Press Release – Queens of Africa

Queens of Africa is outselling Barbie in Africa heralding the start of a new era of ethnic pride and confidence for girls of African descent.

 

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According to Refinery29 this week, Mattel’s Barbie has finally been unseated by a ‘brown-skinned’ doll in Africa.  The ‘Queens of Africa’ dolls were developed by Nigerian entrepreneur Taofick Okoya, “to show African children that ‘black is beautiful’ by enabling them to play with dolls that reflect their culture and heritage”.

The dolls are available in toy stores all over Nigeria and will soon be available worldwide. Each doll represents a different tribe of Africa. There is Nneka (Igbo), Azeehah (Hausa) and Wuraola (Yoruba) and they are sold in various outfits.  The most popular are the dolls dressed in traditional attire.  Okoya comments that “The Queens of Africa dolls were created to inspire and influence the coming generation, especially the ‘Girl Child’, so in designing the dolls and their outfits, the team bore this in mind.” Critical to the promotion of the dolls has been the series of books that compliments the dolls that have been released worldwide including Amazon USA.

Okoya felt it was critical to have dolls that represent African heritage so the Queens of Africa program was born. Okoya has the support of an impressive ‘Who’s Who’ list of Nigerian artists and celebrities. According to Okoya, the role of the books is one way to “take the Queens of Africa project global”.

Okoya was inspired by his work with local child support agencies where the predominant toys available to local children were white dolls. He comments “To the vast majority of people, toys are mere play items or pacifiers for children. Little thought goes into which toys best serve the purpose as a tool for a child’s development. Children mentally absorb positive and negative influences which can later be detected in their character, especially in their teenage years. We need to see toys for what they really are…..A fun developmental tool.”

Okoya’s team worked with a British children’s writer and NLP (Neuro Linguistic programming) specialist, Judy Bartkowiak (JudyBee), Yetis (LittlePinkPebble), a Children’s Illustrator from Singapore and for the second Dan Doodies (Dan Durant) . The dolls are represented as schoolgirls and together with them, the child reader learns about the lives of ancient African Queens. “It was important for us to take the key messages of the lives of the ancient Queens of Africa and thread them through the stories in a way that children of today could identify with and be inspired by.” says Bartkowiak. “Using stories and imagery steeped in African heritage, with a modern twist we bring important messages forward for the young girls”. The first series comprises six stories featuring different Queens of Africa and the second series focuses on teaching the reader, through Nneka, Wuraola and Azeezah, various life skills and introduces key NLP techniques. The first is entitled ‘Learn Confidence’ and it was the first life skill that Okoya and Bartkowiak identified as being required amongst young Nigerian girls as a result of  work with local child support agencies.

Okoya works closely with many support agencies in Lagos – the main one being The Bethesda Child Support Agency. The agency supports over 2,000 orphans and vulnerable children in the Lagos area. In addition to opening a nursery and primary school in 2004 that has grown from around 30 to over 150 children, the charity runs scholarship, sponsorship and mentorship programs. Okoya is passionate about giving young black children a strong start in life including making sure that the toys, music and books given to them convey positive messages about their heritage.

The books are being published by the UK independent NLP publishing house, MX Publishing. MX are best known for publishing international bestsellers in the NLP field including Bartkowiak’s Engaging NLP series of workbooks for parents, teachers, children and teenagers.

Supporting the Queens of Africa program was a natural step says Managing Director Steve Emecz “We like to take on books that the team can get passionate about. The Queens of Africa program has a brilliant and simple message. Growth through a proud heritage. The dolls, music, comics, and books all promote positive messages and we are delighted to be involved.”

More Information:

www.queensofafricadolls.com

Nigeria is the world’s most populated Black nation with over 150 million people. Located in the West of the African continent Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960. There are over 200 ethnic groups with three major tribes and languages – Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.

Contacts Queens of Africa Books

Press Enquiries – Judy Bartkowiak – Email: judy@judybartkowiak.com  Tel: 0044-(0)7917-451245

Publishing Enquiries – Steve Emecz – Email:  steve@mxpublishing.co.uk

Focusing on your goal

I think most writers would agree that from time to time they lose their way a bit. We can get distracted by Facebook or by the housework, a book that will surely help us or writing something else that has suddenly taken our interest. We , like dieters, get really cross with ourselves and say “well that was a wasted day, I may as well not bother now because I’m not going to meet my daily wordcount goal.”

