Through the window…of reason



Anyway, after a few mornings of tying up the blind, I realize something very interesting. Guess what? I did the same! I tied up the blind but didn’t open the window! Needless to say, this brought me back to how the blind was pulled but window left closed. Hm.
And this analogy is going somewhere…I am thinking that sometimes we are so focused on one thing that we neglect the next thing that seem natural to do. Perhaps there was a purpose to the window being left for me to open. I love looking out that window, into the garden and the things growing, birds feeding, zagadas frolicing etc. Inspiration flows through that window. The analogy is taking shape now..umhm.

Recently I reached out to another Caribbean author, one who has just won an award. I reached out because the novel touches on one of the topics touched in my book. I purchased this book and started reading it. So naturally, I wanted to introduce him to mine. When he didn’t reply to any of my messages, comments or links, like many others, I felt a bit disheartened , just for a little bit. Wondering why. We are both Caribbean authors, bringing our local characters to the pages, telling stories our local people want to read. Was he too busy, not interested, or perhaps my messages got hidden lost or something. But looking at his friends, the ones commenting on his book, it struck me that they might also like Force Ripe! Ah ha! So I started connecting with some of them. And I realize, just like the window was left for me to open, so I can feel the fresh morning breeze, look out there and soak up the inspiration nature offers me , just so my guardian angel has directed me, to, and through his FB page, to take the next track, next road on this journey. This morning I was reminded yet again, about the PURPOSE. We don’t always see it right away. Often others have to remind us, but it is there. There is a reason for things.  reason1

As Writers/authors, we are fed lots of stuff … the rules… what you have to do to get to here, there or wherever. We have to attract and try to hook a certain calibre of readers/writers, with certain connections, to get the right reviews, so you can get into the right periodicals, climb onto the “right platforms”. I do what I feel the inspiration and drive to do, but I really don’t like to conform to that trend or ideology or whatever it is. Right now, there’s a lot of revolutions taking place, not only in the political arena, but the literary world as well. Just look at where Force Ripe got to without a traditional publisher! Perhaps it’s time for a change. My readers are mostly the everyday, ordinary people, with whom some part of Force Ripe resonates. Their reviews are as important to me as the one from the intellect who can analyze and give a whole commentary in literary language, even in just four words to simply says, “I love that book”.

Still Tradding on…


journey...“You’ve done so much”, I keep hearing.  “You’ve done well”, I tell myself, at times, but I know there is so much more I want to do. So much more that can be done, because Force Ripe has so much more legs to continue trading on. I have not work on this for fourteen year,  come this far to just let it go without giving it my all. I am now at a crossroad, some kind of junction, perhaps a roundabout with too many un-marked exits.   I now have to choose  which road I will take.

Audio Version. Movie. Videos to advertise. A softer school version.  Force Ripe in book shops and libraries. Competitions. All of these are bashing around in my head and each day I research and reach out. I  ask the ones who know, knocking on every  door I find. Speaking about competitions, I seem to only hear about them with an announcement of a winner.  And if I were to follow that route, I will need a special loan! And if they are free, there is always some criteria which I don’t meet – published too early, or too late, or wrong country of residence or something! Very encouraging! I have contacted the Calabash Festival organizer. No response. I have written to several Literary “persons” and in most cases, received no response. I  have been trying and have tried again this year with the Bocas Lit Festival – such a dynamic platform for Caribbean Literature – yet it appears, Force Ripe does not fit in. Well forget about getting noticeable or accepted reviews, to help push in the right direction. You need to be recommended, and you can’t get recommended unless the recommender gives you a chance! Talk about chicken and eggs! People don’t open these doors unless they know who’s calling. Not even a crack for a little peep. Not even a peep through the curtain,  you know how you do it when  a Jahova witness you have no time for comes calling on a busy Saturday morning!!? Sometimes I does feel so damn overwhelmed and under …something….but anyway.

