November 30, 2011

The Jamaica-born Grandmaster of Chess: Maurice Ashley


By Opal Palmer Adisa
“Chess is an intellectual discipline masking as a game,” says Maurice Ashley, who is touted as the first African-American International Chess Grandmaster in the history of the game. But Ashley is actually Jamaican, born in Kingston, where he attended Seaward Elementary School. His formative years were spent in Tower Hill, where his grandmother raised him and where he came to know himself. At the impressionable age of nine, his older brother taught him how to play chess, but Ashley remarks, “Back then, it was just a game. I liked it, but I didn’t know at that time that the game was going to be my destiny.” He later attended Wolmer’s High School for Boys before immigrating to the USA, at the age of twelve, to join his mother. 
Excitement about living with his mother for the first time with his two siblings was partially tempered by his new environment that belied the American dream. “Coming out of poverty in Jamaica, the mere fact that you are standing on American soil, is an advantage, but the reality was a lot of day-to-day violence --the level was worse in Brownsville, Brooklyn. There were drug-dealers and prostitutes,” Ashley recalls. However, he learned to navigate and steer clear of the numerous traps that were everywhere in his new community.
School gave Ashley direction, and because of the friendships he formed, his keen interest in chess grew. “I started to take it seriously in high school in Brooklyn. I thought I was smart, until I lost to a friend. Then I saw a book in the library and I started reading. I didn’t know there was a strategy to chess. My friend had also read all of these books. He had been reading and playing, and that’s when I knew knowledge is power.” So Ashley became an avid student of chess and was determined to be at the top of his game. He studied and taught himself.
Still, Maurice Ashley did not recognize his talent until he was a student at City College, New York. His passion and love for the game spews from his mouth as he recounts his journey. “I was so in love with chess, I was doing it all the time. It was like a force. I would beat people and I loved the feeling of beating people, and I just wanted to keep doing it. I never thought of chess as a profession.”
Chess became not only a profession for Ashley, but also the very foundation of his life. In 1993 when he was only 20 years-old, Maurice Ashley, as a result of coaching the National Champions from Harlem to victory, became the first ever African American Master in US History. In 1999 Ashley was honored as the first Black person in history to become an International Grandmaster.
Maurice Ashley’s love for chess and his international recognition, has led him to his mission: to share chess with young people around the world. The release of his book, Chess for Success: Using an Old Game to Build New Strengths in Children and Teens, serves as a cornerstone of his advocacy.

Ashley’s success begs the questions: How does a Jamaican boy from an impoverished neighborhood, without a father present, become a chess master? Is it simply destiny or are there other forces at work? Ashley contributes his success to his mother, who left him as an infant, and labored hard in the USA for ten long years so that he and his two siblings could eventually join her and be united as a family. 

And despite the vices in their immediate surroundings that could have mitigated their success, Ashley states categorically: “My mother made sure that I understood coming from Jamaica that you hold on to your opportunities. She kept us focused. You had to go to college; all of us were going to college.” And indeed Maurice Ashley and his two siblings all went to college and are at the top of their respective fields.
Perhaps an additional secret to his success is connected to dogged determination. In chess, Ashley found his passion, and a drive to beat his opponents, which led him to study and practice continuously. His assiduousness paid off when in 2002, he became the first African-American in history to qualify for the US Chess Championship. The crowning event came in 2003, when United States Chess Federation awarded him the title of Grandmaster of the Year. 
But Ashley still identifies as a Jamaican, and his bond to this island and its culture is deeply embedded in the food, especially ackee and salt-fish with roast breadfruit, and of course jerk chicken that he loves. However, his Jamaican-ness goes deeper, and he stays committed to his culture and the development of the island.
In an interview on October 13, 2011, I asked the following questions:
OPA: What do you love about Jamaica or being Jamaican? 
MA: The fact that we are some of the hardest working people on the planet. Give us an opportunity and we will run with it. Just try to catch us and you won’t.
OPA: What are you hopes for Jamaica? 
MA: That our people become well-educated and using initiatives like chess to bolster that effort, we can show the world the advanced skills of which we are capable. I think a polished and comprehensive educational system has to be developed in Jamaica, where we can use our talents as a means of helping bigger countries to carry out some service that they may needed. That means we have to create an extremely comprehensive educational base, so those countries do not automatically link Jamaica with tourism --that Jamaica becomes known for technology as well. I hope that Jamaica goes the way of some of those countries in Asia --finding our niche in technology. 
I don’t think more advanced techniques are available to the general population, like what I do with chess: deep thinking. When you start with a platform with young people, it will magnify in a few years.

