It was wonderful to hear that The Disobedient Wife was voted for by readers and reviewers to win the Contemporary Fiction Award by readers of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team for 2016!
Please see the winners and my novel here
It was wonderful to hear that The Disobedient Wife was voted for by readers and reviewers to win the Contemporary Fiction Award by readers of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team for 2016!
Please see the winners and my novel here
In this article, writer Ann Pratchett talks about writing fiction and non-fiction. Like her, I find writing non-fiction easy, and fiction very difficult. One taught her to be a workhorse, the other, a butterfly. Like her, I write non-fiction for money in the bank, re-writing technical documents and editing the English. I do it to deadline and I do it for a living. Like her, I write fiction for pleasure. I do it because I love it, but I do it like a butterfly, flitting back and forth from the manuscript, settling for brief moments to tweak and write, change and rewrite. I have no deadlines apart from the desire to see my fiction in print, pushing me forward to complete stories and novels.
There is a great need to forgive yourself as a writer or as an artist, knowing that what you have produced is the best you are capable of, even if it might not be perfection in your eyes. Self-forgiveness is key to making art, as well as embracing mistakes, perhaps allowing those ‘wrongs’ to lead you in a different, better direction. Just as with painting, creative writing requires superb technique as well as creative lightness and self-forgiveness.
Here is the article:
Yesterday the book club for the United Nations Women’s Guild hosted me here in Rome. Fifteen women gathered to listen and discuss ‘The Disobedient Wife‘ (Cinnamon Press 2015).
The title does not do justice to the central theme of the book, that close friendship and mutual support between women can be crucial to overcoming physical or psychological abuse. I explained that the reason for the slightly flippant title was one of commercial appeal – I wanted a snappy, short sort of title that people would remember, and I didn’t want to put readers off!
I was asked if I thought the expatriate experience for women is more or less the same no matter which country you live in, to which I answered no. I found people with different world views and priorities in Tajikistan than in Egypt, for example, where the former were mainly Embassy families, missionaries, NGO workers, and the latter, Oil Industry Executives. In Egypt I had to work harder to find like-minded friends, but eventually of course, I did (and many were, in fact connected to oil).
One reader made the point that there are phases of experience that we probably all go through as expatriates, including the sense that as the years pass we become more and more dependent, especially if we move frequently and are unable to hold down or build our own careers. It also may be potentially more of a blow when our children leave the nest, as then we really are absolutely alone, without access to the ready networks that international schools provide (whether or not one makes use of them). One could say the same though, for many women anywhere, and it is a real reason why I believe that all expat ‘trailing spouses’ need space to develop that they can call their own. For expats of course, this is complicated and must be mobile. Thankfully, with the internet, all sorts of possibilities have opened up for us.
Another point that was made, was that domestic violence is endemic here in Italy and is on the rise. The reasons for this are not clear, but one member explained that as the economic situation in Italy worsens, tempers fray and women bare the brunt of frustration and anger men feel as a result. There is an organisation working in Rome to provide shelters for women as featured in The Disobedient Wife, called Differenza Donna. http://www.differenzadonna.org/ which I want to highlight here, in case I have any Rome-based readers read this post. There will be a march on 26th November. My friend Mary shared this report on this here: https://wideplus.org/un-special-rapporteur-on-feminicide-and-violence-against-women-in-italy/
Have a good week.
I did a Happy Writer’s Dance this morning:
It was truly lovely to wake up this morning and find this review on my twitter feed.
Apologies, as I have been silent on this blog for a while, for a number of reasons. First, I have been doing NanNoWriMo, or at least, attempting it. Second, I have been busy writing short stories for various competitions and magazines, including adapting extracts from my second novel, ‘The Girl with the White Suitcase’ for publication. Third, we had a school holiday which necessitated that I take ten days off and travel with my kids to see my parents in sunny, stunning Dorset, UK.
