New Way Forward, Dominica!!!

Sakway tonner!!!

My head is almost ready to explode. I sincerely feel for my fellow islanders, my family and friends. But I honestly do not understand why all this negativity rather than people -the able bodied ones most of all- crying doom and misery. Come on! Get yourself on the bandwagon that is working towards getting DA back on her feet.
As one who is assisting in trying to get help for our people the cry of all doom and gloom and negativity only deflates the spirit. I have stopped listening to the radio and soon may have to filter what I read on Facebook. To every one positive comment there are 3-5 negatives. Bon Dieu! Now!!!
I am in no way trying to downplay the situation but where is that resilience that we are so quick to talk about? I hurt when I hear of the stories of people having lost everything that they labored for all the years. It aches for those who have lost dear ones. It aches for the children, most of all, who are hungry and homeless.
But where is that community spirit? If we talk negative that is all we will see and breathe. Can we put away our pride and lust for power and control; our divisiveness; our unpatriotic postings and phone calls, smearing a country that is down on her knees?
Sometimes, I believe many of us forget whom we are– and try to compare us with the more developed countries, but at what price? I hear of people stealing relief supplies in my home village – I pray that’s not true-and looters all over Roseau and though it seems funny and insignificant to many, it shows that some- some-of our people don’t give a damn about rules, laws or regard for people’s property.
Can we inject some hope into our people? Can we inject some national pride in our people? Can we give thanks that we still have a Dominica to call our own? She is still my home and I am proud to be her son. So many on this earth would gladly give anything to be in this battered country but all we do is cry her down!!
Take this scenario: You suffer a heart attack and you’re rushed to the hospital. You survive. Your doctor visits you and tells you that you had a close call and he tells you what the outlook for recovery is and what you could do in order to get well or avoid the chances of another heart attack. He does not chastise you for the ice cream, white bread and mac and cheese you ate or the beers you drank. Rather, he allows his nutritionists to help you prepare to eat better and guide you as to what to eat and what to avoid when you are released from the hospital.
Maria has come and gone. We can’t bring up all that should have happened. Rather let’s put in place things to prevent such catastrophic losses and lack of preparedness. That’s what this patient, this island and its people want to hear. Nothing, but how we move forward. Division at this critical time can have long lasting repercussions for this rock in the Caribbean Sea.
There are many lessons that Maria has taught us: Our need for more stringent housing codes; regard for the laws of the land as to where we can build and not; the implementation of a bunker ( don’t think we have one) where all essential heads of critical government departments can gather before and during a storm; training of police officers and first responders to be Ham Radio Operators and government having these men as essential employees; and our people taking serious participation in activities and programs re disaster preparedness. I hope The PM or a minister responsible could look at such. I also think many of us should make suggestions-meaningful ones at that-as to how we proceed going forward.
Maria may just be the first of many that we may see in years going forward and we have to act and prepare accordingly. We can’t do things “de same ole way” anymore.
Dominica rose after David. She will rise after Maria. We just have to believe we can.
Dominica Strong. Dominica forever!

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The Village Awakens

(Just for you…Lady O and Lucia)

SONY DSC

A View of St. Joseph from the E.O. LeBlanc Highway

Dawn breaks quietly
As birds welcome the morning
With their cacophony of songs.
The trees stand quietly in respect
As the sun edges purposefully
Over the dark-green mountains,
Its resplendent rays,
Bathing the land with its majesty.

IMG_4582The dew drops drip slowly
From the petals, unto the grass
Glistening in the sunlight,
As the plants, growing freely,
Welcome the new day,
Thankful for the warmth
Of the morning sun, as they
Proudly display their beauty.

The red-crested humming birds,
With long, pointed beaks,
Hover menacingly above the flowers,
Their wings, flapping like rotors,
As they take aim
At the stamens,
Ready to siphon
The deep-seated nectar.

HIMG_3505ens, with their broods
Close in pursuit,
Cluck noisily and defiantly,
As they scurry about
Hunting for careless worms
Before the robins and wrens do,
While ignoring the advances
Of the colorful, persistent roosters.

The bees and wasps
Buzz and hum, noisily,
As they quickly dart about
Feasting on the abundant pollen.
Yet, it is calm and peaceful,
Even as the river, briskly flows,
Meandering its way to the Caribbean Sea,
As the morning quietly hearkens.

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The glistening fronds
Of the giant palm trees
Lay limp and listless,
Fearful to disturb the morning with their rustle.
And, as I watch from my window,
I smile in awe
At the beauty being unveiled around me,
As the village, too, awakens.

