Earlier this week I was invited to speak at The Bank Of England’s (BOE) Literary Festival for Ethnic Minority authors.
I was excited to talk at the event considering it was being held at such an iconic institutions!
It was an incredible opportunity. Thought I had spent the last 12 years working in the heart of the city of London and walking past this building hundreds of times, I had never been inside. So it was great to be invited!
I spoke on a panel with two other authors:
- Zen Cho who is a London-based Malaysian author of speculative fiction and romance. You can find our more about her and her books here.
- Sai Iyer, a London-based Indian author of mythological fiction. She is the author of Abhaya and is currently writing her second novel. You can find our more about Sai and her books here.
It was a great panel. We were all three woman from Asian backgrounds that demonstrated that there are women out there writing from diverse backgrounds!
It was encouraging to see how writing truly has no boundaries and is, in fact, the one area in which diversity is needed. No one wants to read the same old things, do they? Writing and creativity in its very nature demand constant change.
The panel lineup demonstrated that you could be a successful author as a traditionally published author or self-published.
Both Zen and Sai wrote fiction and talked about their experiences with fiction writings.
I spoke about my experiences of non-fiction writing (with the FinTech book) and also spoke about my upcoming book ‘Escape The Cubicle’. Don’t forget you can get the first chapter for free right now here.
Here is a summary of what Zen, Sai and I spoke about:
- Zen shared how she got started with her writing career. She said she grew up with stories but couldn’t find any books with Malaysian or Asian characters. So that’s why she decided to become an author so she could write those books.
- Sai explained how the only way her parents could get her to eat her food as a young child was to tell her stories of ancient Indian mythology. This interest in mythology led to Sai to write fiction stories about ancient folklore and Indian mythology!
- I spoke about how I transitioned from the corporate life to being an entrepreneur and writer. I also shared that I had always wanted to be a writer ever since I fell in love with books and words from a young age. All I ever wanted to be was an author, and I’m living that dream now!
We spoke about the challenges that ethnic minorities face in the publishing and writing world:
I shared how personally, I believe that the biggest problems are not those faced externally but those we deal with internally. Primarily this is the lack of confidence and the fear we face in trying to achieve our dreams or goals of wanting to be an author (or any other goal for that matter).
I believe there has never been a better time to be an author. With the explosion of technology, writing has never been easier o more accessible.
Indie-publishing (or self-publishing) has now become more accessible, and you can make a very good living from writing if you choose to take a professional approach to it.
For examples, check out Mark Dawson, Joanna Penn, Rachel Abbott and LJ Ross. They are all UK based authors who are self-publishing their own books and making 6 figure incomes from their writing. As a self- published author, they take responsibility for the marketing and publishing process as well as the writing. They treat their writing as a business rather than a hobby. And this is the attitude Author-Entrepreneurs need if they want the same level of success.
Self-publishing may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly the path for me at this point in my writing career. I love the control I get over my books and find the whole process exciting.
Zen works as a corporate lawyer three days a week but is a novelist seven days a week. She spoke about her experiences of having both been traditionally published, and also self-published her work.
She spoke about how she balances her time with writing. She also mentioned how writing could be a sedentary vocation, so it’s important to get up and move! This is why I always schedule gym sessions at lunchtime as it forces me to step away from my desk and stretch out my arms and neck muscles!!
Though Sai is a full-time author she explained how she spends probably only an hour or so writing. Being a self-published writer, she also spends time on marketing activities (such as social media networking, going to author events and building her email list) which are crucial if you are self- publishing.
I shared my writing routine where I tend to write in the mornings and do marketing and business activities in the afternoon. For me, I am most creative in the morning which is why I write prefer to write in the mornings.
We were also asked to share tips on what advice would you give to an ethnic minority who wanted to write?
- Stop being an aspiring writer and BE a writer. Don’t wait for validation. Give yourself the permission you need to write.
- There has never been a better time to write with the explosion of technology today! Only 2 billion people are online today. By 2020 that is set to explode by another 5 billion! Think of the potential market size of new readers coming online in the next few years- it’s huge!
- If you come from an ethnic background, use your differences and share your unique stories because everyone is interested to hear more about you! What may be normal and ordinary to you, will be interesting and new to someone else.
- If you want to see more ethnic diverse authors in the mainstream, then you need to pick yourself and be that representation!
After the talk, we were given a short tour of the building, and it is beautiful with so much history. Here are some interesting facts about the Bank Of England
We were shown the magnificent Cantilever staircase and Roman Mosaic. When constructed, this cantilever staircase, at 165 feet, was reputed to have been the longest in Europe. At the foot, the architect, Sir Herbert Baker, placed a 2nd-century Roman pavement which was uncovered during the rebuilding in 1925-39.
The centre of the building also houses a garden courtyard which has for mulberry trees.
- These trees are reminders of the origins of paper money; the earliest form of paper money was produced in China in the 7th century and printed on paper made of beaten mulberry bark.
- The roots of these trees also grow horizontally rather than vertically, allowing them to grow safely above the banks gold vaults!
- The trees also symbolise the history of the area which used to be a silk-producing area.
- Only the Governor can use this courtyard! His offices are just beside it and he can often be seen strolling across the yard or be seen sitting on the bench.
- Did you also know the courtyard used to be a graveyard!
The ‘‘Parlours” are unique rooms where Committee meetings take place. They staffed by butlers wearing pink suit jackets, maintaining the traditions of the 321-year-old Bank. The butlers greet visitors and deliver beverages (the current governor’s choice is often green tea).
Back in the 1690s King William III needed money to wage the so-called Nine Years war on France. The Bank of England was founded as a private institution by a group of wealthy businesspeople who agreed to lend £1.2m to the government. It remained a private institution until it was nationalised following the second world war in 1946.
As well as housing gold and cash, the vaults under the bank keep records of all the ledgers since the opening of the bank. This includes letters from Benjamin Disraeli (Prime Minister 1874-1880) asking for his dividend payments as well as letters to Shakespeare’s publishers who were just around the corner!
Although the bank holds over 400,000 bars of gold (over £100 billion worth), the Bank only owns two gold bars! These can be seen at the bank’s museum which is also in the same building.
I would like to thank the Bank of England for giving me the opportunity to speak at their literary festival.