This week we interview attorney, writer, and St. Andrew High School for Girls graduate Philippa Davies, author of Travel Light: Memories of a Covenant Journey which was published on February 11th, 2011.
1. At what stage in your life did you know that you loved writing fiction and how did you know this?
English language exams in high school! I always looked forward to the ‘Write a story about …’ section of the exam. I would write out the story twice – one to hand-in to the teacher and one to keep for myself to read to my parents later on. I would hound the teachers days after the exam to find out if they had started to mark the papers and what they thought of my story. The teachers did say that they looked forward to and enjoyed reading my stories. One teacher even facilitated me contributing a few stories to the Gleaner’s Children’s Own newspaper.
2. Your brother, Andrew Davies, is also very creative. He is a graphic designer and producer of a collection of animated Anancy stories. Was there anything about your household that especially encouraged creativity?
Early exposure to the creative arts while growing up- music, dance, art, school speech competitions – and encouragement from our mother to freely express our talents. I would choreograph dances or perform impromptu plays while Grandma watered the yard, Andrew made his own ‘Transformers’ out of paper or match boxes, and from to time, we’d put on our own concerts for family and neighbors. Our mother is also a pianist and organist.
3. Tell us about the time you spent travelling in Europe and performing. What inspired you to make this decision and how did friends and family react to this choice?
At that time, I felt frustrated and saturated with my job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and wanted a change. Covenant Players (CP) seemed to be the right change of environment and activity. Friends were very excited for what lay ahead, my parents were supportive but some older family members were concerned that I was taking a huge professional and personal risk. Interestingly, now that the book is out, those who thought I was making a mistake, appreciate the valuable experiences shared and even are encouraging others to read the book. Maybe they’re just relieved that it all turned out well.
I have no regret whatsoever of having served with CP. It was an enriching and life-transforming journey.
*Covenant Players is an international repertory theatre company originating in California, USA and in existence since 1963. Using drama to communicate positive and uplifting messages, Covenant Player teams are continuously touring in countries representing almost all the major geographic regions of the world – North and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The teams perform in English as well as in the languages of the country in which they travel and in any venue wherever people are, such as schools, business places, churches, prisons or nursing homes.
4. How did your book, Travel Light, evolve from this experience?
I have regularly kept a journal for over 23 years including the 2 ½ years touring with CP. I also sent frequent email updates to friends and family on the different locations visited and my perspectives on the various encounters. A friend of my mother who read the emails suggested to her that I write a book and so the book is drawn from those emails, the journal entries and residual memories.
5. How has your career as an attorney complemented (or detracted from) your creative pursuits?
Before CP, I felt the law studies and then being an attorney, stifled my writing juices. For a long while, my creative writing energies went into reports of meetings and policy briefs for work. I think CP helped to revive or restore the personal drive to pursue creative interests outside of work. So now, although I am still an attorney and my current job allows me wonderful outlets for diverse creative expression, I have been re-energized to continue writing, other than reports (!), for personal satisfaction.
6. What is the most significant insight you have gained so far in your life?
Ignore societal or self- labels. Be polite to everyone and judge each on his /her own merit.
7. Describe a typical day in your life at this point?
Intense but fun! As a one-woman operation in the Copyright section at the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, I handle everything for myself – such as answering questions from the general public on copyright law and procedure either by phone, email or direct visits, researching and drafting legal issues on copyright legislation, participating in radio or television interviews, making presentations or seeking out opportunities to speak about intellectual property to schools and business places…
8. If you were marooned on the proverbial island with only 3 books you could read for the rest of your life, what would they be?
(Arghhh…only 3 ..)The Bible, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and, the Oxford Book of Caribbean Short stories.
9. What writing projects are you currently working on and do you have plans for any joint projects with your brother, Andrew?
More short stories, plays and a novel (historical fiction). With my brother, a screenplay for an action/ sci-fi film.
10. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Seek out and appreciate diverse experiences and persons. Observe everything and keep notes, something may be inspiration for your next work or character!