From the book Verses from atop the Mountain, by Giftus R. John
Copyright Giftus R. John 2016

Becoming More Than Before Through Creative Collaboration

It is my pleasure to welcome author Ellen Palestrant as today’s guest blogger as part of the virtual book tour for her book Have You Ever Had a Hunch? The Importance of Creativity.  Here’s Ellen’s post:

three penguins

As an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself. Steven Spielberg           

     © E. Palestrant2 2015

Thank you Giftus for hosting me on this virtual book tour celebration for ‘Have you Ever Had a Hunch? The Importance of Creativity,’ and congratulations on your new book! It is always good to connect with another creative counterpart. I look forward to interacting with your audience and welcome their comments or questions.

Even though ­creativity is largely a solitary process, collaborating with others, helps us accumulate a body of criteria from what has worked for others or not, be it in business, art, the sciences, in all manner of productivity. We can now take what we have learnt and apply this knowledge to our own or new fields we are contemplating entering.

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One person cannot be adept in all areas but many hands or minds make light work. I have found that collaborations have presented me with the opportunities to learn about artistic, scientific and philosophical areas outside my everyday experiences and participate in bringing productions that are too big for one person to do alone, to actual completion. What a thrill it then becomes to have a tangible product ready to be sold! I know I could never have done it alone.

I suggest that for all people yearning to expand their work horizons, they remain not only appreciators of the work of others, but also become creators as well in the enterprises of many – when opportunities arise. Conversely, I suggest, you also invite others to become creators in your own areas of expertise. Generously sharing knowledge and experience, is a situation that is good for everyone involved because all can learn and maybe even earn from the unfamiliar areas that have now become comfortable domains.

Allowing collaborative creativity into our lives, gives us added stimulation and the opportunity to work on projects that require many people. Having allowed ourselves to become one of many, we can now return to our solitary work, creatively replenished and expanded, eager to explore and implement our new-found, artistic, commercial, technical or scientific ideas. We have become more than before.

 

This feature is part of the Virtual Book Tour celebration for Ellen’s book HAVE YOU EVER HAD A HUNCH? The Importance of Creativity. Join the celebration and follow the tour.

Ellen Palestrant is a writer, artist, filmmaker, educator, game inventor, hydroponic farmer, creative conceptualizer and creativity consultant. Among her nine published books, HAVE YOU EVER HAD A HUNCH? The Importance of Creative Thinking is now in its Third Edition.

 “There is a vision that guides a creative process that is uniquely your own,” Palestrant says. “That glimpse of possibility, which often enters our minds unbidden, needs to be respected and not disregarded. It might, after all, contain the potential to become something exciting and unexpected. I call myself a Possibilitiest

 Connect with Ellen at EllenPalestrant.com

Author Interview: H Alan Day

I am honoured to host Amazon Kindle bestselling author H Alan Day on the virtual book tour in celebration of his book The Horse Lover: A H Alan DayCowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs. Enjoy this feature interview!

Thank you Giftus for hosting me on this virtual book tour. I look forward to engaging with your audience and answering their questions.

Your story is also one of entrepreneurship, as is the story of the main character in my latest novel. When you started ranching in the Sand Hills of South Dakota, you already owned a 200,000-acre ranch in the southwest and a 45,000-acre ranch in Nebraska. What prompted you to buy a third ranch?

By a strange quirk, I visited the ranch in SD and had a deja vu moment. I felt like I had been there in another life and had strong need to be associated with it. I had never then nor since had an experience like that. Logic told me I wouldn’t be able to handle a 35,000-acre third ranch. I was too busy, and had no idea what I would do with it. I already was running 2500 head of cattle. Yet, my heart told me I needed to be there on that ranch, so I made a bid on it and ended up buying it.

How difficult was it to persuade the government to sponsor a wild horse sanctuary?

Not too difficult. The Bureau of Land Management was getting a lot of criticism for how they were managing the wild horses. A sanctuary that could care for 1500 horses that the government owned by no private citizen wanted to adopt seemed like a good alternative to keep those horses penned up in feed lots (otherwise known as horse prison).

After the government approved the sanctuary, how did you feel knowing that you soon would be the recipient of and caregiver for 1500 wild horses?

A bit overwhelmed but excited. I had been riding ranch horses since before I could walk, but I had never worked with or been close to wild horses. I had no idea how they would respond to me and my crew of cowboys. I knew that one way or another we needed to make friends with them. Not train or gently them, but get them to trust us. We needed to be able to move them from pasture to pasture in order to overgraze any piece of land. In order to move them, we had to train them, and in order to train them, the horses had to trust us. I knew that I was facing one of the biggest challenges and adventures of my ranching career. DSC_0493

What did your South Dakota neighbors think of your plan?

