Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bahamian Tweens Get Island Fiction!

Last week I had the opportunity to combine some Island Fiction PR with a family vacation to the Bahamas. With the help of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Regional Assistant, Rosemarie Johnson Clarke I was able to visit St. Andrew's Private School and present IF to  about 60 - 70 "tweens". Since then the demand was so persistent, the librarian ordered the series from  Amazon because she could not wait for them to be ordered  through the local book stores!
It was a privilege to enjoy the direct experience of the books' universal appeal. A good story transcends boundaries and national loyalties. I also encouraged our young fans to check us out via Face Book and links there.
 My sincere desire is Island Fiction will one day
publish a title set in the Bahamas, by a Bahamian author.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chalice at Cedar Grove Primary

IF! author Lisa Allen-Agostini read from her book The Chalice Project at Cedar Grove Primary School, San Fernando, on October 26. Grades 3, 4 and 5 students lapped up the reading and her talk on creative writing and the importance of reading.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

AUTHORS, STAY IN BUSINESS - Volunteer to Read!

If there are no readers in our region, for whom will we write? And by readers I mean people who love to read and who love books. By people I mean kids who grow into teens and then young adults who become consumers who buy and read books because of the pleasure they offer.

Based on the last ten years as a children's book author in Trinidad, I am convinced there is as yet an unfulfilled hunger for our work. And it resides too in the so called reluctant readers, and in our most under privileged communities.

A few weeks ago I enjoyed the privilege of reading for a group of children from our most under privileged communities in Trinidad. The cherry on top was getting to speak with and share my passion for reading with their mothers. Without exception the children were interested and delightful. Their mothers, God bless them are so willing and able; two were breastfeeding, another was visually impaired; a few did not look the part of "interested parent" making me smile over our stereotypes. I drew on that using one Mom's "MARVIN" tattoo to demonstrate phonics, rhythm and rhyme, relevant reading and the way word games aka "READING" can be found and played in our living environments.

They showed up in the heat of the day to sit under a tree, old school style, and listen. They asked questions too; intelligent ones. It was apparent what it must have required of them to show up; this much maligned group of citizens. My own son goes to a privileged school and we can barely get 20 of the nearly 600 families to represent when time come for PTA! Hmmmm....

The camp was facilitated by the dedicated women who make up Creative Parenting for the New Era - CEO Joan Bishop and "Baby Talk" radio feature writer Barbara King. It was hosted at Composite Excel at the Beetham Estate where children often experience police raids and violent crime as a part of their everyday.

I am so grateful for the opportunity. Every time I get to go out into my country in this way, it reminds me that we are all more alike than not; and that for the most part we are good people who want the best for out kids.

Caribbean children's authors write for Caribbean children first. In our hunger to get published, to write the next big thing, to earn a living off royalties and so on, I say - find them! Find those children you are writing for and read out loud for them. Tithe your time, your talent, your books and in this way you will always have work. When they see themselves in your characters, their world in your imaginings you will make their realities into beautiful dreams and they, in time, will make our dreams a reality.

Promo Posters - a good idea!

Teaming up with a local artist to render characters and scenes from his book, Island Fiction author Michael Holgate has created not only a promotional tool for print and online circulation, but he intends to print a limited edition for fan gifts. Equipping yourself in this way increases your appeal for media exposure. Sending a snazzy e-card/ post card with your request for an interview and a promise of free posters for call in/ write in fans gives producers and editors something of add on value. Radio listeners may not be able to 'see' the posters, but choose a provocative passage featuring the character or scene and your audience may be enticed not only to call in but to go out and buy your book. Posters may also encourage book store owners to put your book on more prominent display and you may even entice book sellers to let you use their store as a venue for a read aloud/ book signing. Hey, if your posters are as captivating as Michael's they may even let you have their mailing list. Even your search for an artist can turn into an opportunity for an exciting story the media will love. And if you joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators you can explore the members listings for artists interested in pro bono opportunities to build up their portfolios. (

Island Fiction Title Wins Moon Beam Award

'Night Of The Indigo': Breaking new literary ground
Published: Sunday | October 25, 2009

Krista Henry, Staff Reporter
Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

A Caribbean-based sci-fi novel may seem like a stretch of the imagination to most, but for dancer, choreographer, lecturer, singer, actor and now author, Michael Holgate, it has been a dream a long time in the making. After years of reading the creative works of distinguished writers who have captured the hearts of readers, young and old, the young author hopes to do the same with his chilling tale titled, Night of the Indigo. Holgate has spent more than 15 years exploring the world of theatre, dance, music, film and writing. A lecturer in Caribbean folk and traditional dance, as well as edutainment theatre at the University of the West Indies, Holgate is perhaps better known for his work as the artistic director of the performing arts troupe, Ashe.

