Submissions now open for The Lignum Vitae Awards

The Lignum Vitae Writing Awards are now open for submissions of adult fiction or adult creative non-fiction (The Una Marson Prize), young adult fiction (The Vic Reid Prize) and children’s fiction (The Jean D’Costa Prize).  The awards are open to all Jamaican nationals (including those that are not resident in Jamaica) as well as permanent residents. For additional information, visit the Jamaican Writers Society’s blog.

The prizes are as follows:

UnaMarson Award                                                         J$500,000.00

Vic Reid Award for Young Adult literature               J$250,000.00

Jean D’Costa Award for children’s literature            J$250,000.00

See below for rules and entry form.

Rules lignum-vitae-rules-2017-general

Entry Form entry-form-lignum-vitae-awards2





I promised Well Read Robyn that my next post would be a poem.  I wrote this poem sometime after my paternal grandmother died. In a way, it is part of my way of dealing with it and in another way, it led to my expressing myself about something else. But the poem is not for the poet but for the reader so I hope you will enjoy and don’t the give the genesis much thought. It was previously published in Fire Stick: A Collection of New & Established Caribbean Poets (The Drawing Room Project Association e-pamphlet Book 1) . I will also state up front that I am associated with the Drawing Room Project.




You took care of the animals. Fetched water.

Thread that held us all together; you

were patient with a vivacious child

not ready to lose hold of your apron strings—

Treaded the rice paddies, used needles to darn

and weave magic out of fabric. I imagined

a house filled with smells of jeera

and laughter; your curry stained fingers,

your brow knitted under the countless red skies

tinged with black from the cane fields burning.

I met your arms, practiced at holding babies

and watched your hair turn gray, your movements

get slower until your heart, big, could not keep up

with all the love inside it. I remember at end

of school-term, breaking up: ice cream, snacks

dress-up and the trip to grandma. In those days

the bogeyman was myth and father’s duppy stories

did not incite the cold sweat laced nightmares.

Now he is real and not all what I imagined—

Snatcher of thoughts, of remembering, he burrows

into your brain.

This visit is now a pilgrimage

to a house that keeps changing


(c) 2015



For my friends

krista-mangulsone-53122Molly Elizalde, Lenny assistant editor, in the April 18, 2017, issue of Lenny (Letter No. 82) wrote about the decisions she had made and had this to say “But something I always come back to is that finding your place takes time. Being patient with your own humanity (and that of others, too) — however arbitrary or crazy your inclinations can sometimes seem — can be rewarding.” We have all grappled with finding our place, for some, it has been acute and for others, chronic. For me, an introvert suffering from depression, it has leant more towards the chronic side.

I spent the long Easter weekend doing a lot of thinking, crying, praying and googling things like “introversion and depression” – introverts are more likely than extroverts to suffer from depression; “depression and anger” – I have come to the realization that underneath this seemingly calm exterior is a lot of anger seething and it took my doing something that not angry me would not have done to realize how really angry I am.

In a round-about way Molly’s commentary on finding your place sort of puts everything that I wanted to write in a blog post this weekend, but couldn’t, into perspective. I thought a lot about place, my place, and how I don’t think I have really found it yet and being in limbo even with all the patience in the world is not the most awesome feeling in the world. I thought about how I got to the place I am now and the people largely responsible for it and my indebtedness to them so this blog post is really dedicated to them – the people who keep me going towards finding this place.

If you are an introvert that suffers from depression, eventually the invitations stop coming because your response is always some variety of no and when you do say yes, you find some way to say no between now and the event. Your friend circle invariably is often exceedingly small. So first I have to say thanks to the “friends from when”. The ones who stuck it out, who kept issuing the invitations, who were there when the going got tough and came running whenever you had a situation that needed a friendly face or a shoulder to cry on. Thanks also to the friends who are not the friends from when but over time became like family. Who took me home from work because I was having such a terrible time that I couldn’t stop crying. The ones who gave me a safe space to let my guard down and be myself. Thanks to the friends I can commiserate with, empathise with, the ones who get it because they are walking the same path as me. Thanks to the friends who know sometimes I will be unreachable by telephone, not by design, but by choice but still call back or pick up the phone when I eventually return their call. Thanks to the friends who say things like “your poetry is magical so stop making yourself busy and just deal with whatever you need to deal with so you can write.” And really big thanks to my biggest fan who sees all the darkness and feeds it KFC and pizza, who is my light on the darkest nights.

