Saturday, June 11, 2016

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.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Despatches: Diverse books, diverse dolls - knowing we are beautiful

I promised more posts arising from the address by Dr. Kim Robinson Walcott at the launch of Abigail’s Glorious Hair and The Happiness Dress.

 Dr. Robinson Walcott spoke of the images we saw as children in our books, all foreign, all white, with long straight hair, nothing like us, nothing we could ever be.  She  pointed out that at that time our ‘culture’ was imported from England, but now, direct quote  . . .Thank heaven we have advanced beyond  that age of darkness, right? Flash forward  to today when we see how popular weaving and bleaching are in 2016, we realize how much work we have to do. A few days ago in one of our newspapers there was a photo of a tiny tot, maybe one or two years old, dark-skinned and with big eyes, in a children’s home, caressing her prized possession: a little white-skinned blue-eyed platinum-blonde, kindly donated by some well-meaning charity organization.

I saw the picture too, and I was disturbed. Not only by the doll, but also because I know that if the child had been given a black doll, a number of people might have been offended. The giver would have been accused of racism, anyone else who thought a black doll was an appropriate gift would have been equally charged with treating the child from the home as ‘less than’.

 I think of dolls as representing  us, so to speak, so shouldn’t they look like us? Of course, for others, they might be part of a fantasy land, hence any doll will do. However, I think we fool ourselves if that is our explanation.

Both of my daughters are adults,  and the first doll ever brought into our house was a black doll named Suzie. Suzie was so loved that she was still with us when the girls were in their teens. After Suzie came dolls of various colours; one of the things I enjoyed doing was, starting in September, to hunt though the stores for beautiful black Barbies  for Christmas. You had to start in September, because very few black dolls were brought into the island. Yes, my granddaughter also has dolls of all colours. Diverse dolls!

Aha! You say the merchants do not bring in enough black dolls. You have found the scapegoat. One year, no doubt, in some fantasy  of  signs of self acceptance, the merchants brought in black dolls. Black dolls can’t done!  I was thrilled. At last, at last, my people were on their way. After Christmas heaps of black dolls were still in the stores. I asked; the merchants said no one wanted them. They haven’t made that mistake again. Many of us know of the American psychologists Clark and Clark and their experiment with black children with black and white dolls in the 1940’s, in which the black children preferred the white dolls and ascribed to them more positive characteristics. I gather other experiments have been done since then, and other interpretations ascribed to their study. However,  not a lot has changed it seems. 

What do we do about this? What can anyone do? Some may have stopped reading this by now in annoyance. Some may now view me as subversive in some way. I used to be upset by people not understanding the importance of this. I even suspected that there were those who railed against slavery and our colonial past,  but probably had no black dolls for their children, nor had they bought any local children’s books. Diverse books! One of the good things about getting older, I have found, is that you begin to realize that you really cannot change people, and you do not mind. 

Do I think local books, diverse books can influence our children’s thinking about themselves? I do. However, you be the judge.

And here is the good news in despatches: It is reported that having read The Happiness Dress, little girls are finding dresses which they consider  happiness dresses in their cupboards. Lovely! And those who have read Abigail’s Glorious Hair, have concluded that their hair is glorious also, and want it loose like Abigail’s. These reports are numerous. One mother/grandmother concluded that a particular little girl knew she was beautiful, but now she believes it.  Even more lovely!
Photo top left: Dr. Kim Robinson Walcott, courtesy of Michael Reckord
Photo upper right: me, courtesy of Camille Parchment

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Diane Browne's latest - West Indian children's guides to self acceptance: Sunday Observer, May 15

The launch of the prize-winning The Happiness Dress and Abigail’s Glorious Hair took place on May 10, at the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Library. The launch was lovely; much thanks to all those who helped with it and participated in it, and those who attended it. The guest speaker, Dr. Kim Robinson Walcott,  made an excellent  speech. It is published in Bookends in The Sunday Observer today, along with covers of the two books launched, as well as other book covers of mine. Thanks to Sharon Leach of The Observer for the coverage of Kim’s speech and my books. Kim’s speech and the launch will provide content for more than one blog, because she touched on so many things which impact the writing and publishing of children’s books in the Caribbean.  Quote from her speech: I wish books like these were around when I was a child. I wish books like these were around when my children were young. This is the type of material that we need to engender pride in our culture and ourselves.

The headline in The Sunday Observer is shown above. I have to thank Sharon for that headline. It is such an astute point of view, and changed the direction of this blog.  Apart from the two books being launched,  the other books highlighted on the page are Island Princess in Brooklyn, Ebony and the Auntie of the Starlight, a Caribbean Cinderella story,  and Cordelia Finds Fame and Fortune. I know that many of my stories focus on  identity and  celebration of ourselves,  but it wasn’t until I read that headline that I fully understood the variety of ways in which we can say "I am me and that’s very fine." 

