Keeping the Dominican Culture and Heritage Alive

 

The 2013 New Jersey Madam Wob Dwiyet is behind us and after all the work and preparation involved and things to be taken care of, the anxieties and nervousness; the exhausted organizers and participants can now take a break…well a little, because the winner will travel to Dominica and the others will participate in a few Dominican functions being held as part of Dominica’s 35th Independence celebrations. Soon the motion will be set in place to have another function in 2014 and the cycle will continue…

I want, through this medium, to applaud all those who have been at the forefront of keeping Dominica’s culture alive in the Diaspora (I hate to use this word because of its negative connotation back in Dominica but that is what we are—the people of the Diaspora.)  During the staging of the events like the one just held in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, the Madam Wob Dwiyet USA -2013, it was remarkable to see so many Dominicans and non-Dominicans alike come out to witness, participate, and support their village or town girl; cheer the young ladies; cheer their Dominican friends on; and have a good time.

Mandisa

All those who believe that our cultural heritage is not important, think again. All those who think that politics and culture go hand in hand, think again—politicians come and go but our culture and heritage stay with us. For all those who think that the young people do not appreciate their culture, think again. For those who think that our culture is dead, well maybe it has been resurrected in North America.

It was indeed a spectacular display by young Dominican ladies, some who were born in the US of Dominican parentage. It was refreshing the way they performed and the pride and dedication they displayed. They all were winners, in my book, although only three of them could place, but in the end our island’s culture and heritage was the biggest winner. It was indeed appropriate that the government representative who was present at the function this year, is a villager from the cultural capital of Dominica, (Gwan Bay) Grand Bay, Mrs. Justina Charles, Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports and wife of the late Prime Minister, Pierre Charles, who himself was involved in the cultural activities in Gwan Bay. I am sure she was very proud of what she saw and elated to see such talent among the young people of the Diaspora (that word again!)

The young ladies are examples to the younger ones who hope to participate in the event in the future and it was refreshing to see the Ti-Matadors perform on stage…oh weren’t they sweet? They could have had their own show if they were allowed to and they were very well received by the audience.  They carried themselves very well and didn’t want to be outdone by the older ladies….Good job by Vadshire Dupuis and Daisy Grant Timothy who got them ready for the show.Girls

A look at the bios of the Wob contestants tell us, that besides being so talented, they are all very educated and on a path to doing great things for themselves. Among them:- a school teacher/girls’ high school basketball coach and doing a Master’s degree in education; a BET Young Stars nominee and TV actress, a legal assistant; a law student; one studying to be a physical therapist;  and one who works as a quality coordinator with a major US airline. Good role models for our young girls in the US and in Dominica too, I dare say. So I wish them all the best as they journey forth. They have their future ahead and hopefully they will reap great success in all they do. They deserve it and I am sure their families are very proud of them.

One of the contestants in the show was my own daughter, Mandisa, however, she did not place. I would not be talking the truth if I say that I wasn’t rooting for her to win or at least place as a runner-up, but I was just a parent and not a judge. All I can say is I felt very proud of what she was doing on stage and the way she did it. I doubt she would have done this a few years ago and to see her do what she did, I was extremely proud. I had to restrain myself at some points since I was photographing the event and I am also a member of the DEONJ-the show organizers. Didn’t want to influence the judges, you know!

I never saw my late  grandmother, Ma Salanie, (Salanie Louis) from the village of Salisbury, dance, but I am told she was one of the persons who loved dancing and loved the culture of Dominica and I know she must have been proud of her great grand-daughter doing her thing on stage. I can hear her… “Dansay zenfan mwin! Dansay!”

SONY DSCHowever, all this would not have been possible without the dedication of some of the persons who have sacrificed a lot to keep our culture alive in a foreign country and to do it so well. I know that a lot of what they do may not be known of in Dominica, but those of us up here see it portrayed quite a lot at various events. The very uplifting thing about it, is that they are all doing it voluntarily and not looking for any payment for what they are doing.

