Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Literary Expectations - What I'm Looking For at the Bocas Lit Festival

This year is the sixth one for our local Bocas Lit Festival. Though so much time has passed, I still feel the sensation that the world is not such a humdrum place when I remember that we actually have an annual literary festival here. Think of it, this proves that there are writers in Trinidad as well as people who like books. People who enjoy them enough to organize an entire celebration devoted to books. I know that this makes me sound rather pompous, but I maintain that if there is anything I'm allowed to be a bit condescending about it's the number of people who like to read in Trinidad.

I admit that I don't have the numbers to back me up, but all my life I have been struck by the amount of people here who have no interest in reading, who have never picked up a book and who also hint at  scorn when they realize else someone is a reader. The fact that we have a book festival reminds me that there are kindred spirits out there who feel as I do about reading.

The festival organizers have been doing a great job every year to increase the value and diversity of the events and workshops they offer. (They've even been recognized internationally!) There are workshops for people interested in publishing and writing in different genres. There are live readings and appearances by some fairly high profile authors (Nalo Hopkinson was an amazing addition a few years ago.) They actually acknowledge the existence of people interested in writing in the young adult genre and science fiction and fantasy by having workshops on these topics.  I wish they would do more. I have often found that among the limited numbers of Caribbean writers out there, there doesn't seem to be a lot of quality work in those genres. I sense that some writers here still don't think these are "real" genres, and I am happy to hear of initiatives that take genre writers seriously and encourage them.

Despite my joy in the festival, I always know that there will be several events and activities that don't appeal to me. I think my interests are sometimes a bit too specific for that, so I don't blame them. I am just glad that there is a group out there championing reading and taking it seriously when so few people here don't. I want them to keep doing what they're doing and grow bigger every year.

This year I'll be attending Free Seminars on the Book Business. "True Confessions of a Literary Agent" looks interesting for example. Hopefully the seminars will run on time - one of the few complaints I have had when attending sessions in the past. I'm particularly interested in the Writing for Young Adults. Another concern I have is because of the awful situation of our local publishing industry, these kinds of sessions might be based on the budding North American YA market while ours is just stagnant. I hope that the workshop will address how someone from the Caribbean can reach international publishers. I think that's the best chance I have to eventually get out there. Look out for my take on my experiences soon, and check out the schedule of events and activities yourself. 

Are you going to be attending the festival yourself? What do you think of it? What have you enjoyed in the past and what do you think you could change?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Enchanted by Master Enchanters

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my plans to make sure my readers have lots to enjoy is that I plan to re-post content from my articles on The Silver Petticoat Review. Based on that you'd think all would be well, but I find that I have a small dilemma. I've been writing at SPR for over a year now, so there's a lot to share.

I began to wonder. Should I start from the beginning and go from there? Should I start from the latest ones? Should I post at anniversaries or just whatever I want at the time. I still haven't quite decided, but I think I might just let my posts fall organically.

Case in point is today's spotlight of a much beloved favourite. I've posted about Diana Wynne Jones here before, expounding on at my astonishment at her genius. I felt that the fantasy world had lost a treasure when she died.

It's not surprising that one of my SPR articles focused on one of the best characters she created. Like Jones, Chrestomanci is a powerful and skilled magic worker who conjures up your respect and admiration.  I surprised myself though to find that my article coincidentally appeared not long after the anniversary of her death this year. That might be a good sign of my future timing as I continue to re-share my articles.

When I first read Jones' Charmed Life many years ago I found it to be surprising, fascinating and amazingly well plotted, and my opinion hasn't changed much. I read more of Jones' books in the years that followed my first introduction to her, and for a long time I wasn't sure how I felt about her as a writer in general. I knew she was brilliant, but I wasn't sure if I was in love with her overall work, but I've since come around completely. I don't love every single one of her books, but I've come to appreciate the inventiveness of her oeuvre even in the books that I feel ambivalent about.

I feel no ambivalence when it comes to Chrestomanci though. It's a terrible shame that there will be no more stories of him to come. I think anyone who loves fantasy should give the Chrestomanci books a try.

As I said in my article
"One of her greatest creations in her extensive bibliography is the nine-lived enchanter Chrestomanci. Her chronicles of this character went on for several full-length books and short stories.  She not only developed Chrestomanci but introduced many more complex and unforgettable characters who play out Jones’ trademark twisty and intricate plots. As you fall into the creations of Diana Wynne Jones, be assured that you’re in for an amazing odyssey. The Chrestomanci stories are some of the best places to discover her own form of enchantment."
Read my full thoughts in  YA Book Review: Become Enchanted by The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones
The book that started it all for me - Charmed Life


Friday, April 7, 2017

Guess who?

My friends....I have returned.

I come back to you now at the turn of the tide...what'd I miss?

Recall if you will that scene in The Two Towers when Gandalf (now Gandalf the White thank you very much) revealed himself to the remaining members of the fellowship. Do you remember that exact moment when the fear and despair and hopelessness of the breaking of the fellowship was relieved by the return of a friend once thought lost forever?

Well...this isn't quite like that, I suspect I'm more akin to Bilbo Baggins than the mighty Gandalf, but I have come back to my little hobbit hole of a blog, and I am hoping to do some cleaning up and making it right again.

Fortunately it's still here waiting patiently. Fortunatrly during my travels away I haven't actually stopped writing about the things I enjoy and which inspire me. As usual, I could probably do with writing a lot more, but I have quite a bit to share, so soon I will be able to welcome you back for regular visits.

I started by choosing a new look for the blog. I find it fits my aesthetic quite well. Let me know what you think.

I've also been doing quite a bit of writing for a blog magazine called The Silver Petticoat Review. It's a lovely place where I continually find articles and topics about books and movies which interest me. (They may interest you as well, so I encourage you to have a look.) I write quite regularly for them, and as part of my routine posts, I'll be linking my articles back here. So look out for those.

I've also learned quite a lot from my journey away, so hopefully expect more posts with a different look and feel - some shorter - some with varying formats, interesting videos etc but with the same theme we all love still running through it. I'm also going to try and feature interesting content from other blogs. I'd love to feature articles from other Caribbean bloggers interested in books and movies, so if you're one such, please hail me, so we can start sharing all the great stuff we're creating.

I also hope to start posting more about writing, writing techniques, the writing journey, that sort of thing. More on that soon. I might have a surprise for you.

So until later friends, I welcome you back to my blog as meet once more at these crossroads. To start the conversation going, comment and let me know which blogs, tumblrs, blogazines etc you like. Doesn't matter what topic though I'm particularly interested in ones with similar themes to mind. Be generous and share!