-Do List which is released in June and she has also found time to write a spin off of the I Heart series. Jenny Lopez Has a Bad Week is a short digital download which follows Angela's best friend as she struggles to restart her life after moving back to NYC from LA. A native New Yorker, Jenny's dream came true when she landed a cool gig as a stylist in La La Land and where she rubs shoulders with starlets. Also she had Angela for company so the two would explore LA night life and get into all sorts of mischief. However Jenny's luck ran out when she found out that her flat mate was a high class hooker and it was time to head back east.

So she is back in the Big Apple but at her lowest ebb with no job, flat mate or boyfriend so she sets out to rectify this and fast. Pretty soon she has sorted out a viewing with a potential flat mate and has booked two dates with exciting prospects. It looks like the job situation has been sorted when her mate Erin hooks her up with a job to babysit a supermodel. Piece of cake she thinks after all one thing she is good at is is dealing with people, except she finds out that the supermodel is a real handful. It looks like Jenny is going to have a really bad week. We always take the lead protagonist in a book to our hearts but it is often the supporting characters that often steal the show and with the I Heart series, Jenny Lopez with her sassy wit stole the show. After all it was she who got Angela back on her feet when she first landed in NYC and looking fabulous in her designer and vintage outfits. So it is only right that Jenny should get her own spin off book where we get to know the little minx much better. It has been a while since I last read an I Heart title so it was really great to catch up with Jenny and Angela, after all they do lead the most fabulous lives. In a nutshell Jenny Has a Bad Week was short but very very sweet.

Jenny Has a Bad Week is available for FREE on Kindle from amazon for those in the UK till 23rd May so hurry and download your copy. After that it is £1.99. You can also get it at iBookstore, right now it is FREE but I am not sure how long for. Readers outside of the UK can download the Kindle version from amazon here.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Something Borrowed

There is a famous saying called look at your friends and you see yourselves, in other words we are drawn to people who are just like us. But what about the other flip of the coin where opposites attract? Attractive and vivacious girl is best buddies with a dowdy and demure girl who let's her friend shine and take all the attention. How many times have we seen that scenario? Something Borrowed delves into this situation in the film adaptation of the best-selling book by Emily Giffin. Rachel played by Gennifer Goodwin is thoughtful. caring and generous yet she has always played second fiddle to her best friend, Darcy played by Kate Hudson. Darcy is drop dead gorgeous and has the sort of charisma that draws people in yet her manipulative ways means that she won't stop till she gets what she wants even if it is at the expense of others. When Darcy hooks up with Dex played by Colin Egglesfield who is Rachel's hot friend from law school, Rachel does nothing despite the fact that she really likes Dex and when Dex goes on to propose to Darcy, Rachel is still waiting on the sidelines like a spare tool. Then one drunken night after Rachel's 30th birthday party the unthinkable happens, she does the dirty on Darcy and sleeps with Dex. The morning after both best friend and groom are mortified but decide to keep it a secret. Next thing we know they are having a torrid affair while trying to keep up pretences with Darcy. However, Rachel decides that she needs more from the relationship and gives Dex and untimation to come clean with Darcy or call it off with her.
I have read the book of this film and it is not your run of the mill chick lit. A lot of the characters are very complex and there are a lot of grey areas that are covered. While Darcy is portrayed as a self obsorbed ditzy bimbo in the film, the book presents a more calculated character. The medium of film does not allow us to show the intricacies that are involved with female friendships especially long term ones. Women interact with each other very differently with men and to an extent a female can be like a relationship. It has its highs and lows and there are times when both parties involved can detest each other and this is all without getting into the competitiveness and rivalry that can cloud things. The casting was a bit off; in the book Darcy is a sultry brunette so the last person I would have picked to play her is Kate Hudson and Dex is described as being drop dead gorgeous so I would have expected someone like Ryan Reynolds or Bradley Cooper as opposed to Colin (who) Egglesfield. Still I heard that Emily Giffin is pleased with the result and thinks the casting was spot on so I suppose she is the real expert as it is her baby. Something Borrowed was an enjoyable film but it left me feeling very underwhelmed. There were some nice touches in the film such as a cameo by Emily Giffin sitting in the park reading the sequel, Something Blue which focuses on Darcy's side of the story. Also watch out for the short scene right at the end where we what looks like a potential trailer for Something Blue.

