More support needed for new writers to hone skills – Judges of Guyana Prize


It was a night filled with Guyanese pride as the awards for the Guyana Prize for Literature were handed over to recipients but jurors who selected the winners say more support for new writers is needed.

Literary enthusiasts gathered at the National Cultural Centre on Friday evening for the event. During the ceremony, Minister of Culture Youth and Sports Charles Ramson Jr. said the new youth category, added last year, is to give new writers a platform to share the stage with distinguished ones. He also said the return of the competition is important.

“…in the absence of the Guyana Prize, there was no vehicle that existed for that investment and for that environment to grow and prosper in an organic way that can create more than enough talent,” the minister said.

The Prize returned last year after the former APNU+AFC government stopped it when they got into office in 2015 and that continued through their five years in office.

Last year, the Ministry funded three plays written by Guyanese writers who participated in the Literary Festival and this year another three or four will be funded. The minister said the intent is to foster opportunities for new writers.

Minister of Culture Youth and Sports, Charles Ramson Jr presenting the award to Samir Mohammed, winner in the Youth Category.  (Photo: DPI/ March 1, 2024)

This is an area where the judges report highlighted a great need for more reading and guidance. Though several emotional and dramatic readings of excerpts from renowned writers were shared on stage, Professor Evelyn O’Callaghan pointed out that several pieces submitted proved that new writers for the poetry category are not exploring enough published work.

“Several writers showed talent but their work would really have benefitted from some robust editing; too many tend to submit manuscripts and even published collections that needed cutting and more rigorous selection process,” O’Callaghan said.

She also pointed out that there needs to be access to proper editing for these writers. Her advice? Read more to understand different writing styles and move away from traditional techniques.

Vanda Radzik shared similar sentiments. She said writers seemingly tried to force rhymes and had limited knowledge of the literary form chosen.

“It seemed evident to jurors that there was limited knowledge or acquaintance with reading a range of good poetry to serve as examples as inspiration and skill building,” Radzik said.


Attendees at the event.

The winners for the night were: Michael Jordan, for the fiction category with his book “The Girl in the Pink Pleated Skirt”; Etherine G H Adams with her entry “The Few Among the Many: Women’s Labour in British Guiana’s Jails” for Non-fiction; Harold Bascom with “Unfounded” in the Drama category; Ruth Osman with her entry “All Made of Longing” in First Book of Poetry; Ian McDonald won the Best Overall Book of Poetry category for “Not Quite Without a Moon”; and first prize for Youths Poetry went to Reneka Anand who won with “Lotus Flower Story: The Woman”; Samir Mohammed walked away with the First Prize for Short Stories with his entry “The Lighthouse at the Bottom of The Sea” and third place in the Boy’s Poetry Category with his poem “Shadows in the Sand”.

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