Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sun Tv's SunZen and a Trini Pothound


"...I was scolded once for putting 'those kinds of people' on TV when I sought content from the grassroots in my country. Having had a longer than a short list of eye-opening experience and conversations during my decade in local television, I awoke from the illusion that we are living in freedom.
Broadcasting is simply a way of casting the net of an idea broadly with the hope of captivating audiences who will consume. So it inherently wields the seductive power not only of controlling financially, but  of managing any group of people ideologically.
Whether this is done consciously or not, the outcomes are the same.

We remain a self-alienated people who buy in to the momentary pleasures we are sold by the importing merchant class. This lack of willingness to see clearly and to endure discomfort for unified longer term goals, is only a trend of immaturity. In my mind both God and Change are inevitable. Good Orderly Direction (Julia Cameron) arises when a level of suffering previously endured is no longer  tolerated..."
Blog on to Meaningful Books for more.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


CREATIVITY & THEPRIMRAY SCHOOL TEACHER - Where reading and writing begin!
See my facebook page for  postings, links, and resource content for primary school teachers and parents.

Creativity can be assessed. 
In my course, Creativity & The Primary School teacher we look at a wide range of definitions of creativity and use a multi-faceted assessment of four key characteristics: the ability to generate ideas, to dig deeper into ideas, to follow inner tuition (intuition), to courageously explore ideas that are apparently in direct opposition to your own. 
Through 8 three hour workshops, a number of non-academic exercises and projects are explored and are self assessed, peer assessed and facilitator assessed using my LEAP scale measurement. 
The primary aim of the course however is to increase awareness of ourselves as creators and to show that we are each and all creative without exception. While we study some Creativity theory and explore models of creativity, the intention is to provide practical opportunities for increasing personal experiencing. 
In this way creativity is not taught, but healed. 
Awakening teachers move from a vague sense of "But how creative am I?" to contemplating, " How am I creative?" This specific shift in consciousness potentially transforms their classroom teaching and the quality of time spent with the students under their care. 
By August 2012 two hundred teaching adults would have completed the course.
Regardless of systems of education, syllabuses and national agenda the individual impact is empowered, and may prove greater in our bid for authentic transformation.
Workshop bookings: 868-355-6930

Saturday, May 26, 2012

JOE KHATENA, the co-developer of several creativity assessment instruments, defined creativity in terms of "...the power of the imagination to break away from perceptual set so as to restructure or structure anew ideas, thoughts, and feelings into novel and associative bond" (Khatena & Torrance, 1973, p. 28)
Servol Chaguanas: My "Faith & Fiction - Finding the Hero in Me" Island Fiction slide show. Many of these young adults said they had never read a book in the lives. This was a Friday. After the weekend their teacher called to say many of them had read one IF! title and were swapping friends for another IF! title.
Consider the humble slide show as a simple tool to enhance your read aloud events. Or to create a new point of view for online marketing. Maybe a school that loves your work may build a sponsored fundraising event or paid workshop for teachers around you and your book(s). You in turn may lend your AUTHORity to help the school raise money - perhaps for a lap top and projector (if they don't already have one!) with which to present your slide show.

I create my own slide shows.

Or, once in a while I receive a really good anonymous forward that's been circulating the internet and I'll customize it.

Slideshows take a little time, but are well worth the effort particularly if you create ones that are conceptually strong and timeless. I use less text, as many original photos as I can, and then enhance where necessary with free stock photography and clip art. Audio cues, sound FX and music can help or hinder attention. If you will be speaking while the slides are up, use sparingly and wisely.

Create something that you will reuse frequently.

To tap in to universal appeal the compilation of slides should be high concept, not merely descriptive of what you are saying any way. Think in themes and metaphors.

Use strong titles and slogan-like catch phrases. Make unusual lists. Go for brevity and potency. Most importantly edit yourself deftly and stay on point.

Rather than just presenting your bio, or your book(s), consider an altogether different approach that will offer similar content.

I recently was accosted by an Island Fiction fan. A lovely teenaged girl. She has no access to computers but heard about the series when I presented my slide show, "Writing for a living? You must be mad!" at her school's annual career day workshops three months ago. She breathlessly explained that she had since read all six titles which she found in her library at school and "loved them aaalllll!"

