Classic: in Conversation with three Caribbean Authors (2010)

I actually just found (re-found?) this one. It’s one of the interviews I did in 2010 in the lead-up to the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival (remember when we had one of those?). It’s a bit dated – and given that the literary festival is now defunct, some of the commentary is sadly ironic – but I thought I’d share it for your reading pleasure.

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This is a photo from the first Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival in 2006. I don’t believe this ran with the original piece but it includes two of the interviewed authors – Elizabeth Nunez and Verna Wilkins, 2nd and 3rd from left. I am at the far right.

One-on-one with three regional authors
November 3, 2010   Joanne C. Hillhouse  Arts and Culture, Specials

Daily OBSERVER caught up recently with three authors slated for this year’s literary festival, November 4 to 7.

All esteemed award recipients, they are: Belizean Zee Edgell, author of Beka Lamb, In Times Like These, The Festival of San Joaquin, and Time and the River; Trinidadian Elizabeth Nunez, author of Anna In-Between, Prospero’s Daughter, Bruised Hibiscus, Grace, Discretion, When Rocks Dance, and Beyond the Limbo Silence; and Grenadian Verna Wilkins, founder of Tamarind Books in the UK and a children’s.

Each was asked the same questions; here are their answers.

Daily OBSERVER What can people expect from you for the 2010 literary festival?

Zee Edgell: I hope to participate in workshops, the panel discussions, do readings, meet with students and the general public and do book signings.

Elizabeth Nunez: Reading and discussion of my latest novel, Anna In-Between, as well as the story of my development as a writer. I will also talk a little about the state of publishing fiction today and directions for the future.

Verna Wilkins: People can expect (me) to share 23 years of my experience in the UK both as founder and publisher of the well respected multicultural Tamarind Books list and as an author of 35 children’s books.

DO: …what, if anything, in your view sets the lit fest in Antigua apart?

ZE: Visiting schools, and meeting with students in Antigua were the outstanding features…

EN: What sets this Festival apart is the easy accessibility to writers and the informal atmosphere that encourages interaction between emerging and established writers.

VW: What sets ABILF apart for me is the fact that it makes contacts with schools and teachers possible. The discussion forums are enlightening and meaningful.

DO: …has it evolved, in your view?

ZE: I’ve attended one literary festival in Antigua, so I’m not able to comment on this evolution.

EN: What is extraordinary is that the organizers have managed to continue this festival in spite of the financial challenges of the times. The festival continues to seek out popular writers but at the same time is committed to giving voice to new writers as well as literary writers who have not enjoyed a wide reading audience. Participants get introduced to books that they would not ordinarily have known.

DO: Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to this year?

ZE: I am looking forward to the activities listed…also to seeing more of Antigua.

EN: I am looking forward to hearing Lorna Goodison, whose poetry touches the heart and opens windows to the Caribbean world both known and unknown.

VW: I am looking forward this year to discussing ‘The Reluctant Reader’ with teachers and carers with a view to putting in place strategies for re-engaging with books.

DO: You’ve seen the festival line up, is there anyone in particular you’re hoping to engage – and why?

ZE: I am hoping to engage as many participants as possible.

EN: I love the line up and can’t wait to hear all the writers.

VW: I am looking forward to engaging with the writers who do grown-up books in various genres; hopefully an enabling process to write for adults and to get started on my autobiography.

DO: …Can you speak to why festivals of this nature should persist in these tough economic times?

ZE: I am not able to answer this question, especially as so many people are in economic difficulties.

EN: All the major movements in the world have been propelled by books. The great works of writers such as CLR James and George Lamming set the foundation for independence in the Caribbean, and writers such as (James) Baldwin, (Richard) Wright and (Zora Neale) Hurston helped usher in the civil rights movement in the U.S. We need writers not only to entertain us with stories, but also to mirror our societies, give us a sense of who we are and who we can be.

VW: Festivals should persist through these financial times so that we can continue to share ideas which might take us to a brighter future.

DO: What do you think of the lit fest’s emphasis on youth?

ZE: I think, where possible, a love of reading should be encouraged from the cradle. A literary festival focused (on) Caribbean youth is a great contribution to the present and future development of the Caribbean.

EN: This is an excellent idea. Young people need models so that they have living proof of what is possible for them to attain.

VW: The emphasis on youth is dear to me. I write children’s books because I firmly believe that children who engage with books in the early year, the years in which the personality takes shape and attitudes are formed, tend to achieve academically. They also acquire a good vocabulary and can tap into various types of reading…for study or for pleasure…(also) the interaction with published authors gives them invaluable opportunities to speak with role models for success.

DO: Who would be on your wish list for a future ABILF?

ZE: My wish list would include reading and writing workshops for small groups of interested students.

EN: More Caribbean writers from the region and the diaspora.

DO: …in what directions would you like to see (the festival) grow and how do you think it could begin to do so?

ZE: I think a greater emphasis should be placed on obtaining funding for the festival. In general, most writers do not earn very much from their writing. Although airfares and accommodation are provided to writers, attending a festival without honorariums or fees is quite expensive for most writers, at any time. Funding for fees and/or adequate honorariums would assist writers to more easily participate in the Festival. Perhaps experts who may be economically able to volunteer could be recruited to write grant proposals to funding agencies, the business and professional communities, and individuals who might wish to contribute as partners …

DO: …what’s your favourite memory (from past ABILFs)?

ZE: I enjoyed meeting the students, fellow participants, including the Festival organizers, and seeing something of Antigua.

VW: My favourite memory of the festivals is meeting other black authors from the US and sharing their wide range of writing. I learned a lot and my confidence as a writer grew.

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, Oh Gad!, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, Musical Youth and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, 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.

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