This week we interview Kellie Magnus, co-coordinator Anancy Festival Kingston. Kellie is a Caribbean author and journalist. She is the author of the “Little Lion” series of children’s books. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and an MBA in Entertainment and Media Management from Columbia University. In addition to writing and publishing children’s books she writes feature articles on Caribbean entertainment and media. She also serves on the board of the Early Childhood Commission in Jamaica and owns the small publishing company Jackmandora.
Q. Tell us about Anancy festival Kingston and how it got started?
The organizers of the Anancy Festival in Florida asked me if I’d come up and read, or read from Jamaica and have it simulcast to Florida. I thought it would be fun to create a parallel event in Jamaica and have both audiences share in the experience.
Q. When you think of Anancy what comes to your mind?
Anancy and Miss Lou are inextricably linked in my mind. Miss Lou is one of my personal hereos. I’ve always been in awe of her gifts as a writer and storyteller. And I always admired her passion for protecting and promoting Jamaican culture. I have great memories of listening to her tell Anancy stories.
Q. What was the biggest obstacle or headache in organizing the event? How did you overcome it?
So far there haven’t been any. Everyone has been eager to come on board. We hope that the technical aspects will work well, but we’re confident that it will be a great day in both places.
Q.Tell us about the line up for the festival?
We have a few local storytellers who are known for their Anancy repertoires lined up and there’ll be readings from published and unpublished books on Anancy. We also have three short films about Anancy by local filmmakers that I think will go over very well. Plus, there’ll be arts and crafts and activities for kids.
Q. What local Jamaica author/performer/artist did you most want to get involved with the Anancy festival?
When I think about Anancy these days, the first person who comes to mind is Amina Blackwood Meeks. She’s such a gifted storyteller. I’ve watched her hold throngs of kids enthralled with no games, no prop, just the power of a great story.
Q: Is there anyone you wanted to participate who wasn’t able to?
I wanted to get Andre Davis, an author whose just put out a new kids’ book and DVD on Anancy, but the Florida organizers had already snapped him up!
Q: Will there be any online or interactive component to the festival?
We’re going to show a part of the Florida event via Skype to the audience in Jamaica, and a part of the JA event to the FL audience.
Q: How did you find to organize this event between writing and pushing literacy in Jamaica?
I think events like this are a critical part of promoting literacy, so BIAJ has to make time for them. If I want to make a living as a writer, I have to make sure there’s an audience that can read and wants to read. So I see it as part of my job.
Q: Can you tell us about the literacy project you are working on?
I’m really excited about two new baby books my company, Jackmandora, is putting out this year. They’re for children 0 – 18 months. They were selected for the BookStart Jamaica Pilot Programme, a new initiative from the Ministry of Education, in which new mothers will receive baby books and tips on reading to children when they leave the hospital. It’s a fantastic programme that has worked really well in other countries and we’re excited to see the impact it has on early literacy here.
Q: Are you working on any new books?
Well, there’ll be a new Little Lion, of course! And then we also have a great new book coming out called Adventures with Books, which is a reading journal for children. It’s a guide that directs children — both avid readers and slow readers — to read different kinds of books and has tons of activities they can do based on the books they’re reading. We finished the edition for age 9 – 12 and now we’re working on the 4 – 8 edition. They’ll both be out later this year. And then the book I’m reading at the Festival — Nancy Anancy — a story about Anancy’s great granddaughter, should be out by Christmas. It’s a modern twist on an Anancy story, from a girl’s perspective.
Q: Thanks for your time? Any closing thoughts?
Just to thank Xavier Murphy and Andrea Shaw and the rest of the Anancy Festival team in Florida for organizing a great event and including us in their plans. We’d love to see more events like this that link audiences in Jamaica and the Diaspora.
Visit the Anancy Festival website for more information.