I refer here to Angela Sylvester and the Dominica Emerald Organization of New Jersey who stage the Wob Dwiyet Show annually; Sabeniah George-Mingo who started the Know Your Culture group in NJ; Justina Henderson-(Madam Wob Dwiyet USA-2009 and Madam Wob Dwiyet-North America-2012,) of Nous Wive Dance Troupe in New York and a former member of the Grand Bay Group “ Tradibelle;” Rosalind Severin-McClean of Rosa Dancin’ Belé in New York; the Boston Cultural Group among whose membership is the daughter of Dominica’s “Lady of Song”-Ophelia, Terri-Anne  Olivaccé-Marie, carrying on her mom’s tradition and love for the music and culture (and who says we are not our parents children?) Mrs. Lorna Phillips and DARDA who host their annual cultural gala and give all of those who attend an opportunity to display their national wear and parade gleefully for all to see, dancing and waving, proud to wear their wob and chemise. There are a few sprinklings of other groups throughout the US and Canada but I am not too well acquainted with them.

Angela, Sabeniah, Justina, Lorna, Rosalind and the groups and the individuals who support them, have forged to the forefront and created a new form of respect and love for our island’s culture and they should be applauded for all their efforts, time and energy in putting nation before self in many respects. They “have brought the mountain to Mohammed,” so to speak, so that we can reflect and participate in things Dominican during the Independence celebrations, even when we are not home.Boston

No longer are we strangers and in awe at what we can do when we visit Dominica or participate in these events or feel out of place, because we now have a new respect and appreciation for what we have; for what we cherish close to our hearts because it is ours and no one else’s. Darcor!

Before I end, I want to acknowledge the contribution to Dominica’s cultural development by Mr. Raymond Lawrence who will retire as the Chief Cultural Officer next year. I was privileged to have worked in the same building, as a Youth Officer, with stalwarts of the Cultural Division before moving to the US – Alwin, Ray and Pearle – and I saw firsthand how much they loved what they did. Raymond, like the others–and their staffs, has done quite a lot during his time as a dance leader, creator and choreographer and as cultural officer and I want through this medium to say, “Well Done Raymond! Blessings during your retirement…and I know you’ve retired as a public servant but you will surely continue to serve the public in your own unique way.  Congrats bro!!!

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MY ARTISTIC EXPRESSIONS

On Sunday, November 3rd I will be staging Geejay’s Artistic Expressions, an exhibition of my work: published books, oil paintings and photography. The event will take place at the Knights of Columbus, 1034 Jeanette Avenue, Union, NJ (yes I am a Knight) from noon to 6:00p.m.

I have chosen the 3rd to celebrate, with my country and countrymen, Dominica’s 35th anniversary of Independence from England; not for being discovered by Columbus since we have come to know that the Kalinago people discovered and lived on Dominica. Even though I have been residing in the US for 27 years, I still base my work on life in Dominica. I am enthralled by all that Dominica has to offer me as an artist and I make no apologies to having based my work on experiences in Dominica. Some people were amazed that I could remember the lingo as well as I wrote it in “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends,” but I wasn’t. I am a Dominican.

The period from September through November, has been one of the most active cultural times in Dominica for many years with all the various competitions taking place around the island in dance, music, literature and art. It is the time that many Dominicans bring out their creativity and talents that they inhibit and they share those with their fellow countrymen. The conte, the bele, quadrille, the folk songs, the poetry and short story competitions and much more come alive. It is a time we take pride in being Dominicans and a multi-talented nation with superstars such as Ophelia, Brumant, the DuBlanc Group, Siffleur Montagne Chorale and Jean Lawrence of years gone by, the late Cissie Mable Cauderion, the late Premier E.O.LeBlanc, Alwin Bully, Raymond Lawrence, Earl Ettienne and the many who continue to keep our cultural heritage alive and kicking.

I must, however, point out that the love and appreciation for our art and culture must not be a seasonal thing, but a daily occurrence, just like speaking kweyol….make it something we feel proud about every day…not just one day of the year. Dacor!

First book published in the US.

First book published in the US.

