To mark this year’s Black History Month, Spread the Word asked four writers from the Spread the Word community to contribute to this feature honouring this year’s theme Saluting our Sisters which celebrates the contributions and achievements of Black women in the UK and around the world. Writer Nadège René tells us about her journey as a writer and three Black women authors she loves, and shares advice for Black women writers who are on, or starting out on, their journey.
Tell us about your journey as a writer
My writing journey has been bumpy. For years, I used blogging to help make sense of the things happening around me. In doing so, I developed an ability to weave themes into a narrative in a way that seemed to compel readers to keep reading. My writing influences range from rap to things said in real-time, and I love slang for being unruly.
Writing a novel is where it gets extra bumpy. Words flow in one moment, and the next, I question whether I have the skills to execute my ideas. When this happens, I either seek support from another writer or take a break from writing to enjoy life- hoping I return to work replenished enough to continue the marathon.
I enjoy exploring complex emotional and relational problems, the orphan experience, and ancient wisdom. I also use other art forms like singing and music to help my writing process and develop new ideas.
Tell us about some Black women writers you admire and why
Years ago, I came across Yeye Luisah Teish in an interview discussing her book Carnival of the Spirit, and her passion for African folklore inspired me. Yeye’s work makes me think about old ideas in new ways and even challenges my beliefs about writing. She examines how the written word (though a magnificent art form) can lack fluidity and lock us into set ways of thinking. For me, as a dyslexic writer, this is very refreshing.
Another writer I admire is Theresa Ikoko, a British-Nigerian playwright/screenwriter. I was browsing Netflix during lockdown one night and found Rocks. I realized I’d never seen young Black British women shown in film the way I see them and know them. I admire Theresa for writing a film that captures the intricacies of black UK girlhood (the banter, the softness, the strength) and how she worked with the cast of young women, centring their safety and wellbeing. It means the world to have a close-to-home example of someone doing it, and I’m excited for the premiere of her most recent project, Grime Kids.
Other black women writers who I have to mention are Michaela Coel and Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini.
Do you have any advice for aspiring and emerging Black women writers?
I know we’ve heard that black women are not a monolith, but too often, I see us wanting to prioritise our joy while very immediate challenges fight for our attention. So, I guess my advice would be balance. Trust yourself enough to put the problems down, even if just for a moment. You are allowed to rest, and you are allowed to play.
I’d also say to remind yourself that through writing, you are changing. Believing in your writing and continuing to write is a kind of self-advocacy that is always worthwhile.
About the contributor
Nadège is a London-based writer who has a love of singing and an interest in making music for novels. In 2022 she received a London Writers Award to work on her novel exploring generational trauma and the parallels between collective and individual experiences of overcoming. Nadège started writing The Spirit of the Ceiba Tree in the final year of her Creative Writing and Philosophy degree at the University of Greenwich. After graduation, Nadège taught children marginalized from mainstream schools in an alternative education provision, while also working with and alongside young people who have left the care system. Currently she works as a Careers Consultant and Drama Facilitator.