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Welcome to the official blog of Writer & Crafts Expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Publishing My First Book On Kindle

I took the cover photo at Kolkata flower market
It's taken me 10 months but I've finally managed to self-publish my first book. It's a 'travelogue' which is basically a diary/memoir style piece based on a month off that I took last December. I wrote most of it while I travelling, in the evenings, and on public transport.

Writing on a long train  journey through West Bengal
I planned to come back to the UK, spend January editing it and then publish it in February. But real life set in and it never happened. Fitting the editing side in with my day job and other commitments was really tough and I found myself disconnecting from it. Eventually I got stuck in again but that was just the beginning. 

Sunset in Kathmandu
Next came the preparing the file for Kindle part (it's only available as a digital read on Kindle for the moment, I may extend it to other digital readers and possibly print on demand paperback but I'm not sure yet.) 

This involved another few months. I looked at endless on-line tutorials and even enrolled on a four day course called 'How To Publish Your First E-Book.' But came away none the wiser, in fact it confused me even more.

Children at Darjeeling Train Station

Eventually I settled on the simplest conversion which is creating it on word, inserting some images then converting it to a html file (instructions for how to do this can be found on the Kindle Self-Publishing site. Why I didn't do that to start with I'll never know!

For complicated booked other processes would be required but as I say, for simple text and pictures it's straight forward enough, the secret lies in the formatting which happens in the word file. 

Traditional Naksha Buti weaviing in Tangali, Dhaka, Bangladesh

The book is written in the first person as that's how I've always written my diaries. One of the main reasons I wrote it is that before I went away, and while I was away, I really enjoyed reading other people's self-published travelogues. They are far more interesting than reading travel guides. 

But looking back at it now, when I dip into it on my Kindle the trip becomes so vivid, I feel like I would have forgotten so many things. Even just looking at the photographs isn't enough as they only form half a memory. Writing provides a more real picture.

The book costs £3 (I only get £1 of that!), I'm not expecting to sell many copies but I hope that anyone who is travelling to India, Nepal or Bangladesh will consider purchasing it for inspiration or if you simply fancy a read that's a bit different you'll take your chances.

The first chapter of the book (sample chapter) is available to read for FREE hereIf you've got five minutes, have a browse.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Zine Making For International Day Of The Girl

The first thing I ever had published was in a zine so I am a massive supporter of the DIY zine movement. I was therefore chuffed to be asked to run a zine-making workshop to celebrate International Day Of The Girl at The Southbank. 
As well as contributing to zines and fanzines, I also used to edit my own, a craftzine called Fete which focussed on the handmade. 
For this session I decided to create a group zine. The idea was that it would be A5 in size and everyone would be given a sheet of A5 paper on which they could do anything they wanted to; draw, paint, collage, write etc...(as long as it was about girls!)
My table filled with collage materials including lots of magazines to cut up and create with.
 The Southbank also leant us the use of these rather fabulous letter stamps and provided lots of ink pads.
Elsewhere there were some other workshops running alongside mine including this fun comic creation session with artist Matt Boyce.
And zinemaking with For Book's Sake who had some fab stickers.
As it was a drop-in session I had no idea how many people would come and whether or not we'd have enough content to make a full sized zine but I'm pleased to report that during the four hours, over 25 contributors took part and they weren't just women either, there was balanced gender and age mix which makes the zine even more special.
Here are some of the pages that were created...

And these are some of the spreads...

The finishing touches to the zine were these illustrations of different girls by artist Inky Ponting
And here are the names of the other contributors...
The zine has been kept by Thee Southbank who are going to make a digital version of it but in the meantime in true DIY zine style they have photocopied it and sent it to the contributors - it looks just as impressive in black and white. Although blogging is a digital form of self-publishing, nothing beats the feeling of seeing your work in print.

Away from work also I've been working on my own 'self publishing' project which after months of beavering away has finally developed into something...but more on that in my next post. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

DIY Dress: Silk Sensation

Last night I finally debuted my new frock, a shimmering raw silk dress that took me a couple of months to get together. I wanted to finish it for Eid but ran out of time. It's a very sturdy fabric which has a natural crinkle and if you look close up you can admire the sequin details...
I picked up the fabric in Khushboo Textile in Birmingham, a luxury haberdashery that specialises in bespoke fabrics. The owner Imran can arrange to have fabric dyed and embroidered to your specifications but they also stock some rather stunning rolls of fabric you can buy by the metre and Asian suit fabrics. It took me a while to decide what to make with it but in the end as I mostly like wearing dresses I decided to make what I would consider my own kind of party wear.
The tough part was making a paper pattern. It was adapted from the block of the last dress I made but this one had more pieces and a much wider skirt.
It then took me a whole day to cut the pieces out from fabric.
One of the design features is that the shape of the neck is different at the front and back.
For the front I created a square shaped neck...
And for the back a round neck.
I particularly love how the skirt flares out.
Now it's done I'm already thinking about my next project. I want to make a crystallised velvet bolero so am looking out for shapes to get inspired by. I probably won't have time to start it until November but fingers crossed I'll get it sewn in time for the real party season!

