January 30, 2008

Writer Questions

Writing QuestionsAbout a week ago, a young writer and I began a very interesting conversation, which with her permission, became this post.

How many short stories have you written?

Between Uncle Obadiah and the Alien, stories that I’ve published in magazines such as The Caribbean Writer , and a new collection I’m working on, Sister Faye and the Dreadlocked Vampire, I’ve written about thirty stories.

Do you ever write stories with a certain length in mind? Or do you just write and worry about editing it down to a certain size afterwards?

I write the story first and then I worry about editing.

How do you tell so much information in such a short amount of time without it becoming didactic? Like, he did this, she did this, and then there was an explosion! And then we did this.

One trick is to let the characters give the information and to begin in the middle of the action (in medias res). For example, instead of beginning the story about a man and his cheating lover the day before, begin the story the moment after he has found out and ask the character, "So, what are you going to do now?"

How do you keep the action going in your stories? And do you listen to music while writing? What's your perfect writing environment?

Before I write, I do a brief character inventory. It's the method that I used to write my latest multi-character hypertext novel, Virtual Yardies.

Answer the following questions as the character:

Who are you?

Where am I?

To whom am I speaking?

What's my relationship with him/her?

Why must I speak with this person?

What do I want?


What are my obstacles?

What is my plan to overcome these obstacles?

What do I hope to attain from getting what I want?


My name is Marta. I am a filmmaker. I am at home speaking to my parents. Both, my father and mother are my mentors. They are very driven, responsible, and dedicated people and they have worked hard all their lives to get to where they are in their careers- they are both in the medical field. I have to speak to them because I need their help. I want to move back home with them because I have accrued debt when I moved away to California. The problem is that they have been planning to retire for sometime, and if I move in with them, they will have to continue work to support me. Also, they do not of my career choice- they do not believe that filmmaking in a real career. So, if they let me move back in with them, it might be on the condition that I get, what they call, a real job. So I am going to try to appeal on their sense of hope, and inspire them as best I can. If I can get them to agree that filmmaking is an important and honorable way of to earn a living, I might just be able to continue with my work, and move on with my life as a young filmmaker.

And do you listen to music while writing? What's your perfect writing environment?

Doris Lessing gives a better answer than I could:

"Writers are often asked: "How do you write? With a word processor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand?" But the essential question is: "Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write? Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas - inspiration." If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn. When writers talk to each other, what they discuss is always to do with this imaginative space, this other time. "Have you found it? Are you holding it fast?"


Let me know if the questions begin to sound like a FAQ-- speaking of which, do you have one?)

Yes. Here it is: http://geoffreyphilp.com/faq.html

Thanks for your help.

You’re welcome!


Next week Friday (2/8/08), “In My Own Words: Ricardo Pau-Llosa.” Ricardo will also be reading from his latest collection of poems, Parable Hunter, at Books and Books on February 10, 2008. The program begins at 6:00 p.m.


January 29, 2008

"Colonization in Reverse”: The Louise Bennett-Coverley Reading Festival

Miss LouThe Friends of the South Regional /BCC Library, Broward Community College and the Jamaican Folk Revue, invite the South Florida community to the launch of a two-day reading festival, "Colonization in Reverse,” to honor and study the life and works of the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley – author, comedienne, social commentator and cultural ambassador.

The two – day event, under the patronage of the Jamaican Consulate General in Miami, will take place at 7300 Pines Boulevard, Broward Community College, South Campus.

Thursday, January 31st, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Panel Discussion -“Perspectives on the Life and Work of the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley”

Multi-media Auditorium of the Library,

Location -7300 Pines Blvd.

Admission is free.

Panelists will include Mervyn Morris (UWI, Mona,) who contributed editorials and introductions to Miss Lou’s books; Joan Andrea Hutchinson (actress, author, and comedienne, who produced Miss Lou’s last CD, Lawd de Riddim Sweet; Dr. Susan Davis; Marlon Hill, J.D.; Dr. Marva McClean, and George Lewis, JD.