OPA: Why should children learn to play chess? 
MA: All the skills we want our children to have, problem solving, analytical reasoning, focus and concentration, are embedded in the game itself, in the playing of the game itself, so kids have fun and learn at the same time and they don’t even know it.
Chess strategy doesn’t begin until you realize that there is another mind playing against you. Most people are about themselves, but the competition is about someone trying to beat you, so you have to take that into consideration. 
The great thing about chess is that you are punished for bad thinking; you are punished for impatience. You have to stop and plan ahead before you move, or else you are going to lose the game. Kids don’t want to lose, so if they have a good coach they begin to play and play well, and those are skills they can use in life to be successful.
OPA: What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome to succeed?

MA: I believe that life is a series of challenges that we are consistently overcoming. I am challenged even now in my life. I embrace challenges--that is the way you become successful by embracing the challenges of life.

With every challenge one gains experience that has to be harnessed in order to move to the next level. Ashley uses these stepping-stones, and that has helped him to navigate his life. These are the lessons that he has honed as a man, and that he wants to impart to young people. The proud father of two children, a seventeen-year-old daughter who is an "A" student and a nine-year-old son, Ashley models his practice on his children. “I started teaching my children chess when they were three years-old. I made sure they both had a foundation for chess. My daughter didn’t pursue it, but she is good. Now my son and I do chess puzzles every day.”
Until very recently, Ashley had stopped playing chess to be a full time, stay-at-home father, so that his wife, who had put her career on hold to allow him to travel, had the opportunity to pursue some of her dreams, including being principal of a school. But Ashley is excited to be playing chess again. Back on the chess trail, Ashley is embarking on a six-island tour to promote chess in the Caribbean for young people, and visited Jamaica from November 10-12, 2011.
Ashley says, “I am bringing chess technology, much of which is donated, to assist the chess efforts in these countries, to lend the voice to the idea that chess is great for kids and it should be supported.”
In addition to being a Grandmaster, an author, and an inventor, Maurice Ashley is also the designer of a smart phone application: “Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess,” which was launched in 2010 and has sold in more than 25 countries. Still he remains close to his cause, which is to promote chess as a viable mode of education for young people. To this end, he has traveled widely to speak to, and encourage youth in indigent neighborhoods throughout the USA, South Africa, and Central America.

Ironically, Maurice Ashley says he isn’t sure in what concrete ways he contributes to Jamaican society, but acknowledges that when people know that he is Jamaican it engenders a sense of pride. Reflecting more he adds, “I support chess initiatives in Jamaica, and what they are trying to do to build up chess on the island. I do what I can to support the Jamaica Chess Federation.”
Whenever someone does something, great or small, it reflects on his family, as well as his country. Maurice Ashley’s achievements are but more evidence of the global contributions of Jamaicans. Perhaps it is the yams as sports fanatics have been attributing to Usain Bolt’s phenomenal achievements; maybe it’s in our water, in the very air, or maybe it is in the foundation and dreams that have been instilled in us by parents and others who made endless sacrificed to keep us focused, and made us dream beyond what could even be imagined.
Regardless of the source of our greatness, Jamaicans such as Maurice Ashley are helping to create a more diversified and accomplished profile of who Jamaicans are and the new frontiers we are traversing. 
As Maurice Ashley says, “Knowing that chess is a blessing for kids helps me to keep spreading that message.” So I invite you to introduce a child in your life to chess as well as other endeavors that could guide them towards success.
Learn more about Maurice Ashley and all that he is doing to promote chess and keep the Jamaican flag waving high by visiting his website:
Please contact Opal Palmer Adisa at if you have a story to share. She plans to do a profile of 50 Jamaican women and men, living in the greater Jamaica Diaspora who have had exceptional accomplishments. Also, Adisa’s novel, Painting Away Regrets, is set to release this November 2011.

