From Ruth Borthwick, Chief Executive of Arvon
If you want to make it as a writer in the Caribbean, with honourable exceptions, you have little chance if you stay at home. With little publishing infrastructure and limited support, talented writers leave the islands and the literary scene is impoverished as a result. Now Arvon, the Hollick Family Trust and Trinidad’s Bocas Lit Fest, have come together to offer a promising island-based writer the chance to develop their craft with a year’s mentoring scheme devised by Arvon and supported by a cash prize. Last week the first winner was announced at a rainy outdoor ceremony on a tropical evening in Port of Spain. Barbara Jenkins was a popular winner, and her story is an inspiration.
She started writing in later life, in 2007, was the first writer to finish the MFA at the University of West Indies in two years and has won two international competitions with her exquisite short stories. She now plans to write her first novel, De Rightest Place, set in a rum shop in an old part of Port of Spain where Carnival started but which is now a backwater. Through the clientele of the rum shop, Barbara says she will ‘give a sense of the diversity of life in Trinidad, and while humorous, the novel will not shirk from exploring the pain and challenges that people face with dignity and courage.’ We’re looking forward to working with Barbara as she realises her debut novel and I’ll be bringing you more news on her progress.