Sunday, September 18, 2011

On Winning a Commonwealth Short Story Competition

Special Award for a Children’s Story: The Happiness Dress
How does it feel? It feels pretty good actually! I also am very pleased to see that Barbara Jenkins from Trinidad, with whom I have run workshops, has also won an award. Congratulations to Barbara and all the others who won awards! Two of the winners are from the Caribbean! That’s noteworthy!

My reaction has caught me unawares. I admit that I am delighted and overwhelmed at getting this award, and overwhelmed at the number of persons who have congratulated me and their congratulations have been truly sincere and lovely. I’m pleased that people are happy for me. And I am giving thanks.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because as writers, we seek to understand feelings, and also, I always want to know specifically about other writers’ feelings. Perhaps you do too. I am like a traveler on a long, dusty road recognizing a fellow traveler. ‘What was it like where you were? Is there any water up ahead?’ sort of thing. And I remember thinking on Thursday, ‘This is how it feels to get something this outstanding; these are the emotions’. And then… ‘Now I can with greater authenticity give these emotions to a character in a story’.

What does the award mean to me? Essentially, it is a great honour; it is recognition for children’s writing in Jamaica and the Caribbean. Some people have suggested that my story would make a wonderful picture book; that would be lovely, wouldn’t it? However, what I hope is that this will make us more aware of Jamaican children’s literature, that we may understand that our stories are as good as ‘foreign’ stories, that it is of signal importance to support local children’s literature. I hope that it will inspire us in the Caribbean to seek out books from one another. We need to procure local/regional books for all our children. Even as I write this I recognize that I’ve said this before, and often, resulting only in sporadic bursts of interest and support. So what could be different now?

This is what I ask myself. How can I use this award, without appearing to be boasting, (because if is one thing we don’t like is our people appearing to be ‘boasty'. No sir. Is who they think they are?) to promote local children’s books? So I ask you, my readers, what would you suggest? How can this award be used to meaningfully advance the case of Jamaican/Caribbean children’s books?

For further information on winners and their stories visit the Commonwealth Foundation Website.


  1. Congratulations! I'm sure the competition was stiff. I shall visit the website and I look forward to reading the winning entries.

    It is true that we, Caribbean people, don't like to appear boasty. I was an exchange student to the USA back in 1966 and one of the things I learnt from that experience was that to get ahead you've got to blow your own trumpet - everyone is promoting their own.

  2. Thanks, June. Yes, I recognise that about America, and of course, the younger generation of writers knows how to do this well, no doubt aided by the concept of 'letting everybody know everything' of the social network. I also think that when dealing with 'gatekeepers' from our generation one has to be careful. They do think in the old time way, and possibly can be vexed with both the book and the author for 'pushing up herself'. I guess, as in all things, one must know the target audience and the values of the gatekeeper. However your comment is very much appreciated and will support me when I am 'promoting'.

  3. Diane! Congratulations! I didn't know you won this award! I am so pleased for you... and the well-deserved recognition it brings you!

    Where can I read the story?

  4. Thanks Nancy. You can read it on the Commonwealth Foundation website page at the post about the awards. There have been new posts since then so you may have to look for it. If it is no longer there I can send you a copy.

  5. We are all very proud of you, Diane - my former Heinemann colleague! Hooray!