Before we received the horses, my ranch foreman would go to the bar and the patrons would be talking about the crazy Arizonan who was bringing in a bunch of wild horses. They thought the horses would be scattered around the county before I could say “Whoa!” And winters? What did a desert cowboy know about winters? They chalked me up as being totally nuts.

Did you have to prepare Mustang Meadows Ranch before you received the horses?
The ranch was quite run down and not suited for horses when I bought it. So we had a ton of work to do before the horses came. We had to bolster corral fences so the horses couldn’t jump over them or knock them over. We had to dig more wells for water out on the pasture. We worked our tails off for a good ten months before the horses came.

Given the opportunity to manage a wild horse sanctuary, would you do it again?

I loved the horses but hated the bureaucracy. If I could manage sanctuary without dealing with the bureaucracy, the answer would be a resounding “yes.”

What made you decide to write a book about your experiences?
It was just such an interesting time in my life that I was driven to share that with other people. As I got to writing the book, it occurred to me that my perspective might help today’s wild horse situation. The BLM is saddled with upward of 50,000 unadoptable mustangs that are sentenced to life in holding pens. If we could get the mustang baby factory under control out on the range, we might be able to bring those numbers way down. The training program that I used on the sanitary would be very useful to the BLM right now. And that program and the results of it are described in the book.

What was the hardest part of your author’s journey?
Lack of a background in writing put me behind the curve. My first manuscript caught the attention of some agents and editors but it was never good enough to be purchased. I decided to hire a professional writer to help me. Lynn Wiese Sneyd and I ended up co-authoring the book. What had been a terribly frustrating experience became a really positive one.

Any advice for people interested in writing a memoir?
My advice my sister gave me was settle in with a yellow legal pad and #2 pencil and just write. But you have to know what to write and how to write. It’s critical to be able to bring readers into a scene and make them feel the surroundings and the attendant emotions.

H Alan Day - Virtual Book Tour for The Horse Lover

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H. Alan Day

Alan Day’s upbringing branded him a cowboy from the day he was born. He was part of the third generation to grow up on the 200,000-acre Lazy B cattle ranch straddling the high deserts of southern Arizona and New Mexico. The ranching and cowboyCover - THl lifestyle appealed to him so greatly that after graduating from the University of Arizona, he returned to manage Lazy B for the next 40 years. During his career, he received numerous awards for his dedicated stewardship of the land.  In the 1980’s, Alan purchased a cattle ranch in Nebraska and soon after, a ranch in South Dakota. The latter became the first government-sponsored sanctuary for unadoptable wild horses. He developed and successfully used a herd modification-training program for his 2000 head of cattle and 1500 wild mustangs.

Alan and his sister, Sandra Day O’Connor, co-authored the New York Times bestselling memoir, Lazy B, which chronicles the story of the Day family and growing up on a harsh yet beautiful southwestern ranch. Alan is a member of Western Writers of America. Now retired, he divides his time between Tucson and Pinetop, AZ.

Looking Back-Yet Moving Forward

 

ma-william-book-cover-x-small2.jpgThe last leg of my artistic and literary journey for 2013 has come to an end and I am now standing in the doorway of 2014, waiting expectantly to enter the different rooms and see what is in store for me. Hopefully, it will be a year of continued growth based on the seeds that were planted and nurtured throughout the year.

I entered 2013 with some skepticism since I was trying to get back on course after a few health issues that derailed some of my plans the prior year, yet I was able to achieve a few of the set goals, but not close to what I had envisioned.

My main effort of concentration in 2013 was working on promoting my book, “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends,” and I put a lot of effort and time–long, late hours–finding creative ways to reach out to the Dominican public and share the story of Ma William-a shopkeeper in the village of St. Joseph, or, of any village in the island and possibly the Caribbean. I had to find innovative ways to do so on Facebook and online generally, while at the same time working a full-time job. But nonetheless, I gave it my all and throughout the year I participated in a number of events by Dominican organizations, where I displayed my work. At the same time, I have been working on two new projects and also trying to keep this blog current and trying to remain sane while all other things circled around me.