For a man that has tackled the world of the arts, Night of the Indigo is his first venture into the life of a writer. The novel follows the tale of a 15-year-old boy, Marassa, who is catapulted into a wondrous new world of natural mysticism by his need to save the life of his dying twin brother, Wico.Originally taking place straight out of a rural Jamaican town, Marassa comes to accept his responsibility as the 'Marshal' or 'Warrior of the Light' to better be able to save the life of his brother.

Marassa's spine-tingling journey through the mystical world of Orunda, places him face to face with the exotic beauty of princess Ayoka and challenges him to understand the power of the human mind and spirit. Night of the Indigo was published by Macmillan Caribbean as part of their new 'Island Fiction' series aimed at teenagers. The stories are all based on fantasy/science fiction and the legends and folklore of the Caribbean.

When The Sunday Gleaner corresponded with Holgate recently he spoke of his roots in fantasy literature.

"I have been a fan of fantasy/science fiction novels and films for a very long time," he said. "Films and series like Star Trek the Next Generation, Lord of the Rings and books like Harry Potter have always been fascinating to me. I think I first fell in love with the genre when as a teenager I picked up a John Wyndham school text called The Chrysallids. He continued, "Since then I have been excited about the possibility of creating fantasy/science fiction books from a Jamaican/Caribbean perspective. Later on, I realised that a fellow Jamaican had been doing just that. Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican living in Canada was writing Caribbean fiction based on fantasy/science fiction. That inspired me even more to write my novel.

The novel took Holgate two years to write and has since been enjoying good reviews. One of his memorable moments, Holgate recounts, is when a 10-year-old boy told him he loved the novel and was eagerly anticipating the sequel. More recently, Night of the Indigo has achieved even higher accolades, having received a Moonbeam Award. The Moonbeam Awards are some of the fastest growing United States-based awards focused on children's books.

Presented by the Jenkins Group and Independent Publisher Online, the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards are designed "to bring increased recognition to exemplary children's books and their creators, and to support childhood literacy and life-long reading". Awards are given in 36 categories covering the full range of subjects, styles and age groups that children's books are written and published in today.

The Moonbeam Awards are intended for authors, illustrators, publishers and self-publishers of children's books, written in English and intended for the North American market. A gold medal is awarded to the winner of each category, while runners-up receive silver medals.

This year, Holgate's Night of the Indigo won a silver medal in the category of 'Young Adult Fiction - Religion/Spirituality'. The awards ceremony was held on October 10 as part of the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston. While Holgate was not able to attend, he was happy to have won. "I'm very pleased with the award. I found it very interesting that the book didn't win in the category of fantasy/sci-fi which is the genre it qualifies for, but won in the religious/spirituality category," he said. "I'm very happy nonetheless. Anyone who reads the novel could easily understand why that happened."

Holgate is currently working on another fantasy/sci-fi novel as the sequel to Night of the Indigo. He is also contemplating developing the novel into a movie or into a children's musical theatre production.

The novel is available in Jamaica at the Kingston Bookshop, Sangster's Book Stores and other stores, and is also available at and the Macmillan Caribbean Website.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Michael Holgate: A Rare Breed

Q: You are one of the most creative West Indians I have ever met. Do you seen any childhood links that may have attributed to your prolific expression?

A: Thank you very much. My first reaction is to cower from such high praise, especially coming from you. The truth is however, that I love thinking of myself as Caribbean (West Indian) creative artist. Here, the word Caribbean is important because I believe that Caribbean aesthetics already has within it the dynamism so many centuries of forging a fine 'mettle' from the cultural realities of different races, cultures, peoples, in a small space. So from a young age, like most Caribbean youths, I was exposed to various forms of creative expression - up close and personal. Dance in primary school. Drawing. Singing in the choir. I've always been interested in the creative arts and fortunately my interest was never 'satisfactorily' discouraged. My father was a preacher who played guitar and sang sometimes, while my mother taught primary school. I think I got a little bit of both of their talents. When I was a child, my mother would sometimes ask me to do the drawings for her charts that she would put up in her classroom. That was priceless affirmation of my creativity. Also, I believe that reading so much as a child fueled my creativity from a very early age. I had a voracious appetite for books while growing up. So from a very early age I was stimulating both creative intellect and creative imagination.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in completing your first YA novel - Night of the Indigo?

