Caribbean Writers Meet The NaNoWriMo Challenge

Caribbean Writers Meet The NaNoWriMo Challenge

Close to two thousand Caribbean writers have registered for the upcoming National Novel Writing Month 2016 (NaNoWriMo). Beginning November 1st, seasoned and green authors alike will dare to write 50,000 words in one short month. (That’s 1666 words per day.) Started in 1999, this personal challenge has grown from a handful of writers (21 the first year) to nearly 400,000 participants this year.

Bocas Prize CoversBest-selling author Joseph Epstein famously wrote in the New York Times that, “81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them — and that they should write it.” From what I can tell, Epstein pulled the statistic out of thin air. However, that doesn’t change its inherent trueness – most of us have a story and want to share it!

Regardless of your nationality, if you’re brave enough, writing a book during the National Novel Writing Month will be one of the most rewarding things you have done. It’s free to register and participate. Go to the nanowrimo.org website, create a personal profile and a working title for your book, select your region so you can meet like-minded writers in your area, and start writing on November 1st.

Writing in the Caribbean

Outsiders associate Caribbean writing with tongue-in-cheek, slapstick beach fodder – think the Jimmy Buffett and Carl Hiaasen variety. These reads are fun and popular but not representative of real life in the islands.

Caribbean writers have another face – a strong, unyielding face willing to examine hard issues like race and segregation. Caribbean works of literary fiction and magical realism echo with cultural voices both distinctive and elusive. It is a blessing that more and more writers (who are citizens of the Caribbean and were born here), are picking up the gauntlet and are recording a history that has remained oral for generations.

Organizations like CaribLit, The Bocas Prize, and NaNoWriMo encourage writers in several ways – by creating communities of writers in the Caribbean; by offering encouragement and awards to writers; and by providing motivation, accountability, and the tools of the trade.

Next Steps for Caribbean Writers

The Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, established in 2011, is a competition open to writers of Caribbean birth or citizenship. First prize is $10,000. Runners up are awarded $3,000 each. Books may be entered in three categories: poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction. The winners are announced at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain, Trinidad. There are two deadlines for 2017 entries – November and January.

Next time you are looking for something to read, try these books:

Bocas Caribbean Literature Winners
2016 – The Pain Tree, by Olive Senior
2015 – Sounding Ground, by Vladimir Lucien
2014 – As Flies to Whatless Boys, by Robert Antoni
2013 – Archipelago, by Monique Roffey
2012 – Is Just a Movie, by Earl Lovelace
2011 – White Egrets, by Derek Walcott

New Caribbean literary festivals have also exploded in the last few years including the Virgin Islands Literary Festival and Book Fair (in its second year), the Jamaican Calabash International Literary Festival, St. Martin Book Fair, Barbados Bim Literary Festival, Nature Island Literary Festival and Book Fair in Dominica, Alliouagana Festival of the Word in Montserrat, and the Antigua and Barbuda Literary Festival.

Get Ready to Write

Caribbean WritersThe National Novel Writing Month’s success is fueled by a simple human need – creativity. The full-time staff at the non-profit raised over 1.5 million dollars in contributions last year. Most participants donate by the end of the month out of gratitude. Proceeds go to worldwide creative writing programs for school aged kids.

Challenge yourself, add your fingers to the millions poised over keyboards in anticipation, and get ready to write your novel!


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About the Author

Catherine Turner spends her time sailing in the Caribbean, blogging from her MacBook Pro on the beach, and sipping coconut water from the nuts that plop into the sand next to her. Before tuning in and dropping out Catherine was a nightclub owner and a resort showgirl. A lifetime ago, she spent a decade chained to a desk as a computer programmer/data analyst. She loves to write, paint, snuggle, and to practice yoga. If she doesn’t answer her phone, she is probably in the middle of the ocean somewhere. Leave a message.

More About National Novel Writing Month

Mission Statement

National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

Youth Programs

The Young Writers Program
The Young Writers Program promotes writing fluency, creative education, and the sheer joy of novel-writing in K-12 classrooms. We provide free classroom kits, writing workbooks, Common Core-aligned curricula, and virtual class management tools to more than 2,000 educators from Dubai to Boston.

Camp NaNoWriMo
Camp NaNoWriMo is a virtual writing retreat, designed to provide the community, resources and tools needed to complete any writing project, novel or not.

Come Write In
The Come Write In program provides free resources to libraries, community centers, and local bookstores to build writing havens in your neighborhood.

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