I think we all have some kind of calling, whether we hear or listen or heed is up to us or perhaps the stars.  Some of us are great composers of words, some great interpreters of these words. Some are great story tellers and others fantastic speakers. I want to write stories, which resonate with readers – especially the ones who don’t normally read, but loves being transported to a time and to places they can relate to, reminisce about, even learn from. So they will pick up a book like Force Ripe and confess that they could not put it down- encouraging and promoting reading. This is why I will continue to write stories which resonate with this audience.  Force Ripe evokes a mixture of emotions and takes its readers, each one, on his/her own personal journey. For some it’s a painful one, but if it helps them to face, fight and overcome, that is a purpose fulfilled.

On the advocacy route – I have been approached on the subject of being an advocate on issues which come up in my story -for example: child neglect and sexual abuse and even on the matter of the children left behind – because that is a big issue. To advocate means to speak or write in favour of;  to add a voice of support to a cause or person; someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.   I am against any form of abuse. However, I chose not to be that public figure or label myself. This does not at all mean I am choosing not to speak for or against those issues. And I admire those who do so, who has that purpose and fulfil them. I very carefully tried not to make Force Ripe just another child sexual abuse story. I wanted to tell Lee’s story, but also show our people, the culture, a bit of history,  all through the characters and specifically through her eyes. My thing is writing the stories. So I will keep writing and sharing my stories. In fact, I wish I had a recorder in my head! I will keep on trading on. I aim to reach as wide an audience as I can – all those with whom Force Ripe evokes special memories, give a little tickle, or effect some kind of closure. I will let Force Ripe do its thing and everyone else do theirs. Heed your calling.

Talking about sharing stories, not a week goes by without being asked if I am doing another? Or when is part two coming out. Ok. I know. The pressure is on.


Sharing a couple excerpts

Rasta Gal…

When we reach by the big mango warwood tree, them children from Undergoogoo, gather up there. Six of them. On Sundays, people does bathe and put on their Sunday clothes, better than the usual week clothes, but not them. All of them in their dirty raggy clothes and greasy hair. And all their ten commandments spread out on the ground.   

As soon as we pass them the biggest one shout out.

 “Rasta gal! Aye Rasta gal!”

I squeeze Carlos hand  tighter.  Walked faster.

“Eh. You en see Rasta gal! She use to live in the bush wid man, now she playin ting oui!”

She have about twelve years. People say she father does take her. She grandfather too. He doing the same thing to she little sister . The one who is just six years.

Carlos look up at me. “Carla, what is a rasta gal?”



The Ball…

“You looking sweet girl,” the photographer said.

I sat on the wall in front Horse Shoe Beach Hotel, trying to relax for my graduation photo. But only one thing on e me mind.

“Well give me a smile nuh man!” he tried again. Looking at me over he lens, ready to click.  I don’t like posing for pictures at all. I always ended up looking, either vex or as if I about to cry. I fixed my dress. Fixed my face with the best smile I could come up with.

School done and I glad. No more fighting up to study all kinds of things – like algebra, and all them dates in History that simply refuse to stay in me head. No more getting up early early morning and riding bus up and down, from country to town, feeling as if somebody beat me up when I reach. No more staying in people house, always trying to figure out what I do that cause what’s her name to stop talking to me. And I still don’t know what I  going to do now, but I well glad school done.



Life.. a journey of lessons…learning

in kitchenI was in the kitchen doing the washing up and my mind went roaming. My mind always go on knock-abouts when I am in the kitchen. That is where I do some real serious reflecting. There is just something about being in the kitchen that sets the mind wandering and bouncing up on all kinds of thoughts, reflections, memories and all  them things hovering on the mind and the sub-conscious. And so mine did a rewind on the past year and  reflected on some of life’s lessons in my personal life.

don't judgeDo NOT judge. Never cast judgements on others and their lives. What you see is often a very small fraction of what is real, what is behind closed doors. Don’t assume you know what’s going on, why people make the choices they make or do the things they do.

wrongsTwo wrongs NEVER make it right. Just like two negatives don’t add up to a positive. If you are in the equation, whether by force, choice or circumstances, you cannot make it right by revenge or a taste of the other’s medicine. Finding a workable solution involves much more. Try a bit of self-restraint, reasoning, forgiveness and a lot of compromise. Understanding is a good one to try as well, but be careful it doesn’t it can lead to a lot of confusion too.

angerWith all your might, and as much energy as you can muster, convert Anger into some other emotion- “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:9. It will lodge itself in your throat and it will choke you. It will turn you into the doer of stupid, crazy deeds. I try not to let anger come anywhere near me if I can help it. So as soon as it starts to show its face, head in my direction, for whatever reason, I switch on my converter.