Thanks friends. Love you all to bits!


For a friend on her wedding day


I thought about getting you a card that would say exactly what I wanted to say to you on your wedding day but with your pending move I did not want to add to the things you have to make a decision about taking along or leaving. As I said at your shower, you will figure it out [together]. There is not manual, there is no blue print. You both create the marriage and the life together that you want. Make your own rules. Love without ceasing.

There will be unhappy moments, but for every unhappy moment there will be several good ones. Don’t let the bad moments overshadow the good. Focus on making happy memories. Your boat will stay afloat as long as you remain true to yourselves and the commitments you will make to each other today. Do not forget the commitments even though there will be times that you may feel like the best thing to do is to renege.

Laugh and smile often, cry only if you must. Pray. Have fun. My wish for you is that when you are both in the twilight of your years together that you will be able to say like Elma Mitchell in her poem “Well-worn” that everything has been worn, nothing worn out.

Wishing you a lifetime of happiness! 


Lessons from a body pillow

Confession: I have a body pillow.

I was inspired to write this blog post after looking at photos of expectant parents sleeping and no, I am not expecting. However, in the few seconds that I spent looking at these photos, I remembered that I did not sleep with my body pillow last night. (And no, body pillow is not being used as a synonym for something else).

I got this body pillow a few weeks ago. I had seen these body pillows in Pricesmart and had been trying to justify this particular purchase until eventually I got hubster to agree to get it for me. I think if he had said no I would have just gotten it anyway, but I digress. Before the body pillow, I have always needed lots of pillows. I am a bit of a pillow hog and I usually sleep on my right side with a pillow between my legs, along with all the other pillows in the bed.

Since I got the body pillow I have been sleeping with it every night, except when I have not been sleeping in my own bed and I did toy with the idea of transporting it to my parents’ house when I went to visit for the weekend. The helper, however, does not really know what to do with the body pillow and when she makes the bed she usually leaves the pillow in a corner of the room on top of some miscellaneous items. Usually, I just take the pillow up when I am going to bed, but this morning I woke up and realized that the pillow was still in the corner! I had slept without the body pillow and actually had a good sleep!  So this afternoon as I was looking at the sleeping parents, after a cup of coffee infused Swiss Miss I was not supposed to have, I ruminated on the lesson of the body pillow: sometimes we think we cannot do something but if we just let go we will realize that we can.

It’s a new year!

It goes without saying that I haven’t made a blog post in a while. There wasn’t the customary “I am going to blog more this year, New Year, new possibilities!” post at the start. It has been a rough start to the year and it really has not started to get better as yet.

Apart from the New Year starting on January 1, there are so many other new years that happen during the year so there are many occasions for new beginnings if I want. There is the new financial (work) year starting on April 1, the new Toastmasters year starting on July 1, my birthday etc.


This week, people all over the world celebrated Holi and though half of my family is of Indian descent, I have never really paid attention to the customary observances throughout the year. But this year I decided to see what Holi is all about. For one, visually it looks exciting with all the brilliant colours and I am sure it would be fun to be in a “powder fight” that ends up with everyone looking like a rainbow.

Historically, Holi is celebrated to mark the beginning of Spring. It is a time to be truthful, to forget hardships, to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. It is a time of togetherness, a celebration of the power of community, a time to give gifts and spread cheer, to forgive. I think this is a good way to start the year, so I am starting my year this week, in the middle of March, and celebrating Holi for the rest of the week, minus the colours.

Sometimes gifts don’t come in pretty boxes

The worst thing about being a human is humans.

I have a chronic disease. It is called “always thinking the best about people/always giving the benefit of doubt (even when past events would steer any logical person in a different direction)”. It has been; however, impossible to live my life any other way. This often leads to a lot of disappointment and sadness but also many lessons. Maybe I am not learning the lessons as well as I could or perhaps this is the way things are meant to be.

These lessons; however, have been in many cases gifts. Gifts that at the onset may not have seemed to be gifts at all. They did not come wrapped in pretty paper, with a bow and a lovely card wishing me well. Instead they may have come with tears and feeling low but when I think about it long enough, I see the gifts. Affirmations that what I believed was true, is true, even though I may have wished it was not to be so. So with my skin just a wee bit tougher than before, my life goes on with the people I can count on and the people I am meant to help.