Images from the Miami Book Fair International

Caribbean Lit. Luminaries (L. to R.):Heather Russell. Donna Aza Weir-Soley, 
Gordon Rohlehr, Opal Palmer Adisa, Ramabai Espinet

Wimpy Kid Creator: Jeff Kinney

Book Monster Invades Miami

For more, please follow this link:

November 29, 2011

Independence and After Conference @ Black Atlantic Resource Debate

Dr. Eric Williams

LC-USZ62-125505 (b&w film copy neg.) Publication may be restricted. For information see "New York World-Telegram ...,"

To mark the centenary of the birth of Dr Eric Williams and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of independence in Trinidad and Tobago, a one-day conference INDEPENDENCE AND AFTER: DR ERIC WILLIAMS & THE MAKING OF TRINIDAD & TOBAGO was held at the Institute for the Study of the Americas on the 27 September 2011. This conference explored the shaping of Trinidadian politics and society under the Williams’ administration and the legacies of this period today. The conference was filmed and all panels are now available to view on:

For more information, please follow this link:

Anancy Festival 2011 @ YouTube

Performances and interviews from the South Florida Anancy Festival 2011.

Videographer - Mark Shapley

November 27, 2011

Polyglot Writers: Writing Across Languages


Polyglot Writers: Writing Across Languages

The Creative Writing Program proudly welcomes poet and playwright Nathalie Handal and poet Ishion Hutchinson to its 2011-2012 reading series, Polyglot Writers: Writing Across Languages on Nov. 29 and 30, 2011.

The series celebrates our global society, where languages float across borders, race and class and have created a nation of polyglot people. At the University of Miami, our student body represents 146 nations and it is common to walk across the campus and hear conversations in more than two or three languages. Not unusual when you consider that the U.S. Census Bureau has determined that the number of people speaking a language other than English at home has doubled in the last three decades.

Polyglot Writers explores the fluidity of words as they define and redesign the narratives of writers who come from multiple languages, cultures and traditions. This year, we have also partnered with Books & Books to host writers’ salons, where we will engage in fine desserts, after dinner drinks, and conversations that focus on the play of language in all its forms.

Playwright and poet Nathalie Handal is the author most recently of Love and Strange Horses (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010). Of her writing, Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Kumunyakaa has written: “This cosmopolitan voice belongs to the human family, and it luxuriates in crossing necessary borders.” Handal is also the editor of the groundbreaking anthology, The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology. 

Poet Ishion Hutchinson’s work has appeared in the LA Review, Callaloo, Caribbean Review of Books, Poetry and International, and first book of poetry, Far District, was the winner of the Academy of Poets’s Larry Levis Prize.

Dr. Christina Civantos, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Spanish, and Dr. Patricia Saunders, author of Alien/Nation and Repatri(n)ation: Caribbean Literature and the Task of Translating Identity, will lead the Writers’ Salon in a lively discussion.

Fiction Master’s Class
Tuesday, November 29
3:30 - 5:30 p.m.
427 Ashe Building, 1252 Memorial Drive, Coral Gables

Tuesday, November 29
7 - 8 p.m.
Location: CAS Gallery, 1210 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146

Poetry Master’s Class
Wednesday, November 30
3:15 - 5:15 p.m.
427 Ashe Building, 1252 Memorial Drive Coral Gables, FL 33146

Writers’ Salon
Wednesday, November 30
8:30 p.m.
Books & Books 265 Aragon Avenue Coral Gables, FL 33134

“Polyglot Writers” Reading Series is sponsored by the University of Miami’s Creative Writing Program, Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences, American Studies Program, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures’ Joseph Carter Memorial Fund, Multicultural Student Affairs, and our partners at Books & Books.