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Instead let’s reframe the distraction. Meet it headlong and ask it what it has for you. How could you use the distraction to your advantage? Here are some ideas.

1. So you find yourself on Facebook or Twitter and you need to be writing your oeuvre.

How about asking your friends what a word you’re writing in your book, means to them. Ask them what they feel about the subject you’re writing about. Ask them for their favourite word. Maybe you can use it. Put out a plea for a quote that you could use. Ask favourite colour , maybe your character could wear something that colour. What is the most bizarre name they have ever heard of? What is the strangest sounding place name? Use your distraction to move you on with your book.

2. You’ve found yourself in Youtube and you’re getting carried away some place else.

Well this is fine, it is research isn’t it? Search for videos on subjects your character might be interested in. Search for videos on the same subject you’re writing on. Think about how you might post a Youtube video on your blog, you could take your smartphone and do it right now. Video posts or vloggs are very popular and drive a lot of traffic to your blog. Talk to camera about where you are in your story what’s the block, what are your options. This will engage with your readers and make them ten times more likely to follow your blog so they find out when you’re book’s coming out.

3. While you’re researching you find someone’s blog with some great posts on. If only you could write like that …. blah blah blah

Of course there are better writers out there and that’s good isn’t it? Who wants to read rubbish anyway? So what makes their writing good? What can you learn from it? Do they have a great way of starting a new paragraph or concept? Have a go at doing the same yourself. Do they use some great adjectives, copy them into your work. Obviously you aren’t taking the whole sentence but play around with some of the words you like.

4. For some reason you know not why, you’re doing the housework.

Well you character may have a view about housework. What would their view be? How would they approach the housework? Which would they like doing first and what would be left til last? Are they someone who hates to stick their hand down the toilet or are they someone who has to hunt out every cobweb. Do the housework like your character and get some more insight into their nature.

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5. I know it, you’re gazing out of the window

Who could be there? What might your character see? What will they do? Who do they least want to see? How could you make something happen that will be exciting and unexpected? What’s the most random thing that could happen now? If this doesn’t fit into your story or you’re writing non-fiction then how is what you are feeling or seeing at this moment a metaphor for the subject you’re writing about? Could it make a good blog post?

So here you have it. This blog post started by me looking out of the window and noticing how the frost on the leaves has gone and wondering what the garden will look like tomorrow when I wake up as there’s snow forecast. For me this reminded me how different my page looks when it’s full of writing, like the bushes covered in frost. The page looks attractive to me but underneath the blank page where I am about to write, looks bare and ugly so I want to fill it.

Overcome your limiting belief

A limiting belief is something that gets in the way of what you want to achieve, in this case , your writing. This ‘thing’ can take many forms.

It can be a voice in your head. We call this an auditory limiting belief. The voice might say

“Who do you think you are, call yourself a writer, you are rubbish.”

“You’ve got more important things to do than write.”

“Do the housework first.”

“This will never be published.”

“Press delete this is no good.”

Do you have a voice in your head? What does it say?

How does it say it? Is it a loud voice, a whisper? Is it male or female? Do you know the voice? Who is it?

Is it mocking or jeering, is it laughing at you or is it being deadly serious?

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One way we can manage this voice is we can change it. Repeat what it says out loud but in a silly voice like Micky Mouse or some cartoon character you know. Make it sound really absurd and not to be taken seriously at all. Now answer it back and tell it to ‘shut up’ .

If it persists you can do this perceptual positioning exercise. Take three chairs. one is Position 1 – you. Another is Position 2 – the voice and Position 3 is an uninvolved bystander. Sit in Position 1 and tell Position 2 what you want to do and tell it that they should be quiet and let you do it or whatever you want to say to that voice. Then go and sit in Position 2, be the voice. What is your positive intention,what benefit is there in you saying what you are saying? Now back to position 1 and respond. It helps if you give yourself a little shake between positions so you can really be that different entity. When you are back in Position 1 how can you reassure Position 2 that you can meet their positive intention yourself and don’t need their protection or whatever their purpose for you might be. In Position 3 you stand back and observe what went on and suggest a solution. Back to position 1 and you tell Position 2 what you plan to do and Position 2 needs to be OK with that.

Your limiting belief might be a feeling like a brick wall and we call this a kinaesthetic limiting belief.

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You’re creative, do something with it. Can you close your eyes and imagine the brick wall or whatever your obstacle is. It could be a feeling in your tummy, is it an animal, does it have a colour? We use submodalities to change the limiting belief into something pleasant and non-threatening. Can you shrink your brick wall and then put it down for a moment while you write? Can you push it further away, so far that you can barely see it? Can you turn it into a food that you can poke a hole in or even eat? If its an animal can you sing the animal to sleep or soothe it by stroking it?