 Cordelia is teased  because she is different from the other children in her village. She discovers that once you accept yourself the teasing stops, and that what is different about her  can be what contributes to  success.  Princess struggles against having to  replace her beloved Jamaica with Brooklyn, and fears she will lose her concept of who she is. She discovers that her self-concept will not be lost or replaced. It will only grow, and that you can love both Jamaica and Brooklyn like all the other Jamaicans in the diaspora, and that she can love her mother as well as her granny. Ebony, from a children’s home,  proves children from children’s homes can be successful, and she escapes  the traditional Cinderella story, by not only marrying a man worthy of her, (it isn’t that she has to be worthy of him), but earns shares in his spice factory, and trains and employs other girls from the home to work with her in the company.

In The Happiness Dress, Carolyne proves what she already knows,  that it’s okay to accept that you reflect the Caribbean even when you are in another place, and she is the happiness of her Daddy’s heart. And finally Abigail! To quote Kim: Abigail's poufy hair is nothing like a Barbie doll's, but Abigail  doesn't care two hoots about that. What a wonderfully self-assured little girl, in love with her own glorious hair, and by extension her own glorious self. You just have to look at Rachel Moss’ illustration of Abigail looking at herself in the mirror, to be assured of this.  It’s a wonderful synchronicity that most of these books have been illustrated by the talented Rachel Moss, who is gifted  at interpreting what  the writer imagined.

And now, guys, you know how we wonder if Caribbean children’s literature makes a difference, even though we, the writers, know that it does. But how do you quantify it, we ask, to prove its importance to others?  Okay! I have news for you! One of my friends bought the books at the launch for her grandchildren. She just sent me an email and photo of her little granddaughter who  wanted her hair let out for church this morning, just like Abigail's. Truly guys!  We have to continue writing.  As Kim said in her address: The road is long but we have to keep on going. For the sake of our children’s self esteem, we don’t have a choice.
Photos: top left of Dr. Kim Robinson Walcott, courtesy of Michael Reckord. Me, signing books: courtesy of Camille Parchment

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Despatches: The Great Amazon Expedition! Children’s Publishing in the Caribbean, a Cottage or Boutique Industry

 I cannot believe that my last post was last year.
That was when I was going to do a dramatic push with my two latest books on Amazon, The Happiness Dress, the story that won the Special Prize for a children's story from  the Commonwealth Foundation in 2011, and Abigail’s Glorious Hair. Picture an expedition into the somewhat unknown.

That did not turn out as well as I had anticipated. First, there was a new app offered by Amazon, Kindle Kid’s Book Creator, which was brilliantly simple to use. Even I could use it, and proceeded to do so. Both books looked fine right up to and including the review of the book. However, once they were up on Amazon, the type was not as clear as I wanted. My friend, Hazel Campbell, who usually uploads my books, had to rescue one by putting it into Word first, which required rearranging of the layout.  I was greatly disappointed in my efforts. I gather that other people have been complaining about this aspect of the app. We know that this won’t matter to Amazon until they have worked through this kink, somewhat like an experiment. In my opinion, nobody in technology  cares about these complaints really. They just continue working to build a better mouse trap. So in my annoyance and disappointment, I did not promote the books much, and consequently got little sales. So Amazon and I fell out, unbeknownst to Amazon. Whose nose was cut off, eh! I suspect that my failure to do regular posts on my blog had something to do with this. Cut off your nose once; cut off your nose twice.

 However, I still believe that it is near to impossible to get the traffic to and interest in the Caribbean children’s books on Amazon. And self promotion continues to be a challenge for me. Nobody is to blame. As they say now, ‘It is what it is’.  So I set out armed essentially with my imagination of what could be. And now the great Amazon expedition is over. I’ll still upload books; it is a place to locate them. I suppose I will still promote them now and then.

 I was, therefore, convinced that I needed to produce print copies of these books. They deserved it. With a monetary gift from a relative, I have been able to do so. They are now printed and are lovely. I plan to launch them early in May, Child Month. However, without that gift I could not have done so. Even then, I could only afford to print 500 copies of each. This means that the unit cost is high. The market cannot bear more than a certain selling price. Consequently, I will not even make enough money to recover costs and do another print run. In other words, my expectation is to be able to cover costs. Without the monetary gift  . . .etc. 'It is what it is'.  And of course, I still have to promote and sell them. I think it  should be much easier than dealing with cyberspace. I’ve done it before . . . albeit some time ago. Let's hope it’s not another expedition of the imagination.

