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Reading with the NGC Bocas Lit Fest – Princes Town

by Barbara Jenkins

Princes Town Library would not have been so hard to find if we had secured directions before leaving town. As it was, the scenic route led us to the back entrance/car park of an RBC where a helpful security guard put us on the right track through the most bustling, lively, densely peopled mini-metropolis at this end of our island. Take a right after the fire station and a left right after, he instructs. Ah ha! There’s the sign – NALIS.

No one in the group lives in Princes Town, though some work here. Among the group are two sisters from Rio Claro who know my former St Joseph’s Convent POS classmate, Sister Annette Chow, one-time ‘parish priest’ of Cumana, Toco and most recently, Rio Claro, and two friends, former journalists, one the author of five (!) published books. Small world indeed.

So, there are questions about the how, when and why of a writer’s life that I try to answer and questions about where do stories come from and how do I decide whose voice to tell it in. Lots of talk about universality of the themes even when time and place are specific to here, T&T, and some talk about life in T&T in the middle of the last century, as embedded in the stories. And what about the man in “The Talisman”? It shows that you can’t judge people by how they look, one reader says. That girl was really lost. And she found peace with him. The older woman, even she found peace. They want to hear “Ghost Story” and I read some of it. There is discussion on community living, sharing. They also want to hear “Gold Bracelets”. That reading prompts talk about female led households, gifts that keep on giving, the prescience of parents. Is this your life? they ask. I say, I started to write in my mid-sixties. There was a lot of life, a lot of living by then. Real life, with its ups and downs, its predictabilities and surprises is the grist of stories.

When someone says to you, I walk about every day and I notice nothing. It’s like if my eyes are closed. But after reading your book, you wouldn’t believe what I notice now. Well, that makes you feel you’ve influenced someone in a way you couldn’t have imagined.

After the last reading, one reader asks whether I have a recording of my voice reading the book. I say I haven’t. She says I should do one so she could then lie in bed and listen to me reading to help her fall asleep at night. I know that the statement can have two opposing interpretations – so dull and boring, you’d fall asleep in self-defence, or so comforting and hypnotic you’d be lulled into dreamland. I look at her. She is smiling. I decide she means the kinder, more flattering one.

All photos by Marielle Forbes.