Friday, August 9, 2019


 
Lynn Joseph's Dancing in the Rain,  third place winner Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, 2015: another book answering the question why write? Or the power of stories
I see that my previous post was in May. Astonishing! I was supposed to be getting organized at that time, posting regularly. Well clearly not. In what the Americans are now calling the big 'reveal', I will let you know that my husband has  dementia. I thought it would be that he'd just get quieter and quieter and that would be painful enough, 'the long goodbye', as my doctor said. Sometimes he is, but at other times it's quite different, and today is one of those;  hallucinating and very noisy, shouting at his imaginary people. It's emotionally draining.  Yes, he has taken his meds. I feel like the 'deer in the headlights'. What would be an appropriate simile for the Caribbean? Can't think! I wonder if this could be the making of a story. I'm not sure how many young adults have to interact with people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's, so perhaps it wouldn't be meaningful to them. However, that is why, to my surprise, I have not organized myself.
Therefore perhaps this is a good time to re-post Lynn Joseph's Dancing in the Rain (Blouse and Skirt Books/Blue Banyan Books), a Burt Award winning book. It deals with realities that sometimes we wish our young people didn't have to go through, and yet, increasingly in this world, they have to face so many challenges, so many things for which we have no explanation or even understanding.

I had a post about books that bear evidence to the power of stories. Dancing in the Rain is one such  book.

Offline for three days, one felt  lost in space without  the ritual of opening emails.  I decided therefore that  I could use the time to consider at least one philosophical question. Would there be an answer if one opened one's mind? I needed to make sense of things. And the world was not making sense.  No doubt, there are others who  feel the same from time to time, and especially in today’s world.

In stepped Dancing in the Rain. I was pulled into the story by the lyrical writing. It's a joy to read; images abound, almost like being able to watch the  frames of a movie gently gliding by.  Joseph's characters are delightfully drawn;  you do indeed get to know them, want to know not only the outcome of the story, but the outcome of each of their own personal stories. The colours of the Caribbean depicted are vibrant and magical.    

Against this mystical, magical background, two horrendous occurrences make their appearance,  the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11, and the Holocaust. The main characters are suffering from the effects of  9/11.  It’s significant that a book for young adults should deal with a traumatic occurrence which falls within present memory. It is contemporary; it is topical in a world where so many things seem out of our control, so beyond our wildest imaginations, and not in a pleasant way. The Holocaust appears as   a story within the  story, its purpose to draw attention to the different ways people survive after a tragedy of immense  proportions. So, in a sense, it informs the present.

The young protagonists ask philosophical questions and seek answers to the things we adults ourselves often do not understand. Yet,  it seemed as if by interacting with the characters and their story, and the  really brilliant protagonists, we understand what we always knew, but sometimes forget, that the only one way to deal with disasters is with faith/ hope and courage;  Joseph more than once refers to the importance of hope.

Joseph also speaks about joy and love, 'you are my heart', 'you are my joy', both of which I firmly believe in, and which from time to time appear in my stories.

So  did I have a breakthrough as a result  of my  journey with Joseph's characters, their philosophy, their brand of magic? Well something happened. It occurred while reading Dancing in the Rain. I have never doubted the power of stories, the power of books.  I gave thanks for the power of this story.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Young Adult Books and the Burt Award for the Caribbean



I thought I was going to be more organized and post regularly. In my defense there have been a number of passings of great people ( family or family friends) who contributed to Jamaica and the Caribbean, and we had to go to the funerals. Four in two months takes its emotional toll. And we must believe that indeed there are younger ones who will follow in their footsteps, even if they cannot fill their shoes.

I was most disturbed to read that the Burt Awards for the Caribbean YA books/stories will be discontinued due to the passing of the donor, and the decision of those in control of those purse springs to spend the money in other ways.  I am very, very sad about this. Wonderful work has been produced and my heart has been filled with joy over the talent displayed; and many of the writers are  young. No, Nancy Drew and company cannot replace them, as some have said. No, these are first class books and should be in every school, for reading, for discussion (no, not as set books), but to be recognized as recordings of our times and for knowledge and most of all, enjoyment.  A book for enjoyment? Yes, indeed! If our young people haven't found this out yet what a pleasure they have missed.

