Meet Country Correspondents Ariana and Carmen!

At the start of the year we announced that we're switching from a submission-based publication model to a citizen journalism model supported by a team of Country Correspondents.

Country Correspondents report to us any developments, publishing trends, and events happening in the field of children's/YA literature in their island(s), and they also spread the word locally about what we do at Anansesem. Oh, and they usually get free books. In the next couple of weeks we'll be introducing you to these wonderful people, two at a time.

Ariana Maria Herbert was recently appointed as our first ever Country Correspondent for Trinidad and Tobago, and we're thrilled that Dr. Carmen Milagros Torres, who's been an Associate Editor with us (and a huge help!) for the past several years will stay on in her new role as the Country Correspondent for Puerto Rico. Here’s what they have to say about themselves and their work in the field:

Ariana Maria Herbert

I’m serious about empathy, inclusion and wonder. Insatiably curious, I prefer verbs to nouns when it comes to describing my work, but I can usually be found in the modes of Freelance Arts and Culture Coordinator, Writer and Arts Educator. I’m committed to storytelling and world-building in all forms and believe in the power of play. From creative writing workshops to stop motion masterclasses, you can usually find me anywhere where I can learn about inclusion and diversity in the literary arts, media and edtech; for the past few months, I’ve been on an extended trip to the UK where I’ve been attending various workshops and conferences related to early childhood education, special education and film production.

With a background in the literary and performing arts, I have over six years’ experience in NGO and arts-based project/workshop development and facilitation. I’ve been a volunteer at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago’s national literary festival, where I was also employed as the Children’s Programme Coordinator and Programme and Prize Administration Assistant.

I’ve enjoyed volunteering as a Creative Writing Teacher for children, and I’ve worked as an Arts Educator with The 2 Cents Movement, a youth-led performance art NGO in Trinidad and Tobago, where I was also a Senior Resident Teaching Artist and served as the Interim Artist Director.

As a Performance Poet, my work focuses on exploring childhood, identity, gender and diversity. I was a finalist in the First Citizens' National Poetry Slam and a poetry slam judge of the Courts Bocas Speak Out Intercol and the Republic Bank Primary School Showcase. I've performed both locally and internationally in parts of the UK, where I was one of two poets selected to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the Roundhouse’s 2017 Talking Doorsteps International Exchange Program.

Since late 2018, I’ve been freelancing and exploring another interest of mine: the world of arts production (I’d previously worked as a Production Assistant for Bird’s Eye View Productions and at the University of Trinidad and Tobago for a children’s musical.) I participated in the Mentoring with the Masters programme run by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts; through this programme, I was able to intern in set and lighting design with the National Drama Association of Trinidad and Tobago (NDATT) and went on to serve as NDATT’s Assistant Secretary. Additionally, I was a Teaching Artist with the Trinbagonian chapter of Girl Be Heard, a New York-based nonprofit theatre company and educational programme and served as the Lighting Coordinator for their June showcase, which I co-directed. Most recently, in 2019, I worked with Manchester-based Sparklab Productions to coordinate three radio plays for CARIFESTA and BBC Radio 3.

Literary-wise, I’m currently a poetry reader at Homology Lit, and my poetry and nonfiction have been published in Caribbean Beat and Culturego Magazine. With a particular fondness for speculative fiction, I want to produce sensory-friendly literature and edutainment that expands the children’s and young adult narrative in Trinidad and Tobago. I’m especially committed to ensuring that disabled children in the Caribbean see themselves represented in accessible literature and media.

Education: Bachelors (Hons) in Communication Studies with a special focus in Educational Linguistics and a Minor in Literatures in English from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine (Class of 2016)

Location: Arima, Trinidad

Favorite Caribbean children's/YA books: Crick Crack Monkey by Merle Hodge, Boonoonoonous Hair! by Olive Senior, Starring Carmen! by Anika Denise and Malaika's Winter Carnival by Nadia L. Hohn

Carmen Milagros Torres

I’m an English professor at the University of Puerto Rico Humacao where I currently teach literature courses as well as online courses to undergraduate students. I’m a member of Puerto Rico Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (PRTESOL) as well as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I’ve also been an Associate Editor with Anansesem since 2016, which has allowed me to continue cultivating my passion for Caribbean children’s and young adult literature.

My PhD dissertation (which I successfully defended in 2015) is titled 'Unsilencing the Afro-Puerto Rican Voice: Bilingualism and Cultural Identity of Puerto Rico.' This research is based on a praxis model and incorporates my short story collection, Coquíes, Drums and Dreams, which consists of eight fairy tale retellings exploring the realities of enslaved Puerto Ricans in the 19th century. These stories for young audiences portray strong Afro-Puerto Rican female characters.

While completing my studies, I participated in numerous conferences (including the International Society for Language Studies Biennial Conference, the Caribbean Without Borders Conference, the West Indian Literature Conference, About Change’s ‘Wrestling with the Image: Caribbean Interventions’ exhibit, and the ‘Negotiating Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in a New Global Age’ Symposium) and workshops, presenting my creative work and research. My article 'Puerto Rican Children’s Literature and the Need for Afro-Puerto Rican Stories' was published in Bookbird: A Journal of International Children's Literature in 2014 and my essay 'Giving a Voice to Afro-Puerto Ricans in Children’s Literature,' which I originally presented at the first Congress of Afrodescendants in Puerto Rico, appears in the book ¡Negro, Negra!: Afirmación y Resistencia.

Through my research on Caribbean children’s and young adult literature, I’ve identified the need for more stories with Afro-Puerto Rican characters. I’ve taken the initiative of writing such stories myself; two of my short stories⁠—'Adannaya’s Sugar' and 'Dancing Bomba'⁠—were published in Anansesem. My short story 'The Ungrateful Coquí' obtained first prize in a short story contest sponsored by Publicaciones Puertorriqueñas and Professor Vivian Mayol of University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.

Currently, I’m in the final stages of self-publishing APParently Enchanted, a speculative fiction children’s novel that I first started brainstorming during my PhD studies. The book will be published with the support of the University of Puerto Rico Humacao’s Office of Sponsored Research and Programs.

Education: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Caribbean Languages and Literature from the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras campus (Class of 2015)

Location: Río Piedras, Puerto Rico

Favorite Caribbean children's/YA books: The Red Comb by Fernando Picó, The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle, The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer, In the Shade of the Nispero Tree by Carmen Bernier-Grand and Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph

If you'd like to become a Country Correspondent and we have a vacancy for your country, please contact us.

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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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