I stepped down as a member of the Dominican Poetic Circle (DPC) after unwarranted attacks of my work and my ability, made by a member of the group on the DPC Facebook site. That gave me the incentive to push on alone to achieve goals that I had set for myself. I became more focused on my own pages on Facebook; Ma William and Her Circle of Friends and Mesye Kwik! Kwak! as well as my personal page, and went on promoting my work much more than I had done previously and gained personal satisfaction from so doing. However, none of that would have been possible without the support of a number of individuals, most of whom I met on Facebook and DPC, but have never met personally, who rallied behind me and supported me through it all.  Les Li, Jenny James, Joszann St. John, Eunice Nisbett, Delia Cuffy-Weekes, Kalinago Woryi, Paula John, Gloreen Vigilant, Rhona Lawrence and Marva Paul Loblack, among others.

I also had the opportunity to assist and work with some other Dominican authors throughout the year. I was extremely pleased and gratified that I could assist in their projects and honored for the trust and confidence they placed in me by seeking my help and advice: Catherine Pierre, Joszann St. John and Gweneth Jules-Moorhouse, most notably.

As a self-published author, it has not been an easy task to get the work in the hands of the public, but it is a challenge that I have embraced and appreciated and I do not spare any available opportunity to promote my work. If I don’t then who will…Well, some will, I should say, like Jenny James, an individual I have met only on Facebook, who has wholeheartedly given me her  support by promoting all aspects of my work. I thank Jenny for her unselfish act and I cannot be more humbled by it all. The literary journey that began over 40 years ago at the St. Mary’s Academy, has given me the opportunity to reach many individuals both in Dominica and overseas, and I have gained a lot of satisfaction and personal growth along that journey.

At the beginning of 2013, I decided to devote more time than I previously had to my paintings and that, too, turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise. I have been amazed by the feedback that I have received about my paintings and I have been left to wonder if my painting is beginning to overshadow my writing. It has been refreshing the manner in which many have gravitated to my paintings and this was very apparent when I was working on my latest piece which I entitled The Village. There were daily comments made on my Facebook page by those who were rather impressed with the piece. And all this after I had gone into hiding for over 25 years…well to my daughter’s angst, I must say. But all is well now.

Jenny2

2013 also saw a new perspective in terms of my photography. I devoted much more time in order to push myself and do more; create more and showcase my capabilities behind the camera. I recently joined the Newark Camera Club based in Springfield, NJ and the rewards have been instantaneous. I have the opportunity to see other photographers at work and get insights and ideas from them.

I have not been more energized than I have been these past three months and I am enjoying it all. God-given talents are not to be left stored away, I learnt, so I am more invigorated than ever before.

I organized an exhibition of all my works as part of Dominica’s Independence celebrations on the 3rd of November at the Knights of Columbus in my hometown, Union, NJ. To say the least, I was disappointed with the response from those whom I had invited, but I cannot in any way discount the appreciation I had for those who attended; some coming from the Bronx and Brooklyn. Besides, I was proud to display my work and feel a sense of accomplishment regardless of the turnout. I saw this as a foundation to build on and an opportunity to feel the response of those who attended and share a little bit of me with them.

But, besides the few hiccups that I experienced during the year, there were a few bright spots added to those of my artistic journey. There were some family accomplishments that helped lift my spirit. My son, Jamal, graduated from Temple University with a Civil Engineering degree and soon after that was able to get employment; my daughter, Mandisa, returned to the University of Pennsylvania to do a Master’s Degree in Education, and me, I worked on getting myself healthy again, while having to deal with one of the low points of the year…my wife being laid off from her job. Although this has given us the opportunity to share a lot of time together, it was not the way we had envisioned things. It however, allowed her the time to critique my work as I produced my pieces. The situation is out of our control so we will work together to make it better.

But, as I stand in the doorway of 2014, I am very optimistic of what lies ahead. I don’t know what to expect, but I am determined to build on what I laid down in 2013. Getting the time to build on it will be at times difficult, I know, but the results will be what I focus on. I have not been fortunate to attend The Dominica Literary Festival…will this be the year? I am still not sure. I also want to take all aspects of my work to another level and with the support of my family, both here and in Dominica, and all the Jennys out there, I will be able, I pray, to do so. I will continue to participate in activities where I can meet fellow Dominicans, and God willing, financing available, I look forThe Garden - Copyward to being able to get another project completed and published this year. It will be a tough mountain to climb, but each journey begins with a single step…I have made that step.

I am very excited about what I will find in the various rooms as I walk through, but whatever, I am ready. I also look forward to continuing to work with other authors and writers with whom I have partnered during the past year and I hope that together we can turn the tide about the literary development in Dominica and by Dominicans. I will continue to use the social networks to my fullest advantage and expose to, not only my Facebook friends, but anyone who cares, my work as an artist and the creations produced from such abilities. Hopefully, that can translate into some financial rewards, also. Don’t want to be a starving artist, you know.

