Trini writer wins emerging Caribbean writers prize

Amanda Choo Quan, this year's Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize winner. - Photo courtesy Ardene Sirjoo
Amanda Choo Quan, this year's Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize winner. - Photo courtesy Ardene Sirjoo

Amanda Choo Quan has won the 2020 Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize, the region's only prize for emerging writers.

The TT national was announced the winner by chief judge Funso Aiyejina during an official Bocas Lit Fest announcement broadcast via Facebook live on Friday evening.

The prize, launched in 2018, is sponsored by Dr Kongshiek Achong Low, medical practitioner and chairman of Medcorp Limited in memory of his parents, Johnson and Amoy Achong. It is administered by The Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad and Arvon in the UK.

"The quarantine and self-isolation measures demanded to combat the ravages of the covid situation have in no small measure demonstrated the immense value of the written word to mankind," Achong Low said.

"The massive sharing of written works via social media and the popularity of the streaming giants like Netflix all remind us of the unquestioned power of writing to stimulate our minds and to entertain."

Prof Emerita Aiyejina summarised Choo Quan's submission as having "excelled because of the eloquence of the writing, the honesty of the emotions, the concreteness of the imagery, the transformative energy of the story, and the writer's ability to weave the personal and the political, the ‘there’ and the ‘here’, and the ‘then’ and the ‘now’ into a seamless story."

The actual prize-giving will take place during the annual national literary festival, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, now rescheduled to September 18-20, according to a release from podcaster/journalist Ardene Sirjoo.

The release said Choo Quan topped two other shortlisted nationals, non-fiction writers Amilcar Sanatan and Newsday journalist Melissa Doughty, in this second year of the prize, which is dedicated to the advancement of new Caribbean voices.

The prize will allow Choo Quan to progress her winning work of non-fiction.

This year's competition attracted 20 entries from six Caribbean countries – TT, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and St Lucia.

Their subject matters ranged from Race and Gender through Women in Cricket, the Environment, Mental Health, Religious Fundamentalism, and Ageing to Cultural and Sexual Citizenship.

Jamaican Sharma Taylor in the first year (fiction) emerged the winner. The 2021 Prize will be open to writers of poetry.

In addition to a cash award of US$3,000 and travel to the UK to attend a one-week intensive Arvon creative writing course at one of Arvon’s internationally renowned writing houses, each winning writer will spend three days in London to network with editors and publishers, hosted by Arvon and in association with the Free Word Centre.

The release said winners are also mentored by an established writer in the genre and will get the chance to be agented by a literary agency in the UK.

On Saturday, this year’s winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature is to be announced by chief judge Earl Lovelace.

On Sunday, the popular festival Sunday Launch will feature Canisia Lubrin and Jacob Ross reading from their excellent new novels, and Aiyejina reading from his new poetry collection.

Pavement Poets, a presentation of spoken word performances, will follow at 6.30 pm. These will all be live streamed via the Bocas Lit Fest Facebook account.

TT’s annual literary festival is title sponsored by the National Gas Company. The lead sponsor is First Citizens, main sponsors are the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts and One Caribbean Media. The National Lotteries Control Board, Massy Foundation, and UWI are sponsors.


"Trini writer wins emerging Caribbean writers prize"

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