Jill of all trades
Name: Keren Hall Age: 36
Erdiston Teachers’ Training College
Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill
Barbados Community College
Diploma in Education
Certificate in Computer-Assisted Accounting for Small Business – QuickBooks
Bachelors of Science in Management (Hons)
Associate Degree in Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology
Occupation:Educator, Entrepreneur, Author, Scriptwriter, Caterer
If I picked up a book you authored and turned to the back for a summary of Keren Hall, what would it say?
Keren Hall was born and raised on the island of Barbados. She tries to use her experiences and knowledge to help others in whatever way she can. She is not afraid to try new things and she loves to have a good laugh.
What are you passionate about? What motivates you?
I am passionate about food and cooking; educating young people through various media and writing.
What four words best describe you?
Cheerful, (sometimes) cynical, persistent, industrious.
Why did you choose to go to Barbados Community College (BCC) rather than stay in sixth form at Harrison College?
I’ll be honest. I went to BCC because if I had stayed at HC, I would have had to repeat Lower 6th and I really didn’t want to do that. It was a chance for me to start over.
Why did you decide to study sciences (Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology) at the Barbados Community College?
I studied sciences because, at the time, I was caught up in the dream of becoming a doctor. In retrospect, I should have followed my heart and gone into the culinary arts. It was also a case of being good at a number of things and not really being sure which one to choose so I just went with what was expected.
From a desire to study medicine to studying management at UWI at the Bachelors level, what happened? Why the change?
I was burnt out. Mathematics at university level and Mathematics at secondary school level are two totally different beasts. I loved Statistics but I’ll be honest and say that consistently failing Calculus and Algebra at UWI turned my mind from Mathematics and I decided that if that wasn’t working, I needed to try something else and that’s how I ended up in Social Sciences.
While at UWI, you were heavily involved in UCCF, more specifically hospitality coordination. What is UCCF and what can you tell us about Jesus Army, Hall-e-Wood Productions and the role you played?
UCCF stands for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship and is an outlet for young Christians to share their faith and encourage each other. I was the hospitality coordinator for a number of years. That meant that I was responsible for organizing the refreshments for the various concerts and food sales. I think that was where I cut my teeth in catering so to speak.
My involvement in drama came as a result of encouraging my then boyfriend Rommel Hall to get involved in UCCF. He chose to go into drama and I supported him wherever I was needed. Eventually after UWI was over, he wanted to form a group where we could continue to showcase our acting skills and that was how Jesus Army Productions was formed. This eventually led to Hall-e-Wood Productions which came about after the members of Jesus Army started having more responsibilities: marriage, babies, work etc. and that group had to be disband. Throughout the years, my roles have changed depending on what was needed. Sometimes, it was props, narration, catering, producing, scripting; I even tried my hand at make-up when it was necessary.
After UWI, you spent four years in administration and after that time, you started a company. What can you tell us about this company?
Bookkeeping Solutions was created to help small business owners manage their finances. In the day to day running of things, the books usually come last and in terms of business you need to have good records, especially if you want to go for a loan for the business. This was aimed at helping them stay on top of their record-keeping.
If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?
I would be a cat, nothing too fancy. They are independent, always land on their feet and they know how to survive.
Which three books would you encourage others to read?
For me, a must read is the Bible. That is the one book that I would recommend, especially Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. You don’t need to be a Christian to appreciate the value of Solomon’s words of wisdom. I must admit that I don’t read motivational books so I can’t really recommend any others. I usually read for pleasure.
If you could solve one global issue, what would it be?
Here is where my cynicism kicks in. I would like to say that I would solve racism and stop the killing of black people simply because they had the misfortune of being born black in the wrong country but knowing human nature, if racism ended, someone else would come up with another system that would gradually bring about the same result. Yes I know that racism isn’t just a black versus white thing. I’m just using that as an example.)
If you had a ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I would like to go to Italy. There is so much history there: from the Roman Colosseumto the Sistine Chapel. It would be interesting to see the things that I’ve only read about in history books or seen on television; to be there and feel as though I’m stepping back in time.
Over the past seven years, you have been a primary school teacher. What led to the career change from management and administration and was the transition an easy one?
I was at a point in my life where I felt as though it was time for me to move on to something different. The transition was a bit taxing. My previous job was 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. so I figured teaching was less hours so I should be able to handle it. When I got home from my first day of teaching, I remember sitting in my living room and saying that I was going to watch the news. I have no idea when the news ended. I doubt I even made it to the weather report before falling asleep.
