More Than A Literary Festival

The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) has received a donation of chapbooks co-written by 14 students who participated in Bocas Lit Fest’s We Lit programme, funded by the JB Fernandes Memorial Trust. The presentation was made to the Manager of Corporate Communications at NALIS, Debbie Goodman, at a chapbook launch ceremony on 14 January hosted by the Bocas Lit Fest at The Writers Centre.

On the Day I Was Born, a limited edition chapbook, is a collection of student stories emerging from online masterclasses hosted by spoken word poet Derron Sandy. The chapbook, in which most of the young authors have been published for the first time, will also be donated to school libraries. 

Sandy explained that most of the stories were true, and the writers’ creative diligence is expressed in their innovative use of extended metaphors. Ranging in age from 14 to 18, the students were asked to investigate significant events that happened on the day they were born. Sandy said that the exercise was “an impetus to negotiate situations the youths would have encountered in life.” 

Representing the cohort of teenage authors, Kyriah Martinez spoke fondly of the experience, which has inspired her to move beyond her comfort zone into communities with more experienced writers. She urged her peers to “set a place for yourself at the table,” and encouraged them to seek out new opportunities, reach for new heights and welcome themselves into spaces they enter.

Bocas Lit Fest CEO Jean-Claude Cournand congratulated the students on being first-time published authors, and thanked them for committing to the process. “When you engage with literature, you begin the process of understanding yourself… [Bocas Lit Fest] wants to unlock the idea that literature … is just as much a performance tool as it is a self-development tool for young people.”

Debbie Goodman praised the young writers for choosing to be involved in the programme, which was designed to improve academic performance. “I encourage you to use every opportunity to power up your thoughts and imagination, take on wings, and fix your gaze on the stars, as it’s the first step to soaring and to realising that the sky’s the limit,” Goodman said.

We Lit is a comprehensive programme that introduces students to books relevant to their lives, to help them write about their personal experiences and provide access to quality tuition designed to improve their academic performance in English Language and Literature. For more information about the project, visit 

The JB Fernandes Memorial Trust provides funding for initiatives that promote health, education, and poverty reduction in Portugal, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.

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