I plan to write a few words about the ones I've read (I haven't been able to access all) not a review really, but what I liked about them, the reason why I hope that Bocas Lit will find another sponsor. I will start with Gone to Drift, written by Diana McCaulay. It was a review by me, but more from the point of view of how it affected me, rather than a scholarly approach. I had posted this at a previous time, but it's more relevant to post it again here, as it will inform future postings about the other books .

In praise of "Gone to Drift" by Diana McCaulay: 
 
Prize Winner Burt Award for Caribbean  Literature, 2015:  Papillote  Press, 2016
 


This is a beautiful book. If it were a painting it would be in tones of grey and shades of blue for the sea, and for the land,  tones of beige and green, with splashes of colour added by the people who travel across its landscape. And I would buy it instantly for fear of losing it.  


This may seem like a strange way to begin a book review, and maybe this is not really an actual book review; maybe it’s more like in praise of good writing, a good story, and the environment. This last may seem too obvious to mention because we know that the author is a well known environmentalist. However, this book is not just an opportunity to recognize the importance of the environment; it is a hymn to it. You cannot read this story and come away unmoved by the significance of our environment and its importance to the characters in the story, and  to the island. 
The setting is the environment; more specifically the sea. The characters and  the sea are entwined in a dance, an embrace, which we  soon understand, can at any given time act  in favour of the human characters, or not.  It is this overarching character,  the sea, unmoved one way or the other by all that is happening,  and bearing  no animosity to anyone, that  forms the backdrop to this story.  This sea can bring you a bounty, yet you can get lost in it, gone to drift. 
 
Of the two main human characters, one is Lloyd, a young boy, who is worried about his grandfather, who has not returned from a fishing trip, in what  Llloyd perceives as good time. None of the other characters, mainly fisher families, Lloyd’s family, those who interact with them along the various coastal areas, seem to be very worried. You are left to wonder if, as they suggest, that perhaps there is nothing wrong;  Lloyd is unduly anxious. On the other hand, you wonder if it is that they do not wish to make Llloyd feel any more worried than he is. You fear that they know something that he does not, that they are not telling him the whole truth. 


The other character is Gramps, Lloyd’s grandfather, whose voice Lloyd can hear  in his head, “I come from a line of fishermen.”  This is as powerful as if the statement were, “I come from a  line of kings.” We believe this, a line of greatness.  


 Gramps  also tells his story.  And so we have the two stories, Lloyd looking for his grandfather, using any means necessary, his good friend, Dwight, the Coastguard, Jules, the lady who cares about the dolphins, his mother, his ne’re-do-well father, his grandfather’s friends; and Gramps’  story of his own father, his many brothers, all fishermen, and his mother. We come to care about Gramps’ family, as well as for Lloyd, whose determination and bravery in his search for Gramps often astounds us.  


It eventually dawns on us that Gramps is not on any of the main cays off the coast of the island,  but is stranded on what seems to be  a mere rock in the sea. The tension is created  not only by Lloyd’s search for his grandfather, the question of how  dolphins fit into this scenario, and whether his grandfather can be found in time, but also by seeing the  old man himself wondering how long he can survive on little crabs and rain water, the latter coming  sporadically.   


The author uses the device of alternate chapters for each of these two human characters, so that we can measure Lloyd’s attempts against the will of his grandfather to survive. It works; we are not distracted; rather, we  are caught up in the emotion of the situation.  


The language is measured, like a tale told on dark nights by lantern light, increasing  the feeling of  being at the mercy of the elements.  Descriptions are rich, as  seen in Gramps recollection of a sunrise.  


Then I realised that  I could see my hands and feet as a grey light stole across the sea. And to the east I saw the sky turning into a hundred different colours from the blue of a summer day to the dark purple of the thickest squall, from the pale pink of the inside of a conch shell to the bright orange of a ripe mango, until the round ball of the sun itself came up and the colours of the  sky spread over the water and even warmed our faces. I knew then that the best place to see a sunrise was at  sea.


