The Bim Lit Fest, Spanish rights and an interview

The inaugural Bim Lit Fest, which took place from May 16-20, deserves a far better post than I can craft at the moment. It’s harder to blog than Bocas because there were fewer events, and the highlights were more personal than general. It was great to see Kei Miller (Jamaican poet and novelist) and Kendel Hippolyte (St Lucian poet) again, to meet John R Lee (St Lucian poet), and to encounter in one space the Caribbean greats Austin Clarke, George Lamming, Earl Lovelace and Derek Walcott. I had a fascinating conversation about Caribbean literary speculative fiction with Jeremy Poynting of Peepal Tree Press. I had old school friends with me, supporting me and enjoying the festival. I am slowly updating my haphazard and not at all definitive list of Caribbean writers and poets.

Kudos to Esther Phillips for bringing the Bim Lit Fest from idea to actuality! I’m looking forward to seeing it continue and grow and become a fixture in the Barbadian events calendar.

In other good news, Cooke International has sold Spanish rights to The Best of All Possible Worlds to RBA Libros!

Finally, fellow nominee Stina Leicht is interviewing all the nominees for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and my interview is here.

Day Four of Bocas 2012 – The End

The last day of Bocas 2012 was a Sunday and the schedule was as packed as any other day, which made for some cruel choices. I split my time between two morning sessions, hearing a little of Kei Miller’s poetry but sadly missing Mervyn Morris to catch the end of the reading and interview with Rabindranath Maharaj. Rabindranath read from The Amazing Absorbing Boy, which was on the Bocas fiction longlist last year. His reading reminded me of Kei’s fiction; it was humorous even when events were semi-tragic. Is this a Caribbean thing, to tolerate writers who make you chuckle and smile and relax at misfortune before they slip the angst in like a stiletto between the third and fourth ribs?

Much to my disappointment, I missed the drama-documentary Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask directed by Isaac Julien. My presence was required for a panel to discuss ‘Anxieties of influence: postcolonial writing and literary tradition’. Here is a tweet and twitpic of the event, courtesy of Annie Paul.

It was a good time to feel intimidated. Winner of the Bocas 2012 poetry prize Loretta Collins Klobah, Shara McCallum who was longlisted for poetry this year, and Kei Miller who was longlisted for poetry last year – they are all bona fide university-affiliated academics, scholars, lecturers in literature. Then there was me. One of these things is not like the others. The moderator, literary critic Kenneth Ramchand, was kind and did not mock me for talking about the ‘voices’ of Terry Pratchett and Ray Bradbury (yes, of course I mentioned Paul Keens-Douglas, Andrew Salkey and others, but still!). I think, however, he may have downgraded his estimation of my intelligence when I flaunted my childhood decision to never study literature because teachers always sucked the fun out of it. (In my defence, I did take some English courses as an undergrad, but I was always disappointed by the literature courses, so I can’t say my decision was wrong).

Fortunately, my highly-qualified fellow panellists did not once make me feel like I had no right to be there. I had a lovely conversation afterwards with Loretta about the shared culture and history of the Caribbean expressed in different languages (she lives in Puerto Rico). Shara McCallum … did you know that she’s in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Tenth Annual Collection (1996, eds Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)? And so is Olive Senior! Who says that Caribbean speculative fiction is a new thing? I’m trying to tempt Shara to come to the World Fantasy Convention this year. We need a Caribbean posse to take over the parties.

I could’ve, should’ve, and didn’t attend the readings of the Bocas 2012 winners, again opting for a rest-afternoon to prepare for the final act, a party at the residence of Earl Lovelace. There was food, drink, conversation, music and dancing. It was the perfect conclusion to Bocas 2012. The chair of last year’s fiction judges, Margaret Busby (OBE, British co-founder of the publishing house Allison & Busby, born in Ghana, Barbadian father), very kindly complimented me on Redemption in Indigo and introduced me to Earl Lovelace. I congratulated him on his win this year. He congratulated me for being longlisted last year. I need to have grandchildren some day so I can tell them about this.