I pressed her to choose a favorite and she reluctantly did. "Silk Cotton Forest," she exclaimed. I asked her if she knew it was written by a Trinidadian author. She shook her head, no. Well she does now.
( Thank  the Serendipity our paths crossed!)

Since it was an opportunity for career day, rather than simply present my work, I created my presentation from their point of view and of course caught their attention with the sincerity of the title.

Another important note: Our counterparts in the so-called First World get paid for appearances and workshops and we should too. Some times I do pro bono sessions, as this career day was, and especially for NGOs or if my gut feels its appropriate. But even charity and not-for-profit organizations find the money for a long list of needs and  "needs".  In my opinion Caribbean authors should value themselves and each other and monetize appearances and speaking fees.

The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators ( with over 19,000 members worldwide supports this thinking.

A US counterpart may start at US$250. and others may add a few zeros to that per appearance, but of course this is all highly individualized and each person needs to assess what she can offer and what the market will support. It's like any other economic decision.

When I have organized events either for my children's books or for Island Fiction I include other local authors and budget about TT$500. per appearance. Why solicit opportunity for myself alone when I can contribute to  building an entire domain of creative expression?

Sometimes I refuse to make appearances. When big brand commercial sponsors are on board and the organizers have budgeted not even a gratuity for their children's book authors I do not allow myself to be used for free entertainment and baby sitting. Adults here spend $4. on a doubles and $20. on a smoothie and $45. to go into a movie without negotiating.

 Since my practice is to  expand a field of awareness and I have been able and willing to do so from my smaller, individual earnings, then I can see clearly the lack of professional courtesy and vision when it presents itself to me. I can say a guilt-free NO in such instances. I don't believe in running down opportunities or participating when there is a lack of mutuality; nothing degrades the creative soul more.

By playing in to the idea that your appearance alone will help you "sell books" is naive. A royalty share on a book will only benefit the author financially if sales are significant in the tens of thousands and consistently so year after year. This is not because we are Caribbean authors, or children's book authors, it is the business reality of publishing. Many unpublished writers and first time authors do not  invest in  understanding the field they're working in.

Even if you have self-published, it's likely you need to sell a good profit on a couple thousand just  to recoup your costs. In a market as small as the Caribbean reading-for-pleasure market is now, and you'll need to work hard to keep your books in stock and in store front which is challenge enough in your island base anyway. E-books and online sales only skyrocket when you get a good social media campaign going and this too requires investment of time and energy. Many dead and wounded self-publishers are just coming to terms with these realities. So creating speaking and appearance events is  a necessary way to move your work from happy hobby to creative clarity.

Of course, if you can get a sure foot in to any Ministry of Education anywhere, that's a different story.
Which is why most publishers for the Caribbean focus on text books. It's where the money is and most players, not sharing.

When I discovered The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators online in 2005, I found a wealth of networking and information. I had four published illustrated readers already and had spent seven years and significant amounts of money buying books, and meeting with copyright and intellectual property lawyers to educate myself. I really wish I had known about the SCBWI from the beginning and even after fourteen years, ten published stories and the Island Fiction series I am still L-EARNING anew. That's why I voluntarily founded a chapter for the South Caribbean - to which we will soon appoint a new Regional Advisor, (but that's another blog post).

In my slide show, "Writing for a living? You must be mad!" I speak about earning a loving - (not a typo). Most authors love what they do and love their work and that is something worth valuing and yet may not ever be fully monetized. This love should always be an intelligent love, not a 'chupidee' love. If you are still shy about asking for even a gratuity which will cover your gas and a meal for that day then may I highly recommend the ten week rehab course of Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way". I have been using it to heal and facilitate creativity in myself and others since 1994.

It is really vital to keep your book(s) in print by exploring ways to breathe new life into them. Making yourself available to schools serves a real need in the kids. Our Caribbean children cannot choose our  Caribbean work, if it's not on their media menu. And it's up to us to put it there!

Truly loving our creations means parenting them in the world. If your read aloud or meet the author appearance to teens lack that sizzle they're likely to pass on your book. Supplementing your presentation with a simple, well thought out slide show can add a sparkle that won't fizzle out after your audience leaves you. This means we can earn our fan's reading time and relinquish the old dutiful pressure of having to support local, or having to read because it's good for you!