It is for this reason alone that you cannot hurry through this book. Even as the mystery deepens, you need to stop to see what the characters see, to feel what they feel.
 Then, suddenly you may be caught unawares, by an intervention into this beauty, alerting you to  danger, which may be lurking, as in Gramps’ description of his brothers going to sea: 


It was late when they left and I thought the night was darker than usual.  We stood on the beach and watched them go. The boats made a ragged triangle formation, like a flock of birds, and for a few seconds their wakes were visible. Then they pierced the night and disappeared.
 
And you understand  in the sameness of their going to sea, the routines of their lives, the power of  nature, of the dark, of the night, of the sea.
The dialogue, which is a mixture of standard Jamaican English, and what I like to call a modified Creole, is well handled. It effectively represents  the mother tongue of our people, but does not become so deep as to make it difficult to read, or for the book  to travel to other countries. From Lloyd to his grandfather, to Jules the uptown girl, their voices ring true.  And this use of language, this love and respect for the sea, for the creatures of the sea, bridges what could be social differences and makes us one. 
Consequently, just as you come to respect the environment,  you come to respect the people who depend on the sea, and their way of life. The author does not allow you to feel any  pity for the difficulty of their lives.  This is a great skill, to describe another life with empathy. You may even begin to think that like Lloyd and his grandfather,  these people are the salt of the earth, or the sea, their nobility in facing the dangers of the sea  surpassing those who make a safe living from the land. And then the author brings you back to reality. These people are no better or worse than people anywhere. They have their nobility, they have their heroes and their villains, and their awful betrayals. 
This coming of age story of a boy called Lloyd, who loves his grandfather,  will leave many wondering about the meaning of it all, and yet Lloyd must make sense of it. 


This book should be read in all schools. To say that a book should be read in schools, makes it sound like a textbook, or the over-worked literature set-books. However, I would want all our young people to read it, to discuss it, and  that seems to be the only way to get it to them. This is a beautiful book!
 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

On Considering Inspiration and Creativity


 This is the remains of a blog written in April 2017. What happened? Why haven’t I written a blog since 2017?

I thought about  writing on my blog, but have been quite successful in ignoring the thought. Why I wonder? It might be the state of the world, the state of our own little  worlds. Did I know that my husband would become ill in that year, which in a way would turn our lives upside down? (Note to self: Don’t be dramatic,  DB!) Did I know that one of my very best friends would get ill about the same time as he did, and  die a year and a bit later? (Did not expect it!).  Yahoo has simply changed the design and colours of my mailbox – just so! I would naturally call her to talk about the high handed approach of technology and ask her how to change it back. She always knew those things.

And yet I’ve not been short of inspiration nor neglectful of my writing. So we must presume that  inspiration has had its effect on creativity.

So what inspired me then and kept me writing while ignoring my main contact with people - my blog?

There was a reading at Bookophilia of Derek Walcott’s poems by Raymond Mair, Velma Pollard and Ann Margaret Lim (see photo above).  Raymond I’ve known since I was 16: image of him reading  poems at the foot of the hill where his cousin, my friend, lived, Tarrant Gully in the background. He was mature to our young years and we were very impressed. Velma I have had the privilege of getting to know later in life. This was the first time I was hearing Ann Margaret Lim although I’d heard her name many times before.  I was inspired by the reverence and respect for this giant of a man by others skilled in their craft.

Then there was the investiture of Lorna Goodison as the new Jamaican Poet Laureate.  In the future if anybody ever researches me (what a thought- will anybody be reading anything that extends beyond 140 characters?) they may find a picture of a bunch of us captioned, ‘St. Hugh’s Old Girls’, with me in it. This is how people make mistakes about history. I was sitting among St. Hugh’s Old Girls (Lorna’s alma mater) but I went to St. Andrew. Inspiration taken from this:  the sound of Lorna’s voice reading her poetry, her brilliant choice of an outfit which was like a floral effect of a Joseph’s coat of many colours. One can be inspired by objects, colours, sensations.

