SAP 031 – Charlene Shaw; using creative writing to challenge the lack of positive BAME characters within the literature on the curriculum

Charlene shaw is a London based author, English teacher and freelance writer.

As an English teacher, Charlene has seen first hand the lack of BAME characters portrayed in a positive way within the literature on the curriculum.

This is what made Charlene create a novel to challenge that stereotype.

Her novel, Fall in Line, gives an insight into the Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) community and how they sometimes struggle to come to terms with their identity.

Personal life

“I was born in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, UK.”

“My mum is English and my dad is of Jamaican origin. I am mixed race.”

“Growing up, my sister and I were the only black people in my school.”

Area of expertise

“I am really good at sticking to a routine. Especially in the gym.”

“I have to have a structure to everything.”

A tool you use to get ahead

“Every night I write myself a to-do list for the next day. I use the Notes app on my phone”

“I use it to tick things off the list which feels like I am making progress every day.”

Advice for aspiring teachers and writers

“In terms of teaching, try and get experience, maybe from your old school. This will give you an idea of what it’s actually like to be a teacher.”

“And, start looking at the different courses, you can do a PGC or initial teacher training.”

“If you want to do any kind of writing, the key is to write every day.”

“Find something you’re passionate about and write about it every single day.”

Lowest entrepreneurial moment

“After I got over the fear of showing my writing to my students, I started going for the publishing deals.”

“I actually got a deal but I wasn’t happy with it. So, I challenged the publishing house and they pulled out.”

“They said they were not offering me the deal anymore because I was unwilling to compromise.”

“That was really hard to process because I felt like I was letting the students and my friends and family down.”

Proudest entrepreneurial moment

“Getting featured in the Metro!”

“That was the moment when I realised that the book is good and people like it and they are interested in the reason why I have written it.”

Lightbulb moment

“I was 21, just starting my Teacher Training.”

“They were talking about changing the exam system and I thought the changes were harsh – we’re moving backwards.”

“The idea stemmed from there and I started writing the book from then.”

Lion’s Den

What’s the best African saying you’ve ever heard?

“Loads of my friends say this when they’re shocked, they go:

Blood of Zachariah!

I don’t even know what it means but it makes me laugh.”

What was holding you back from building your brand?

“Confidence. I didn’t feel like I was good enough.”

What steps did you take to overcome this?

“I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

“I literally, from day to day, force myself into uncomfortable situations because it provokes that fight or flight response. And, I am never going to lose, I always pull through.”

Which is your social media platform of choice?

“I’ve got Instagram, Twitter and Facebook but I would say my main one is Instagram. “

“I think my target audience is there and I like visually connecting with people

One Instagram tip for success

“People want to invest in you and not the product you’re selling.”

“I have really learnt to share my journey a lot more and talk about where I am struggling and where I am succeeding.”

Share a daily routine that contributes to your success

“I meditate at 10 pm every night. I call it Zen at Ten.”

“I just think about what was good about my day, what was rubbish and visualise what my goals are.”

Tell us a bit your book Fall in Line

Fall in Line is basically a dystopian take on the education system that plays on the idea of the government and the new head of education taking away the student’s right to chose their future.”

“It cuts off the lower ability students from being able to get to university.”

“The system tells a student ‘you’ll be a Bin Man, Doctor, Lawyer’ and they have no choice about it. The students weren’t happy about it and started to rebel.”

If you had 24 hours to live what would you do?

“Eat. I would eat all of my favourite things. And, spend time with my friends and family and chat about memories and all the fun things that have happened in life.”

Words of wisdom

“Nothing good grows from a comfort zone. So, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Connect with Charlene