A: My biggest challenge in completing Night of the Indigo was staying within the word count. There was so much more of the story to tell. But I'm glad that I had to be more concise. That forced me to choose every word very carefully and hopefully, that also made the writing better.

Q: In Trinidad I sometimes encounter superstition in religious communities regarding imaginative play
and fictitious speculation about all that is Unseen. Is there any resistance in Jamaica regarding the melding of Faith and Fiction?

A: Hmmmm.... Tough one. Well, Jamaica has so many 'faiths' - so many forms of religious expressions. From Rasta, to revival, to traditional christian... and on and on. In fact, Jamaica is supposedly in the Guiness book of world records for the most churches per square mile. It would be impossible for faith to be excluded from anything. Also, faith has always been a driving force for Jamaican creative expression. The Rastafarian faith was a driving force for the socially conscious reggae music. Lyrically, the songwriters such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were telling stories and creating 'works of fiction' based on the Rastafarian ideology. On this level, there is definitely no resistance to the melding of faith and fiction. In relation to specifically literary works of fiction I haven't really experienced that resistance either. I think its generally understood here that a story better brings across a message with conviction - isn't the bible essentially a book of stories.


Q: Who is your biggest fan?

A: My biggest fan is probably my younger brother Richard Holgate, who listens to and reads all my creative expressions before they are even fully formed.


Q: What next for Marassa? Is there a sequel or book to movie project in the works?

A: Marassa definitely wants his story to continue into two more books and a film. I'm even considering a children's musical theatre production based on the Night of the Indigo. I love writing songs and plays and my background is in theatre.


Q: What has been the most surprising/ unexpected thing about getting published for the first time?

A: Perhaps the most surprising/unexpected thing about getting published is that people actually recognise me on the street and say things like: "Aren't you an author?" or "Didn't you write a book or somethink like that?" I always thought that writers were a rare breed of creative artist who didn't get much notice unless they were JK Rowling or Stephen King.


Q: Jamaica seems to be light years ahead of other West Indian cultures in supporting and promoting individual excellence in music, sport, film, publishing - What's the perception like on the inside?

A: I just learned that some recent survey places Jamaica as the second happiest nation in the world. I don't think that's because there is so much happy stuff happening. I think it's because as a saying goes we "Take kin teeth kibba heart bun" (Use laughter as a medicine to soothe heartache). I think that what happens is that, not only laughter, but sport, music, and other forms of creative expression are what keep us going, despite the hardship that exists. Also, it's not that the government supports and promotes. It's more that when people struggle and scrape through and reach on top, then those who didn't do that much to help them, jump on the bandwagon with congratulations.


Q: What advice would you give to yourself now - if you went back a decade say?

A: The most important advice I think would be "Just do your thing" - don't watch what others are doing or saying. Most of the people you live your life trying to please or impress won't be around as the years go by. They go on and live their own dreams, sometimes not even realizing that they are crushing yours. So don't allow anyone to crush your dream even if they are doing it cause they think it's best for you. Even if it's a dear loved one. You never know what's gonna happen, so just live everyday doing YOU cause that's why you're here.


Q: Have you read any of the Island Fiction titles? If so which is your favorite/ or do you admire any of the other authors and why?

A: I admire all of the authors for writing in this genre. I so love fantasy/sci-fi. It's my favourite kind of fiction, films, stories period. I've only read Time Swimmer so far and I really liked how the story wove its way through time and through my mind. I could easily see it as a ten part TV series. The writing is so cinematographic.


Q: What would you most like to share that we haven't covered?

A: I'm extremely happy to be a part of this series.
I think it's magic how I started writing in this genre and just prayed to find the right publisher.
Only to see your ad in the paper asking for exactly the kind of novel I was working on.
I give thanks to you and to Macmillan Caribbean.

see also recent article Dance of Destiny in the Jamaica Gleaner:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

JO Chats With MO - Q & A

(Click on link to see Maureen's interview with Allison on TIC Channel 4 in Trinidad)

Q: One T&T reviewer, Debbie Jacob, likens your work to the magical realism of Wilson Harris, who is also Guyanese. Have you read him and has he influenced your style?

A: In my early youth I read a couple of Wilson Harris' books and loved them, and later devoured Gabriel Garcia Marquez's. I am not conscious of any direct influence of their styles on my writing, but these are authors whose works appealed to me. I must re-read Harris!

Q: What's the 'read for pleasure' culture like these days in Guyana?