You can visit Khushboo Textiles in Ladypool Road, Birmingham. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Like Father Like Daughter: films me and my dad used to watch together

Those who have known me a long time know I am obsessed with James Bond. I'm not talking about my DVD collection either; I have the books, t-shirt, doll and nickname to boot. There isn't a moment in my life when this Bond fascination came into being, I was born into it. As a child I watched every single Bond film on the telly with my dad.
Generally we didn't talk much but we did watch a lot of movies and TV together. In his final few years (today marks the 5th anniversary of his death) I spent huge amounts of time with him in front of the telly. We didn't need to talk. Just being in the same room and sharing that activity was our bond. It got me thinking about some of the iconic films I watched with him...

1. The 10 Commandments

A family classic, we had this recorded from the TV on a VHS. Ridiculously epic it took a full day to watch this movie with breaks in between but my dad thought of it as one of the most important films ever made. Although it's biblical in nature, my parents always translated the biblical versions of events into the Islamic ones - the stories and morals were always the same just the names were different. The scene where Moses makes the sea split is an image that has long stayed with me.
2. The Great Escape

This film fascinated me and my dad. I don't recall him having much interest in any other war films but this story was so remarkable I just remember him being captivated by it. Many, many years later he was so proud of the fact Richard Attenborough shook my hand and gave me my degree at my university graduation. 

3. The Poseiden Adventure

One of those films you don't need to know the language  to understand, this was one of those flicks that probably appealed to most people - it was simple yet shocking. In later years this film dated terribly and fit perfectly onto the schedule of Channel 5 which specialised in showing easy films for foreign viewers - my dad being a regular member of this audience.
4. Indian Jones & The Temple Of Doom

I used to know every single line of this movie. My parents would call me every time it was on the telly as they knew how much I loved it. I still do. My dad would often say how ridiculous it was (especially the heart extraction scenes) but he was still glued to it.

5. Edward Scissorhands 

By the time this film came out I was quite a bit older and at the stage where viewing telly with your parents became uncomfortable but much to my amusement, both my parents took to this film which was insane considering it's probably the most quirky thing they ever watched. It fascinated my dad to the point I think he thought it was a 'real' possibility rather than a fantasy. 

6. Westerns
Every Saturday afternoon was about Westerns. I hated them. They were so dull. Then during A'Level Media Studies I did a project on Westerns and I suddenly began to understand and appreciate them. This made watching them with my dad so much easier though to be fair, I never watched a whole film with him. Watching a Western was private time for him. Even my mum didn't get much look in when a Western was on.

7. Satyajit Rai movies
When  my dad and I went to stay with my sister a few years a go, in the evenings my dad sat through the Apu trilogy and I've never seen him so content. Despite my passion he had zero interest in Bollywood but a massive appreciation for the old Bengali films in black and white as they depicted scenarios he was much more familiar with i.e. rural life. 

Come to think of it I never think about the fact her grew up as a village boy, in a completely rural environment in Bangladesh and then swapped it for being a Londoner. He didn't have any references for back home, no photos or videos, so I guess seeing familiar images in the movies must have brought back memories, as has writing this post for me. 

More about my dad on anniversary blogs: 2013, 2012 & 2011

Friday, 15 August 2014

Africa Fashion Week London

The first thing I noticed about Africa Fashion Week London was how well-dressed everyone was. There was some seriously cool street style going on - some of which got captured by Company Magazine which you can check out here to see what I mean.
 Now in it's 4th year, Africa Fashion Week is a celebration of designers from and inspired by the African continent. 
This year it was held at it's biggest venue yet, at Olympia in West London. It consisted of several catwalk shows over two days...
...and a marketplace filled with African fashion, accessories, food and books.
I'm a big fan of bold, colourful fashion and have long admired the African women I see on the streets of London wearing traditional dress; much of which is homemade, using the most incredible fabrics, so I couldn't wait to take my 'Frow seat' at this year's event to see work from emerging and new designers who specialise in African fashion.
Prints were everywhere, in every colour scheme imaginable and used for every kind of garment going.
But the biggest surprise of the segment I watched was that this actually was fashion for everyone, not just slim models. Dearcurves showcased a range for larger women and was met with huge cheers and smiles. Their oufits were flattering and interesting which was great to see.
Thora Jewels
I also liked the statement pieces shown off in this jewellery segment.
Mia Nisbet
This collection interested me because it took African print and used it to give outfits 'accents' rather than use solid patterns.
Alabi Couture
My favourite designer however was Alabi Couture, outfits were very glamorous and consisted of great shapes and fits for men and women. There were eight catwalk shows altogether though sadly I could only attend one of them.
One of the most popular stalls at the marketplace was this headwrap stand, which I stood and admired...not sure if I could recreate one myself though.
I also LOVED all the accessories: there were shoes, handbags and endless jewellery pieces made from African print fabric which gave me lots of ideas for customising.
Such a brilliant way to make use of small fabric scraps - I immediately fell in love with the fabric collars (£20) by Akwabi Designs, handmade by this lovely designer. Her rolled version that she's wearing was proving very popular too. 

