Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sleep: A Creative Aphrodisiac?

Famous Writers’ Sleep Habits vs. Literary Productivity, Visualized
“In both writing and sleeping,” Stephen King observed in his excellent meditation on the art of “creative sleep” and wakeful dreaming, “we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”

Click here to blog on to Brain Pickings for more on Famous Writer's Sleep Habits.

From About Brain Pickings:

"Brain Pickings is the brain child of Maria Popova, an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large, who has also written for Wired UK, The New York Times, Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, and The Atlantic, among others, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow. Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are.

The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: It’s our ability to tap into the mental pool of resources — ideas, insights, knowledge, inspiration — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. 
Brain Pickings — which remains ad-free and supported by readers — is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich your mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful."

Friday, December 20, 2013

Anansesem: Broader, Better Conversations for Caribbean Children's Literature

Article Link:
Broader, Better Conversations for Caribbean Children's Literature

Featured on as a part of a, Anansesem round table discussion, I comment on the theme by noting the top eleven things I think editors can do to have broader, better conversations that will positively influence Caribbean Children's Literature through publishing.

# 3...stop trying to motivate publishing and/or sales by lording a sense of moral duty towards readers who share, or don’t share our genre, culture, gender or ethnicity.

# 9. Understand our Caribbean markets are made up of reluctant readers of all ages, and determine to address cultural change in that regard; looking to the value of high concept, low text density and writing that conveys potency with brevity.

Blog on for more:
Anansesem is a biannual (formerly triannual), "online-only" children's magazine. It was established in 2010 to encourage the writing and illustration of Caribbean literature for and by children. Anansesem is run by a dedicated team of volunteers from various Caribbean countries. The ezine invites submissions of Caribbean short stories, poetry and illustrations for children irrespective of geographical location. Submissions by Caribbean citizens get first priority. See our Submission Guidelinespage for more information.

Great Stocking Stuffers and Mail Out Gifts - Also available in e-book

Island Fiction available - Montego Bay, Jamaica
(thanks for sharing this pic "Billy Elm" author of Delroy)

Island Fiction makes for an unexpected gift/ stocking stuffer for kids, 9 to 15.

The series is designed to appeal to both boys and girls and will captivate even reluctant readers. Each title makes for great family read aloud moments and the grown ups may sneak off to enjoy these page turners when the kids are done.

Delroy in the Marog Kingdom and Legend of the Swan Children are a great IF start for readers on the younger end of the range.  As they leave behind the world of picture books, and aren't yet ready for some of the 'big books' out there, these titles strike a happy balance between reading skill and high interest level content, without sacrificing any entertainment value.

Follow with The Chalice Project, and then graduate to Escape from Silk Cotton Forest, Night of the Indigo and Time Swimmer.

If you've got a boy who's a reluctant reader, kick start the series with the cinematic and entertaining Escape from Silk Cotton Forest. I bet he'll ask if he can get the game too. (Of course, there isn't one, yet.)

Accomplished readers, tweens and YA, especially those who love the genre but are bored with the stereotypical contemporary offering, will thank you for the speculative fiction of  Time Swimmer. If your teen loves the poetry of rap, rapso and spoken word delivery of Kanye West (US) or Freetown Collective (T&T) he/she will love the lyrical passages of this one.

In Night of the Indigo, teen angst will find a way through to self empowerment and reliable decision-making. Then follow with Delroy to discover that bullying animals can take a frightful turn and in the end, just being yourself is all you ever wanted.

Which ever way you mix them up, Island Fiction novellas make great stocking stuffers and mail out gifts. (Also available as a digital gift - now on e-book).

Happy Reading
and Merry Christmas,

Sunday, December 8, 2013

George Orwell on Writing

20 Quotes on Writing: George Orwell from
Luis Azevedo started Azevedo's Reviews since the beginning of 2012, covering his interests in film, literature, writing, directing and stand-up comedy. Excerpted:

George Orwell (1903 – 1950)

1. “If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.”
13. ”Good novels are written by people who are not frightened.”
17. ”The actual writing would be easy. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years.”
18. “A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?”

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wishing For Wings: With this book Jacob makes hope soar for Trinidad and Tobago

If you haven't purchased this book yet, please do. Gift others with it as well. This book is so worthy of your investment. Don't borrow it. BUY IT.