A: It’s an uphill battle to get young coastal Guyanese to read books. Only books that have become popular movies stir our youth’s interest. In fact one question I got quite a few times on my visits to schools was, ‘When is the movie coming out?’ People in the hinterland, on the other hand, don’t have the same ease of access to the latest DVDs, television programming, computer and video games, etc., and so tend to read much more.

Q: What inspired Legend of the Swan Children specifically? and - How has life in Guyana influenced the work?

A: Some inspiration came from my nieces and nephews, Wanda, Ishaq, Damian, Omari, Kadir, and Talisa, who never ceased to amaze me with their insights, but the real impetus was a poignant dream I had of the boy who would later become the protagonist of my novel. As a young child growing up, I was influenced by that period of great cultural exchange between a newly independent Guyana and Latin America. Much later, during my years of hosting workshops for early school leavers, I was fascinated by students' tales of a free-spirited life on the borders between Guyana, Venezuela and Brazil. Not surprisingly in retrospect, Alex Springfeather is, like Guyana, a bridge between the English Caribbean and Latin America.

Q: Will we meet Alejandro again in a sequel? And are you working on anything else?

A: If everything goes according to plan, then yes, you will see Alejandro again. I have begun work on a sequel. I’m also working on a book for adults, and I’ve been asked to collaborate with a friend on the English version of a very touching biography published in Chinese.

Q: Your web site is so unique. I know you created it, including the illustrations yourself. Can you tell us about that process?

A: Many of the illustrations were created at the same time the book was conceived. It was a particularly fertile period in my life. I would visualize scenes, and then, using the mouse, sketch them on my computer, paying very close attention to details. That was my way of bringing my tale into reality. Most of these drawings have been shifted from the website, and will soon be viewed as part of my book trailer on YouTube. (STAY TUNED!)

Q: You were recently interviewed in Trinidad on CH 4 TIC by Allyson Hennessey. Any thoughts/ tips for other authors about that process - being interviewed on live television. (any chance of a clip and you tube link?)

A: Just be yourself, I would say. It helps to have someone as wonderful as Allyson on the other side of the table, of course, but you can’t go wrong if you keep it real. When my brain couldn’t find the right answer fast enough, I employed the tactic of slow emphatic speech learnt during my days of presentations and conferences. I’m happy to say it still works! A final word of advice: if you don’t want your speech to grow thick by the end of the interview, make good use of the glass of water the interviewer puts before you. I didn’t! Excerpts from the interview are now on YouTube.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Guitarman, Bookman, Familyman...Gerald Hausman Meet the MAN himself!

Guitarman, Bookman, Familyman...Gerald Hausman, Island Fiction author of Time Swimmer has written over 70 published books, thirty-something of which have received literary prizes and awards. Meet the MAN himself in this 7min piece - View, Rate, Share on YOU TUBE, then read Time Swimmer and pass it on!

Time Swimmer -View, Rate & Share Book Trailer on You Tube!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Maureen Marks Mendonca on Trinidad's CH 4 with Allison Hennessey

"Alex came to me in a dream..." says author of Legend of the Swan Children, Maureen Marks Mendonca about her main character, on Trinidad's CH 4 with Allison Hennessey.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

War, Freedom and Best of All....Escape from Silk Cotton Forest gets reluctant readers reading!

Below are comments from trainees of the Adolescent Development Programme, ADP (Apr. – Jul. 09) attached to the Chaguanas Regional/Hi-Tech. Centre, Servol -Mtima Abdul Ghany (tutor)

(SPOILER ALERT- the statements that follow reveal vital story-ending plot info.)

Escape from Silk Cotton Forest by Francis Escayg

“The book was a very amazing and interesting book; I would recommend everybody read it. The best part of the book was the ending when the sunshine from the sun hit his necklace and then hit Rhe, raising her from the dead.”
Joshua Santana

“The book was very interesting. I would advise anyone to read it. I am looking forward to reading the rest in the series.”
Yannick Cherrie

“This was the only book I have read in my life and it was the best. The book was very interesting; it dealt with war, freedom and the best of all, love and friendship. The best piece of the book was in the last chapter when the sun hit the diamond around Domino’s neck and it made Rhe come back to life and they all lived happily ever after.”
Tiffany Santana

Friday, July 10, 2009

Island Fiction Makes Trinidad Guardian's Debbie Jacob's Top Ten!

Island Fiction titles make Trinidad Guardian's Debbie Jacob's Top Ten fiction list for readers aged 9 to 14 starting from the number 6 spot and pushing the list to 11! Here's a peek - click on title link for full article.