Just recently, I came across a page from a 1975 edition of the Star Newspaper and on that page was an article about my having won both the short story and poetry competitions during the National Day Celebrations, as it was called then. It was somewhat nostalgic for me (I remember being stunned to hear I had won both  competitions) and I felt good about myself and where I am today in terms of my artistic contribution to Dominica. The poem I won with was “For I am A Dominican,” later published in The Dawn, my first published book of poems and later republished in The Island Man Sings His Song, and with the short Story  “Converted,” which was published in Mesye Kwik! Kwak! a collection of short stories.

I always seem to have to convince many people that I have had no formal training in any of these art principles. Every aspect of my writing, painting and photography, have been completely self-taught. Honestly, I too, am surprised at what I have been able to accomplish with no formal training. But then, who knows! So let it be. However, I believe that though I gained my inspiration for my art from all aspects of life in Dominica…the rain, the forests, the lakes, the people, the land, the politics, the lingo, the religion…everything. I have also been inspired by some individuals who helped me achieve what I have achieved thus far.

When I wrote For I am a Dominican, I showed it to the late Desmond “Dan” Shillingford and he persuaded me to enter it in the National Day Poetry contest. I had already decided to compete in the short story contest and was not too inclined on submitting the poem. But Dan insisted that I did. Well, the eventual result spoke for itself. The days and nights I had spent typing and retyping (pounding I should say) did pay off. From 1974-1976, I was a student at the Sixth Form College (Sifocol) and among my tutors were Mrs. Dorothy Leevy and Mr. Alwin Bully whom I had never met, yet admired for his creativity with the plays like “Streak” and “Nite Box.” These two individuals helped in molding the little bit of what I knew about writing and expressing myself in their own unique style of teaching.

One of Ronald's Paintings

One of Ronald’s Paintings

My uncles, Ronald and the late Frank Julien may not be well-known artists…Frank was a tailor in Mahaut and Ronald, an auto-body repair man in Roseau. But in St. Joseph, Mahaut and Massacre, Frank was also known as the photographer who every Sunday, rode his bicycle to photograph events and people in those villages. Ronald was known as the artist in St. Joseph whom the kids and adults, too, flocked around while he painted using just regular oil paint or creating and printing T-shirts for carnival groups in the village and in Roseau. Ronald, who now resides in Canada, still continues to paint. It is a joy when we meet and speak about what each of us does and share our experiences. He, too, was self-taught. I know I may be gifted, (is this why I am called Giftus?) but then the commitment to do what I have been doing is what has prevailed.

I somewhat lost touch with part of it when I entered the workforce in the US in 1987, (much to my children’s chagrin and disappointment, later on) but after being laid off in 2008, I found solace in what I once loved doing and had a passion for. Yes, there is a passion involved when one sits or stands for hours and feels fulfilled to see a painting come alive on canvas; a book held aloft by a fan in a bookstore or a poem read by a child in a classroom. That, more than the value in terms of money, is what turns the cogs of my engine. The same, I am sure, is what drives the various artists and groups to come out year after year and participate, share and perform during the Independence celebrations. It is the same passion and love for what they do, as well as love for their country, that has kept people like Alwin Bully, Kelo, Raymond Lawrence, Glenford John, Alex Bruno, Fr. Jolly, Steve Hyacinth, Justina Henderson, Lennox Honeychurch, Ras Mo, Earl Ettienne and Ronald Deschamps among others, involved the way they have been throughout all these years. It is the same passion that is inspiring a new crop of young artists like Sabina Mingo with “Know Your Culture,” Joszann St. John, Lionel Leevy, Lola Louis, Catherine Pierre, Justina John, Paula John, Delroy Williams and others who will one day step in to be the guides for our younger generation.