So, let me say a sincere Thank You to all who have been on that journey with me during 2013. It was indeed a pleasure and a wonderful journey. I invite you to come along with me again this year as I journey through the various rooms, chapters,the hills, mountains, plains, on the seas and rivers, as 2014 rolls along.

God’s richest blessings to all.

The Growth of Dominican Literature

When one speaks of Dominican authors of international acclaim, there are only two who have reached that plateau. Surprisingly though, many of us got to know about these two authors only years after their works had been published. I do not remember coming across the works of either Jean Rhys or of Phyllis Shand-Allfrey until after leaving high school. These two authors had made their marks on the international scene but in Dominica, for one reason or the other, we did not get the chance to read of them or talk about them at the high schools.

Jean Rhys may be the more notable of the two with her novel The Wide Sargasso Sea. She also published, After Leaving Mr. McKenzie and Good Morning Midnight among others.  Jean Rhys was born in Dominica but moved to England at the age of 16.

Phyllis Shand-Allfrey’s most noteworthy publication was The Orchid House. She also wrote It Falls Into Place. Besides being an author, Mrs. Allfrey was a prominent politician and founding member of the Dominica Labor Party and was a member of the Legislature in the West Indies Federation. She was also the editor of the Star Newspaper.

These two ladies, and one of my fellow villagers, J. Ralph Casimir, along with a few other notables, like Edward Scobie and Henkell Christian were the forerunners of Dominican Literature and their works have been featured in many literary magazines and publications internationally.

While we did the work of a number of British writers at school (Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Byron, Keats and Chaucer) I cannot remember ever doing any class where the work of any Dominican author was part of the curriculum. I guess that may have been because most of the curriculum was tailored for the exams being set by the University of London and the University of Cambridge.

For a period of time not much happened on the literary scene in Dominica. There was a lot activity on the radio in terms of short stories, poems being read and plays being performed, but not much in the line of book publication. It was during the 70’s that Dominican literature experienced what I may term as a rebirth, since during that time, we saw the biggest outflow of work from local writers.

There have been periods when certain writers dominated the local scene. Fr. Clement Jolly, (maybe one of the most prolific Dominican writers,)-A Time To Remember; Lennox Honychurch-The Dominica Story; Arundel Thomas and Anthony Lockhart-Two Heads and Mark Sylvestre-When I Awake, were the front-runners then.

We then saw the emergence of Giftus John-The Dawn; Gabriel Christian-Rain on A Tin Roof; Irving Andre-A Passage to Anywhere; Leonard Joseph-From Thorny Bushes to Green Pastures; Ian Jackson-Of Thoughts Confusing; Christabel Laronde-Lespuis Famne and Ras Albert Williams-Honourable Natty Dread.

After that period, another group of writers emerged on the scene: Justina John, Aurelius Gordon, Alick Lazare, Michael White, Chris Seraphin, Ivenia Benjamin, Peter Piper and many others. These writers brought their own perspective to the art form and built on what had already been laid. Some were already writing but at that time took the opportunity to publish their works. They had seen the path made by those before them, and they boldly stepped in.

There are many Dominican writers based overseas who have published their work in the countries where they presently reside. Dr. Peter K. St. Jean, Gabriel and Esther Christian, Dr. Irving Andre, Joszann St. John, Raglan Riviere, Juliana Magloire, Paula John, Lola Louis, and Giftus John, to name a few.  We have also seen authors who have published novels with Dominica mentioned, or Dominica as the setting for their work: Jamaica Kinkaid (Antigua) The Autobiography of My Mother and Marie-Elena John (also of Antigua) Unburnable.

Dominican Literature may have taken a while to catch up and be on par with the other Caribbean islands, but we are making our own footprints. It has not been easy to get the work promoted and highlighted as many of the authors would like, but it’s a small step and now with easy access to the internet, especially social networking and the ability to easily downloaded e-books to tablets, I believe the works of our local writers will make their way to the homes of Dominicans and the people of the other Caribbean nations. There are a number of talented young writers coming to the forefront who will keep the art form alive such as Delroy Nesta Williams, Monelle Alexis, Anique Cuffy, Dwight Thomas, Terri Henry, and Kamarsha Sylvester.

The creation of the Facebook group, Dominica Poetic Circle also gives young, as well as established writers, an avenue to showcase their work and at the same time get feedback from their peers.