Then there was Talking Trees Literary Fiesta on May 27. Amongst the authors,  brilliant young writer Roland Watson-Grant,   and featuring  Lorna Goodison, Olive Senior and Ann Margaret Lim.  I heard again the Lorna Goodison poem,  A Forgiveness  but this time it fell on fallow ground and I  took it to heart. And perhaps that is why one morning in 2019, I could, to my total surprise, discover that I had forgiven the main characters on my journey, just like that. I had been praying about it, but  my mother's family is not a forgiving one. Malice is their middle name and I am descended from them.

I was fascinated by Ann Margaret Lim’s reference to her Chinese grandparent(s). We are indeed  an island of Out of Many, One People, in spite of some wanting to change our motto.  I would say to those who want to change the motto: Never judge others. You do not know what is in their hearts, what they hold dear. Do not attempt to erase other people’s ancestors. They are not yours to erase. For myself: All the people who went up into the making of me, I value; I celebrate the me that has survived throughout history.

Then in the late evening Olive Senior  made me feel quite wonderful as she told me that she really liked my children’s book Abigail’s Glorious Hair. So I came away celebrating others  and feeling very creative.

And though I did not go home and write a story in a weekend (first draft), as I did last time I was at Talking Trees, I have been writing.

·         Finished a YA novel I’ve been writing for about 2 years and put it on Amazon. My editor said she could barely put it down.

·         Submitted two adult/YA short stories to competitions. No, I did not win anything, but I enjoyed writing them. One is a romance in an altered state.

·         Started another YA novel. Love it! Have no idea where it is going or why. Waiting for the characters to tell me as I would like very much to read it.

·         Writing two YA short stories: one about divorce, and the other about identity in a dystopian setting (see the effect of inspiration above) I can finish both now, but don’t know what to do with them once I've done that.

·         Finished two short stories for 12 and under; sold one, it was a commission – no big money at all. The other, I think that project has fallen through, victim to the violence we strew. Not a word from the people. Oh well!  Do we know books can be big healers?

Inspiring creativity!
 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Despatches: BookFusion, Lignum Vitae Awards, Talking Trees Literary Fiesta


 

 Bookfusion: Weeks  ago I should have mentioned BookFusion, an enterprise recently established by a young couple.  They did a presentation at one of our coffee mornings. It’s a space where you can buy Jamaican books  (children’s; yes, children’s!) and it’s also the digital library for books from the Ministry of Education. This is what we always said we wanted and here we are dragging our feet again. Instead of sending a hallelujah chorus (no disrespect especially at this time of year) and taking advantage of it, we are  wandering around and wondering what next to do.  (This is directed to myself as I am not having the big writing weekend I planned.  A little bit  devastating to find you have all the time really and you’re still stuck  . . .)

Heaps of Ministry books are on it, (you know the ones you can’t buy, because the Ministry doesn’t sell books): Dr. Bird Reading Series, the Blue Mahoe (which came after the Dr. Bird) for grades 7-9, and even Literacy 1-2-3, that great series I managed and was so upset that they weren’t in all schools or available for sale.  Well they  are there in all their splendour!  And you can borrow for free.  I was at a meeting with some educators (vague enough for all to be unidentified) and I mentioned it, and someone was quite astonished, said he had heard nothing about it, and looked it up immediately. Delighted! I gather information had been sent out to all. However, I suppose sometimes more than one messenger has to go out  with the news.

So please look up BookFusion and pass the word around.  Be another messenger. There are two sections, one the digital library (please note this, all those schools that wanted access to Literacy 1-2-3),  and the other, the bookstore. Below is a link to an article about BookFusion.


Since its capital injection from First Angels, the company has added Carlong Publishers, Blue Banyan Books, LMH Publishing and a "few other local publishers" to its client list.” (Quote from the article above)

This is a link to the bookstore.


 

Lignum Vitae Awards 2017: The next piece of news is that the Lignum Vitae Awards are on this year. Please check the Jamaican Writers Society website.  Entries for this year should be sent in by June 30, 2017.


My dear fellow writers, I know that you have been working on your story/novel since the last  awards in 2015, either because you couldn’t finish the story for the 2015  competition, or you didn’t get shortlisted then, or  you just got the idea to start it then when you realized that maybe you could be just as good as some of those who won, or. . . .

