I’ve been in media for a minute – going back to the Nation newspaper (Antigua’s not Bim’s; this was a public sector publication and my first internship in a media career that has included reporting and producing at ABS radio/TV, writing features and a Sister to Sister column for the Antigua Sun, reporting freelance for the Daily Observer, and lots of other publications local, regional, and international). In this From the Archives series I’ll be digging up old art pieces – arts and human interest features are my favourite things to cover – and as I’m building an online data base of things literary/artistic, it seems a good idea to start sharing some of them. It’ll be a slow process (some of these stories are not stored in easy to transfer formats – *cough* floppy disks, hard copies – and some are perhaps best not -re-shared – I promise you I’ve grown as a writer since then), but I’ll add what I can, when I can.
This one is Tameka Jarvis-George, interviewed by me for the Daily Observer newspaper, after her National Youth Awards Antigua-Barbuda win in 2011. Do NOT repost or re-use in any way without permission.
Youth Spotlight – Tameka Jarvis-George
By Joanne C. Hillhouse
Tameka Jarvis George’s win in the literary arts category of the 2011 National Youth Awards was not Unexpected – to borrow the name of her first novel, released in 2010 – but it was appreciated.
“I was so honoured,” she gushed. “I stare at it all the bloody time. I am very proud of it. It made me feel so good, because sometimes when you are going about your business, you don’t realize that people are noticing, so in a way it validates you and makes you feel like you count or matter, like you did something cool.”
With three books of poetry (Thoughts from the Pharcyde, I am that I am, and I am), two short films (Dinner and Ugly), lyrics (Naki’s Talking in Tongues on the Tin-Pan riddim) and the aforementioned novel to her name, Jarvis-George is doing lots of cool stuff. Not to mention that her online series, The Key, at this writing has them salivating for each new installment and declaring “I like de story bad!”
No doubt, there’s something compelling about the descriptive and gritty nature of her scene-making, and the emotional intensity of the male-female relationships that dominate her storytelling: from, in the case of Unexpected, losing your virginity to losing your first love.
“Xion laid there full of Joshua, and sobbed from the shame and the pleasure of what was happening” is about as mild as the construction and deconstruction of a young woman and her messy relationship gets. That the author rewards the reader with blissful eroticism – such as the urgent hallway scene in Unexpected wherein “she was grabbing at the air, the ledge and the wall in hopes of grabbing back her sanity and her senses” – is the flipside of that. The mechanics need work and Unexpected could have benefited from another rigorous spin in the editing cycle, but as a writer, Jarvis-George dares and bares, physically and emotionally, and in so doing hooks the reader.
“I don’t believe in censoring myself,” she told the Daily Observer. “I write it exactly as I think it or hope it to be or remember it…I’d like to think I make people blush a little or have to fan themselves when reading something I wrote.” In fact, so organic is the process, that she added, “I wish there was a program where I could speak the words and they would appear on the computer. Sometimes, I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head, that my mind is going faster than I can keep up and I get frustrated.” But between when she started and now, she’s learning, she said, the patience a writer must have to get to the good stuff. Having to juggle two kids, a husband and bill paying jobs will do that.
Asked what she understands better about writing now, she replied, “that once it’s authentic, comes from your heart and means something to you…you’ll touch or inspire someone.” Which begs the question many writers hate, how much of her writing, and Xion of Unexpected in particular, is autobiographical. “Eighty percent, some days 90 percent,” she replied with a laugh.
Of course, when you cut that close to the bone, you leave yourself a lot exposed, and if she feels any discomfort with what she writes it’s knowing that people close to her, her mom for instance, will be reading it. “My best friend’s mother read it,” related Jarvis-George, speaking of Unexpected, “and she loved it, but every time she saw me, she would shake her head and laugh…I guess my biggest fear was people getting the wrong impression of me.” Also when you mine your own experiences for your art, as many artists do, you also have to confront yourself in so doing. Reflecting on the parallels between her life and Xion’s toxic relationship, Jarvis-George said, “I did not want to go ‘there’ and remember anything about that part of my life…but I figured it would show any woman going through anything similar that sometimes an intense physical relationship could fool you into thinking it was love.” But going there is also freeing, as most artists also know. “It’s really very therapeutic,” said Jarvis-George, “and it helps me to get a lot of crap off my chest…you can do, say, or be whatever, even if you are really afraid to do it in real life.”
So far, she’s been blown away by how open people are to journeying with her as a writer. “When you do something like this, you hope for the best, but you never really know,” she said. “I love that it’s appreciated…I am encouraged. I just know I want to do better and write better and create something that people are eager to read and recommend.”
Jarvis-George writes most regularly these days at her bac2moi.wordpress.com blog. And while she’s not sitting on Oprah’s couch or living in that mansion yet, with her family unit and writing, which she describes as her second husband, she feels pretty blessed. “As long as you are actively pursuing your goal, then you’re living your best life,” she said. “Once you’re alive and you still yearn for it, go for it, no matter what age you are.”
Of course, Jarvis-George is still on the younger side of 35 which is why she was able to qualify for a National Youth Award. Having done so much already, imagine what she’ll do with the rest of it.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.