Saturday, December 16, 2017

Bocas announces first Burt Award winners


TOP OF THE CROP: Jamaican author A-dZiko Gegele receives the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature from William Burt during Friday’s presentation—part of the 2014 NGC Bocas Lit Fest—at The Old Fire Station, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain. —Photo: AYANNA KINSALE

Mark Fraser

 The first winners of a unique literary award that will provide thousands of youth across the Caribbean region with access to exciting new titles were announced on Friday. 

The inaugural gala for CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, recognising outstanding literary works for young adults written by Caribbean authors, was held as part of the 2014 NGC Bocas Lit Fest. 

A-dZiko Gegele of Jamaica received the first prize of CAN$10,000 for All Over Again (published by Blouse and Skirts Books); Joanne Hillhouse, from Antigua and Barbuda, received the second prize of CAN$7,000 for her soon to be published manuscript Musical Youth; while the third prize of CAN$5,000 went to Colleen Smith-Dennis of Jamaica for Inner City Girl (published by LMH Publishing). 

 The finalists were selected by a jury administered by the Bocas Lit Fest and made up of writers, literacy experts and academics from the Caribbean and Canada.

The Award’s book purchase and distribution programme will ensure that a minimum of 2,500 copies of each of the three winning titles will be put into the hands of young people through schools, libraries and community organisations across the Caribbean. 

Winning publishers have also committed to actively market an additional minimum of 1,200 copies of each winning title throughout the region. 

“CODE is proud to support talented Caribbean writers and help to strengthen the region’s publishing industry,” said CODE executive director Scott Walter. “But we’re even prouder to be able to provide young people across the Caribbean with award-winning  books that can  ignite  a lifelong love of reading and learning, while  opening the doors to a brighter future.”

“The directors of the Bocas Lit Fest are delighted to be partners with CODE in this exciting initiative,” said Marina Salandy-Brown, founder of the organisation that hosts Trinidad and Tobago’s annual literary festival.

 “The prizes are just the shot in the arm that the publishing industry needs in our region and particularly in an important area that is very underserved, young adult literature. Everyone is a winner here.” 

The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature was established by CODE—a formerly Canadian organisation for Development through Education—in collaboration with William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation.

 The award is the result of a close collaboration with CODE’s local partners in the Caribbean—the Bocas Lit Fest and CaribLit.

CODE’s Burt Award is a global readership initiative and is also currently established in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Canada.

   For further details on the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, go to  or contact:  222 7099 

About CODE

If you can read and write, you can learn to do, and be, anything. That’s the idea behind CODE.  A Canadian NGO with 55 years of experience, CODE advances literacy and learning in Canada and around the world. CODE’s international programmes encourage development through education through support to libraries, professional development for teachers, as well as national and local book publishing in 20 languages. 

About the winners

First Prize: A-dZiko Gegele is a dynamic and prize-winning poet, playwright and novelist of Jamaican and Nigerian parentage. She completed a residency at the prestigious Yaddo Artists’ Retreat and participated in the Cropper Residency and Calabash Writers Workshops.  Her work has been published in numerous international anthologies. 

Second Prize: Joanne Hillhouse is an Antiguan and Barbudan writer. She has won fellowships to Breadloaf, Callalloo, and the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute and has been awarded a UNESCO prize as well as the David Hough Literary Prize. She runs the Wadadli Pen Writing Programme to nurture and showcase creative works by young writers in Antigua and Barbuda. She’s published one adult novel entitled Oh Gad, as well as two novellas for young readers and one children’s picture book.

Third Prize:  Colleen Smith-Dennis is a Jamaican writer who currently works as a high school English teacher. She is the author of three books: For Her Son, The Salt Loses Her Savour, and Inner City Girl.