Talking Trees Literary Fiesta  is also on this year, May 27 at Treasure Beach. The last time I went it was beautiful. I wrote a story (first draft) the next weekend as a result of all the inspiration  and creativity I felt.

The Fiesta will feature poet and author, Olive Senior. She will share the stage with the newly named Jamaican Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison, who was the featured reader in 2015. Other readers include Malachi Smith, Roland Watson-Grant, Margaret Bernal, Ann-Margaret Lim, Yashika Graham . . . . (quote from the Website.)
This promises to be wonderful.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Jamaican novel sold to Major US publisher: Headline in Bookends in today's Sunday Observer

The novel: Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay:
The publisher: Harper Collins from its UK publisher Papillote Press

What better news to start my blogging for 2017. I had reviewed this book in 2016.  I loved it. Congratulations to Diana and Papillote Press.  I am reposting the review below for your interest:


In praise of "Gone to Drift" by Diana McCaulay: 
 
Prize Winner Burt Award for Caribbean  Literature, 2015:  Papillote  Press, 2016
 

This is a beautiful book. If it were a painting it would be in tones of grey and shades of blue for the sea, and for the land,  tones of beige and green, with splashes of colour added by the people who travel across its landscape. And I would buy it instantly for fear of losing it.  

This may seem like a strange way to begin a book review, and maybe this is not really an actual book review; maybe it’s more like in praise of good writing, a good story, and the environment. This last may seem too obvious to mention because we know that the author is a well known environmentalist. However, this book is not just an opportunity to recognize the importance of the environment; it is a hymn to it. You cannot read this story and come away unmoved by the significance of our environment and its importance to the characters in the story, and  to the island. 
The setting is the environment; more specifically the sea. The characters and  the sea are entwined in a dance, an embrace, which we  soon understand, can at any given time act  in favour of the human characters, or not.  It is this overarching character,  the sea, unmoved one way or the other by all that is happening,  and bearing  no animosity to anyone, that  forms the backdrop to this story.  This sea can bring you a bounty, yet you can get lost in it, gone to drift. 
 
Of the two main human characters, one is Lloyd, a young boy, who is worried about his grandfather, who has not returned from a fishing trip, in what  Llloyd perceives as good time. None of the other characters, mainly fisher families, Lloyd’s family, those who interact with them along the various coastal areas, seem to be very worried. You are left to wonder if, as they suggest, that perhaps there is nothing wrong;  Lloyd is unduly anxious. On the other hand, you wonder if it is that they do not wish to make Llloyd feel any more worried than he is. You fear that they know something that he does not, that they are not telling him the whole truth. 

The other character is Gramps, Lloyd’s grandfather, whose voice Lloyd can hear  in his head, “I come from a line of fishermen.”  This is as powerful as if the statement were, “I come from a  line of kings.” We believe this, a line of greatness.  

 Gramps  also tells his story.  And so we have the two stories, Llloyd looking for his grandfather, using any means necessary, his good friend, Dwight, the Coastguard, Jules, the lady who cares about the dolphins, his mother, his ne’re-do-well father, his grandfather’s friends; and Gramps’  story of his own father, his many brothers, all fishermen, and his mother. We come to care about Gramps’ family, as well as for Lloyd, whose determination and bravery in his search for Gramps often astounds us.  

It eventually dawns on us that Gramps is not on any of the main cays off the coast of the island,  but is stranded on what seems to be  a mere rock in the sea. The tension is created  not only by Lloyd’s search for his grandfather, the question of how  dolphins fit into this scenario, and whether his grandfather can be found in time, but also by seeing the  old man himself wondering how long he can survive on little crabs and rain water, the latter coming  sporadically.   

The author uses the device of alternate chapters for each of these two human characters, so that we can measure Lloyd’s attempts against the will of his grandfather to survive. It works; we are not distracted; rather, we  are caught up in the emotion of the situation.  

The language is measured, like a tale told on dark nights by lantern light, increasing  the feeling of  being at the mercy of the elements.  Descriptions are rich, as  seen in Gramps recollection of a sunrise.  

