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- Robinson Road
- Nassau / Paradise Island, Bahamas
Entering its fourth year, the summer workshop for writers under the Bahamas Writers Summer Institute (BWSI) is gearing up for its intense three-week focus on writing workshops, seminars, lectures and readings this coming July.
This year however they are eyeing significant expansion, opening up the workshop to Family Island participants, inviting an extra guest writer to discuss and share their work, and even creating an entirely separate program for high school students unable to take the summer workshop itself.
Already, BWSI has begun a pilot program at a high school that they hope to expand to all high schools in order to foster a love for writing and literature. Under the directorship of College of The Bahamas Professor Ada McKenzie and T.A. Thompson Senior Mistress Deborah Thompson, 20 students at T.A. Thompson Junior High School attend a Junior Writers Club and learn how to hone their craft.
The club, says BWSI co-founder and coordinator Marion Bethel, satisfies the interests of students under 16 years of age who may not be able to take the Bahamas Writers Summer Institute, and also teaches them the value of creative writing at a level unmatched by high school curriculum.
"We want students to be able to know from an early age that this is a possibility for them," said Bethel. "Many don't have the exposure to creative writing in the way that nurtures you to be a writer if you want."
The coordinators are also eyeing a way to expand its summer workshops as well. Besides campaigning to Family Island participants and writers from the diaspora in order to grow its student body, they also look towards inviting more guest lecturers to the summer workshops.
Every year, BWSI invites one Bahamian writer and one guest writer from our Caribbean neighbors to share and discuss their work with the students of the workshop.
The visiting Caribbean writer also gives master workshops in a genre of their choice as well as a special lecture free and open to the public. Such sessions provide these emerging writers with their special knowledge of the writing craft in their field, says BWSI co-creator and coordinator, Helen Klonaris.
"When we have the privilege of great writers visiting us and giving us just a half hour or hour of their thoughts about society, about the world and the Caribbean, it's an incredibly rich moment because we are hearing from someone who has delved into the politics of being a human being in their writing and looked for meaning in their stories and then they share that," she said.
"It's great because we don't get to have community with them on a regular visit, so we're lucky to have them visit us and speaking to us about what they know."
This year the guest writer from the Caribbean is Jamaican-born, award-winning fiction writer Patricia Powell. Her awards include the Bruce Rossley Literary Award, the Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award. Powell has taught creative writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, Wellesley College and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Currently she teaches at the graduate creative writing program at Mills College in Oakland, California.
Her books - "Me Dying Trial", "The Pagoda", "A Small Gathering of Bones" and "The Fullness of Everything" - examine the politics of identity in The Caribbean through trials of displacement, disconnect and marginalization.
Such a body of work speaks directly to this year's theme for BWSI, "Coming Home: Migration, Absence and Presence in the Caribbean Imaginary", which Klonaris points out is particularly significant in examining contemporary Caribbean identity and literature.
"I adore how Patricia is able to focus in on the intimate and the personal and highlight the problems of society in a personal way," said Klonaris. "She looks at migration and disconnect on personal levels and she deals so courageously with the issues of gender and identity and how to survive."
"She asks: how can we move past this, how can we heal this?" she continued. "Those are such fundamental questions we need to be asking particularly in the Caribbean and in The Bahamas, and I think it will resonate with many Bahamians because these are the kinds of questions we've been asking these days."
Meanwhile, in an attempt to grow their program, BWSI will be featuring two Bahamian guest writers who will give special presentations of their work, added Bethel.
Established Bahamian poet, performer and architect Patrick Rahming will share his rather large and varied body of work in an evening of poetry and lyrics.
"It's definitely Pat Rahming's time," said Bethel. "He has a body of essays and poetry and lyrics, which has made a great contribution to literature in The Bahamas, and he's one of the more established Bahamian writers who continues to write and to give commentary on the Bahamian writing scene. He has older as well as more contemporary collections of work so it will be interesting to see his journey as a writer."
Meanwhile, the writer and producer of many award winning films, such as "Children of God", Kareem Mortimer, rounds out the Bahamian guest writers, taking a departure from the usual poet and fiction writers the summer workshops tend to choose.