You might have a visual limiting belief. Perhaps you see a messy house and think I must tidy up first. Perhaps you see the blank page on the screen and panic? What you see is your choice. You can reframe what you see by deciding instead to see the blank page as your next story or the beginning of an idea, an opportunity to write something amazing today. We can help this reframe along by using something called the SWISH.

Imagine a TV screen in front of you and in the middle of the screen is the visual of what you are responding to. You have a TV remote in your hand. In the bottom right of the screen is a small picture of what you’d prefer to see – your published book, a page full of writing, a good review…. Now in one move use your imaginary remote to switch the images so you’re looking at the preferred image.

What does that look like?

Do it a few times and then you can use this whenever you need to.

I provide NLP coaching sessions via Skype if you’d like a bit more help with any of these techniques.

Working on your character development

Whatever experience our character has during the course of your story will be filtered by their memories, beliefs, values and attitudes.

You have probably written copious notes about your character, developing a back story and a set of experiences and memories that will determine how they react during your novel to the various situations you will throw at them. You will know what your character stands for, what is important to them, what they believe in and what drives them. These are all fairly standard processes of creative writing and you will be more familiar with them than I. It’s all about interrogating your character isn’t it and being able to answer confidently how they would respond to different scenarios.

But what are these Meta-Programmes and how can it help you to know about them?

They are filters on our world which will add any dimension to the understanding of your character.

1. Towards / Away from – is your character motivated by what they do want and driven forwards towards their goals or do they focus on what they want to avoid. Do they for example look to achieve something or do they seek to avoid confrontation, avoid failure, avoid risk?

2. Internal / external referencing – do they seek to gain the approval of others, or does it matter more that they are true to their own beliefs and values?

3. Past/present/future – where do they place their focus? Do they live very much in the present, do they think of what they want in the future or do they dwell on the past?

4. Choices/process – does your character thrive on choices or do they just go through life like a ‘to do’ list?

5. Big chunk/small chunk – some people are better at concept thinking, broad brush ideas but are less good at the detail. Where does your character excel? If you have two main characters it may help the pace to have one small chunk, the person who can organise and manage detail and the other with the blue sky thinking.

6. Associate/disassociate – someone who associates is one who can empathize easily and feel the pain of others as if it were there own. Someone who disassociates will notice the others’ pain but from a distance. They will not be affected by it. This distancing can be a useful tool when you want to encourage the reader to stand back and notice something.

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Homeopathy and writer’s block

What is writer’s block?

Endless staring at a blank page or word document, the twiddling of a pen between your fingers, frequent visits to Facebook or the fridge, many cups of tea.

That idea is in the back of your mind, but it’s shy. Somehow it has to be fully formed before it leaps, sparkling and singing, onto your page.

Somewhere between your reticent idea and your fat, beautifully covered novel or red-carpet movie première are a bundle of words that need to be herded together and fed through the pasture gate in perfect order.

But let’s face it, the material reality of the fat novel or the movie première is scary. Is it an impossible goal? Am I punching too far above my weight? Do my words have worth? Will they ever make it into print or on the screen?

Best let them lurk, let them slink, solitary-like, around the recesses of my mind. If I put them down on the page then I commit to action. I commit to my dream. I might succeed, but then again, I might fail, and I’m not sure which is more scary.

The enormity of the task facing writers is probably the biggest barrier to finishing, or even starting, a serious piece of writing. In the course of writing a serious piece of art, your whole self will be jolted, provoked, tested, stretched, piqued. In essence, you will come face to face with yourself. Homeopathic treatment can help you face your demons, understand your grief, unravel your traumas, and clear the way to superb, enlightened writing.

On the other hand, you may be totally sorted and none of that applies to you. It could just be that you are simply blank. You haven’t got a single witty word to say.

So write that down. “I haven’t got a single witty word to say.” Keep going. “My mind is blank. There are no thoughts in my mind.” Keep going. “Oh look – a squirrel has just climbed the tree outside my window. I wonder if it has a mate? Are they going to have a squirrel party? Squirrel parties are cool: they….”

See what has just happened? You have used the principles of homeopathy to lead to writing. Homeopathy rests on the Law of Similars – that which causes the disease can cure the disease. So what cures a blank mind? An even blanker mind!

