‘Work in Progress’ – this is the sign I need to post on the back of a t-shirt and as a screen saver as this will stop people asking about when will your book be published. The word ‘writer’ gets banded about, anyone who puts lines on a page/blogs/journals is a ‘writer’, the snob in me recoils.
My younger self believed that writers lived in cold, dark rooms, tortured souls with an encyclopedic knowledge of words and events. This image changed to glossy, white women who wrote about sex, fast living and women in charge. By the time I hit my early 20’s I discovered the intense writing of African-American female writers and I felt that I could not craft words like them. I dabbled with writing – novels started and abandoned just as quickly, followed by short, quirky pieces and more reading. Moving to Antigua opened up my writing self – poems and more short pieces, a chance meeting led to an introduction. Nothing moved beyond the occasional publication in local magazines and newspaper. Finally, after listening to the work of others, I decided to leave and study writing. Oh yes, I got the MA with a cliched driven piece of writing that had nuggets of gems. An extract appeared in two anthologies, one in the UK and one in the USA. I even won a writing prize and the novel, it received a truckload of rejections. Two writers’ weeks in the USA where I met fierce, funny, generous writers made me put down my pen, again. Life intervened, single mother, working, looking for love without my son having ‘uncles’ or a ‘new father’ – nope, our boundary began at our front door.
Returning to Antigua, older, and a little more aware of my desire to do more than write, i wanted to encourage young writers and took part in a theatre workshop, three hours on a Saturday morning – I found passionate and uber intelligent youngsters and I loved them – still do. Workshops and work in fits and starts. Connected with other writers, went to Jamaica, worked with persons incarcerated in our prison and their work made my chest puff out like a proud mother hen, cause they trusted me and I trusted their work.
Finally, my work was mined from the stories of my father’s youth, on being in Antigua and listening to conversations and seeing documents/pictures in our museum. Truth turned to lies, muse turned master and I have now written three novels – all bits of my search for what was lost in the crossing between Antigua and the motherland. Not accepted here and always explaining myself there.
I am also aware that I am amongst a dying breed of ‘hybrids’ – children of the first generation who moved en mass to the UK and lived as ‘West Indians’ in our homes and ‘Black British Youths’ on the streets and in school. House parties, weekend gatherings, domino games on Good Friday, liquor and music – gram and records – maxi dresses and tight curls. We are also the generation often told the stories that many chose to forget. Perhaps, it is my age, this middle passage that is making it urgent for me untangle the stories and leave behind a document of our stories cause we matter too.