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Debut Novelist Imam Baksh Earns First Prize in the 2015 Burt Award for Caribbean Lit

Imam Baksh winner of first prize in the 2015 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

Guyanese writer Imam Baksh has taken home the first prize for the 2015 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature with his debut novel Children of the Spider. The three winners were announced in April and their ranking unveiled on May 1, 2015 at the Old Fire Station during this year’s Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain.

Baksh has earned the $10,000 CAD prize along with the opportunity for publication of the manuscript as he will be linked with regional publishers. Indeed, this year, all three winners are at the manuscript stage.

Diana McCaulay earned the second prize ($7,000 CAD) for her novel The Dolphin Catchers. While The Dolphin Catchers is her first piece of YA fiction, McCaulay is already an award-winning Jamaican writer with two published novels Huracan and Dog Heart. The manuscript comes from her Commonwealth Writers winning short story by the same name.  McCaulay is also winner of the 2014 Hollick Arvon Prize for Loving Jamaica: a memoir of place and (not) belonging.

Trinidadian writer Lynn Joseph copped third place ($5,000 CAD) with Dancing in the Rain. Lynn is an experienced writer with numerous books for children already safely tucked under her belt. Her YA novel Flowers in the Sky was published by Harper Collins in 2013 and she is the editor of the Bermudan anthology I Wish I Could Tell You

The Burt Award is unique prize aimed at not only supporting writing but also ensuring that books get into the hands of young people in the region is now in its sophomore year. As such, the prize also carries a garaunteed purchase of 2,500 copies of each title which are distributed regionally.

In a release put forward by the organizers, Scott Walter, Executive Director of CODE expressed excitement at the opportunity to be introducing three new titles through this year’s award.

“We’re very excited that all three winning works this year are manuscripts, as it means the Awards are succeeding in helping generate new writing. A key objective is to encourage authors to write for young people, regardless of whether or not they already have a publishing deal,” Walter said.

He went on to highlight that access to great books is one of the hurdles that must be crossed to ensure that Caribbean youth are reading more.

“We know we can turn more youth on to reading if they have access to amazing books that truly speak to them, and our Award, combined with a guaranteed purchase, allows this to happen. Its win-win-win, as the market for Caribbean publishers is strengthened, Caribbean authors are rewarded for their craft and many thousands of entertaining, engaging books get into the hands of Caribbean youth,” Walter continued. 

The inaugural prize was won by A-dZiko Simba Gegele whose debut novel All Over Again (Blouse and Skirt Books) claimed first prize. Joanne Hillhouse earned the second prize with manuscript Musical Youth, which was subsequently published by Caribbean Reads. Colleen Smith-Dennis earned third place with Inner City Girl (LMH Publishing).

The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is organized by CODE a Canadian charitable organization in collaboration with the Bocas Lit Fest. The Burt Awards are also established in Canada, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.