Senjo Bay Front

Senjo Bay Front

Dominica may not be rich in terms of money and the like, but we can be proud that we, as a people, have a rich heritage and culture. We can stand among many throughout the world and feel proud of what we are able to do. I know I do. Yes, when my Mom (God bless her soul) would proudly let me know when my work was read on the radio; when Jenny James proudly displays a photo of herself holding a copy of Ma William and Her Circle of Friends on Facebook for all to see; when Delia Cuffy-Weekes reads from that same book to kids at the public library in Roseau. And when Vinna Royer reads chapters of the same book to the seniors in my home village of St. Joseph and they ask for the sequel, I feel rich, proud and honored. I will always remember those moments. I pray that the event on the 3rd will portray some of that inspiration that I have gained throughout the years and though I may have been away, nothing has been able to erase the smells, sounds, and tastes of Dominica from my memory.  I hope to see you and share some of my thoughts and opinions with you.

Thank you, Dominica, for allowing me to be your son and thank you for all the inspiration that you continue to give to those of us who crave for it and accept it;  use it and mold it the way we do and bring joy and satisfaction to artist and supporter alike. Happy Independence Dominica and my fellow Dominicans. God bless Dominica.

Growing Up With My Grandmother

I am honoured to have as Guest Blogger SomerEmpress as she shares with us a few nuggets from her grandmother. Welcome SomerEmpress.

Friends called her Ma’ Sue; to others, she was known by her married name, Ma’ Nibbs. Rarely was she ever called by her first name, Susan. To me, she was larger than life itself. She was my Granny. My first female and maternal influence, she was the woman that I came to know as mom growing up on the island of Dominica, from an infant until about ten years old. She bore only sons, but cared for several granddaughters, including me.

Unlike grandparents who spoiled their grandbabies rotten, then turned them loose on their parents, Granny was not particularly doting and did not seem to be innately affectionate. This isn’t to say that she did not have a maternal instinct, but rather that her tough love had more to do with having raised six strong-willed, rowdy boys, and then having to later care for many of her grandchildren as her own.  When it came to discipline, she was guided by the Bible verse, Train up a child in the way he should go, 
and when he is old he will not depart from it” and that wasn’t always a good thing, as it left little room for error on the part of the child. In hindsight, I now understand; but as a child, God’s wrath was enough to scare what little righteousness I had right out of me!

giftus004av2Though it has been a little over six years since my grandmother passed, both her voice and presence are with me as I raise and nurture my own children and attend to matters of our home. Granny brought swift order to the home and tended to all of our most basic needs. Her skillfulness in handling any and all who were not aligned with her own mission–especially as it pertained to faith or anything else for that matter, made an indelible impression on me till this day. When I think about it, Granny averted many a danger and kept us safe at all costs, though we could not fully understand or appreciate it at the time.

One memory, which stands out for me, was when a certain visitor called for my grandmother from outside our home on the lane where we lived.

“Ma Nibbs!”, she shouted, though she could clearly see from her vantage point, that my grandmother was nowhere close to where she stood.

My grandmother didn’t take kindly to this. Off with her apron, then down came her spoon, just before she reluctantly shuffled her feet, and then hastened to the front of the yard.

“You see, they have bad ways”, she reinforced to both my sister and me, eyeing the two of us to remain where she left us.
“Yes, Granny.” We were in agreement that not only did they have bad ways, but we would stay put as well. What else were we to say or do?

While our home was modest, built almost entirely by my grandfather, my grandmother guarded it like she was manning a royal collection at Buckingham Palace.  Instead of tall wrought iron gates, a simple wooden gate–reinforced by a galvanized steel panel on the front, cut into a cement wall–was all that separated us from the lane, and those who frequented it. In this home, my grandmother reigned as Queen.

My grandmother also had a characteristic way about her when she was asked for advice. She used the word “friend” loosely and did not welcome all who came knocking. Whether it was a “friend”, a member of our local congregation, or a neighbor stopping by on their way home, she spared no one what she saw as truth, garnered largely from her own experience. If she felt that she could not freely share this truth without escalation into an argument, she would simply remain quiet and return to whatever she was doing before her visitor arrived; however, by my observation, it appeared that her quietness made her guests very uncomfortable.  She was not a fan of small talk. Visitors who encountered this deafening silence generally did not return to seek counsel, at least not until the truth­–according to Ma Nibbs, turned out to be their truth as well.