Teaching is a more than a 9 to 5. People think that teaching is easy but it isn’t. It requires hours of preparation before you even step into the classroom; you have to deliver your lessons in a way that holds the attention of your audience and then there is the follow-up. You have the books to correct, the necessary support for children who are having difficulty understanding different concepts and then there is the fact that many of our children come from homes where they don’t get the physical and emotional support or the training and discipline that they need and they suffer as a result.
At the end of the day, we are not given enough resources to do the things that need to be done but I am convinced that teachers are from that special breed of people that do almost anything with little to nothing at all.
You are a trained teacher. You completed your Dip. Ed in 2012. I have met many graduates of the Diploma programme who said it was very intense. What was your experience like and what is one thing you would like to see change about the programme?
It was intense and frustrating and needs to be overhauled. Maybe I was a bit naïve but I went to Erdiston very optimistic and eager and fully expecting that at the end of the process, I would be a better teacher. I can’t honestly say that Erdiston did that for me. My main challenge with Erdiston is that some of the teachers had a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. There were some who demonstrated what should be done but others didn’t. I know most of my fellow teachers hated the in-class assessments when the tutors came to assess your lesson plans and delivery etc. but I appreciated those because it was a practical experience where there was guidance and you received tips on how to better teach certain topics.
Over the years, there have been great debate on the relevance of the Common Entrance Exam. As a teacher in the primary school system, what is your position on the topic?
Personally, I have no problem with the Common Entrance Exam. It serves its purpose, which is to assess how much students have learned at the end of the primary school period.
Tell us about your involvement with the series and movie, Keeping up with the Joneses.
My primary role in “Keeping up with the Joneses”, the series, was that of craft services (food). I also made an appearance as the psychologist in Episode 6 of Season 1. My role expanded for the movie as I functioned as one of the producers: coordinating with the police and the various authorities and businesses to get locations, costumes, sponsorship etc.
You have authored two books, “Accidental Love” released November 2015 and “Love Thy Neighbour” released February 2016. Was it always a dream of yours to write a book or did the desire develop over time and why is the theme of both books focused on ‘love’?
I am a lover of a good story, always have been. I was prompted to start writing when I bought a book and was annoyed at the fact that it failed to deliver on the synopsis. The write-up sounded good and I thought this sounded interesting, lots of drama etc. I was disappointed to discover it was very heavy on the explicit stuff and quite light on the plot. I kept thinking that if this woman could write that and get it published, I could write a book too. That was where it started. No miraculous epiphany, just annoyance.
The theme of the books is love because I am a hopeless romantic who actually believes that “happily ever after” is possible once you put in the work.
You recently scripted the feature film “Dear Jane”, which was cast and produced in the UK. Is the process of writing a book the same as scripting a movie and would you share with us a general summary of Dear Jane?
Writing a book takes longer than scripting a movie. It is much more detailed and you need to set the scene with descriptions. You have to give the reader enough information that they can paint their own mental picture. With scripting a movie, a lot of pressure is taken off of you because you can write it with props in mind. Also, it does not have to be as detailed since the director can exercise creative license to say how he wants certain things done. You just need to make sure that the dialogue and the actions etc. are tight and convey the message.
Dear Jane is a comedy that tells the story of a marriagecounsellor named Dr Jane Harte whose world is turned upside down when her husband leaves her. She now has to pick up the pieces of her life and career while dealing with the shattered remains of her marriage. A bad situation is made worse when she is forced to take in her emotionally unstable sister Rhonda.
You sang with the Cecilian Singers from 1997- 2004 and have been singing with the Cecilian Chorale for about 4 years. You are also a classically trained singer up to grade 6. With all this experience as a signer, and being a writer, have you written any songs or released any singles?
I wrote a few songs but I haven’t released them. My school choir sang one a few years ago for one of the choir competitions hosted by the Ministry of Education and the youth team at church did one but that’s about it so far. I don’t have any plans at this time for releasing any songs.
What three pieces of advice would you give to anyone thinking about writing a book?
1. Be prepared for rejection and criticism. If you are thin-skinned, this is not for you. People may not share your point of view and we all know how easy it is to criticize other people’s work.
2. Surround yourself with people who can vet your ideas and suggest ways that you can improve your concept, even if it means going back to the drawing board.
3. Be persistent in pursuing avenues for your book. The traditional ones may not always work. You may have to do like I did and set up your own website to get your work out there.
What do you love most about yourself?
I love my smile and my personality.
What’s next for Keren?
I would like to launch a series later this year where readers get to help the heroine of one of my stories make choices after she makes a huge mistake but that is still in the works. You can check it out at kerenhall.com (Yes it’s a shameless plug!)