Homework

I’ve re-ordered the ‘media’ page for, hopefully, easier sourcing of information. I cycle in and out of floods of student requests for information (February and November are peak periods here in Antigua, though March has been epic this year as well). And while I am grateful that my books are being read and studied, responding to each individual request for information is not practical or possible. This year especially so. Also, not everyone comes right or respects boundaries.

I cannot lay my bedgrass bare – some information is personal – and I only ever wanted to talk through my books, but this is my home on the web, pull from this space what you can. That means, students, you have to dig around and do the research (hitting up the author on social media is not doing the research). I have tried to better preview the links on the media page and there is a search tool to your right, as well.

I do want to try to help how I can, which is why I’ve taken the time to clean up the media page and improve the links. Because, in light of the recent tide and the tone of some of the approaches, I have had to adopt a policy of no longer responding to individual student information requests. That’s how it has to be right now.

I do remain grateful for any interest in my work and I will continue to put my energies in to producing better and more work.

Go here for those media links.

Reviews – With Grace

Readers who take the time to post a book review via whatever social media they use, make a world of difference by helping especially little known authors, authors trying to break through, authors without the name/status/backing to attract big media and big reviewer attention, ripple the waters. By letting others in your social media circle and beyond (if you post reviews on amazon, goodreads, and literary community spaces) know if you liked a book and, if so, what you liked about it, you can potentially get another reader interested and on like that. Also, while every author knows there’s no guarantee of a positive review, it’s often interesting to read how people react and what they react to, and why, in something you’ve written. And by interesting I mean nerve-wracking, but also exciting and potentially affirming.  These are some of the reasons I take the time to post about books I’ve read or books I’m currently reading, plus I just like talking books.

With With Grace, my Caribbean fairytale, my most heartwarming reactions have been the relayed reactions of the children and the reactions of the children in us all.

So far, the faerie is a favourite among the little ones.

Respect to all the readers and thanks especially to the readers who help more people become aware of the books by taking the time to pass it on. Click the link to see what they’ve been saying —> Reviews – With Grace

Blogger on Books IV

I’m making this my post for the Sunday Post Weekly meme. Only my second time participating. So what’s new? Mangoes started coming in and mango season is always a happy season, whatever else is going on in the world (or, more specifically, my world). And I finished Edward P. Jones’ The Known World. I finished it right around the time I got to see Jordan Peele’s Get Out, a life syncing up moment if ever there was one. I recommend both the book and the film, both are in their way entertaining and compelling, dealing in different times and coming from different angles, but both centering race (both, without preaching, making us uncomfortable in interesting ways; uncomfortable’s not a bad thing if it gets us thinking on things and moves the needle). I might do a separate post on the movie but I’ve already posted on the book. It’s the latest addition to my Blogger on Books series – follow the link –> Blogger on Books IV

Too Strange – Another Prompt Response

I’m not loving this one; it’s too Stranger Things for me and too much like some of my other prompt responses. But I did tell myself if I did these writing prompts I’d share what I wrote. So…here’s my response to Random_Michelle’s latest photo fiction challenge. Previous prompt responses can be found by using the search feature on this site; many of them are much better than this, I promise.

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Little Red was a girl who fell victim to a wolf attack. That’s not the story her grandmother told. We all need our fairytales to cope.

Big Red hears the anguished cries as the community she’s tied to searches the woods for a missing girl. Pain has a way of bleeding through realities. Big Red knows pain is catching; she’s never been sick but has felt ripples of things felt by her twin. Or used to, before Little Red died. That residual pain would have been preferable to being alone these 20 years.

Big Red squints through the veil and sees the girl where she is caught in a wolf trap, one of many that have dotted this woodscape like landmines since Little Red got eaten.

She wants to keep the girl for herself and does for a time after freeing her from the trap. The girl will always have a slight limp but with love and care and some suru leaf, she heals. When she cries for her mommy, Big Red sings her lullabyes Little Red’s grandmother used to sing after everything happened and she went mad.

She hopes the girl will forget. But she doesn’t. As she grows, she searches obsessively for rips in the curtain around their world. She is thirteen when she finds one she can squeeze through. It’s been six years since she left.

Her mother holds too tight to her and all the villagers look at her like she is a miracle. At night, when it’s really quiet, they hear anguished cries that set the wolves mourning in reply. After a time, the adventure becomes a memory but the girl, even as an old woman, sometimes wakes up damp and afraid, from nightmares of a woman in red stealing her away.

