Friday, July 14, 2006

Colin Channer: Iron Balloons

Yesterday, I attended a book signing for Jamaican author, Colin Channer. The event was held at the Charles E. Sumner School Museum And Archives located on 17th and M streets in NW Washington. Channer was promoting the recently published, Iron Balloons: Hit Fiction From Jamaica’s Calabash Writer’s Workshop (Note: The workshop is designed to mentor and guide young Caribbean writers who are interested in a career in writing). The event was sponsored by Vertigo Books and scheduled for 6:30pm. I arrived a little after 6pm and found only one person sitting in the auditorium. I suspected a “cp time”(colored people time) event, but it’s understandable because people were coming from work. I found a front row seat until the program started. I have never met or heard of Colin Channer prior to Monday, but I recognized him right away when he entered the auditorium. I was on my cell phone at the time, so I gave him a smile and nod. He acknowledged my greeting with a smile and went to the back to greet the host. He came across as a really nice guy. They call him a “literary rock star,” but he seems to be handling that title with grace.

The room quickly filled up with a crowd of supporters and friends. The host introduced Colin Channer to the crowd. He told us all about the Calabash Writer’s Workshop and about the success they have had since the workshop’s inception. He then shared with us his short story that is featured in the book, Iron Balloons. The title of the story is, How To Beat A Child The Right And Proper Way. He said that this story was based on the great “beat down of 1972.” This was based on the sometimes-tumultuous relationship shared between his mother and older sister. I won’t go into the story because this is something that you have to read for yourself. The real treat was hearing him read this in patois. It also helped that he is truly a gifted storyteller. I could really see the characters he described as he read to us.

The reading soon came to an end and he took questions from the audience. This is where he showed his appeal as a “rock star.” He was completely animated during Q & A. He told us all about how he got started and more about what inspires him as a writer. It was the best book signing that I’ve ever attended and this, of course, compelled me (just in case my wife is reading this) to purchase the book that he edits, Iron Balloons. The book features different writers from the Caribbean including: Geoffrey Philp, Elizabeth Nunez, Kwame Dawes, Randolph Wallace, Sharon Leach, and A-dZiko Simbaand. Please go out and get this book at the cost of just $14.95. It’s well worth it!
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