CREATIVE SPACE #3 of 2021 (uploaded February 3rd 2021)
CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and ran to 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It continues to expand across other media platforms (which can be viewed on AntiguanWriter on YouTube). CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on February 3rd 2021 in the Daily Observer: CS DO Our Books Our Voices Our Bestsellers
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with extras (which this week includes a video link to the full #BookChat).
If you would like to be featured or to sponsor (i.e. advertise with) a future installment of the jhohadli.wordpress.com online edition of CREATIVE SPACE and/or CREATIVE SPACE on YouTube, BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne.
CREATIVE SPACE: #OurBooks #OurVoices #OurBestsellers
There’s so much more book content from local wordsmiths than when I started writing or even publishing. So much more than some might expect from such A Small Place (shout out pioneering author from Antigua-Barbuda: Jamaica Kincaid). As I prepped the post of 50+ books for the #readAntiguaBarbuda initiative, inviting readers to vote for their favourite local books of the last year or so, on the Wadadli Pen blog, I was curious about which books were the top sellers. So I asked a local bookseller.
I regret that this conversation, held recently with Best of Books manager and newly published author (Turtle Beach, part of the Collins Big Cat series of children’s books) Barbara Arrindell, is limited to the domestic sales market, which omits the online activity related to books by Antiguans and Barbudans, and there is a lot happening online. But this was very focused on Arrindell’s sense of 2020 bestsellers from Antigua and Barbuda from the perspective of being one of our top local book retailers. For a fuller picture, be sure to check out #readAntiguaBarbuda 2021 on Wadadli Pen and be sure to vote for your favourite local read of 2020.
The market shows that local readers favour non-fiction books, different types. From the inspirational true stories (Broken to Blessed: My Life Story by Jo-Ann Merene Carr and The Lemon Tree: Surviving Miscarriage and Other Things We Don’t Discuss by T. Lerisa Simon ) to Anthea S. Thomas’ series of social studies workbooks, issued independently before being picked up by an international publisher, and in classrooms in Antigua and Barbuda hot off the presses , to several cultural and historical tomes (The Way We Talk by Joy Lawrence , To Shoot Hard Labour by Keithlyn and Fernando Smith, an old favourite receiving a boost from featuring in the Voice of the People summer book club , and Plantations of Antigua by Agnes Meeker ) to the bestselling cook book from Antigua and Barbuda, Cooking Magic. “It sells to everybody,” Arrindell said, meaning locals, visitors, and visiting nationals. “Those same people who come and buy The Way We Talk for their children, they want their children to know how to make ducana and saltfish…and so that book will always sell,” said Arrindell, while noting though that it is past due for an upgrade in step with the more visually appealing cook books on the shelves.
Readers are definitely, based on sales, finding particularly appealing The Comeback Kid, the autobiography of former prime minister and designated national hero Lester Bird . About which Arrindell said, whatever your politics, “he’s a person of interest.” Bird is the former leader of the Antigua Labour Party. “He’s someone that people actually want to know who he is, a little bit about his story, and, you know, of course, someone like Mr. Bird will also bring us some level of controversy.” And, of course, controversy sells books. Beyond that, though, she credited the general interest in “a person who led the country and someone who was an athlete…(and) one of the better speakers that Antigua has ever produced.”
Arrindell also credits timing. Both The Comeback Kid and business bestseller Joan Underwood’s primer on professional development Managers’ First Aid Kit , benefited, she believes, from launching near the end of the year, just before Christmas. That seasonal boost carried over in to the new year. 2019 to 2020 in the case of The Comeback Kid, a collaboration with Lionel Max Hurst, and 2020 to 2021 in the case of the other former ambassador, Underwood, about whom Arrindell said, “I believe she’s worked with enough business places and people for people to trust her and know that what she has to say is probably something worth reading, worth listening to.”
Children’s (and teen) fiction is the other big category. Arrindell highlights my own books Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and Musical Youth , her Antigua My Antigua with illustrator Edison Liburd ,
and Little Rude Boys and Girls , written by an Antiguan youth, Deshawn J. Browne, and published by Antiguan and Barbudan Dr. Noel Howell. This book (interestingly has covers in Black and white – “perhaps they have different covers for different markets,” Arrindell speculates – and that’s a whole complicated discussion of which we only scratched the surface). Something she said about the popularity of the cultural and historical books seems as applicable here. “People are always interested and even more so now, we’re becoming more aware, I think, of who we are of the importance of knowing ourselves and knowing where we come from.” That hunger for #ownvoices stories permeates both fiction and non-fiction.