The following areas will be discussed:

The Politics of the Language, Empowerment, and Identity

Education and the Impact of the Culture on the Caribbean Diaspora

Creolization –Linguistics and Etymology

The Political Humor of Miss Lou

Louise Bennett-Coverley – The Next National Heroine of Jamaica.

The moderator will be Dr. Marcia Magnus (FIU) a well-known educator and Diaspora Board member, and the audience will be able to participate in a question and answer period following the discussion.

Friday, Feb 1st, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Concert honoring Miss Lou and celebrating the first Birthday of the South Regional/BCC Library in the new LEED certified “Green” building.

Location – BCC South Campus, Performing and Cultural Arts Center, 7300 Pines Blvd.

Admission - A $10.00 donation to the “Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley Scholarship for the Performing Arts”

The February 1st concert, headlined by Joan Andrea Hutchinson, will be hosted by well-known tenor and music impresario, Steve Higgins and also marks the beginning of the Library’s Black History Month celebrations.

A supporting cast of local South Florida talent: Malachi Smith, Jeanne Powell, Tallawah Mento Band, Hyacinth Penso, Jamaica Folk Revue, Sophia Nicholson and the Sierra Norwood Calvary Baptist Church, Early Childhood Center and Fashions from “Kulture Klothes by Isis,” insures an evening of unparalleled “bellyful kulcha.”

The major Sponsors of this exciting, multidisciplinary event are the
Publish Post Jamaica Tourist Board, Caribbean Today, American Airlines, Broward Community College, and Friends of the South Regional Library. Current contributors are Joan Seaga- Gonzalez and the Jamaica Folk Revue.

For more information please contact Marjorie Hall –Friends of the South Regional Library- (954) 201-8828/ E-mail –marjoriehp@aol.com or Jamaica Folk Revue (305) 235-8410.

Copies of Miss Lou’s Books, DVD’s, and CD’s will be on sale at both functions.


Related Post:

"Miss Lou" Celebrations for South Florida

January 28, 2008

Virtual Yardies: A Hypertext Novel

Virtual YardiesImagine a novel that takes place in cyberspace.

Now imagine a group of mainly Jamaican bloggers who have never met each other and they plan a meet-up in Negril and one of them is murdered. Then, they find out that the murderer, a Jamaican Cotton Mather, has plans to kill all of them to rid the island of "fornication, corruption, and battymanism."

This is the premise of my hypertext novel, Virtual Yardies, of which ten chapters are now available online.

Give thanks to Tobias, Nicholas, and Georgia for spreading the word about this first of its kind novel.

Click here for Virtual Yardies!


Related Posts:

A New Novel: Virtual Yardies

Does it Already Exist? An Internovel? A Nog?

The Novel 2.0


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January 27, 2008

Ishmael Reed on the Obama/ Clinton Conflict

Although I have lived in the US for almost twenty-nine years, there are still some subtleties of American life and politics that elude me. Oftentimes, I have to rely on the insights of writers such as Ishmael Reed to decipher the meaning of certain events:

When Mrs. Clinton, during a debate, commented that voters found Obama more "likeable" than Mrs. Clinton, Obama said that Mrs. Clinton was "likeable enough." Obama's reply prompted an Ante Bellum white man, Karl Rove, to refer to Obama as "a smarmy, prissy little guy taking a slap at her." He said that this exchange threw the primary victory to Mrs. Clinton. Notwithstanding the irony of Karl Rove referring to someone as "smarmy," if a reply as mild and innocuous as Obama's leads to his being flogged by Clinton and reprimanded by one of the Establishment's Black tokens, Obama is going to be restricted in his ability to take on the political brawlers and hit persons aligned with Clinton like Don Imus's buddy, James Carville, a man who sneers at people who live in trailer parks, and who practices a no-holds-barred political strategy

To read the entire text, please follow this link: Going Old South On Obama: Ma and Pa Clinton Flog an Uppity Black


Related post:

One Vote for Barack Obama

Toni Morrison Endorsement of Obama

January 25, 2008

Anancy at Model City Library

Black History MonthWho'd have thought that when I wrote Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories that I'd be reading to approximately fifty or sixty children at the Model City Library? Yet, there I was at a kickoff event for Black History Month hosted by the Miami Dade Public Library System.