Finally, the horrific, terrifying ramifications for the outcome of the American election left me quite speechless for several days as the news sunk in. I work with refugees, many Muslim, and I have lived my adult life overseas, in places where poverty and suffering are the norm. To think that many voters who chose ‘change’ did so out of desperation, opened my eyes to the poverty that exists in the developed world, the inequalities of access to education, jobs and ‘getting ahead’. Documentary films on North American poverty are shocking, as much as the election of this right wing demagogue and his team. The world waits, anxiously and mourns while liberal thinkers rush to apportion blame on each other for safe space liberalism, for urban bias and blindness to the needs of people they claim to represent – the underdogs.
I digress, sorry.
This review means so much, I feel inspired, motivated and ready for the world again. I do not know this reviewer, but she received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Her words have lifted me at a moment when I really needed it.
“THE DISOBEDIENT WIFE,” BY ANNIKA MILISIC-STANLEY PUBLICATION: CINNAMON PRESS; NOVEMBER 9, 2015 Synopsis: Tajikistan is a harsh place of political and religious repression. It remains deeply patri…
Last night I drove into Rome to go to the Keats Shelley Museum in Piazza de Spagna (Spanish Steps) to listen to a fellow Cinnamon Press author, Will Kemp, read from his new book, out in October 2016: ‘The Painters Who Studied Clouds’.
I was not sure what to expect. My love of Keats aside, I tend to view poetry as the pretentious intellectual’s realm, imagining reams of stuffy, patronizing academics with nicotine-stained teeth pontificating into straggly beards while adoring students gaze on in adoration. Either that or I picture an elderly, bow-tied, cordoroy-clad gent with wandering hands and a love of plus fours and spotted dick (a throwback from his school days at Harrow or Rugby).
Will Kemp dispelled these stereotypes, appealing to his audience to embrace poetry (once again,) as part of popular culture. ‘If it is not accessible, I don’t want to write it.’ he said. ‘Poetry should not be hard work, either to write, nor to listen to.’ By this, of course, he is not demeaning the craft, nor the effort he makes to write his poems – by his own admission – with a full time job, he jots down notes but only manages to submerge himself on holiday, thus taking ten years to write a collection. No, what he meant is that poetry should entertain, educate and inspire without alienating the audience, and for inspiration, he drew on popular culture itself – sport, Greek mythology, Elvis Presley. His muses are Bill Collins and Carol Ann Duffy.
Before his arrival, I exchanged emails with him, offering to help garner support for his event with online reminders, posters, and gather the Rome Anglo-Expat community together as a fellow author at Cinnamon Press. He kindly read my book, The Disobedient Wife, and to our mutual relief, enjoyed it, writing ;
“I find it difficult to lie or be nice when it comes to writing: so much of it is so plain dull or boring, and yet as writers we owe each other the truth. As with Aufidius watching Coriolanus (“O mother, mother? What have you done?” Viii) “I was mov’d withal” by your book which sustained my interest throughout.
The children are back to school and already the heat of August is a dim memory as the cold nights draw in, and the trees start to shed their leaves for winter. Though temperatures in Italy are higher than in my native home, I look forward to this time of year, loving
pumpkin soup, bonfires and the flickering candles above my hearth. It is a time to resume serious work, a time for me to submit my latest manuscript and bite my nails as I wait. I enjoy the cooler weather, sliding into my jeans gratefully after a summer sweating in shorts. Yesterday evening, I sat watching my eldest play football. Perched high above him on colourful, cracked bleachers, the wind blew as the sun descended behind the trees and Italian mothers shivered in ski jackets. I sheltered behind my enormous handbag and drummed sandal-clad feet on the thin metal floor, bemoaning my lack of foresight to carry a coat. Autumn caught me on the hop.
It is a weird month, September, a sudden rush into the real world again after ten weeks lazing about on beaches, shouting, comforting, driving, mediating and mollifying children. One weekend working flat out to edit a fascinating document on Migration, Conflict and Food Security, another; working to polish and pearl my latest novel. On both these weekends I should have been relaxing, playing with the family, and I found myself stuck to a screen like Cyprus sap. The ugly head of cultural appropriation and authenticity arguments popped up again to sully these weeks, with a controversial outburst at a literary festival and the answering ripost posted the day later to be reprinted in the Guardian. Having completed my report and novel, I marveled at the difference between the ‘real’ world of conflict alleviation and writings on migrant suffering and the ‘creative’ world where to form policy based on focus group discussions, (the refugee ‘VOICE’), led by foreigners would be seen as ethically spurious.