Not all writers are extroverted dramatists, so the cleverly crafted visual presentation with an unusual twist, can be  useful.  Slide shows or videos  potentially ignite the cinematic quality of your fictitious world and characters. The way we see the world and communicate with each other is changing rapidly and keeping abreast of and employing electronic media is just another tool in your kit.

But remember: it should be creative and catchy, well, if you want to catch readers that is. 

It may make the difference - someone may click download IF! to a Kindle or iPad and another may just run off to the library and read your titles the old fashioned way. Any how you take it, you're connecting  with a fan who  just lll-aahh-ah-ah-vvvves you work!

Above All,
Happy Writing,

Friday, May 11, 2012

To Market, to self promotion beneath you?

To Market, to self promotion beneath you?

Holding on to old ideas about promotion and self promotion may be tempting, but not so helpful.

The key for me  is to sincerely investigate my intentions every step of the way.

If we cannot see our books as a service to others and our duty to ensure that  "some ones" out there at least have the option to receive our work, then why, oh why did we really write at all? 

With this attitude, we unconsciously imply that the book / story is 'ours', about 'me' alone, and all 'mine'.

There is in this, a subtler and greater ego attachment! This kind of  self denial is unnecessary. It is selfless in fact, to  simply let go and facilitate  movement of your work  in the world through you. It takes time, energy, sacrifice and love to do so.

Let me give you a little story (smiles):

When I was pregnant (9 years ago)  Father Thomas Keating, a Catholic monk (an author of many books and articles on fine topics such as Centering Prayer, Attention and Intention and spiritualizing the heart not the ego and so on) came to Trinidad.

I went to hear him the night he spoke at St. Theresa's Church, Woodbrook. He was introduced by then Archbishop Gilbert who said to the crowd, "My role in the Church is mostly as an administrator, I come to sit at the feet and learn from a man who has devoted his life to meditation and silence."

He literally opened the door for everyone present to open their minds and hearts to profound esoteric and even mystical teachings.

Keating, in his 70s at the time, spoke for over an hour, energetically and plainly about every metaphysical, Chopra quantum physics, crystal light beaming concept of spiritual truth I have ever encountered. He sometimes made direct mention of some of these other systems, teachers and authors, and he also contained and applied it all in relevant ways to  the Catholic faith for those who needed it clothed that way.

It was a profound experience for me, ( with no direct bearing on the issue of self promotion,  but which I find hard to extricate from this much loved and often told personal story:) - I remember the entire time a feeling a sense of fulfillment deep within me that arose from my childhood :

A time when I wanted to be a priest! I began to notice that there were no women priests and felt quite uncertain about ever being nun. This was a 7-year-old  time when I pressured
my non-religious family to take me to church, almost having to argue my case some weekends. One day during the celebration of Mass my mother saw me gazing intently at Father Nicholson as he served at the altar. For all the depth and breadth I was experiencing within myself, when she asked tentatively, "What are you thinking about?"
All my shy self could articulate was something trite like, "Father is putting on weight." 
It became a long standing joke for her to retell as a parent (sadly, at my expense).

But I digress, that night  in St Theresa's, something I knew then in childhood was surfacing within my consciousness. Way back then I realized that there was something ineffable lacking and which I could not  articulate as a child. Decades later,  that missing piece was fulfilled through Fr. Keating, and I come to it all in the fullness of my feeling without censorship, shyness or fear:

"I always knew I would finally hear the truth spoken in the Catholic Church, in my life time."

After he spoke,  Keating sat at the back of the church with stacks of his books for sale, and invited autographs. He interacted with his fawning fans, with such neutrality that I understood something more  as I observed him; deeper perhaps than all the words he had spoken that night.

He neither rejected his role as author/ teacher  nor claimed it.  I could detect that he was in no way  ego attached nor had he shied away from, or shirked this duty. 

I opted to witness him as he engaged in the present moment, rather than line up for a book.

I did not have then as much of  the theory and conscious direct experience of present moment awareness as I can access now, yet it was palpable.

In hindsight, I see that for those minutes, I was certainly tuned in to the Present  by tuning in to and with  him. In his reflection  of true self, a lesson of true humility, (very different from false modesty), was transmitted and received.

Such work we may term "marketing", can be understood quite simply without all the images and historical implications that the word itself invokes. Marketing the self now, via blogs and so on,  is simply a matter of employing internet and mobile technologies in a time when we no longer rely on any "Massa" broadcaster and publisher. Why not claim this freedom as a great leap in our evolution, and an opportunity to each follow our own bliss? 

