In Africa: Journalism, Adventure and Hope

I was recently granted the opportunity by The Beach Reporter, the paper I have been freelancing for over the past three years, to write a first-person account of two weeks in Benin, West Africa.

Alana with "House Mama" Catherine
who cares for six orphans
in Tanguieta, Benin, West Africa
As a reporter who leaves opinion and first-person pronouns out of my stories, it was both a challenge and an exciting opportunity. I traveled to Benin to visit a local nurse named Sarah Chapman who I met during an interview for the paper last year. She was in the process of raising money for her non-profit organization, Build a Better Benin, dedicated to improving the health and education of women and children in West Africa.

It is a worthy project, and she is a phenomenal woman, so we've been meeting weekly while she is in the L.A. area to talk about her story and translate her work and humor into book form. Her stories are not generic statistics; they are personal stories of love and struggle.

In November and December, it was time for me to travel halfway around the world to see what she does in person and meet the people in the story. I hope to finish the book and secure an agent and publisher within the year.

In the meantime, I'd love it if you read my account. It's brief, considering the timeline. Boiling two weeks of nonstop activity down to around 1300 words was difficult, to say the least, but it really speaks to a little bit of what I love about the people I met, the sense of wonder and adventure, and how I see my role as a journalist.

Here's a small tidbit from the article, Building Better Communities:

"The sky is alive in vibrant red and orange swatches of light, trickling into the deep red walls of mud huts and down to the terre rouge — the brownish maroon of the earth’s surface. The view is dotted with silhouettes of baobob trees and bobbing heads – large groups of children returning home from school, dressed alike in khaki public school uniforms. It is a vision of warmth and beauty, the browns and reds and oranges swirling together in perfect harmony.

The sounds of children laughing and goats bleeting punctuate the constant whir of motorcycle engines buzzing along dirt roads pocked with potholes. Dough sizzles in oiled pots along the side of the street, and clapping and song bounce off the walls.

This is dusk in Tanguieta, Benin in West Africa, on Thanksgiving night. I am surrounded by 11 children, 200 chickens, a dozen rabbits, goats, baby turkeys, a dog with pink-painted toenails, a nurse from Hermosa Beach, an uneducated “house mama” who cares for six orphans, and the pastor who has vowed to give them a better life. This is heaven on earth."

PS - For the article that served as the impetus for meeting Sarah, and to learn more about Benin, click here. To see current projects, visit the Build a Better Benin Facebook page.


#StorySprouts and The Art of Revision with L. Diane Wolf!

Hello writercizers!

Story Sprouts is visiting L. Diane Wolf at Spunk on a Stick's Tips today. The topic is Help! It's Time to Revise, and some techniques you can use when it's time to delve into revisions

Head on over there to visit Diane, my co-editor Nutschell Anne Windsor,  and me, and share your best revision tips!

Thanks Diane for hosting!


PS - TOMORROW is the final stop on our Story Sprouts Tour! Nutschell will be visiting Milo James Fowler to talk about writers and a very special part of our writing routines.


Talking about the Five Stages of First Publication with Lynda R. Young

Hello writercizers!

Story Sprouts is visiting Lynda R. Young with .W.I.P. It: An Author's Journey today. We're talking about The Five Stages of First Publication, and how it feels the first time you put your name in print

(Yes, we made up the five stages, but sure you all can relate!) 

Head on over there to visit Lynda, my co-editor Nutschell Anne Windsor,  and me, and share your own stages of publication!

Thanks Lynda for hosting!



Art and Literature! #StorySprouts visits Emilyann Girdner Today!

Hello writercizers!

Story Sprouts is visiting Emilyann Girdner with Anything Imagined today. We're talking about Canvas to Page: Art and Literature

Head on over there to visit Emilyann, my co-editor Nutschell Anne Windsor,  and me, and share the visual cues that inspire you!

Thanks Emilyann for hosting!


PS - We had a bonus stop over the weekend with Mrs. Mommy Booknerd, who interviewed Nutschell and me with a nice book announcement! Thank you Emily for hosting us! Check it out.


#StorySprouts visits Paranormal Point of View: Ten Reasons to Write for Kids!

Hello writercizers!

Story Sprouts is visiting Lisa Gail Green with Paranormal Point of View today. We're talking about Ten Reasons to Write for Kids

Head on over there to visit Lisa, my co-editor Nutschell Anne Windsor,  and me, and share your thoughts on why you think writing for kids is fantastic!

Thanks Lisa for hosting!


PS - The tour continues this weekend, with some excellent posts by Nutschell.

Fri, Jan. 24 - The Value of Critiques with MJ Fifield
Sat, Jan. 25 - The Power of Names with PK Hrezo
Mon, Jan. 27 - Assembling Your Publishing Team with Stephen Tremp

I'll be back Tuesday for another round!


#StorySprouts Tour Continues! Writers and Editors with Annalisa Crawford!

Hello writercizers!

Story Sprouts is visiting Annalisa Crawford with Wake Up, Eat, Write, Sleep today. We're talking about one of the most important relationship in a writer's life - that with their editor. The title of the post is MATCHED! I Now Declare You Writer and Editor.

Head on over there to visit Annalisa, my co-editor Nutschell Anne Windsor,  and me, and share your thoughts on working with an editor.

Thanks Annalisa for hosting!



#StorySprouts on Tour - Why Writing in Community Rocks our Socks with Christine Rains!

Hello writercizers!

Story Sprouts is visiting Christine Rains today. We're talking about how writers can benefit from Writing in Community.

Head on over there to visit Christine, my co-editor Nutschell Anne Windsor,  and me, and share your thoughts on what it means to you to write alongside fellow authors!

Thanks Christine for hosting!


PS - This weekend, as part of the Story Sprouts tour, Nutschell visited the ever supportive, blog fest guru Arlee Bird to talk about the Benefits of Joining a Professional Writing Organization and Jamaican award-winning author J.L. Campbell to talk about Using Archetypes to Create Your Characters. Check it out!