Though BWSI has always offered workshops in screenwriting and playwriting, with the selection of Mortimer as guest writer, they hope to highlight a rapidly growing segment of the literary landscape in The Bahamas.
"There seems to be a real interest in film and screenwriting in The Bahamas and it seems to be taking off in a real way," said Bethel. "We thought we'd add value to the entire program by having Kareem come as a screen writer and a producer. It's such a substantial medium right now in addition to fiction and poetry."
All lectures and presentations by the three guest writers not only benefit the students of the Summer Institute, but also the wider community as they are still free and open to the public. Such a move, said the founders, really speaks to the core of the program, which is to create and grow a community of writers and critical thinkers in The Bahamas, and to strengthen the legacy of Bahamian literature and its relation to strong Bahamian and Caribbean identity.
"I think that The Bahamas is coming into a new articulation of its literary tradition and I think we're feeling that we can meet the literary traditions of other Caribbean countries and communities in ways that we perhaps haven't felt until now, and we're proud of it in a way that we haven't been before," says Klonaris.
"Writers are important because they define who we are as a people, we help to create a public discourse around who we have been and who we will be," she continues. "That's why it's really important that those who appreciate what we're doing and have the ability to support it financially take that step forward to support us."
Indeed, with the vision to grow the summer program beyond its seasonal occurrence and to touch the lives of students and Family Island emerging writers, BWSI is in need of funding more than ever. Its effects just in the past four years can already be seen as talented young Bahamian writers gain confidence and skill in their craft and publish on a global level, turning the eyes of the world to our Caribbean nation that for so long had been passed over in the literary canon of The Caribbean.
BWSI has become a nucleus around which writers are coming together and taking up the mantle to take Bahamian literature forward, and it can only do so if it has the support from the very community that writers work to define and uplift. They've received generous donations in the past from Cable Bahamas, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Inter-American Development Bank, yet they need more support than ever.
As Bethel points out, many writers came together to form initiatives in the past which have advanced literature and yet failed to continue - not because the drive wasn't there, but only the funding and support. BWSI, they hope, can be different.
"BWSI's intervention in the development of literature in The Bahamas is significant and important and vital," she said. "This is an effort to make a lasting impression in the Bahamian literary development. Because we know the history of these past institutions that have come and gone for many different reasons and the significance of the work we do, the support we need is really critical to keeping the institution going."
For more information about BWSI, to apply or to donate, please visit www.bwsi.wordpress.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Marion Bethel at 325-0342.
The Monthly meeting of the Commonwealth Writers of the Bahamas Will be held on Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 at Chapter One Book Store at the College of the Bahamas.
Parents of students who participated in the Fifth Annual Writing Competition at Government House are asked to ensure that these Students attend.
Junior Writers Meeting 2pm to 3pm - Adults from 3.15pm to 4.15pm.
Emile Hunt is the latest emerging Bahamian writer to take his work to the top and represent The Bahamas on a global scale - this July, a short story he penned will appear in the prestigious Transition Magazine, published by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University.
Guided by a suggestion and then encouragement by his fellow writer and friend Keisha Ellis, who looked over the short story, he took a chance and submitted the work to the magazine despite being intimidated by the Harvard name.
Four months later, he was elated not only to find out that the story had been accepted, but that the chief editor of Transition Magazine personally relayed her positive remarks to his work.
"I wanted to shout in joy but I didn't, I just said a quick prayer and said thanks because I am really grateful for this talent God has given me," said Hunt.
"I'm grateful for this opportunity to have my work in the magazine and at the fingertips of so many readers. A Bahamian work getting out there, a Bahamian voice getting out there in this form of academia - I'm just thankful for that."
The short story, "Names of the Dead", said Hunt, examines the life of wayward pastor Mario Major struggling under the weight of the legacy of his forefathers. In a magical realist twist, he begins hearing voices of marginalized and troubled individuals in the world of the dead and begins feeling their effects on his physical and emotional health.
"Not until he comes to some realization of the people he should represent just like his forefathers - this disenfranchised - and helps them, not until he comes to accept the names of the dead, will he come to his true self and his identity," explains Hunt.