As a child, the whole exchange, or lack thereof, seemed awkward. While my sister and I knew better than to be seen at these times, we remained within earshot of what was now an odd coupling, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Instead, what we heard was the squeaky opening of the gate in the front yard, followed by an abrupt drop onto its latch, indicating that our “company” was now gone. Of course, we knew better than to comment – why, that would let the cat out the bag that we had been listening all along–because we knew our place as children in her household, but it sure would have been nice to know whether she would perhaps consider an alternate view.  I am now certain that my grandmother knew we were privy to all of this, as she herself was once a child.

There was a time to be still and a time to talk, she reiterated, and the discernment to know the difference was the true measure of real intelligence and good character. Furthermore, though through more implicit instruction, from my Granny I learned to be authentically me.  Though I did not unpack this gem of wisdom until I was much older, more poignantly with my own children, I learned the importance of standing for something–even if it is only for the credibility of my own convictions about what I believe is right or just, and being unafraid of the response and isolation that doing so might bring.

While I am sure that I romanticize these days growing up with my grandmother, mostly because she filled in as mother during a very formative time of my life, I am keenly aware of the explicit ways in which she loved me, and did more than just tend to my needs. It is true that no two accounts will be the same. While my sister, and many of my cousins, were brought up in the same household for varying lengths of time, I can say, inarguably, that my grandmother raised us.

She took special care in presenting us clean, respectable, and worthy­–first to ourselves, then to the world, and emphasized that we should do the same, whether we were going to the grocery store just two blocks away, or getting on an airplane for our final move to the United States. I can only imagine the gymnastics she would do in her grave if I were to suddenly appear unkempt or uncouth at the local market with pajamas and bedroom slippers! Some people say “WWJD”; I say “WWGD” as in “What Would Granny Do?” not because she has become a lesser god to me, but because she made pure and simple sense when it came to matters of the heart, and provided a firm foundation for doing so.

I’ve learned so much from my granny, but these are just a few of the nuggets that I’ve chosen to share in this post. I will share more at Life As An Art, my blog home, as Spirit inspires. Stay tuned. 🙂

 

SomerEmpress defines herself as a woman, writer, wife, mother, activist, educator, small business woman, and part-time fitness instructor. She claims many interests, few hobbies, and a passion for Life that is probably unparalleled. 

Follow her blog Life As an Art.

On the Move Again

It’s been a while since I have added anything to this site. A few events that occurred recently somewhat threw a wrench in my routine and  slowed or stopped some of my activities. This edition is hopefully the start of getting back to doing what I have been enjoying lately.

However in the midst of life’s turmoil, there is usually a shining light. We celebrated our son’s graduation from Temple University with a Civil Engineering Degree. We look forward to him doing what Bill Cosby asked the graduating class to do that day at the Commencement Ceremony … Get a job! And with God’s guidance we know he will. But things have somewhat settled down and I am getting back to allowing the creative juices to flow once again.

As the warm months approach, (I confess, I don’t enjoy the cold) I am looking forward to embarking on the 2013 Geejay Arts and Photo Road Tour which, in effect, is my attendance and participation in a number of activities from now till December, especially those with a Dominican flavor. No, I am not getting on a bus with all my stuff although I really wished I could and have the opportunity to tour other states. But my car will do, with all my work crammed on the back seat and in the trunk; sometimes solo and other times accompanied by my wife or my son or daughter.

So far I have tentatively planned to be at CODIA’s Father’s Day Dinner and Dance in the Bronx; Tropical Hawaiian Party with Patorah in Mt. Vernon; the Dominica United Cricket Club’s picnic in Somerset, NJ; DOTSAC’s Flag Raising Ceremony and show in CT, DEONJ’s Madam Wob Dwiyet in N.J.and one of my favorites, DARDA’s Independence Gala in NY.  I am also looking forward to once again participating in the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, NJ which I attended for the first time last year. There are a few that I have heard about but no confirmation yet.

These events give me the opportunity to showcase and sell my work while interacting with other artists who are present, especially one like the Collingswood Book Festival which gives you the opportunity to see others like you trying to reach out to the public offering what we’ve created and hoping to get their support. My first experience was a good one and I look forward to be there once again on October, 6th.

