On Saturday, May 23, 2015, the Talking Trees Literary Fiesta was held at Treasure Beach. It was a fantastic festival of creative energy and poetic voices. The line-up of writers was outstanding. Once one names names, one can get into a lot of trouble. However, I must mention our cultural icons. Mervyn Morris, Poet Laureate, Eddie Baugh and Lorna Goodison, in the same place on the same day. Unbelievable! What good fortune!
Readings from Ray Chen's The Shopkeepers (Gloria Lyn's Memories from a Jamaican Village, as well as Easton Lee and Victor Chang, reminded us about old time Chinese Jamaica, which reminded me of my childhood. There were many other talented writers, both mature and young, both known and up and coming, to make the day a super one.
I am a children’s writer writing a blog which relates to children’s literature. So what did this festival bring to the field of children’s literature? Most importantly, it featured a children’s writer, Gwyneth Harold Davidson, who is also one of the organizers for the event. Gwyneth read from her book, Young Heroes of the Caribbean, Common Destiny, (portions of which have been developed as radio drama in partnership with the Jamaica Information Service). The section she read imagined the life of the young Paul Bogle, one of our National Heroes. The subject matter and treatment were excellent, and I appreciated it even more so because I know that much research had to be done to make it sound as authentic as it did. Gwyneth is one of our fine young writers and has the ability to write for both the under twelve's and the young adult audience. She makes the future look bright.
There were two young boys, self taught drummers. A splendid performance! Children also performed a short play in one of the intermissions. It is wonderful to see this festival including children from the surrounding areas. What better way to indicate the significance of literature to our young.
And though I had decided that I would not go into great detail about writers by name, especially as many are known to me personally, I will break that rule and mention Lorna Goodison. She is one of my favourite writers and performers. She read both poetry and prose, the prose being from From Harvey River, one of my favourite books. If you haven’t read it, get hold of it and do so. What a fascinating social history of a period of time in Jamaica! Also delightful was that there were some St Hughs old girls (alumni) there, her old school, and she shared events at school which had led to one poem in particular. A feeling of family and camaraderie.
What has all of this to do with children’s literature, then? For me, with the great energy, the great joy from Talking Trees, the 'I'm full up to the brim' feeling, I wrote a story in one afternoon. The idea had been gelling for some time, ages, as you might imagine, but I couldn't get it onto paper/computer. However, it just reeled itself out. It's for a picture book. Now, a lot of it is still missing, as you would expect (a story is not written in a day), but I know the characters, I can see them. I have the beginning more or less, the ending more or less, the refrain more or less. (More or less, meaning subject to change, but it's basically there). I don't have the middle yet. I have various versions, but not too keen on them. And I know that I will have to wait until my little protagonist, or one of the other characters, tells me what it is, what really matters, and that could take some time, but still . . . The creative energy of all the other writers at Talking Trees . . . Each of us lights the way for the rest of us.
And though I have felt this before, I tend to forget - submerging oneself in a creative atmosphere can lead to a burst of creativity. I just have to harness that story and complete it. Now, the hard work begins, eh.
Photos: from top to bottom, left to right: Mervyn Morris, Eddie Baugh, Easton Lee, Gwyneth Harold Davidson, Lorna Goodison