By Onz Chery

Will Loiseau sitting in front of copies of his book Quake: Horror and Hope in Haiti. Photo courtesy of Will Loiseau

Will Loiseau’s pen ferociously raced down on his notebook as he fought to release the horrifying scenes he experienced from the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2010. The more he wrote, the more he wanted to write and after each page or so he could feel the weight that was cramping his mind weakening.

Loiseau found his escape route out of one of the most heartbreaking natural disasters of the past decade: writing. About 20 pages in, he noticed that the writing gelled well together. At that instant, he didn’t want it to be just an anxiety reliever anymore, he wanted it to be his first book, Quake: Horror and Hope in Haiti.

Ten years later, Loiseau will take part in the 2020 South Florida Book Festival with Quake alongside one of the most acclaimed Haitian writers, Michele-Jessica ‘M.J.’ Fievre. She also conveyed how writing can serve as therapy in the journal she will discuss, Bada** Black Girl: Questions, Quotes, and Affirmations for Teens, a bestseller in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The event will be presented virtually by the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC) via the festival’s website on Friday, July 17 and Saturday, July 18. Loiseau will be interviewed by an established librarian in South Florida who’s well-versed in Caribbean studies, Abayomi Manrique at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday. As for Fievre, she will conduct a free-talk about Bada** Black Girl at 3 p.m.

It was fitting for the SoFlo Festival to have two writers of Haitian origin as Florida has the largest Haitian population in the United States.

“We have a large Haitian community here at Broward County – in South Florida, period,” Tray Fitzpatrick, the chairman of the festival said. “We basically reach out to all of the Black diasporas, whether it be the Haitian community, the Caribbean community, the Afro-Latino community. We try our best to reach out to each of those communities because our cultures intertwine in all of them. It was a pleasure to bring Loiseau and it’s a treat to have M.J. Fievre.”

Originally from Port-au-Prince, Fievre self-published her first book, Le Feu de la Vengeance, 23 years ago. She later penned eight more books in French that are fairly known across Europe and the French Antilles. The 39-year-old also authored five books in English of various genres, from a series of poems, Happy, Okay?, to a children’s book, I Am Riding!, to a memoir of her turbulent childhood in Haiti, A Sky the Color of Chaos.

Fievre is also an editor, Silver of Stone Magazine’s founder, a translator, a personal writing coach, and a writing professor at Broward College.

Michele-Jessica ‘M.J.’ Fievre posing for a picture. Photo courtesy of Michele-Jessica Fievre

Bada** Black Girl is a journal that serves as an “empowerment guide for Black girls and young women.” It contains fighting tools for issues Black girls often deal with as racism, stereotypes, self-consciousness of their body image, struggles with family and friends, depression, and so on.

“It’s an empowerment book – the kind I wish I had when I was coming of age,” Fievre, who grew up around a verbally and physically abusive father and fought depression and anxiety for years, said of her book.

“I want my readers to leave the discussion with the certainty that they’re in control of their lives – even when their circumstances are out of control.”

One method that has been proven to help people better gain control of their lives is journaling. According to The Doctor Weighs In, journaling can improve “self-awareness” and enhance one’s “sense of well-being.”

Fievre herself used writing as a weapon to fight against the negative feelings she had to go through. With the racial tension being rampant in the United States, she’s hoping that her journal can inspire other women of color to write to release the pain they have to endure.

“The current racial unrest in the United States has led to productive and provocative discussions, and with Bad** Black Girl I add my voice to the conversation,” Fievre said. “I used to let the world tell me who I was. It wasn’t until I began to use my writing as a creative tool to combat the negative voices holding me back that I found my way out of the darkness and to a point of sustainable joy. My hope is that my book can encourage the same kind of journey for my readers.”

Elsewhere in Brooklyn in 2010, Loiseau was also seeking freedom through writing – he lives in Florida now. Loiseau had traveled to Port-au-Prince then to attend his grandmother’s funeral. His second day there, the earthquake happened. Loiseau wasn’t physically traumatized, but he experienced many horrendous sights as dead bodies of children getting pulled out of the debris and being placed on a pile of corpses.

Loiseau was left deeply emotionally damaged. He used to write about his days as a child after his mother bought him a journal. Loiseau started journaling again soon after he returned to the U.S. This time it was for a much more severe purpose – his mental health relied on it.

“I saw a lot in the earthquake,” he said. “I’ve never been in a situation I have to process so much. There wasn’t really anyone who could understand what I went through, you know what I mean? I started writing down everything I could remember. Just to get it out. Just to clear my mind.”

Loiseau went through many sleepless nights because he couldn’t stop thinking about what he wrote. He cried after a couple of scenes as well. At last, four months later, after several pens ran out of ink, Loiseau finished the book. He was a different man afterward – a better one.

“He became more serious about everything, his life, his family, his friends,” Andrew Spencer, Loiseau’s friend of more than 20 years said of him. “Arguably, he’s a better person now than he was before. A lot of things he was talking about doing, he’s doing now.”

Four years after writing the book, Loiseau self-published it on Dec. 8, 2014. He’s craving for the viewers of the festival to live the earthquake through his interview and by reading the book. There is an insufficient amount of books on the earthquake from people who experienced it. Loiseau saw it as his calling.

“The book chose me,” he said. “There was a reason for me to go to Haiti after 13 years and get there the day before the earthquake. And then to write and talk about it, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I want the viewers, those who never heard of me, never read the book, I want them to read it just to understand the story of the earthquake from a firsthand point of view.”

Besides writing, Loiseau is a holistic nutritional consultant through his own company Pro Healthy Choice. He’s also a personal trainer. His next book will be about nutrition. Meanwhile, Fievre is working on a self-help book titled Your Home Work Life, which is scheduled for release in August.

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Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for The Haitian Times. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining The Haitian Times in 2019.

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