Life is full of parallels. Far too often it requires seeing something great expressed elsewhere to realise that the very same greatness can be found right in front of you. That is what happened when I listened to my author Frances Mensah Williams' TEDx talk "Where is home?" at the Africa Writes Festival this past weekend where she was in conversation with Margaret Busby. Delivered in December 2014, the talk looked at the concept of 'being at home vs feeling at home' in our globalised world, an issue that is explored in her debut bestselling romantic debut novel From Pasta to Pigfoot, published in May 2015.
The moment came 6:57 minutes into the TEDx talk when Frances tells us that during a workshop in Ghana, after being raised and spending the majority of her life in the UK, a colleague said to her "Wow, you've worked for some big companies, you've got great experience. You must have had a good life in London, but we need people like you here in Ghana to help us develop. Thank you for coming home."
London-born Valerie Brandes, a self-professed 'Hackney girl', returned to the UK after 20 years living, working and raising a family in the beautiful, sunny city of San Diego, California. On completing a Masters in Publishing at City University and working for the prestigious Profile Books, she made the brave decision to address a glaring yet much ignored issue in the publishing industry: the lack of diversity in our workforce and literature. Following on in the footsteps of great women such as Margaret Busby and Verna Wilkins, Valerie's new publishing house Jacaranda Books, would positively affect not only my life but those of many people to follow: a publishing house that puts diversity at the forefront of its mission, promoting diversity in publishing "from bookshelf to boardroom"*.