Commonwealth Writers ran a writers’ workshop at Moray House in Georgetown, Guyana, in May 2019. Twenty-two writers came together for sessions on performance poetry led by Mr Gee, nonfiction led by Anita Sethi and short fiction led by the Commonwealth Writers team, culminating in a public reading in the evening.
Nikita Blair, one of the nonfiction participants, shares her view of the workshop in the blog below.
From mid-December 2018 to now, I have been attending every literary event Moray House has hosted. I learned about Edgar Mittelholzer, A.J. Seymour, Egbert Martin and Ian McDonald. I learned about the contexts in which they wrote, about how they worked to promote our literary tradition here in Guyana. I even had the honour of reading one of Dr McDonald’s poems at his latest book launch a few weeks ago.
I loved these sessions because they exposed me to local literature to which I – unlike many in the generations before me – was never actively exposed. This bothered me, or rather angered me, often. Through this rage, I learned. Through my learnings, I read. And through my readings, I began to understand that the burning in my belly and the worrisome blankness at the back of my mind whenever I thought of the words “Guyanese” and “writer” were two symptoms of the same ailment that had been plaguing me since the first literary event.
I wanted to hear more from our writers, especially our contemporary ones. I wanted to listen to stories which I was more familiar with as a Guyanese woman raised in the late 20th and early 21st century. I wanted to interact with people like ME who are writing NOW. I wanted to meet more people who understood my context, even as they explore topics from today, yesterday or happenings from Noah’s infamous boy scout days.
So when my lecturer posted the application information for the Commonwealth Writers Workshop, I eagerly applied. Moray House again acted as a central node, a Mecca upon which we writers could converge as a part of the pilgrimages taking us through our literary lives. It was a place to connect to esteemed members of our diaspora like Mr Gee and Ms Sethi, as well as Commonwealth Writers, who are just as concerned about allowing us Guyanese to tell our stories. The workshop was an opportunity for us to learn but also a chance to share our stories, explore our unique voices, get feedback from persons already established in their chosen media. For me – and for everyone else, I’m sure – it was also a chance to meet the writers I had been so desperate to find.
I saw the future today. I felt it flowing as waves of goosebumps up and down my arms as I listened to my colleagues’ readings and conversed with new literary acquaintances as we explored our elements through activities, exercises and discussions. I breathed them in, learned their faces and names, took contact details and notes, shared laughs and stories and – oh, there were so many stories.
How do you know that you hunger if you have never eaten food?
I was hungry when I went to Moray House today, and I left there full and happy, but ravenous for more because, at last, I have gotten what I wanted so badly: connections, validations and most importantly, hope.
My greatest fear is that when the lights of Moray House turn off and its doors close, we will leave this common space we created today and never touch it again until some other facilitator comes along. I fear that we will remain scattered, only coming together on these rare occasions to dazzle ourselves with our brilliance, but then remain disconnected like the furthest flung stars.
I want more of this. I am hungry for our stories. I crave our voices because it is completely and utterly clear to me that our stories are important. Our stories are necessary. Our stories are needed. Our stories are great.
I am thankful for what we have created today, but I’m greedy for more.
Nikita Blair is a 24-year-old Communications Studies student who is about to begin her 4th year of study at the University of Guyana. She started her blog, BlairViews, in 2016 as a way to document and share her opinions about the books she reads throughout her yearly Goodreads Reading Challenges. She soon began to deviate from this format, writing about the things that bothered or pleased her in her social and online life, and creating a portfolio of assignments from her courses at UG. She participated in the Commonwealth Writers Workshop in May 2019 as a compliment to her courses, finding new inspiration amid a community of other Guyanese writers and international professionals.