I fiercely defend the right to write, and I love to write about different people and places, digging towards the Universal human experience. I grew tired reading the animosity on chat threads, wary of arguments between angry American writers and commentators who clearly couldn’t think beyond their individual contextual circumstance, imposing their especial problem on everyone, everywhere. I felt the frustration seep back – the years spent listening in social anthropology classes; told to study, yet rendered impotent to put the knowledge into practice by my background and identity. Thankfully, the argument was laid to rest within days as the dust settled. Aminatta Forna wrote a wonderful piece on author pigeon-holing, ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s author’; calming my mood back down to a steady whir.
Meditation resumed, the daily practice of switching down the mind, transcending the conscious mind to find the inner flow of mind waves that run deeper than thoughts. It was an epiphany – In many ways, I thought, this sort of transcendence is needed in the world of cultural discourse. Let us transcend our outer boundaries and cast off the barriers that people want to build between human beings. Let people unite and write. I realise, as I return to the practice, that I have never thanked my Mother enough for allowing me to take a TM Course a few years ago. (Thanks Mum!) It revives and restores, leaving me refreshed even when tired. Creativity increases, as does intuition. Negativity recedes.
So, onwards into autumn. A new book to write, a new book to get printed. And the baby, my debut. ‘The Disobedient Wife‘, to keep promoting and pushing out into the world – a reluctant child clinging to my skirts.
Yes, summer is nearly over. The children go back to school on Monday. I will start hustling for contracts and sending in my queries for my next novel, ‘The Girl with the White Suitcase’. For some lucky fellows, the need for ‘beach read’ ideas continue. DisplacedDispatches.com contacted me for my recommendations… see below.
First, our summer… Croatia, my husband’s boyhood paradise. My mornings spent walking my dog each morning to an empty cove nearby, a winding path through the pine trees bordering the turquoise sea.
It is stunningly beautiful and quiet. I found my peace once again after a hard year.
When the ‘Bora’ storms buffeted the village, we stayed in and made Lebanese lentils and lamb rogan josh, eating by candlelight when the electricity failed. I painted the harmony I felt, a swirling abstract of waves passing over stones… and I enjoyed myself.
Later, I traveled to England to explore the Jurassic coast of the South West. I firmly believe that even third culture kids need roots, some knowledge of their parents upbringing.
With mother and father childhood summers covered, I returned home satiated, to wait out the last few weeks in the sultry heat of Lazio in August.
Displaced Dispatches, an online journal for expatriate creatives contacted me to ask for recommendations for last-minute summer reads: A beach read, a book for airport delays and a back to school/ work book. To go to the full article, click here
I recommended a wonderful, clever little book of short stories ‘Don’t Try this At Home’ by Angela Readman as my beach read. Mainly for people with distractions (i.e. children needing ice cream/ lunch/ pedalo peddling), these short stories are perfect to dive into and devour in a half hour sitting.
My airport read? Well, I figured the boredom of a delay required something a little meaty, yet satirical, funny yet serious. I recommended ‘The White Tiger’ by Aravind Ardiga.
Lastly for the back to work: Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish caught my fancy. If you can’t read violence, then Sanjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways. Both relatively new, they deal with the light and dark of immigrant life as a blue collar/ illegal worker in the West.
I was very happy to see that another ‘expat creative’, author Jennifer S. Alderson of
Travelling Life Press recommended MY book in her recommended reads list…
‘The Disobedient Wife’ is an expatriate/ local story from Tajikistan, the story of two very different women against a backdrop of violence, betrayal and the murky world of drug trafficking…
For further information, go to amazon or to the website for Cinnamon Press, my publisher here
Happy September my fellow book lovers and bloggers ❤
An Existential Crisis… at 4am Italian time.
I have nearly finished my second fictional novel, set in Rwanda and Kenya, with chapters in the UK, France and Italy. And now, I am not sure what the feck to do with it.
Everything I read lately suggests that no matter what I write, IF I AM NOT AFRICAN, I AM NOT PERMITTED (by the global liberal public at large) TO WRITE ABOUT AFRICANS. I put this in Caps Lock to emphasize my frustration and, frankly, my white-knuckled fear of the backlash potentially heading in my direction.
