Friday, May 11, 2012

They have assembled....

With all this talk and fuss over Avengers, I have assembled (get it?) all my previous blog posts on some of Marvel's past movies. They're doing very well for themselves, and being a Marvel girl myself, I am quite pleased. I am curious to see how these guys will stand up to the concentrated volcano of anticipation which will erupt when The Dark Knight Rises hits theatres soon. It will be interesting to see. I like Avengers myself, and I'll probably take some time to post some thoughts about it. Soon my friends....

  • Hmmmm I sure talk about Robert Downey Jr a lot don't I?
  • I  realize I never wrote a post about Captain America which surprised me very much because I thought that I would be underwhelmed by it. I must talk more about the surprising effects of Steve Rogers and Chris Evans sometime soon.
  • I didn't write about Thor either, but that movie was fun. 
Anyway feel free to post below about what you think of Avengers or anything Avengers related. Do you think The Dark Knight Rises will outstrip this movie in quality and the number of people who go to see it? Comment on any of my previous blogs if you wish. Let's share. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I still miss you!

I can't believe that over a year has passed by since prolific author passed away. Fellow author Robin McKinley went to her memorial service, and wrote this lovely post on it. diana Mrs Jones seems to have been a great friend to many famous authors: Neil Gaiman for instance. She was clearly loved and cherished by many of them. Here is the post I wrote upon her death. Many Worlds Have Come Crashing Down

Friday, April 6, 2012

Author Aarti Gosine finds success in the Magic Cave

I’ve decided to tap into some of the resources I’ve found among my friends and colleagues.  What could inspire a struggling author more than another author who managed to get published? We all have writers who inspire us: they are often the people who got us thinking about writing in the first place.  Trinidadian writers need added sources of motivation though as it is very difficult to get published in the first place. One of my online friends managed to overcome this difficulty though, and she graciously agreed to do a short interview for my blog. I’m hoping I’ll be able to feature a few more Trinidadian writers here.  If anyone knows of people who would be interested, please let me know.
Now on to the show….

Aarti Gosine was born and raised on the same island where I’m from: Trinidad and Tobago. She attended McBean Hindu Primary School then Naparima Girls’ High School. She went on to complete a BSc in Chemistry and Management at UWI and last year I completed my MBA via distance learning from the Edinburgh School of Business, Heriot Watt University, Scotland.

She’s worked as an administrative officer. She’s been a sales auditor at our local wholesale supermarket and she moved up to Assistant Fresh Food Buyer. Currently she’s the Managing Director of her own company JAV Publishing House Ltd.

She published two children’s books in 2011: The Magic Cave and More Adventures in the Magic Cave.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing when I was about 8 years old. I would write short stories and my dad would send them to the Junior Express.

What’s the hardest part about writing for you?

The hardest part is actually getting through the beginning in a properly structured way because I am so anxious to get to the story. Once that part is over, the rest just flows.

What do you love the most about writing?

What I love most about writing is the ability to dream and to be creative. You can write about almost anything, the supernatural, historical times, mythology and fantasy. You can also make up your own characters and worlds.

What book would you recommend to just about anyone?

I read so much that this is a hard one. For children I would definitely recommend the Harry Potter series. I think these books marked a definite point in reading history. Before HP, there was Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys etc and kids were getting bored of these. HP provided them with a whole different avenue for their imagination and encouraged them, and some adults, to start reading again.

One book that I would recommend for adults is a book called A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. It is a huge book with over 1400 pages but well worth the read. This is a synopsis of the book, Vikram Seth's novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find -- through love or through exacting maternal appraisal -- a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.”

You’re a writer from Trinidad who’s managed to get published.  This is not easy for Caribbean writers. What do you think has helped you achieve this?

Actually I consider myself a self-published writer because of the fact that the books were published by my publishing house. I have been lucky in that our textbooks have been somewhat successful and so this money could have been used to publish our fiction works. It is our hope at JAV Publishing House that as we continue to grow we could look into publishing other authors.

What advice would you give a writer in Trinidad who wants to get published?

Most, if not all, of the publishing houses in Trinidad, produce work mainly for the textbook / school market as this is the more lucrative market. It is very, very hard for a writer to find a publisher here for works of fiction. Many publishers will only take a chance with a writer who is already established. My advice for up and coming writers is to not limit yourself by looking for a traditional publisher. Many successful writers internationally started off as self-published writers. There are many forums out there for self-publishing. You can publish on Kindle and Create Space, two Amazon platforms, for free. There is also Smashwords which is where Amanda Hocking made millions before a traditional publishing house bought the rights to her books.  If you are going this route however be aware that you will have to do all the marketing and publicity yourself which means you have to get in the public eye. It would be advisable to have a presence on FB, Twitter and other social networks. Also try to network with persons who can give you publicity like NALIS* and the media.

