WHEN Monique Roffey won this year’s One Caribbean Media Prize for Caribbean Literature at the 2013 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, her publisher not only decided to change the cover of the book Archipelago to reflect the win, but it also mounted the book’s cover image on 100 large posters measuring about 4’W x 4’ H in the busy London Underground stations, where they will stay for the duration of the British summer.
Archipelago has also been chosen by the book’s publisher Simon and Schuster as its “summer read”.
Founder and director of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest Marina Salandy Brown is obviously overjoyed at the news of Roffey’s cover change and the massive publicity of the OCM Media Prize.
“This is an extraordinary development. I never thought we would see our branding on the London Underground. It is the sort of promotion that one could never even dare to hope for,” Salandy Brown said.
“When I first heard about it I went to the Tube (train station) and I was actually looking for something small, 24 inches by 24 inches near the escalator at the advertising boxes.
“When I got to the platform, I was surprised to see the large poster. I hope I’m not overreacting here, but I just didn’t believe it.”
Salandy Brown said the OCM Media Prize mention would bring awareness of the prize and Bocas Lit Fest to a new audience.
The London Underground, commonly called the Tube, is a public metro system that serves a large part of Greater London. It serves 270 stations and has 402 kilometres of track. It is estimated that 2.6 million people use the Tube on a daily basis.
A former BBC executive, Salandy Brown founded the Bocas Lit Fest in 2011 after attending several literary festivals in England.
When she returned home, she found there was no place for people who read to get together and talk about books apart from a Nalis-hosted reading. She also found there were so many Caribbean writers who had not been to other islands.
The OCM Media Prize for Caribbean Literature was established to recognise the dedication and skill of writers who usually fly under the radar. One Caribbean Media is the parent company of the Express, TV6 and Hott 93, among others.
Last year the prize of US$10,000 went to Earl Lovelace for the book Is Just A Movie.
“Before the OCM Media Prize was established, the Commonwealth prize was the only international prize targeted at Caribbean writers,” Salandy Brown said.
Writers and some publishing houses already know about the OCM Media Prize and the Bocas Lit Fest. The challenge now, Salandy Brown said, is to bring the Caribbean Literature Prize and the Lit Fest to the attention of publishers who just don’t publish Caribbean writing.
Having just returned from London, Salandy Brown is convinced that interest in the NGC Bocas Lit Fest has started to build.
“The posters at the Tube have also given us a leg up. We have some things to look forward to in 2014.”
Archipelago is the third book from Trinidad-born, London-based Roffey.
According to the writer’s website, it is “about a man, a little girl and their dog who sail from one archipelago to another and, in the process, find perspective in the sea”.
Salandy Brown said the book was not just about sand and sea, but Caribbean issues.
“The book sells the Caribbean in an unexpected way, “ she said.
Monique Roffey, who often travels back home to Trinidad whenever she can, not only writes books. She also teaches creative writing in the United Kingdom, Trinidad, Cuba and Greece.
She has published three novels and a memoir and has edited an anthology of short stories The Global Village for Tell Tales.
The Guardian of the UK referred to Roffey as a “fearless writer with her choices of subject and her visceral style”.
Her second novel, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Encore Award.
Roffey considers herself one of a whole new generation of authors coming of age and writing about the region.
She said on her website, “I write every day and see it more as a way of life than a job.”