Friday, February 23, 2018

God had a Bajan accent

Bocas winner on novel inspiration:

SECOND WIN: One Caribbean Media (OCM) group executive corporate services Gregory Camejo, centre, presents the 2017 OCM Bocas prize to Kei Miller during the presentation ceremony on Saturday evening at the Old Fire Station Building, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain. At left is Marina Salandy-Brown, Bocas Lit Fest founder and Festival director. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

While accepting the top prize at the 2017 NGC Bocas Lit Fest on Saturday night, winner Kei Miller said it was only when he came to Trinidad in 2001 that he was first acknowledged as a writer.
This is Miller’s second OCM Bocas Lit Fest first prize and during his acceptance speech, the Jamaican writer recalled the early days of his journey, starting with a writers’ workshop he attended in Trinidad.
“Trinidad has always had than kind of generosity, inviting writers from all over the Caribbean and all over world,” he said.
He won the non-fiction category and was short-listed for the overall prize in 2014 with his essay collection, Writing Down The Vision.
This year, Miller won for his novel, Augustown, and said he was driven to write the novel when he was awakened by a voice late one night.
“Before I wrote this novel I did not know that the voice of God had a Bajan accent. I woke up one night, I was writing a novel that wasn’t going anywhere, and I woke up one night with this voice in my head,” he said.
He said it was a book triggered from a memory.
The shortlist of writers who challenged Miller for the win included poet Safiya Sinclair, for her novel Cannibal, and the late Angelo Bissessarsingh for his twin books, Walking with Ancestors and Snapshots of the History of Trinidad and Tobago.
T&T writer Bissessarsingh died in February after a prolonged illness. He was 34.
Miller praised both Sinclair and Bissessarsingh’s work.
“While the lesson of Safiya is the lesson of patience...we were writing when we were both teens in Jamaica and to spend that time on craft and care. To take the time and patience to come out with a damned good book, I think is a wonderful lesson and thanks for that, for teaching us how to be patient and yet Angelo teaches us the importance of urgency,” he said.
He said it was “sobering” that Bissessarsingh did not live to see 40.
Gregory Camejo, group executive, Corporate Services, represented One Caribbean Media (OCM), parent company of Caribbean Communications Network (CCN), which publishes the Express newspapers and operates TV6, at the 2017 Bocas Lit Fest awards ceremony, at the Old Fire Station, National Library, Port of Spain.
He said the large gathering at the prizegiving spoke to the resilience and defiance of the economic situation in T&T and elsewhere.
He described the Bocas Lit Fest as an “imaginatively diverse programme” that OCM was proud to be associated with.
“Bocas’ focus on current affairs is unmistakably on point. Yesterday’s (Friday’s) discussion on press freedom coincided with the release of the 2017 ratings on Reporters without Borders,” said Camejo.
The report placed Jamaica at number eight, while T&T stood at number 34.
“We under the OCM umbrella uphold freedom in our thought and expression,” Camejo said.
OCM has been committed to the Bocas Lit Fest for the past seven years and contributed the US$10,000 first prize.