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BWSI sails into third year with George Lamming as Guest Writer

From hosting renowned Caribbean authors to producing published writers, the Bahamas Writers Summer Institute has managed to accomplish a great deal in just over two years. And as the organization approaches its third year, standards and hopes remain high.

The 2011 BWSI workshop will be held from July 4 28 at the College of the Bahamas from Tuesdays Thursdays. Courses are offered in poetry, fiction, memoir, screenwriting and playwriting.

Critically acclaimed Caribbean writer George Lamming will be the Guest Writer. The Barbadian-born author of such noted works as”In the Castle of My Skin”,”The Emigrants”and”Pleasures of My Exile”is currently a writer-in-residence and visiting Professor of Africana Studies and Creative Writing at Brown University in Rhode Island.

Lamming has also been a visiting professor at the University of Texas, Austin; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Miami’s Institute for Caribbean Creative Writing, and has lectured in Denmark, Tanzania and Australia. He published his first novel,”In the Castle of My Skin”in 1953 and entered academia in 1967 as a writer-in-residence and lecturer at the University of the West Indies.

Lamming’s pending visit follows that of internationally renowned Caribbean writer, Olive Senior. Senior gave a reading, public lecture and held Master classes in fiction and poetry as part of the workshop in 2010. The events were all well-received.

“It was a really good event for writers to meet some of our senior writers in the region and to hear them speak and give them feedback on their own work,”said Marion Bethel, co-founder of BWSI. Bethel and Helen Klonaris founded the summer institute in 2009.

“We’re going to continue to feature major Caribbean writers and have them come and interact with our own writers,”she said.

Like Senior, Lamming will hold a public lecture and Master classes in poetry and fiction. The workshop’s instructors include celebrated Bahamian writers and College of The Bahamas lecturers. The instructors are Lelawattee Asha Rahming(Fiction), Helen Klonaris(Memoir); Maria Govan(Screenwriting); Ian Strachan(Playwriting)and Marion Bethel(Poetry). COB School of English Studies lecturers Toni Francis and Krista Walkes will teach Caribbean Literary Imagination and Critical Theory, respectively.

The program is open to all at a cost of$400. High school seniors and COB students are encouraged to apply; limited scholarships and grants are available. May 31 is the deadline for applications.

Last year BWSI received funding from both the Inter-American Development Bank and the Endowment for the Arts. Grateful for the grants from both entities and others, Bethel emphasized the need for financial assistance to execute this year’s goals as well.

“We’re really needing money to help underwrite the costs of the program bringing the guest writer and paying him an honorarium…and paying all of our lecturers and compiling the books and promotional materials,”she said.

The success of BWSI’s first two workshops suggest that earlier donations could be considered money well spent. Sonia Farmer, a writer who enrolled in the inaugural workshop, highlighted the opportunities afforded her through the event.

“Helen Klonaris, Obediah Michael Smith, Angelique Nixon, among others, all presented us with relevant Caribbean work to read and critically discuss through our own particular lens of Bahamian-ness, or Caribbean-ness, and that was something I was missing in my studies abroad,”she wrote in an email.

Farmer, who also publishes handmade books through her company, Poinciana Paper Press, formed new associations with writers she met at the workshop.

“I was so excited to publish some of their first books-books like”The Little Death”by Keisha Lynne Ellis and”Surfer’s Choice”by Christi Cartwright. I help edit different publications, and I co-curated an art show a year ago, and I share these opportunities with them, and they in turn tell me about publishing opportunities they have come upon, and we all get our work out into society in this way.

“We all network and meet other artists, we all make new work with them-it just keeps going. I know I’ll be connected with these people forever. And it all started that summer at BWSI,”said Farmer.

Christi Cartwright, the BWSI program coordinator, has seen the workshop grow since its inception. Cartwright also participated in the first workshop held in 2009.

“The Age range in BWSI’s second year had a wider spread than it did in its first, which was a success, because a big part of BWSI’s mission is to the reach young writers and put them together in a space with older writers so that these two can learn from one another,”she said.

“Also, the public talks were more patronized, so it seems like public interest in BWSI has grown. And in its second year BWSI hosted a Master writer, which is something that we did not have in the first year.”

Bethel counted the fostering of community among writers, and the publication of the work of former participants in regional literary journals, as a sign of BWSI’s success and relevance.

“You find writers building community, getting to know each other as writers, and then after that continuing a writers’support in terms of critiquing and helping each other with their craft,”she said.

“I think building community is a really important part, one of the b-products of[BWSI].”

For more information about BWSI email bahawsi@yahoo.com or cal 325 0341.

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