Something Borrowed is out in cinemas now.

I actually got introduced to Something Borrowed at the Yoruba Girl Dancing book club which I am part of and you can read what we all thought about it here.

Friday, 13 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Is Chick Lit Simply the Romance Novel?

Shade Lapite is a writer who runs Just Before Bed which is a fantastic book blog so I was delighted when she offered to write a guest post for me. The post is a light hearted look at the comparisons between Chick Lit and romance novels.

It’s not hard to spot the Chick Lit section in a bookshop. The pastel-coloured, cartoon-illustrated cover has become as ubiquitous as the perma-tan hero - big hands, big pecs, big…everything was once reserved for romances. The story lines are becoming pretty standard too. Housewives being abandoned by their husbands and falling for handsome farmers, (The Sweetest Thing by Cathy Woodman) career women being passed over for promotion then falling for the snobs who stole their coveted job (Unlike a Virgin by Lucy Anne Holmes) and organised girl Fridays forced to babysit out of control rock-star comedians then falling for their charges (Lizzy Harrison Loses Control by Pippa Wright). There’s an awful lot of falling in fact they sound curiously like the romance novel circa 1970 with a sense of humour. While the 21st century Chick Lit novel showers us with unfulfilled women toiling in underpaid job (nannies, secretaries, assistants) leaning on family and friends until a man provides that happy ending, the romance genre has done some serious growing up. The scowling, cynical hero is still wealthy and strong jawed but tends to refrain from taking his woman against her will. The women are still achingly beautiful and innocent but they’re not sitting around waiting for an invite to the nearest aisle. Instead they're strong-willed careerists, occasionally even contemptuous of the whole love thing.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this; when a pudgy, beer-swilling, nicotine-addicted Bridget Jones stumbled on to the literary scene she was supposed to usher in a richer more varied representation of womanhood. And for a while she did; from Melissa Bank’s, Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, to the feisty heroines of Candace Bushell’s Sex and the City. Along with the ditsy Bridgets, Chick Lit encompassed capable women at the top of their game, navigating life and love, friendship and family. You see, there was variety. Now the parameters of the genre seem to be narrowing. Yes the books are still well written, hilarious, moving but the underlying message is consistently - singledom sucks and life’s pointless without a steady man. We already have the romance, and it’s doing pretty well. so it would be a shame if we landed ourselves with an imitation genre. So let’s stop treating singledom like a disease, occasionally ditch the pastel-coloured cover and get back to embracing the full potential of women.

You can read Shade's blog here and you can follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Interview with Lisa Jewell

I have always been a fan of Lisa Jewell's books and along with Sophie Kinsella, Robyn Sisman, Matt Dunn and Jane Fallon, Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite Chick Lit authors. She has been writing books since 1999 when her first novel, Ralph"s Party became the bestselling debut of the year. Since then her other novels, Thirtysomething, One-Hit Wonder, Vince & Joy,  Friend of the Family, 31 Dream Street, The Truth About Melody Browne and After the Party (the sequel to Ralph's Party) have hit the Sunday Times bestsellers list.  Her new book, The Making of Us is about Daniel who is dying at a hospice and is thinking about his legacy which consists of four kids that he fathered from four different women. They are strangers to him and each other but all share a common bond which is difficult challenges in their lives. However slowly they begin to find their way into each other's lives. I caught up with Lisa to find out about her new book and what she really thinks about Chick Lit.

Describe the concept of your new book, The Making of Us.
The book is about three strangers, all in their twenties, all living completely disparate lives, unexpectedly find each other when it transpires they share an anonymous donor father. I wanted the book to have the feel of one those gripping ITV three night drama mini-series (possibly starring Suranne Jones ;)) where all the loose threads slowly come together.

What do you think of the term Chick Lit? Is it something you find offensive of quite cute?
I find the term neither offensive, nor cute. I mostly find it annoying. I have been answering this question for twelve years now but the issue never seems to die. There are probably people out there who would enjoy my books but don't buy them because they are put off by the chicklit tag. Equally, there are probably people out there who buy my books precisely BECAUSE they are classed as Chick Lit, so maybe the numbers balance themselves out.