This is my Amazon review for Debbie Jacob's 
WISHING FOR WINGS published by 
Ian Randle Publishers in Jamaica:

4.0 out of 5 stars I am at once Silenced, and full.,
December 1, 2013
This review is from: Wishing for Wings (Kindle Edition)
I am reluctant to write anything about Wishing,
simply because I am stunned and humbly in awe
of the work.

If I could wish something for the author and her
young charges, I would wish for this to be a
bestseller at home in the Caribbean, and
especially in Trinidad and Tobago.

On completing it, I am at once silenced
and full.

It is not without flaws.
Yet is is emotionally flawless.

(e.g. I wished the chapter "Decisions" was an
introduction that assured me before diving in.
I did worry protectively about the boys privacy
as I read. It proved distracting for me, as
I consider myself a sensitive reader. 

The relief on reading Decisions where it 
is now placed, did not feel like
a literary device that should not
be tampered with.
It would better serve as a preface.
Other than that, some minor proof reading
support, and more care around poetic 
moments with potential resonance that 
felt cut-short or 'rushed' ; 
small tweaks that could have been 
helped by a good editor/ reader 
prior to publishing.)

I am deeply grateful and respectful specifically
that Jacob addresses the use of religion as a 
way of 'white washing' in our local culture 
especially in this reform context. What a relief 
that this may be voiced  from a place of such 
authority and to witness the direct 
experience in the young men's responses once
they were granted this clearance. Surely this 
should provide evidence enough that she is 
right on target with this observation. 

In trusting the absolute benevolence of each
prisoner-student, the worthy potential of each 
failedboy-man, Jacob expresses more faith 
with "Wishing…" than any religious tome.

Kudos must go to Ian Randle as well -
this is exactly the kind of honest, practical 
and immediate response our regional 
publishers need to have when they encounter 
such a work and an opportunity as this.

Listen, this work is so insightful it is heroic.
Jacob facilitates pure genius, unearthing 
gold from within hearts and minds that 
society must by necessity, exclude for a time,
but where most would never deem to look.
That such potential would otherwise just be 
dashed, save for this kind of work, is 
profoundly worth our anger and our grief .

Jacob reveals all this without lectures, guilt-
tripping or moralising, on either side of the 
prison fence; the true purpose of literature
is fulfilled.

"Tear a page" , then turn a page.

The genius expressed by the prisoners
is at times tender, classical, even. 
It is never cushioned in the trappings
of the young men's masks i.e. 
rap culture and
bad-boy gang image.

Wishing for Wings is a phenomenal break 
through in consciousness, way beyond the mere 
technical act of "writing" - for Jacob and her 
young writers and for their readers as well.

Thank you for your brave work Debbie Jacob -
not only in documenting and publishing it,
but in the week to week journey you made 
within yourself and alongside
those so easily cast aside.

My prayers of gratitude and respect 
to the brave soldiers of YTC too.

My hope for our nation soared as I read.
Each page turn revealed a nugget, more 
and more worthy of another turn of 
the page.
I couldn't help but pause to marvel,
to allow a tear free reign for the 

This read just kept on giving and giving
and did not let up!

If I had my way, I would make it mandatory
for every adult, leader, steady-incomes,
merchant class,
professional, teacher individual who calls
 themselves "Trini",
who laments this or that here,
who shakes a cocktail
after work to pontificate with opinions of
this or that 'other'…'or them',
'over there'.

We must call on each other and make this
book a true, one-buy-one purchase, 
national/ regional best seller.

P.S. Jacob's is one qualified Trini- voice
I would like to hear
advise our nation's leaders on what can be
done to help "the youth today".

Friday, November 22, 2013

Writer's Digest Short Story Competition - deadline draws near!'s Digest Short Story Competition

WD is looking for short stories! Think you can write a winning story in less than 1,500 words? Enter the 14th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition for your chance to win $3,000 in cash, get published inWriter’s Digest magazine, and a paid trip to our ever-popular Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City! The winning entries will be on display in the 14th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition Collection.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Writer-in-Residence programme in Grenada, anyone?