That’s it! I have shared with you my highlights of Bocas 2012. I hope you have enjoyed them. It is only the second year of the Bocas Lit Fest and it’s already a literary festival of note not only regionally but internationally. Follow their twitter @bocaslitfest and their website. Enter your work, if eligible, for consideration. Start making plans to come to Bocas 2013. You might just see me there.

Introducing the Bocas Lit Fest 2012

I thought I would blog daily while at Bocas 2012, but once I got there I didn’t want to dutifully blog and I didn’t want to take pictures of everything. I wanted to enjoy myself and I did, only tweeting and taking snapshots when I felt like it. Now I want to look back, remember, and tell you all about the amazing people and works I have encountered.

Day one of the festival started with a welcome ceremony. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Independence, there were four readings of classic works from around fifty years ago: the prose of V.S. Naipaul, poetry by Derek Walcott (both of them Nobel Laureates, as I’m sure you already know), a speech by Eric Williams, and satire by ‘Macaw’, the pseudonymous Trinidad Guardian columnist. The excerpt from Derek Walcott’s ‘The Star-Apple Kingdom’ concluded on a powerful image:

… a black woman, shawled like a buzzard,
climbed up the stairs and knocked at the door
of his dream, whispering in the ear of the keyhole:
‘Let me in, I’m finished with praying, I’m the Revolution.
I am the darker, the older America.’

It was beautiful … gorgeous readings expertly read … an excellent beginning. Our appetites were whetted. Here’s the one tweet I managed.

Off I went to my first selected event (there were usually three events on at a time, so we were forced to choose). Jamaican novelists Sharon Leach and Kei Miller (who is also a poet) read from their novels. Sharon’s segment was enthralling and cleverly ended on a cliffhanger – a fender-bender, a carjacking, and a gun to someone’s head. Kei read from a work in progress which fascinated me. I recognised the same voice as in Redemption in Indigo: the personified omniscient narrator. He told of tragic events with a comic twist. We laughed at a man proud to be stricken with an STD in his old age, laughed at his instinctive horror when he was told he could expect to live another twenty years or more, laughed as he died of heart failure shortly afterwards in his sleep, in a wet dream. You had to be there. I’m sorry I’ll have to wait a while for this to be completed and published.

My tweets and twitpics of the event are herehere and here.

Here’s one of Kei’s poems featured in the UK Guardian and an article in the Jamaica Observer about an award for Sharon last year.

My own reading took place in the afternoon. I was sharing a timeslot with Erna Brodber. Erna Brodber. She is an elder for almost all aspects of my career, as a writer, a sociologist, folklorist and pattern-maker. She has received awards and honours for her fiction, her research and her community work. I felt awed. She read from her most recently published novel The Rainmaker’s Mistake and captivated all who listened.

I invite you to look here for the view from the official Bocas 2012 blogger Shivanee Ramlochan. There’s also my post-session tweet.

If you want to know more about Bocas than what I was able to take in, check out the hashtag #bocas2012 and the official blog.

I’ve turned off comments on this blog due to unrelenting spam, but if you were at Bocas and have a tweet, article or site that would add to the Day One overview, do message me on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll edit it into this post.

Tomorrow I’ll give you a glimpse of my second day at the Bocas Lit Fest!

Bocas Lit Fest 2012

Do follow my twitter carefully for the next few days (check the sidebar or go straight to @Karen_Lord). I’m in Trinidad for the Bocas Lit Fest having a marvellous time, and it’s far easier to update on the iPad with Twitter (snatching wifi wherever I can find it). I’ve already heard from two incredible Jamaican writers, Sharon Leach and Kei Miller. My own reading is scheduled for later this afternoon, and I’m sharing a slot with the legendary Erna Brodber, Jamaican writer and winner of the 1989 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for the Caribbean/Canada region.