Amanda memories into memoir
To say Amanda Haynes is an ambitious individual would be an understatement. The past student of Harrison College and recent graduate of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, already has a plan to one day run her very own publishing company.
Seated comfortably outdoors with a St Philip breeze blowing through her hair, the 25-year-old spent an hour talking about her debut creative work, thoughts on Caribbean writing and her plans for the future.
Amanda recently graduated with first class honours and she’s currently a freelance writer and editor. Amanda already has journalistic experience under her belt as she previously wrote for the @ttitude magazine, published by The Nation Publishing Company for two years.
She’s also interned at a start-up publishing company last year and currently writes for various arts and literary online sites, including the website for Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc., an artist-led, interdisciplinary organisation.
Most recently Amanda published a work of four short stories entitled Talamak: Dessa Darling’s Memoir. This is her debut work and was self-published using the online publishing platform Issuu.
Eager to discuss her first work at length, Amanda starts by explaining the title: “Talamak is Tagalog for chronic or freeloader of drugs. It describes that feeling of being chronic and it’s usually how toxic emotions can feel too, especially the nightmarish emotions I experienced at a particular point in time.”
The work deals with an adolescent girl in a modern Caribbean setting who is dealing with psychological issues.
Amanda explains: “I noticed that a lot of girls around the ages of 16 to 18 experience depression and mental illness. There’s lots of mental illness in the Caribbean and the diaspora that’s just there but not necessarily explored or talked about explicitly enough.”
When asked about the drive behind the work, Amanda readily noted the role one of her classes at UWI played in its creation.
“The students did a creative writing workshop and we did an exercise where these four memories stood out in my mind. At the time I was too close to the memories emotionally so I let them rest for awhile but then at the beginning of this year I used them to complete the final version of Talamak: Dessa Darling’s Memoir.”
The writing, editing and direction of Talamak: Dessa Darling’s Memoir was all done by Amanda. The illustration was provided by Versia Abeda Harris and the graphic design by Kimberley St Hill.
Amanda explains that the illustrations and graphic design are just as integral as the words to complete the story because “if you take away one part of it, it’s not complete. All three aspects need to come together to make a holistic narrative”.
Amanda was also particular in the need to display her work to as wide an audience as possible and not just to high-brow academics and this is why she used a self-publishing website and released it for free to read or download online.
“I wanted it to be accessible to everyone, and Issuu is a great platform for doing that. And I get to share it as an e-publication but I also get to retain the format that I would want for it if it’s published as a print book.”
When asked about the response so far from the public, Amanda enthused: “The feedback so far has been great. I’m getting hits from places as far as Australia!”
Creative writing isn’t Amanda’s only interest however. She also enjoys music, art and fashion and she says that all of these interests combine to influence her creative writing.
“Art and fashion come into play when creating characters and settings and music especially helps me with describing the ambience of a certain place. Talamak was actually inspired by a song of the same name by a musician named Toro y Moi. In fact, all of my interests come out in my writing. Inspiration can come from anywhere.”
However, Amanda’s ambitions don’t end with creative writing. Her ultimate goal is to create her own publishing company and she is currently researching Caribbean publishing industry to that end. Amanda visibly brightens when discussing this lifelong dream.
“The long-term goal is to create an e-book publishing company that caters to diverse books, especially catering to Caribbean authors but of course that has an international reach,” she said, adding, “it would contribute to diverse images of the Caribbean and Caribbean living, and even identity.
“A lot of my focus is on the contemporary Caribbean because I find we tend to run to the past and we tend to focus on those narratives. So I think it is very important to be telling stories of what is happening now, to compare and to contrast, and build towards our future.”
In preparation of running this future ebook publishing company, Amanda’s short-term goal is to commit herself to further study in areas like publishing or cultural policy and management.
In the meantime, she is in the process of writing a novella, which will again deal with the theme of mental illness.