Saturday, July 25, 2009
(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, 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!
Monday, July 13, 2009
"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
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.”
“The book was very interesting. I would advise anyone to read it. I am looking forward to reading the rest in the series.”
“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.”
Friday, July 10, 2009
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
Sunday, July 5, 2009
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.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
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
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 (www.caribbeanchildren.com) 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; firstname.lastname@example.org) 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!