Sunday, 31 December 2017


I've never done a round up of a year before... maybe a little hopeful contemplation as the year floats away that I did alright, I wasn't a complete disaster, love prevailed... but I feel like recording a few things for this last day of 2017. The brights and the shadows. 

The year started off with a flurry of rejections, which does rather set the spirit at a low hum of despair. But in amidst the form rejections, I had several personalised letters, which I have since learnt is an achievement in itself. Here is the most special among them - inspite of the rejection, I genuinely loved it.

Dear Shaista, Thank you for sending me Blind Wolf, Butterfly Woman and for giving me the opportunity to consider your work. I was consumed by your poignant, affecting story. I found it beautifully and truthfully depicted and it resounded with me deeply. You demonstrate remarkable courage in expressing your story, and I hope that you have found the writing process in some way helpful. Your attitude to your condition is truly an inspiration. However in spite of this I am unfortunately unable to make you an offer of representation. I am really concentrating on building up my fiction list, and while your story is incredibly moving, I am not sure how I would break it out commercially, with a mainstream publisher. The market at the moment is so competitive and publishers are being extremely cautious, particularly when it comes to acquiring memoir. However these judgements are always subjective and you may well find someone who feels very differently. Again, I very much appreciate having had the opportunity to consider your work and wish you all the best in finding the right home for it. Best wishes, ...

Then I had a rejection from the University of Cambridge to do an M. Phil on Vietnamese American post-war literature, and then I had an acceptance from the University of Cambridge to give a TEDx talk on creativity!

I think I successfully convinced everyone in that room that creativity can and must be taught, particularly to young children, and particularly at school. Perhaps I will share my speech another day. I didn't realise it wouldn't be recorded, but it was a TEDx salon talk, and those are more intimate. It was a special day, the 25th of January, Mum and Dad's anniversary, and as you know they are very much central to my creative life.

In February I was rejected (or rather not included) in (ironically) the Anglia Ruskin University TEDx event. I don't know how the event went in the end - it was inaugural, so hopefully it was a success. I was extremely fortunate to have been excluded because I developed kidney sepsis at the end of a lovely but hectic surprise visit from the Singaporean crew. Mum's birthday on the 10th of February was a wonderful time of celebration until right at the end, when I was bundled off to A&E, burning up, throwing up. Mum even wore mismatching shoes to the hospital, it was so muddled a morning.

Back in again with more infection at the end of March and into April... and then again in July and August... I had two PICC lines for two different infections, which took such a toll on me. And yet, while in hospital, I recorded a video to accompany my book for a crowdfunding platform called Unbound Publishing. When I was rejected from that I did feel quite awful. I spent September in bed for the most part. For World Poetry Day at the end of September, I recited poetry in the hospital chapel, which was very healing, and by the end of October I felt inspired enough by my summer experience of video making to start a vlog channel and recorded four wonderful talks with my friends Colette and Daisy on living with lupus. I was on radio in November reciting poetry and talking about hospital shenanigans, but that wasn't recorded on a podcast either, so hilariously the only two people who heard me live were the two people I told - Mum and Dad, the two people who listen to me every day, anyway!!

- And our beloved friend Victoria who drove me to the radio station and sat quietly, and supportively, in the booth beside me!

And finally on Boxing Day, I had a piece published in sisterhood mag, on my complicated and beautiful religious and spiritual life. Deeyah Khan, the founder of the magazine, and an extraordinary documentarian, had tweeted me earlier to consider contributing, and I am so glad she did...

We lost dear friends this year - our beloved John Haybittle, and two days ago, our childhood friend Vinit. We celebrate how wonderful they were, and hold on to each other more tightly. Tomorrow it will all be the same, and yet a little different. Happy New Year, my dear friends, whichever it is.