Writer, Editor, Parent...

Writers are still readers

Posted: September 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Books, Column, Editorial | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Maybe it’s the weather or the time of year, but I’ve had two requests for writing advice in the past two days. Here, once again, is my best advice.

 

When asked what advice I would give to writers, I usually say these two things:

1. WRITE

2. READ.

The first bit of advice sounds so simple but is so hard to do. WRITE. It means making a conscious effort to write, if not every day, on some regular schedule. Turn off the TV, close the MSN chat window, get off Facebook and write. Life is so full of distractions and responsibilities that it’s not uncommon to hear writers complain that they can’t find time to write. I, too, am guilty of doing it. Even though one of the things you’ll find when you Google my name is this post on discipline in writing, lately I’ve been making plenty excuses for not buckling down to the half-finished manuscript I began last year. Granted, the book is depressing as hell and drags me back into a personal memory I’d rather ignore–it’s a novel about possible consequences of child sexual abuse–but I have made a committment and I need to attend to it. Plus, it’s a really good story. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think the world, especially Trinidad & Tobago, needs this story so people stop ignoring a problem that is right under their noses.

But writing is hard work in some ways, especially writing fiction. I have no publisher yet so there’s no deadline to whip me, and it’s my own project so there’s no editor to nag me. I started the book with Wayne Brown as my writing coach and he would give me weekly deadlines to meet, but he has since passed away and my subsequent attempt to work with the brilliant writer Monique Roffey flopped because I just couldn’t write at the time.

When I’m writing it’s great. There are times when the words fly onto the computer screen all by themselves, the characters sing and dance and take lovers and licks as if they were real people and I were just a cameraman recording the action. There are other times when each word is a struggle. Because it’s set in multiple times, I have to keep other windows open with calendars and research about clothes, food, news events and other stuff that fill out the story. And you can imagine that I sometimes get distracted by children, housekeeping (VERY RARELY! Ha!), hustling and the rest of my life. Sleep is the biggest culprit, though. Why write when you can sleep? Sleep usually wins, even though I know those last eight chapters won’t write themselves.

Maybe I should do like Mystie Thongs and blog on the struggle to get back on my (literary) feet. If I had written a page a day over the last year when I didn’t write anything at all, the book would be done and in third revision by now!

My only consolation is that at least I’m taking my own advice on the other thing writers should do: READ.

I am, as my Facebook friend Adrian Charles called it, an obligate bibliovore. I have to read, and I’m usually reading at least one book. In the last couple months I’ve read Sun Dog, by Monique Roffey, Falling Angels, by Tracy Chevalier, and Dog-Heart, by Diana McCaulay, among others.

Reading increases your vocabulary, improves your technique and widens your repertoir. I have read hundreds of romance novels and–as much as literary types would turn up their noses at the genre–I owe my relatively good grammar to them, and my vocabulary in part to them, too.

Those long-time Mills & Boon books were great for words like “maelstrom” and “ingenue” and so on, and they were written in the strictest Standard English. I read other things, too… sci-fi, poetry, plays, murder mysteries, text books… and everything I read somehow creeps out into my writing, not in direct ways but you can see threads of them if you know what you’re looking for. Plus, reading is fun!

What do you writers do to keep writing?


The Allen Prize opens!

Posted: September 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

So after years of planning, praying, hoping and organising, The Allen Prize for Young Writers is finally open!

You can read about it and get submissions formsย here.

It has been a long haul and we still have far to go. We are still waiting for funding, and still in the process of planning our inaugural seminar. Two very impressive regional writers have already signed up to talk at the seminar–but you’ll have to wait for the official release to get more info on that.

We have lined up a great head judge of The Allen Prize competition in Judy Raymond. Judy was my editor for many years, at the Trinidad Express and the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian. In a way she has always been my role model, because I remember reading her hysterically funny column with my brother when I was a teenager and she always epitomised for me the best combination of witty, erudite and accessible writing. As an editor she was exacting, sometimes scarily so, and pushed me to being the best journalist I could be. In short, I am well chuffed that she has agreed to head the judges for the prize competition.

This whole experience has been very humbling and I’m grateful to Judy and all the other people who have contributed so far, and those who will contribute in the future. And as Judy said in the press release about the opening of the competition, I can’t wait to read the results!


Trinidad Noir

Posted: May 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Books | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Named one of the Best Books of 2008 by the Caribbean Review of Books

Trinidad Noir
edited by Lisa Allen-Agostini & Jeanne Mason

Mystery/Fiction Anthology | A Trade Paperback Original
ISBN-13: 978-1-933354-55-2 l 300 pages | $15.95

Published by Akashic Books as part of their award-winning Akashic Noir series, Trinidad Noir brings together the best writers in Trinidad & Tobago and an exciting genre.

Trinidad Noir features new stories by: Robert Antoni, Elizabeth Nunez, Lawrence Scott, Ramabai Espinet, Shani Mootoo, Kevin Baldeosingh, Vahni Capildeo, Willi Chen, Lisa Allen-Agostini, Rian Marie Extavour, Keith Jardim, Jaime Lee Loy, Darby Maloney, Reena Andrea Manickchand, Judith Theodore, Tiphanie Yanique, and others.

Akashic Noir was launched with the best-seller Brooklyn Noir. Each of the titles in the series features original noir stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.

Trinidad Noir is the first book in the series to be set in the English-speaking Caribbean.

โ€œTrinidad Noir delivers all the crime a reader expects from Akashic’s Noir Series: murder, kidnapping, rape, drugs, prostitution, theft, extortion, and more. Yet in fictionalizing crime in the real crime setting of Trinidad, acclaimed authors Lawrence Scott, Robert Antoni, Elizabeth Nunez, Ramabai Espinet, Keith Jardim, Tiphanie Yanique, Willi Chen, and others have created a decidedly literary noir collection,โ€ says the Akashic Web site. โ€œThese authors’ quality characterizations, plots, and styles concurrently reveal the country’s darkness and its appeal with an unexpected and gratifying result: In their captivating and occasionally humorous stories, the Trinidad that emerges is as intriguing and contradictory as the island and its people. Trinidad Noir is as much a delightful crime romp as it is an expose of the seedy side of life.โ€

Co-editor Jeanne Mason is a freelance editor who also writes short stories and poetry. She has lived in Paris, France, where she edited medical articles for US and UK journals. She currently resides in Trinidad & Tobago.