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My Bocas 2017

Posted: May 2nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Awards, Books, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

#bocas2017 CODE Org Burt Award ceremony: Puerto Rican writer Viviana Prado-Núñez scooped the first prize for her self-published novel The Art of White Roses. Here she is receiving her award from Chief Justice Ivor Archie, ORTT. Photo courtesy: Marlon James/ NGC Bocas Lit Fest. (Caption taken from the Bocas Facebook page.)

This year’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest was amazing. I mean, I say that every year; the festival is such a boon to the public and the writers of Trinidad and Tobago. This year I had the pleasure and privilege of not only being a prize-winner at the festival, but I got to give a talk to secondary school students about writing; I got to judge a spoken word competition (the First Citizens National Poetry Slam), and to meet and interact with authors from around the world.

There were the regulars, with whom I have communed here and in Jamaica—the Kei Millers, Carolyn Coopers, Eddie Baughs, Monique Roffeys and Philip Nantons—they’re here at Bocas regularly, if not annually. Seeing them in the corridors of the National Library of Port-of-Spain is reassuring and delightful. They bring their grace and talent to us here and I never take them for granted.

Kei Miller giving his acceptance speech after winning the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. Well deserved. Photo: Marlon James/ NGC Bocas Lit Fest

This year I also got to meet new Caribbean writers like Safiya Sinclair, author of the OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry for her new collection Cannibal; and international stars like the gifted essayist Eliot Weinberger, whose essay on the stars made me hold my breath when he read it at the festival. (It’s at the seven-minute mark on the video, or thereabouts.)

One-on-One with Eliot Weinberger

The eminent American writer and translator talks to Nicholas Laughlin about his explorations in the art of the essay, from history to natural science to politics.

Posted by Bocas Lit Fest on Saturday, April 29, 2017

I had the enormous pleasure of seeing Trinidad Noir: The Classics celebrated in a pre-launch event where its co-editor Earl Lovelace read his indeed classic story “Jobell and America”, and where host elisha efua bartels read from her story “Woman is Boss” from the original Trinidad Noir.

I had the thrilling opportunity to meet the extraordinary young writer from Puerto Rico, Viviana Prado Nunez, whose novel The Art of White Roses won the Young Adult literature prize CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Literature (I came third in the contest with my manuscript Waiting for the Bus, and my fellow Trini Kevin Jared Hosein came second with his dark tale The Beast of Kukuyo). And the pleasure of hearing Kenyan journalist and fiction writer Peter Kimani, author of the new international hit novel Dance of the Jakaranda, read—and sing!—from this glorious, textured work.

One-on-One with Peter Kimani

The Kenyan author of Dance of the Jakaranda talks to Johnny Temple about his transition from journalism to fiction-writing, and the literary scene in East Africa.

Posted by Bocas Lit Fest on Saturday, April 29, 2017

One of the unexpected highlights for me was judging the Slam. (I was a last-minute replacement for a judge who was unable to make it to the show.) Here were some undeniably talented young people, competing for the mindblowing prize of TT $50,000. They went all out and gave their blood, sweat and tears to the packed audience at NAPA. Happily, the audience agreed with the judges’ decision! (Head judge was the dazzling poet Anthony Joseph, with Philip Nanton, Safiya Sinclair, and UWI, St Augustine, head of the MFA programme Muli Amaye and I also on the panel.)

Congratulations to Camryn L. Bruno, winner of the Grand Slam: 2017 First Citizens National Poetry Slam Finals! Here she is, holding her $50,000 cheque, flanked by second and third place finalists Alex Stewart and Idrees Jali Saleem.
Bruno, Stewart, Saleem and their fellow finalists performed to a legion of fans, community members in the arts, and #bocas2017 attendees: the NGC Bocas Lit Fest salutes the #FCNPS2017 competitors for their bravery, talent and dedication to sharing their all on the Caribbean’s largest spoken word stage.
Photo by Marlon James, official Bocas Lit Fest photographer.
(Caption taken from the Bocas Facebook page)

Bocas is a gift. I am thankful.


Before the Bocas: A guest post by Nathalie Taghaboni

Posted: April 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Books, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Trinidad-born Nathalie Taghaboni is the author of the Savanoy series: Across From Lapeyrouse, Santimanitay and Side By Side We Stand.  She very generously agreed to do a guest post on my blog in anticipation of the 2017 NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port-of-Spain, which she’s taking part in.

 

Perhaps if I had to find one word to describe these weeks and days leading up to the 2017 Bocas Lit Fest, I would probably chose “unreal”. Everything, even the very real and necessary planning took on a dreamlike quality.

I think it was back in 2012 when I first heard of Bocas. When I left the country, there was no such thing and I was no author. My first formally published work started in 2001 with a weekly column in a Toronto newspaper called SHARE. I was writing social commentary á la picong with all the Trinidad Nation Language you could shake a stick at. A book was a vague something-something in the back room of my mind. Even after I self-published a collection of those columns, the book idea was only slightly less nebulous.

My first novel started taking shape in my head before I was aware of it. This might sound crazy but I never protest not to be. I wrote the novel, printed a few hundred copies and figured most of them would end up in my basement as a condo for mice. So imagine my surprise when the book that had eschewed the formal writing style, opting for a storytelling style, sold out and demand made it imperative to reprint. The story was good and folks wanted more.

It was after the book was out that I heard about Bocas. I nervously sent in my poorly edited book to the New York judge on the same day that the US east coast was flooded by a storm. He emailed to say the book was destroyed. It took that Act of God for me to become determined. I sent another book to him but never made it to the long list. The story was poorly presented, I knew that, but rather than give up, I dug in my heels and wrote the sequel. A far, far better work.

But a self-publishing stint is expensive and with the second novel, part two in my unexpected series, I simply could not afford to enter the Bocas Lit Fest. I spent the next few years saving and writing until July 2016 when the third and final installment was published. I submitted the book and sat on pins and needles awaiting the list announcement.

During my wait something else was happening, slowly, surely. All along, folks were reading, supporting, encouraging me and my style of storytelling. I received an invitation to speak on a panel at Bocas.

If you know me at all, you know I am never short for words. The email invitation left me speechless. It cushioned the blow of not making the long list of 2017 Bocas Lit Fest Prize authors.

Yet, this ex-pat, writing all alone in arguably the most culturally bereft state of the Disunited States of Twitler, is coming home with her humble offering to talk with and listen to other Caribbean authors. I am looking forward to the opportunity and honour.

Can’t wait to tell you how it went!

Nathalie Taghaboni will speak on the panel Family Ties (along with Aliyyah Eniath, author of The Yard), April 28, 3- 4 pm, Old Fire Station, during the Bocas Lit Fest.