Tell us what your favourite Chick Lit books are.
I loved Jemima J by Jane Green and Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes, but probably the best Chick Lit book I ever read was One Day by David Nicholls.

What sort of projects are you working on currently?
I am writing my 10th book. Wow. Hard to believe. After books about neglected children, dead babies, failing marriages and sperm donors, I wanted to see what it would be like to go back to basics and write a good, old-fashioned love story, so that is what I am doing. I think I may be a bit rusty though – I am 175 pages in and my couple have only just said hello to each other.

Quite a few Chick Lit books have been made into films, if you could have a Lisa Jewel book turned into a movie which one would it be?
Well, as I type there are people trying to get 31 Dream Street made into a movie. They have the finances in place, which is half the battle, so hopefully it might come to something. But if I was to choose one, I think maybe Vince & Joy, which is my favourite of all my books.

The Making of Us is available to buy now.

Check out Lisa Jewell's website and you can join her Facebook Fan Page.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: My Favourite Chick Lit by Wendi Bekoe

Welcome to the My Favourite Chick Lit series where a few of my favourite writers and bloggers tell me about their best loved Chick Lit book is and why it is so important to them. This week I am featuring the lovely Wendi Bekoe, a journalist who run a great blog called Wendi B Writes which covers her musings, political and social issues.
Thus far, my absolute favourite chick-lit books are the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella. I was introduced to them by one of my close friends, and slowly each book consumed all of us in our group. The stories centre around Becky Bloomwood and follow her through her life as an uncontrollable spendaholic. There are six books in total called The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, Shopaholic Abroad, Shopaholic Ties The Knot, Shopaholic & Sister Shopaholic Baby and Mini Shopaholic which I am yet to read. The way in which Sophie Kinsella has written the books has had me hooked, because she's simply hilarious and not corny with it. Becky thinks almost exactly the way I do in many parts, to the point that at times it made me say to myself "I thought I was the only one who thought that way!" The stories are like a little bit of a fantasy for me, because Becky is pretty much a normal girl living a normal life, except she manages to accidentally land a dream job in New York (something I'd love for myself), she manages to land the guy unexpectedly (something I'd love for myself), she gets married (something I'd... well you get the gist!). Although things like that are generally considered fantasies, to me they are realistic/possible fantasies, and I think that is why I enjoy Chick Lit. They take you to places that, if you're a girly-girl, you've already been dreaming about.
You can check out Wendi's blog here and you can follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Retro Review - Waiting to Exhale

For many people Bridget Jones was the first Chick Flick movie but as far as I am concerned it was  Waiting to Exhale that put the genre on the map. Based on the best-selling book by Terry McMillan, this movie set the world alight when it was released in 1996. I was in the cinema watching with my bestie the first night it was released and you could feel a real frenzy in the air. Waiting to Exhale is the story of four African American friends called Bernadette Harris played by Angela Bassett, Savannah Jackson played by Whitney Houston, Robin Stokes played by Lela Rochon and Gloria Matthews played by Loretta Devine who are at different stages of their lives. Bernadette's perfect life is turned upside down when her husband of ten years ups and leaves her and their two kids for his secretary and she is forced to go to court to fight for what is rightfully hers. Savannah has it all, great looks, independence, fabulous job and apartment but the only thing that is missing is the right guy. Robin is a high powered executive who is blessed with stunning looks and a smart brain yet lacks serious judgement when it comes to picking guys. Gloria runs her own successful salon and spends the rest of her time keeping an eye on her teenage son and has more or less given up on the idea of finding romance.

To me Waiting to Exhale set a precedence in the way women related to each other in films and TV - we had independent and sassy women who juggled careers, family, love lives and friends and who also spoke frankly to each other about their desires. It was a trend that was later emulated in Sex and the City, Lipstick Jungle, Soul Food and Girlfriends. That film was really ahead of its time and when I watch it now it still has a really fresh feel to it. All the issues that are covered are relevant today and the dialogue is as sharp as ever. Also it is one of a few films where the adaptation is just as good as the book. The first person narrative in the film worked amazingly well and gave us a real insight into the four women's personalities. Waiting to Exhale has it all, humour, love and friendship all wrapped up in a fantastic package. Much to my delight a sequel to the book was released last year which is rumoured to be turned into a film hopefully with the original cast. I can't wait.

