Workshop With Author Keith Gray

20140426_131526[1]As I mentioned in my post Unexpected Invitation, the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature organization had invited me to a workshop. The workshop was free of charge and for writers of fiction and young adult books. It was originally supposed to be a personalized workshop, offering a chance to receive constructive feedback and one-on-one mentoring. Sadly, a few weeks before the scheduled day they changed it to a group workshop. Needless to say, I was very disappointed.

The workshop was led by British author, Mr. Keith Gray. I attended the afternoon session. Mr. Gray was very personable, and the participants seemed to like his approach. He distributed handouts and a list of recommended books. He conducted an exercise on re-drafting, and I believe he did another exercise in the morning session. His stories about his real-life experiences with controversy were very eye-opening; I think everyone felt enlightened.

The major notes I would keep in mind are:
– Most people do not speak proper English, so according to what you write it could sound unrealistic.
– Obscene language no longer holds the same ‘shock value’ as it once did.
– Slang does not only date your work, but in some cases it does not have the same meaning a few years later.

In Trinidad, we speak dialect, and we make up words all the time that only Trinidadians may understand. I have long decided that I would not use dialect in my books because no one outside of Trinidad would understand my writing. If they did, it may be too much of a distraction for them to figure it out.

Some Trinidad and Tobago Vernacular

A’A – An expression of surprise.
Ah Chuts – An expression of annoyance, vexation, disappointment or disgust.
Ah Eh Able – An expression of exasperation, literally, I am not able. Give me patience.
Bacchanal – Rowdy, scandalous behavior; Minding another person’s business and adding to, thereby causing confusion.
Back Chat – Insolent answer, especially from a child to an adult. Argumentative and cheeky response.
Bad Eye – A look of anger or reproach, especially when looking from the corner of the eye.
Badjohn – A bully, a dangerous man, a gangster.
Chupid – Stupid, foolish.
Jamette – A prostitute.
Jumbie – To harass, to annoy, to irritate.
Lime / Liming – Hanging out, having fun.
Maco –  Someone who minds other people’s business to gossip.

Meeting Author Lynn Joseph

I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Lynn Joseph, a Trinidadian author of children’s and young adult novels. We connected a few weeks before Bocas, all because I woke up one morning, immediately rolled over, put on my laptop, and searched for books that had mermaid characters (I think I was dreaming about that). I found Ms. Joseph’s book The Mermaid Twin Sister and Other Stories from Trinidad, and learned that she was also a Trinidadian. I contacted her, and she was very willing to advise me on my soon to be published book. She does not live in Trinidad, but she intended to be at Bocas where she had a reading scheduled.Lynn Joseph at Bocas

Meeting Ms. Joseph was the highlight of the festival for me. I had never met an author who had been published by several top publishing houses, and better yet she was a Trini. We spoke for a while at the writer’s lounge. When I told her that I had not read for some time, she quickly reminded me of how important it is to read, especially from your genre. She reads ten books a month and suggested that I start with eight. I know that I won’t read eight books as yet, but I did borrow five from the library that I started reading on Sunday.

I will post the book that I am currently reading in my Goodreads widget, on the sidebar, for anyone who wants to comment or read along. Also, I will do a short review on the books I have read on where you can find all the books I have read, want to read, and currently reading.

After our chat, I accompanied her to her reading of The Color of My Words. It was a great experience; I saw firsthand that children are very outspoken, and their attention span is short, so you have to keep them engaged. Engaging is what Ms. Joseph was. She asked the children questions and allowed them to give suggestions. The children were very invested in the story.

Hopefully, I will be able to see her again, and continue to learn from her.

Writers Union of Trinidad and Tobago, Homegrown Talent

The Writers Union showcased some local talent, both poets, and short story writers. It was a very diverse group; the writers were of various age groups and social backgrounds. My favorite presenter was the gentleman who wrote a poem about Lupita Nyong’o. Unfortunately, I do not remember his name and cannot find my program.

This event is usually held each year at Bocas. It is an excellent opportunity for writers to have an audience, particularly new and unknown authors. Last year, I read my story One More Chance and was invited to read this year. Unfortunately, I was unable to prepare a piece in time.

It was a good event. They gave you funny, sad, inspirational and educational.

Once again, the  Bocas Lit Fest was a fruitful and rewarding experience.


  1. Kiel says:

    Semantic evolution allows a small group in a population distribution to change the way they speak and listen, due to the changes in any technological environment. And this is very amazing, even mother England herself is evolving to the migrants tongue for semantic adaptability. Truly amazing.



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