Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Island Fiction e-books now available online

Island Fiction e-books available online!
St. Francois Girls, Belmont

We put everything on the menu for our children, except the treasures that  require at least a little effort, self respect and discipline.  Then we lambaste "Them" with the burden of every social ill. We hear ad nauseum about "The Youth Today" as though they are a separate specie, as though we adults and parents and leaders had nothing to do with who they are becoming.

With the exception of crime, we protect our kids from nothing these days. Well, another exception is suffering. We seem intent on protecting them from every good, ole healthy struggle, with the promise of building character, that comes along.

Teens want a legit stretch that's why there's so much mischief when they are not challenged. Island Fiction series was published with this in mind. Our heroes struggle with themselves and their circumstances and make the journey home, metaphorically and sometimes, literally.

It's true, the movies aren't out yet; not even in development actually. We've no merchandise to offer at fast food outlets, but kids who read IF usually light up with something like, "When is the movie coming out? I could just see it so clearly!"

Look, if you reading this blog, I preaching to the converted.

So I'll be direct and keep it simple - Buy books for kids - they love them! Read aloud with kids, even adult ones - they love it!

Share books, swap books - PUT THEM ON THE MENU.

Keep awake in learning to like books yuhself; cultivate and sustain a reading lifestyle  - teens can smell hypocrisy in Trinidad, from Tobago.

And yes, of course Island Fiction titles are great gifts for traveling, packing, downloading -  these unique, electrifying, fast paced adventures are suitable for mature readers, both boys and girls from 10+ and up and are great "first" chapter books for reluctant teen and young adult readers.

Caribbean people may be glad to know there is not a witch, warlock or vampire in sight. Yaaaaa! You will meet River Mumma, La D'iablesse, Alex a Waspachu of the Cougar Clan on the S. American continent who sees and hears the legendary pan man from a nearby island; there's a suicidal student who flunks Common Entrance exam and opts to  swim through time on the back of a turtle named Odysseus. You'll encounter Legba and the temptress Zulie and the androgynous blue skinned Loba and did I mention, an entirely new race of Goans? And much more...

This is a writers' blog yes, but remember we need readers - they are our oxygen. So spread the word!

Above All,
Happy Writing, JJ

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's Never Too Late for Anything!

I've always believed that it is never too late for anything.
If your ego rears up with resistance and complaints, and many a logical 'good reason to debunnk that concept - just meet George Dawson here....How can you NOT rethink such a self defeating stance after hearing his true story?

His bestseller "Life is Good" is available on

Above All,
Write On!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

PROMOTE YOUR BOOK(S) : add user-valued content to your web site!


Guyanese born, Ontario-based, Maureen's story is a coming of age adventure involving the fulfillment of a prophecy and a secret society to boot. Published author and Trinidadian journalist Debbie Jacob touts Legend as one of her favorite Island Fiction reads and reviewed it for Caribbean Beat:

"Mendonca has beautiful, elegant language reminiscent of good magical realism. The imagery is spectacular and the story very inviting."

Since publication, Maureen has developed a book trailer, and an active website 
 Rich in relevant content, fans of the book can see video/ photos of Guyana's majestic landscapes, join the secret society Friends of the Flame and learn about animals in the book. Maureen ups the ante with each feature she adds. Not only does she offer interesting trivia about each animal, she created a quizz that connects the content to her book.

e.g. (In Legend of the Swan Children)
What made Alex think Cocoa the macaw was a spirit? Answer on pg. 102

In Words for Winners, one of the  games/ activities offered, fans click a word on the wheel that best describes themselves and they receive a secret message/ affirmation. Are you "Eagle-Eyed"? Then, "You will achieve greatness!" Do you believe in "Trust"? "You will always have everything you need!"

