World Book Day at Days Book Store

Yesterday, March 7th,  I was invited to read a story (thank you Arts Etc!) for World Book Day. Confused? That’s because March 7th is UK World Book Day and April 23rd is US World Book Day.  Which world is it? The UK or American world? Anyway, I won’t complain about getting to celebrate books twice.

Days Book Store

Days Book Store, located in Independence Square, Bridgetown, Barbados celebrated World Book Day by staging an in-store open day event, where children read from their favourite story books, and then local authors read excerpts from their stories, and discussed our writing journey and the importance of reading. This event was not only free to the public, but had live internet stream, and was broadcasted on Starcom’s VOB 92.9.

Before I go any further I want to state how impressed I am with Days Book Store for their continuous support of local writers, and their efforts to develop future readers. It is so hard to find local and Caribbean books in most bookstores – many titles are found at the back of the store on ONE obscure shelf, but I guarantee that you can always find at least one local title in the display window at Days Book Store. Thank you Karen Austin, Keith Austin and the rest of the Days Bookstore team. We appreciate all that you’re doing.

Since the event was being broadcast live on radio, I had edited out all of the cuss words from the piece I was reading called Four Angry Men; a story about four old men in a rum shop talking about women, cricket and politics. You can imagine how much editing I had to do.

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Senseisha: It’s About Our Several Splendid Stories

Yesterday having been UK World Book Day (US World Book Day is usually celebrated in October and this year is being highlighted on April 23rd  – a Tale of Two Worlds, but that’s for another post) and today being International Day of Women it seems a perfect time to reflect a little on the stories of women, particularly in this region of the world.

Although over half the world’s population and fully part of humanity, most of the voices heard and stories told throughout history have been given from a male perspective, explicitly or implicitly. It is largely within the past few generations that women’s voices have risen to the fore and are being considered as “worthy” to be told – not because of who they are being told to, but because they are worth being heard. Queen Scheherazade is more than just a soothing entertainer for her King for a thousand and one nights.

Yet still there is need for more. Who can tell a woman’s story as well as the woman herself? Authenticity, vulnerability, raw truth, beneath the make-up and petticoats. And there is not just One Story for all women. There are as many as there are faces and fingers and feet.

This is especially true for women in the Caribbean. When coming up with the concept of Senseisha we tried to find common Caribbean language to capture the sense of empowered,   positively sexual, body & spirit-wise women. Sadly most of the terms we came across were anything but. Our folk tales, calypsos, dub, jokes and idioms are full of references to women, but mostly as a Scheherazade (bedtime entertainment for men), a Delilah (a dangerous temptress who saps men of their strength), a Jezebel (a sly lover who robs a man of his wits) or, as Red Rat once put it, a Shelly-ann (an easy sexual conquest). The strong, wise women are usually mother or grandmother figures, stripped of any semblance of sexuality.

In the end we decided to make our own words and add to the lexicon; hence “senseisha”.

Senseisha: Memoirs of The Caribbean Woman is about the stories that are often left untold; women raising their voices outside of the realm of male fantasy and fear to say this is who we are, this is how we feel, these are the experiences that have made us giggle, laugh, cry, curse, coo and climax.

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10 Steps to Handling a Rejection Email

“You’ve got mail!”

“Many thanks for sending your work to us at …… Your submission was interesting; however, after a preliminary internal review, we have decided that … is not the best venue for your work at this time. We wish you well in finding a suitable publication for your writing.”

 *****

It is important to note that I did a Psychology course for my Undergrad, so all of the below advice is sound and valid.

Step One: It is imperative that you report the email as spam instantly! The faster you do it, the sooner you can pretend it never existed. Continue along your daily activities, until later in the night when you check your spam and come across said rejection email.

Step Two: Re-read the email at least five times – First check to make sure that they used your correct email address. Maybe some poor gal with a similar name (Shakitah Bourne) wasn’t accepted into the publication. Poor chick, and you have to be the one to break it to her.

Step Three: Check for Typos – “Your submision was interesting” maybe? Then you can reply to the email, highlighting the typo, and making it clear that you have ZERO interest in being included in a publication where the editor can’t spell…unless they say please…

Step Four: Contact the Editor – Send them an angry email with the subject line “Serial Killer of Literary Dreams” and poetically express how angry you are that they have rejected your piece. If everything goes to plan, they will change their mind upon reading this second sample of writing, and realise that they made a horrible mistake.  If you could get a home address that would be even better, as you can reason with them face to face at their house.

It is best to go between 12am and 7am to make sure that you don’t interrupt them during busy hours.

Step Five: Re-read the email while drinking wine straight from the bottle. It helps to have music playing in the background. Make sure songs from Adele, Nine Inch Nails and Evanescence are in the playlist.