Now, I'm not even going to pretend that it was easy to keep their attention. Many of the children, I suspected, were not used to being read to, or maybe it was the subject matter--they'd never heard about Anancy. Which makes me think I need to get to work on that Anancy picture book that I've been thinking about.

Whatever the case, I had lots of fun and I think the children did too. I also hoped that the children learned something about themselves. You see, I wrote Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories because I worry about our children's self-esteem. I meet the broken ones every day.

When I wrote Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories, I hoped that the children would see a child who looks like them in the book. I wanted them to see an author who looks like them on the cover of the book. I wanted children to see that books were not distant things locked away in libraries or expensive bookstores where strange people drink mocha lattes or order a grande cup of just nonfat milk foam and eat it with a spoon.

I also hoped that they would identify with the main character and, like Jimmy, use their intelligence, and not their fists, to solve problems.For it's no use lecturing to them about the heroes of my imagination (Bob Marley, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Dennis Scott, and Tony McNeill ) when they get to college. By that time it may be too late. By that time we may have already lost too many"immature warriors."

I want these children to imagine possibilities that I have not dreamed about.


Related Posts:


For more photos of the event, please follow this link: Anancy @ Model City Library


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January 24, 2008

Derek Walcott's Eulogy for Elizabeth Hardwick

Derek WalcottDerek Walcott's prodigious gifts, even in the face of tragedy, continue to amaze me. When Elizabeth Hardwick, one of America's preeminent writers, passed away during last year's Christmas holidays, Walcott wrote a moving eulogy. Hardwick, according to Bruce King's Derek Walcott: A Caribbean Life, first met Walcott when she and her former husband, Robert Lowell, "stopped in Trinidad during June 1962 on their way to Brazil under the auspices of the Congress for Cultural Freedom" (188). They became lifelong friends.

Here is an excerpt of the letter to
The New York Review of Books "sent by Derek Walcott from his home in St. Lucia and read by Hilton Als at a memorial service in New York City on December 16, 2007, for Elizabeth Hardwick, co-founder and advisory editor of The New York Review since 1963 and contributor of more than one hundred reviews, articles, reflections, and letters to these pages."

Distance requires formality, but I cannot be distant writing about Lizzie Hardwick since everything has come alarmingly closer—the curls, the infectious chuckles, the drawl like poured-out honey, the privilege of sharing her astute delight, and the benign devastations of her wit. Because she hated pomposity she was more fun than any American writer I have known. She preferred gaiety to malice and had the laugh to go with it. Memories of her rise like butterflies from a bush, all darting, elate, and light; the use of three adjectives is the signature of her style, perhaps because of the precise languor of her Kentucky accent.

To read the entire statement, please follow this link: New York Review of Books.


Related Posts:

Derek Walcott

January 23, 2008

Peepal Tree Press and Sable LitMag at the AWP Book Fair

Peepal Tree Press

Peepal Tree Press
is the home of challenging and inspiring literature from the Caribbean and Black Britain. They have been publishing fiction, poetry, literary criticism, memoirs, and historical studies since 1985.

SABLE is a 132 black and white international LitMag, that has been published in the UK since 2000. It features work from emerging new writers and established writers.


Our next public appearance will be at the AWP Bookfair at the New York Hilton from 30 Jan- 2 Feb 2008. The bookfair is open to the public on 2 February from 8.30am-5.00pm at Americas 1, Booths B74/75 where we look forward to meeting you!