As a not-for-profit umbrella, Maureen  founded The Swan Light Organization

 By creating this harmonious, interactive webscape  the author offers many points of access to her work. Her Island Fiction title (Macmillan) and Authentic Arawak hammocks are on offer for purchase, alongside free, meaningful content:  Articles on "How to Conquer Fear", and her new 6-week, online workshop, "Building a Life of Happiness"

Adding this kind of content, that is purely from the readers point of view (i.e. not only promotional in slant), secures repeat visitors. When a site appears to be a static brochure of information then the interactive benefits are lost, and with them, chances to evolve and expand your work. A site with a "LIVE" feel, can create fans, not just one time visitors. And by 'fans' I mean people who want to  join your mailing lists and keep abreast of your work. Over time, this adds potential sales, not only for your current title but for its sequel and any new work or projects you launch.

What makes  Maureen's online presence all the more impressive is that she has been doing it herself -  including the site building and content creation. Through the process, she has developed a unique style of line drawing on the computer. This gives her pages 'a look' that is identifiable and can be 'branded'.

Those of us who may feel limited in our abilities can use any number of free templates and clip art albums, with some personal digital photography to create our own look. The key is to tie in everything thematically, while diversifying the points of access and interest; increasing the potential number of online 'hits'.

A free blog is a perfectly professional way to do business online these days, so don't waste money on a graphic designer up front (unless you want / can afford to). Setting up your blog or site, is a rent - free shop with international reach!

Link relevant photo/ video content you upload using Flickr, Picassa or You Tube to enhance the Blog visually. Once you have a store front with content, devote some time every week to free marketing and networking via any social media like Face Book and Twitter. It's all pretty fool proof these days. 

If you can, invest in as many domain names that apply and link them to your content. This is the name of your shop. But why have one name? Remember search engines are operating to find relevant content based on words searched. Better  to secure your name, any pseudonym, book title(s), important character/ hero names even. This increases the chance of someone not only finding you but stumbling upon your latest book! You can even purchase for a small fee lists that show you which words are most often searched. Use these in  your domain name choices and text links to maximize opportunity online.

The main message for internet presence  these days is - don't get stuck on the packaging. Don't invest time and money and energetic resources on any aspect that won't pay you back fairly whether in cash or kind. Everyone, everywhere can now access social media, production and  broadcast tools. This means audiences are tuning in, and making selections based on CONTENT that is meaningful to them/ adds value to their lives.
Take some time to beef up your site's/ blog's content in a way that intends 'giving' to your visitors.  Ask: What can I do or give that will improve or enhance the quality of my blog readers/ site visitors? Offering FREE content that is of significant quality, as Maureen is doing, will earn not only long term interest but trust. And that's the surefire way to cut through the clutter and get noticed by online explorers, of like interest.

Above all,
Happy Writing!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Promote Your Blog By Keeping Good Company

Keeping good company online is a great way to maximize your profile and marketing potential. Provide more useful content for your readers and you're likely to get more links, more hits and more exposure.
One surefire way to do this is to post a book review or  interview with an  author in your genre. Select someone whose work you genuinely admire.
On my Meaningful Books blog I've recently had the privilege of highlighting Warren Hason's The Next Place and Deborah Underwood's The Quiet Book. Two of my favorite,  "must-have" meaningful  books for young children.
While my work may be classified as "Caribbean",  I consider that we are each playing on a global stage and it is up to us to confidently claim that role. Promoting books by international authors I admire, I expand my potential audience base - not only for my blog but for my book sales as well.
There's no point I think, in being online if we are not working the primary  value of linking and interconnecting with people around the world wide web. There is far more benefit to the technology than just having a home page in cyberspace.
Keeping a Face Book account, joining like-minded communities,  and building up your mailing lists and number of online friends for networking purposes, means you can post a link to your  latest post and in one click everyone receives your news feed. After that, click to click who knows where it will go from there.
By posting something about a  new author, expert or relevant personality, you can renew interest in your topic, theme and genre, directing traffic back to your blog - a great reminder about your own book(s) every time!