Always assume the position. Put your feet in the other person’s shoes, walk around in them. Feel how they feel, check out how they empathylook. Place yourself in that situation. Even as I say this, I recall with irony, the response I received when I made this request to someone in my life. “But I don’t want to walk in your shoes. I want to walk in mine,” was the response. I was left pondering on this. I thought about it all night, carefully examining this statement. And I totally understood where he was coming from – me putting myself in his shoes there. Why should he wear my shoes? My shoes are too small- they will be squeezing his toes. They are the wrong style. Just the wrong fit. Why ever should he try walking in my shoes when his fit just fine! Hm. Food for thought.

one dayTake one day at a I have never appreciated the song “…one day at a time sweet Jesus…” as I do now. But now I try. I try to take each day as it comes and keep doing the next right thing, one at a time. Tomorrow is promised to no one- no matter how carefully you plan or how much you wish. I take each day as it comes. This means I don’t make any long term plans.

changeDon’t try to change people. The only person you can change is you. And that is difficult enough. If the person doesn’t want the change you are proposing, it will NOT work!

I had no idea what was written for me in the stars, but I rolled with it and went where those journeys directed me. I have had some fantastic experiences, achievements, growth. I have also experienced the biggest humiliation, ridicule, disrespect and insults ever, in all my forty something years on this planet. Yet,

life02through it all, I have experienced growth. Grown a thicker, tougher layer of skin, callous hands, an iron psyche,reasons yet a kinder, more sensitive heart. I have armed myself with some sturdy emotional amour, to fight my fight. And I fought. I fought for the things that matter to me because sometimes you have to fight. I fought for my home, my companionship, clinging with iron grip to fleeting moments of joy and any goodness I could find. Eradicating the occasional interruptions and regular bouts of madness. But ironically, it is those same things I have fought for which seem bent on destroying the real me.

The Literary Revolution that is Force Ripe, and Well-Mature

On Thursday 27th March, Grenadian Author, Cindy Mc Kenzie, completed the first leg of the North American Tour for her debut novel, Force Ripe. The tour began in Brooklyn, New York on 20 February, 2016 and took Mc Kenzie to Toronto and Montreal, Canada; Washington, D.C; Atlanta, Georgia; and rounding off in Queens, New York.

Force Ripe was first launched in St. George’s on 24 October, 2015. Chief Education Officer shared during the launch that the book rekindled his passion for local writers and hoped that, “Young people (are) exposed to that kind of literature.” He noted that, “Grenadians need to get into the habit of producing literature that we can infuse into our education system.” His support for the novel was strengthened by comments from Director of Mt. Zion Library, Author OonyaKempadoo who acknowledged Mc Kenzie’s “tremendous amount of courage and bravery to write this story.” Kempadoo considers Force Ripe a “significant contribution to Caribbean literature, (and) world literature.”

After doing book signings around St. George’s and in her birth parish, St. Patrick, Mc Kenzie received the impetus to take Force Ripe to a larger audience—North America. Mc Kenzie’s adventurous spirit and drive which first led her write and self-publish her book, ultimately led her to take the book abroad.She received support from friends, and fans who fell in love with Lee, the main character in the novel. Sociologist, Dr. Wendy Crawford-Daniel and New York-based Television Producer, Johncrow Alexander helped to ensure that the book and its author reach an audience hungry for the taste of real life expressed in Caribbean stories.

