Top Ten Books

toptentuesdayThe Broke and Bookish’s Top Ten challenge for Top Ten Tuesday June 27th (Top Ten Books You’ve Read So Far This Year) seems easy enough; well, apart from the part where I don’t think I’ve read 10 books so far this year. *checks Blogger on Books* Oh, it turns out I have read more than 10, barely. But that’s good enough for this challenge, so here goes, in order of love it like how I love mango (it’s mango season here) to it was aiiight. Click the names for my actual reviews.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones EdwardPJones_TheKnownWorld –Jones is the writer we all want to be when we grow up. This book is America, its brutal history captured in many voices, without filter.

The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly Lizard Cage– Speaking of brutal history (this one much more recent)…I haven’t read any Burmese (Myanmar) fiction before and this one is written by a Canadian, though one clearly, deeply au fait with the culture and the intricacies of the lives of the people living under the then dictatorship and those fighting for their country’s liberation. It is a stomach churning read in which you both despair and root for the characters and feel genuine hatred for their oppressors. It’s a tough read but with *spoiler alert* a hopeful note.

Closureclosure – I do like a good short story collection, and this was very good.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott– I’m remembering as I write this the story that inspired the title, her brother sitting crying over a last minute homework involving birds and his father calming him by reminding him to take it bird by bird. Lamott draws on family and familiar experiences a lot in laying bare a writer’s processes and neuroses – that scene of her manically re-writing a manuscript hopeful of turning a nay in to a yay resonates in terms of the desperation we writers sometimes feel. The book is a sweaty, teary mess, just like we are and Lamott isn’t afraid (or perhaps more critically, ashamed) to say so. I am reminded as I write this of a scene between me and my father – me having some kind of meltdown about my writing life, him perplexed at how the conversation had gotten so heated, and in the midst of it telling me that he doesn’t know where all this self-doubt is coming from because he was reading my more than a decade old self-published maybe 12 people have read it poetry book the other night and laughing and musing to himself at the things I wrote. And since my parents are not the effusive type this just had me feeling all kinds of happy, meltdown averted…for now.

Go de Rass to Sleep raas– (and now for something much lighter, thinner, and with more pictures) A children’s book for adults. Why, you say? Well, Rass is a Caribbean way of saying duck (with an f). This is a translation to Caribbean creole (Jamaican, specifically) of the popular Go the F*ck to Sleep. So don’t let the sleeping child on the cover fool you. But e funny ah rass.

Shades of Milk and Honey – of the two Mary Robinette Kowal books in the glamourist series I’ve read this year (third overall), this introduction to the series was my favourite. The author has taken the world of Jane Austen and added a magical element that makes it something else entirely while still so much of what we’ve come to expect of this type of social manners and romantic pursuits book. Kowal’s books are fun and engaging, and the fact that there’s an element of fantasy adds an unusual ness that makes me keen to read more.
Glamour in Glass   glamour-in-glass – part two in Kowal’s regency era romantic fantasy adventure; I know that’s a lot of genres but it really is all those things. An interesting premise, an appealing main character, twisting history to the story’s ends in a believable-ish way; it was a fun book – if not as suspenseful, for me, as it was intended to be.

Bad Boy Brawley Brown by Walter Mosely bad-boy-brawly-brown the titular character set the action in motion but didn’t figure too much in the story, really. No, this was an Easy Rawlins book through and through, and Easy is charismatic and – like I’ve said – I always picture the big screen, Denzel Washington, version of him; so there’s that. Suspenseful and darkly entertaining, though the best parts for me were Easy and his family, and the way he used his brain to outsmart police and criminal alike – it was all about Easy; seriously, I didn’t feel invested in Brawley’s fate at all.

Til the Well runs dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma dry (easily my favourite cover of the year)– the latter half of this was more interesting to me than the first which dragged some, but overall not a bad read about a single mother struggling on a Caribbean island and the sacrifices she makes for her children. In the second part of the book, she escapes the cycle when she takes up an offer to go to the US, not realizing that she was stepping out of poverty in to a kind of slavery and a desperate bid for freedom from both.

Caribella by Phillis Gershatorcaribellacover – this is really for a younger reader, a Caribbean Cinderella type story but I read it, so.

That’s the list. It doesn’t include any journals I’ve read or they’d be there too, maybe, or any books in progress or two of these, at least, would surely be on the list as well. That’s it. How about you, what are your favourite reads for the year so far?

 

Written Communication Course: Performance Reviews

After each workshop or course, I typically do evaluations asking for honest assessment from participants. Over the years of offering both creative and non-creative writing courses, I’ve received insightful reviews that have helped me to improve both content and content delivery. If the participants had a positive assessment of the experience, I add them to performance reviews (same as I do positive client reviews) hopeful that the positive word of mouth will lead to more opportunities to do what I do.

On the eve of the next round of written communication courses with Barbara Arrindell and Associates here in Antigua and Barbuda, I thought I’d share in full the most recent assessments.

What was your general motivation for taking the course?

Participant 1 – “I was motivated to pursue the course to improve my writing skills both professionally and personally.”