First, I find myself faced with a myriad of potential obstacles over ‘marketability’, and now this; a literary mess of White Saviour-dom to muddy the waters for everyone. Tsk! The hashtag #LintonLies is a scathing twitter response from outraged Zambians to a feature in The Telegraph on July 1st, 2016; a new ‘GAP year’ memoir. Ms Linton is accused of lying (she worked at a fishing lodge on Lake Tanganika in 1999, aged 18, a ‘skinny white muzungu with long angel hair‘). Rather than memoir, some claim it is ‘warped fiction‘. She describes hiding in ‘jungle‘ (the environment there is savannah), and fearsome, near-death encounters with Congolese soldiers (Zambia has never faced aggressive military incursions from Congo according to people who live and work there). What really incenses Zambians though, is her ‘White Saviour Complex‘: her friendship with a little orphan girl ‘who found no greater joy than to sit on her knee and drink coca-cola‘ (sic).
While I understand the infuriation, my heart sank, knowing this can hurt all non-African writers interested in Africa. Linked (perhaps unfairly, by a Huff Post blog post on the memoir), reading Granta Magazine’s tongue-in-cheek essay by Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina; ‘How to Write about Africa’, the resentment of some African writers at the White portrayal of Africans and Africa in literature seems stronger than ever. Running through his list of ‘taboo’ subjects and cliches, I can almost see sarcasm dripping off my laptop, with good reason. Happily, I appear to have adhered to all his ‘taboos’ 😉
Now, I would like to state that my book is NOT about a White person ‘saving‘ an African. It is about a strong, educated 17-year old of strong faith, from a middle-class background. She comes of age, against the odds, as a lone refugee in Kenya. She does receive help from (and she helps and supports) friends who happen to be Mixed-Race and Black AND White, and she maintains a strong sense of her own agency throughout. I contrast her life with that of another girl growing up on a rough Marseilles housing estate, demonstrating that daily life in Europe is certainly not (for some) all it is cracked up to be. Later, my heroine marries an Italian, facing the challenge as an Italian citizen of colour with panache. Unlike the aforementioned Memoir author, I tried hard to move beyond Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘single story’, but the reality of life for refugees in Kenya does emerge… I cannot pretend that in 1994-1997, the refugee camps in Kenyan deserts didn’t exist, or that they were lovely places to live, run by uncorrupted altruists. I cannot pretend that refugees were housed in clean accommodation in Nairobi with running water, electricity and toilets. Adichie too, writes of war, corruption, poverty and servants.
So… yes. I reference a little of the book (set from 1994-2004), on a distant experience as a white expat in Kenya to imagine the fictional world of a young Rwandan woman, 20 years ago, though mostly, I use research and imaginary voice. I do not know if that will work for my readers, African or not. Obviously I need fiction reviewers who remember life 20 years ago in Kenya and Rwanda to rip my book to shreds when they find something in a voice that does not ring true, before it gets into print. A painful, but essential part of the process.
Incidentally, do ‘African writers’ (a silly term for people from 50 countries with 2000 languages, as Taiye Selasi pointed out,) face the same problems/ criticisms when writing memoir or fiction about ‘Other’ continents? Do they feel boxed in by their origins, as I do tonight? I don’t want to make assumptions either way.
A writer, Damyanti Biswas, blogged on ‘voice‘, answering many of the queries raised recently by “The Linton Affair”. In a response to a Black American author, she wrote: ‘Should the truth of your condition be limited to the fact that you’re Black, or also and equally, that you’re human, that you’re a living, sentient being?’ As a writer, I ask this question of myself all the time, rejecting the real-life categories I am assigned in life.
Lastly, I wonder sometimes whether Western publishers will still want to take a chance on a fictional novel half set in Africa that isn’t written by an African. I guess I can only wait and see, or throw away 2 years of work and start afresh on politically safe turf this side of the Mediterranean. The thing is, my wonderful, fictional heroine won’t let me do it. I have given her a voice, and she won’t be quietened.
Thanks for reading.