Writer-in-Residence in Grenada 2014

This just came in via Lisa Allen Agostini's FB page - thanks to her for posting it:

Writer-in-Residence programme in Grenada, Spring 2014

October 31, 2013 at 11:46pm
This is the official info. I don't have additional info so please contact them rather than me for anything more. DO FEEL FREE TO SHARE THIS AROUND!

The Dame Hilda BynoeWriter-in–Residence Programme 2014 at St. George’s University
St. George’sUniversity, Grenada, has established a writer-in-residence programme intendedto support a Caribbean writer in completing a work-in-progress, and to expose boththe SGU academic community, and the Grenadian community to the contemporaryCaribbean literary scene. This fifteen-weeks long programme will run for thefirst time in Spring 2014.
Start Date:  January26, 2014
End date: May 10, 2014

As part of theprogramme, the writer-in-residence will be required to provide six weeks* ofthe following service to St. George’s University:

  • Give two readings at SGU, local schools, libraries, writers' organizations, and other institutions. [They may read from their work in progress, and field questions on the writing process, inspiration behind the work, etc.] These readings will be recorded for the SGU radio station and for GIS.
  • Offer workshops in creative writing at SGU, secondary schools and TAMCC.
  •  Keep office hours two half-days a week for consultation with members of the SGU and Grenadian community. Such consultations with aspiring and established writers, while they detail ways in which submitted writing may be improved, may also include advice on getting it published.

*The six weeks may bebroken up into two three-weeks blocks, with approval of the SGU Writer-inResidence Programme Coordinator.

Accommodation, Mealsand Travel
Thewriter-in-residence will be housed at the University Club and meals there willbe provided at the expense of SGU. The writer will be responsible for all otherexpenses including travel to and from Grenada and within.  No stipend will be provided.


To be eligible toapply for this residency, a writer must:

a.    beof Caribbean birth or citizenship, regardless of place of current residence,
b.     be writing in English;
c.    beover the age of 18 on the application deadline;
d.    havea track record of publishing literary writing in any genre in either books,journals, or magazines, or, in the case of playwrights, a track record ofhaving dramatic works produced or staged for public audience.

NB: this residency isopen both to emerging and established writers.

Application guidelines

To apply for the 2014SGU writer’s residency, please submit:

1.    acompleted entry form;
2.    anexcerpt from a current work in progress which the residency would allow thewriter to advance. This should be between 3,500 and 5,000 words in length;
3.    asynopsis of the work in progress . This should be no longer than 300 words;
4.    abrief statement (no longer than 150 words) explaining how the writer feels theresidency will benefit the work in progress and how s/he can contribute to theSGU community
5.    aCV detailing the writer’s publication history if any (including pieces inmagazines or online), and experience leading or participating in other residenciesand writing workshops or classes.

All submissionsshould be typed and double-spaced and mustbe sent by email. Please send all materials related to submission asattachments to a single email addressed

Deadline for applications: November 6, 2013.

Submissions will bereviewed by a panel of literary professionals and writers. Short-listedcandidates will be interviewed online.

The successful applicant will be informed by December 20,2013.

TheDame Hilda Bynoe Writer-in–Residence Program at St. George’s University


Entry form


Nameof writer:

Addressof writer:

Institutionalaffiliation (if applicable) ­­­­­­­­­­

Countryof birth:

Countryof citizenship:



Titleof attached sample from work in progress:

Iconfirm that the above information is accurate. o

Signatureof writer:  

Friday, October 18, 2013


Publish Your Young Adult Novel - Save 80% Today! OFFER ENDS TOMORROW Oct 19, 2013

Young adult books are today's hottest marketplace for fiction. Whether you want to write engaging middle-grade books for young tweens or fantastic novels for teen readers, there are tips and tricks that you need to know before you can break in. This exclusive collection, featuring seven proven resources at over 80% off, will help you find a literary agent and break into the world of young adult publishing.

Sorry so late, just got wind of this -

may be something for those of you interested in the YA audience.

Happy Writing,


Thursday, October 3, 2013


What is CrowdScribed?

I haven't used it myself, but it is on trend.

This platform brings readers together with writers and applies the crowd funding model.

It's branded as "PRETAIL" sales and could be the novel idea you need for your book.

 "CrowdScribed is an online platform that brings passionate authors and readers together early in the process to publish better books. CrowdScribed utilizes the unique model of pretailing®- where consumers shop for products before they're available at retail - to measure interest, generate feedback, and fund books for publishing. The combined power of the authors' and readers' voices determine what books get" published."

