Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 17th 2015 Contents GUYANNE WILSON
She wanted to spread the word.
After winning a writing compe-
tition a few years ago, Marsha
Gomes-McKie was awarded mem-
bership in the Los Angeles-based
Society of Children s Book Writers
and Illustrators, an international
organisation dedicated to the "cre-
ation and availability of quality chil-
dren s books worldwide."
She subsequently became the
organisation s regional adviser for
the Caribbean South area, respon-
sible for recruiting and encouraging
writers between Antigua in the
north and Guyana in the south. "I
realised that there was nothing like
this, nothing this organised for writ-
ers in Trinidad, or in the Caribbean
in general," she reflects.
Thus, in 2013, the Caribbean
Books Foundation (CBF) came into
The main thrust of the foundation
is to help writers with the marketing
of their works.
"You finish your book and you
have a manuscript and then lots of
writers don t know what to do next,"
Her aim is to help authors
through the somewhat mystifying
world of publishing, and especially
self-publishing. "Sometimes you
might send your manuscript to ten
publishers and no one is interested
so you just lay it aside, but it doesn t
mean you can t publish it," she con-
tinues. The author and illustrator
of the Aunty Marsha Children s
Books series, as well as a number
of fantasy and folklore novels for
adult readers, Gomes-McKie
believes that her experience and
insight in promoting her work as a
self-published author can be of great
service to other authors.
The foundation s work is most
visible in the online catalogue
caribbeanbooks.org. Here, over a
hundred writers are given a platform
to showcase their works in any
genre---fantasy, romance, children s,
non-fiction, comics, cooking---and
in any language, with writers span-
ning the Caribbean archipelago.
Before the books are placed in
the catalogue, Gomes-McKie
encourages authors to get an ISBN
(International Standard Book Num-
ber) for their book, since, she
explains, this number is forever the
property of the writer. For each book
in the online catalogue, there is a
synopsis of the work, and links to
social media sites, such as Facebook
For authors whose work is already
listed on Amazon.com, the catalogue
also includes links to the Web site
where books can be purchased in
hard or soft copy, depending on the
format the author has provided. In
addition to this, Gomes-McKie
obtains reviews of the books which
appear on the goodreads.com Web
T&T adds heat
to St Lucia
Hot Couture ---Page B46
Foundation takes flight
Imam Baksh, like many of us,
had dreams of writing a novel since
he was small. But, as with so many
of us, life got in the way.
"My laptop has about 20 outlines
of novels I d like to write," said Baksh.
"You say, One year I ll get to that. "
Baksh, 36, eventually wrote his
first novel last year. And what a
debut it turned out to be. The man-
uscript for his young adult fantasy
adventure, Children of the Spider,
took first place at 2015 Burt Award
for Caribbean Literature during the
recently concluded NGC Bocas Lit
Festival in Port-of-Spain.
It s the second year the award,
administered by the Canadian charity
Code, has been offered in the region.
Jamaican Diana McCaulay won sec-
ond place with her novel The Dol-
phin Catchers. And Trinidadian Lynn
Joseph took third place with Dancing
in the Rain.
Besides awarding Baksh s effort,
Code and Bocas were why he made
it in the first place.
Baksh first studied literature at
university in the US. Then he became
a teacher. He wrote short stories,
winning awards for some of them.
He mentored young writers. He
started a school himself. He still had
the desire to write a book, but it was
trailing all the other things he was
doing in his life.
When he heard Code, in conjunc-
tion with Bocas, was offering a two-
day workshop in children s writing
in Georgetown, conducted by Cana-
dian author Richard Scrimger, he
took the opportunity.
He wrote the opening paragraphs
of Children of the Spider the night
after the first class, then laboured
over the novel for the next few
months, right up until minutes before
the deadline for submission for the
Burt Award. Having a deadline made
a difference, he said.
"So many things in life we put
down on our bucket list. I want to
do this. I d like to do this. And you
never get around to it because life
gets in the way, basic day-to-day
stuff," said Baksh.
Writing a novel, he said, "always
seemed like so much work. And you
never feel like you have the time to
devote to it. So if somebody chains
you to the desk and says, Do it, [you
All but one of the five finalists for
the Burt Award, said Bocas director
Marina Salandy-Brown, were in
manuscript form. This means people
are writing for the award. This is
exactly what organisers had hoped
"We re trying to improve publish-
ing and increase reading. We want
audiences, but we want more and
better product," Salandy-Brown said
of the Burt Award s goals.
Children s writing workshops were
also offered in Jamaica and T&T last
year as well as during this year s
five-day Bocas festival, which
wrapped up on May 3.
Baksh received $10,000 CAD in
cash as part of the Burt Award, but
probably more important 2,500
copies of Children of the Spider will
be printed and distributed to schools,
libraries and community organisa-
tions around the Caribbean.
If they re well received, said Baksh,
a sequel might be in the offing.
"If I see that they re really con-
necting," Baksh said of young readers,
"I can say, Okay, I can do more of
Award turns writer's
dream into reality
Guyanese writer Imam Baksh at the 2015 NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
PHOTO COURTESY NGC BOCAS LIT FEST/ MARLON JAMES
"You finish your book and you have a
manuscript and then lots of writers
don't know what to do next,"
SOCIETY OF CHILDREN'S BOOK WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS
REGIONAL ADVISER FOR CARIBBEAN
SOUTH, MARSHA GOMES-MCKIE
CONTINUES ON PAGE B4
in motion at
New Fire ---Page B45
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