Above All,
Happy Writing! JJ

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My guest post on Peepal Tree Press author, Geoffrey Philip's Blog

 In My Own Words...Joanne Gail Johnson
“Nuff Respeck!”
My Caribbean Children’s Books are “Self Organized Learning Environments”

"I heard it said that V.S. Naipaul, in a lecture at U.W.I. during his two million dollar, 2007 visit to Trinidad, responded to a question about Caribbean children’s literature by saying something to this effect: “There is no such thing. Children are in fact not capable of understanding any work which could qualify as literature.”

This amounts to hearsay, I know. But I will address the thought itself and will acknowledge first that the tone of the word “literature” spoken in the mouth of a Nobel Laureate dictates a very capital and intimidating “L.” Even so, I will risk a bit of adventure..."

Read more - click link to Geoffrey's blog, JJ

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bravo! Joey Clarke - My Tribute to Joey Clarke

A moving tribute service took place in Trinidad  on Saturday January 22nd 2011 at the Top of the Mount, Mount St. Benedict at from 4 to 7 p.m. 
Bio: Master Playwright, Director, Actor, Producer, Writer, Broadcaster and Copywriter Joey Clarke passed away in Belize on Monday 17th January 2011 from a massive heart attack.  He was forty-seven years old.  For more than three decades his prolific talents graced both the Arts and Advertising Industries locally, regionally and internationally.  Born in the UK of Jamaican parentage, his early life and career blossomed in Jamaica where he wrote, produced and directed.  In 1995, Clarke came to Trinidad and joined the Sugar House Drama Company run by Patti-Anne Ali.   Between 1996 and 1999 Sugar House staged five original productions– Matrimoney(Clarke), Maubee (Ali&Clarke), Treasure(Clarke), More Maubee (Ali&Clarke) and Devilish (Clarke) amassing multiple Cacique nominations for best original script and best original music(Julie Harris).  Some highlights of his Trinidadian work include the TV program Joe Le Taxi with Sun TV, broadcasting with radio station FM 100, Raymond Choo Kong’s Cheaters, producing Sport TV features with All Sport promotions and appearances on Westwood Park.  He also created award winning advertising campaigns in Jamaica, Trinidad, St.Lucia and Belize building decades of regional advertising expertise.   In 2009 he married Senator Lisa Shoman and settled in Belize, adding published Author to his amazing accomplishments, bringing out Stories of Exordia, The Gospel of Rastafarai, Behold the Man, Devilish, Making a Killing, Treasure and The Best Medicine.  He also staged Devilish, Treasure, The Promise and Lesson for Lovers, the latter two being finalists in the Belize Theatre Company’s playwriting competition.  Clarke’s play "Best Medicine" was already being produced for television by Channel 5 Belize and will be aired in Belize in the coming weeks ahead.
He leaves his wife Lisa to cherish his memory and countless colleagues, friends and relatives whose lives were deepened and enlightened by his complete commitment to following his art.  His funeral took place in Belize on Saturday 22nd January 2011.  Patti-Anne Ali, Director of Sugar House  staged a final farewell for Joey Clarke here in Trinidad, on the same day.  
I was honored to be included as a part of that:  
MY TRIBUTE TO JOEY CLARKE - (Nov 6 1963 - Jan 17 2011 R.I.P.)
Thanks to this inspiring children's book "The Next Place",  we now use  this  euphemism in our family.

I found it when my son  was just a toddler and included  it in his library not because we were in any specific situation, but as part of his life-wisdom education. It is where his ailing grandfather is expected to go to soon and where Bobbin our dog went and Fighty his fighter fish joined some time later.

This week I could say to him:

My friend Joey Clarke went to "The Next Place".

The Next Place is where Warren Hanson the author says,

"I will not be a boy or girl, a woman or a man, I'll simply be, just, simply me, No worse or better than..."

I heard a priest say once at a funeral service that he believed every person, every life without exception, perfects one aspect of Creation...

If this is true, I  would have to offer the idea that Joey Clarke,  perhaps more than anyone I have ever met was quite unforgettably just that - Joey Clarke being himself - no worse or better than.