6. The Island Fiction Series—It’s difficult to single out one book from this series that includes The Chalice Project, Legend of the Swan Children, Escape from Silk Cotton Forest, Time Swimmer, Night of the Indigo, and Delroy in the Marog Kingdom. Each book reflects the Caribbean setting that Trinidadian children need to see in their stories.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


READ ALL ABOUT IT! Click on Macmillan's Caribbean Dream - Island Fiction featured in today's Publishing Perspectives, an international online newsletter and contributor to Publishers Weekly.

Publishing Perspectives: How to Sell Island Fiction to Islanders

READ ALL ABOUT IT! Click on for: How to Sell Island Fiction to Islanders

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Legend of the Swan Children linked to Wilson Harris's Magical Realism

From Debbie Jacob, Trinidad Guardian columnist, published author of middle grade fiction "Legend of the St. Ann's Flood"(Macmillan), series editor of Macmillan's CXC English Literature Study Companions and librarian at the International School of Port-of Spain (ISPS):
I think you did a marvelous job of editing the Island Fiction series. I like each book for different reasons, but I think I am most excited about Legend of the Swan Children.

The author has managed to offer young people a novel very much in the magical realist style of Wilson Harris, who is the greatest novelist to come out of the Caribbean. I thought t was uncanny how much it reminded me of Wilson Harris's work. Very original, but very much in the tradition of Harris.

Wilson Harris's magical realism predates - by 15 years! - Gabriel Garcia- Marquez, who gets most of the credit for magical realism. Everyone in the Caribbean claims they can't understand Harris's work, but Harris's literature is discussed more in international academic circles than even Marquez. From Italy to England to the US there are books that discuss magical realism and have Marquez and 15 other authors in an article but devote whole chapters to Harris's work alone.

I find Harris's work is so important I tried to use his concept of fossil memories in (my own YA fiction).

I am thrilled with the theoretical connections to Harris. I wonder if she (Maureen Marks Mendonca, author of "Legend of the Swan Children") did it on purpose.

I now have three features for gieNETWORK (teen news) on the Island Fiction series. I'll work on some for the (Trinidad) Guardian too. I'd like to do some articles with the authors. I will push this series as hard as I can.

Great work.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Seek and you shall Find -Thanks to the sponsors!

Corporate sponsorship is a great way to get your books into the hands of your reading fans.

Venture Credit Union has a special relationship with SERVOL LIfe Centre in Chaguanas. When I visited Venture's Head Office with my "Bag of Books", I found there was enthusiasm to expose and enrich the Servol students to my work as a children's book author as a part of their Career Guidance program. Through Venture's generosity I was able to hand each teen a copy of an Island Fiction title, (why give them a children's book when IF was hot off the press?!).

I encouraged them to read then swap, purchase others at RIK stores and/ or ask for IF! titles at their neighborhood libraries so they could cover all six!

I have been able to tour the length and breadth of Trinidad with my own children's books through the kind sponsorship of Nestle Trinidad in 2006 and 2007 during which time they pre-purchased 1,000 books which I distributed as gifts to the children after my read aloud/ meet-the-author sessions. Even though I had initially sought an opportunity to continue this work, I opted to purchase and present IF this time and not my own books, and with good reason. I have found over the last ten years that serving a broader interest and meeting the needs of the opportunity at hand, go much further than just grabbing at any immediate cash benefits. The professional exposure is key and pays off in terms of career building.

Many authors think that writing a book, then getting it published if you're lucky or talented enough is the end of it. I think, if you wanta to connect with your readers, do a little research about the business of books and come to appreciate the realities of the market place. You will understand without need of lecture or explanation just how helpful it is to "parent" your work along the way.

I recommend looking to our most natural, organic connections for networking corporate sponsors. Make the decision about what you want to accomplish, get your feet on the street starting where you are - either geographically, intuitively or network wise. Rather than reaching for something, build and spread outwards from one connection to another:

1. Scan your neighborhood and local news for businesses who are already serving your target audience.
2. Don't let pride get in the way - approach family and friends who may be able to help. Just do so without expectation. A natural easy fit is far more lucrative and expansive in the long run.
3. Find confidence in what you have to offer - I do not see this as asking favors. If you do, I encourage you to re-evaluate your work, your presence in the cultural landscape and recognize the gift you, and only you and your story can bring. It is in that sense a duty to make this effort on your own behalf.
4. Be willing to do pro bono sessions, (but discern when this feels appropriate). As you refine your presentation and see what works, the heat your activities make will stir up other opportunities before too long.
5. Be willing to budget some of your own 'give aways' during the year - Use them wisely and the circulation will pay off.