I am working on plans to have an exhibition later this year in my hometown of Union, NJ. Plans are still being worked out as to venue, date, and time, and I am hoping that this is not just a dream, but becomes a reality. I had previously held such an event a few years ago, but I want to make this one much better and possibly a little grander. I will see how things fall into place as we move along.

This month marks two years since the publication of Ma William and Her Circle of Friends and I can say that I have been extremely pleased with the feedback and support I have received though, like many self–published authors I would have hoped for more support in terms of sales of the book However it is a work in progress and all one has to do is keep stoking the fire. My other two books continue to find their way into people’s homes and I am pleased about that…Mesye Kwik! Kwak! a collection of stories based on life in St. Joseph and, The Island Man Sings His Song, a collection of poems.

I recently heard from Mrs.Vinna Royer of St. Joseph, my home village in Dominica and the setting for “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends”–who told me that she reads chapters of Ma William and Her Circle of Friends to the seniors who meet at the Matthew’s Hall in St. Joseph and they have enjoyed it so much that they would like to know what happened to Ma William and her gang. Needless to say, I was very happy to hear about it. Another friend, Dominica’s grand lady of song, Ophelia, sent to let me know that she was present at one of those sessions and she was proud to tell the seniors present that she knows the author. Hopefully, one day I can grace the gathering and read a chapter to them.

But, oh, oh! Do I hear a call for a sequel? I have heard that call before though, however, at this time, I am working on two projects so the sequel is some time in the future.

It is said that variety is the spice of life and hopefully some variety will add some spice to my site…though I pray not too spicy…and I have invited three fellow bloggers and writers to be my guests on subsequent editions. If all goes according to plan, the next edition will be by one of those individuals. Something interesting that we can look forward to.

Finally, as we approach Fathers’ Day, I want to take this opportunity to salute my dad, Mr. Shaden John. Daddy recently celebrated his 84th birthday and we’re hoping that he can celebrate many more still with us, God willing. I did not pick up my artistic skills from him; that came from my mom’s side—painting influenced by my uncle Ronald Julien, and photography, by my late uncle, Frank Julien. I don’t know where the writing came from—I guess a God-given talent, though I wished I had dad’s penmanship. He writes very well. It would have saved me a caning from Br. Sullivan when I was in First Form at the SMA…yes…believe it…my handwriting was not up to snuff on three occasions, so I paid the ultimate price. Never got caned again though!!!

But what my dad has left imprinted within me and which I have admired and respected over the years, are: his love for his family, his hard work and dedication, his easy-going attitude, and his friendliness. Yes, he was a strict dad and made sure I did what was right, as did my late mom, but I don’t hold it against them. My dad has had a strong commitment to his community; to his church and God—dad has been singing on the St. Joseph church choir for over 50 years. I am proud when so many see him in me, especially my wife, who thinks the older I get the more I am like him. I’ll take that compliment.

My annual backyard garden is a tribute to him and what he instilled in me in terms of agriculture and gardening from an early age, although I have to confess I was not fond of going to the “garden,” except when I was going to have fun. Banana reception days were not my favorite. I rather stayed in Senjo and be out on the playing field with my friends. But as I became my own man, I saw what drove him and I am now guilty of being like that sometimes.

So Daddy, this is for you. Happy Father’s Day and though we have not spent one together in over 27 years, the respect, love and appreciation for all you are and have been, have not waned and the older I get the more I believe I am truly my Father’s son. God’s richest blessings, Daddy!

Dominican Literature and Self-Publishing

My last posting back in February, dealt with the growth of Dominican Literature and the strides that writers of Dominica – not Dominican Republic I will be quick to point out – have been making over the past years. Soon after I posted that blog I discovered two new authors who have joined the ranks of self-published authors in Dominica, or Dominican authors based overseas.

First, is a young lady from my home village of St. Joseph, Catherine Pierre who recently published Mindy Genie, in England where she lived for a while. Mindy Genie is the story of a young genie and its teenage master. The other is Gweneth Jules Moorehouse, who published Love Across the Atlantic in the USA, while she was based in Florida. Gweneth’s book is a story of romance between the author and her husband.