The establishment of the Nature Island Literary Festival is a great and welcome initiative. I have not had the opportunity to attend any of the past festivals, though I have been invited, but the Litfest is a great avenue of motivation for our writers, both in Dominica and those who are overseas. This is a stage where we are able to showcase the best of Dominica’s literary talent and at the same time have other notable Caribbean writers meet with our writers and give direction and guidance, even for a few hours.

I would like to see a program whereby the work of writers become a prominent aspect of Dominica’s culture, not only during the Literary Festival and Independence Celebrations but throughout the year; so that our people will not only be aware of the authors/writers within their midst but also to appreciate the work for what it is.

We also need to find a way to help our people appreciate the work of their local artists, authors, and playwrights who have become very prominent within the Caribbean: Alwin Bully, Lennox Honychurch, Raymond Lawrence, Alex Bruno, Jean Lawrence, (I wonder how many of our young people know who she is,) and Steve Hyacinth, because these are the roots. These are the people who have planted the seeds that have germinated and grown and become who we are today.

Continuing the Journey

During the past twelve months I have been promoting my latest book, “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends”—a story of a shopkeeper and her gang of “trusted” friends set in my home village of St. Joseph on the island of Dominica.

As a “Jack of all”— writer, publisher, promoter, artist, editor, salesman—whatever role was needed, I found myself playing it. I had to find ways to bring the story of this woman and her friends to the bookshelves, Nooks, Kindles and libraries of readers wherever Ma William was available.

It has been a challenge doing all this, while at the same time working a full-time job and taking care of some health issues. However, I’d be telling a lie if I said that the journey has not been worth it. Yes, there were many rough times, but also some very rewarding ones. The support and approval of my work outweighed or outnumbered the objections.

I have had the opportunity to work with a wonderful person, Eunice Nisbett of Savvy BestSellers, who offered tremendous support and with whose assistance I was able to embark on my first Virtual Book Tour from May 13th – 18th. We were also able to create and launch this blog site. Eunice has been instrumental in getting my work promoted on caribdirect.com affording me the exposure needed to promote my book regionally. We have been continually working on finding new avenues and better ways to promote my work; and lay the groundwork for new projects.

I have also had the opportunity to participate in a few events and meet with other writers/authors: the Yonkers Book Festival, the Yonkers Riverfest, and the Collingswood Book Festival; as well as at the DARDA Independence Day Celebrations and the Know Your Culture Independence Gala. The experience has been well worth it. I joined the Dominica Poetic Circle – a Facebook group, and have used the opportunity to network and continue the promotion, not only of ‘Ma William and Her Circle of Friends,” but also of my other books, my photography and paintings, and to share my work with other members of the group. I also created and designed my own book-trailer which has been posted to YouTube.

There have been a few disappointments along the way—a sense of what I think is the lack of support for local authors and maybe I can generalize here—for local artists. My belief is that too often our work is treated as second class. I don’t know if it is the fault of the artists or our general attitude that something by someone else is always better. However, the support that is forthcoming from those who appreciate what we do, blunts the effects of the rejection and negativity. In essence, the passion for your craft is the driving force behind it all.

A friend recently forwarded me a link. The article that was attached to that link dealt with Playin’ Mas by blogger “Akers” and one of the chapters in “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends” was a source of what was referenced for her article. Behind The Mask: Playin’ Mas. I felt good that my work was used by someone to talk about something that all of us in Dominica, and some other countries in the Caribbean, are familiar with—Playin’ Mas. Ma William has been about life, as I saw it then and as the people of St. Joseph lived it then.

Christmas is a few days away and I can see the activity going on in Ma William’s shop. I can hear Ma William and Ma Simbert discussing what they would be doing for Christmas. Paul, bringing some yams for Ma William to sell for him in the shop; Bamboo, trying to get a few little odd jobs to have some money in his pocket; Pappy, doing his best to stay as the “big boy” in the group and, not the least among them, Mr. Jones having to tell everyone if he had received “greenbacks” from his children in the US. They would all be talking of what they would do after midnight mass. As “nennen,” Ma William would be getting her little packages ready to give to the many god-children who would be stopping by during the season. Yes, that was it back then!

So as I wind down 2012, it’s time to look ahead to new projects. Yes, I’ll continue promoting “Ma William and her Circle of Friends,” “Mesye Kwik! Kwak!” and “The Island Man Sings His Song,” but there is more that I’d like to share. What is it? We’ll see, if the Almighty grants me the opportunity. Some readers have asked about a sequel to Ma William…very interesting I find and an unexpected request, I may add. Others have asked me when I plan to publish the next book. I won’t commit to anything yet, but hopefully that won’t be too long from now.

