WIN a free membership: SCBWI Caribbean South

The Caribbean South chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is giving away two free annual memberships.

All you have to do is submit an unpublished children’s manuscript from any of the islands listed below that speaks about your island’s folklore or draw your very own ‘Tanti Merle’ from Paul Keens Douglas “Tanti at the Oval.”

The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators is a professional information and networking society of over 19,000 authors, agents, editors and illustrators world wide. Based in Los Angeles, the SCBWI is the largest of its kind and has chapters in 200 regions. Our membership package is an invaluable tool for aspiring and professional writers and artists. It includes indispensable ‘how to’ articles and a directory of publishers in the field. One of the best things about SCBWI membership is the networking opportunity it presents to gain fruitful contacts the world over.

The Caribbean South chapter was launched in Trinidad in September 2005 and serves the following islands Anguilla, Saint Maarten, St Barbs, Saba, Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Guyana, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Tortuga and Trinidad and Tobago (and everything in-between)

The competition is open to non-members and members alike, and all work submitted remain the property of the author or illustrator.

The deadline to submit is November 1, 2017. 

SCBWI-2017-Competition

For further information and membership details visit http://www.scbwi.org.

 

Marsha Gomes-Mckie, Regional Advisor , Caribbean South

info@marshagomes.com

 

The battle against the little ones

Do I want my daughter to be the type of person who questions limitations, who goes against the crowd, who tries out new things and doesn’t take no for an answer? Do I want her to dance when everyone else is sitting and sing when everyone else is reading? Do I want her to use her imagination and think out of the box?  The answer is yes, but not always now when I am trying to finish a job for a client, or when I’m rushing out the door in the morning, not when the alarm hasn’t yet rung and I am getting my final bliss of sleep. However life seldom works that way.

I looked up at five o’clock this morning and heard a voice, far too loud for the morning quiet announcing that she wanted something to drink. It was not really a request but a bold statement of fact. So I stayed still, and surveyed the little one with what I hoped was becoming my dreaded my mummy eyes. She did not falter, she announced that I had a hole in my jersey which led to an investigation of where the hole went – the hole nonetheless was the result of same said little being a few weeks ago whose memory conveniently comes and goes. She then began an impromptu song about being the last hero which ended in a soprano shriek in decibels that I could not decipher. I remained calm, knowing full well that my will was being tested. I too thought about a drink and was momentarily comforted that there are some things I didn’t have to share just yet.

I received a series of kisses and then I heard a short quiet breath of impatience which ended in a loud resonating, “Mayed(sic) I have something to drink please? I replied, as calm as the morning air, ‘Of course,  and headed towards the kitchen. We chatted about her sleep and her day ahead and I reminded her that she didn’t have to shout for me to hear her. Even though her eyes didn’t seem convinced of the fact she replied. ‘Yes mummy’.

I smiled, knowing full well that we would have this conversation again tomorrow.

We often forget that our little ones see the world through us; they test us to judge how other people will react to them. It’s not always because they are being rude but because we are a safe sounding board. If she tells me a joke and I don’t laugh, she may not be brave enough to tell anyone else that joke. For them we are the box that they are trying to think out of, we are people who are sitting so they have the urge to stand. Our home, our jobs, our perimeters are not their destination, it’s their starting point to move forward; to find their own.

If we are lucky, they’ll leave and realize our grass was green, and they will decide that their version of green will encompass what was important to us as well.

If you want your child to be the type of person that questions limitation, that goes against the crowd, who tries out new things and doesn’t take no for an answer? You need to understand that one day he/she will tell you no, he/she will question your limitations. That day will come, if you grew then strong enough, wise enough and brave enough, all you have to be concerned about is your reaction when it happens.

I have indicated to my daughter that I wouldn’t move unless she asked properly for something. She usually gets juice n the morning, sometimes without asking, but she’s developing a personality, she’s testing me. I am her world right now so I am also her ‘guinea-pig’ (as they say); she finds great joy in trying to wear me out, to see if I would break my resolve. There is mischievousness in her spirit, which is very much like her father, who makes me smile. I see it; I understand it even though she may not. In keeping my resolve I am teaching her a lesson, in letting her develop her spirit without shouting or condemnation I am also teaching her a lesson.

I am not concerned with her antics; she is a child, just as I was.

I am concerned with my response.

I ask her opinion openly about many things and other things are rules, for safety and my sanity. We will not always be together so I want to set the trend but allow her to be herself comfortably so that when she is alone it becomes second nature.

XXX

The Secret to Girls

girls

Growing up, I was one of the few persons whose father and mother lived in the same house. However my mother for the most part stayed at home and my father worked, therefore my mother was in charge of the ‘child rearing’ or ‘children stuff’ or ‘children matters’. My father was always resting, or needed quiet time or was watching television or had friends over that the children shouldn’t be near. He always seemed to be protected in a sense, from the mannerisms that were his children.