Happy Writing!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Open for Entry
Commonwealth Writers
The prize is free to enter, and awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2,000-5,000 words) in English. Regional winners will receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £5,000. Short stories translated into English from other languages are also eligible.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

When NO is Something to KNOW : Intuiting your way to fulfilment as a writer, or anything else for that matter

"Many are called but few are chosen" this scriptural quote is a good fit for adjusting our expectations in getting published. 

Let me explain:

There was a time when everyone I knew and her sister's sister was becoming a yoga teacher. It is as though we, the society, was going through a "Yoga is the Way" to fulfillment trend. As much as I love yoga and meditation, I felt drawn to cultivate these as my own personal, at-home practice over the last 20 years. Work wise, my inner guidance kept returning me to the varied avenues of creative expression that feel most innate, and align me with feelings of passion and fulfilment. The reality of course is that there is no separation, and it was inevitable that the seemingly two paths would come together. And they did when I wrote my thesis on Education Leadership in 2012: Manifesting Self Through Creative Expression. (City & Guilds, MCGI award)

This  feels poignant to share now, because of my "how I got published" story. It really was very much an inner tuition process, a groping into a moment of decisive commitment. A recognition of this  "something" I felt called to since childhood, throughout the decade spent as a classroom teacher, my fifteen years in children's theatre and Theatre-in-Education work, and that remained with me during the seven years in television production:

Caribbean Children's books and media.

This I was doing and would do for virtually free and sometimes only because it gave me that feeling of complete freedom, even when I have had and still have to sustain my endeavours with other sources of income. I was finally able to re-cognise this work as the water that puts this fish back into her element. To me, such a sense of purpose is life changing and surely is holy - because it is the way to 'whole me'.

So many writers I meet just want to get published, but they have no clear understanding of WHY. No deeper awareness of who they are writing for and why. This shows up on the page. These are the subtleties that are conveyed that a mature reader and experienced book lover can easily detect. It leads the quick fix ego into print on demand publishing and e-book ventures with little awareness of the demands in marketing and distribution this will place on their writing time.

Even if we scoop off the  top 1% percentage of writers who have a publishable work ready right now, and the talent to produce more in their chosen genres, there is a waiting line. 

By necessity, the reality that writers must consider about the publishing process, is that the  filtering and editorial discernment has mostly to do with marketability and projected sales, than with talent alone. The talent has to hit some ineffable nail on the head. And someone "out there" has to identify that it has done so. Yet, it is often the case that the more talented writer does not persevere in getting published,  nor in doing the home work of educating herself about the industry in which she seeks work.

And, this is exactly what  unpublished writers are doing - seeking to move from a hobbyist to a professional i.e. to be paid for something that is so close to one's self, it is highly likely that we do not think clearly and practically about it. We love the idea of it so much we forget that in the most essential way it is "work" or "service".

An established publisher and their editors can ably assist with this clarity, not only because their living depends on  the writer's talent and work, but also because they are receiving a wide variety of quality in their submissions. Having filtered out the 'unpublishable' work, they are most suitably poised to develop a strong sense of what is good, better and best. 

But listen, the statistics are just not in anyone's favour.

One article I read claimed that 99% of  people surveyed say they have a story to tell, a book they feel is worth writing and sharing with the world. Good editors earn a living by making money for publishers and so they must intuit their way to just the right books that will fulfil the expectation of an employer in any domain - help earn their keep. And until the day that all authors are happy to blog their best works for free consumption, this will always be the underlying foundation of publishing. Concepts of Art and Academia with capital As are not excluded from my point of view, but these  Agendas, exclusively applied, can often render the most talented intellects without an Audience, and the short lived pleasure of "feeling better than".

In my opinion this has largely been the case with West Indian publishing.

Many writers I meet have a strong sense of entitlement. 

Very often at local (Trinidad) seminars and with online communications, writers I meet, even those with tremendous talent, feel justified in  blaming some invisible force for the rejection they assume is personal. It is as though there is a simple lack of common sense at times. A few short questions into our conversation I  can discern that the wanna-be-published author has no clue about the lay of the land. (Or the I've-published-myself but can't get the books sold.)