Step Six: Sing loudly while crying. Don’t bother to sleep. 

Step Seven: Let it all come pouring out. Call a helpline if you have to; they’re there to listen. It’s their job.

Step Eight: Stalk the Editor on Facebook – What do they like to eat? Do they like sports? Football? Basketball? Maybe your protagonist was a ninety year old man, Theophilus, who solved crimes in his retirement home, but… does Facebook tell you that the editor likes to breakdance?  

Step Nine: Change Theophilus’ story into an inspirational tale about human resilience, as he and his four retired friends form a dance group, and compete with their great-great grandkids at a local breakdancing competition.

Step Ten: Submit the story again to the same publication and wait…This will be the one.

It is important to note that I failed that Psychology course.

Disclaimer: This is NOT satire.

Reading at Good Shepherd Primary School

On Wednesday, I accepted an invitation to speak to parents at the Good Shepherd Primary School about the importance of reading and writing. The first thing I remember reading is a Kellogg’s cornflakes box. kellogg

My mother had punished me by turning off the television and I was eating breakfast, so there was nothing else to do but stare at that box, trying to pronounce the ingredients. Soon it became a habit – and a kind of game – to see how many ingredients I could remember. Leave me alone; I was a strange child. And it worked! I got interested in words, so thank you Kelloggs!

I already knew this event was going to be special when I pulled into the parking lot and was faced with this view of the West Coast:

Thank you for the photo Voghn!

Thank you for the photo Voghn!

I hope the teachers and students of Good Shepherd admire this view whenever they can. Sometimes you can be so indifferent to beautiful things when you become accustomed to them…

On my way to the PTA meeting I passed a reception class with this poster outside:

goodsh2

Of course, I have to stop to examine something entitled “Rock the Reading Vote”.  Below is the text:

“Today the students of the Reception and Infants A had a chance to Rock the Reading Vote! After carefully listening to two stories read by Ms. M Fergus, the students made a choice. They decided which story they liked the best. Just like their parents and teachers yesterday, the students collected their ballot papers and placed their “X” beside their choice.  The choices were “Daffidilly Zoo’ and “Fuzzy Wuzzy”.

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Structuring Your Screenplay

It’s easy to lose your way when writing, especially in Act II. Here’s the diagram that I use to help me control the plot and structure of a full length feature film. This technique is all courtesy of Syd Field, the master of screenwriting. I would encourage everyone to read his books “The Screenplay” or “The Screenwriter’s Workbook”.

Do the story arc.

syd field paradigm
Right so Syd Field uses a story called “The Unhappy Marriage”. A young woman, a painter in an unhappy marriage, enrols in an art class and has an affair with her teacher. Against her will she falls in love with him, then learns she is pregnant. Torn between her husband and her lover, she decides to leave them both and raise the child by herself.

ACT ONE
This is the setup act, where we learn what the story is about, who the characters are, and why we care about them. Your main character is normally in every scene, and we go through “a day in her life”. So for instance, in this story we could portray the unhappy marriage with a scene of them eating breakfast in silence, sleeping in separate bedrooms, arguing etc. The woman, let’s call her Mary, is a painter, so maybe we could see her releasing her frustration through painting. The TP1 (Turning Point One) occurs when she enrols into the art class. This is the inciting incident; the moment where your main character’s life could never be the same. If we’re writing a 100 page script, then Act One should be approx. 25 pages.

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Do you have a Dream Journal? Crazy Caribbean Fantasy

Excerpt from an unfinished novel:

Michael’s dreams taunted him. There was a world in his sleep that disappeared when he awoke. Even though he kept a pen and pad on his night stand, he was never quick enough, strong enough, and talented enough to capture his dreams. When he was asleep, he could manipulate words; he created plots and crafted stories so beautiful, so exciting that he was sure they would be recited for generations…but as soon as he opened his eyes they all disappeared and he was left staring at pages of disjointed sentences and nonsensical stories.

Taken from Patsy, Coming no time soon…

I was inspired to write this post because of a crazy adventure dream I had last night.

I was in a rainforest in Guyana with some friends. The task was to reach a part of the island, within some time frame (yes even my dreams have some kind of structure) and apparently I was the only person shocked by these strange creatures in the Caribbean, whose sole task was to prevent us from reaching the sacred bush and get a tasty human entrée in the process.

We fought every creature – some of them physically- but most of the time it was a battle of wit and strategy versus strength. My Guyanese friends would give me a rundown description of the creatures, what their weaknesses were etc., while they stood there and waited until we finished (Yes they are monsters, but that is no reason to be rude).

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