Did I mention that he had four girls and one boy!

… and so it began the quest of sorts to figure out who this man was and why I couldn’t bother him the way I bothered my mother. Growing up I watched him constantly, waiting for an opportune moment to tackle him, to capture his attention with an odd dance or a drawing (when my mothers’ watchful eyes were not looking). As I grew older I resented him, I was silently angry that he didn’t notice my brilliance. I then grew silent and unconcerned, our conversations were merely “pass the remote, please”; do you know where the remote is; occasionally he would ask, and “where is your mother and I would answer? There was no deliberate socialization however even in my pretend silence I yearned to figure out who my father was, he seems a continent far away and it haunted me.

As I became a parent of my own, I began to understand what providing for us girls may have been like and I began to read books and theories and allowed different perspectives into my psyche. I began to see the merit in our relationship. The stability he brought to the family and I consciously decided to expand our conversation whenever we met.

I was pleasantly surprised to know that my father knew of my brilliance, he kept track of everything in my life. He was proud, but his generation didn’t speak it, you have to pry it out of them.

The book “You have what it takes” by John Eldredge says it well. Every little girl is asking one basic question just like your boys, but it is a different question. You observe it in everything she does. She is asking Am I lovely? Do you see it, can you confirm it? As she grows you notice it in the games she plays, the movies she watches, and the songs she likes. At the end of every princess movie, the prince realizes that the princess is lovely, he sings and shouts out loud that he delights in her, that she is the one and everyone else is in awe. Walt Disney’s storyline for its princess movies are specifically engineered to capture the imagination of little girls, it is not a coincidence, it is a science.

All through the years your daughter is spinning, dancing, dressing up and, trying to look beautiful; crying when she feels she isn’t and she is trying to capture your attention. She wants to know, Am I lovely? Am I worth fighting for? She looks to the most important man in her life to answer it, her father. And the answer should always be YES!

A woman’s confidence is what gets her through life not her beauty or her talents. There is always someone who may be better than her, more talented, with more potential. However that never decides the race. Every princess has an inner dragon, a fire that burns to the depth of her being that says I will, I can and I will see you at the finish line.

Isn’t it wonderful that as a father you have been chosen to lay the foundation for the flame?

The truth is if you don’t answer the question, she will keep asking it until she gets an answer. Some of us are lucky to find God who answers our inner question and some of us are still asking the question, always getting the wrong answer.

Have you ever met a beautiful woman who had potential just pouring out of her but she was in an abusive relationship – no confidence, so far down the wrong road that you don’t know how to intervene. Psychologists say 9 out of 10 times they can track it back to her relationship with her father. If you don’t answer her questions another man will.

A mother shares everything with her daughter, she teaches her to be a woman yet there is room for more. My daughter looks to me to pick out her dresses and comb her hair and she is always interested in what I am doing. Every time my daughter dresses up, I sing Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t she lovely” and she blushes and dances and then without failing she turns around and goes to find her father to see if he is also blown away. She knows that if she was wrapped up in newspaper, I would still be singing. I often peak at her as she goes, as if walking down a runway, her eyes are focused on him and I can always tell her fathers reaction when she returns. You can see it plainly on her face she is either completely happy or furlong. Either way she seeks the validation.

In life a man’s greatest fear is failure, he wants to always be up to the challenge, to be worthy but a woman fear is abandonment. We want to be ever in your thoughts, and cemented in your hearts and that fear can cause a woman to compromise her beliefs.

As a father you have to let your daughters know that you will never abandon them, that come what may you will always be with them to pick up the pieces, because you believe in them, you see that they are lovely and brilliant. They will look for spouses who make them feel better than their father and if you set the bar at zero, then any man will do.

I pull one line from the book as I close, “identity, especially gender identity is bestowed by the father. A boy learns if he is a man, if he has what it takes and a girl learns if she is worth pursuing, if she is lovely.

Enjoy your relationship with your daughters, give them confidence and they will do the rest.

Article based on the book “Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul

Growing Up Boys

A few years ago I bought two books, they were more or less pocket books but I never regretted the purchase. The first was “Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul’ and the second which would be focus of this week and next week is “You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know”.

This simple book which takes less than a day to read was given to my husband before we even had children (hint maybe).

This week and next week we will look at Fatherhood, “GROWING UP BOYS” and ‘the SECRET TO GIRLS’.

Article based on the book “You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know”.

dirtydog&boy

We use to sing a song in school: What are little boys made of? Frogs and snails, and puppy dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of. What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.

It’s because boys and girls were always different and it’s not just socialization. I have one brother who is the youngest in our family and for as long as I can remember; he would disappear on our conversations and roll his eyes at our choices of movies. He has mastered the art of the blank stare and his prized possession is his room because it means he has an escape.

