Can Current Events Advance Your Writing Career?

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2020: A Unique Year

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that 2020 has been a tumultuous year. Here in the United States, we’ve had the world’s worst outbreak of COVID-19, a major economic downturn that has left nearly 50 percent of Americans unemployed, and a national reckoning on race relations after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. And we’re only six months into the year…

Still, even with all that’s going on in the world, as writers we must continue to write and we must also continue to do whatever we can to advance our writing careers.

Shawn Hudson and Just Us

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For years, I’ve been sharing my advice on the finer points of the literary game with my friend Shawn Hudson. Shawn and I first met when I was the faculty advisor to Monroe College’s Poetry Club back in 2013. Shawn’s raw, gritty poetic style caught my attention. When I first heard his poem Project Windows, I knew he was a formidable talent. Despite the fact that I left Monroe shortly after we met, Shawn and I never lost touch.

Not all writers have a core ethos to why they write, but Shawn definitely does. He seeks to use his writing as a springboard to expose some of the hardships the Black and LGBTQ communities face in the United States and work to overcome these barriers to true equality and justice. To those ends, Shawn penned an excellent novel, Just Us, which centers on a fictional corrupt police department. Shawn later adapted Just Us into a screenplay.

The last time Shawn and I spoke, I told him now is the time for him to go full blast on pitching his screenplay. With Hollywood now giving serious attention to working with talent from underrepresented communities and with the Black Lives Matter movement informing the public on the often deadly outcomes faced by unarmed Black people stopped by police, now is Shawn’s best opportunity to get his screenplay considered by major studios.

That’s not to say that if things go back to “normal,” Shawn doesn’t have a chance to sell his screenplay. Of course that’s a possibility. But why not take opportunities as they present themselves? After all, selling your screenplay is not an easy task.

How Applicable Is This Advice To Me?

OK, that’s all well and good, but what if my writing doesn’t tackle issues of racial justice? What if I don’t write screenplays? What if I’m just a novelist? Does this still apply to me?

Absolutely!

If you’re a novelist who wrote a book about a pandemic, go ahead and pitch agents now!

If you’re a short story writer who wrote a piece of historical fiction about the Great Depression, go ahead and pitch the most competitive literary magazines now!

If you’re a poet who wrote a chapbook of poems about invasions from outer space…well, let’s see what the next six months have in store!

A Simple 3-Step Process

OK, now how can I turn this theoretical knowledge into a practical approach? It’s simple. Just follow these three steps:

  1. Pay attention to the news. If you haven’t already made a habit of following the news, do it.
  2. Find a link between current events and your writing. As you’re reading your favorite periodical or watching your favorite newscast, jot down some notes if anything you read or see is relevant to your previously unpublished/unsold material.
  3. Pitch pitch pitch! Once you’ve identified a link between your writing and something in the news cycle, pitch appropriate venues. As an extra tip, approach publishers or studios that have an explicit interest in this topic as part of their core identity or who have put out similar material in the past.

The Takeaway

If you haven’t yet been able to advance your literary career yet, you might just need to wait until the news cycle catches up with your dusty manuscript or screenplay. Once it does, seize that opportunity!

Questions?

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Do you have any questions about how to apply this approach or any other topic related to the literary game? Shoot me an email and I’ll do my best to help you.

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An Interview with Haroun Risa: Author and Humanitarian

Introduction

Hey friends. I recently had the opportunity to interview Kenyan author, actor, and screenwriter Haroun Risa. We discussed his novel series Mombasa Raha, My Foot, the alarmingly high frequency of human trafficking and sex tourism in the coastal regions of Kenya, and much more. Check it out below.

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Interview with Haroun Risa

Q: There are many topics authors could choose to write about; why did you decide to tackle the issues of sexual tourism and human trafficking in Kenya?

A: The issue of human trafficking and sex tourism is something that I haven’t seen anyone make a fictional story in order to raise awareness against an issue that has affected communities across the Kenyan coast. So I said to myself that I should highlight a real-life issue that has been there and continues to.

Q: How would you assess the response from the Kenyan government to sexual tourism and human trafficking?

A: The Kenyan government is yet to assess the problem because the tourists are bringing massive revenue to Kenya, so that explains why some issues like this are blatantly overlooked.

Q: Could international organizations like UNICEF do more to address these serious problems?

A: International organizations can be able to do a lot, if they actually team up with the local people doing something to stop the human trafficking from going on even more.