The North American audience received the novel with love and high critical acclaim. Mc Kenzie spoke of the diversity of Force Ripe’s tour, “Every one of my book events are different. New York was great…the people who came out, came to support, some already had their books so lovely to share their own connection with Force Ripe…Toronto massive were there…nice crowd, great meeting up, reconnecting, chatting, brilliant…Montreal…real love…so much love through poetry… warmth, friendship–old rekindled, new ones struck up, real warmth and love and support from my people…all rolled up into one big Love!”

Reader, Claudia L. Hood-Halley describes Force Ripe as, “The first West Indian book I’ve read for which I strongly believe a Literary Prize is deserving! Everyone should read Force Ripe. Simple, yet powerful language, the Grenadianese was artfully captured. Bravery, mastery, skill, creativity, and pure guts – Cindy you are Awesome!!! I applaud you! I shall certainly read, and read, and read, this book again. Congratulations on a well written story! I enthusiastically endorse it!”

Force Ripe is revolutionary in its use of the Grenadian creole on the page. Some readers claim difficulty in encountering their mother tongue on the page for the first time. Mc Kenzie stands by her use of our kind of English in telling the story. “Force Ripe is a voice. The voice of this little girl, Lee.Her voice through her experiences, from her perspective. It is what it is. Her story. It does not try to explain, demoralize, take sides nor cast any blame. And it certainly does not call for any actions. It has gone through all its phases of trying to conform, fit in with what you learn you should and should not do, how you should and should not write, especially as a new writer. And it is certainly not forced ripe, because it has matured and is now confident to use and own that voice.”

“I feel it is important to be proud of our language, which is a huge part of our culture. Using our vernacular added more authenticity to Lee’s voice and the story, making it more relatable.”

On March 17, Mc Kenzie presented excerpts from Force Ripe at the Embassy of Grenada in Washington, D. C. with Grenadian Dr. Merle Collins and other Caribbean scholars and writers. This was a serendipitous moment considering Dr. Collins’ review of Force Ripe during the early stages of its fourteen year journey. In 2008, Dr. Collins said of Force Ripe, “I am particularly interested in the use of language in our Caribbean writing…I would stay with your use of language.” Her praise for Mc Kenzie continued, “You have a great story and a tremendous sense of voice. I hear the voices. I think it’s a great story and will be a good book. I can already feel that you have a gift for capturing the voice on the page.”

In a 2016 interview with Johncrow Alexander of Caribbean Classroom, Dr. Collins expressed her “pleasure to hear Cindy read from her work Force Ripe.” Dr. Collins found the intersections between fiction and reality, as well as Cindy’s reading, “fascinating.” She praised Cindy for courage and tenacity to tell this story despite not having a Ph.D. She noted that many writers who teach in colleges do not have degrees. What they along with Cindy have is, “the control of craft…tone of voice…the craft of storytelling.” Her experience hearing Cindy read from Force Ripe was, “Absolutely wonderful.”

Cindy Mc Kenzie and Force Ripe has been featured on and Guyanese author, Harold Bascom featured a chapter of the book on his, plusCreative writing professor at the California College of the Arts, Dr. Opal Palmer Adisa, recommends Force Ripe “to be included in Caribbean literature and Sociology courses.

Force Ripe is a timely gift to our culture in that it reflects some of the experiences many women have growing up—having to survive sexual abuse. It comes at a time when Grenadian girls are being raped and are at risk of death from sex offenders. It also reflects some of the joys of growing up in Grenada—the outside kitchen; aroma of bakes and cocoa tea with spice and bwaden; catching crayfish in the river; even the life of the elusive Rastaman during the revolution. This book and its author are definitely going places and it would be remiss for Grenada to get left behind, only to heap awards and acclaim after the world has recognized greatness.

For as Cindy Mc Kenzie puts it at the end of the Ladies of the Word event in Queens, NY, “This journey has been so inspirational. I have felt so welcomed, embraced and loved by all of you who have come together, with love, generosity and pure Grenadian pride, to celebrate this achievement with me. To celebrate our stories, our culture, our literature. And this piece of literature is not just my book, it is a representation of our country GRENADA because I am Grenadian to the bone. I am proud to say I feel I have represented well. Feeling blessed. Giving thanks always to EVERYONE who has been there, supported and continue to show love and appreciation. Blessings come in all forms. THANK YOU!”

