There are so few opportunities for acknowledgment on a regional scale that the short lists of the few opportunities that do exist are rapidly and hungrily devoured by writers. Did I make the cut? Am I worthy? Am I worthy?!? Of course, as I’ve learned doing Wadadli Pen (as yet a national competition on a much smaller scale) these past eight years, sometimes not making the list is not an indication of talent or lack thereof. Sometimes on a list of 11, you may be the 12th one but you would never know. And so to those not on the list, including myself when it applies, I always say keep growing and keep striving, see it not as discouragement but as a challenge. I’m coming for you, List.
The Latest List to have the Caribbean literati talking is the Commonwealth Short List, a really difficult list to crack (believe me, I know) even with the recent revamping of the prize structure. So special congrats to the Caribbean writers who did:
Sweetheart, Alecia McKenzie (Jamaica), Peepal Tree Press – making McKenzie, a past regional Commonwealth winner for Best First Book, the sole* Caribbean short-listee for the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize.
*Past Commonwealth Writers Prize winner Jamaican Olive Senior is also on the short list for Dancing Lessons (Cormorant Books) but as part of the Canada region.
Devil Star, Hazel Campbell (Jamaica); Glory, Janice Lynn Mather (The Bahamas); The Dolphin Catcher, Diana McCaulay (Jamaica); Friends, Sharon Millar (Trinidad and Tobago) – short listed for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
Wrapping as you read this, meanwhile, is the BOCAS Literary festival in Trinidad, which delivers perhaps the biggest purse (i.e. US$10,000) of literary competitions emanating from the region. The short list was announced a while ago and by the time the contest wraps on April 29 2012 one of the names listed below will be the new king or queen of the sea of Caribbean literature, at least until next year. A discussion here explores whether this prize is meeting the development needs of the region; and, specifically, how the presence of literary legends (like last year’s winner Derek Walcott) on Bocas long and short lists can prove discouraging for newer writers trying to break through. Seriously, how do you contend with a Nobel Prize Laureate? Whether or not these concerns will be acted upon remains to be seen, but either way, it does not diminish the accomplishment of those who did make the cut, to whom we take the opportunity to say congratulations. Especially Loretta Collins Klobah of Puerto Rico, the poetry winner for The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman; Earl Lovelace of Trinidad and Tobago, the fiction winner with Is Just a Movie; and Godfrey P. Smith of Belize, the non fiction winner for George Price: A Life Revealed – these three also contenders for the overall prize. UPDATE APRIL 29TH 2012: And the Winner is …Earl Lovelace.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.