Participant 2 – “To learn writing outside of creative writing.”

Participant 3 – “I enjoy writing and I always wants to learn the difference styles of it.”

What were your specific goals?

Participant 1 – “1. To improve on my writing skills 2. Improve my grammar”

Participant 2 – “None”

Participant 3 – “Expression in writing but I know with practice I will reach my goals”

Have your goals been accomplished?

Participant 1 – “My goal has been accomplished through extensive practice and through completing.”

Participant 2 – “Yes”

Participant 3 – “Most goals were accomplished.”

What goals were not accomplished?

Participant 1 – “No goals were not accomplished.”

Participant 3 – “The writing of stories.”

Do you have suggestions for improvement of the course?

Participant 1 – “1. Research essay to the course 2. Increase the length of course”

Participant 2 – “I think an extra week, possibly. Homework should force the students to interact with various platforms, let it be mandatory with the only option being they choose one or two types eg: a tweet and a Facebook post or a Blog Post. Maybe creating a blog and writing a post in class could be a lesson; that wouldn’t be hard since everybody got a smartphone.”

Participant 3 – “The course should be held for at least six (6) weeks.”

Why/why not would you recommend this course to someone else?

Participant 1 – “The instructor did a Fantabulous job in making sure that questions asked were handled in eloquent and excellent fashion.”

Participant 2- “I would recommend this course because it was fun and interesting. Of course I learnt stuff, that was the point, but the manner of the learning was most important. The conversational aspect, and the classes had an organic feel pulling from not only our experiences but from what was happening in during the class.”

Participant 3 – “I would recommend this course to someone else because it is educational and our tutor is very knowledgeable and likes to be challenged.”

Do you have any general thoughts re the course not covered by the questions asked in this evaluation?

Participant 1 – “NO”

Participant 2 – “Nothing that comes to mind”

Participant 3 – “No, not at this time.”

For reviews of my writing, editing, workshop/course facilitation, and coaching services, click ‘performance reviews’, and Contact me if you either need to contract my services or wish to be put on my mailing list for future courses/workshops.

New sessions in written communication begin June 22nd and there’s still time to register: BA & A registration June 2017

Source: Performance Reviews

Beach and Books

#crossposting this one to Mailbox Monday  – the meme for sharing books that came in the Mailbox during the week.

First, Monday.

Found myself feeling a bit like the Bangles in this song

So decided to move my ‘office’ to the beach, because when you live on a Caribbean island and freelance, you can do that. And the beach was nice, as even a bad beach day is a good beach day in Antigua, and today wasn’t a bad beach day weather-wise, as evidenced by the tourists and locals out at what I had hoped would be my quiet beach retreat…sigh. Thought everyone else would be otherwhere on a Monday (silly Rabbit). I decided to track down a more off the beaten path beach only to find it much changed from what it was. Expanded for the pleasure of the tourists with bulldozers clearing land presumably for more construction (‘Development’ is the word) and though I could access it, it felt, I don’t know, not the quiet alcove I remembered and somehow…off-limits. I reject that feeling (physical fences, invisible fences) because all beaches are public beaches in Antigua and beach access mandatory.  But, today, I just wanted somewhere quiet to retreat and maybe write. Or not write as the case may be. I found a spot but that too was soon invaded and my dip in the water aside (because you know I had to immerse myself for a bit and honestly just getting to do that was worth a lot) mission beach office was a sandy bust, though the beach itself was not.

Now, books.

In my mailbox, was news from the publisher of my last book With Grace, a children’s picture book and Caribbean fairytale IMG_2491-Lockhart-1 that it has been selected as one of six summer reads for the Governor’s Challenge in the US Virgin Islands – fingers crossed that interest spreads.

In my bag, because there’s always at least one book in my bag, were the two I mentioned in the last mailbox – In Time of Need and Wide Sargasso Sea – both still in progress, through no fault of their own. But having finished Interviewing the Caribbean, I plucked another one from the shelf of unread books and that’s what I wanted to mention for my Mailbox. It’s Glorious by Bernice McFaddenGlorious. I have high expectations for this one as I largely liked her book Sugar.

Speaking of Sugar I re-watched episode 1 of OWN’s Queen Sugar and it was as good as I remembered, which begs the question, why haven’t I watched the rest of the season? I need to correct that. But seriously, as with books, so many good shows, so little time (p.s. I did finally catch Sense8 and wish I’d done so before it was cancelled. Why can’t we have nice things?).

McFadden’s Glorious, per the synopsis, is “set against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights era” and tells the story of a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer, her “tumultuous path to success, ruin, and ultimately revival”. Why am I getting Zora Neale Hurston vibes just from that description? Guess I’ll have to read to find out.

Blogger on Books V

I kicked off a new chapter in the Blogger on Book series (chapter V) with this rec of the December 2016 edition of Interviewing the Caribbean because, at 169 pages, it’s a solid read and because it’s what I finished this week/end. See the link below.

Excerpt:

“We weave ourselves
away from the parade.
I reach for your hand
but we have yet
to escape our fears.”

