I wanted to shout out three women who are in various ways part of my writing network and who I’m delighted to report have recently had bountiful news. Where to start.
(This image of Danielle Boodoo-Fortune at Bocas collecting her prize from Jamaican-American author Geoffrey Philp – whom you might remember from my Miami Book Fair post – is, along with the Doe Songs and Bocas workshop picture below, borrowed from her announcement on her facebook page)
Danielle Boodoo Fortune came out of Bocas as the winner of the lucrative Poetry Book prize (for her book Doe Songs), one of only three (along with Fiction Book prize winner Dionne Brand for her book Theory) in the running for the Main prize (which went to Non-Fiction Book prize winner Kevin Adonis Browne for his book High Mas). The entire top three is from Trinidad and Tobago where the Bocas Literary Festival is held.
I was in Barbados for a BIM Panel Celebrating Women Writers when I met Danielle
and we have stayed in touch since (notably she’s served as a judge of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize – my non-profit promoting lit -and sometimes visual, but really all – arts in Antigua and Barbuda, and illustrated one of my picture books Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure), among many interactions over the years). I love Danielle’s art and celebrate this win with her. I also have to thank her for using Lost! in an illustration workshop she did at Bocas this year – not her first time repping the book (image of Lost! above-above is from Trinidad’s New Fire Festival at which Danielle presented Lost! in 2018).
Her book Doe Songs has been receiving all kinds of critical accolades (e.g. “What the reader can trust with Boodoo-Fortuné is her capacity to meet the page with unflinching honesty and brave perceptiveness.” – UWI lecturer Dr. Jennifer Rahim writing about Doe Songs in Trinidad and Tobago’s News Day); so a Bocas run was perhaps inevitable but nothing is guaranteed, so kudos to her for going the distance. What’s cool is that though her star continues to rise, Danielle remains one of the most down to earth, rootsy people I’ve met on this writing journey – which is why though we’ve barely met in person I count her as part of my literary sister circle.
And so I shift to Sharma Taylor, originally from Jamaica, but resident in Barbados – where I’ve met her a couple of times (once when she was a participant in a workshop I facilitated at the BIM lit fest; once when we were co-participant in a Commonwealth Writers workshop), staying in touch now and again since. Sharma (!) also claimed one of the prizes administered at Bocas, the Johnson and Amoy Achong Prize which is a developmental prize (successor to the Hollick Arvon Prize) which comes with cash, mentorship, a short writing course, and networking opportunities.
(image from the Commonwealth Writers workshop – Sharma and Alexia, seated, first and second from left – 2018)
I also met Bahamian Alexia Tolas in Barbados (that same workshop I co-participated in with Sharma) and we got along really well. I am dee-light-ed that she was picked as the Caribbean winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize (for her story Granma’s Porch) and am rooting for her to claim the overall prize. I also appreciate her shouting me out in an article in the Nassau Guardian. The love goes both ways in the literary sisterhood.