The St. John Guidebook

Project Type: ,
Project Tag:

  • Writing & Research
  • Page Layout & Design


The St. John Guidebook has been in print since the mid-1980’s. I came on board to write under new ownership for the 2014 edition. (Wiggled my way in to laying out the pages I write too.) I’ve been involved every year since.

It has always been a fun and cheeky publication, based on the silly cartoons of its founder, Linda Smith Palmer. Oh, how we giggle every year looking through her illustrations.

Design Guidelines are loose other than: the more color, the better! It’s a directive I can easily follow.

My main goals on the pages I lay out are to maintain a sense of order and make the information easy and enjoyable to read while still providing the vivid Caribbean color experience on the page.

St. John History Timeline

I am particularly proud of our revised Historical Timeline of St. John (super serious and accurate version), printed for the first time in the 2017 edition.

Tackling the island’s history was a big project. For one, it’s always a challenge to condense centuries of history into six pages AND to make it entertaining.

But beyond that, it was of extreme importance to me NOT to whitewash the island’s colonial history, as is easy to do in a tourist publication written by white people. On top of that, I had to try and keep the tragic history of native genocide and slavery on the light side. Oh boy. 😕



“For centuries there were no humans around making a mess of things. St. John was truly an island paradise. (Except…no cocktails. 🙁 ).”


“The first folks on St. John were indigenous people from Mexico and South America. Most of these earliest of explorers became known as Arawak Indians… or more specifically, Taino Indians. Although this word isn’t exactly what the Taino called themselves…It’s the one used by Europeans and so it stuck.”


… 1500-1700 – BYE, NATIVES.

“In one of many tragedies to befall non-Europeans as a result of colonialism, most natives were killed off by weapons and disease from the Old World over the next 200 years.”

I did all the writing and research for the timeline and laid out the pages. Illustrations are by Linda Smith Palmer and Denise Barbier.

(For easier reading, click the images to enlarge.)

The Hermit Crabs of St. John

For part of my time on St. John, I had an indoor/outdoor lifestyle on the most remote part of the island. I spent a lot of time with hermit crabs who lived in the yard. It was during this life chapter that I suggested we do a fun little info piece on these ubiquitous (and adorable) island creatures.

(For easier reading, click the images to enlarge.)

Island Bugs

You can’t spend any amount of authentic time on an island without coming into contact with the many creepy crawlies that call the place home.  As such, this is our ode to the bugs of St. John.

Reef Health

Damage to the reef is a major problem in the USVI. I thought it necessary to address this growing concern with the St. John Guidebook’s platform and large distribution.

The challenge was to create awareness and understanding while not sounding like we’re blaming any single group of people. Also, we wanted to offer ways that people can learn more and help out.

Water Conservation

Another important thing to know about staying (or living) on an island is that water conservation is real and necessary. This page explains why and gives tips on how to save water like a local.


These are just a handful of the layouts + writing I’ve done for The St. John Guidebook. You can see the most recent publication in e-form at the Island Treasure Maps website.

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