In the interim let me say thanks for the support and encouragement of so many of you out there. I sincerely appreciate it. Special thanks to caribdirect.com and thedominican.net for continuing to feature my writing. To those of you who have not yet bought your copy, here’s your opportunity to get one as a gift for someone or for yourself, this Christmas. I assure you it will be a wonderful gift that you, or that special someone, will cherish for a very long time.

All the best and a Blessed and Merry Christmas to You and Your Families.

Giftus

Celebrating a Culture and a Heritage – Happy Independence to Dominica

Approximately one year ago I travelled to Dominica to launch my then newly released book “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends.” My original plan was to participate in the Literary Festival and do the launch around that time, but the timing of the book publication and the Lit Fest was not right. I thus decided to do the launch during the Independence Celebrations and do it in my home village, St. Joseph.

It was an exciting time for me. I had seen the result of almost three years of work come alive in ink and paper. My last book launching in Dominica was in 1981 at the St. Mary’s Academy where I was a teacher for five years. Since then I have published “The Island Man Sings His Song,” and “Mesye Kwik! Kwak!” both in the United States, without any fanfare or drum roll. I was excited to go back to where it all started and make my village the centre of the action. I was not going to follow the same route with Ma William as I had with the two other publications because, based on the storyline, the previews and the buzz I was feeling about that book, I believed it was going to be my best work yet and I wanted to do it justice.

First, I saw this as a challenge for me as an author and a returning Dominican and also as the one who had “inside scoop” on the activities of Ma William and her trusted gang…Bamboo, Mr. Jones, Ma Simbert, Pappy and Paul. These characters portrayed the life in that community. They portrayed the lives of real people in a struggling community and displayed the everyday happenings in a community hemmed in on the North, South and East by hills and on the West by the Caribbean Sea.

As I walked around the village one late afternoon and relived the story, I saw the “fictional” areas that I had described in the book come alive.…Ma William’s shop, Front Street with its large potholes, and Main Street, where a number of stragglers were sitting idly by waiting for a drink or a handout. I saw Ma William and her gang doing what they did best every day and night. I got the feeling that even though I had not been part of the everyday life of the village for more than 25 years I was at home within a surrounding that I was extremely familiar with…people that I knew and streets that I had walked. The characters were the same. The characters in the book were no longer fictional…I saw them in the people walking the streets of the village. The story of Ma William became real at least for a while.

One aspect that amazed me was having people ask me which Ma William I was referring to in the book. Although there was no Ma William who owned a shop in the village, there were, to my honest surprise, many more Ma Williams in St. Joseph than I had known. Everyone, then, had a Ma William that they knew, although some were sure that the story was about a particular shopkeeper but that I had disguised the story by using Ma William as the fictional name…well that I won’t answer to.

As I indicated earlier, the trip was held around the Independence celebrations and that gave me the opportunity to witness some of the cultural activities that were held in Roseau, the island’s capital. Dominica may not be a rich nation but our culture does not take a back seat to any nation in the world. It is unique and precious. It is sometimes said that it is after many of us leave the island’s shores and visit other places that we realize what we have. I believe though, that it is because we do not have anything to compare it with, when we’re home. When we go to other places we see what they have and we become much more appreciative of what we have…our dances, our songs, our music, our poetry, our conte, our short stories, our rivers, the sea, our forests, our birds…and on and on.

This is why we need to applaud the groups throughout the United States, Canada, England and other parts of the world who organize the cultural events during that time of the year. We should also applaud people like Sabina George-Mingo, Roslyn Mc Lean and Justina Henderson for keeping our dances alive and teaching the young ones (many who were born in the US or came here very young) the culture and heritage of Dominica, that their parents knew.

Ma William did not dance though her mother—Ma Olive did, but what she (Ma William) did was relate a story of life in a community where the people, mindless of what happened throughout the year, saw themselves as patriots, as jean Senjo and as Dominicans: Paul—staying home even though his wife was in the Virgin islands, Shirley—hoping to return after her studies in Cuba and take care of the children in her community and her island and Mr. Jones—not wanting to leave the only place that he had known all his life.

As we celebrate another year of political and cultural independence from our colonial masters, may we pause and remember the many cultural icons who have gone before us and those who are still with us. Let us thank them for keeping alive a Culture and a Heritage that is second to none, and one that no matter where we are, no matter what part of the world we decide to call home, we as Dominicans, will be proud to be part of and cherish always.