Reading: a Tool for Life

“Plenty reading gives you knowledge. People can’t fool you easily. Because you can read and you can spell and you can write” – Something my mom said. And she’s not lying; the ability to read is its own kind of access and power to the world.

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Yes, access and power to the whole world.

It’s a privilege not everyone has due to limited resources or other inhibiting factors. But provided you have access to education (as we do free public education at the primary and secondary level in Antigua and Barbuda albeit with inhibiting factors like overcrowding and limited resources) and access to reading material (whether online or actual via the computer labs and school and public libraries provided albeit with inhibiting factors like, well, access), and reading programmes like the Cushion Club (which exists just to encourage children to read), then read, read, read.

Let your children see you reading, give books as gifts, read with your kids, read to your kids, read to help your kids if they’re struggling, read until you see their confidence and interest start to grow as they start to get it, read and have conversations about what they’ve read as they begin to discover how they think about things, read and know that for some reading may never become their go-to hobby but that’s okay. It’s the foundation. Even if science is their jam, because to ace that math, chem, or biology exam, they have to be able to read the instructions. The need and impulse to read is all around us from billboards as we drive along to the cheque from the job and the ATM where it has to be deposited reading is integral as we move through the world.

Reading for me isn’t strictly practical though. Though I do instinctively read (and edit, in my head) a lot of those street signs and billboards (seriously, hire a proofreader at least, guys) as I walk or drive along. Anyone who knows me knows I always have a book with me (in fact, to the person that came up to me that time on a street corner and said, “you always have a book?” yes, yes, I do). I read them on the bus (and try to restrain from reading when I’m walking or driving), I read them in line at the bank and at the APUA (where you can literally feel like you’re dying from how sluggishly the line is moving), I read while I wait for the concert to start (I’ve never read at the movies though, so I guess that’s somewhere). I read because the story sweet and I want to find out how it’s going to turn out, I read because reading and writing is my jam; I also read to travel. And that’s the gift you give your kid the first time you give them a book, a ticket to some other place from where they are – with children’s books that’s usually magical places, where they might run in to a faerie as the main character does in my book With Grace but real places too, places they may some day visit. They can get that from movies? I hear you and I’m not here to knock movies because I love them too. But what you’re doing when you allow them to unlock the worlds they read about by using their imagination, is lighting a creative spark in them. They’ll need that. Creative thinking, critical thinking are the underpinning of problem solving, and tell me that’s not a skill for life whether you’re a stay-at-home dad or a world leader. So called ‘creative industries’ ought not to be the only spaces where creative and critical thinking are valued.

Critical thinking also allows us to call BS on stuff when we see it (which I think is what my mother was hitting at: when you can read-and comprehend, nobody can give you a six for a nine) because it engenders both a curious and a self-questioning mind – the impulse to always know why/how come  and the instinct to look it up for yourself. And in time, the discernment needed to pick sense from nonsense.

I did a post on my personal facebook recently encouraging teachers when they give students research projects to encourage them to use the opportunity to develop research skills – not just hit the person up on social media or the phone. Going to the source is a legit research method  but the source may be too busy to respond to each individual query – especially if it’s a small community and those inquiries cycle in waves. Many of these kids, kids young as 9, can find GTA online and have enough sense to say GTA instead of Grand Theft Auto when you ask them what they’re playing (to make sure they’re not playing something they shouldn’t be), they’ve got google-fu…and that device so many of them have in their hands means that they have access to google to use that fu. Sure, they might hit a point where there’s something they can’t find without primary research (i.e. interviewing the source), but (given that it’s not always possible and in fact very rare to be able to access a source when doing research), those DIY research skills can be invaluable in tracking down the desired information. And that’s where reading comes in.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some really sharp people who can’t read or can’t read well – I know people like this, whose counsel I respect. But in this life we need all the tools we can get and bottom line, reading is a tool for life – a practical tool, a tool of the imagination, a research tool; we’d be advised to gift it to our kids, encourage them to keep it polished and use it well.

 

THE IMAGES in the slide show are mostly (though not all) images taken by me over the years – some are reading club related (the Cushion Club and the one at the Best of Books), some from the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival (when it was still around), some from school visits, etc. etc. etc. Ask before lifting.