My debut novel, ‘The Disobedient Wife’ won the Cinnamon Press Book Award in 2014, and was published in 2015. A compelling tale of love and loss, it is set in Tajikistan. For online reviews and info, click here
A fabulous review for my new novel!
This comes at a good time, when my writing is struggling. I published my debut in November 2015 after winning a literary competition for unpublished novelists with Cinnamon Press. I will be forever grateful to their judge, who picked my book out from thousands of others.
Since then, it has not been easy to find reviewers, or promote the book, even though the reviewers who do read it have all given me wonderful 4 and 5 star reviews, comparing the book to a bestseller, and doing their best to spread the word on social media.
It is a tough market out there though. The book industry is heavily influenced by the big presses and their entourage of journalists, literary critics and media culture vultures. It is heavily London-centric, a problem for someone writing in English but living in Italy. Having spent most of my adult life in developing countries, I have no contacts, and know no one.
Many yearly debut novel competitions require the publisher to pay a large fee – there are ‘book clubs’ and others placing books in prominent position in high street chains and supermarkets that ask upwards of £50,000 to submit books. My publisher is a small, independent press, funded by the Arts Council and certainly has no spare funding for this.
The industry is biassed towards the marketable, the commercial genre fiction books, especially crime and romance and chick lit, the funny, light reading stories written for women relaxing after a long day at work, or lying on a beach bed in Ibiza. There is nothing wrong with that, I understand that everyone needs to make money – this is not about art, this is business. Still, it is a bitter pill to swallow when I realize I have spent the past 6 months using up my scarce, valuable writing time as a mother of three on the funny art of self-promotion when I should be writing my second, third and fourth books. And barely 1000 books have sold since November.
Luckily I do not live on the income my writing, as after hosting 10 promotional events, I doubt I even broke even. It was never about the money anyway. I do wish though, that little books like mine had greater prominence on book shop tables. I do wish that I could rely on more than word of mouth and well intentioned friends to promote my book. I am writing my second novel, sick in the knowledge that soon, the merry-go-round of letter-rejection-letter-rejection is to begin again.
And so here we are. One of my most generous reviewers, Rosie Amber and her Book Review Team have published a wonderful review of The Disobedient Wife, for which I am truly grateful.
Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs at Georgia has been reading The Disobedient Wife by Annika Milisic-Stanley #Bookreview for The Disobedient Wife by Annika Milisic-Stanley @Milis…
Today I learned a lovely new word.
With the events of this past week: The Orlando mass shooting, the lovely Minister of Parliament (human rights defender and mother of two) shot dead in a small town in Yorkshire, I feel more and more like apanthropinzing. Retreating into the garden to gaze at my dahlias and sniff the roses.
Of course, with a husband in humanitarian work, and with my volunteering with refugees this just is not possible. We have to face reality, and try to make the world a better place in any minute way that we can.
This week I finished the third draft of my latest book, ‘The Girl with the White Suitcase’ (or ‘The Virgin’s Daughter’, I cannot decide: Which do you think is the better title?). It does not hide from the ugly truth of the world, but it has an uplifting, ultimately heart-warming ending, full of hope.
As with my first novel ‘The Disobedient Wife’, I write to explore the issues that interest me, though they may be dark, and somewhat hard-hitting. I cannot apanthropinize with my own books, and I refuse to join the reams of authors who do.
Have a great week! 🙂
Annika Milisic-Stanley was born in 1975 in the USA to Swedish and Anglo-German parents, but grew up in Britain. After graduating from the School of Oriental and African Studies, she worked with humanitarian projects in Nepal, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, India, Burundi and Egypt as well as living in Tajikistan for several years. Annika now lives in Rome. In addition to writing and painting, she works as a campaigner to raise awareness on the plight of refugees in Southern Europe.
Read to live and live to read
blank pages & scarlet letters
Getting excited about short stories in the UK & Ireland - in print, online & live!!
I wrote 'The Storyteller' (Holland House, 2016). I'm writing my next novel.
independent author of speculative fiction
Book Reviews by Emma b Books
Loving books and reading
Books. Everything books.
A space to share book reviews and other book related treats
Reports from my somewhat unusual life
Sermons and stuff