The finances explained above lead me to conclude that nothing has significantly changed in the production of children’s books in the last 30 years. Sorry! No! Something has changed; there are far more writers in the field, which is a very good thing, and many of them are doing self publishing. And there are some young publishers, one in particular, who has published a number of prizewinning books. In fact, there is quite a bit of activity in other Caribbean islands. So there has been progress and there is excellence. Generally speaking, however, publishing of children’s books will continue to be for the love of and passion for it, a cottage or boutique industry. Prove me wrong! Please prove me wrong!

No, I’m not disillusioned. Writing for children  is a passion. Passions have to be pursued. And that the next generation is carrying on this passion is truly wonderful.
Kingston Book Festival also speaks to the vibrancy of the literary scene. From the opening readings  on March 6 at the University of the West Indies, which featured Olive Senior reading from The Pain Tree, which has gone on to win the Bocas Award for Fiction, award winning poet, Vladimir Lucien, from St. Lucia, previous YA Burt Award winning writer, A-dZiko Simba Gegele, Mel Cooke, poet and Tanya Shirley, poet,  to the final Bookfair on Saturday. I read from my latest children's books at the National Library of Jamaica Open Day and the Bookfair turned up the most delightful group. They are called Kozy Korner. They have a great idea, a Kozy Box. They  will produce and deliver a gift box of books, accent on local books, with a few international items  to a very lucky child that you know. Fantastic! How innovative! Each generation brings something new to the table. I wish them every success. You can email them at: KOZYKORNERBOOKSJA@GMAIL.COM. I think they will need corporate sponsors as well as the general public.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

To go or not to go with e-books on Amazon. What, again? Still asking that question?

Ages ago I said I was going to give Amazon a try for my books which had gone out of print. They would now become the latest thing, e-books.  Not surprisingly I did not promote any of the books very much, and to date, have no idea how much of any title I’ve sold. Why? Part of the problem is I only sell one-one, as we would say, and I really would need to know the total sold for the entire time the books have been on the site. However, if you don’t promote . . . In addition, I get very embarrassed that I’m actually promoting my own books. Clearly an attitude from some medieval time before the digital world. It took me ages to send out promotional messages to those in my mailbox. Embarrassed caan done! Consequently, I’ve been philosophical about it all. ‘It’s somewhere to put my books’, and 'Oh, but I really did not expect to sell anything, you know.'  Borrowing phraseology from this clever new world, ‘So if that’s your attitude, it’s the attitude, stupid!’  

However, that’s not totally true. 
1) We know that the majority of people have no visibility on Amazon because there are simply too many books. (Prove me wrong, if you dare).
2) So for us from the Caribbean, visibility could be expected to be even more challenging. The Caribbean is known for sun, sand, (sex?), music, athletics, and in some circles - for adult fiction. But not for children’s stories, and attaching visibility to any of the above would seem to be difficult. I know you can write the prescriptive children’s story about music, tourism, etc. but I think we want to be about more than that.
3)There are all sorts of offers on line to market books, at a cost which we cannot afford (and we do not know that it works), and Caribbean sites promising visibility  have not yet proved that they can achieve this. I’ve asked individuals here if they wouldn’t like to take on the marketing of e-books, but I conclude that they’re not interested, and understandably so. Too much effort for little or no return, certainly not to pay them for their time.
No, I’m not blaming a soul. These are just the facts. So why am I about to put two more children’s books on Amazon, and new ones at that? Well this time I’m going to really try. My change of mind came about because of the digital conference I attended (see posting for Nov. 14). I concluded that the digital age was indeed here and I should try to see if I could get along with it.

So I shall promote my books by writing all the people in my address book, I’ll go on the sites which I’ve joined, try to understand their rules for posting, and endure seeing the book on my timeline every time I post. (Already I’m feeling faint;  waiting for the queasy stomach, threatening headache, breathlessness, tightness of muscles in body - any or all of these symptoms. )
There’s history to these two books, and along the way I changed my mind many times.   Would they just be e-books?  Would they just be print books? Would one be one, and one be the other?
The Happiness Dress is the story for which I had won the prize for the Special Award for a children’s story from the Commonwealth Foundation, 2011. A significant achievement. The Commonwealth! I was honoured and very pleased. Big up Jamaica again! They produced it as audio for distribution to Commonwealth countries. It seemed a shame for it not to be in print. I was pleased when it seemed that I and a local publisher had decided that perhaps it could be published here. But local publishing can be fraught with obstacles, one of the main ones being lack of money. So when things seemed to be lost, I took it over, and the rest is history unfolding. Families, but especially fathers, need to read it.  Fathers and the validation they can give their girls are so often forgotten.