You mentioned that publishers here usually publish textbooks because they are more lucrative. Do you have any insight as to why this is so? Why aren't books by local authors a lucrative investment?

The textbook market is more lucrative because schools can buy thousands of copies of a particular book every year from a publisher. The publisher makes more profit from textbooks than from fiction writing because it is dependent on the public to buy them. A lot of marketing has to be done by the publisher to sell fiction and it may not be cost effective.

Your books are in the fantasy genre.  What drew you to this? Is it the genre you prefer? Do you like other genres?

During my creative writing tutoring sessions, I realized that the kids were hardly reading and so I tried to produce something that would draw them to the books. When I was young, I enjoyed Enid Blyton and this was the inspiration for The Magic Cave and More Adventures In The Magic Cave. I can’t say it’s the genre that I prefer, but I do enjoy it because it allows you to use your imagination and become very creative. I would like to do something for Young Adults but that may also be in the supernatural area and also something historical and more literary.

Some writers need to create some atmosphere before they write e.g. sit in an air conditioned room, writing long hand, disconnect the Internet etc Do you have a writing ritual?

I don’t think I have a routine, but I write when inspiration comes. If I could, I like writing in early mornings from about 5 am. I don’t write long hand but directly on the computer, but I always have a notebook handy to jot down ideas.

Do you have any other books in development? What are you planning to do next?

I am working on the third installment in The Magic Cave series.

At Crossroads of the Imagination, we talk about what inspires us. What authors inspire you (and maybe make you feel a little jealous because you are awed by their talent?)

I know many writers would say this but JK Rowling is a real inspiration for me. Her life story of where she came from and how she got to where she is really helps me to keep pressing on. Another author I admire is Amanda Hocking because she is a successful self-published author so I know it can be done.

Find out more about Aarti’s books at her company’s website: and on their Facebook page JAV Publishing.

(Hope you all liked my first author interview. I hope to do more of local authors. Don't forget to post below and let me know what you think, and if you have suggestions of people I should talk to, I'd love to hear them as well !)

*The National Library and Information System Authority

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Let's go Through the Looking Glass on World Poetry Day!

Today is World Poetry Day and therefore a great time to reflect on poetry and its impact on our lives. Apparently the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) created the day " support poetry, return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, promote teaching poetry, restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music, painting and so on, support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art but one." I'm all in favour of that! I am beginning to find more and more that the right poems speak to me, and I'm working to incorporate them more in my creative journey. 

One of the best ways to enjoy poetry is like the best way to enjoy Shakespeare i.e. listen to it being read out loud. Below find a poem read by Benedict Cumberbatch, one of the trendy new actors out there who is appearing in some exciting new projects, one of them being the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit movies. Cumberbatch has a thrilling voice, so I have no doubt he'll do a great job. He's reading Lewis Carroll's nonsense adventure poem "The Jabberwocky" which I've always enjoyed. It's from the second Alice in Wonderland book "Through the Looking Glass". As Alice said, "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don't exactly know what they are!"

Let me know what you think of Cumberbatch's reading in the comments. Do any poems stir you? Let me know so I can check them out. Let me know if there are recordings I should check out. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

7 Great Reasons to "Like" the Belleworks Facebook Page

I've recently set up my Facebook page for my freelance writing business. I'd love you to take a look at it and "Like" my page:

Those of you who are writers or looking to get into writing for fun, profit or both might get a lot out of my page for many good reasons which might appeal to you.

1) I post lots of writing tips. I follow a lot of great resources on my Twitter page. (You might want to follow me there too:!/belleworks) As an aspiring author myself, I'm always looking out for useful advice on structuring a novel, developing characters, avoiding typical mistakes or marketing a book or blog. I post lots of these on my Facebook page - free of charge!.

2) If you have questions about grammar or punctuation I'll answer them. I taught and tutored grammar to university students for a long time, and I do a lot of editing in my day to day work, so this is an area of expertise for me. If you have grammar or punctuation questions, feel free to ask me. If I don't know the answer myself, I'll scour the Internet and try and find you one.

3) I post about writing opportunities too. Remember those resources I mentioned? I see lots of opportunities for writers eg Nanowrimo, writing competitions, free ebooks.  Added bonus: As a Caribbean writer, I'm always on the look out for opportunities which would be of interest to me, and I know Caribbean authors out there are aware that chances like that are sometimes a bit rare. I give anything related to our interests top priority.

4) I promote blogs of interest. There are so many good blogs out there. I'll be spotlighting some of the good ones. I also want to promote blogs of the people who like my page, so I encourage anyone who follows the page to link their blog, so I can promote it to everyone else.