Q: Are there “tip-offs” that could help government officials, law enforcement, and everyday community members better identify people suspected of engaging in predatory sexual behavior?

A: Poverty is what really identifies the people involved, because their children are sold off mostly by the guardians to the traffickers for profit.

Q. What steps did you have to take to form a partnership with HAART Kenya?

A: In order to get to know the people involved, I had to invite a representative from HAART Kenya to my first novel book launch so that she would speak more about what the organization has done so far.

Q: How much research did you undertake before/while writing Mombasa Raha, My Foot?

A: I had to do a good deal of research on the topic for the sake of accuracy, and also I included a bit of what I went through.

Q: Despite the ordeals they face, your characters possess a remarkable dignity. Was that a conscious choice you decided to make while writing Mombasa Raha, My Foot?

A: It was a conscious choice, because I’m also planning on making the film adaptation of the novels, so the characters have to possess a degree of dignity.

Q: You’re not only an author of fiction, but also an actor and screenwriter. Which do you find most fulfilling: novel writing, screenwriting, or acting? Why?

A: Novel writing has made me feel content with my talents, but acting also gives me some satisfaction because, in the end, I’m still fulfilling my dreams.

Q: Mombasa Raha, My Foot is very cinematic in structure, with a fast pace and many quick scene “cuts.” How much do you think your experience as an actor and screenwriter has influenced your approach to writing novels?

A: It has influenced a lot, based on my acting experience I’m able to know how to develop characters who can captivate an audience upon reading.

Q: What would you say are some of the unique challenges and opportunities Kenyan authors face?

A: Printing good quality copies of their novels at an affordable price. This is among the main reasons why printing manuscripts is challenging at times.

Q: What are some of your biggest influences as a writer?

A: My own life experience, for starters, which has resulted in me making brilliant characters and story development that suited my topic and novels that followed.

Q: What type of feedback have you received from your readers?

A: Most have been talking to me about making the film adaptation of the novels, and even when buying the paperback of the first novel, they normally have a good feeling of “actually holding a novel.”

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?

A: Normally around eight months to a year, depending on the number of pages and story development.

Q: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

A: Not that tied up, but pretty busy with story development and structure because once I’ve started I normally go up to three chapters.

Q: Aside from your literary and film-related pursuits, you’re interested in palm reading. How did you become fascinated by palmistry?

A: A South African palm reader gave me a detailed reading of my palms, and a good number of what someone goes through appears clearly on their palms. This made me more interested in the art of palm reading.

Q: Do you have any parting words for our audience?

A: It is truly important to never give up on whatever talent or dream you may want accomplished.

Purchase Your Copies of the Mombasa Raha, My Foot Novel Series

The first FIVE books in the Mombasa Raha, My Foot novel series are now available on Amazon. You can purchase all five Kindle editions for $49.95 USD. Grab your five novels through this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085NJZG3X

Haroun Risa’s Biography

Haroun Risa is an actor, author, and scriptwriter from Nairobi, Kenya who has been featured on both local and international film and TV productions, including the feature film 18 Hours alongside the acclaimed Netflix production, Sense8.

His interests range from palm reading to traveling, filmmaking, meditation, world music, reading novels, documentaries, journalism, acting, dancing, motorsports, soccer, basketball, and writing.

Haroun Risa is using the Mombasa Raha, My Foot series to raise awareness against human trafficking and sex tourism in Kenya, joining hands with HAART Kenya, the NGO in Kenya known for fighting both cross-border and mainland trafficking.

He has also gotten into the agroforestry world and has been part of Emesera Forest Tree Nurseries Ltd., an organization known for advocating for the planting of the fibrous-root, clonal variety of the eucalyptus tree, among other beneficial agroforestry projects.

Haroun Risa’s Social Media

You can find Haroun Risa on major social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to catch a glimpse of his blog posts alongside the snippets of productions he has been featured in or interviews from various TV shows.

Help Haroun spread the word by using the hashtag #mombasarahamyfoot on social media.

Interested in Being Interviewed?

The Literary Game is looking to interview authors. If you’d like to be interviewed, simply send us an email with a cover letter telling us a bit about your writing and background. We’ll get in touch if there’s a fit.

Specifically, we’re looking to feature writers who satisfy one or more of the following criteria:

  • Writers who have overcome significant hardship to achieve success.
  • Writers who have a unique life story.
  • Writers who have controversial or unorthodox opinions about writing and publishing.
  • Writers who have made a difference in the world.
  • English-language writers based in Africa, Asia, The Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Apply today by clicking here.