Writing Creative Non-Fiction

I attended a workshop on Writing Creative Non-Fiction on Wednesday, March 20th, conducted by Andrea Stuart, and organised by the NCF Literary Arts Desk. I jumped at the opportunity to attend, not only because it was a free workshop by a respected author, but because I am one of the Editors of an upcoming anthology of sensual memoirs by Caribbean women. I hope you know of Senseisha by now. Submissions have been trickling in, and it’s already shaping up to be one controversial read!

Oh so many genres, so little time…

truecrime

Sample of my True Crime Collection

I have always LOVED True Crime. My good friends used to buy me True Crime and Serial Killer biographies as birthday and Christmas gifts. They knew they couldn’t go wrong with those – True Crime books or earrings. I always joke that if the Criminal Minds team had to inspect my bedroom (Shamar, you are welcome anytime!), they would look at my bookshelf and diagnose me a serial killer. What does your bookshelf say about you?

I even tried my hand at investigating unsolved murders here in Barbados, and had some articles published in local newspapers about the Canefield Murders (a killer who dumped his female victims in canefields), and the Pele case (the controversial murder of a local football star). Why did I stop? I hope in a couple years I’ll be able to tell you…

So…Back to Andrea Stuart – author of the books Showgirls, which was adapted into a two-part documentary for the Discovery Channel, and The Rose of Martinique: A Biography of Napoleon’s Josephine. Her third and current book Sugar in the Blood: One Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire was published in England (2012) by Portobello Books and was published in the US by Knopf in January (2013).

I.e she knows her stuff. Below I’ve noted some key facts and tips that she shared with the workshop attendees about writing creative non-fiction. Those persons who wish to submit to Senseisha should pay special attention. Continue reading

The Evolution of My Writing Voice

I’ve wanted to write this post since my partner in words, Hadlee Sobers, asked getWriters what writers most influenced their writing style. As usual, I have to start the story from when I was a wee tot, and can never just give a straight answer without the back-story.

Sweet Valley High

I have to fight off the wave of nostalgia just from looking at this book cover. I used to INHALE Jessica and Elizabeth stories. Charles Colton says that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,and I certainly proved my adoration for the troublesome twins with my first story called Jealousy Can Kill, written when I was about nine or ten years old. My protagonists were Lily, a red-haired, green eyed cheerleader, and Zachary, her blonde, blue-eyed boyfriend. I’m looking at the story now, and it really isn’t bad. Maybe I will share an excerpt in another post. 🙂

Now, every time I think about Sweet Valley High, I think about Chimimanda Adichie’s Ted Talk on the dangers of a single story. At that time I wasn’t reading children’s  books with Caribbean characters, or stories that I could relate to. I don’t know if these books weren’t written or if they just weren’t available to me. I remember asking a friend what “a crumpet” was, and I desperately wanted to try treacle pie, thanks to Enid Blyton. That discussion is for another post though. Right now I want to thank Francine Pascal for sparking my interest in reading, and being my first inspiration for putting pen to paper.

PS. I  just found out that Charles Colton coined that famous phrase thanks to Google.

Continue reading

Food, Food and More Food

So this is supposed to be a writing blog, but it is mine so I can write whatever I want – and today I want to talk about food.

I don’t particularly love to cook, but I love to eat, and I love to see other people enjoying a meal I prepared. I pretend to be upset when food that I cooked is eaten in record time, but inside I feel a bit of pleasure that the meal was THAT good.

Please don’t mention this to my family. I like cooking when I want to do it, and not when I am expected to do it.

Anyway, here are some meals I want to highlight:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading