The Kingston Book Festival is part of the Book Industry of Association of Jamaica's annual calendar of events. The organization was done by Kellie Magnus, Tanya Batson Savage, both of BIAJ and with their own children’s publishing houses, Latoya West Blackwood and her team from Pelican Publishers, Scarlet Beharie from JADA, and of course, the full organizing committee would be all the BIAJ directors, including Elizabeth Ramesar, Damani Johson, Franklyn McGibbon and the reps. from the partner agencies, including UWI, Edna Manley College, National Library of Jamaica, National Gallery of Jamaica, and others, as can be seen on the flyer.
I put a comment on Facebook which was: ‘Kingston Book Festival rocks’, and it did, for me anyway, and I think for all the people who were able to attend any of the various events. So, much congratulations to the organizers, and Kellie and Tanya, who were the faces of the Festival for the events I attended. I will go into greater detail about some of the events in other blogs, but in this blog I’ll give you a quick rundown of the events I attended, with perhaps a word or two about each, to give you the flavour, the feeling.
The Festival opened on Saturday night March 2 with a cocktail party at the Spanish Court Hotel. Loved the décor, the little trees with the little-book decorations.
Sunday March 3. Love Affair With Literature: the beginning of Literatures in English month at the University of the West indies. A feast of words and writers: Eddie Baugh, the Voice and ‘catching you unawares humour’, Lorna Goodison, playing on the chords of your heart with quiet but overpowering emotions; and the younger writers; Kei Miller, totally blows you away with Words and Words evoking Images, and Tanya Batson Savage, a children’s writer, wonderful rendition of the dialogue in a children’s story, (memories of old time Jamaican scary folktales). But guys, what a something! Children’s writing reach UWI platform of readers! All is not lost, my friends. And it may even be found. So I came away from that morning feeling wonderfully ‘full up’ to overflowing. Aah!
Monday, March 4. High School Tour. I was part of a group going around to educational institutions ( two high schools and a teachers’ college), talking about writing and our careers as writers. There was Dennis Chung, Kei Miller, Roland Watson Grant and Latoya West Blackwood from Pelican Publishers, with Kellie and Tanya as our photographers, MCs. Dennis Chung, economist, thoughtful insights on a balanced life; the young writers, Kei and Roland, superb! The students, delightful, interested, asking significant questions, speaking their truths. I have always wanted us to do this, go around to schools, and I hope that this can be part of a regular BIAJ initiative. Oh thrilling! that when I mentioned that I had written on the Dr. Bird supplementary readers, there were call-outs and shrieks of recognition. We did something worthwhile then, eh. There is hope for children’s literature; its importance for us, undeniable. I came away from this on a high, as much from being with the students as from being with the other writers.
Friday, March 8. Industry Workshops.
Selling into the Caribbean Diaspora: Marva Allen, Hue Man bookstore (NY), a Jamaican American; Michael Williams, BIS Publications (UK), Jamaican descent; Johnny Temple, Akashic Books (NY) ; Jaime de Pablos, Random House (NY); Jeremy Poynting, Peepal Tree Press (UK). Very motivating. Made you think that there are some contacts out there.
Getting Published Internationally: Jeremy Poynting, Peepal Trees Press (UK), Annie Paul, Kei Miller and Roland Watson Grant. It’s not just luck, you have to be ready when luck comes knocking at your door.
Making Memories, Making Money. The business of memoirs. Christopher John Farley, Senior Editor Digital Features, Wall Street Journal (born in Jamaica so ‘one a we’), written book on Bob Marley, Before the Legend: the Rise of Bob Marley, amongst other books, and has interviewed everybody of note; Latoya West Blackwood, Pelican Publishers; Sydney Lowrie, who collaborated as researcher with Dr. Henry Lowe on his biography, It Can Be Done. A look at the business of memoirs and ‘writing for others’. I would love to see this develop. There are a lot of stories here that need to be told before they disappear.
Marketing Books in the Digital Age. Ingrid Riley, ConnectID; Lloyd Laing, JL Mobile; Tyrone Reid, eMedia. I’ve heard these presenters before, and as usual, I was impressed, accept that this is the future, but found that since I did not fully understand what all of the words meant (the digital age does have words which are not part of the language level of those over 50) and concepts, I realize that I’ll have to follow up on them to see how they can really help children’s writers (challenge of illustrations). As a friend of mine said, ‘I want them to tell me , do this, do that, step by step’.
Wake the Town and Tell the People! Same night, Red Bones Café. Presentations by Sonjah Stanley Naiah and Carolyn Copper from UWI, on Jamaican music; academic discourse, accompanied by the music as appropriate. It’s good to be reminded that ‘rude boy’ (music of our youth - shaking shoulders while sitting, pure nostalgia) still rules, if even in a different form. Christopher John Farley, author of numerous biographies of musicians, was the main speaker. Impressive! Spoke about the research for his book, Before the Legend: Bob Marley. I loved his take on Jamaica’s contribution to present day American music. Yes, man, we rule! The interview of him done by Mel Cooke reminded me of Calabash, and indeed, different as this Festival is from Calabash, it gave me the same ‘full up with joy’ feeling.
Saturday March 9. Kingston Book Fair at Devon House. Venue cosier than last year, less hot, easier to get around to booths. Lots of independent/self publishers, it seems. At least they thought it important enough to buy booth space, including a ‘new independent’ children’s publisher. There was even an online bookseller, Jamaican of course. Steelband music always gives a carnival atmosphere. It seems as if the book in Jamaica has discovered a new life. That’s all to the good, and children’s is there as well.
There were many other events happening this last week, of course – something every day, so I hope that you, my readers, got to others. These were just the highlights of mine. You know what, though, I felt almost as if I had gone away to a book fair overseas, there was so much going on, so many international contacts available, even if you didn’t actually make any; both Jamaican and foreign luminaries, and it was right here in Jamaica. Again, kudos to the organizers. We can build on this!