Quote of the Week:
“A good writer should be compassionate, curious, but non-judgmental.”
— Jean Lowrie-Chin
Jean Lowrie-Chin, a well-known public relations and communications practitioner in Kingston, Jamaica, gives a glimpse into her world, and talks about her book, Souldance.
NT: Tell our readers about yourself. Who is Jean Lowrie-Chin?
JL-C: I am a very grateful Jamaican, happy to be born in the most beautiful, bountiful country in the world, and to have had principled parents, a loving family, wonderful mentors, and supportive friends.
I am also an entrepreneur with a business that is 30+ years old and has local and overseas clients, and founder and CEO of the CCRP, an organisation to empower and respect the rights of seniors; a former journalist and teacher; columnist for the Jamaica Observer since December 2001; volunteer for several causes; a devout Catholic—Lector at my Church—and was Sunday School teacher for many years; wife and mother of two adult children.
NT: When did you first realise that you wanted to write?
JL-C: I first realized this from my early teens at Alpha Academy. My first poem ‘Frustration’ was published in the school yearbook.
NT: Where do you get your ideas?
JL-C: I get them mostly from life experiences. I have had a rich life. In my career in communications, I have sat in meetings with every Prime Minister since Michael Manley and with every Governor General since Sir Florizel Glasspole, for whom I volunteered to write several speeches. I have been a voracious reader from the age of six. Libraries were my favourite places.
NT: Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any writing habits (e.g. following an outline) or routine?
JL-C: I rarely have had the luxury of spending a whole day writing. Most of my writing is done very late at night, after everyone is gone to bed. However, I get ideas all hours of the day and night and always try to jot them down so I can develop on them when I have the time. I do try to make a few notes before I start and I have the habit of eating chocolate, now limited to one piece with every column I write for the Observer. I have given up chocolates for Lent, heaven help me!
NT: What inspired you to write Souldance?
JL-C: Souldance was being written since I was 14, when I wrote ‘Frustration’, and more actively in my early 20s, when I wrote more often. After the wonderful Brenda Robinson died, ‘Souldance’, the title poem of my book came into my head. Brenda had been head of the English Department at Calabar High School when I taught there. I think her passing inspired it. The other poems have come out of so many life experiences – the early rocky times in my marriage, the healing, the joyful arrival of my children, and now an urgency to pass on some of the life lessons I have learned. In the prose section, I share the work of three other authors, write on various persons, experiences and reflect on Jamaica’s challenges and opportunities.
NT: How long did it take you to write Souldance?
JL-C: In a focused way, about four years, by compiling old works, editing and re-editing. It was so hard to let it go to press, but I was determined to launch it in 2008 on the 30th Anniversary of my Advertising/PR Agency, PROComm. And I did!
NT: How did you come up with the title?
JL-C: The title came not only from the first poem, but also from the realisation that I was braver, stronger, and more dynamic when I worked from a large dazzling soul, and not this temporal body. ‘Souldance’ is a philosophy that we should stop visualising ourselves in such a limited way. We should connect our souls to our loving God and go forward in confidence. We should not look on work as drudgery, but as a joyful dance through life, using our God-given talents. That’s why I wrote, “Work is prayer – do it well/To cool the heat in someone’s hell.”
NT: Tell us about the book cover, which features some adorable dreadlocked cherubs. What inspired the photo?
JL-C: It was a wonderful coincidence. The artist, Viv Logan, said I could use one of her paintings and this is from a series called ‘Cherubs gone Rasta’. Well, the two Cherubs look so much like my children Anita and Noel when they were babies. But, since my student days at the University of the West Indies (UWI), I was also impressed by a Latin American poet who had appealed, “Pintame angelitos negros” (“Paint Black angels for me”). He had complained that all the angels in his church were white. And here it was, years later, his appeal was answered!
NT: What was your favourite part of Souldance, and why?
JL-C: It’s difficult to say. The happiest parts are the first set of poems, but I also treasure the lessons learned in the heartbreak poems in Part Two, and the prose pieces celebrating our beautiful country.
NT: Was there any part of Souldance that you found difficult to write? What was it?
JL-C: Choosing the prose pieces from the five years of columns in the Observer! I had over 250 columns to choose from. I know I have to use more in another book!
NT: Did you learn anything from writing Souldance? What was it?
JL-C: I learned to be more self-critical and that I must respect the opinion of my editors. My colleague, Dr. Lorna Down, was particularly helpful, and, my husband, Hubie, had been guiding me in being balanced in my columns, so his influence has been considerable.
NT: What were your challenges, if any, in getting Souldance published?
JL-C: This was the time when I gave thanks that I had a viable business that helped me to fund the book. However, Ian Randle Publishers were very professional and I am glad I went with them.
NT: Will you have a new book coming out soon?
JL-C: I am hoping to have one out early in 2013. This time, it will be a collection of short stories.
NT: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
JL-C: Oh yes. I overcome it by just starting to write, even if I am not happy with the first sentences. Then it starts flowing.
NT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
JL-C: There is so much I like to do! First, spending time at home and going out with my family, laughing together, watching ‘Chopped’ on Food TV.
I enjoy social media. I have been blogging at Lowrie-Chin Post since April 2008, and have had over 40,000 visitors! I love Twitter. It’s the fastest way to get news and the buzz of bright Jamaicans.
I love running my business. We have the best team of ten in Jamaica. It is incredible what we accomplish for our clients.
I love worshipping and being involved in outreach activities. As small as we are, we have given away considerable donations in cash and kind to scholarships, inner city projects, and now the CCRP, for which I am founder, CEO and major sponsor, by donating offices and personnel. I have found that the more we give, the more we prosper!
NT: What new author has grasped your interest?
JL-C: Ayaan Hirsi Ali – a refugee from a forced marriage, and a brilliant politician who served in the Dutch Parliament.
NT: What are you reading now?
JL-C: Ali’s book, Infidel, as well as Jamaican Christine Craig’s new collection of poetry, All Things Bright. Christine is world-class. I am proud to call her friend.
NT: What advice would you give someone who would like to become a published writer?
JL-C: Explore digital publication and on-demand printing. Hubie just put my book on Kindle, simply by following instructions. It did not cost us a cent!
NT: If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
JL-C: It would be Claude McKay. I did my Masters Thesis on ‘The Evolution of the Black Female Character’ in his works and am disappointed that more Jamaicans do not know about the tremendous contribution he has made to literature and the heightening of Jamaica’s status in the world.
NT: Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans? How can they contact you?
JL-C: I thank them for their warm reception of my work. I met a lady who kept my book in her handbag because she said she kept going back to various poems and reflections. That moved me!
They can contact me on Facebook, on Twitter as @souldancing, or by emailing me at email@example.com.