Ah, Abigail! I love the name! Abigail’s Glorious Hair. This story celebrates us, our hair, our rituals, how what might seem to be tedious can be so filled with love. This is the story that I started writing after Talking Tress Literary Festival this year (see post of May 29).  The fact that it’s almost ready to be uploaded is a celebration in itself. The idea had been there for some time. We’ve got to settle this hair business. But it was words said and feelings experienced in Barbados and  the creative inspiration of Talking Trees that suddenly produced it. It deserves to be read by all of the family, but especially mothers and grandmothers who comb hair,  and little girls whose hair is combed. It deserves a post of its own and it will have it.

These two books are both happy books, and we so need happy. They are also about love and families, whatever shape your family takes and whatever role each person plays.

Illustrations by Rachel Moss are happy too. Scheduled date for e-books on Amazon end of November, in time for Christmas. Keeping fingers crossed. Print, early next year, but so far only to be available in Jamaica.

Having written the draft of this last night and felt the requisite queasy stomach at the thought of the marketing I’d committed myself to, this morning I remembered two experiences,  by way of some encouragement.  I  have been privileged to be part of these important developments for children’s literature.
 1) I wrote on the Dr. Bird Reading Series, the first major set of books which were about our own children and their lives. (Ministry of Education,1980). Many other publishers followed our example. Since then Jamaican and Caribbean writing and publishing has grown, even if somewhat sporadically.
2)  In 2006, I was privileged to manage the process for the next major publication of a series for children, celebrating their lives, Literacy 1-2-3. (Ministry of Education 2008).This gave expression to a new generation of writers and artists. Many gorgeous illustrations; this time, in full colour. Since then Caribbean children’s writers and publishers have continued in their awareness with bright young persons getting involved. Some competitions specifically  for children’s/YA writing are now available to us.

Considering this, should I then  let a little  shyness stop me from taking this next step. My friends, I invite you to join me as we seek to make an impression for Caribbean children's books on Amazon, or anywhere else, for that matter.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Despatches: Caribbean Digital Publishing Conference and Jamaican Literary Awards

The week of November 2 was a splendid one for writers, writing and publishing. First there was the JAMCOPY (Jamaican Copyright Licensing Agency) Onlinemind Caribbean Digital Publishing Conference, November 2-5, at the Pegasus Hotel. Presentations were made by Jamaicans, persons from other Caribbean territories and overseas (outside of the Caribbean). Excellent organization and execution. All presentations I attended were really interesting and informative.
What did I take away from this conference and how might this affect children’s books and writers?  First, it solidified digital publishing in my mind.  Maybe it was just that I was ready; when the student is ready the teacher will appear sort of scenario.
So to all children’s publishers and textbook publishers, you need to  engage meaningfully with this technology at some time, even if you are convinced that Jamaicans will be using print books for ages, since we won’t be able to afford tablets for all children. One presenter felt that children’s picture books were actually better as print books. Normally, I would have felt a surge of validation by this statement. This time I found it merely an interesting comment.
I found two sessions had a major impact  on me and made the entire conference worth my while. One was Born Digital: Creating an e-Book, with Troy Weekes of EZLearner Inc , Barbados. Mr. Weekes showed us how to produce an e-book using templates. Wonderful! And even though I managed to lose my e-book at the end of the session (these things happen while using technology) clearly I had been made confident enough to replicate the activity the next day without losing it. So I have been greatly empowered, even if I do not get to the point of being able to turn one of my children’s stories into an e-book myself. And who knows now? 

The other was Re-imagining Content for the Caribbean Classroom. This was presented by Allman Town Primary, a school for which I have a big soft spot as I had done some research there while doing my MEd.  The vibrant Principal, Mrs. Crooks-Smith, declared that they do not say that Allman Town is an inner city school, but rather it is a school in an inner city area. Important change of focus towards great expectations, eh. The children have been encouraged to create learning for themselves using technology. Students, looking smart in their navy blazers over the normal khaki uniform, explained how they used technology, how they created their own computer games.  For those who know me, I was blown away, sort of in heaven on earth. I thought of best practice being replicated, videos of their achievements to be sent all around the island, etc. (these are all ideas which the Ministry itself has for various aspects of education). So there is hope; always there is hope. Our children can be brilliant wherever they are if the right environment is provided. My take away from this was children, whatever their circumstances, can be  interacting with technology. I know; why has it taken so long for the penny to drop for me? The children in my latest YA novel (at final editing/reconciling stage) are still not interacting with cell phones, because their parents don’t want them to.  (My grandchildren, younger than my protagonists, have a tablet between them - still no cell phones though). Hmm. So I will have to bring technology more meaningfully into my stories. That is, allow the protagonist to interact with it rather than have grown-ups controlling all access. I’ll think about this carefully, because some control is still needed in this world  of too much technological freedom, which can lead to serious trouble. Nonetheless, it was a revelation to me that I needed a change of mind.