Cindy believes that from the start, Force Ripe was destined to take its own path, make its own journey. The heartfelt connections that the book has made with people along the way has changed, even enlightened the course of that journey.

Force Ripe is available in bookstores in Grenada, The House Of Chocolate, Young street, (opposite MNIB) and from the author. Cindy can be contacted on Facebook: Cindy-McKenzie-Author. Twitter: Simbamac. Cindy’s blog: also features her ecofriendly cement plant holders and other usable art pieces.

Cindy Mc Kenzie is available for book club discussions and speaking engagements. She can be reached via phone at 473.414.6737 and email:



amaBy:  Judy A.B. Antoine

Force Ripe…the journey…its destiny




journeyFrom its conception Force Ripe has always had its own journeys to travel. It own destiny. I left Grenada on Valentines Day. A bit ironic for me as I had left during some challenging times at home. I remember sweating in the heat. Having been warned about the cold spell, I had piled on the layers. I stopped off at Marcelle’s birthday bash down Wildwoods, to collect a coat which saved me on that cold, four and a half hour flight. I said my good byes and headed to the airport. Jetblue to New York. The plan: a few days in New York , go to Toronto for the Grenada Independence Showcase, back New York and home to Grenada.

I sat on the airport waiting for my flight, my mind heavy with the challenges instead of joy and excited about this brave venture. So heavy that I couldn’t even move myself to hand out my Force Ripe bookmarks, which I had ready at hand. It was rather refreshing when a young man, loaded with camera bag etc. sat next to me and started chatting right away. Next thing I know he is doing a quick on the spot interview, which was posted on Whatzup NY, which made me cringe every time I looked at it! It did get some good traffic. The journey had begun.

I arrived at JFK to a kind of cold I once knew, but which my beautiful Grenada had wiped from my memory. It was hostile. As if to say “you wretch you! In New York you want! Take it in your backside!” But there was Mr Johncrow Alexander, waiting, coat, gloves and scarf in hand and the car door held open!! And the journey continued.

My connection with Johncrow came through Wendy Crawford Daniel. Now Wendy is one passionate Force Ripe angel! From the time she read Force Ripe, she began her own personal campaign, spreading that infectious love she has with everyone she meets, full force! Wendy almost sold more books than me! But what is most commendable, and I admire and respect her most for, is the fact that she is an author herself. But she had no reservations whatsoever. I am ever so thankful for support like hers.

And like an athlete in a relay, Johncrow Alexander took on the baton and did a “jaguar”run with it. Well known as the voice of the Caribbean Classroom TV show, and being a very well connected man of action, he put down a good “Kirani Run” in truth- putting together the first event in Brooklyn , Ladies of Words, with three other authors of Caribbean decent , Claudette Spence, Tyrrel Ebony and Nandi Kai. My very first event of its kind. A Literary evening to present Force Ripe in a room packed with pride, familiar faces and almost tangible emotions. It was a much needed ice breaker for me to start this first event, looking into the faces of people who had connected with me in one way or another, through Facebook, through friends and family and of course through Mr Johncrow himself. The Grenada Independence Showcase in Toronto followed. It was the event which I left home for. I had done my ground work, pushing Force Ripe, especially on Facebook, since its publication, at the end of September 2015- I will now give myself a little pat on the back- I was pushing it so hard, I was sure people were starting to get tired of seeing it. But it’s my baby and I am determined to give it my all!

Of course I had the challenge of how I was going to afford that trip. But when I get something set in my head to do, and I feel the passion, it will be done! So I set to work, making contact whith the Consulate in Toronto and got connected to Trisha Mitchell, the coordinator of the event. Some contacts and inquiries made by my good friend and ardent supporter, Cathy Beharry-Ayanwale, Table booked, I set to work on making it happen. It was when Johncrow came along, and with the support of my friend Judy Antoine, they represented me at the New York Independence celebrations , selling out the books which I had sent him, that I saw the reality. Ticket funds.