Then I realised that  I could see my hands and feet as a grey light stole across the sea. And to the east I saw the sky turning into a hundred different colours from the blue of a summer day to the dark purple of the thickest squall, from the pale pink of the inside of a conch shell to the bright orange of a ripe mango, until the round ball of the sun itself came up and the colours of the  sky spread over the water and even warmed our faces. I knew then that the best place to see a sunrise was at  sea.

It is for this reason alone that you cannot hurry through this book. Even as the mystery deepens, you need to stop to see what the characters see, to feel what they feel.
 Then, suddenly you may be caught unawares, by an intervention into this beauty, alerting you to  danger, which may be lurking, as in Gramps’ description of his brothers going to sea: 

It was late when they left and I thought the night was darker than usual.  We stood on the beach and watched them go. The boats made a ragged triangle formation, like a flock of birds, and for a few seconds their wakes were visible. Then they pierced the night and disappeared.
 
And you understand  in the sameness of their going to sea, the routines of their lives, the power of  nature, of the dark, of the night, of the sea.
The dialogue, which is a mixture of standard Jamaican English, and what I like to call a modified Creole, is well handled. It effectively represents  the mother tongue of our people, but does not become so deep as to make it difficult to read, or for the book  to travel to other countries. From Lloyd to his grandfather, to Jules the uptown girl, their voices ring true.  And this use of language, this love and respect for the sea, for the creatures of the sea, bridges what could be social differences and makes us one. 
Consequently, just as you come to respect the environment,  you come to respect the people who depend on the sea, and their way of life. The author does not allow you to feel any  pity for the difficulty of their lives.  This is a great skill, to describe another life with empathy. You may even begin to think that like Lloyd and his grandfather,  these people are the salt of the earth, or the sea, their nobility in facing the dangers of the sea  surpassing those who make a safe living from the land. And then the author brings you back to reality. These people are no better or worse than people anywhere. They have their nobility, they have their heroes and their villains, and their awful betrayals. 
This coming of age story of a boy called Lloyd, who loves his grandfather,  will leave many wondering about the meaning of it all, and yet Llloyd must make sense of it. 

This book should be read in all schools. To say that a book should be read in schools, makes it sound like a textbook, or the over-worked literature set-books. However, I would want all our young people to read it, to discuss it, and  that seems to be the only way to get it to them. This is a beautiful book!
 
 



 

 

 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

And more readers who read in schools for Child Month 2016

While most of our readers were writers of material for children or YA, there were others who either wrote for adults, or weren't writers at all. So as we get to the end of the year, thanks must go to all of them who responded to the call from JaWS to read in our schools.


Rebecca Tortello:
I read at Carbury Court pictured here with the librarian in the library. It was lots of fun to read with the children as they participated eagerly, and I wound up reading three  stories as they showed such keen interest.  Lots of smiles all around. 
 
I read Big and Strong..my book part of Literacy 123,  Silly Sally ...by Audrey W ood and Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andrae. All three are good read alouds that invite movement and laughter but also promote thought and reflection.

I enjoyed reading…encouraged me to write again. 

Bio: From 2007-2011, Dr. Rebecca Tortello served as a Senior Advisor/Consultant to the Minister of Education with special responsibility for early childhood, primary and parenting issues. Dr. Tortello holds a PhD in Comparative Education and Sociology from Columbia University, a Masters in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor’s Degree with Honours in History and Literature from Harvard University.

A former Assistant Professor of Education at New York’s Adelphi University, for the past ten years, Dr. Tortello regularly lectures at the University of the West Indies. She is the author of a number of articles on education as well as the popular history book, “Pieces of the Past – A Stroll Down Jamaica’s Memory Lane” (now in its second printing). Dr. Tortello has edited and advised on a number of early childhood series for Jamaica and co-written the Teacher's Guide for Pearson's "1,2,3, You and Me." She has also written a number of children’s books including "My Jamaican ABCs," “Nancy and Grandy Nanny,” and the Ministry of Education’s titles, “Big and Strong” and “Colouring My School.”