Contact information: M. Evelina Galang, Director of Creative Writing, 305 284 5573,; Daisy Hernández, Graduate Assistant,

November 25, 2011

"The Thanksgiving Kitten" by Geoffrey Philp

Maybe it was the dead calico in front of Desiree's house that finally did it. Or maybe it was the heaviness on her chest since she began taking a new medication. Or was it the bodily pains from fibromyalgia, which had forced her early retirement from teaching kindergarten?

"No more kiddies to save, mother," said Janice, her daughter, before she left for Seattle. Desiree had waited by the phone all day, but Janice hadn't called even though she'd promised to phone every Thanksgiving.

Now only an empty plate from Desiree’s Thanksgiving tuna lay on the counter beside a red vial from her many visits to Aventura's ER.

"Find the thing you love," said the young resident as he carelessly scribbled another prescription for OxyContin.

How Desiree had even gotten out of the bed that she'd shared with her husband until one slap ended their marriage was still a miracle.

Awakened by meowing in her garden, Desiree looked out the window. Nothing.

She couldn’t go back to sleep. Desiree put on her bathrobe and went to the kitchen for her morning routine when she saw the cap of the vial lying on the counter. Desiree had forgotten that she'd taken off the cap.

Opening the cupboard, Desiree took down a glass, opened the fridge, and found a carton of milk hiding behind a bottle of vodka. As she filled the glass with milk, Desiree heard the meowing again.

This time it was louder.

Desiree put the carton back in the fridge, but left the half-filled glass on the counter. Tightening the belt around her waist, Desiree went outside, and looked around the yard. Still nothing.

Desiree was about to go back inside when she heard a shriek. She walked around the side of the house: a ginger tail was stuck in the rainspout.

Desiree bent down and eased her fingers into the sides of the rainspout. The ginger tail hissed. She gently coaxed the tail, hind legs, forepaws, and head into the sunlight.

The kitten licked her hand.

Bundling the kitten into her arms, Desiree went back into her kitchen and poured the milk from her glass into a bowl. Sticking out its pink tongue, the kitten lapped noisily.

Desiree covered the vial. For now, the pills could wait.