Lignum Vitae Awards: Then on November 6 we had the Lignum Vitae Awards for Literature. The Awards consist of The Una Marson Award for adult literature, won by Donna Hemans; the Vic Reid for young adult literature, won by Diana McCaulay (a former pupil of mine at secondary – rather nice - and also winner of a number of writing awards  since she came onto the world stage a few years ago), and the Jean D’Costa  Award for children's, won by Janet Morrison. The Vic Reid and Una Marson had originated with the National Book Development Council, but had not been awarded for some years. The Jamaican Writers Society (JaWS), along with JAMCOPY, decided to resuscitate them, and to give an additional award for the under twelves, thus making the Vic Reid become a YA award.

Una Marson was a poet playwright and journalist and coordinator of the seminal radio programme, BBC’s Caribbean Voices’. My grandmother acted in one of her plays staged at the Ward Theatre here in Kingston, and I have a playbill with all their photos. My fifteen minutes of historical glory. I’m actually very proud of that.

Vic Reid wrote fiction about significant aspects of our history for young adult readers, which can be also be  read by the under twelves.  His books are often found on schools’ literature book lists.

Jean D’Costa’s well known children’s books are also on schools’ literature lists, and she is the only one who is alive. She was a judge as well as the guest speaker. I was struck by her pointing out that we all have stories, and that there are so many stories to be told about Jamaica, in Jamaica.  That’s an important fact for children’s writers to embrace.

The prize money is actually quite significant, more in keeping with awards around the world. The competition is to be held every other year.  So we now have our writing awards again and  there are two for children’s literature. Children’s writers, we can’t complain. The majority of the entries were for the Una Marson award. I hope that we see a significant change in that in the future. Children’s writers, you have time to write your YA novel or children’s stories/novel for the next competition. Grab the opportunity and write.


Photos of Awards from the top: Above  centre: the winners: Janet Morrison, Jean D'Costa Award; Donna Hemans, Una Marson Award; Diana McCaulay, Vic Reid Award

Above left: Me giving Diana her award

Next above left:Jean D'Costa

Above centre: Tanya Batson Savage, Chair JaWS; Scarlette Beharie, publicist; Kalilah Enriquez, Vice Chair, JaWS; Diane Browne, Board Member

Sunday, November 1, 2015

More Books from Barbados

On my most recent visit to Barbados I discovered another bookstore. For me, the discovery of a bookstore, even if it is a branch of one already discovered, is like discovering a treasure ship. It is Chattel House Books in Sky Mall.
Now the important thing is that in doing this, I discovered a lot of other children’s books by other Barbadian authors, that is, in addition to those I’ve  mentioned in previous blogs. Overwhelmed, as it seems I often am, I only bought two. Here they are.

 Lottie the Blackbelly Lamb, Lottie Finds Heritage, by Sandra O. Browne ( No, no relative), illustrated by Omni Illustrations (Ama Ariya Inc. 2013). This is a charming walk with Lottie past/through important places in Bridgetown. Lottie discovers why they went on the walk, and I discover why the town of Bridgetown is called Bridgetown. Shame on me for not knowing, and just taking it for granted that it was another British name transported to the Caribbean. Blackbelly Sheep are particularly Barbadian. Lottie is part of a series  ‘which has been created to help young readers appreciate matters of heritage and other topics’.

Zana and the Amebians, written and illustrated by Aisha King-Casely (Trekvoy Art & Literary Services, 2012). This book is also part of  a series, which in the author’s words, is meant ‘to entertain and educate through art, music and poetry’. This story deals with a part of the environment and how we can cooperate with one another to ensure the best for all, and the reader learns something about energy as well. And no, it does not preach. Interestingly enough, it is sponsored by the Barbados National Oil Co. Ltd. Aha, a corporate sponsor.
Chattel House aims to support local authors and has launches for them. There were a number while I was there. They also have graphic novels (modern comics with fantastic graphics) written and produced in Barbados. In addition, they have an online presence, so check that out. There’s always more to discover, eh. For my part, through Chattel House Books, I’ll see what I can find out about other Barbadian children’s authors. 
That these two books should deal with the built and the physical environment is significant, especially for small island states.  The children who read these books will have to find solutions to the challenges which will arise from climate change, whether created by us or not.