Shanique Sinclair’s sprinkling her ‘fairy’ dust

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Spreading her wings with assurance, bibliophile Shanique Sinclair will launch her brainchild, The Book Fairy Festival, in just under two weeks, with a view to capture the imaginative interest of fellow fiction book lovers.

Set to be staged at The Summit in Kingston from July 25 to 28, chief among her plans for the event, is changing the narrative around the general literary climate that exists locally.

‘I think there are a lot of persons in Jamaica who want to get into reading, who don’t quite understand how beneficial it is, and they don’t know where to begin,’ she shared with Loop News in an interview at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Tuesday.

Having cultivated a love of books in her youth, when she would then visit the Kingston & St Andrew Parish Library on weekends to read, the now adult Sinclair — pictured here in-between the pages of Robert Jones Junior’s debut novel The Prophets — pursued a bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the University of the West Indies, Mona. (Photos: Contributed)

‘We have this very academic culture that’s associated with reading, and I am trying to create a space that will change that dynamic to one of more leisure and personal development.’

Headlined by novelists Mateo Askaripour, Kennedy Ryan, Celeste Mohammed, and Roland Watson-Grant, among others, the festival curator disclosed that the upcoming occasion will offer attendees author chats, mindfulness journalling, writing workshops, and even a masquerade ball.

‘It’s a four-day immersive event that will combine literature with wellness. The aim of the festival is to bring people to a sense of enjoyment in reading, and how it can develop humanity from reading. It’s going to be engaging, exciting events. When [people] step into the festival, they are going to feel as if they stepped into a whole new world, which is the same feeling you get when you immerse yourself in a really good book,’ explained the upbeat Sinclair.

Sinclair goes by the moniker, ‘Shanz the Book Fairy’ and maintains an active social media presence for over 3k followers on Instagram @shanzlitadventures.

On the festival marquee are (l-r) Jamaican author Roland Watson-Grant; Book Fairy headliner and romance novelist Kennedy Ryan; Trinidadian attorney-at-law-turned-author Celeste Mohammed; and American author Mateo Askaripour whose 2021 debut Black Buck was a New York Times bestseller.

Detailing the origins of her literary alter ego, she said: ‘I feel fairies are magical and make things happen for people, and for me, through my introductions of different books to people, I feel I am helping them in a sense, creating that space for them to feel comfortable and released.’

Long having joyously disappearing in-between the pages of such literary genres as Greek mythology,young adult, and coming-of-age stories,Sinclair — an English Literature bachelor’s graduate who also holds a master’s in education management, both from the University of the West Indies, Mona — told Loop News the festival had its genesis during the onset of the pandemic.

‘I would want to attribute it to COVID when I had more time to get back into reading a lot and was unable to access books here,’ came her rationale.

‘I was ordering most of the books I was interested in reading on Amazon, so I said to myself we need to change this. If we change the reading desire in Jamaica, then we will have more bookstores that are bringing in more novels and not just textbooks, and I said I am going to put on a festival.’

And, with the two-decade-plus imprint of a higher profile Calabash Literary Festival entrenched in the public consciousness, Sinclair does not ignore the elephant in the room.

‘I don’t view Calabash as competition. I really respect the curators of Calabash. It was a bold thing to do in a country where book reading culture is something that is not very prevalent, but I definitely think the Book Fairy Festival is in its own lane,’ she posited.

‘It is offering something slightly different. For example, I specifically said author chats because I don’t want it to sound like panels. It’s just going to be a conversation; I don’t want people to feel like they are coming to sit down in a classroom where they need to take notes. I want people to realise that the authors are human beings just like us who are living the same experiences we are, they are just equipped with an ability to use words… maybe some of the people who attend are also, and they haven’t tapped into that power.’

She has found encouragement in the positive feedback thus far to the festival’s pending take-off. ‘To be very honest I have cried so many times in this process, tears of joy and disbelief that it’s really happening,’ she admitted.

‘Even with the sponsors who I have tried to get, every time I have spoken about this concept to persons, just how enamoured they are by the whole thing makes me say ‘wow, this is my festival that people are interested in and endorsing, people love the idea, they think it’s so unique.’

Sinclair who holds day jobs as a recording artiste, a realtor and runs a cultural exchange company, Global Insight International Exchange Limited, is the consummate multitasker.

Where does she find the time?

‘Everyone asks that…it’s like a daily conversation. ‘How are you doing it?’ I don’t know how I do it either but somehow when you are passionate about things, you make the sacrifices you must, and make the time when you need to, so that’s it.’

According to Sinclair, early reactions to the festival have been better than anticipated. ‘For this first staging I was mentally prepared that it could go either way, and I had to sit myself down and not take it personal as this did not take away from the merit of the event. Surprisingly, even for persons who have not yet bought tickets, our inbox is lit with persons asking logistical questions, ‘how can I book a room?’ ‘I am flying in’, and ‘what’s the best route?’

The initial plan for the festival was for biennial stagings. However, changes could already be afoot before the inaugural undertaking even takes place.

‘So many people who are not able to attend this year, are like ‘Can we start making arrangements for next year please?’ They are so excited! I was talking to my mom about this just yesterday, and she was like ‘you know you are going to have this next year, right? So, let’s see, it might be an annual event.’

On her to-do list as a post-event philanthropic project is an envisaged partnership to revamp the Kingston & St Andrew Parish Library.

‘Growing up I was a regular at the Tom Redcam Drive location on the weekends, in my prep and high school years,’ she recounted.

‘If we are going to have a festival and open up the space for more people to be reading, then we also need to put other things in place. I really want to bring the library to a point where it is inviting for persons to come in to read and spend time there and be able to borrow books. There is something so special about having a physical book and turning the pages.’

By Omar Tomlinson