November 24, 2011

"A Thanksgiving Fable" by Geoffrey Philp

After a terrible hurricane destroyed their village in Benin, the children of Olokun awakened on a strange land across the sea.
"What shall we do?" asked Agana Erí, the youngest. "We can't go back across the water and if we stay here, we will die."
"I agree," said Olona, the middle child. "We are doomed."
"Our mother would never leave us here alone," said Osupa, the eldest. "We must find a way to get her attention and win back her favor."
So the three daughters travelled into the heart of the land and lived off what they could find. As the months passed, they made their homes, each with her own garden. Agana Erí grew corn; Olona planted yams, and Osupa raised poultry. 
At the end of the year, the children of Olokun gathered by a palm tree that faced the east and placed their offerings at the foot of the tree.
Agana Erí, offered hominy cooked with garlic; Olona boiled yam with coconuts, and Osupa, stewed a white rooster in coconut oil. The children placed their offerings in a large blue clay jar, the color of the seawater, and waited for a sign from their mother. 
Osupa faced her two sisters and from what she could remember, picked up a shell, and placed it next to her ear. Then, she turned to Agana Erí and Olona.
"What would you like to ask our mother?" 
"We demand to know why we are here?" inquired Agana Erí.
"We want to know why she has left us?" Olona pleaded.
Osupa held her breath and placed the shell next to her ear. Then, she faced the sea and exhaled.
"Oh, mother," she said, "your children have asked me, 'Why are we here?' 'Why have you abandoned us?' Please, answer us."
Osupa covered the jar with leaves from the palm tree and took three steps back. She circled the tree with flour and made a sign for the four winds in the sand.
Olokun's children waited in the silence, but nothing happened. They waited and waited for days for something to happen, but nothing ever did. They watched and waited until the offerings began to rot and ants feasted on the corn, yams, and the chicken.
"She did not accept our gifts," said Agana Erí. "She must still be angry with us."
"We are lost," said Olona. "We will never go home."
"I am not sure what this means," said Osupa as she cradled the shell. "But I do know our mother would never abandon us."
"I am tired of waiting," said Agana Erí and she went off to her hut, where the corn towered over the rows of flowers around her front door.
"Me, too," said Olona and she marched off to her hut, where the vines from her yams climbed over the branches of the gumbo-limbo.
Osupa said nothing, but kept the shell to her ear, waiting for an answer.
Olokun's daughters worked and worked and worked and soon the land was transformed into a garden. Flowers grew along the sides of the hills and streams became as clear as mirrors.
But then, one day the wind shifted and the ants began crawling up into the top of the palm tree. Osupa's chickens roosted in the eaves of her hut. The vines from Olona's yams flailed wildly in the air.
The winds uprooted the corn and broke off the vines of the yams. The rains lashed their houses and one by one, they fell. Olokun's children ran out into the open spaces toward the sea.
"We are doomed," cried Agana Erí.
They gathered around the palm that faced the east and looked out at the clouds, which gathered like a dark fist over the land. Afraid, the children said a prayer they thought they had forgotten:
I praise the Spirit of the vast Ocean. I praise the Spirit of the Ocean who is beyond understanding.

Spirit of the Ocean, I will worship you, as long as there is water in the Sea.

Let there be peace in the ocean. Let there be peace in my soul.

The Spirit of the Ocean, the ageless one, I give respect. Ase.
The winds continued howling across the land and up the sides of the hills. Lightning flashed across the sky and then thunder, like a thousand trees falling in the forest.
"It is a sign from our mother, she has come to destroy us," said Olona.
"We have offended her and now she shows her displeasure," cried Agana Erí.
"Let us see if this is true," said Osupa, and once more, she placed the shell next to her ear and listened.
Suddenly rising out of the water, there was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen. She had cowrie shells in her hair, red opals around her neck, and her dress was as white as coral. Her voice was like the sound of the ocean rising out of the depths where no light has ever entered.
"Mother, do not kill us," cried Agana Erí.
"Why would I do that my children?" asked Olokun. The sea crashed down behind her. "Your prayer brought me here. I am only here to answer your questions."
"Why have we suffered so much?" asked Olona.
"Why have you rejected our gifts and why haven't you answered our prayers?" asked Agana Erí.
Olokun laughed and once again the sea rose up behind her and the wind swirled around her dress.
"You are the answer to your own prayers," she said. "Look at this land. Count the gifts with which you were born and the blessings you have multiplied with your own hands. You are the gifts that have pleased me. I will never leave you and nothing you do can ever displease me. I love you, my children."
"So why did the hurricane come and take us away?" asked Agana Erí.
"Hurricanes come and go. Don't pray for hurricanes to go away. Pray to be strong when they come and stronger when they leave."
And with that, Olokun disappeared back into the depths of the sea and everything returned to normal--as if nothing had happened.
And from that day on the grateful children of Olokun gathered on this day to give thanks to their mother for the bounty of the seas, the land, and the air

Olokun was pleased and continued to bless them for the rest of their lives.

Image: "Olokun" by Christina Philp


November 23, 2011

In This Great Future, You Can't Forget Your Past

 (L. to R.) Marlon James, Geoffrey Philp, and Edwidge Danticat

The Miami Book Fair International is not only a great event to publicize and sell books, it's also a place to meet old friends and to talk shop before rushing off to the next reading. 