Happy Independence Dominica and my fellow Dominicans!!

Ma William – One Year Later

Approximately one year ago I launched my fifth book, “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends” in Union, New Jersey. Two months later, during the Independence celebrations, I did the same in St. Joseph, my home village in Dominica.

The launching in St. Joseph was held at Matthew’s Hall which was formerly one of the two buildings that constituted the St. Joseph Government School. This “Down School” as many of us called it, was the same building where I began my education over fifty years ago. The memories are still fresh in my mind as I remember how we were all packed in that schoolroom – Stage One to Standard One – while teachers like Teacher Exillia, Teacher Bellot and the others, imparted knowledge. Yet, somehow we learned…this was part of life in St. Joseph then and we enjoyed it. We had no choice not to.

The launchings in Union and St. Joseph were a culmination of over three years of working on the manuscript: writing and rewriting, getting it edited, contacting publishers, getting help from friends re-checking the story-line, and some long nights while trying to meet deadlines. Those were wonderful and exciting moments for me because I had succeeded in seeing the outcome of all my work. Yet I knew then that there was much more work ahead of me.

Ma William and Her Circle of Friends has not been a financial whirlwind, but it has helped in highlighting the way of life of a village and community that I grew up in and bringing back “to life” what once was in that community. The process has helped to open avenues for me to promote my work and feel comfortable and confident with what I have been capable of doing as an author.

As an independent, self-published author, the task of promoting and selling the book has not been an easy journey. However, the rewards so far have been extremely gratifying. If I can share some of the feedback that I’ve received, that is besides the usual comments on Facebook or comments and emails from friends and supporters, you’ll appreciate what I mean:

“Ma William and Her Circle of Friends took me back to a time and place long past and evoked feelings of nostalgia, humor and hidden expectations. This is clearly reminiscent of the Caribbean literature that formed part of my curriculum at the Grammar School during my tenure as a student. I hope that this is only the beginning of the Ma William collection since Giftus has given life to his cast of characters, many of whom all Dominicans can identify with. This was part of life in Dominica as much as it was part of life in many Caribbean Islands and should remain part of our memories forever.”

“This was a very entertaining read. The characters became friends. I loved it. I found myself in tears when Mr. Jones left for the US with his son and Shirley left for University. Everyone who grew up on any of the Caribbean islands knows someone who fits each description. We all know a Ma William. It takes us back to a time when life in the Caribbean was just about changing – good days… simple days…. Days that we still long for… I would recommend this book to anyone of Caribbean heritage. “

I am grateful that I have been able to recreate a way of life that many people have been able to identify with and characters, especially Ma William and Bamboo, whom readers could relate to. I am also grateful that I have been able to tickle the imagination of those who missed that era within our community, not only in Dominica, but in other parts of the Caribbean.

In February I launched this site and the Facebook Page for “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends” with assistance from Savvy BestSellers. This was an effort to promote “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends” online, to get feedback from readers, and at the same time to share my perspective on life in St. Joseph, Dominica, and by extension, the Caribbean.

From 13-19 May 2012 I embarked on my first ever mini Virtual Book Tour which was gladly hosted by SomerEmpress, Savvy BestSellers, Caribbean Examinations Council, The Dominican.net, caribdirect.com and MiyView.com. I had stepped into unknown territory, but it was an exciting and exhilarating experience and I was glad that I accepted the challenge of Eunice Nisbett of Savvy BestSellers to do the book tour. The experience and all that went with this project was worth every minute. You can visit the blog sites and view the topics that appeared daily on each of the hosting sites. I hope to embark on another tour in the near future.

The journey for Ma William continues. I plan to participate in a few events later this year and formally close out my first year – I hope of many – but I pray that I can continue to build on what has been laid down this past year.

“Ma William and Her Circle of Friends” has been the most engaging of my projects thus far, though coming on the heels of “Mesye Kwik! Kwak!” which I believed had stretched my creativity, but I was mistaken. Ma William came out stronger. I pray that I have given myself the opportunity and the knowledge, and built the confidence to step boldly into the literary world with my next project which I hope won’t be too long.

If you have read the book, I invite you to visit my Amazon Author Central Page and leave a ‘like’ and review for Ma William. This will encourage other readers to get their copy of the book and experience life in a Caribbean island through the eyes or Ma William.

Thanks to all who have been supportive of me and Ma William –the character- and thanks to the long list of friends and family who played a role and continue to play a role in making “Ma William and Her Circle of Friends” come alive in our hearts and minds. Your support has been invaluable.

Thanks and blessings, all.

Giftus