Jamaica Gleaner / Before announcing the shortlist of entrants for this year’s Lignum Vitae Writing Awards, chair of the Jamaican Writers Society (JAWS), Tanya Batson-Savage, underscored the importance of recognising – and rewarding – excellence in literature.
“Awards are important not only as we celebrate our writers, but provide support to a group of people we often expect to survive on thanks,” Batson-Savage said.
There will be gratitude and more on Friday, November 24, at the National Gallery of Jamaica, when the winners are announced. There are three categories in the Lignum Vitae Writing Awards – the Jean D’Costa Award for Children’s Literature, the Vic Reid Award for Young Adult Literature (target audience 13-18 years old) and the Una Marson Award.
There will not be any suspense in one category, as a high commendation has been already awarded in the Vic Reid Category to Dionne Brown’s collection of stories, Seventeen Lashes . The lack of a list reflects a deficiency in the standard of entries.
“We are about celebrating excellence,” Batson-Savage said, noting that an award will not be handed out simply because there is a category.
Shortlisted for the Jean D’Costa Award are, Marvin Matthews and the Magical Abeng (Nicardo McLean) and Lost in the Cockpit Country (Helen Williams). On the Una Marson Award shortlist are: Land We Love (Garfield Ellis), Loving Jamaica: An Exploration of Place (Diana Macaulay), and The Long Way Back Home (Robert McCarthy).
The Jamaica Copyright Licensing Agency (JAMCOPY) is supporting the Lignum Vitae Writing Awards, and Carol Newman, who heads the agency, explained that the organisation also supports initiatives by the Poet Laureate. Although JAMCOPY puts financial muscle behind the awards, Newman said that there must be someone to drive the process from the administrative side. That is where the partnership with JAWS is reciprocated.
The judges were acknowledged by Maxine McDonnough, Dr Aisha Spencer and Jen Goulbourne having assessed the Jean D’Costa Award entries, Dr Kim Robinson Walcott, Lyn Joseph and Diane Brown perusing the Vic Reid Award entries and Dr Michael Bucknor, Ian Randle and Stephanie Saulter, responsible for judging the Una Marson Award entries.
And Batson-Savage’s greeting at the start of the announcement function could have been extended to those consistently involved in literature in Jamaica.
“We are a small group, but we are an important group, for we are here doing an important thing,” she said.