After my reading of Marcus and the Amazons, I met up with Edwidge Danticat, Evelina Galang, and Marlon James. Edwidge had just returned from New York, Marlon was leaving for Mexico, and Evelina was planning a reading for Ishion Hutchinson at the University of Miami. 

 (L. to R.)Geoffrey Philp, Edwidge Danticat, Evelina Galang

Maybe one of these days we'll get a chance to sit and have an extended conversation in Evelina's backyard. 

Are you up for it, Evelina? 

Have a great Thanksgiving, my friends.

November 22, 2011

Marcus and the Amazons: Rain, Rain, Go Away

 (L. to R.) Henry Cole and Geoffrey Philp

I should listen to my mother-in-law more often. 
On the morning of my reading from Marcus and the Amazons at the Miami Book Fair International, I was awakened by the sound of rain beating against my window. My mother always said that rain was a blessing, but in this case, it didn't look that way. I was beginning to doubt her hard won wisdom too.

Still, my wife and I pressed on. We got into my car and as we were driving down the I-95, it looked as if it was going to be a terrible day.
When we reached 79th Street and there was no sign of let-up, I told my wife, Nadia, to call her mother because I didn't want her to get drenched by coming to my reading.
"Tell Geoffrey not to worry, mi hija," said Anatolia, my mother-in-law. "Everything will be all right."
So, we drove on buoyed by Anatolia's optimism. How could she not be optimistic? My mother-in-law lived through La Violencia in Colombia and struggled for a long time as the matriarch of the family to make sure that her children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren would be safe and secure.
I parked in the main lot of the Wolfson Campus and my wife and I walked over to the Author's Lounge in the main building. After an interview with Jessy Shuster and Barbara Howard, I went to room 1164 where I met Linda Bernfeld, Regional Advisor of SCBWI Florida, and Henry Cole, author of A Nest for Celeste.
Henry is one of the most gracious authors I have ever met and his book, A Nest for Celeste, is not only a good story, but also dramatizes some of the values of Marcus and the Amazons: courage, friendship, and loyalty.
During the reading, I also had the opportunity to share the platform with my son, Andrew, and my "adopted" son, Patrick. 

 (L. to R.) Geoffrey Philp, Patrick Pollack,and  Andrew Philp 

Every father wants his children to succeed. It was a wonderful experience to share the stage with them and to see them present themselves and their ideas so competently. Once, again, my boys made me feel so proud.

 (L. to R.) Patrick Pollack and Andrew Philp
Despite my initial fears, the reading was a success and several of my friends including Rosie Gordon-Wallace and Mervyn Solomon, who gave spontaneous introductory remarks to begin the program, were there to offer their encouragement.
Of course, my mother-in-law was there and she brought her angels with her.

 (L. to R.) Patrick, Anatolia, Andrew, Ramona, and Edna Mae.
Thank you, Anatolia, for giving me hope when I thought everything was going to be a disaster. Your words were sunshine.

& give thanks to your beautiful daughter, Nadia, for taking all these photos.

One Love


November 20, 2011

Marcus and the Amazons @ WPBT

One of the amazing things that has happened since the publication of Marcus and the Amazons has been the support that it has received from so many well-wishers.

Yesterday, I had a wonderful conversation with Jessy Schuster, host of Pulse on WPBT2, which has now been posted online:

November 18, 2011

Marcus and the Amazons @ MBFI

"First Light (for Shara McCallum)"

First Light
 (for Shara McCallum)

Dawta, the blood that spilled bright
on blades of sawgrass, a scent like rust

rising in your nostrils, twisted
into your terrible locks. I wish I could

have turned your head away, for you not
to have witnessed the slow slump of the body

on the earth that greeted the thud
of the shell when the soul becomes one

with the light around the tamarinds.
But like thunder on the surf whose rage

shatters sand dollars that crumble
in our hands, you can no longer take refuge

in the mangroves' memory of wholeness,
your flight into an orphaned sun.