Point in fact, Thomas’ educational books may have been the first domino in a regional series. “There’s going to be another series similar to this being done for Antigua and Barbuda…,” Arrindell teased. “(And) the social studies books might become the base for books used in our neighbouring islands.”
I think we may be turning the page on the always fallacious narrative of us not being a reading public.
Other Arrindell quotes from the interview
Re non-fiction inspirational bestsellers…
“It seems to be a little bit different than years gone by…there was a time when people brought in inspirational books and they often sat there on the shelf. We have, I think, a whole different level of quality and also people who are understanding the importance of pushing their work as well….(and telling stories of their lives) to inspire people in other ways, to actually give some level of advice and without preaching.”
Re political bestseller…
“I think that he (Lester Bird) has in his own right done enough in Antigua and Barbuda that people want to know more about him.”
Re business bestseller …
“Of course, Joan (Underwood) is a pretty well-known person, also a political figure in her own right… she is also a well-known lecturer and she lectures with the University of the West Indies and she does her own work privately.”
Re cultural bestseller…
(Joy Lawrence’s The Way We Talk) “There’s more in her books than simply the words, there’s an explanation about certain things that we do…Joy’s books in general continue to sell but that one in particular.”
Re educational bestseller…
(Anthea S. Thomas’ Primary Social Studies for Antigua and Barbuda series of books) “The publisher got the buy-in even before they produced them because these books are exclusively for Antigua (and Barbuda). It means then that thousands of them are being printed; so there was the need to ensure that they were in fact going to be accepted and wanted here.”
Re history bestseller…
(Agnes Meeker’s Plantations of Antigua three volumes, so far) “I know that it sells very well at the Museum. Agnes did a launch for the first set of books…she sold out almost instantly on that launch night and they continue to sell very well…This is something documenting a bit of our past…and it’s really good, in fact that Agnes has documented this because what we do with writing like that is that the information is there but someone has to do the tedious work of pulling it all together and she’s done that for us now and so it’s there for future generations…somebody else will build on that to find information for other things because that history is there.”
Re culinary bestseller…
“Cooking Magic continues to sell, once we have it in the store …when a person visits another country, a cook book is something that’s an easy gift to take back with you, whether for a gift for yourself or something you’re gonna share with somebody else. And so our guests, our visitors, our tourists, they come and they collect it.…and so that book will always sell. One of the issues right now is I’m seeing people a little bit reluctant because it’s not the most modern looking cook book….although people still buy it, I see the hesitation, cause many people have said I want to know what it should look like, especially the tourist.”
Re teen/young adult bestseller…
(Joanne C. Hillhouse’s Musical Youth) “Once the second edition came out, it seems as though a lot of young people thought it was part two…and we had to disappoint them and say no it’s the same book…many of them said they read it in school…and they wanted to come and find out what happened to these people in the book, they wanted part two.”
Re Children’s lit bestsellers…
“Lost! is something that I’ve found that people are picking up as a gift item locally for children…not that many are selling of the Spanish edition here but they are selling as well.”
“Antigua My Antigua, I am disappointed it’s not purchased more here maybe even schools and that sort of thing cause I thought it was a great social studies book for you know the little children to get to know our island…I’ve found that it’s actually a favorite again among visitors leaving. Because think about it, when you go on vacation, the one person you have to take back a gift for is the little person in your life and Antigua My Antigua tells the little person about your vacation and so they buy it, I think, for that reason.”
Little Rude Boys Girls: “This book 10 years later to me seems to be getting a better response than it did in the beginning…it sold then, no doubt about it, but now it’s selling simply by being on the shelf.”
Re new book Turtle Beach
“She (illustrator Zavian Archibald) took my thoughts and she somehow created almost exactly what I had in my head…it’s everything I would have wanted it to be, the people look like they’re our people…there are times when I’ve seen some book and the people looked perhaps how other people think we look.”
Watch and listen to our full discussion on YouTube.
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