Monday, January 20, 2014

Anansi anyone?

Today my pal Bish Denham is here to talk about her book, ANANSI AND COMPANY. I must tell you that I have read this with the family and everyone thoroughly enjoyed their time spent with Anansi. Engaging, fun, enchanting, and charming are just a few words that come to mind when I think of Bish’s book. These are retold Jamaican tales and you could tell Bish had loads of fun retelling them. So without further ado I give you, Bish Denham. 

Thanks for having me over, Robyn. I REALLY appreciate visiting your blog. And so does Anansi, who I can see is being well entertained and fed by your wonderful brood of children!

Bish, how did you come to retell the wonderful stories featuring Anansi the spider?

Kind of a long story. A few years BEFORE Hurricane Marilyn tore through the Virgin Islands in 1995, my sister gave me for safe keeping, our old book of Jamaican Anansi stories. It was compiled by Martha Warren Beckwith who went to Jamaican in the early 1920s and recorded storytellers telling Anansi stories. She then faithfully transcribed the stories in their original Jamaican dialect and published them in 1924. Hurricane Marilyn torn the roof off the family home and most of my sister’s books were destroyed.

It seemed serendipitous to me that the old brittle-paged book had survived due to my having it. So I began to try to read the stories, with the idea of translating and/or retelling them. But the stories are difficult to read; almost like reading a foreign language. It took a long time to decipher them, then to pick and few, then rework them. Most of them are more like fragments than real stories. They don’t have a true beginning, middle and end.

If you gave one of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?

“You got something to eat? I hungry.”

Hahaha, I thought so. :-)

Who did the wonderful illustrations for your book?

The fabulous Adrienne Saldivar did the cover and the five illustrations. We “met” through the blogs several years back where she showed off her latest art projects. When I finally decided to publish the Anansi stories, I knew her art would be a perfect fit.

How long did you spend writing Anansi And Company?

I don’t know how much actual time I spent writing the stories. But I know from the first reading of the stories to publication took about 12 years. A long time.

Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route? I imagine, as good as this book is, it wouldn’t have been too hard to find a publisher.

Well, the reason I’ve gone the self-publishing route is that I’m getting kind of old. I don’t have time to spend on the waiting game: waiting for agent responses, waiting for acceptances, waiting for a publisher, waiting for a book to be published. If I’d started submitting in my 20s or 30s I’d probably be with an agent and be published, but I didn’t because I was busy working. When I retired and started submitting I knew it would take a while. But I just wasn’t having any luck. And now I don’t have the wear-with-all or patience. Life is too short. So… why not self-publish?

Throughout this experience, is there anything you wish you would have done differently?

If anything I wish I’d been braver sooner.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

I write on my lap top, usually in the “extra” bedroom we’ve converted into an office. We call it The Other Room. As for a writing schedule, I’m one of those people who writes when I feel like it. I can go months, even years, without writing. Then I’ll have these bursts where I’m very prolific. I’ve never been a structured writer. I used to feel guilty about that, but not any more.

Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream? *wink* 

CHOCOLATE! Definitely chocolate.

Typical writer. :-) I want to thank Bish for bringing her delightful pal Anansi to the blog today. I want to recommend that you all head out and buy Anansi and Company as soon as you leave here. You'll be really glad you did. I promise. 

Here's the linkage peeps:

Here's the book blurb to wet your whistle.

About Anansi and Company

How do you escape a hungry tiger? Why do ram-goats smell? What happens if you get too greedy? In this collection of ten retold Jamaican stories, Anansi the spider tricks, sings, and dances his way into and out of trouble.

But who is Anansi? It was the Ashanti of West Africa who brought the spider into the Caribbean. He clung tight to the web he wove in the minds of those who had been captured, surviving not only the harrowing passage across the Atlantic Ocean, but hundreds of years of slavery.

As a trickster, Anansi has both good and bad traits, which makes him very human. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses. When he wins he dances and sings for joy. When he loses, he shakes it off and keeps on living, a lesson for us all.

About the Author                 

Bish Denham, whose mother's side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over a hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there and visits them regularly.

She says, "Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named them, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. Pirates plied the waters and hundred of years of slavery left its indelible mark. It was within this atmosphere of magic and wonder that I grew up. My hope is pass some of that magic and wonder on to my readers."

Ain't she pretty? You can learn more about Bish by visiting her house:

She can also be found on:


Go to Amazon and load her book on your Kindle. You'll be really glad I mentioned this. Uh-huh.