He or she has done nothing to help him/herself and is expecting everything in return. Many seem to be  waiting for some magical person to rush in and save them, some Official Of All Things Publishing to ride in and appoint them "Author of the Year"; a university professor to nod in their direction before they feel worthy of beginning....

Getting stuck in blame is B-ing lame, and that hinders your movement metaphorically and literally.

If you have something to say, say it. It is the same with writing. You will know your mission, only by first knowing yourself and intuiting sincerely your purpose.

If you are truly called to self publish, I believe you will find your way.

When you do step out,  whether it's to get your book placed or published, go humbly, cap in hand, the way most people seek employment - ready to do the work and with an understanding that there are many, many more like us, and sometimes, only a few coveted spots to fill.

Discern whether you have really identified your audience, whether they are a paying audience and be honest about whether or not your work is content for which they are willing to pay.

Even the internet, the Every Man's publishing tool, sobers expectations. Put up your best work and see a smoking, Elvis-look-alike baby, break dancing like Usain Bolt dominate your 'like' count with millions more hits. 

I have come to see that no technology, but that of  true self knowledge, wise intuitive guidance, and simply doing the work, can lead anyone to fulfilment, even if it leads one to popularity, because even the guy who posted that Baby Wonder, will be trying and trying to recreate that moment of  success and the formula will escape him time and again.

For writers in any genre, true confidence  arises  on the basis of the work. The work of research, rewrites, commitment and the creative investment. These authors don't depend on talent alone. They study the market, get to know their target audience and welcome feedback. They are unafraid of poignant criticism and will follow through on professional guidance. They can discern and shut out  negativity and not get deflated in their efforts. They enter contests and some, win them. They apply for grants, send out submissions to both agents and editors and accept whatever comes back. They strengthen their inner muscles for the work at hand.

Any good writer can at least solicit a rejection letter that will outline the agent's / editor's reasons for refusal. This is a good day as a writer! To receive professional feedback rather than remain wondering in  some solitary, silent void of no response, means you submitted to the right agent/ publisher/ editor for your manuscript! Take their comments to heart and follow through.

This kind of NO, is a way to KNOW your way through. It marks a milestone on your journey of getting published in a way that will count as a 'career' moment.

But you don't need to go through query letters and submissions merely as an automated, practical exercise without expectation. There are many tools you can employ.

TWO TOOLS  worthy of your effort:

1. RESEARCH AT THE LIBRARY AND/ OR BOOKSTORE. Look into your genre i.e. examine other books published in the genre of the manuscript you are shopping. Look for books similar to your own - especially RECENT ones. Recent, because these are manuscripts that someone paid the author for the right to publish in this era which influences  market tastes and sales. Examine and compare.  Is your title unique? Is your theme, or point of view original? If it isn't, be honest. This is the best feedback you can get. Don't think the publisher or editor won't know about other previously published titles like yours. It's likely they spend more time than you studying their markets. If your work is in the same vein of a popular title, it's important to discern if this topic has peaked in which case editors will say, 'there's a glut on the market of this vampire teen thing' or if it's ripe for a new slant and they'll say, 'Wow, I've never thought of a vampire president story'.  

2. GET A NAME. If you send your query letter to a publishing house and it says "Sir/ Madam", to whose desk will the mail sorter send it ? Based on your  library/ book store research: once you've found a book or books that are like yours, take note of the publisher and research them online. If the editor's name and  submission guidelines are listed, then follow through. Do what is asked. If the guidelines say no email submissions then don't email your submission. They have their own good reasons why they've set up these systems and put them out there: for our benefit. You risk annoying the very people you want to 'hire' you. If you are an un-agented author, look for guidelines that say, UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS ACCEPTED, otherwise, don't waste your time. There are filters of junior editors and readers who will toss submissions that don't fit the guidelines into the slush pile. This early line of defence though, can be of assistance. If you don't get a name from the published guidelines, and once you can fulfil the criteria of the publisher, then, and only then, call the company. Be short and precise. Don't waste time on chit chat or going on about yourself or your work. Ask simply, "Who edited The Vampire President" or whatever  title you've found in their catalogue that  is most like your manuscript.  (Make sure you read the book so you can be certain you are a good fit for  the publisher and vice versa.) Now, you have a name.