And last but not least _ Share your success stories and ideas with other IF! authors - I am finding that community builds creative careers far better than competition. Log on to each other's sites, blogs, connect on face book etc. Just one hour a week even will stimulate the energy to fulfill your sales goals.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Met Luke and Govinda in Chaguanas - Time Swimmer in Trinidad!

Last Friday, 26th, June 2009, I was invited to facilitate a career guidance workshop at a SERVOL LIfe Centre in Chaguanas in Trinidad. SERVOL provides alternative education for our teens, teaching them a trade (welding etc) and helping with finding on the job training, apprenticeships etc.

Island Fiction was a hit as before and Time Swimmer is so culturally relevant RIGHT NOW (see Ch. 1 Time Swimmer) since results for the new SEA exam (once the Common Entrance) were published on Thursday, the day before the workshop, and was/ still is on the tip of every tongue and in the media.

Two students in the audience of 45 teenagers (14 to 19) were named Luke and Govinda - just like in the book!
It was a stroke of serendipity that I wanted to share - as life, with such moments, authors our delight.

It is easy to think that reading aloud for 'children' old enough to grow beards and bear children themselves would be a waste of time - NOT SO! The students were awakened it seemed during the two hour presentation: Finding the Hero in Me: Faith & Fiction.

After an introduction to my own children's books ( we explored the issue of "Character" through the hero chracter in each of the Island Fiction novellas in order to discover that in Faith & Fiction we are all more alike than not. Through the surface Matter we easily found ourselves discussing that which is Essential - pointing us to the hero in ME.

After my power point presentation: Writing as a Career? You Must Be Mad! (with insights that apply to any creative/ self-employed endeavor) each of the young men and women received a copy of one of the Island Fiction novellas courtesy Venture Credit Union.

And the news gets better!!

Yesterday one of the Servol tutors, Mtima Solwazi,(also Editor-in-Chief of ROOTS - Reflections Of Our Oral Tradition S; called to say he has never seen young people so excited about books or reading: (Keep in mind these kids would be considered reluctant readers - )

"....some of them have already read the book they received and are swapping with others to read series - The green one for the purple or blue and so on - The place is buzzing still. I thought they would have forgotten all about it by now." (Three days later!?!)

I have asked for the kids to send feedback and this will be a helpful and necessary part of gathering reviews for the books as we meet and greet with Island Fiction fans - and I encourage each of the authors to do the same. The book trailers are also a great way to spark some adrenaline and I look forward to seeing what else the authors come up with as we go...

Based on the reception, response and wonderful serendipities along the way there is a feeling of flow with these Island Fiction books- that they are 'right on the money' in terms of relevance and appeal. They energize the kids about our Caribbean world and the worlds within our Caribbean imagination - and for all our Lukes, Govindas, Alejandros, Evans, Adas, Dominos, Marassas and Delroys that's gotta be a good thing!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Island Fiction - some reviews at

Fantastic Double Launch of Fantasy at University of the W.I. - Jamaican Gleaner link

She Does it Write - The Chalice Project Trinidad Guardian link

Folklore Book Targets Teens - Trinindad Guardian link

The Making of Papa Bois - Trinidad Guardian link

IF! Great Read Aloud for Kids Old Enough to Grow Beards!

How to read aloud for and give advice to kids old enough to grow beards and bear children themselves?


The teen mission is to sus out when the adult world is duping them out of their natural "innersense" of Justice and Truth. If you are unwilling to reveal yourself first, to risk rejection it's unlikely you'll get more from a teen audience than patience and tolerance at best.

Speak about what you know yes, and show them how confident you are in your field yes, BUT show them an area in which you took a flying leap and fell flat. Share what you learned through personal death and resurrection! Adolescents spend more time feeling the uncertainty of life than not. Show them this is not a unique or shameful condition and that there is life, and in fact a better life is possible, even after failure.

Give ample evidence that you have lived what you know; offer varied examples that illustrate that you have earned the insights you wish to pass on. Direct experience is the best teacher. Draw from your life experience to express your expertise.

READING REVOLUTION at St. Francois Girls College, Belmont, Trinidad

At St. Francois Girls School in Belmont, Island Fiction seres editor, Joanne Johnson and Trinidadian authors Lisa Allen Agostini (The Chalice Project), and Francis Escayg (Escpae from Silk Cotton Forest) took the Reading Revolution to the tweens -
and they loved it!

Courtesy the school and with the support of principal and visionary Mrs. Pat Mc Intosh, each student received
her own Island Fiction tween novella. All six titles were made available and each girl from the three Forms 3, one hundred and thirty-five in all, took one home, with a few remainders going to he school library, which now carries the entire Island Fiction series.

