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.



  1. Twelve years? That's a long time.
    Glad your sister gave you the book or it would be lost forever.
    Congratulations again, Bish!

  2. Robyn, I hope you will stop by and accept the award I've nominated you for.

  3. Gosh those stories are so good. Twelve years is a long time. But it was the worth the wait for kids everywhere, Alex!

    I hope all is well and you're still making the music happen. :-)

  4. Heyya Susanne! I will stop by. Asap! *waves*

  5. It was wonderful to hear your voice, Bish! I admire your courage with this book. Such hard work. Congratulations!

  6. Congrats to Bish! That's cool where the idea for the story came from.

  7. I'm glad I got the book too, Alex. AND it's now available on line, republished, which is a good thing.

    Thanks SA Larsen! People like Robyn helped give me the "courage."

    Natalie, I think Anansi's been very patient waiting for his story to be told. :)

  8. 12 years, wow, love that persistence. Great interview and a book I now want to read!

    Congratulations, Bish!

  9. Sheri, that is some hard work. 12 years. I know a lot of writers who would have been discouraged. But not Bish. It meant too much to her.

  10. Natalie, it is cool to hear where the story came from. But we all know Bish is very cool, so it figures! :-)

  11. Joanna, you must buy it! It's just so good. :-)

  12. The illustrations are wonderful and captured the stories Bish wrote in a wonderful way. The book is a real charmer.

  13. You captured the patois of that rascal beautifully, Bish. Congrats again.

  14. Great interview! I wish I'd been braver sooner too, but I hope that just makes us wiser now. :)

  15. Loving the persistence and the ability to know when it was time to release your book into the world. Thanks for the introduction Robyn. Good Luck Bish.

  16. Wow! Thanks everyone for your very kind comments. And that means you to, Robyn!

  17. I'm glad Bish got hold of those brittle pages. This is a fantastic set of stories.

  18. I love the backstory of how Bish came to have the old volume and to write her own book! I've read Anansi tales before and they are always fascinating folk stories. I hope the book will do very well for her!

  19. It looks like a lovely book! The cover is very appealing! I hope Bish has lots of success with it! And, by the way, it's ok to be an unstructured writer. I am the same way. Writing, for the sake of writing, everyday does not work for everyone. Great interview, BBF!

  20. Thanks, Medeia!

    Teresa, I'm glad you liked the Anansi stories you've read in the past. He's a very old character.

    Iza, The cover is the work of the fabulous Adrienne Saldivar. It's nice to know there are other unstructured writers!

  21. Congratulations Bish! Very fun interview! And I've heard some other Anansi stories and really enjoyed them. I need to get this one. :)

  22. Hi Robyn and Bish .. I have Anansi and Co .. waiting to be read on my Kindle. Gosh weren't you lucky that the book survived .. a really amazing story ...

    The Virgin Islands must be so beautiful .. and it must be lovely being able to go back to see family and friends quite often ..

    Congratulations on unravelling Anansi's tales .. looking forward to reading them .. cheers Hilary

  23. Thanks, Janet.

    Hilary, I'm thrilled that Anansi is on your Kindle AND in England! Thank you!

  24. Yay for Bish! *high five* Way to press forward and make stuff happen. That calls for not just one, but two wedges of cheese. =)

  25. This was one of the best interviews I have read! I learned so much about Bish and her book. I am impressed with the length of time she spent working on her book and I commend her for her decision to do what is right for her at this time in her life. I love the story behind the stories and the book that weathered the storm in safe hands.

    Wishing Bish the best of luck. :)

  26. Thanks, Crystal! *thunk, thunk* (That's what two wedges of cheese sound like when they're *clinked*. :)

    Jess, it's been a long time coming. I appreciate you support.

  27. Robyn, I haven't stopped by in forever. Thought I'd see what you're up to. :) And I find Anansi! I had to research tricksters this fall for my latest book. Fun legends. Of all the ones I read, Anansi and Brier Rabbit were my favorites.

  28. Just to let you know, Michelle, Anansi is the grandfather of Brier Rabbit.:)
    Thanks for stopping by.

  29. Bish gets bonus points for using serendipitous in a sentence. I broke out zeitgeist on someone the other day. That was funny.

  30. Funny, Michael! The zeitgeist of Anansi's day was all about acquiring food!

  31. Robyn, thanks for introducing Bish Denham. I enjoyed this a lot, it's very interesting.

  32. Hi Robyn! Happy New Year!

    Great interview! Really intriguing how the story was saved ... would love a trip to the Islands!

    Just wanted to let you know, too, that I'm blogging again . . . Just posted today about 2 contests and 2 inspiring blog posts.

  33. Wonderful! I totally expected the headshot of the author to be with a spider on her face or some such... ha ha! Glad to see it wasn't.


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