From April 2012 to February 2015, Dr. Tortello focused on expanding the scope of the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation as its General Manager.  In March 2015, she began a new position as Quality Education Advisor at UNICEF Jamaica.
Dr. Tortello has also served on various school boards, the National Council on Education, the Jamaica Library Service, the Council of the Institute of Jamaica, chairing its Museums Division, as well as the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO, the Early Childhood Commission and the National Museum Foundation.
Dr. Tortello is married to Dr. Jonathan Greenland and they have two young children, Rhys and Maria.


Marie Cunnigham-Clarke
Book read: "Abigail's Glorious Hair" by Diane Browne

  The Grade 3 class connected immediately with the story about Abigail's "Poufey" hair.  Both the boys and girls enjoyed reminiscing on their own Poufey hair and having it combed and de-tangled to their own occasional "OW!"  The children joined in the "one two twist, one two twist" chorus as Abigail's mother daintily parted and twisted her hair to produce eight beautiful twists all over Abigail's head.  They LOVED the illustrations and in particular the girls exclaimed with delight when they saw Abigail's trendy outfit and hairstyle at the end of the story.  The session ended with the students drawing different aspects of the story.  The  Class Monitor then formally thanked me on behalf of the students.  A truly delightful experience to see how the book boosted the self image of the children and helped them to celebrate and appreciate their African roots.  I was subsequently invited to be a guest reader to a Grade 4 class on June 1, Literacy Day. 

Bio: Marie Cunnigham-Clarke, is a Communications Consultant (retired). She conceptualized and is responsible for adjudicating a Speak Up Programme at St Andrew High School for Grades 7-10 students.  The programme  aims to improve students' use of Standard English through annual conversational, poetry and literary  competitions. Grade level winners receive cash and book prizes.

Marie was recently elected President of The International Proxy Parents (IPP), a non-profit organization which raises funds for less fortunate children  in Jamaica. Each year IPP gives over $1.5m in scholarships  and assistance to State run childrens' homes in Jamaica.


 Erika Heslop Martin
 “Reading maketh a full man, so read and read all you can”. (Francis Bacon) This is a powerful statement and I believe that it was very fitting for the “Read Across Jamaica” programme organized by the Jamaican Writers Society and the Jamaica Library Service. On April 27, 2016, I started the reading programme at Holy Childhood Preparatory School. I read from the children’s story book: “No Boy like Amanada” written by Hope Barnett. The children had a wonderful time. They were filled with enthusiasm and excitement.
On May 3, 2016, “Read Across Jamaica Day,” I read from the children’s story book: “Butterfly Meadows” by Olivia Moss at Elim Early Childhood Development Centre. It was such a delightful experience with these 5 and 6 year old children. On May 10, 2016, I read the fishing chapter from the children’s book: “No Boy Like Amanda “ to a group of 4th graders from the Porter’s Centre for Knowledge, this was facilitated by Bookophilia. These children were remarkable! Their motto for the day was: “Readers are leaders!”
On May 27, 2016, I read to another group of children from New Providence Primary School which was also facilitated by Bookophilia. It was wonderful! The book that I read from was: “Tek mi! Tek mi noh!” a book of Caribbean folk tales published by Carlong Publishers Limited. The reading programme was great and I would definitely participate again. Many thanks to the Jamaican Writers Society and Jamaica Library Service for organizing the programme.
Bio: Erika Heslop Martin is a Writer/Poet and Business Professional with over twenty years of writing experience and over twelve years of professional experience in accounting, financial and administrative management from several corporate entities in Jamaica.  She is a graduate of Camperdown High, the University of Technology, Jamaica and the University College of the Caribbean. She has published three books of poetry and motivational messages (A Poetic Revelation, The Power of Words and A Poetic Journey) and is in the process of writing other books. She contributes poetry to the Sunday Gleaner periodically, Facebook , you tube and poemhunter.com. She also presents poetry at a wide variety of events and judges poetry competitions as well. Her books can be found on Amazon and in several bookstores in Jamaica. She is a Director of the Jamaican Writers Society, a member of Book Industry Association of Jamaica, a member of the Poetry Society of Jamaica, a member of JAM Copy, a member of We Connect International and a member of Young Entrepreneurs Association of Jamaica. She is a Creative Entrepreneur with a lot of potential; and is excited about exploring and utilizing all her talents to live a more fulfilling life and to make a positive contribution to her country and the world at large. She loves to write, read, recite poetry, dance, sing, cook, dabble into fashion, take pictures, travel, motivate others to be the best they can be and invest time with God, family and friends.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

More authors who read in schools for Child Month 2016


Melanie Schwapp:

I read at Holy Childhood Prep. School to the Kindergarten classes. I read Abigail’s Glorious Hair by Diane Browne and ‘Lally-May’s Farm Suss’ written by me.  