That is why meditation (or allowing your mind to be empty) before writing is probably the biggest cure of writer’s block, and the greatest engenderer of fine creative thought and writing.

Homeopathic treatment combined with meditation will lead to untold creative fertility. I should know – I do both, and have just completed my first feature-length movie screenplay.

If you would like more information on how homeopathy can help your creative process, or fancy a bit of coaching to get your writing juices flowing, please contact me on 07885 529060

Julia Lockwood BA RSHom, homeopath and writer.

http://marlowhomeopath.wordpress.com/

Julia works as a freelance writer and homeopath for The Alternative Writing Doctor, based in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

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Stretch before you exercise your pen

Do you ever sit at your desk or table gazing outside, hoping that the words will flow and you can move on with your chapter? I know I do sometimes. However disciplined I am, however motivated to complete a project and meet a deadline there will often be times when I find my attention wandering. We were talking about it in our writing group meeting yesterday in fact. One member (you know who you are!) said “Surely that’s part of the writing process?”

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Yes of course it can be, but is it always so? Just as we stretch before we exercise in order to warn our muscles to prepare for exercise and get them warmed up and ready for action, so too should we do the same for our writing arm and our creative brain.

I studied in Creative Writing with the Open University and one of the ‘stretching exercises’ we did, and there were many so sign up as a Blog Follower and make sure you get them, was this one.

Step 1. Write the letters A – Z down the left hand side of a piece of A4 paper.

Step 2. Alongside each one write your favourite word that starts with that letter. There may be several favourites so for the purpose of this exercise just write one of them down, the first one that comes to mind perhaps. After all, you’ll have other opportunities to use other favourite words. Some letters may have you temporarily stumped so just leave them. This isn’t a test.

Step 3. Now make up a story using all those lovely words. See how many you can use in the shortest possible story. Give yourself a deadline. A good deadline could be to say to yourself “I’m going to write my story in the next hour and then have a coffee and get on with my novel.”

By allowing your creative brain to wander off and yet give it a project to do, we offer it a warm- up before the real exercise of the day which is the writing we are working on.

Let me know how it goes. Maybe it’ll be the start of a new novel!

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Top 10 tips for tackling writers’ block.

I belong to a number of Linked In and Facebook groups for writers as well as a local writers group and a national children’s writing group so I am in touch with lots of professional writers as well as many who write for pleasure with no thought of being published. A frequent complaint is that writers get writer’s block. If you sometimes suffer from this perhaps I can help? I am an NLP Master Practitioner and use NLP both in my own writing and to help others by coaching.

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Here are some top tips.

1. Being a writer is your identity, it is not just ‘something I do’. You are a writer whether you write full or part time. Recognise this at a deep level that being a writer is who you are as well as what you do. You write because it matters to you and because it fulfills your sense of purpose.

2. Make your writing space work for you. Make it special and conducive to writing. Be able to close the door on distractions and own your space.

3. Make sure that you always have something to write on and with in your handbag or briefcase. You are a writer and you need to write. Sometimes you may be in the car waiting at the school, waiting for a train, on the train or plane. Use these times to write.

4. Visualise the block. What does it look like? Your thoughts control your behaviour so imagine the ‘block’ as something like jelly that you can easily overpower. Make it a colour you like and one that you are attracted to rather than one that threatens you.

5. Some writers have a problem starting a piece and sit staring at a blank screen. Start anywhere. It does not have to be the beginning, start half way through and add the beginning later.

6. Read! The more you read and enjoy words, the more you want to use them in your writing. Use a notebook to record words you have encountered in your reading. Take 6 of them at random and make up sentences from them. Then turn the sentences into a story. You’re writing now!

7. “I can’t think what to write” is a common problem expressed by writers. Challenge this inner dialogue by asking it “What if you could think what to write?” and then “What would it look like? What would it sound like? What would it feel like?”

8. Have ‘towards’ goals. Aim to write for a certain length of time or a certain number of words. Set the goal at a level you know you can easily achieve.

9. You DO have time to write. Delegate or dump things that have no value to you as a writer so you can do your writing.

10. Your thinking controls your actions. By thinking you have writer’s block you will make it a self fulfilling prophesy. Believe instead that you are a writer with something to write. Just DO IT. Trying to do it will not work as there is built in failure in the word ‘try’.

Judy Bartkowiak runs a Distance Learning course in NLP for Writers. Contact her now judy@hitchamvale.co.uk or Skype her judy.bartkowiak to find out more.

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