February 28, 2012

Launch of Caribbean Literature Action Group

The NGC Bocas Lit Fest, British Council, and Commonwealth Writers have announced a new partnership that will work towards enhancing the Caribbean literary scene and help kick-start an infrastructure to support writers, writing, and publishing. The Caribbean Literature Action Group (CALAG) will be launched in Port of Spain at a one-day brainstorm workshop on Wednesday 25 April, on the eve of the 2012 NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

The Caribbean has produced some of the world’s greatest contemporary writers, including three Nobel Prize laureates. Its literature is one of the region’s most celebrated cultural products. But Caribbean writers continue to migrate to North America and Europe in order to obtain financial support for their work and to achieve the highest level of international recognition. Literary publishing within the region remains in an embryonic state, and talented writers who choose to stay “at home” often find it difficult to access international publishers, or find opportunities for local publication and promotion.

In light of these common interests, the British Council and Commonwealth Writers have now developed a plan to work in partnership with the NGC Bocas Lit Fest and other literary professionals in the region. The first stage is to assemble a small, results-oriented action group of professionals from all areas of the Caribbean literary sector: writers, publishers, editors, teachers, booksellers, and organisers of festivals and writing programmes. (See a full list of participants below.)

Facilitators for the action group include Nicholas Laughlin (editor of The Caribbean Review of Books), Linda Leith (founder of Blue Metropolis Bleu in Quebec), Anita Sethi (writer), and Susie Nicklin (Director of Literature, British Council).

“The NGC Bocas Lit Fest was established to promote Caribbean writers and writing. Joining forces with the British Council and Commonwealth Writers, two entities dedicated to advancing literature in many other regions of the world, presents a real opportunity to help push forward development in the region’s publishing sector. We are delighted to be able to work with fellow Caribbean people who share the same ambition.”
—Marina Salandy-Brown, Festival Director and Founder, NGC Bocas Lit Fest

“The British Council is privileged to have been invited to join such a distinguished group to address issues of concern, not just to the Caribbean but to writers across the Americas. With the Council’s global remit I hope that my experience and expertise will be helpful, but I expect to learn far more than I can teach from such vibrant and accomplished people.”
— Susie Nicklin, Director of Literature, British Council

“Commonwealth Writers is excited to be part of this timely action group to generate practical ideas to help shape a dynamic publishing infrastructure across the Caribbean. We hope that the initiatives which emerge from CALAG will in the longer term be transferable to other regions where opportunities for writers are scarce.”
— Lucy Hannah, Programme Manager, Culture, Commonwealth Foundation

Participants in the inaugural CALAG meeting, 25 April, 2012:

Lisa Allen-Agostini, Trinidad and Tobago: writer, founder of the Allen Prize for Young Writers
Ellah Allfrey, UK: deputy editor of Granta
Funso Aiyejina, Trinidad and Tobago: writer, Dean of Humanities at UWI St. Augustine, co-ordinator of the Cropper Foundation Writers' Workshop
Donna Benny, Trinidad and Tobago: editor, head of StarApple Books
Nicolette Bethel, the Bahamas: writer, editor of tongues of the ocean, head of the Shakespeare in Paradise theatre festival
Alwin Bully, Dominica: writer, co-founder of the Nature Island Literary Festival
Gracelyn Cassell, Montserrat: chair of the Alliougana Festival of the Word
Shruti Debi, India: literary agent, Aitken Alexander Associates
Justine Henzell, Jamaica: co-founder of the Calabash International Literary Festival
Kendel Hippolyte, St. Lucia: writer, co-ordinator of the Word Alive Literary Festival
Mitchell Kaplan, US: bookseller, founder of Books and Books, co-founder of the Miami Book Fair
Antonia MacDonald-Smythe, St. Lucia/Grenada: senior associate dean, School of Arts and Sciences, St. George's University
Kellie Magnus, Jamaica: writer, head of Jackmandora Publishing, executive member of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica
Kei Miller, Jamaica: writer, professor of creative writing at the University of Glasgow
Esther Phillips, Barbados: writer, editor of BIM, head of the BIM Literary Festival
Jeremy Poynting, UK: founder of Peepal Tree Press
Monique Roffey, Trinidad and Tobago/UK: writer, writing instructor
Patricia Saunders, Trinidad and Tobago/US: professor of literature, University of Miami
Lasana Sekou, St. Martin: writer, founder of House of Nehesi Publishers, co-founder of the St. Martin Book Fair

Linda Speth, Jamaica: head of the University of the WI Press


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