 I have never met anyone who could do Joey Clarke, better than Joey Clarke. He is easily one of the most  instantly recognizable and memorable characters without props or costumes - and it is this selfhood that encompasses the details of my memories.

If the word "Friend" means everyday interaction, keeping up with each other's business then you may feel me unqualified to call Joey a friend. In fact, I did not know he was  remarried and NOT living in Trinidad or Jamaica, but in Belize. In truth, I  had not remembered him for quite some time...

But when I saw the name Joey Clarke in the subject line of Patti's email, his voice, his face, all his Joey Clarke-ness filled my mind.

When I emailed the SUN TV crew  about Joey's trip to The Next Place, Vanessa Soodeen wrote back:

"You know how some people are "easy on the eye" .. well for me, Joey was "easy on the energy" .. in the sense of having an easy-going energy. He could mingle easily with different groups and types of people... You could see him mixing with actors on the stage of a theatre the same way he would mix with people in the stage of life... He was always so committed to the interaction ... smoothe and easy!

In the 90s when SUN TV was pioneering an organic styled approach to production in Trinidad, what we now know as   "Reality TV" (because someone else, US cable, told us so) - Joey Clarke and Patti-Anne Ali as "Sugar House" were exploding into their  Renaissance of their own in theatre.

I will never forget Joey at the podium in The Little Carib Theatre bringing then Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday to full comedic effect for (the Sugar House production) Maubee, that bitter-sweet comedic portrayal of all things Trini. If we ever had the chance for a weekly television satire as slick, sassy and as witty as America's Saturday Night Live - THAT WAS IT!

During this time, Charlene Boodram's  remake of the French song, "Joe le Taxi" was burning up our back yard with regional radio play and one was of our most requested music videos on SUN TV's play loop. Much of what I intended to create with SUN TV was a sincere relevance to our contemporary Caribbean lives;  to make "we" kind of  TV that was true to here and now but with more of the sexy sizzle with which  American pop culture seduces the world - ( not meaning of course, the literal kind of sexy that so much of our  carnival/ bikini beach culture exudes).

Now we may differ about this, depending on our points of view and experience,  whether or not one could use the adjective "sexy" to describe Joey Clarke - smiles -

But our version of "Joey le Taxi" for SUN TV turned out to be one of our most successful small screen experiments during the two years of creating over 700 hours of 100% Caribbean programming. The timing and relevance of the idea was right and ripe. More than the hit song though,  it was Joey Clarke and Joey Clarke alone who made it what it was. In and out of taxis with camera man Science in tow, all over the country; No one else named "Joe" could have done what he did - spinning yarns from the everydayness of people on the streets; making hours of easy-to-watch TV from mundane maxi taxi travel experiences.

Because Joey was West Indian but not from Trinidad, he had everything needed to 'get us' and move freely among us...

...And because he was Jamaican there was enough separation and distance so that he could clearly witness and testify to our unique "Trini" ways of being and seeing,

His brilliant intellect and comedic sensibility were the talents that allowed him to think on his feet and produce television while in the field - exactly the qualities that made SUN TV producer-presenters excel and that made his "Joe le Taxi" program shine. I remember when  he brought back a montage of signs from about town that made him laugh: From the typically misspelled words to something obscure like a shot of an antique looking wooden sign which advertised in the most beautiful cursive:  fountain pens and lingerie!

When David Letterman or Jay Leno see the funny in U.S. life  on their Late Night Television shows, the New York Times  hails their genius in bold faced print the next day.

But, " this is Trini ", we say....

That is exactly why we needed the satire of someone like Joey Clarke - to help us undo some of that aloof kind of Trini-ness that is just not working for us.

I remember the weekend I was able to swing  from a 'no' budget to a 'low' budget in order to get Joey and Science over to Tobago. The exhilaration in Joey's entire being on their return was infectious and encouraging. They were so well received and had been pressed everywhere they went. "They want us to  do more Tobago content and come back soon!" he beamed.

Ten years later,  long after that incarnation of SUN TV went to The Next Place, I was on my way to Tobago on a newer, faster ferry T&T Spirit, when  a stranger came up to me pointing and smiling.

