By Stephanie Fullerton-Cooper
Part one of this article, two weeks ago, introduced us to CLM Publishing Ltd – how it started, how it grew, the accolades it has received over the years, and its celebration of Cayman writers and writings. From that article, we realized the difficulty of publishing in one’s home country, but simultaneously lauded the important role of the publisher who disseminates information in his discovery and endorsement of authors. Through its publication of local works, its promotion of a love of reading and writing, as well as its investment into Cayman’s youth, this publishing house has contributed significantly to advancing Cayman’s writers and writings. For those who might not otherwise have had a chance to be a published author, CLM Publishing has provided just what was needed to make that dream a reality.
In the last article, we also met Founder and Director of CLM Publishing, Karen Chin. What we did not realise then is that she wears many hats, as Chin is not just a publisher, but also a published author, writing under the pseudonym, EK Jasmine. According to her, “What I wanted to see in our Cayman writings, I could not always find, so I started writing my own stories”. And write she did! With approximately 10 publications under her belt, Chin – or should I say EK Jasmine? – has written using a variety of genres and focusing on various themes. Some works are religious, or memoirs and autobiographies; Cayman culture and heritage are explored, and some publications are children’s books. A few of them are highlighted here.
The Power to Persevere and Prayer of Jabez, are two of Chin’s inspirational/religious works. The latter, she shares, brings out the theme of struggles, where someone started life with a name (which means pain) that seemingly predisposed him to what he should become. Jabez thinks he cannot achieve, and he is mentioned only once in The Bible, and in only one verse (1 Chronicles 4:10), but his prayer to “bless me and enlarge my territory”, becomes the inspiration that so many others live on. Chin says she wanted to write to show how what you are supposedly meant to become is not always what God intends. Before Evil Walks is the story of Cindy, the protagonist who “encountered some horrific and frightening incidents on the way to the tiny back-water village she called home”. Infiltrate explores the notion of escape. In this work, Chin (actually Jasmine) invites readers: “Best day. What a load of crap! why don’t you try this on for size; take the worst day of your life, add friends’ betrayal, being broken, busted and any other life experience close to that day, then, give me your verdict.”
Chin admits that when she finds gaps in the local Cayman society, if it evokes an emptiness at all, this propels her to write. And so it was, some years ago, that she asked a high school graduate to inform her of the name of the national heroes. When the youth asked, “Does Cayman have heroes?”, the CLM Director knew she had to write. The result is The Cayman Islands Trivia: A Fun but Deep-Rooted Q&A. This work supplies a lot of information on Cayman’s history and cultural realities – and yes, its national heroes - in a question-and-answer format. It is a work sought after by those in the Cayman Islands who are in the process of sitting the history and culture test in their permanent residency application. Its format and information make it one of the better ways to get ready for this test, and with over 300 questions, what hasn’t Chin included? On an Alaska cruise, as Chin disembarked the ship and wandered around, visiting bookstores and libraries, she was inspired to write The Cayman Islands A-Z as she saw very similar works in Alaskan cities like Juneau. Another A, B, C book, it teaches pre-schoolers the alphabet by capturing many interesting facts and flavours of the Cayman Islands. For example, ‘T’ no longer stands for ‘Toy’ but for ‘Turtle’, while ‘P’ is for ‘Parrot’ – localised, relatable information for Cayman’s children, which is both fun and educational.
There is a general belief that writers need to know the publishing business. Eminent publisher, Deborah Emin says that “As publishing professionals, we should want writers to understand each stage of the process: how they are acquired, marketed and sold”. Similarly, publishers should know the writing process. Of course, publishers and authors have distinct duties when it comes to the production of a book or magazine. Nevertheless, their individual workload becomes easier when there is a clear understanding and appreciation for what the other brings to the production. At CLM Publishing then, Karen Chin, aka EK Jasmine, has the best of both worlds, as she wears both hats, and is seemingly doing well at them. As a writer and publisher, she can hone her skills in both, but could this also be the key that unlocks the secret to her success at both? Is CLM a better publishing house because it has a writer at the helm? Could the writer be doing well by virtue of her knowledge of what the publisher is looking for, and so she is better able to meet expectations?
Whatever the answer, Chin’s experiences enable her to relate to local writers. Her love of country, as seen in what she produces as an author, and as a publisher, also propels and qualifies her to promote Cayman’s creative and other writers. The colloquial expression that “there are many ways to skin a cat”, certainly proved true through CLM Publishing and its Director, Founder, author Karen Chin. Cayman’s writers and writings should be celebrated. Some of us do it well in multiple ways!