Abigail’s Glorious Hair sparked a lively discussion about hair and the joys and stresses of combing it. Many of the girls were thrilled to show that they had the same hairstyle as Abigail. Some of the boys expounded on going to the barber and the fact that they did not have to comb their hair every day.
 
Lally-May’s episode with the rolling half and Jonkanoo had them mesmerised and a little frightened, because many of them had never heard of the myth of the rolling calf, and only a handful had ever seen Jonkanoo. Again, a lively discussion of ‘scary’ things and how brave they were when they had to face frightening things. A few of the boys demonstrated some karate moves that they would use to fight the Jonkanoo if ever faced with the Lally-May scenario. 


Bio: 
 
Melanie Schwapp was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She attended Montego Bay High School in St. James from 1st to 5th form, then was enrolled in St. Andrew High School for Girls in 1982 to sit her A’level exams.
Two short migrations at two key stages of her life, opened Melanie’s eyes to the cultural and social discriminations in society, and thus began her quest for understanding through writing. At the age of five she moved to England with her family, where she was awakened to the nature of colour prejudice, and then during her late teens and early twenties, she attended the University of South Carolina, where the subtle traits of discrimination cemented her interest in the social repercussions of these prejudices.
 
Although Melanie has written recreationally all her life, her first published work was a children’s book, Lally-May’s Farm Suss in 2005 in which she revives a Jamaican myth and several cultural aspects through the eyes of a child. Her second publication was the novel Dew Angels in 2011 where she explores the hidden aspect of prejudice and other social handicaps in Jamaican society. Having fallen in love with the rural lifestyle while growing up on her
grandparents’ farm in Montego Bay, Melanie also does small garden landscaping and interior decorating. She is a devoted mother to her three children and a sometimes devoted wife to her husband. She resides in Kingston.

 


 
 
Diana McCaulay:
Bio:
Diana McCaulay is an award winning Jamaican writer and a lifelong resident of its capital city Kingston.  She has written two critically acclaimed novels, Dog-Heart (March 2010) and Huracan (July 2012), published by Peepal Tree Press in the United Kingdom.  Dog-Heart won a Gold Medal in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s National Creative Writing Awards (2008), was shortlisted for the Guyana Prize (2011), the IMPAC Dublin Award (2012) and the Saroyan Prize for International Writing (2012).   Huracan was also shortlisted for the 2014 Saroyan Prize. Her third novel, Gone to Drift (February 29, 2016) is published by Papilote Press, placed second in the Burt Prize for Caribbean Literature and won the Lignum Vitae Vic Reid Award in 2015. 
Diana won the Hollick Arvon Prize for Caribbean writing in 2014, for her non fiction work-in-progress Loving Jamaica: a memoir of place and (not) belonging. 
Diana founded the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) in 1991 and still serves as its CEO and guiding force.   She was a popular newspaper columnist for The Gleaner (1994-2001) and her short fiction has been published by the journal Eleven Eleven, Granta On Line, Fleeting Magazine, The Caribbean Writer, Afro-Beat, Lifestyle Magazine and the Jamaica Observer’s literary supplement, Bookends.  She was the regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2012, for her short story The Dolphin Catchers.  
Diana was born into the Jamaican upper-middle class and has spent a lifetime pondering questions of race, class, colour, and privilege in Jamaican society.  The honest and penetrating insights in her novels and stories come from sharp observation and profound self-reflection.  Hers is a uniquely authentic voice from a background which usually turns away from all that she unflinchingly faces.
 (I am having all sorts of challenges with the font, as I capture the words of the authors. So apologies for that, but I think you will enjoy what they have to say, what motivates them. I love hearing why authors write what they write.)