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Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize winner

Barbara Jenkins blogs about winning the Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize 2013

I am very, very gratified about winning, on several counts…The first is that I’m new to writing, to creative writing. I started in a small, amateurish way with a couple of female friends, all three of us retired schoolteachers, just six years ago.

Secondly, I had the good fortune to be encouraged to submit stories for international competitions.  Many of the stories won. I was propelled by that early success to enrol in the MFA programme at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and to graduate in the shortest possible time. So, very quickly, I began to see myself, not as a retired schoolteacher, but as an emerging writer.

I suppose I should add that, at seventy-one, I may not be everyone’s idea of an emerging writer. It gives me great confidence that my work stood up creditably among that of younger emerging writers in a blind judging competition. I am very grateful to the Hollick-Arvon judging panel that age was not an issue in the selection process.

So, winning this award has validated my new life direction in a way that nothing else could have done. How do I feel about that? I feel energised, unstoppable.

As to how the prize would benefit me… each of the three aspects of the award is going to be of immense help…

The cash award will help me to locate myself for a while in a peaceful, quiet place where I can write and write and write, away from the distractions of my day to day responsibilities and social life.

The mentoring under an experienced simpatico mentor is something that I would really value. Someone to discuss the work with and run ideas and scenarios by, someone to urge and encourage as well as critique honestly; that would make writing a less lonely activity.

I’ve always wanted to be on an Arvon residential workshop. I used to look at the booklet and daydream. Now it is to be a reality at a venue of my choosing (how to choose, all are so inviting!) on a course of my choice (which enticing one?). This is to be followed by a few days in London meeting agents and publishers. Glorious prospect!

But the biggest benefit is the spur to serious and sustained writing that winning the award has given me, is giving me. No longer do I want to fit in some writing between other activities and demands of life – I am now a writer and what I do is write. I block time, I make time to write.

Finally, I want to say  a heartfelt thank you to Hollick-Arvon for the Caribbean Writers Prize. I will do everything I can to be worthy of the confidence you have shown in me by giving me this award.


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