THREE Warnings: 

1. DO NOT call this person or ask to speak to them directly. You  wouldn't burst into the CEO's office at your city bank and ask for a chit chat. The query letter is simply the industry's version of a call card and having you make an appointment; one that you may or may not be granted.

2. DO NOT submit your manuscript unless the guidelines say to do so. Learn the art of the query letter and begin your new relationship with each editor, with a good one. 

3. EXCLUSIVE SUBMISSIONS ONLY - This means that the publisher will not consider a manuscript that has been sent out simultaneously to other publishers.  If you feel guided to send the same manuscript to a handful of editors at the same time, then look for a short list of editors in your genre who say:  MULTIPLE SUBMISSIONS ACCEPTED

In my experience, the ONE KEY that is the most important underlying factor of any good advice, no matter the source or expertise is: develop, employ and learn to rely on your intuition. 

Be prepared to go through trial and error as you fine tune this process. Spend time listening quietly within as much as you spend time writing. This inner tutor, will guide you with the right balance of humility and confidence.

You will soon know whether you are called, or chosen, and whether this is your  season to dream, write, get published, or tell your stories in another way, or move on to baking class, at least for the time. Who knows? Maybe your book was meant to be Recipes for Vampires - cooking rare  meats rear. Or , Vegetarian Recipes Even a  Vampire Will Love.  Who knows!?!

You do.

Trust your intuition to find and follow your bliss, whatever that is, and whether or not you are guided to getting a publisher, you will be led  to something greater: FULFILLMENT.

Follow your bliss,

P.S. Feel free to post comments, to send questions or good ideas, share experiences. In creative work,  I believe conscious community produces more success for many, than competition can do for one. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Diversity in Publishing: A Literary Conversation Worth Having

Literary Conversations Worth Having
(click link for entire article:  Broader, Better Literary Conversations, Roxanne Gay, Sep. 2013)
"This wasn't a highly scientific work - with the help of two graduate assistants, Gretchen Schaible and Doug Urbacnski, we simply found all the 2013 reviews we could for several publications and looked at the race/ ethnicity of the writers whose books were covered. The approach, however inelegant, does begin to tell a familiar story. Below is a rough look at what I found; it was too dispiriting to spend time on pie charts stating the obvious."

(I've just adapated her chart to fit here, with the hope of readers seeing the value of the article and reading for themselves. Join in the conversation.)

Selection of Reviews


Los Angeles Review of Books

vs 165

New York Review of Books
vs 376

Friday, September 13, 2013

SMALL AXE SALON a Caribbean platform for criticism - article link

CODEX LEGACY: The Soul Profit of a People (Published, Small Axe Salon)
(Click link for entire article)

NALIS, P.O.S., Trinidad
Diego Martin, Trinidad
 "Comparing manuscript word counts between picture books and chapter books, between young adult (YA) novellas and adult novels, it is typical to dismiss our creations as “easier,” altogether “too easy” to be of sincere literary value and concern. Not completely unlike the promising West Indian novelist, however, a children’s book author also needs to be grounded in craft. To display any talent, we depend on the delivery of strong concepts conveyed through a biblical simplicity. Mastering the potency of brevity, too, is a challenge we share. Further, we must trust both illustrator and publisher, albeit at times with words as few as any toddler can speak. We too expect that the entirety of the final publication will fulfil and reveal the intention of the original intellectual property." 

(August, 2012, Small Axe Salon; 

CODEX LEGACY: The Soul Profit of a People; Joanne Gail Johnson)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Adapted  from my essay CODEX LEGACY: The Caribbean Children’s Book

We are Caribbean writers, not through shared geography alone. Whatever we write, social realism or fantastic fiction, is drawn from a communal consciousness inherently invested with a unique point of view. And we need Caribbean readers who are equally immersed in the same possibilities, to validate us.

In Macmillan-Caribbean’s “tween” novella series, ISLAND FICTION, six different authors crafted works of speculative fiction uniquely varied by their individual styles and theme preferences. Yet each title crafts an imaginative New World borne of and deeply rooted in a shared Caribbean experience.

Finding a fair balance between communication and cultural sovereignty is vital for the development of all genres relating to Caribbean children and young adults. 

