A Fantasy Writer at NGC Bocas Literature Fest

20140514 Lit FestI always thought writing was a solo affair.

Why wouldn’t it be? You don’t need other people around to write. All you need is a pen and paper (or a laptop).

But it’s actually recommended that writers band together to improve their craft.

We need to let other writers read and criticize our work from a writer’s perspective. Are the characters believable? Is the dialogue on point? How’s the story arc? Is this an info dump?

That’s how writers get better.

The best way to do this is with a writing group.

So where can I find a group of writers to hang out with in Trinidad? Well, the NGC Bocas Literature Fest, of course.

It sounded like a good idea in theory, but in practice, not so much.

So What is the NGC Bocas Literature Fest?

It’s an annual conference held in Trinidad and Tobago at Port-of-Spain’s national library that covers as much about books and writing as possible.

There’s reading from various writers of fiction and poems, viewing of films based on literature, and writing workshops.

All, except for the workshops, are free, a word that makes the eyes of us trinis light up like a child unwrapping a large Christmas present.

I figured I’d check it out, meet some like-minded writers, exchange contacts, and maybe even join a group.

But there’s one problem. Trinidad is not known for fantasy. While people here love movies like Lord of the Rings and shows like Game of Thrones, nobody cares to read the stuff, not openly anyway.

Fantasy books don’t line the shelves of bookstores here (except for Harry Potter). I don’t think there is even a fantasy section in our bookstores.

And with great Trinidadian writers like V.S. Naipaul and Derek Walcott, it’s no wonder.

When I tell someone I’m writing a book, they automatically think about Miguel Street or A Brighter Sun or some other type of Trinidad literature.

The bigger shock is when they learn it’s a fantasy. Most times I get the strange silence, or the ever classic “You write your book, brother.”

So, at the readings and workshops, every excerpt and short story was about crime, domestic violence, and sex, kind of like a Tyler Perry movie.

And that’s what our culture loves to read.

At one of the sessions, everyone got excited when they heard a book about a husband’s experience with his outside woman. People shuffled in their seats to get comfortable, and whispered to their peers with a smile.

At the Trinidad Writer’s Union session, the place where I swore I would be welcomed, every member was over sixty and writing stories like Bacchanal on the Beach.

Nothing wrong with that, but hardly the place for a fantasy writer like myself.

I wonder what they would say if I went up and started reading about magic and mystic creatures. I’m guessing they would probably meet my writing with a “You write your fantasy, brother.”

On the Plus Side

I did meet someone at a workshop who expressed interest in writing about other worlds, but he seemed so bombarded with literature that he never wrote anything he was willing to share.

So, for now, this fantasy writer will continue his craft solo. Maybe I should host a Knights Fantasy Fest with readings from George Martin and William King and see if anyone would attend.

What about you? Are you practising a craft that seems so unique that you can’t find another? I’d love to know in the comments.

6 Thoughts on “A Fantasy Writer at NGC Bocas Literature Fest

  1. Take heart, mate! There’re actually very few options where I happen to be living, also, though I daresay it’s for different reasons. I’ve attended a few writing clubs, even fantasy/SciFi/horror ‘fan clubs’, but they were mostly amateurs disinterested in self development or critique.

    I’ve found the best resources online so far, and while I would rather get together in the flesh with a group of like-minded peoplw with similar goals, online writing groups are remarkably easy to use since I spend a lot of time at home by a keyboard anyway.

    I highly recommend Fantasy-themed writing groups on LinkedIn, as well as the NaNoWriMo Facebook group. I post questions, answer other people’s questions, and often get a lot of feedback.

    • Knights on May 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm said:

      I didn’t know LinkedIn had fantasy groups. Thank goodness for the Internet. Great stuff Jesse. I’ll definitely check it out.

  2. J I’ve read your stuff and though you think I’m bias because of the connection. I honestly believe you’ve done some great writing. Maybe you should test the waters and do some reading. You may be pleasantly surprised at the reaction.

  3. Followed you over from Skywriters… Jevon, that’s what the Internet is for. It bridges distances in an instant. At our last skype meeting, we had representatives from the U.S, Wales, New Zealand and Israel. Our Singapore connection backed out last minute because she lost her voice. So keep writing, and don’t give up. I’m sure that even in our little but growing group you’ll find your niche…

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