In 2005, there was a writing competition with the Trinidad and Tobago Theatre workshop and I received an honorable mention for my Children’s Story – “Duck in the Red Boots”, my prize was one year free membership to the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators.
During the next year the story would be featured in Island Garden which was a project of GlaxoSmithKline for the local Children’s Hospital reading programme.
I was fascinated with the SCBWI, upon confirmation of my membership I received a Publications Guide which listed
1. All the legitimate children book publishers in the world and there submission requirements
2. A list of agents
3. Tips on finding a publisher
4. And other publishing essentials
I also started receiving newsletters from the society, alerts on Conference in New York and Los Angeles where there would be networking for writers and more importantly publishers, editors who would review your work and so much more.
As an illustrator as well, I was able to upload my work to their website, illustrators could submit artwork for use in the newsletter and for the cover design, I had access to articles and contacts for illustrating.
It was great but truthfully, that competition made me realize that my stories didn’t have a very Caribbean twist to them, and I have found that Caribbean competitions usually require that very Caribbean element that I didn’t seem to have, so I didn’t look for or joined any more local competitions. I decided that if the Caribbean theme wasn’t coming out naturally, I wouldn’t force it. So if I wasn’t satisfying the Caribbean niche at home, it meant I had to go fight up with the big boys in New York.
I didn’t bet my money on it and I looked for a job.
From 2006 – 2012, I worked in Public Relations, the pay was ok and the department was new so I was given the opportunity to create a communication strategy, and I jumped into the position, like I do all things, I was at work by 7:00 am or before and worked until 5. I got married, I had my first child and four years later I was the youngest Manager, second only to the Executive Director and had five members of staff.
I hadn’t in that time completed another manuscript. I started about 10 manuscripts but I had completed none and I hadn’t illustrated anything in more than 3 years.
Whenever I went to events, people would say tell us about yourself and I would always pause. I wanted to say, I am a writer and illustrator of children books but I couldn’t.
My only reminder was SCBWI. Who for US70 about $500TT per year would send me these packages in the mail about writing – Asking, where are you? When are you going to join the fold? Saying quietly, we are still here waiting on your best seller.
SCBWI remained a constant reminder that there was this world of writing out there that I had placed on hold.
At the beginning of 2012, I went to a work retreat and they spoke of re-branding and a new strategic plan and asked that employees commit themselves to at least 5 more years with the company. There was a big plan for staff training and so many activities and my mind went blank, all I could think was five more years.
I was also reminded that I had to start my Masters degree to be positioned properly in the new structure; everyone had great plans for me. However, I didn’t want to do a Masters Degree just yet, actually I didn’t want to go back to school all at, unless it could help me write and sell something like Harry Potter.
I read so many success stories and none of them came out of the classroom, it was always, always, a story of dedication, of stick-to-it-ness, and plain old hard work.
So, I asked myself if I were to die today what would I regret.
The first one was not spending enough time with my daughter, Christiana and the second was these unfinished manuscripts. I dreamt about them, I saw them alive in everything I did, I felt literally haunted by them.
So, I pulled out all my old manuscripts and began to make a strategic plan of my own.
By the middle of January, I submitted a resignation letter that gave 6 months notice and never looked backed, no one knew but top management and my family; my boss didn’t announce it hoping that I would change my mind. But my mind was already gone; it was travelling daily to a distant land where my books were real.
Each one, Each character had to be given a home on a shelf.
By the middle of the year, like magic, I got an email from Joanne stating that she had stepped down from the position of Regional Advisor and members could apply for the position. Joanne knew nothing of my plans.
It felt like faith, and I knew the minute I saw the email that the position was mine.
I applied, I was accepted and the rest is history.
Today I am the Regional Advisor for Caribbean South, it pays no money at all and I still have to work all day.
However, I feel closer to my destination and I can actually taste it. I am happy to say that the characters aren’t angry with me anymore, they are getting my attention.