I recently finished reading Mindy Genie, I Lost My Cathedral, by Henry Johnson from Roseau and Love Across the Atlantic. These are the books in my little collection that I have recently purchased including Sonnets in the Waking Moments by Joszann St. John and Behind Closed Doors, which I am presently reading, by Augustina Rolle who is from Trafalgar.

Another development that has recently taken place, is the collaboration between the Domnichen Poetic Circle—a Facebook group of poets started by Dominican artist Ronald “Baba” Deschamps—and Dominica News Online. Every Friday, DNO will publish a poem by a member of the DPC. This collaboration started after one of the DPC members submitted a copy of one of her poems to DNO and it was published, paving the way for what is a good means of exposing the work of unpublished and even published writers both within and outside of Dominica.

I believe we are rapidly creating our very own niche within the Caribbean circles and hopefully as technology opens new avenues, we will get the room to develop further and our local writers will have the opportunity of having more of their works published. There are many established writers in the Caribbean and if we hope to be counted among them, we have to step up our game, so to speak.

With that said, I am aware of the numerous hurdles that many of the local writers are faced with in getting their work published, promoted and sold: the lack of a publishing house; the size of the local market; proficient editors and proofreaders, to name a few. These are some of the aspects of the publishing industry that will limit how well our writers can compete on a local, regional and international market with already established writers, many who have agents and publishing houses at their call.

Those of us who live in the United States, Canada or Europe have an advantage in that we are in a larger market and we have more resources available to us. We are not faced with issues such as the currency exchange, cost of mailing and there is a wide range of personnel that we can choose from to do some of the ground work for us, though some of us by-pass or ignore some of these resources for one reason or another.

Nowadays, many writers are not prepared to wait as long as was done in the past for a Publishing House to give an answer on a submitted manuscript and therefore, many are having their work published even if the work may not be to the standard that makes the book stand out. As I once mentioned, I had tried to get my latest book published by a Caribbean publisher, but after the initial response and a promise to contact later, I am still waiting 3 years later, which actually is not long based on publishing conditions.

I was recently asked by a budding author for some guidelines re self-publishing since she was interested in knowing what was involved. I don’t believe that I can claim to be an authority or expert on self-publishing, but after 18 years and three self-published works I believe I can share my experiences and give some advice. After what turned out to be a 3-part series on my Facebook page, I was surprised by the amount of work that is really involved in the process, and so too was the person who had sought my advice.

Many new or inexperienced authors are unaware of the ups and downs of self-publishing and that is the reason why sometimes what is supposed to be a wonderful and exhilarating experience turns out to be a harrowing experience. It is not just a matter of climbing atop Morne Diablotin to announce the publication of your book. What matters is the quality, content, and appearance so that you will be able to compete within the literary sphere. We can make the decision to self-publish or not, but it is extremely important that if we choose to go that route, we have a plan to execute that process.

I don’t know how practical it will be someday to see a publishing house in Dominica or a company geared towards publishing books and providing all the resources needed including conversion to e-books and having books available on line. I know that we have Pont Casse Press under the direction of Dr. Irving Andre and Gabriel Christian and most of their work is published under that trademark. It would be nice to see the company evolve into one that would help in the publication of works of local writers, both in Dominica and overseas.

Self-published authors need to be aware that once a proof has been signed-off the author is culpable. One has to make certain that whatever enhances the book’s quality such as the plot, cover blurb, a foreword or introduction are error free.  No one is going to blame the publisher. All blame will fall on you. We all get excited about seeing our book in print, but we must not compromise, when it comes to producing a good book.

I pray that our budding writers will get some inspiration from those among us who have stepped up to the crease (if I may use a cricket term here) and that they too can one day fall in line behind Gweneth Jules Moorehouse, Joszann St. John, Catherine Pierre, Henry Johnson and Elsa Rolle who have had the belief and confidence that they can lend their voices or hands in the continued growth of Dominica’s Literature; watering it with their thoughts, emotions and long-lasting devotion to the art form.