Friday, 6 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Destiny by Louise Bagshawe

I used to be a real Louise Bagshawe fan back in the day and  I still love her earlier books such as Career Girls, The Movie Set, Tall Poppies, Monday's Child and Tuesday's Child. She really was one of the first authors to bring blockbusters into the 21st century and was quite rightly dubbed the new Jackie Collins. I stopped following her books when they dropped off the boil around the time when she was making political moves (cough cough) because they seemed to lack the spark that made me fall in love with them. However, it looks like Louise is back in the game with her new book, Destiny. The novel is about orphan, Katie Fox who is born into riches and rags but is gifted with great looks and an abundance of ambition. Katie is determined to make it in life and one way of doing that is to marry media mogul, Marcus Baker who is big player on the scene. Sophisticated, powerful and wealthy he is just the kind of guy to make Katie's dreams come true. Pretty soon she has the life she always dreamed of; wearing designer clothes and fabulous jewellery and attending glittery events with her uber rich and glam friends with all the time in the world to lunch and shop. However her lifestyle begins to lose its shine and Katie decides she wants more out of life such as a career of her own and a man she actually loves. Alas she soon finds that leaving her marriage is not as easy as she thinks and she finds herself with a fight on her hands to keep her independence and reputation.

Destiny by Louise Bagshawe is available to buy from today on amazon.

You can check out Louse Bagshawe's website.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: My Favourite Chick Lit by Yasmin Selena Butt

One of the interesting things about Chick Lit is the sense of community that has grown over the last few years. As well as multiple websites and blogs there are hundreds of forums and Facebook Fan Pages that focus solely on the love of these books. Where people from all walks of life can come together to discuss and share their love of the genre. I asked a few of my favourite writers and bloggers to tell me what their best loved Chick Lit book is and why it is so important to them. I will be running this series over the next few weeks and today I will be kicking off with the lovely, Yasmin Selena Butt. Yasmin is a marketing and communications specialist who has just finished her first book which is due out later this year.
Chapatti or Chips? by Nisha Minhas 
When I was asked to pen a few hundred words about a chick-lit aka contemporary romantic title I realised that the writer that had really defined the genre for me on a personal level was Nisha Minhas. For some inexplicable reason she hasn’t published a new novel in at least four years, but her fiercely funny, sexy, romantic books really startled and captivated me because I’d never come across a British Asian writer like her before. In the noughties, she wasn’t writing sombre novels about the days of the Raj, colonial times or misty-eyed vistas of India, she was writing about young Asian women sneaking off to get their leg over with a strapping English hunk of a man, while trading witticisms and barbed insults. Her heroines were savvy, smart and sometimes conflicted but there wasn’t a demure, downcast head in sight. Minhas redefined the stereotype of young Asian women in British chick-lit. In fact she put them on the map. I never saw other writers such as Jane Green or Wendy Holden featuring them in their stories even though England is as we all know a racial melting pot. Minhas’s novels are not rocket science, the narratives are in fact actually quite formulaic. Rich, English jack the lad falls in love with spirited, beautiful Asian lass, there are romantic and cultural obstacles in the way, yet you know they’ll be overcome while fighting, bickering and kissing, then our duo will run off into the bawdy future together. 
My personal favourite is probably the tongue in cheek titled Chapatti or Chips?. A little tale about Naina and Dave. The memory is sweet because it was my first and so refreshing to come across a feisty Asian character. At last I rejoiced! A story were an Asian girl gets to have a snog and a shag. He’s a commitment-phobe, she’s got an arranged marriage pending to a perfectly nice Indian boy and they can’t keep away from each other. You want to knock their heads together and you know there’ll be a happy ending but you still enjoy the ride. Minhas’s last offering Tall, Dark and Handsome, came in for a lot of criticism from her own readers, particularly for her apparently ill-judged swipes at Islam. I’ve not read it, so cannot judge, but it might potentially explain her radio silence as a writer. Whatever the reason behind the lack of output in the last few years, I’d be interested to see what plotlines are brewing away in that head of hers and to discover whether she’s capable of writing a new plotline rather than a modern day Carry On variation of an inter-racial romance. Minhas is clearly bright and able and has a wicked sense of humour and sometimes as in The Marriage Market, she is capable of tackling more serious issues such as familial abduction. And whatever anyone says about chick lit and her role in it, the girl firmly planted the flag for Asian writers everywhere, including myself, who wanted to write a modern, romantic East meets West story without feeling the guilt and for that she deserves some credit.
You can follow Yasmin on Facebook.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Chick Lit is Still in Vogue

