Bocas Lit Fest

By Shivanee Ramlochan, 2012 Bocas Lit fest blogger


Nicholas Laughlin listens as Sharon Millar reads her story.
It’s difficult not to think of Sharon Millar as her own well-deserved success story. The second of Bocas 2012’s New Talent Showcase writers, Millar read on Friday afternoon to the packed room of the Old Fire Station, a gathering of people who seemed to know her well – the applause, the exclamatory remarks, were seasoned with a certain familiarity that lets you know: this writer has been around, plugging away at her craft. At the beginning of this week, Millar’s short story “Friends” was shortlisted for this year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and it was from “Friends” that she read, holding the audience rapt, mesmerized, by turns horrified and amused.

The story describes an abduction, from the point of view of both the kidnapped, and the one holding the gun. As Millar read, it quickly dawned on me how intensely and vividly detailed her fictive landscape was… a treasury of telling minutiae kept revealing itself, until I was poised on the edge of my seat for the story’s big reveal, its conclusion, which Millar didn’t read, one supposes, to not ruin the surprise of discovering it oneself. I will have to avail myself of the story soon. I know I’m going to be preoccupied with it until I’ve read it in full, and I’m certain I’ll be preoccupied with it all the same once I’ve enjoyed it all the way through.

Moderating the discussion session that followed the reading, Nicholas Laughlin asked Millar about the genesis of her impulse to write fiction, to write at all. She responded by saying that the Caribbean itself, in its very chaotic, distressing, extraordinary, wonderful existence, prompts these prose investigations – that to live here is to be guided by powerful fiction. She stressed her personal need to write “in the now”, to avoid the ever-tempting siren’s call of nostalgia, of writing about a sepia-tinted, vintage postcard sort of Trinidad and Tobago. Now, at 46, Millar attests, she feels more fully prepared to commit to the demands that such a writing life makes, to seek out that precarious balance between necessary solitude and necessary community. She credited writer and literary mentor to many, Wayne Brown, for his firm suggestion that she pursue her MFA, which she received from Lesley University in Boston.

Inspiration and impetus for producing new work is never too far away, Millar muses. As she rightly observes,

“People will tell you the most hair-raising things.”

If, therefore, you’re reading one of Sharon Millar’s stories in the future, and you’re struck with the similarity of how much it echoes and perhaps mimics your own life, be not afraid. It is absolutely true that you’re in the hands of a future literary star, and a current talent worth reading again and again.

Photo by Shivanee Ramlochan.
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