[Interview] Sint Maartener Children's Writer Embraces Self-Publishing: Interview with Loekie Morales

Summer Edward inteviews Loekie Morales
Loekie Morales

In the island of Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten in the northeast Caribbean, Loekie Morales is making her mark. A well-known children's author and oral storyteller in her country, she has taken her love of stories and words into St. Maarten's schools and abroad.

Morales has also found her own level as a publisher; as President of the Beyond Writing Foundation, she seeks to publish books that Saint Martiners can recognize themselves and their experiences in. Through the Foundation, she also publishes her own children's books. She is the author of 6 children's books, including Tropisch Nestje (Tropical Nest), Mina Marina, and Zonnesproetjes (Freckles).

Born in Curaçao, Morales studied and worked as a teacher in Holland for many years before settling in St. Maarten. She recently took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions about her writing career.


SE: You founded the Beyond Writing Foundation in St. Maarten. Give us the sort of digest version of the foundation and it's activities.

LM: The Beyond Writing Foundation (BWF) sends writers and storytellers to schools, and organizes drama and storytelling nights. We have published 7 children's books and 1 book for adult. Our latest project is the Living Statues Festival. In February we will celebrate 10 years of creating a world of reading, writing, and storytelling for our kids.

SE: Earlier this year, you participated in the 21st Feria International del Libro over in Cuba. I heard there was a Children's Pavilion. What was the whole experience like?

LM: In the pavilion, the children get all kinds of books by mainly Caribbean and Latin American authors. They also get to meet some of the authors who will tell something of their stories, or have an interview with them and get their signature.

SE: I read something where you mentioned working with Casas de Las Americas to get your books translated into Spanish. How important is it to make English-language children's books available in other Caribbean languages?

LM: I advise every Latin American and Caribbean writer to ‘merge’ by translating your story into English and Spanish to reach as much possible readers as possible in the Caribbean and on the American continent (North, South, and Central America). In that way you erode the boundaries in literature and create a bigger world for readers.

SE: You've been self-publishing your books since 2000 through the Beyond Writing Foundation. Describe your evolution from reader to writer to publisher.

LM: I like to listen to and read Caribbean stories, but found as a child mainly books with stories from Holland. I couldn’t recognize myself or my environment in these stories. I started to write my own stories. My first book Zonnesproetjes (Freckles) was published by ICS (International Communication Support) in 2000 in Holland. I didn’t get any royalties although that was stated in the contract. I also got letters from Dutch publishers when I was sending in my manuscript stating that their readers would not recognize themselves in my Caribbean stories. By publishing via BWF, young readers in all the Dutch Caribbean islands will get to know of me as an author and recognize themselves in these stories.

SE: What are the greatest rewards and the biggest challenges of being a publisher?

LM: The greatest reward with BWF is being able to get funds from mainly Dutch funding agencies to publish books, and for storytelling activities. The main obstacle is the distribution of the books.

SE: Much of your writing can be described as contemporary realistic fiction for children. Your books touch on universal childhood experiences like a child's love for a pet or a childhood crush. Your books also fit the description of so-called 'problem books' in the sense that they deal with issues like the death of a parent, family separation, poverty, and child abuse. What are your goals as a writer of contemporary realistic fiction for children?

LM: Mainly for children to simply enjoy stories by reading. Next to that, reading about a recognizable environment and situations that reflect their own situation. It is important for children to seek a solution to their problems and my books convey that message.

SE: You've also written books that are more fantastical in nature. Your latest book, Mina Marina, is about a mermaid who rallies the help of the water spirits to save her coral reef home from destruction. In Papito and the Storytelling Tree (Papito en de vertellende boom) an ancient Flamboyant tree has the ability to tell stories to a young boy. Describe the role of the fantastical in your writing.

LM: Sometimes a fantasy figure or concept adheres more to children. The role of fantastical writing is to adhere to fantasy elements and give children another way of dealing with challenges.

SE: Selina and the Obeah Woman (Selina en de Brua vrouw) is a story in which folk magic is a central theme. In children's literature, obeah and voodoo are the Caribbean's answer to the supernatural and occult themes we see in so many contemporary European or American fantasy books for children. What do you make of the role that black magic or the "dark arts" plays in contemporary children's literature?

LM: To me, Selina is just a child who doesn’t listen to her granny (adults) and therefore gets into difficulties: a world she doesn’t understand and can’t handle. Black magic is seen as one of the mysterious things children are supposed to stay away from. At the same time, children need to know about it as a part of Caribbean culture.

SE: You published Freckles (Zonnesproetjes) in 2000 and then published the sequel, Tropical Nest (Tropisch Nestje), five years after. What is your writing process like in general and also, when you're plotting a series?

LM: Zonnesproetjes started as a process of writing about my own childhood and ended up being a popular book. Because of the popularity in my nieces' schools when I would read my manuscripts to students, I published the book. The publisher, ICS, selected 20 of the 35 short stories I had written. Each chapter has a plot (based on a problem-solution format) and a message. All the stories together form a part of the life story of the main characters in their developing childhood. In the sequel, I followed the same concept for the lives of mainly three of the girls. The stories in the series could fit most lives of (Dutch Caribbean) children of poor families who fight to get a better life by studying, working hard etc. and who overcome despite the challenges life can bring.

SE: How and when did you realize that you wanted to be a children's author?

LM: I didn’t have any ambition to be a children’s author. I just started with writing about my own childhood from the perspective of being a child. I wrote mainly short stories with realistic and fantasy elements, and later some of them were published. Now I am called a children's book author.

SE: What has been your proudest or most memorable moment so far as a children's author-publisher?

LM: Once I was reading a story to some students. There is a moment in the story when the character, Loek, writes a sad letter to her mother after her mother passes away. The classroom was completely silent. As I was leaving, one student, a boy, cried heavily because he felt the sadness of Loek. As a writer it was good to know that, because of the way I described something, that the feeling ‘came over’ and was experienced by the reader.

The nicest, proudest moments are those when I meet young adults now who have read my books as children and compliment me on the stories that in one way or the other have touched their hearts. But also when adults tell me they recognize their childhood in my books.

SE: Do you have any upcoming projects that you'd like to share?

LM: Yes. Every year in February/March in Sint Maarten, BWF organizes the Kids Night Out event, an evening of storytelling, drama, and readings for children and mostly by children. Also, in February 2013, BWF will launch a children's book, The Magical Wedding Cake/La Tarta Magica Nupcial (English-Spanish) in Philipsburg; there will also be a Dutch-Papiamentu edition of the book, De Magische Bruidstaart/E bolo di Batrei Mágiko. Furthermore, in 2013 BWF will publish my book about slavery and freedom to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean.



About the Interviewer...

Summer Edward was born in Trinidad and lives in Philadelphia, USA. She is the Managing Editor and Kids Editor here at Anansesem. Her poems and art have been published in literary magazines such as tongues of the oceanBIM: Arts for the 21st CenturyPhiladelphia StoriesThe Columbia ReviewThe Caribbean Writersx salon and more. She was shortlisted for the 2012 Small Axe Literary Prize in the fiction category. She blogs at

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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  1. Great the work that Loekie is doing.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the interview Jenny.



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