Surely more bliss for any one of us, is a blessing for all!

Until we can say I AM... and know that we are not aggrandizing the ego, but simply stating the sincere intention of self expression from the heart of the matter, we will remain caught in a web of shyness, fits and starts and cramp our legitimate fulfillment with haunting worries of what others think.

The best antidote, is to observe with courage and self honesty what you yourself may think, and deal with that one moment at a time as you create a work and delcare, "It is good."

To write about your own work is simply a way of  including yourself in the ALL - May ALL be happy.

To exclude ourselves from All, is to place ourselves where?

If we are not contained in  All then we are separate, set apart, beyond or even  above others! Cool ego trick eh? And there is much cultural evidence to convince us that we are being selfless in such thinking. All  the while some subconscious destructiveness, is having its victory over us - the fear has had its way with us! Our creativity has been blocked and the flow of good,  that  may be freely given and received dries up.

Contemplating and understanding the ways in which we are productive and destructive to our creativity, is helpful for our  healing as writers/ artists/ performers etc. We are killing creativity all the time! and for what?

Unless you have a publicist doing the work for you, then in my opinion it is unwise to NOT support your creations in the world. Would you give birth to a child and abandon it? ( I guess some do.)

And all the 'successful' writers who appear to do work successfully, solely on the merit of their  work is illusory.  They are, through their work,  simply  paying a cut to their publishers, publicists, agents etc to do such menial work for them. 

Nice life? Maybe.

I don't mind cleaning meh own house and doing meh own laundry so long as it is necessary and helpful for myself and others.

Is that, or get a 8 to 4!

To each his/ her own.

Above All,
Happy Writing,

Thursday, May 10, 2012



Blog on at Meaningful Books for more.

More than a cautionary tale, my intention has always been that IBIS STEW? Oh, No! would enliven an awareness of how each of us can creatively respond to the problems we encounter in the world. The book's epilogue attests to that goal. It is presented as Captain Bad's  log or scrapbook,  after he has been converted from pirate to watchman and guardian of the ibis. In these pages, readers will find a letter from Molly Gaskin and Karilyn Sheppard, (Pointe-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust, Trinidad) and real live champions of the scarlet ibis; and finally, tips on how to start a SAVE THE IBIS CLUB!

Consider this: Ways to keep the intellectual property of your published work alive...

The internet is all about quantity. The opportunity to get a hit increases every time you publish a new article on your blog(s) and that means a chance to earn the interest in your published work. It can appear daunting. "What will I write about?" you may feel stumped. But it can be really helpful to keep earning a loving (not a typo), where your book is concerned. We are simply sharing our love not only for our work, but through it. Most of us have very sincere intentions when we sit  to craft and share a story, and risk sharing it with others. A book synopsis doesn't have time for all of that, and yet most of us are keenly interested in what goes on in the writer's world.
1. You can maximize the potential of that book by blogging about it from different points of view. e.g. Connect it to current events, news and other relevant products or projects as I did in my blog post at Meaningful Books today inspired by a TIME World article on the illegally hunter scarlet ibis in Trinidad.

2. Your book has themes worth studying. Define and elaborate on each of those themes in separate blog posts. 

3. Highlight a paragraph or scene and reference other relevant work with a similar theme or scene.

4.  Working through schools and libraries is a great way to connect directly with the audience. Ask beforehand what the group is studying and find links to something in your book. Rather than just reading for entertainment and as a sales strategy, consider how your work can support the teaching and learning taking place in today's syllabus.

5. Reflect on WHY you wrote your story or created a certain character. There is sure to be a wealth of back story that can stimulate ongoing releases of information from you, the author. 

6. We are all interested in what inspires creativity. Share moments of inspiration so that you too can inspire others.

Parents and teachers are very supportive of writers. They appreciate when we do a little background work that helps theirs. Highlighting themes and suggesting ways your book can be used is always met with appreciation. Even, take a little time to find  or create relevant and supporting materials and teaching resources.

The keys are:
- Relevance - look for natural links, it should not feel forced, or like it's a stretch.
- Genuine -  come out from behind the writer's desk and dreams; really align with your audience the kids and their interested adults.

Above all,

Happy Writing!