The girls were encouraged to swap with friends so they could read the series, not just one book
and to meet their favorite authors online via the Island Fiction community. Some expressed an interest
in purchasing all the books in the series and were directed to RIK stores throughout Trinidad or to Amazon online.

Having the author himself, Francis Escayg read excerpts from Escape from Silk Cotton Forest was a world class
opportunity. The students were introduced to his hero, the young goan Domino,
and his sly mongoose partner Peenuts, whose 'extempo' singing in Market Square brought the house down.

Lisa Allen Agostini followed up with a power point presentation on Creative Writing which drew on the relevance
of the Island Fiction series and her title The Chalice Project. Students and teachers alike were inspired
by the ideas and insights of this prolific, local author, poet and journalist.

Series editor, Joanne Johnson was sure to stand proxy for the other authors who do not live in Trinidad and so were not present. She read from Time Swimmer, Night of the Indigo, Delroy and the Marog Kingdom and Legend of the Swan Children.
Book Trailers for Indigo and Delroy, now on YOU TUBE delighted and excited the girls who gave the local authors
their rapt attention. The value of these trailers was very evident and worth the authors' efforts based on the buzz worthy response from this group.

It is intended that other school visit opportunities will become available in the coming school year, and may include
visits from the other (non Trini) Island Fiction crew.

Night of the Indigo BOOK TRAILER on YOU TUBE!

Island Fiction author, Michael Holgate plays the dread locked warrior Kundo from his first book Night of the Indigo in the book trailer now on You Tube:

Gerald Hausman, Island Fiction author of Time Swimmer and published author of over seventy books says this about Indigo:

Night of the Indigo is an excellent book for learning about self-realization -- that it's entirely possible to gain power while giving up willpower. In the novel, the 15 year-old Jamaican boy Marassa becomes a mystic warrior and carrier of the light. As an allegory -- a story upon which another story rests -- this poetical novel shows us how a boy turns into a man. But it also shows how Marassa vanquishes fear of self to become a selfless practitioner of inner vision. Perilous forces are present in the story but I found myself swept away by the passages on healing with heart and inner light. These moments are very real indeed. Anyone who wants to know more about overcoming personal obstacles will love Michael Holgate's Night of the Indigo.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

WHAT IF Caribbean authors went Trekky?! Delroy hits YOU TUBE!

Book Trailers on YOU TUBE, Face Book community, author web sites and blogs, SKYPE school visits, media interviews local and international tours - IF! authors are putting themselves out there to meet their readers! VIEW, RATE, SHARE, LINK!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

IF! Jamaican launch - series editor by proxy!

Michael and Helen asked me to send some words for their first launch event in Jamaica for their Island Fiction titles: Night of the Indigo and Delroy and the Marog Kingdom ( respectively). Here is the speech I sent which was read by proxy:

(With Trek-like reverence), Greetings from Trinidad, fellow fiction lovers.

I hope you do not feel short changed on hearing the suggestion, but one could reasonably have expected a series editor of speculative fiction in 2009 to at least beam herself over via SKYPE video conferencing!

Truly, what IF I could project a hologram from my living room just after I've left the callaloo soup dinner to simmer?

What IF I could be there with you all having hit the road over the past few days across bridges and chunnels, leisurely island hoppng my way from Trinidad to Jamaica in my solar powered amphibious vehicle?

What IF instead, I am now using astral projection and my gorgeous, intelligent forty-something Trini-mix of a woman self inhabits this: (person reading describes him/ her self).....hmm!

So, WHAT IF! indeed.

That "I" - "F" capital IF is the impetus for Macmillan Caribbean's new "tween" novella series and its name Island Fiction.

Our first season is unprecedented not only because it is a "first-of-its-kind" series for our region, but also because it is rarely that so many previously unpublished authors make it into print in the same series at the same time - Five of the six first titles were crafted by first time authors, including Michael and Helen whom we celebrate tonight/ today.

In the works since 2006, Island Fiction is for me as much a privilege as a responsibility. Beyond the folk tales, popular music styles and shared carnival and culinary cultures there is something less transient that unites us. BUT it is my sincere belief that we must unravel, not discard these navel strings and use them as artistic lifelines which enable, not limit our creative freedom. The more West Indian-specific and intimate our storytelling, the more universally appealing and infinite our bounty.