The story is just one of many in an impending short story collection by the promising young fiction writer. After completing his English language and literature studies at The College of The Bahamas, he went on to pursue an MFA in creative writing at the University of West Indies in 2008, beginning his collection of short stories then. Though he's completing his MFA this year, he's already looking at PhD programs in creative writing.
Some of his work has already been published in Poui, tongues of the ocean, and Small Axe, yet he hopes to begin finding a publisher for the complete finished collection this year. No doubt the latest acceptance of his work is the vote of confidence he needs to put the finishing touches on the work, complete the MFA and simultaneously find a publisher.
"The reason my collection took so long is because I couldn't complete them in Trinidad," said Hunt. "They were Bahamian stories and I was detached from my setting. I couldn't put the finishing touches on them until I got home and immersed myself in the people and the culture."
Indeed his work, like "Names of the Dead", examines masculinity through male relationships in The Bahamas - whether father and son or friend-to-friend or even lover to lover. Such a decision, said Hunt, serves to highlight the importance of positive male roles models in society.
Hunt himself is doing his part - he's currently teaching English language and literature at C. V. Bethel. Besides keeping his writing practice sharp by keeping him in touch with the basics, teaching an especially underperformed subject across the board in Bahamian schools allows him to encourage a respect and love for reading and writing in Bahamian youth.
"Spiritually, I believe men have an obligation not only to their families but to younger men, to teach them how to carry themselves in society," he said. "They can look at me with my rough exterior and see that it's ok for a man to express his feelings, to write about the experiences of others, to involve yourself in the depth of a character."
"It's important to change the path that most of our young men are on," he continued. "In my classes, the young men have come to realize what we call reading and education are not 'sissy' or 'light' or the easy way out, it's a way to express yourself."
Yet a love and appreciation for that craft also begins at a young age - something, which as a teacher, he encourages parents to develop in children the ways his parents did.
"I think it's important for parents to encourage reading. I remember my parents reading to me at a really young age," he said.
"I was rapt and from then on I was obsessed with characters and stories. Everything I could get my hands on, I read. My parents encouraged that, they poured that into me. I think it's important for parents to take note of what they pour into their kids."
Hunt is also grateful to his own mentors - Sis. Annie Thompson, Arlene Nash Ferguson, Fr. Sebastian Campbell and Dr. Ian Strachan, to name a few - who he believes have also helped him get to this milestone as a writer.
Next up, he and Keisha Ellis will attend the Cropper Writer's Workshop in Trinidad, a by-application only prestigious workshop that is held every two years for Caribbean writers. With this new accomplishment under his belt, he is ready more than ever to take Bahamian writing to the world and make a great impression on the globe.
"We're excited to go there and show them what Bahamian literature is all about," he said. "We're going to show that we have powerful stories also, we have tales we can share."
"I think this generation right now, this group of writers moving forward, this movement is going to be something great," he continued. "I think it's going to shock the world. There are more avenues being opened up to us in a globalized world with readerships, so it's going to draw eyes down here to see what we're doing in The Bahamas and that's going to be beneficial for all of us."n
Saturday 14th July 2012 5:00 PM
Bahamas Writers Summer Institute 2012 Sunday, July 8th to Sunday, July 29th, 2012 Entering its fourth year, the summer workshop for writers under the Bahamas Writers Summer Institute (BWSI) is gearing up for its intense three-week focus on writing workshops, seminars, lectures and readings this coming July 2012. Applications are still being accepted. The cost of this 3-week intensive workshop in screenwriting, fiction, memoir, or poetry is $400. Write to us at email@example.com for an application! Bahamas Writers Summer Institute 2012 Schedule: Saturday, July 14th / NAGB / 5-7pm – Writers in Community Series: A screening of Children of God, and conversation with writer and director Kareem Mortimer
Sunday 3rd October 2010 4:00 PM
Inspired by artist and architect Jackson Burnside’s challenge that “writers have to bring people back around the fire to hear stories” and writer Keisha Ellis, the BWSI has designed Writers in the Round, a bringing together of writers and the larger community in a circle around the proverbial fire. Several writers will be sharing words of poetry, prose and something in between seated amongst the audience. A conversation will take place post reading. Free Admission Start Time: October 3rd at 4:00pm End Time: October 3rd at 6:00pm Where: The Hub, Easy Bay St