I'm now feeling super inspired to use the African fabric my friend Bosun brought me a few months back from his visit to Nigeria. It's currently in my 'to sew' pile but I've now got a few ideas for how to make best use of it which definately involves making a garment and matching accessories.

Find out more about Africa Fashion Week London at: www.africafashionweeklondon.com

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Festival Of Love At The Southbank Centre

Say It With Flowers tablecentres made at my workshop

If there's one thing I'm certain about in life it's that I will never get bored of The Southbank. It's my favourite place in London so it was a real honour to be invited to run two craft workshops as part of their summer Festival Of Love
The Festival explores and celebrates seven kinds of human love and each weekend there are events focusing on that type. My sessions took place over their Pragma Weekend celebrating 'Enduring Love'. 
Temple Of Agape
For last year's Festival of Neighbourhood the Southbank was decorated with colourful flags created by Bob and Roberta Smith and this summer the rainbow theme continued with this incredible staircase - The Temple Of Agape which you can walk up and down while admiring. Made up of hand-painted signs it's the kind of installation you can stare at for hours, but's it's not the only one...
As a girl obsessed with neon signage I love this area based inside the Southbank's Festival Village which doubles up as a bar and exhibition space. Step inside to discover a retro wonderland.
One of the workshops I ran was making 'Gifts Of Love' using letter beads to write a message to someone special. The idea was to take two heart shaped pieces of felt, stitch them together, fill with wadding and add a piece of ribbon to hang them up with. They were then decorated with words, sequins, gems, glitter and fabric scraps. 
The workshop was attended by different types of people; children, teenagers, adults and older folk - men and women, as well as friends and families. In fact my sister brought my nieces and nephew along and they all made a heart for each other.
This pair of hearts were made by a boy of seven and a family friend who was looking after him. 
One of the main features of the weekend was a special lunch that took place inside The Clore Ballroom which was attended by 100 invited guests - all of whom have a connection with Enduring Love. The guestlist included young carers, couples who've been married a very long time and people from care homes around London. To make their lunch experience extra special I was called upon to create tablecentres - made with the help of public participants.
The concept was to make something based around flowers so I decided on topiary style trees which in the end turned into cactuses, but more on that later! I picked up 10 plant pots from Poundland and my starting point was to paint them with acrylic paint - it took three layers to get good coverage.
I did some of the other prep at home too - spraying large polystrene balls with adhesive spray and smoothing squares of hessian and cotton gingham fabric over them. It was a quick and effective method but it ruined my nails so if you fancy trying this yourself I recommend wearing gloves. I bought wooden dowels to fix into the balls but my hacksaw broke when I went to cut them to size so I used straws initially but they didn't hold the weight of the balls so in the end I chopped them off and created cactuses instead!
The main session was a public drop-in craft workshop where participants made fabric and card flowers. These were then glued to the polysterene balls which were glued inside the plant pots. The 10 tablecentres were then placed on the dining tables for the special lunch on Sunday.
Elsewhere around the space there are so many more exhibitions and installations to discover and be amazed by.There's a full list on the Southbank website.

Alongside the workshops and exhibitions there are also a number of film screenings of classic romances...
And if you're visiting over the weekend be sure to show your stomach some love too by eating at Real Food Market. My favourite stalls are the two dosa stands. One is by Horn Ok Please! who create delicious, fluffy Masala Dosas served with chickpeas and bhel puri - it's a perfect light lunch or snack (£5) or if you like your food flavoursome and filling try the satisfying dosas from Dosa Delhi which are served with a very delicious coconut chutney (£6). Finish with a stop off for frozen yoghurt aboard the bright pink Snog bus (only downside being it's rather pricey ), but a nice treat and you get to sit on deckchairs or enjoy your yoghurt up on the top deck.

If you're visiting London this summer stopping off to see The Festival Of Love is a must, especially as films aside, it's FREE! Chill by the river, put your feet in the sand, relax in The Southbank roof garden, get married (there is actually a whole weekend dedicated to weddings) and take some time out to enjoying thinking about and enjoying love, whether it's on your own or with someone special. 

The Southbank Centre's Festival Of Love runs until 31st August 2014.