In My Own Words: Robert Edison Sandiford
In response to “Best thing about writing? Money” by Alison Flood in The Guardian of March 3, 2009, profiling novelist Colm Toibin and asking question of other international writers.
“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” -Samuel Johnson.
“I write with a sort of grim determination to deal with things that are hidden and difficult and this means, I think, that pleasure is out of the question. I would associate this with narcissism anyway and I would disapprove of it.” -Colm Toibin
“I pursued poets who immolate themselves in the inferno of witnessing….” -George Elliott Clarke, “Turning Blue”
Do artists register pain and pleasure as most? Writing can be a torment to me, especially when the thought occurs a man can do a thing a long time without ever doing it to his own satisfaction. But I enjoy making up true stories—and feel the pleasure of others, too, in my creations when I do it well.
That I excel and can make a living at it, and the insight this activity provides me in its practice, is not surprising either, merely as it should be in a world of people with varied skills and talents who must eat. From an early age, I reacted to the world in words, usually on a page. So I am what I always wanted to be, a writer.This has meant of late finding a better balance between instinct and intent: to make it all seem so natural and inevitable at the same time. It’s like speaking a spell: get all the words right, magic. One word wrong, or out of place, the fool remains a fool.
I come from two societies directly—Barbadian and Canadian—that questionwhether or not they have valid, valuable cultures. Much of my writing has been about examining the problems this poses for the individual.Not to find definite solutions, rather the kind that encourage enquiry.
If I understand the characters I conjure, then true appreciation of how and why people behave as they do in certain circumstances must be at hand. Even for myself.
Robert Edison Sandiford is the author of two short story collections, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall (1995) and The Tree of Youth (2005); the graphic novels Attractive Forces (1997), Stray Moonbeams (2002) and the forthcoming Great Moves (2010); a travel memoir, Sand for Snow: A Caribbean-Canadian Chronicle (2003); and edited with Linda M. Deane Shouts from the Outfield: The ArtsEtc Cricket Anthology (2007). He is a founding editor of ArtsEtc: The Premier Cultural Guide to Barbados (www.artsetcbarbados.com), and has worked as a journalist, book publisher, video producer, and teacher. He has won awards for both his writing and editing, including Barbados’ Governor General’s Award of Excellence in Literary Arts, a Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award and the Harold Hoyte Award. He divides his time between Canada and Barbados.
Among his main concerns as a writer are the effects of familial and erotic love on individual actions, and the space—cultural, social, literary, and otherwise; whether “Home” or “Back Home”—created by the offspring of West Indian immigrants to Canada in the resultant fusion of Caribbean and North American realities. He started out a social realist in fiction, but increasingly the fantastic has found its way into his work. (Please see The Tree of Youth and Other Stories.) The latter development is more comic book-coloured, however, than touched by magic realism. Guyanese writer Mark McWatt has described his prose as “spare, masculine,” others have called it “lyrical.” These observations are also true of his non-fiction/journalism/reviews.