I came across Chick Lit Is Not Dead last year while browsing on the world wide web and as I am a firm lover of the genre I immediately added it to my bookmarks. The blog was set up by best friends Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke and celebrates Chick Lit in many ways. Liz and Lisa's distinct point of view have won them plenty of fans who follow them regularly. Chick Lit is Not Dead covers book reviews, interviews with chick lit authors and also cover topical issues such as the whether Royal Wedding is a relevant to current times. Their famous 'Do's and Don't"s is where authors gives us an insight into their psyches and the very popular 'Ask Liz and Lisa' special is where the duo dish out advice on various issues. I caught up with Liz and Lisa who took time out to tell me about their blog and Chick Lit books.

What made you start blogging?
We'd been best friends for over twenty years when we released our first novel, I'll Have What She's Having in January 2009 (being re-released as an e-book this summer) and started our popular blog Chick Lit is not Dead as a way to gain more exposure. We had no freakin' clue what we were doing. Now, two years later, with several authors being featured per week, regular original blog posts written by us and giveaways galore, we'd like to believe we know slightly more about what we're doing. However we still have a lot to learn.

Describe the concept behind Chick Lit is Not Dead.
While querying our first manuscript we kept hearing, we really like this book but...Chick Lit is Dead. But we felt in our Chick Lit loving heart of hearts that there was a still a market for all types of fiction that appeal to women. Yes, the original stiletto wearing, Prada clad heroine's time may have been over, but that kind of character doesn't have to define Chick Lit forever. To us, Chick Lit describes books that women want to read, whether it's a gripping memoir or Jennifer Weiner's latest novel. Our site supports and celebrates all good books.

Over the last year bloggers have really made their mark in Chick Lit coverage, how do you think they will continue to push the boundaries over the next few years?
It seems like publishers and authors are really beginning to embrace the power of a book blog tour. We think that bloggers will continue to grow in their influence- especially as eReaders become more popular and people turn to the Internet for book reviews.

You have a huge following, do you ever get stressed about maintaining such a high standard? 
We feel really thankful that people have responded so well to Chick Lit is Not Dead. We're constantly amazed at how incredibly awesome our followers are. And yes, we definitely stress about keeping things fresh and there may have even been a girlfight here or there about what direction to head next. But at the end of the day, we just like to have fun with it and enjoy the ride. We're releasing our second novel, The D Word, this Summer and we hope that will give us lots of new things to write about.

What do you do when you are not working on your blog? 
Liz: I love to spend time with my husband and two children and have a "day job" in pharmaceutical sales.
Lisa: I am building my resume as a freelance writer and juggling being a new mom to my baby girl. We spend a fair amount of time just trying to get each other on the phone for a live conversation. Damn you time zones! (Liz is in California, and Lisa in Chicago...)

Describe a typical day in the life of Liz and Lisa. 
Liz: Scrambling to get out of the house, scrambling to get home, beg the children to go to bed, write, write, write and attempt to squeeze at least one trashy reality show in. Repeat.
Lisa: Hauls her post-baby booty out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to get a work out in before the baby wakes. Juggles writing and feeding and changing diapers all day. If lucky, I squeeze in an episode of a bad reality TV show. Repeat.

Where do you source your stories from? 
We don't usually report on anything that actually need to be sourced. We prefer to shove our own uneducated opinions down people's throats instead! =)

What are your favourite glossy magazines? 
Us Weekly, People, Entertainment Weekly, Shape, Self, Writer's Digest, Vogue, Fitness and Fit Pregnancy. (Beginning to think we have too many magazine subscriptions!)

Name five blogs that you read religiously. 
Ivy League InsecuritiesAsk Allison, BooksSparks PR, Manic Mommy and Whispering Writer. (Oh and Perez Hilton too)

You can read Liz and Lisa's blog here

You can follow them on Twitter and you can join their Facebook Fan Page.