Earlier this month the Independent VoYces Literary Arts Fair (IVLF) at Strawberry Fields, St Mary presented exposure opportunities to new authors, writers, and poets particularly from the Caribbean. Host of the event was Judith, who herself is a writer, playwright, dancer and dramatist creating the literary arts fair to assist new authors in achieving their goals of being heard by a wide audience. Here she independently speaks her mind to Anthea McGibbon about herself, goals, aspirations. This interview was conducted before the event on November 7th, 2010.
ANTHEA: WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
JUDITH: I was born in Kingston but my family lived all over Jamaica. My formative years were in Mandeville where we lived until I was 10. My teen and high school years were in Montego Bay. I am an alumnae of Mt. Alvernia high School.
ANTHEA: WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
JUDITH: I currently live in St. Mary
ANTHEA: HOW LONG?
JUDITH: I lived in Florida for 15 years, and returned home to Kingston, last April and moved to St. Mary 2 weeks ago.
ANTHEA: HOW MUCH OF AN ARTIST ARE YOU?
JUDITH: I am a writer, playwright, dancer and dramatist. I have written several plays which have been performed in Florida and Jamaica. I founded By His Word Theatre Company in Florida 10 years ago. The ministry uses the arts to minister – dance, drama, mime and singing. i also sing and used to dabble in painting.
ANTHEA: WHO WAS YOUR ART MUSE/BEST MOMENTS?
JUDITH: I have been writing since I was 4. My first encounter with poetry was with the nuns who used to visit and teach at my primary school, St. Paul’s of the Cross in Mandeville. I started acting in plays at school from as early as 5. Growing up, I was exposed to many different writing styles. I particularly love Shakespeare, the humor of past Gleaner columnist Morris Cargill who I studied, and the philosophical writings of Kahlil Gibran. Locally, Jennifer Keane-Dawes and Miss Lou were big influences because of their determination to garner acceptance for our native tongue and their use of the language.
God has placed such talent in my life and that he has afforded me the opportunity to give back in his name.
ANTHEA: WHAT JAMAICAN INSPIRED YOU WHILE GROWING UP?
JUDITH: My father was my hero and my biggest inspiration, followed closely by my sister Althea. Famous Jamaicans who inspired me were Miss Lou, Bob Marley, father Richard HoLung and my French teacher, Mrs. Franka Mohan-hylton who passed away.
ANTHEA: WHO/WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR LITERARY FAIR?
JUDITH: When I published my first book, Time & Seasons: A Layman’s guide to Overcoming Adversity, I found out how difficult it was for unknown writers to have their voices heard. Although my first book was written as a healing exercise for myself, after my dad died, friends and well wishers thought it was a good book and it sold well. It was self-published. My second book, Full Circle, was also self-published and I had many personal challenges at the time. My younger daughter was ill, I had my own ill-health dealing with and other challenges came into the picture. I didnt have time to promote the book as I had intended to and I realized that no-one wanted to deal with a “no-name” author. Through my ministry work I met scores of other writers who had similar experiences. God laid the plan in my spirit and the idea was originally for a Christian book fair. It has expanded since to include all writers, providing the onstage content is suitable for families. The first time I went to Strawberry Fields Together in robin’s Bay, I knew the time had come. I decided that no matter how small or how large, Independent VoYces was ready to be born.
ANTHEA: WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES TO YOUR BUSINESS?
JUDITH am a marketing consultant by profession and together with my husband, Michael Brown, we have a TV and Video production company, Barrivision productions. We currently produce 3 TV shows airing in Jamaica and Florida. However, the literary fair is a mission of mine. the main challenge is getting sponsorship to make the fair absolutely everything it can be and was meant to be.
ANTHEA: WHAT IS THE FAIR ABOUT?
JUDITH: The fair will be a 2-day experience next year with workshops for writers, shakespeare in the park and other additions. To make this a reality, we will need money.
ANTHEA; WHAT PARTICULAR ISSUES IN SOCIETY/CHALLENGES ARE YOU TRYING TO ADDRESS?
JUDITH: 1. The Fair is for exposing new writing talent; giving a voice to writers who are otherwise may have only been heard by their friends and families
2. The Fair is to encourage literacy, and encourage reading
ANTHEA: WHAT HAS BEEN THE SUCCESS RATE? WHAT HAS BEEN THE REACTIONS FROM THE GENERAL PUBLIC?
ANTHEA: The reaction has been great! we have received a lot of interest and even more encouragement to go forward as this is seen as a much needed event.
ANTHEA: HOW CRITICAL IS THE LITERARY ARTS TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF JAMAICA(NS)?
JUDITH: It’s extremely critical. Too many high school students are graduating with limited reading and writing skills. Too many others are not graduating because of limited reading and writing skills. We are plummeting towards a largely illiterate society unless we, and by we I mean each and every literate person, takes whatever steps they can, small or large, to stem the tide. IVLF is my small contribution to encouraging writing and the love of books.
ANTHEA: WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE, AIM OF YOUR BUSINESS OUTSIDE OF FINANCIAL GAIN?
