Lignum Vitae Writing Awards Winners Revealed
The winners of the inaugural Lignum Vitae Writing Awards were revealed at a literati studded awards event on Friday November 6, at the National Gallery of Jamaica. The highly anticipated event was presented by the Jamaican Writers Society (JaWS) in partnership with the Jamaican Copyright and Licensing Agency (JAMCOPY).
The Lignum Vitae Writing Awards whose mandate is to further stimulate and develop Jamaica’s literary landscape through the promotion and celebration of new Jamaican writing seem poised to do just that.
The competition received forty three (43) entries across three categories, from which nine remarkable entries were selected for the finalists, and eventually the three winners.
Janet Morrison’s short story collection, A Different Me: A Better You, took top prize for the Jean D’Costa Award for children’s literature while Diana McCaulay’s, Gone to Drift earned the Vic Reid Award for young adult literature. The Una Marson Award for adult Literature went to Donna Hemans for her novel Tea By The Sea. The winners of the Jean D’Costa and Vic Reid prizes earns J$250,000 while the winner of the Una Marson prize earns J$500,000
Jean D’Costa, the only living literary icon for which the awards are named, delivered the main address. She cited the awards as a delightful motivation for new and established writers to continue to strive for excellence and authenticity in telling their stories.
Mrs. Dianne Daley-McClure, Acting Chairman of JAMCOPY underscored the agency’s commitment to the country’s development and remarked that every shortlisted entrant was indeed already a winner, and praised them for their effort.
During her welcome address, Ms Tanya Batson- Savage, President of the JaWS and Chair of the Lignum Vitae Writing Awards pointed out that the business of writing, though challenging, is essential to developing Jamaica’s cultural and literary capital. Ms Batson-Savage said the awards arose from the serendipitous mutual desire for a significant writing award by JAMCOPY and JaWS. She praised the copyright agency for taking the initiative to establish a cultural fund for the promotion of the industry that helps to sustain it as well as the additional sponsors, the Jamaica Broadcasting Commission, The HEART Trust-Nta, Nucleus Creative, The Tourism Enhancement Fund, Scarlette Beharie, the National Gallery of Jamaica and a Likkle Slice of Heaven. Ms Batson-Savage was also fulsome in her thanks to the judges who invested many hours into the adjudication process and took great pains to present not only the final winners but a very impressive shortlist.
The elegantly designed and crafted Lignum Vitae Writing Awards were presented by Professor Hopeton Dunn, Chairman of the Jamaica Broadcasting Commission, Professor Mervyn Morris, Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Dr Michael Bucknor, Head of the Department of Literatures in English, Ms. Carol Newman, Managing Director, JAMCOPY and Mrs Dianne Browne, Board Member, JaWS.
Ably guided by compere Dahlia Harris, the awards programme was a sleekly crafted literary experience against a backdrop of arresting pieces from the Young Talent exhibition now on at the National Gallery. Topped and tailed by the musical jugglings of DJ Iset Sankofa, while Tribe Sankofa provided stirring readings of excerpts of the winning entries as well as a tribute to Jamaican author Anthony Winkler.
The Lignum Vitae Writing Awards will be presented biennially with the next cycle scheduled for 2017.
Judges Citations of the Winners:
Jean D’Costa Award for Children’s Literature
Adjudication Panel: Mrs. Jean D’Costa – Chair (author and lecturer), Dr. Rebecca Tortello (Author), Ms. Hazel Campbell (Author)
Title: A Different Me: A Better You
This collection of four lively stories offers young readers a completely new experience of childhood and of problem solving. Nothing of the kind truly exists in our available fiction. Given the nature of deafness, blindness, loss of a limb, and neurological disturbance (Down syndrome), each protagonist must make unique decisions in order to deal with life. Moreover, each leading character is defined most of all by his or her unique intellectual, psychological, and creative qualities and not by his or her disability.
Vic Reid Award for Young Adult Literature
Adjudication Panel: Dr. Cherrell Shelley Robinson (author and academic), Ms. Carolyn Allen (academic), and Ms. A-dZiko Simba Gegele (author)
Good young adult literature allows teen readers to overcome battles vicariously, becoming the conquering heroes of these tales. Both of the shortlisted novels achied this, but despite their similarities, the overall winner excelled in the author’s confident writing style which shows a skillful mastery of the language: the creation of an endearing protagonist and the development of a credible, emotionally charged plot htat keeps the reader wanting to find out what happens next.
Una Marson Award for Children’s Literature
Adjudication Panel: Dr. Erna Brodber – Chair (author and academic), Dr. Kezia Page (academic) and Mrs. Winsome Hudson (National Librarian, Jamaica)
Common themes were divided souls, journeys to reclaim lost loves. … Some stories forced a look at our Jamaican selves that made us glance away and silently weep and some even disturbed one judge’s sleep. All the short listed stories were fully engaging, one could lose oneself in these pieces of literary art and we do hope that we will see all these short listed stories published shortly.
Without the obstacles of grammar, spelling, lost characters and incidents, one could lose oneself in these pieces of literary art. … Several manuscripts used as their universe Jamaica and its North American diaspora. Tea by the Sea did this seamlessly. The story was told simply and cogently.