Our Island Fictions are First World fare, and now our authors are free to spin yarns of WHAT IF firsts. And so the tables for once have been turned - non West Indian authors who dare to submit manuscripts for Island Fiction, ( and there have been many), are held to the highest "Come good!" standards - because our Island Fiction Caribbean is not merely a back yard play ground for other peoples - unless of course we choose to share our sand box beaches and turquoise pools with rum loving, invading aliens.

Two Jamaican authors made the cut from our first season call for submissions - Michael Holgate, Jamaican by birth, and Helen Williams, aka Billy Elm - Jamaican by choice. They now share the world stage with a rare and privileged breed of humans - published (NOT self published) authors. Their books enjoy the opportunity of competing for sales and attention from reviewers alongside their counterparts in the most viable and vibrant book markets.

I must say I am delighted to be included in any shape, way or form during this auspicious celebration of two Jamaican heroes - Marassa from the Night of the Indigo and Delroy from Delroy and the Marog Kingdom. Their author-gods fashioned these boys-turning-men to move freely in and out of worlds old and new. They share the universal quest for self knowledge but traverse unique territories, always reflecting the bold, imaginative thought moves of their makers.

In Night of the Indigo, we are as taken with Kundo, the dreadlocked warrior who mentors Marassa the Marshall himself. And Lobo the androgynous blue being remains with us long after the book itself. While we spin in and out of bizarre blue worlds and eerie smell-o-visions the WHAT IF of it all takes root in our human experiences - loss, power, fear, conflict. Like all good epic quests it is characters who people our mind scapes that determine the satisfaction. Only a Jamaican could have crafted this book, in this way and it is my sincere hope that it will be richly embraced at home.

There is nothing about Delroy that tries too hard to be West Indian - the plight and pitfall of many wanna be IF authors. I love the big picture pay back of this WHAT IF tale - What if a boy bent on boiling frogs for laughs actually found that he had turned into some kind of freaky frog-like amphibian? And What if we cared about that frog bully because we could feel that he felt not good enough? And What IF through the twists and turns of under ground worlds, zeta stones, and Bob Marley choruses we cheer for Delroy, to.... simply return to being just himself, flaws and all?

What I admire most about both authors and their books however is their growing maturity in the process of "invisibility" - As much as craft and style, voice and resonance may be heralded or critiqued, a good read really determines to keep our reading minds on the story and off its author and the behind the scenes effort of his or her work.

Although I have never met either author in person, the process of revising endless drafts to mutual satisfaction is as intimate and self revealing as any other human intimacy.

And while something as mundane as air travel remains economically challenging if not altogether inaccessible, the power of fancy flight never gets old or out of reach. So I ask that we allow fiction, and specifically Island Fiction on this occasion, to remind us that we are never more connected than when we inhabit the universal geography of Imagine Nation.

SKYPE school visits! and YOU TUBE book trailers! Island Fiction lives up to its hip, "tween market"

Time Swimmer author Gerald Haussman takes questions from fans at schools in North America via SKYPE which is fittingly hip for the Island Fiction "Tweens". But the heart to heart, face to face technology of meeting in person will never grow old.

"I presented the book at a school and the kids ran at the book table and bought all the copies we'd brought with us. A fifth grade girl came up to me five minutes after she'd bought the book and said, "I've read ten pages already, and I love it!" The cover catches them, the words do the rest."

Meanwhile on YOU TUBE hosts another Island Fiction author - Michael Holgate. His book trailer for Night of the Indigo, really illustrates the cinematic quality of the stories in this series. So log on, rate and share the trailer - then go buy the books!

American Poet BOB ARNOLD says TIME SWIMMER "literally swims"!

"Last night I was dead center with the grandfather of Time Swimmer saying, 'Where are you going?' a great line for a child and fantastical yarn, and all this book literally swims by story and the language and even the type on the pages: a sort of oceanic syntax."

American poet Bob Arnold, author of some 50 books, about Time Swimmer:


HIGH TIDE for Time Swimmer!

Waves of praise come in for Gerald's "Time Swimmer" from David Greenberg, US author of the crazy, now classic, picture book Slugs, which has been a bestseller since the 1980s. According to Gerald, David's a really tough critic. "I'm quite surprised he likes Time Swimmer this much. Was a wee bit afraid he might not go for it."

I've just started your book, and I love it. Just love it!

Boy, can you sling words. I adore the way you start with the almost-suicide, and I adore the way you mix the mundane (failing the test) with the fantastic (the sea turtle) with the men who want to chop its head off with the

voyage out to sea and the fact that it can talk. Extraordinary word craftsmanship from the very start.....

DAVID GREENBERG, picture book author, SLUGS