© Geoffrey Philp 2011

Shara McCallum will read at the Miami Book Fair International on Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 17, 2011

Marcus and the Amazons @ Zelda Glazer Middle School

 Melba Brito (2nd from L.) and her staff with yours truly

Talk about making a writer feel special!

Yesterday, I had a great time at Zelda Glazer Middle. From the minute I entered the parking lot, I was greeted by the administration of the school and ushered to the library where approximately 60 students waited patiently at their tables for me to begin.

Of course, the students were prepared for my presentation. But then, again, they weren't. I began with a sing-a-long, "The Ants Go Marching," which had some of the boys, who were way too cool to sing anything, eventually joining in on the chorus: "Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!"

Then, I read from the first two chapters of Marcus and after the reading, the students asked several interesting questions. One question, in particular, floored me: "What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?"

I had to pause for about three minutes. Finally, I had an answer; "Do you think readers will understand all of the references from Joseph Campbell through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Bob Marley that you have in Marcus and the Amazons?"

And then came another, "If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?" Talk about thought provoking.

Immediately following the Q&A, I was treated to a delicious lunch with the principal, Melba Brito, who said words that were music to my ears. She'd ordered a class set of Marcus and the Amazons for the students. Now I was on top of the world!

No wonder Zelda Glazer Middle is an "A" school. The administration, teachers, and staff are committed to excellence and back up their words with actions that support local authors. I wish there were more schools like Zelda Glazer Middle in Miami!

Thank you Zelda Glazer Middle School for your enormous generosity and hospitality. Special thanks to Melba Brito, Principal; Jesus Gonzalez, Assistant Principal; Katia Lopez, Chair, Language Arts; Hans Gonzalez, Chair, Math Department; Armita Prakash, Assistant Principal; Lucas Delatorre, Assistant Principal, and Nick Garcia, Media Specialist, who helped me with the setup of my PowerPoint presentation.

I am also grateful to the Miami Book Fair International under the leadership of Alina Interian and her staff, Lissette Mendez, Nicole Swift, Lisa Palley of Palley Promotes, and Rebecca Calvert, MBFI/MDPS liaison, who made everything flow so easily.

Give thanks...


I will be reading from Marcus and the Amazons at the Miami Book Fair International on Sunday, November 20, 2011 in room 1164 at 11: 00 a.m.

November 16, 2011

Enemy of the State: "Armed and Dangerous"

Marcus and the Amazons on Y-100: Here's Help Show

I'll be talking with Luis Espinosa about Marcus and the Amazons on the Here's Help Show this Sunday, November 20, 2011, at 6 a.m.(Eastern Standard Time).

Here's Help Radio Show

Established in 1968, the Here’s Help Show is a groundbreaking radio talk show that tackles pressing issues in our community. It is the longest running community service show of it’s kind in the South Florida Market and the first to focus on substance use and addiction. The show airs every Sunday at 6:00 AM on WHYI-FM Y-100.7, “The Hit Music Channel,” WMGE-FM 94.9 Mega, “Latino & Proud,” and WMIB-FM 103.5, “The Beat.”

Hosted by Lt. Luis Espinosa, a retired 25 veteran of the Hialeah Fire Fighter Department & CEO of the “South Florida Fire Fighter’s Calendar” and produced by long time South Florida radio veteran Johnny Dolan and the students of Here’s Help, the Here’s Help Show focuses on issues important to the South Florida Community. Each week the show features community leaders, opinion makers, elected officials and people who make a difference.

To cater to South Florida’s diversity, The Here’s Help Show covers community topics that are unique to Miami-Dade & Broward Counties, and focuses the show’s programming to highlight issues & guests that are of interest to those listeners.

To suggest a guest for the Here’s Help Show or if you are interested in being a guest, please contact Rixys Alfonso, Guest Relations / The Here’s Help Show via e mail at

November 15, 2011

Marcus and the Amazons on Kindle Fire!