Kadija Sesay, Dorothea Smartt, Koye Oyedeji, and Jeremy Poynting, publisher of Peepal Tree Press will be available to chat to you about SABLE and Peepal Tree Press throughout the bookfair.

Hilton New York (midtown)

1335 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10019

Telephone: 212-586-7000

3rd Floor, Americas 1, Booths B74/75

SABLE will have T-shirts and posters available and special offer subscriptions for institutions and individuals. Purchase a subscription at AWP and get a free copy of Cotton Field of Dreams by Janis Kearney, (featured on the Essence Bestseller List, 2005).

Kwame Dawes, Associate Poetry Editor, Peepal Tree Press, will be signing his books at the Peepal Tree Press Bookstand at 3pm Thursday 31st Jan, Booths B74/75 America's Hall 1, 3rd Floor.

Dorothea Smartt , SABLE Poetry Editor will be reading from her latest book Samboo's Grave/Bilal's Grave (Peepal Tree Press) at the

Pan PALF Reading

in support of its Inaugural Writer's Conference: GHANA'08


Yusef Komunyakaa

Quincy Troupe

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi


The New School

Wollman Hall

65 W. 11th Street

Fifth Floor


Wednesday, January 30th

6:30 p.m.

Pan African Literary Forum. A literary study abroad programme.

A programme with an edge.

Tickets available at New School box office, 66W. 12th St.

$5 general public, free to New School students and alumni.

www. panafricanliteraryforum .org


"On my first trip to the Modern I turned a corner,
rooted before the ridged linen of a Cèzanne.

A still life. I thought how clean his brushes were!
Across that distance light was my first lesson."

~Tieoplo's Hound~
Derek Walcott

Happy Birthday, Derek Walcott!


January 22, 2008

Vernice Stubbs Higher Education Sustaining Scholarships


The Caribbean Education Foundation, Inc. (CEF) is accepting scholarship applications for the Vernice Stubbs Higher Education Sustaining Scholarship from students at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and University of Technology (UTECH) in Jamaica.

Vernice Stubbs Higher Education Sustaining Scholarships are awarded to qualified and talented university and technical students enrolled full-time and pursuing a first undergraduate degree, but who might be in danger of withdrawal due to lack of financial resources.

The Vernice Stubbs Sustaining Scholarships will pay scholars’ residence boarding fees for the January through June 2008 term. Each scholarship will range from $45,000 to $51,000 according to boarding fees for on-campus residence.

Applicants must be Jamaican Nationals who reside in Jamaica and meet the listed qualifications criteria: (1) High academic performance; (2) Financial need; (3) Resides in urban or rural depressed community; (4) Leadership Qualities/Community Service/Other activities and (5) Production of a prescribed essay (6) Interview of Finalists. Required documents include: Official University Transcripts, Curriculum Vitae, Evidence of Financial Need, et cetera.

Applications are available at both UWI and UTECH student financial aid offices. All completed applications should be delivered to the designated university office and held in sealed envelopes for pick-up by official CEF personnel:


NOTE: All completed applications should be delivered to designated school office and held in sealed envelopes for pick-up by an official CEF Chief.

For more information, visit our website at www.educatechild.org

Email us at info@educatechild.org

Nikiki T. Bogle, Esq.
Chief Executive Officer
Caribbean Education Foundation, Inc.
276 Washington Street, No. 334
Boston, MA 02108
Phone: (800) 677-0839 Ext. 105

Fax: (800) 677-0839
Email: nbogle@educatechild.org

Website: www.educatechild.org


January 21, 2008

Kyra and Twenty Eight Days Later

Kyra HicksCongratulations to Kyra Hicks on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Kyra's book for children, Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria , has been included in Twenty-Eight Days Later, a list of featured authors and illustrators organized by The Brown Bookshelf, to "shine the spotlight on the varied African American voices writing for young readers."

