Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Snowman, anyone?

My granddaughter's computer generated art at 6 years of age. Just recently recovered it from my old geocities page. Think I will write an accompanying story. At the time she said it was a snowman melting in Jamaica. Hmm! Hope she doesn't read this page. She's turning into an accomplished artist, so this would embarrass her no end. But, I love it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Who are we writing for?

This is a question I have asked before. When you are writing from a small country with specific cultural differences to the world’s leading countries, who are you writing for? Your own children or all the children of the world? A tutor once told me ­– when you write for everybody, you write for nobody.

Eventually, I interpreted that to mean, write from the heart about the things you know and feel and share with your own people. Write out of your culture for your culture. If your work is true, others will come to appreciate it, even if the gatekeepers try to keep you out.

As I like to tell my writing class, and this is my own viewpoint, when Bob Marley and his cronies started writing songs about the things they knew and felt, I don’t think they sat around saying  — ‘them gwine love this one in Germany or Japan. This one will wow them in England.‘  I suspect that if they had passed the lyrics of some of the songs by the international gatekeepers they would have been scoffed at – Who in the rest of the world wants to hear about cooking cornmeal porridge in a government yard in Trench Town? Of course, songs have the additional benefit of the music and the singer’s voice and personality to convince and woo, but the principle is the same. They were writing/composing out of their own experiences.

So, should we be unduly worried about the voices from abroad who say our writing and illustration styles are too ‘different’? Our language and illustrations too parochial? The work won’t attract anybody abroad, including our own migrant population ( who now judge us by 'big' world standards) OR, should we continue to write for our children, illustrate for our children, interpret even other people’s realities from our own unique way of looking at things, from our own experiences and most of all from our hearts. We don’t dance like North Americans. Our music is identifiably Caribbean, so too is our cuisine.. Shouldn’t our writing and art be also? Does this make our books inferior?

I don’t think any of our writers, at this point, especially the writers of children’s stories in the Caribbean, expect any of the great financial returns that being ‘accepted’ by the ‘big’ countries might bring. So what are our rewards?

For me, it is reading for a group of youngsters and watching them get excited as the story expands their imagination and reveals things about themselves and their environment they might never have thought of.

I once watched a little boy about eight years old sitting before me with his eyes literally opening wider and wider as the story drew him in and filled his mind with new possibilities. On another occasion, it was a mother saying that her daughter would not go to bed until she had finished reading one of my books. Fortunately, it was not a very long one.

So, to come back to my initial question - who are we (who should we be) writing for? My answer is — our own children. The rest of the world writes for theirs, who will write and illustrate for ours if not us?


Thursday, September 15, 2011


My very good friend and fellow writer of children's stories Diane Browne won
the special prize for children's story in the commonwealth short story competition 2011.
Congrats Diane. It's well deserved the story can be read here Diane's story

Diane Browne


Monday, September 5, 2011

Boys again!!

I hope this link to the New York Times article stays available for some time

Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?By ROBERT LIPSYTE Published: August 19, 2011 

Boys don't like to read

“The important question is why aren’t boys reading the good books being published?” 

As you will see in the article, there are several answers to this question

"Boys gravitate toward nonfiction. Schools favor classics over contemporary fiction to satisfy testing standards and avoid challenges from parents. And teachers don’t always know what’s out there for boys."


"Boys don’t have enough positive male role models for literacy. Because the majority of adults involved in kids’ reading are women, boys might not see reading as a masculine activity.”

"Schools favor classics over contemporary fiction to satisfy testing standards and avoid challenges from parents"  Should we be asking  -  What is wrong with contemporary fiction to make teachers nervous about recommendations?

Positive male role models  -: When was the last time you saw a man walking with a novel he intended to read at the first available spare time? If you did, chances are he was a lecturer; or a student forced to read a novel to pass a course. Even the reading of newspapers in the home might soon be a scarce sight as many subscribe to online news instead of an actual paper.

Boys gravitate towards non-fiction.  This suggests that boys are reading, but not fiction.
In my own experience with my grandsons, this is true. Both are good readers but decidedly prefer non-fiction. I have tried to get them to explain why this is so, but they can't give a coherent answer. Just that non-fiction is more interesting. So perhaps what we should be looking at is subject matter.

Boys prefer action  and are less inclined to read books which emphasize feelings - what my elder grandson calls  "chick books". He was curious about Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, because so many of the teenage girls at his school were walking around reading it at the slightest opportunity. He took a look at it and was quite puzzled. What is so interesting? he wondered. I, being female, couldn't explain it so that it made sense to him.

So, another challenge might be that so many of the writers today are female and we are not producing the sort of fiction that will attract male readers. Is it worth the while for our female writers to research the areas which would attract boys and use these in their fiction? Seems we wouldn't lose our female readers since it is generally agreed that whereas boys do not want to read "chick books" girls will read any interesting story - boy or girl oriented.

Another question we have to settle is why is it so important for boys to be reading fiction. if there is enough non-fiction available isn't it enough that they are reading these?

I really would like to see a Caribbean discussion on these ideas.

As to teachers not always knowing what is available for boys - I don't know who is responsible for that.
Here are a few  recent titles (some not so recent) from Jamaica featuring boy protagonists or situations which might attract boys  from the 8-12 age group. And there are more