Earlier this year I was faced with a couple of situations involving people and being lost about how to handle the situations. I thought about them, I talked to other people about them, thought about talking to other people about them, and I prayed about them. Both times the answer that came back was “love”. If you love someone, you will help them, wish them well etc. I have been trying to show the love even when its hard, even when human nature wants to take over and do tit for tat, but sometimes its hard.

In the grand scheme of things and despite the hours, minutes and days that are lost to depression, there is in fact more good than bad in the world and those really badly wrapped gifts often hold great surprises.


My umpteenth post on Gratitude

I am taking part in the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project and my thirty days ends in three. I should be writing my poem for day 27 (it is still July 27 in Jamaica) but I am too tired to think, on the one hand, and am overwhelmed by the sense of gratitude I am currently feeling.

I think gratitude is the one word that best sums up the calendar year I have been having so far.

I am grateful to God for being alive, for the wonderful transformation that is taking place in my life and for showing his awesomeness time and time again when I definitely thought that this was it.

I am grateful for my awesome family, the ones related by blood and the ones I chose but especially to my number one fan and supporter of all my endeavours, even when he feels a bit neglected, hubby.

I am grateful to Tupelo Press for having this project that has thought me some discipline, even though I have failed at times (thanks to Karen, for asking where the poems are when she doesn’t see them).

I am grateful for a great team at work.

I am grateful that I am learning so much about myself.

I am grateful that I can say I participated in a Poetry workshop that was led by someone who would become a Pulitzer Prize Winner in 2015.

I am grateful for my “checkers-in” (that’s my name for the people who are always the first ones to send that Whatsapp message to ask “how you doing?”).

I am grateful for mango season and the only thing I want is for the neighbour’s mangoes to be ready so I can get some and pretty soon it will be time for guinep season! in earnest.

I am grateful to be a Toastmaster at the best club in Jamaica, the ICAJ Toastmasters Club, and to be working with an excellent team. I am grateful for Toastmasters in general, because it has become a huge part of who I am.

I am grateful for my mentors. I just need  one more, so hopefully you will see another post that says “he said yes” LOL.

I am super grateful that I can afford to buy books, even though I can’t buy all the ones I want. I could buy more books if I bought less fried chicken so maybe that will become my strategy – Eat less, read more.

I am grateful to everyone who has been supporting me throughout the past 20 odd days, whether you did so with a monetary contribution or just reading the poems. They actually had a map showing where the readers were from and of course Jamaica was on the map! Thanks again!

If you have not yet donated, there is still time. To donate visit Joni’s Donation Page  and to read the poems go to Tupelo Press 30/30 Project.








Thanks for supporting me and the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project

This is day 10 of my challenge to write a poem a day for 30 days as part of the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project for July. I had wanted to write a blog post 7 days in but my stomach had other plans. If you have been diligently checking the 30/30 Project page you may have realized that I have been MIA for a few days. So to my fans 🙂 I just want you to know that I am now up to date up to yesterday but I am still working on my poem for today. I had to take a short leave of absence due to illness and you will see a snapshot of my travails in my poem titled Private Health Care which is my poem on Day 8. Also just to note that while I am tasked with writing a poem a day there is no stipulated time to send the poems in for posting so if I send it in a bit late then it may not get posted until the next day. Thanks to not being a morning person, work and other activities, that may just happen more often than not during the work week.

I think a big part of the process for me has been just letting go of a draft and sending it in even though I am not happy with it. I am being more open to the revision process and not just the revision that happens as you write but the revision that happens after you have let it simmer for a while and you may have a go at it again from another perspective. I have known for a long time that I do not like writing long poems and that I value economy over length and want to leave my readers breathless with just a few lines but I have committed to trying to write longer poems. If some of my poems may have seemed like they ended abruptly or that they did not end at the end, it was because they did not end and when next you see them they quite possibly will not look like the same poem.

I am grateful for being able to be a part of this project as it is instilling some of the discipline that I desperately needed where my writing is concerned. I am even more grateful to you my supporters for taking this journey with me, for reading the poems as I write, for making donations. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And if you have not donated yet, and you can, please visit this link to do so.