Some people may disagree but if you leave children to play unfettered by your suggestions, you will notice that boys gravitate to games that either maime the toys or dismount the toys. My husband came home one day and after glancing at our daughters toys, he asked “Abijah was here?” (my nephew), I replied “yes how did you know?” He open is hands to reveal a toy car which after a year with our daughter was still in prime condition, which was now missing a wheel, bumper broken and had remnants of biscuits and juice.

That was just exhibit A, there were more. Which my daughter gladly brought, one by one for her father to fix, she was thrilled that he would endeavour to fix them on her behalf.  So now, I have a list of toys to hide on play dates (especially the model cars, the fact that Barbie had less hair was a non-issue).

The book says that every little boy asks the same question, the one that his father alone can answer. Why, because psychologically he wants a man to answer it, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your mother is, she can’t give you firsthand experience about being a man. It doesn’t mean that a mother can’t answer life changing questions. A mother teaches unconditional love, and mercy. A mother is a child’s harbor, the safe place that they will always find no matter how old they get, so a mother’s role is essentially to love you so much that you would understand fully who God is. That is why I always say a mothers’ love is divine.

A father however provides a child with identity, “to know thy-self” (both girls and boys). In 2000 CNN ran a story entitled: “Father figures help tame rampaging young elephants”, it was later made into a documentary. The heart of the story was that in Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa there was a particular herd of elephants with 17 orphaned males. These males hit musth or puberty as we would say – a state of heightened aggression and sexual excitement fueled by surges of testosterone that all elephants experience and killed more than 40 white rhinoceros, and was really wreaking havoc on the park.

The rangers decided to introduce older males into the herd and it worked, the killings stopped and the musth was shortened. South African animal experts noted that father figures had a calming effect on aggressive young males, and more particularly if they are bull elephants. They needed role models to form their identity.  (Biggest Big Brother programme)

Nature teaches us so much.

The voice of a father answers the question that every boy will ask in a thousand different ways over his lifetime. Do I have what it takes? Every father will get the opportunity to answer this in a thousand different ways and must always be ready to say. Yes, you have what it takes to be a man; there is no one more powerful than you; there is no one smarter than you; you were created in God’s image; you’re awesome; you can do it; you’re a machine go for it.

The author gives an example of a rock climbing event he went to with his sons, the noted that one of his sons was climbing and getting a little difficulty, so he pumped up his cheering to boost his confidence. He said, “Way to go Sam! You’re looking good. You’re a wild man!” His son finished the climb and he clip in his other son and started cheering again. The moment was out of his mind but he said his son Sam sidled up to him and asked in a quiet voice, “Dad … did you really think I was a wild man up there?”

What would have been your reaction? Miss the moment and you’ll miss his heart forever. Until a man knows he is a man, he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while hiding from anything that might reveal he is not. Most men live haunted by the question or debilitated by the answer they have been given. Boys grow into men and the sad truth is that no one may have answered your question as a child and today you have to answer it for your children.

The family was meant to answer our core questions, to give us that foundation. However, we have generation to generation, finding temporary identities in television characters, in music, in gangs, in money, in drugs and in sex.

I truly believe in the importance of fathers, as a woman I want to be the best mother I can be but I don’t want to be the voice of the father and the mother.

So fathers, please know that your voice is the most powerful voice in the world … because you have the ability to shape your children’s character. They look up to you; you amaze them; you represent power and approval. It doesn’t matter how old your children are they still want to hear it. They want to know what you think of them, their talents, their progress, their failures; they wonder at your silence and long for your validation.

Your belief in them, gives them strength to shine brighter because they feed off of your reality.

No one will have the impact on your sons that you have.

No one!

You are the man of the house, you have what it takes.

Are you the perfect parent?

thCASPVNSM

My daughter is my passion, there is a book entitled “I loved you before you were born’ and that describes my love for her. My husband and I aren’t young parents. Parenthood came in our thirties, at a time when we both were permanently employed, upstanding members of society. We are logical, mature and responsible and we both agreed that being a parent is extraordinary and trumps everything else.

Yet, I would have to say in my three years experience as a mother, I am definitely not in line to get the prize for mother of the year.

I came across a book of few days ago entitled “Sh*tty Moms” and I jumped. No one wants to be a sh*tty mom on purpose, against my indignation I read the description and realized that the name was really a pun of sorts. The book truthfully and openly shed light on the imperfection of the parenting experience, having not read the book myself; I refer you to quote by someone who has: The most inappropriate parenting book I’ve ever read. Loved it. The perfect book for any mother who wants to laugh instead of cry at those cringe-worthy moments and the universal indignities we experience on a daily basis.”

