Monday, September 14, 2009
Donna Mae Greaves Published At Last
Last Saturday I was honoured to be present at the launch of my friend Donna Mae Greaves’s first novel “At Last’. It really was so exciting! A beautiful occasion held at the National Library here in Trinidad.
Together with my daughter, I was the ‘youngest ’ at the event having only known Dee for three and a half years whilst some there have known her since primary school. Having said that I have to add that we all know, as we go through life, we meet many people. The e mail that circulates tells us that some come for a season and some come for a life time but all come for a reason. I firmly believe that. What it doesn’t tell you is that when some people come, one feels as though they have been in your life forever. And that is how it has been with Donna Mae. I feel as though I have known her forever. Whilst I cannot profess to know every detail of her life as some who were there last night, I know of some of her ups, some of her downs, of the times when she almost gave up and had to be given a good talking to, her anguishes and her joys. And as time went on and I came to know here more and more, I got to know about ‘the book’. Apart from knowing that ‘the book’ was a ‘romance’ I had no idea of characters, the story line or where it was set.
What I came to know was that ‘the book’ took almost five years to write. That is dedication. I learned that it was so long at one stage (she gets carried away!) that it had to ‘be stripped’ to prevent it turning into a saga. The word ‘saga’ is my interpretation from conversations I have had with the author.
Once written, publishing houses turned it down. I suppose the reality is that ‘an unknown’ is a risk. Add to that that the author is a black Caribbean woman living in the small nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Hell fire, some people think that Trinidad is part of Jamaica. And supposedly educated people at that. In a byline here, after I came to Trinidad, I received regular letters from an English girlfriend who although addressed the envelopes to me in Trinidad, would always ask me how life was in Jamaica. This lady is well educated and with her husband owns and runs a well known, global company whose 1978 flagship product was a
versatile central site IP server. My ex friend travelled the world promoting the company’s product and yet she didn’t know where Trinidad was. Granted there are at least three in the US alone but they don’t have ‘West Indies’ as part of their address.
I digress which as most of you know, is my wont!
Publishing Houses. The result of being turned down by both ‘white’ and ‘black’ publishing houses was devastating. Donna Mae, as she related in her speech decided that ‘the book’ was destined to stay forever on her hard drive for her enjoyment only. Even when a friend tried to cajole her into sending it to a publisher that had accepted her, Donna Mae procrastinated. Cut a long story short, it was the friend through a quirk of fate who submitted Donna Mae’s manuscript to the publisher because obviously realizing ‘the book’s’ potential, got thoroughly fed up with Donna Mae’s ‘okay I will’ and never following through. Self doubt?
Donna Mae Dee won’t mind me telling you that she is in her early forties – she’ can’t complain about that because post launch, it’s in the Sunday newspaper. Her book is not autobiographical although some before reading it, will think it is. The jacket says that the novel is set in Trinidad. It is actually set in Trinidad and New York.
As the mike went round the auditorium on Saturday evening and people shared their stories from childhood to now about Donna Mae, I was struck by her determination and perseverance, by her loyalty to friends and most of all by the love that everyone there has for her. Don’t get me wrong. She is much like the rest of us in that she is ‘no angel’ at times but it was so heart warming to be there and be part of such an intimate gathering of family and friends who shared wonderful stories.
As people talked J K Rowling came to my mind. I read once somewhere that Harry Potter started in a notebook whilst JKR, a single mother on benefits sat in a steamed up café with the one cup of coffee she could afford, scribbling away as her child sat in a pushchair beside her. I was also reminded of how the first novel of many successful authors still sits in many an attic gathering dust. I wonder how many publishers have kicked themselves because they ‘missed’ the secret ingredient that anther publisher picked up making the book they had turned down, into a best seller.
Donna Mae, if you are reading this, I wish you all success with “At Last”. Even if you are not reading this, I wish you every success. Enjoy and savour every moment.
I know the second book is already in the works – let’s not make it another five years in the writing!
Love you to bits!
Published at last | The Trinidad Guardian
12 Sep 2009 ... Donna Mae Greaves launched her new book At Last, yesterday. Greaves, 42, has been working on the book for the last four years. ...