"SUN T V?"  he asked.

I smiled and nodded dumbstruck that anyone recognized me or remembered our local cable R&D project.

"Remember when SUN TV came Tobago?" he  stuck out his hand for a shake.

It was another time when all this Joey Clarke-ness flooded my mind.

Joey's fan did not ask another question, only stated, "Thank you. Thank you for SUN TV."

At a time when my visions for indigenous media were avant garde, Joey Clarke, my friend and colleague "got it" at every level. He engaged and committed creatively despite the fact that we were, (and I feel we still are), lacking enough self love to find and adventure fully and freely into the selfhood of our own individual West Indian-ness.

To me, Joey was funny and he was a genius.

Those of us who saw his light  were blessed by the perfection of his Joey Clarkeness and will never forget him; in this place or the next.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The 2011 Amazon (with Penguin Publishing) Breakthrough Novel Award is here!

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award
Now here's a great way to end the self publishing debate - submit your new or self-published manuscript. Vindication at this level will certainly mean sales and an open door to your next work. JJ

Do you have an unpublished or self-published novel you know readers will love? Enter your novel in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for a chance to win one of two $15,000 publishing contracts with Penguin USA and distribution of your novel on

Friday, January 14, 2011

My post at FB page "Literary Society of T&T"

I too recently self published even though I had an offer to publish PINK CARNIVAL I wanted to have creative control and fulfill a longer term vision for Meaningful Books in addition to the work I get published with Macmillan ( I have several children's books, readers and stories published by them). I do strongly believe however that until Caribbean publishers are set up to publish writers OTHER than themselves or their friends and family members, we are not yet publishers or really publishing on our own terms.

Until book sellers are NOT linked to government contracted text book publishers....Writers published and unpublished would do well to volunteer time to read to kids at schools, hospitals, orphanages, libraries - we need to cultivate a market that reads, loves books and is willing to take part of their income to make the purchase. Our local (T&T) reading of Caribbean books for pleasure market is smaller than even some small islands in the Caribbean. Even well established regional publishers like Macmillan make their profits from educational text books and ministry contracts. That's our W.I. reality for now.

Our envy of the global market must include an awareness that it is made up of individual consumers who click on BUY NOW as a matter of a reading lifestyle. Writers of brilliance around the world have the same struggles as "Caribbean" writers. Struggle and failure are not bad experiences, there is always something helpful to learn. "NO" may mean ill timing, lack of consideration for the target audience, you dissed typical industry protocol because of lack of research when submitting (but didn't even know it), or this time there was just someone or some product better / more suited to that publisher than you/ yours - so tough luck and back to the drawing board. Masters in many fields are subject to rejection in a competitive market. Why are/ should we be different? Why the urge to confine the small pond, when the world awaits?

So many WI writers I meet who want to get published have good self esteem to lament the ways they believe their work is being mistreated. When I ask about specific research, query letters etc it turns out they have barely begun in relation to their counter parts in a small town in anywhere USA. If we are so talented then let's not mamby pamby ourselves out of the actual work required of good writers which, more than ever in today's tech-savvy world includes learning the industry.

In my belief and experience when we are doing the work that is ours to do and not attaching the ego to outcomes (because at a certain level in any marketplace it becomes subjective) then intuition guides us to the next step necessary for our creative evolution and fulfillment. This I see as a given, like gravity. The super stars like Rowling are the moments when gravity has been defied and something rare happens. Most of us will be plodding through step by step groping for the 'next' button and that too is a blessing. I'm not sure that success of the T&T writer (keeping in mind our market size) can or should be institutionalized, for want of a better word.

Those who sincerely feel they can establish better /new systems should be encouraged to follow the path along which they are called, of course. JJ

BOCAS LIT FEST - T&T 's first annual Literatry Festival with a major prize

 From their Home Page:

The Bocas Lit Fest, based in Trinidad and Tobago, is an annual celebration of books, writing, and writers. Launching in April 2011, the Bocas Lit Fest is an exciting new addition to the Caribbean’s literary calendar. The centrepiece of the festival will be the award ceremony for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, a major new award for Caribbean writers of poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction.

