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.