In the good book news category this week, while I’m here, my teen/young adult novel Musical Youth (a Burt award finalist) has made its way on to another schools reading list and my children’s picture book With Grace has been selected for the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge in the US Virgin Islands.

This week has had its challenges (what week doesn’t if you’re living, right?) but like the theme song of a certain show from my childhood says “you take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both, and there you have the facts of life”. And with this double book news – plus me finishing another readIC (remember to check the link/source below for my rec) – AND me getting to see one of my nephews hit a major milestone (secondary school/high school graduation), everything may not be everything, but all things considered, it wasn’t a bad week at all.

Wishing every one a good week, especially the fathers – like my brother and my dad –  who show up for their kids every day not just on days like Father’s Day or not at all.

Making this my Sunday Post and my Sunday Salon.

Source: Blogger on Books V

With Grace Selected for the Virgin Islands Summer Read Challenge

Images from the launch of the GSRC 2017 at Lockhart Elementary School on St. Thomas.

My latest book – the children’s picture book and Caribbean fairytale, With Grace – has been selected for 9th Annual Virgin Islands Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge. It is one of six titles among this year’s picks for the programme, which exclusively spotlights books by Virgin Island and Caribbean authors. As explained in The St. Thomas Source , “The annual activity challenges students from kindergarten to sixth grade to read five or more books during the summer months in an effort to boost students’ literacy. The national initiative enjoys participation from governors of all 50 states and territories… students receive a packet containing two books, tracking sheets and a letter offering motivational words from the governor.”

Mario Picayo, who heads Little Bell Caribbean, also the publisher of With Grace, indicated that the book which has an Antiguan author (me, Joanne C. Hillhouse) and a Barbadian illustrator (Cherise Harris) was presented for consideration for the programme to Commissioner of Education, Dr. Sharon A McCollum, and the superintendents “read it, loved the book”.  A special edition of With Grace, including on the cover a golden seal that says “Compliments of Governor Kenneth E. Mapp 2017 Virgin Islands Department of Education”, has been presented to 4th and 5th graders in the Territory.

with-grace
Other books picked for summer 2017 are Spider in the Rain by Phillis Gershator, When I grow up by Rick Grant, When the Trees come Alive by Zayd Saleem, Close to Nature: Sea Turtles of the Virgin Islands (part of the Caribbean Natural History series and featuring images by photographers from the Virgin Islands), and B is for Benye: a Virgin Islands Historical and Cultural A-Z Book by Charlene Blake-Pemberton. With Grace tells the story of what happens when “Grace, of Grace’s Peak, who loves her home above the village, with its lush trees full of ripe fruits, all except one, agrees to a deal with a barefoot girl from the village. She ‘generously’ allows the girl to pick from her stingiest of trees, and the girl’s kind, loving heart and sweet special song makes the impossible happen, changing life at Grace’s Peak forever.”

As the author of With Grace, I am delighted at this development and hope With Grace continues to find its way in to the hands of children across the Caribbean and around the world.

I hope you’ll help me share this exciting news.

Here’s a video link about the 2017 Challenge: 

Do you have a summer read programme in your community? If so, With Grace and the other picks on this list are options worth considering.

Read more about my other books here.

Mailbox Monday Book Check

I’m doing a Mailbox Monday in spite of not having acquired any new books because I finished and posted BIM 8  and plucked another one from my to-read shelf. TimeIn Time of Need by Shakirah Bourne hooked me quick with its humour – humour rooted in the Caribbean but made universal through a child’s unique and often half-informed perspective on the big people business taking place around him. That’s only the first story in this short story collection though, so I’ll see how it goes.

Also started after finishing Closure  and Go de Rass to Sleep a week or so ago (also from that now two books lighter shelf) Wide Sargasso SeaSargasso.  Wide Sargasso Sea is one of those classics of Caribbean literature (a counter-point to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre) that every one (everyone who reads Caribbean lit, world lit, or women’s lit – whatever any of that means – anyway) claims to have read, and many have. I know the story over and over, I’ve read other books by Jean Rhys (originally from Dominica) such as After Leaving Mr. McKenzie <–which I reviewed some time ago, but Wide Sargasso Sea fell in to the realm of books I know without quite knowing how I know them, without having a visceral memory of having read them. So, here I go.

Other books in progress (Black Rose, All the Joy You Can Stand, and others) remain in progress but I did celebrate hitting my 10 book mark (a small number for others in the book blogging community but I have my own goals) by checking to see if the library had any of some of the books on my wish list. That’s a yes to Jamaica Kincaid’s See Now Then so I may check that out next; to be continued…

It comes down to time now, doesn’t it? It remains a scarce commodity for this writer #onthehustle  but reading will always have a space in the schedule, as, among other things, it feeds the writing (as I reminded a coaching client this past week). I got some writing done this morning – most delightfully – on the ever-long work in progress; so, progress! Pain still dogs me but reading and writing, and the view from my back porch offers some relief.

As for what’s on this summer, sagustocox at Mailbox Monday, the same thing that’s on every summer on my island, Carnival.
Can’t wait.

Also sharing to It’s Monday, what are you reading? … so yeah, it’s Monday where you are or will be again, what are you reading?