And so the journey continued, From Toronto, I travelled to Montreal. An opportunity which came about while I was in New York. And it warms my heart to see how well Force Ripe was embraced by the Grenadian communities. The people who came out gave their genuine support, especially the Grenada Association in Montreal, together with Honorary Consul, Mr Leonard Wharwood. They pulled together an event which packed our Grenadians supporters into a cosy room at Le Spot, perfect setting for an intimate evening of sharing poetry, readings, making connections. Gemma Raeburn- Baynes’ Taste of Tea followed – a very different event with a very diverse audience. Force Ripe make its appearance and I enjoyed an evening tasting tea with some amazing women and a wonderful musical experience which touched my core! That guy reminded me of Barracuda, he was Italian also. Amazing thing he did with opera! Loved it. And I cannot forget my evening at the home of Dolliver Lewis and his family, a fellow  Grenadian and generous supporter. What a spread! Topped off with a well stocked bar and toast with Champaign! Thank you Dolliver and Marsha!

Atlanta was next. And it was warm, both the people and the weather. Sherryl Calliste Thegg, the president of the Spice of the Caribbean Association of Georgia, through connections made by Johncrow, accommodated me and organized a great event with a Caribbean mix, a lovely spread of delicious food and music to celebrate with dancing- another passion of mine. Perfect end to the evening.
Washington DC was my final stop before the last few events in New York. And the Embassy, co-ordinated by Ms Dianne Perrotte, even at very short notice, organized an Evening of Literary sharing, an event which carried its own weight in the literary Arena, with Grenadian Dr Merle Collins, and authors Jewel Daniel Amethyst, and Carol Mitchell, (recently shortlisted for the CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Literature), both from St Kitts. It was a beautiful evening of readings, reconnecting, rekindling and celebrating with friends and colleagues.

After DC, the next stop in Brooklyn was at MCG Grand Cafe- run by Mr and Mrs Gibbs, who invited me to present Force Ripe at their popular little restaurant and Grenadian hang out. And those impromptu events were the best sellers.
The tour ended with another literary evening at the LAC Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Centre in Queens, sharing the platform with some great Ladies of Words and music, and culminated with more celebrations at the home of fellow Grenadian, Frances Purcell, on Easter Sunday. And after three very long days, I returned to my Isle of Spice. Nice.

Now I have a lot of people to thank. To everyone who has been involved, made contributions, no matter in what way, how big or small. Thank you!! Even before I left Grenada, my friend Marilyn, living in Montreal, had been boxing her brain about how to get me to bring Force Ripe to Montreal. She took on the task of mobilizing on her end, sending out emails, making calls, forwarding information. She was so determined to get me to Montreal, she even bough my train ticket, accommodated and really looked after for me. Boy do I have thanks to give!! I must recognise this as the collective effort it was. This community coming together out of passion and yearning for something which brought them back to a place which they loved, a time they treasure and something they could relate to, identify with. You were all very amazing- providing accommodation, transport. In cases, people who didn’t even know me. The support was tremendous. Every event was different in its own rights, and equally successful in more ways than one. This journey has been a special one, not only of sharing my book Force Ripe with that part of the world, but one of great learning, giving, receiving, trials and a lot of loving too.

Every once in a while, something or someone comes along that makes a difference and Force Ripe is one of them. From its conception, way back in 2001 to publication in 2015, it has been on several journeys and from the response it has been receiving, it is evident that it has also touched many in so many different ways.

Mr Johncrow Alexander- the man with the big voice and the connections, you used them to mobilize the support of your contacts, pull together those events where I had a platform to share my story, my experience. You got in the driver’s seat and helped to steer Force Ripe into a different path, changing the course of its journey. But you did much more than that, and I sincerely thank you and your family. I am full of gratitude. And all of the angels who were sent along the way to lend a hand, to direct and to guide my movements on this Journey. Big Thanks to EVERYONE!!!

Photos from tour.

Ladies of Words – Brooklyn New York

For More photos check out the links below