5) It's a place to meet other writers.  It's always good to be able to interact with other writers and bloggers out there. It's a good chance to have discussions and ask questions, and I hope a lot of that will be going on.

6) It's a good place to find out if I can be of service to you. I'm a freelance writer/editor, and this page is also my showcase for the kind of work I can do for you or your business. Be sure to check me out and see if I can help.

7) I'll be working to improve this page all the time! So if you have writing related ideas or suggestions of what you want to see there, let me know, and I'll incorporate them if I can. Post ideas below if you have them.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Forever is a boy and his tiger....

Classic Calvin and Hobbes scenario
Every now and then I get an attack of missing Calvin and Hobbes. I can’t believe that this strip has been retired for fifteen years. I still wish I could open the pages of the newspaper and find adventures featuring Calvin and his best buddy arguing, playing and philosophizing: doing their thing. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this strip, and if you disagreed with me and proclaimed that you don't I would just assume you don't like comic strips in general.

I think my main reason for adoring it is because the strip’s creator Bill Watterson is a genius. I know people often use that word carelessly, but it is the strongest descriptor I have to represent my feelings for this man. Different people may have different views of what genius is but Bill Watterson often made me believe I was witnessing it in his work. My reasons? Watterson was able to take the deceptively simple life of a six year old and present complex messages in a way which were not obtrusive and obvious and which rang true whenever you read them.

You know sometimes, you see something clever, and you think, “I could have thought of that myself, but it is very good.” For me with Watterson I was more likely to think, “How did he possibly come up with that?” His ideas were amazing, and I felt awed and humbled when I saw them because I felt I could never have come up with a similar concept or present them humourously, not if I thought for a decade. Aren’t we supposed to be awed in the presence of genius? I know I often was.

Maybe Bill Watterson had trouble with his creation after all.
I also liked that Watterson firmly eschewed commercialism. Calvin often displayed the traits about commercialism that Mr. Watterson deplored. However, one fascinating aspect of this element of Mr. Watterson’s philosophy was that he lived the viewpoint he preached! (And we all know that this is not a common thing!) If you’ve ever wanted to buy a Calvin and Hobbes shirt, video game, toilet paper holder or cell phone cover, you will be unable to find anything official. Why not you ask? It’s because Bill Watterson did not appreciate how commercialism can cheapen a product, and he decided against it, and years later he’s stuck to his word! Like most geniuses, he expressed himself more succinctly than I.
"Actually, I wasn't against all merchandising when I started the strip, but each product I considered seemed to violate the spirit of the strip, contradict its message, and take me away from the work I loved. If my syndicate had let it go at that, the decision would have taken maybe 30 seconds of my life."

While doing research for this post, I noticed that some people seemed to take issue with Watterson for making this decision, but I cannot fault him. While some people grumble now, quite a few I suspect would have been on his case about “selling out”. I find I have to admire someone who sticks to their principles, principles with noble motivations on top of that. I cannot grumble about that.

Of course, my real initial adoration for Watterson arises from his most popular creation. We all know them and love them.

No one is safe from Calvin
Calvin – a precocious six year old too wise beyond his years, but who is grounded by a childlike love of fun and danger, a limitless imagination and often the loneliness of a sensitive child

Hobbes – his inseparable and cheerful companion, Calvin’s other half. Sometimes a sensible friend; sometimes a wild beast; sometimes a cunning opponent

Mom and Dad – the down to earth parents, caught up in raising a son who they know very well and yet cannot know entirely

 Susie – another lonely child, with a snap cracker strength

 Roslyn – the dreaded and clever and able babysitter

The universal appeal of the strips is more than evident. Many people often express nostalgia for Calvin and Hobbes. The pages of the newspapers have not been the same since they left. Not only are they emptier, but even to an amateur like me, you can see other strips which draw from Watterson’s style and ideas. Clearly I’m not the only one who is awed by this man’s work. The fan art at the link below highlights the fact that Calvin and Hobbes may be gone, but they are still missed, and from some of the themes in the pictures, we see what people miss: the camaraderie between the boy and his friend, the uninhibited fun they used to have and the unlimited imagination which pervades their world.

I feel that it is safe to say that I’m not the only one who misses Calvin and Hobbes and misses the opportunities we had to wander with them in the world Watterson had created. It’s no wonder that some of us keep wanting to go back there. They came alive to us so vividly that they can’t completely go away. To paraphrase A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie-the-Pooh, in the enchanted place Bill Watterson created, a boy and his tiger will always be playing.

What did you like best about Calvin and Hobbes? Do you miss them? What's your favourite Calvin and Hobbes comic strip? If you have a link to it, post it in the comments. And if C&H isn't your favourite comic strip, what is?