Roland's story goes globalThursday, May 13, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
FOR the second-consecutive year, a Jamaican writer is the Caribbean regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
This year, the prize goes to author Roland Watson-Grant for his work The Disappearance of Mumma Del, and he follows in the footsteps of retired university lecturer and dramaturge Dr Brian Heap who won last year for his piece Mafootoo. This is, however, Watson-Grant's second time being shortlisted for the coveted prize, having been in this position in 2017 for his work Sketcher/Skid.
“It is clear that the Jamaica is a factory… a literary and artistic factory,” Watson-Grant remarked when asked to comment on the back-to-back wins for Jamaica.
“We need to create and inspire training for our creatives here in Jamaica so they can go on to inspire the world. When you think of Chimamanda [Ngozi Adichie] she has gone on to inspire Nigeria to be a powerhouse in the arts and literature. The same can be said of [Earl] Lovelace and how his inspired Trinidadian writers. Jamaica has a slew of writers and one hopes that his will inspire our writers.”
Last year's winner, Heap, was quick to offer his own message of congratulations to Watson-Grant.
“I sent him a message this morning on social media. It is so nice to see Jamaica holding its corner once again,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
For Heap, this is indicative of the level of talent which exists but needs to be unearthed. From his prize money last year, Heap organised a writing competition. The winning entries have been used as content for a podcast, with one of the scripts optioned for a film screenplay.
“We need to create strategies to open up the talent pool. For me it is all about the ideas. These young people are writing truly great work that needs to be showcased. We have to think outside the box,” said Heap.
A Musgrave Bronze Medal recipient for his contribution to literature Watson-Grant described his latest work as “the most disciplined story he has ever written”. Citing his commitment to create a strong, character-driven story, he noted that he received good energy about the story from his personal circle of Beta readers drawn from the artistic community.
“I took their advice once they read the work and tightened the story where suggested. So I had a good feeling from the onset when I sent it to the Commonwealth committee. I also took this best masterclass advice: Don't let your character be a punching bag for the story. Make sure everything revolves around that character,” he shared.
“So, right now, I am very heartened by the support I've received. I have a lot of faith that I have improved and I would be really pleased if I should take the main prize… so we'll just have to wait and see.”
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