As the series editor of ISLAND FICTION, and author of my own children’s stories, I am interested in the art of conceptualizing universal themes. I work to present plot and action against a backdrop of our specific “back yards”. I consciously assert my right to accept our diverse cultural context as the “norm”. I take my environment for character, use social realism as a visual storytelling device, but strive away from the fetish of folklore and ‘curio’ pieces. 

So called "Caribbean Writers", who defend their right to  an international audience by way of reaching for ideas that are in no way West Indian, have convinced themselves that  this is a kind of freedom. I tend to hear this voice as someone  denying herself far more even than our unique palette of texture and color. We each have access to proprietary ingredients because, not in spite of, our unique time and place of birth and upbringing. These flavors are specifically  the key to  enriching  our craft and eventually results with originality.  Further, our Caribbean muse has a life of her own, and may, like a butterfly, bless only the sincere devotee with her fleeting presence.

Whether we are crafting picture books, chapter books  or novels, we ought not to be so willing to dissociate from our roots. It is not in being general, but in being more and more, highly specific, that we stand a chance of expressing universality. 

The codex of children's and YA literature on the planet should be explored sufficiently for Caribbean authors  re-cognize (sic) at least two important insights:

1. That we  are each and all having many similar "good" ideas to any number of published books already on bookstore and library shelves. 

This reveals that our ideas are "good enough". It also illustrates that originality depends on getting it down and out 'first'. Further, we realize that we are never going to be as unique as the ego believes itself to be, and this humility is the fertilizer for the kind of growth that adjusts us in a most helpful way. We begin to engage in the work of writing and all that that entails.

2. That there is a gap, something missing, and only I can fill it.

We draw closer to the possibility of actually crafting something that only "I" can, and we begin to identify and develop trust  in our individual vision.

When these insights are not just known intellectually but real-ised (sic)in an organic way, we become interested in the local  audience in an authentic way. Our immediate audience is immersed in the same pure potential that connects us to more than our geographic time and place. Even when finding ourselves traveling "Away", we may discover that our very cells are invested with this shared consciousness....and, 


This is the model of  a Walcott and a Naipaul and each of us has access to this technology of the Self. An author with  a passion for children's book/ YA speculative fiction will not be endeavoring in the field of literary fiction or poetry, but finding and trusting one's own voice is  work of the same ilk, no matter the genre.

It is then I think, that any of us  stands a chance of actual-ising (sic) / manifesting the popularly sought after 'cross over' results.

Above All,
Happy Writing,

Monday, May 6, 2013



via email from CODE'S Literary Awards Officer Cat Belshaw:

Both unpublished manuscripts and published books will be eligible for the BURT AWARD every year. In this first year, books published between 1 August 2011 and 22 August 2013 are eligible for the Award (in future years only books published in the preceding 12 mos will be eligible). The caveat is that both must be submitted by publishers registered and operating in the Caribbean on behalf of their authors.  

We are interested in supporting and encouraging new writers, hence the request for manuscripts. At the same time,  because we guarantee the purchase of up to 3000 copies of each winning title, we need a publisher behind the book who is committed to publishing the manuscript, or who is able print additional copies of a published work should they win.

The complete eligibility guidelines and application forms will be available via our site

and the Bocas Lit Fest site 

by the time the Award opens for entries on May 13.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

In partnership with:

The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

Established by CODE with the generous support of Canadian philanthropist William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation, in partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest, the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is an annual Award that will be given to three English-language literary works for Young Adults (aged 12 through 18) written by Caribbean authors.
A First Prize of $10,000 CAD, a Second Prize of $7,000 CAD and a Third Prize of $5,000 CAD will be awarded to the winning authors. Publishers of winning titles will be awarded a guaranteed purchase of up to 3,000 copies.
The Call for Submissions will open on May 13, 2013 
(Forms will become available at:
  Manuscripts and books published between 1 August 2011 and 22 August 2013 and written by Caribbean authors must be received from publishers by 23 August 2013. The winner will be announced at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad and Tobago in April 2014. 
Let’s provide Caribbean youth with books they will love
to read and celebrate the achievements of Caribbean
and 22 August 2013 and written by Caribbean authors
must be received from publishers by 23 August 2013. The
winner will be announced at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest in
Trinidad and Tobago in April 2014.
Let’s provide Caribbean youth with books they will love to read and celebrate the achievements of Caribbean authors!