Photo above is of Imam Baksh.
The second year of winners of a unique literary award that provides thousands of youth across the Caribbean region, each year, with access to exciting new titles were announced on May 1.
The 2015 award ceremony for CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, recognizing outstanding literary works for young adults, written by Caribbean authors, was held in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, as part of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
Guyanese author, Imam Baksh, received the first prize of $10,000 CAD for his first novel, Children of the Spider; Diana McCaulay, from Jamaica, won the second prize of $7,000 CAD for The Dolphin Catchers, while the third prize of $5,000 CAD went to Lynn Joseph of Trinidad and Tobago for Dancing in the Rain. The finalists were selected by a jury administered by The Bocas Lit Fest and made up of writers, literacy experts and academics from the Caribbean and Canada.
All three winning novels are still at the manuscript stage. As part of the Award, CODE will help link the winning authors to Caribbean publishers, so that their works can be published in the near future.
The Award’s book purchase and distribution program will ensure that a minimum of 2,500 copies of each of the three winning titles, will be put into the hands of young people through schools, libraries and community organizations across the Caribbean.
In its inaugural year, the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature donated 7,500 copies of the first set of three winning titles to hundreds of locations across 11 Caribbean countries, including schools, libraries and children’s homes.
“We’re very excited that all three winning works this year are manuscripts, as it means the Awards are succeeding in helping generate new writing. A key objective is to encourage authors to write for young people, regardless of whether or not they already have a publishing deal,” said CODE Executive Director Scott Walter.
“We know we can turn more youth on to reading if they have access to amazing books that truly speak to them, and our Award, combined with a guaranteed purchase, allows this to happen. Its win-win-win, as the market for Caribbean publishers is strengthened, Caribbean authors are rewarded for their craft and many thousands of entertaining, engaging books get into the hands of Caribbean youth,” he added.
“Another fantastic achievement by our region’s writers,” said Marina Salandy-Brown, founder of the organization that hosts Trinidad and Tobago’s annual literary festival, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest. “Congratulations to all of them, including the ones who just missed the top prizes. Thanks to CODE and the Literary Prizes Foundation, there will be more opportunities for everyone.”
The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature was established by CODE – a Canadian charitable organization that has been advancing literacy and learning for 55 years – in collaboration with the Literary Prizes Foundation. The Award is the result of a close collaboration with CODE’s local partner in the Caribbean, The Bocas Lit Fest.
CODE’s Burt Award is a global readership initiative and is also currently established in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Canada.
Baksh is an author who grew up splitting his time between urban and rural Guyana. He is attracted to stories of heroism and monstrosity. Among his most influential interests are anime, comics, science fiction, politics, psychology and economics. ‘Children of the Spider ‘ is his first novel.
McCaulay is an award winning Jamaican writer and a lifelong resident of Kingston. She has written two novels, Dog-Heart and Huracan, both of which were met with critical acclaim.
Dog-Heart won a Gold Medal in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s National Creative Writing Awards, was shortlisted for the Guyana Prize, the IMPAC Dublin Award and the Saroyan Prize for International Writing.
Huracan was also shortlisted for the 2014 Saroyan Prize. The Dolphin Catchers is her first Young Adult novel. Diana won the Hollick Arvon Prize for Caribbean writing in 2014, for her nonfiction work-in-progress Loving Jamaica: a memoir of place and (not) belonging. Diana founded the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) in 1991 and still serves as its CEO and guiding force.
Joseph was born and raised in Trinidad, and has used her childhood experiences in Trinidad and other Caribbean islands, as her source of inspiration to develop her writing for children and young adults. She is the author of numerous books for children. Her young adult novel ‘Flowers in the Sky’ was published by Harper Collins in 2013.
Joseph was Bermuda’s 2011 Writer in Residence, and is the editor of the anthology, I Wish I Could Tell You: Bermuda Anthology of Children’s Literature and Young Adult Stories. She is also an attorney and recently graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing for Children & Young Adults, from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.