STORY HOUR: The author (inset); panellists take centrestage at the recent conference.
Few Jamaican storytellers know their readers as well as Diane Browne, the popular and prolific children’s book author, whose award-winning work spins tales of courage, family and the uniqueness of growing up with island roots. Sure enough, the talented author, whose motherly warmth, easy-going vibe and slightly regal air makes it an absolute delight to be in her presence, has new publications on the way. TALLAWAH chit-chatted with Browne at the just-concluded digital publishing conference, The Online Mind, about the thrill of sharing informative/inspiring Caribbean stories with her young readers – and today’s significant shifts in the book publishing landscape.
TALLAWAH: Miss Browne, how would you summarize your experience of participating in this first-ever publishing conference, The Online Mind?
Diane Browne: I really enjoyed it. I was here for the whole conference, but the session on e-book publishing was a highlight for me. The Allman Town session was also lovely. I think what Jamcopy has done – bringing together the arts and literary communities with the power of technology is just fantastic, and I hope it continues for years to come.
TALLAWAH: You’re well known here and abroad as a prolific writer of children’s books. What’s new in the pipeline these days?
D.B.: I have two e-books in the works right now, and they’re almost done. I’m working on The Happiness Dress, which won the Commonwealth Prize for Children’s Books in 2011. They released it as an audiobook then, but I’m turning it into an e-book, which will be available on Amazon shortly.
TALLAWAH: Abigail’s Glorious Hair is the title of the other. What’s this one about?
D.B.: It’s about a delightful little girl and the joys of combing hair. I thought of how the ritual of combing hair for some parents and children is such a challenge and takes very long. But I also thought of how from generation to generation [hair combing] is like a ritual of love. While you’re combing a child’s hair you feel that connection between the two of you. And the refrain in this story is “I feel safe when my mother is combing my hair.” I certainly felt that connection with my granddaughter, who is almost ten now.
TALLAWAH: With digital publishing being all the rage nowadays, does print still matter for you?
D.B.: I still want my books to appear in print. I would love to have these two new stories in print, but it’s so expensive. Publishers are now being challenged to adjust their rates. But I do hope to put them in print at some point, hopefully by Christmas or next year.
TALLAWAH: You accomplished so much in the fields of education and the literary arts by the time you reached your half-century. Looking back, how do you feel about the journey you’ve been on these 50-odd years?
D.B.: I absolutely love it. I think I was blessed to be able to work successfully as a teacher and work in the Ministry [of Education]. As a writer, I get so much joy out of putting our Jamaican experiences in storybooks for children. And I always remind myself that I need to do it to the best of my ability.