I spent the rest of the day thinking about my sh*tty mom moments which I will share with you. My daughter fell off the bed before she was one month old (and in her three years of life has hit the ground on a number of occasions); actually she fell off the banister just last week. I have used the Television to babysit and have a stash of $10 toys that I use for distraction and bribery, when all else fails Dora the Explorer does the job. I am horrible at discipline, (if it can’t maime her, I’ll probably let her try it). I will allow her to powder the entire house, if it means that I can get half an hour with a book.      

I remember leaving her with the powder one day and she skated straight into the kitchen cupboard (that was the end of the powder). Another day she was packing her tea-set into the oven (yes, the real oven in the kitchen) and somehow the stove fell over on her (that was also the end of playing in the oven).  

My husband has also had his sh*tty dad moment.

One day I was working late and I got a call which more or less went like this;

“Do you have the spare car key on you?”

My answer was yes. 

His reply was “Come now! I just locked Christiana in the car”.

I literally ran out the door. 

It took me 20 minutes to reach the grocery car-park, I was so angry but when I reached my husband was standing in the rain, leaning on the car window, reassuring my daughter that he was still there, trying to stop her from crying because she was safely buckled up in her car-seat. His face was morbid.

I didn’t say a word because I knew nothing I could say could make him feel worst.     

You must be saying by now, this poor child has lunatic parents. We don’t wake up in the morning with deliberate aspirations to screw up her life; I actually pray to be a good mother every single day and my husband prays even more than I do. I listen every morning for her to wake up and greet her with a smile to start the day; days are full of hugs and inhibitions and yet I have my sh*tty mom moments and cringe when I make a mistake.

Bill Cosby noted that “in spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck and, of course courage”.

My husband isn’t the type of man who waits for me to get anything done for our daughter, he cleans diapers, he gives baths, and he baby sits. In addition to that, he inspects, there has never been a scrap, a bounce or a mark on my daughter that has evaded his eyes which usually comes back to me with twenty questions. He isn’t rude about it but he asks. It is his responsibility to ask, his caution is so renowned that my mother usually says to my daughter “don’t do this to fall, for your father to come and ask questions.” 

That is why I cannot understand how a father living in the same house with the child would say he didn’t notice his child was being beaten. Even more heart wrenching is the fact that in the situation I am talking about, the child at age two, met her death at the hands of her own mother.

I have always been a fiercely independent person, very serious, very goal orientated. When I became pregnant my sister noted that it was the first time in all our years that she had ever seen me smile at nothing. As my body grew – my belly swelled and my feet grew a size – there was another kind of growing going on inside me, a deeper more determined growth. My heart was growing, my soul was finding humanity. I became more sympathetic to my co-workers, I started eating in the office kitchen at peak hours, I visited my parent more often, I called my siblings and I became a better wife.

The mere thought of this child brought unimagined joy, and it grew daily. When she was born I stayed awake for the next 48 hours (until I left the hospital), I was afraid that I would close my eyes and she just wouldn’t be there anymore. I love my husband, but this love was different it was fierce, protective, unrelenting, it was as if piece of my heart had walked out of my body into the world. It is only at that moment I truly understood how a man named Jesus could die on a cross for an undeserving world.

My daughter innocently ran out into the main road one evening and I was right behind her, I was perfectly aware that there may be oncoming traffic but I also resolved, in that split second that any traffic would have to hit me first. Motherhood is profound, the joy and sorrow of it is divine. Some of us are great mothers with natural ability, others like me are novices with all heart, who need to take it one day at a time and sad to say, some are so far off the path that the repercussions jolts society. I wish I would never hear about a child being beaten to death again which is the highest form of injustice because the victim has no defense.

I know that wishes without action or any plans usually bring no results. Our society is tearing apart at the level of the family. I would gladly pay more for gas, if it meant more family counselors and more family interventions. I would pay my own school fees if it meant a decrease in domestic violence and cruelty to children.

I don’t have much answers and I didn’t launch this Magazine because I am a guru on family matters but more so because I realized that I needed support and advice. There is so much that I don’t know, and if you know more than I do, then I will accept your help. Margaret Mead said that ‘nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.’ As parents we need to ask for help. Pride continues to be breed and harvested, communities no longer get involved and this has become the norm.

I sometimes wonder how younger mothers make out, who haven’t really grown into their own, who are single, whose parents aren’t still alive. I have a friend who works in Port of Spain and lives in Siparia; she has two children and leaves home at 4:30 a.m. and returns home by 7:00 p.m. I ask myself daily, how are parents and children surviving in Trinidad and Tobago?

Pride and economy is overpowering our convictions.

As a nation, I would like to see more red-flags, more opportunities for reform more family interventions. I am not a perfect mom and for every sh*tty moment I have, I have 10 great ones to replace it.

As parents let us learn to ask for help.

Let us make sure that our family adds value and we are not called upon to account for our children, be it dead or alive.