Boca is the Spanish word for mouth — the organ of speech and song and storytelling. And the Bocas del Drag√≥n — the Dragon’s Mouths — are the narrow straits off Trinidad’s northwest peninsula, which connect the sheltered Gulf of Paria to the open Caribbean Sea. For centuries, the Bocas were the gateways connecting Trinidad to the Caribbean and the Atlantic. The Bocas Lit Fest invites readers from around the world to enter through the Dragon’s Mouths and celebrate with us the rich literary heritage of Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Worth the click - Meat and Bones Stories - Gerald Hausman

Reflections on the Life of Jan Wiener - Freedom Fighter and Friend
by Gerald Hausman

"Jan Wiener's narrow escape from the Nazis, and later, several prison camps in Italy is the stuff movies are made of. Therefore, it's not surprising that his life story has been depicted in the award-winning documentary film, Fighter. Read more at

The respect Hausman has for his Beloved Friend Jan Weiner is moving. 
The maturity of Hausman's craft and way of seeing is evident and reminds me of how privileged we all are to include ourselves as a part of his literary world through Macmillan's Island Fiction series. If you haven't read his title Time Swimmer - give yourself that gift in 2011!

Sormag Blog - featured author article: Keeping the Work Alive!

See my featured author article at Sormag blog: click link on title of this article or -


The best "give" with which  an author can bless herself (sorry guys, this time the pronoun goes to us OK?smiles) is to work to keep her published book(s) in circulation.

 When I got my first three contracts in children's books there was no real internet and definitely no Google search!!  I hope you use and bless it now as much as I do!

 Why not commit to even just fifteen minutes a week -  (while sipping a guilt-free cup of creative self-love)-  to surfing online for leads, book blog promoters, links etc that will potentially guide readers online to click "BUY NOW!" on your books at Amazon or to seek you out on your blog/ web site/ you tube/ Face Book - use the tools that feel right for your energy level.

Remember to use your book trailers and keep it fresh - update your blog, photo or post something about a new creative project and then plug your books. Putting out new content is a must if we are to keep our work alive and "alove" online. (I haven't been able to update my custom website for years  so I recently started new content with blogs and you tube.)

 The truth is we all want the same things and deserve the best out of life - in my belief and experience this is practical and possible for each person in our unbounded universe. Tune in afresh daily and allow your intuition to guide your ambitions. 

Over time you will clarify your creative missions and clues will begin to shout, not just nudge you - the only secrets are: listen and "obey" i.e. follow through. Whatever the outcome, assess the lessons learned. Very often creatives I meet are in accountant mode when they need to be working on some other aspect of their craft or business. And of course the most important work is the one we do within ourselves. Rest when it is time to rest. Develop a daily discipline of paying attention to your creative ideas and leanings. Don't knock the clock! I am often surprised what a quarter of an hour will render - as Julia Cameron (The Artist's Way) has pointed out, time becomes elastic when we don't make it a stumbling block to our creative work. Be kind and generous to your inner creative spark - it is De Vine and will bear fruit according to its own good season: Good Orderly Direction.

Accepting that day jobs or side lines are a great way to support our creative loves is a greater wisdom than negating society, the government, economies, and every ubiquitous "They" who don't "get" us and what we do. It is not that we should not be art activists when it is appropriate, but thinking and feeling this way habitually will surely clog the flow and our ability to magnetize all the goodness we desire and deserve.

I say often in workshops that thinking "community" over "competition" is the best way to spread our wings. Creative work has a time when it gestates in solitude and then a time when it finds "family" with fans. 

Network freely by sharing the love - join blogs/  add links you like and so on but don't stop there, contact people online who inspire you or whose work feels akin to your own sensibility. Everyone enjoys this kind of sincere, active support.

Creative Blessings always and all ways and most of all...

Happy Writing Adventures!