Writer, Editor, Stand-Up Comedian

El Shaddai: the All-Sufficient God

Posted: November 22nd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Column | No Comments »

When COVID-19 hit Trinidad and Tobago and we first went into lockdown, I had just completed the first FemCom stage show of the year, our International Women’s Day show Givin’ Trouble, at the historic Little Carib Theatre. Within a month my comedy partner, Louris, and I were aware that there would likely be no more stage shows for 2020.

With no shows to emcee or perform in, I was scared. I’m a self-employed writer, editor and teacher. My husband, a mason, could not work during the lockdown. What would happen if the pandemic closed off all our sources of income?

I was also furious and frustrated. FemCom was supposed to blow up this year. We had planned to go to LA for training at the Groundlings Theatre and do a road-trip movie while performing in comedy clubs in Atlanta, where my elder daughter lives. We had scheduled four comedy workshops. We had a multi-show partnership with the Little Carib Theatre. Our IWD show had a good audience and excellent feedback. We were on a roll. COVID-19 changed everything.

I fell into a depression. For weeks all I could do was watch Endeavour and Lewis on repeat. I cried out to God.

The response was immediate and life-saving. He sent me food and money through extremely generous friends and family. My friends shored me up emotionally. My husband was a rock. I began reading and studying the Bible and praying more.

My gratitude and my prayer led to a resolution that I would get up and work. I continued writing and submitted a few manuscripts, poems and a short story to publishers and journals. I sought an agent. Inspired by the banter between Louris and myself, I thought of a way to maintain the FemCom brand presence during the pandemic. The result was The Givin’ Trouble Show, a Facebook Live online chat between Lyrix and Just Lisa, twice a week, for 20 minutes.

God sent work. I got editing jobs, writing jobs, teaching jobs.

The US edition of my YA novel Home Home came out in May. I took part in the Brooklyn Caribbean Lit Fest and the T&T Literature Conference as an author and a panelist. The NGC Bocas Lit Fest commissioned me to write and read a short story on the 1970 February Revolution and its consequence; “Meeting Beverly Jones” was broadcast in an event on day two of the festival. I was interviewed in the Bocas Lit Fest Bios and Bookmarks series. I had readings and interviews on TV. I did a reading for ALTA and another for NALIS. I judged the semi-final and final rounds of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam, which was broadcast on national TV. Joanne C. Hillhouse interviewed me and three other YA writers for her blog.

Marina Salandy-Brown, festival founder and director, commissioned FemCom to create video fillers for the three-day 2020 NGC Bocas Lit Fest. We made thirteen comic short films in a month and a half. Bocas also commissioned me to write and present a series of educational videos on creative writing, the Write Away! Caribbean Young Adult Literature Project.

During the last eight months I’ve begun two novels, one a dystopian sci-fi project about post-COVID Trinidad, and the other about an unwed teen mom in ancient Israel (yeah, that unwed teen mom). I’ve continued working on a film adaptation of Monique Roffey’s novel The White Woman on the Green Bicycle.

The poem and short story I wrote were accepted for publication. The story was published as “Cam and the Maskless” in About Place Journal (Vol VI Issue No. II: Works of Resistance, Resilience). Its editors have nominated it for a Pushcart Prize.

One of the manuscripts I submitted was bought by Myriad Editions of the UK and will be published in May 2021 as The Bread the Devil Knead. Another has been accepted by the independent publisher 1000 Volt Press (which is run by by ex-husband and his wife, author Victoria Raschke, in Tennessee).

I’ve begun work co-editing a collection of essays and artwork with some amazing co-editors, also for 1000 Volt Press. I started free poetry workshops for young poets with the assistance of one of the poets who competed in the slam, Ronaldo Mohammed. I’m writing a proposal for a food foraging project with an NGO. I’ve been commissioned to ghostwrite a memoir.

The Jamaican thespian E Wayne McDonald cast me as the character Florie Barton a staged reading of Steve Carter’s play Eden; it will premiere on November 29, 2020.

Not all that work was paid or will be paid.

God also sent abundance.

I got church hampers and government hampers.

I got a TT Government COVID-19 creative industries relief grant. I won a CATAPULT Stay Home Artist Residency for the film script. FemCom also won a CATAPULT Caribbean Artist Showcase grant to stage an extraordinary edition of The Givin’ Trouble Show between stand-up comedians on their pandemic pivot, co-hosted by Dr Suzanne Burke.

I didn’t get an agent, though for the first time one actually read and like the manuscript I submitted.

What I’ve come to realise is this: As an artist, I rely on God entirely. He sees my need. He knows my situation. He works through me. He supplies. Bless His name: El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient God.

Postscript: While I was editing this post, FemCom was invited to stage limited-audience outdoor shows at a new venue. El Shaddai, take win.