You don't need to wait any longer to read the e-book version Marcus and the Amazons or any other of my e-books. The new Kindle Fire has been released a day ahead of schedule!

Besides the many children's books with breathtaking graphics that you can read on the Kindle Fire, here are some other features:

  • 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books
  • Thousands of popular apps and games, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and more
  • Ultra-fast web browsing - Amazon Silk
  • Free cloud storage for all your Amazon content
  • Vibrant color touchscreen with extra-wide viewing angle - same as an iPad
  • Fast, powerful dual-core processor

Commonwealth Writers Final Call For Entries

Commonwealth Writers final call for entries:

Last few weeks remaining to enter the new Commonwealth Book Prize and Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The prizes are part of a new initiative, Commonwealth Writers, an online hub to inspire, inform and create a community of writers from all over the world. Together with the prizes, Commonwealth Writers unearths, develops and promotes the best new fiction from across the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Short Story Prize: Wednesday 30 November 2011 (5pm GMT)
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English (2000-5000 words). Regional winners receive £1,000 and the overall winner receives £5,000.

Commonwealth Book Prize: Friday 9 December 2011 (5pm GMT)
Awarded for best first book, the Commonwealth Book Prize is open to writers who have had their first novel (full length work of fiction in English) published between 1 January and 31 December 2011. Regional winners receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £10,000.

Enter online at

November 14, 2011

Today is World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day (WDD) is celebrated every year on November 14. The World Diabetes Day campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and its member associations. It engages millions of people worldwide in diabetes advocacy and awareness. World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat that diabetes now poses. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day in 2007 with the passage of United Nation Resolution 61/225. The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public spotlight. This year sees the second of a five-year campaign that will address the growing need for diabetes education and prevention programmes.
World Diabetes Day is a campaign that features a new theme chosen by the International Diabetes Federation each year to address issues facing the global diabetes community. While the themed campaigns last the whole year, the day itself is celebrated on November 14, to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, first conceived the idea which led to the discovery of insulin in 1922.
Diabetes Education and Prevention is the World Diabetes Day theme for the period 2009-2013. The campaign slogan for 2010 is 'Let's take control of diabetes. Now.'
Where is it celebrated?
World Diabetes Day is celebrated worldwide by the over 200 member associations of the International Diabetes Federation in more than 160 countries and territories, all Member States of the United Nations, as well as by other associations and organizations, companies, healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes and their families.
How is it marked?
The global diabetes community including International Diabetes Federation member associations, diabetes organizations, NGOs, health departments, civil society, individuals and companies develop an extensive range of activities, tailored to a variety of groups. Activities organized each year include:
  • Radio and television programmes
  • Sports events
  • Free screenings for diabetes and its complications
  • Public information meetings
  • Poster and leaflet campaigns
  • Diabetes workshops and exhibitions
  • Press conferences
  • Newspaper and magazine articles
  • Events for children and adolescents
  • Monument lightings
  • Human blue circles
  • Walks
  • Runs
  • Cycle Race
  • Political Events
Is there a theme?
Each year World Diabetes Day is centred on a theme related to diabetes. Topics covered in the past have included diabetes and human rights, diabetes and lifestyle, and the costs of diabetes. Recent themes include:
2005: Diabetes and Foot Care
2006: Diabetes in the Disadvantaged and the Vulnerable
2007-2008: Diabetes in Children and Adolescents
2009-2013: Diabetes Education and Prevention
The World Diabetes Day logo
The World Diabetes Day logo is the blue circle - the global symbol for diabetes which was developed as part of the Unite for Diabetes awareness campaign. The logo was adopted in 2007 to mark the passage of the United Nations World Diabetes Day Resolution. The significance of the blue circle symbol is overwhelmingly positive. Across cultures, the circle symbolizes life and health. The colour blue reflects the sky that unites all nations and is the colour of the United Nations flag. The blue circle signifies the unity of the global diabetes community in response to the diabetes pandemic.