Here is a partial list of the books from Twenty-Eight Days Later:

February 1: Christopher Paul Curtis - Elijah of Buxton

February 4: Rita Williams-Garcia No Laughter Here

February 8: Patricia McKissack The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll

February 11: Mildred D. Taylor The Road To Memphis

February 15: Walter Dean Myers - Game

February 18: Eloise Greenfield The Friendly Four

February 25: Kyra E. Hicks - Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria

February 26: Celise Downs Dance Jam Productions and illustrator Shane Evans- When Harriet Met Sojourner

February 28 : Sherri L. Smith - Sparrow

For the complete list, please visit Black Threads in Kid's Lit.

January 18, 2008

So, You Want to be a Writer?

Preston AllenHere's a great opportunity to begin a conversation with Preston L. Allen, author of All or Nothing (Akashic Books 2007). Preston will field your questions with his characteristic wit and tangent. All you have to do is read these books and become a regular visitor to this blog: http://allornothingthenovel.blogspot.com/

A. Manette Ansay: Blue Water

A. Manette Ansay: Vinegar Hill

Alice Munro: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship

Alice Sebold: The Lovely Bones

Alice Walker: The Color Purple

Angie Cruz: Let It Rain Coffee

Anne Rice: Interview With the Vampire

Bernays Painter: What If?

Carol Taylor: Wanderlust

Carolyn Ferrell: Don't Erase Me

Chris Abani: Song for Night

Christopher Moore: Lamb

Colin Channer: Iron Balloons

Dedra Johnson: Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow

Dennis Lehane: Mystic River

Felicia Luna Lemus: Like Son

Geoffrey Philp: Uncle Obadiah and the Alien

Gonzalo Barr: Last Flight of Jose Luis Balboa

Gordon Parks: The Learning Tree

Hallema: Mass Deception

Ivonne Lamazares: The Sugar Island

James W. Hall: Gone Wild

Jarret Keene: Las Vegas Noir

JK Rowling: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows

John Cheever: The Stories of John Cheever

John Dufresne: Lie That Tells a Truth

John Dufresne: Johnny Too Bad

John Rechy: City of Night

Junot Diaz: Drown

Kwame Dawes: She's Gone

Laura Valeri: The Kinds of Things Saints Do

Leonard Nash: You Can't Get There From Here and Other Stories

Les Standiford: Miami Noir

Les Standiford: Meet You in Hell

Lewis Nordan: Music of the Swamp

Lynne Barrett: Secret Names of Women

Martha Frankel: Hats and Eyeglasses

Michael Craig: The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King

Pat MacEnulty: From May to December

Philip Roth: Human Stain

Preston L. Allen: Come With Me Sheba

Preston L. Allen: Hoochie Mama

Preston L. Allen: All or Nothing

Preston L. Allen: Churchboys and Other Sinners

Richard Wright: Native Son

Sapphire: Push

Simon Winchester: The Professor and the Madman

Stephen King: On Writing

Stephen King: Different Seasons

T Cooper: Lipshitz Six

Uzodinma Iweala: Beasts of No Nation

Vicki Hendricks: Cruel Poetry

William Goldman: Boys and Girls Together

William Zinnser: On Writing Well

Yann Martel: Life of Pi

No question is out of bounds. E-mail him at PrestonTheWriterAllen@gmail.com, and be prepared to laugh and learn. Preston also posts a growing list of some pretty great and often unusual books that you should read if you want to be a writer.

Preston L. Allen, who was born on Roatan (Honduras), is the author of the novels Hoochie Mama, Bounce, Come with Me, Sheba, and the short story collection Churchboys and Other Sinners. His stories have also appeared in several of the Brown Sugar series. Preston is the winner of the Sonja H. Stone Prize in Literature and a recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Fiction. He lives in Miami, Florida.