JUDITH: Financial gain is not an aim. I make my living from marketing consulting and TV & Video production. The Independent VoYces Literary arts fair is strictly a desire and dream fulfilled. to whom much is given, much is required says the Lord. He has given me much and I am required to give it back.
ANTHEA: BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOME A BUSINESSWOMAN?
JUDITH: Wow! I think I have been a business woman my entire life. As a teenager, as young as 13, I started makign macrame flower pot hangers and hanging tables and other items which I would sell at local church fairs and other events. by the time i was 14 I was making glass wind chimes, bamboo chimes, painting and creating bamboo cups, knitting tams and a myriad of items including painting posters. My neighbor had a shop in Montego Bay and she would sell my items. By the time I was 15, I had co-founded the dance team at my school and spearheaded a 3-day season of dance to raise funds for the dance team. I guess you would say I have always had a knack for business. From there i simply kept going, trying my hand at every hair brained scheme and others.
I studied Public Relations(PR) and Marketing at UWI Continuing Studies and starting offering my services to small companies that couldnt afford the large PR firms. I could charge less and with a ferocious appetite for reading, I read and studied every book I could put my hands on about marketing and public relations strategies. I got out the gates running and haven’t looked back. basically though i have simply folowed my dreams. Some have worked out, others not but i feel better for having followed them all.
ANTHEA: WHAT HAS THE EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE?
JUDITH: It has been up and down. In general i am an optimist – a glass half full kind of girl. I believe that all experiences in our lives are worth something and as a Christian, I believe that my steps are ordered by God so if I just keep walking forward, i will always come out on top. The top for me is not the same as the top for others. I define my success by different standards. For me success is having tried and at least done the things I set out to do. Whether or not these things were profitable is irrelevant. With this mind set, I have approached business from a different perspective and it keeps me grounded and sane whenever things fall apart.
ANTHEA: WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE AS A BUSINESS (all including marketing etc)?
JUDITH: I think my outlook on life makes me different. I am in business for me, to meet my goals, fulfill my desires and not to meet some standard set by the world. With this in mind, I do business with my heart as well as my head. I believe in people and treat others the way i want to be treated. I believe in being fair and I am okay with others getting credit for my ideas, as long as the idea comes to fruition.
ANTHEA: HOW ACCESSIBLE ARE YOUR SERVICES/ PRODUCTS INTERNATIONALLY?
JUDITH: Our TV Shows each have their own website. in fact, every venture I am involved in has its own website, facebook pages etc. We use a lot of emarketing and web marketing. I get emails from all over the world asking about events and shows that I am involved in.
ANTHEA: BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR TEAM?
JUDITH: The IVLF team is made up of close friends, business associates and a few new friends I have made along the way.
ANTHEA: HOW BIG IS YOUR FAMILY?
JUDITH: I have three daughters – two biologically and one adopted along the way. Robyn – 27 years old, Michele 25 years and Joyce, 35 (adopted). I have one wonderful, adorable 6-year old grandson.
I have four sisters and one brother.
ANTHEA: HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 5,10,15 YEARS?
JUDITH: I have no idea. I am very free spirited and I have a philosophy of doing what God wants me to do when he wants me to do it. He moves me from time to time and gives me new challenges. I avail myself of his vision for me. Outside of that, I see myself still pursuing my dreams, finishing things I have started, living my life one day at a time and enjoying every day I spend in this beautiful country. a preacher/speaker, Dr. Myles Munroe, once said that he intends to go back to his maker empty, having used all his talents and fulfilled all the things he was called to do (that he can identify). I have taken up his philosophy and this is my goal.
ANTHEA: HOW DO YOU SEE THE LITERARY ARTS, READING, PRINTED MATERIAL AND PRESERVATION GLOBALLY IN SAY 5,10,15 YEARS ESPECIALLY IN A DEVELOPING AGE?
JUDITH: People think that the printed word is on its way out because of the internet. Lots of newspapers have folded because of it. Nevertheless, it is up to us to ensure that reading and hte printed word doesnt disappear. Books on tape were all the rage a few years ago. Books triumphed. I think there will always be a place for the printed word. People like to feel stuff in their hands and collect stuff – you cant feel electronic words .
ANTHEA: WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU IMPART TO JAMAICANS IN ONE QUICKENING LAST BREATHE?
JUDITH: Learn to love and to forgive. Learn to laugh at almost everything – very few things are as serious as we make them. Life is way too short and we spend too much of it being unhappy and making our life more difficult than they need be so learn to keep it simple.
ANTHEA: NEXT PROJECT?
JUDITH: Hmmm….. the next Drums 4 Peace; Jamaica Youth for Christ Christmas Play – the Gift, written & directed by me and now in rehearsal; LIVE weekend – a concept to come.
About the Author:
Over 13 years as a journalist, Anthea is a trained paralegal, and artist. She combines her skills including teaching, spanish, photography, editing, and experiences to feature arts, creativity to offer consultations, and other services. She owns
, media website on arts, creativity, culture, and her paintings are available online and at
. Contact her at 876-530-5744 or 305-648-6963 or