January 16, 2008

In My Own Words: Nicolette Bethel

Nicolette BethelI never thought I'd be a non-fiction writer. I grew up reading the fantastic. The more imagination, the better. It was my brother, the question-asker, who was fascinated by facts: he was the one reading The Guinness Book of Records, National Geographic, Time, The Economist. Reality never interested me; fiction was my element.

As I grew older, though, I came to realize that fiction is shaped by fact. The books I loved to read, whether they were traditional fairy tales, children's novels, classic works of fantasy like the Narnia Chronicles or Lord of the Rings, or between-the-wars-English mysteries, were not neutral by any means. On the contrary. Many of them were actually tools of empire, reproducing the fundamental principles that justified European domination of the rest of us. In the British novels that were my companions for the first fifteen or so years of my reading life were figures who helped draw impermeable lines between us and them — the golliwogs of Blyton's nurseries, the Southrons and Easterlings on Tolkein's Pelennor Fields, and the Calormenes to the south of Narnia, or, later, the less-than-admirable persons of colour in Agatha Christie's and Dorothy L. Sayers' mysteries. The more literature I read, the more I understood that fact and fiction were not, and could not ever be, separate.

It took the study of anthropology to make me realize that the opposite was also true -- that what masqueraded as "fact" was also partly fiction. For decades, anthropologists had made the mistake that ethnography was synonymous with reality -- that what was contained in the studies of specific peoples at very particular junctures in time and space was not truth, but a literary version of the truth. Post-modernism's reflexivity may have limited application to the study of literature which inspired it, but my studies of anthropology, it was radical. My understanding of life, fact, fiction, law, and society has never been the same since.

Essays on Life began in my head long before I had a reason to write them. My return to The Bahamas after almost a decade of living abroad set off a chain of thoughts about our society and our culture that were raging to get out, and I was already contemplating approaching a newspaper to feel out interest for a series of articles on society in general, and not on political events of the day, when Larry Smith, then the editor of the Nassau Guardian, invited me to write a column. Essays on Life are the result.

I could have never imagined how widely read -- or how widely appreciated -- these essays would be. I've been writing them for five years now, and they appear not only in the Nassau Guardian (
http://www.thenassauguardian.com/), but they are also reprinted online at Larry Smith's Bahama Pundit (http://www.bahamapundit.com/%29, at The New Black: Magazine (http://www.thenewblackmagazine.com), and (of course) on my own Blogworld (http://www.nicobethel.net/blogworld/), as well as being regularly selected for readings at the College of The Bahamas. I've been asked often when I'm going to publish them. Now I have.

For a woman who never liked reading non-fiction, I've come a long, long way.


Essays on Life is available from Lulu and will be available from online bookstores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Link to Lulu:



Nicolette Bethel was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, where she currently resides. She has lived, studied and worked in the UK and Canada, and is currently apprenticed to the Bahamian Government for her sins and others’. She is a playwright, poet, fiction writer and anthropologist. She holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, and is a researcher in the fields of Bahamian national identity and of Junkanoo. She is the editor of Junkanoo: Festival of The Bahamas (Macmillan Caribbean, 1991), excerpted from E. Clement Bethel's M.A. thesis on Bahamian music. Her 1990 play Powercut was made into an independent film and released by Plantation Pictures in 2001. Her fiction and poetry have been published in a variety of places, including the anthologies Junction: an Anthology of Bahamian Poetry and Prose; From the Shallow Seas; and The Oxford and Cambridge May Anthologies 1993; print journals such as The Amherst Review; The Caribbean Writer; Calabash; and Social Identities; the online journals The Paumanok Review and II; and the edited collections Managing Island Life () and Junkanoo and Christianity (Media Enterprises, 2003). Essays on Life are reprinted online on Bahama Pundit (http://www.bahamapundit.com/) and The New Black: Magazine (http://www.thenewblackmagazine.com/). Since 2003 she has been a columnist for the Nassau Guardian.