From golden pen
Robert Sandiford – teacher, editor, writer, publisher – was recently recognized for his 5 000-word Massiah in the NIFCA Literary Arts, which also earned him the Governor General’s Award for the third time.
He had previously won it for the short story Reckoning in 2003 and for the collection The Tree Of Youth And Other Stories in 2006.
This accolade is not lightly dispensed because there are strict qualifications: “The Governor General’s Award Of Excellence will be on offer for the most outstanding gold-awarded entry in each discipline.
“This . . . will only be awarded should the judges determine that the entry merits the award.”
In the professional category, gold must score between 96 and 100. By comparison, in the non-professional category, gold must score between 91 and 100.
Sandiford said he believed that his way of looking at contemporary Barbadian society in an offbeat manner helped him get the judges’ attention each time.
Reckoning (2003) is set in Bridgetown, where the protagonist is on his way home and witnesses a crime unfolding; while The Tree Of Youth, the collection of stories (2006), handled the nature of relationships in Barbados. This year’s entry Massiah was set in current Barbados but moves forward to the end of the 21st century.
There was a huge buzz over the story once Sandiford delivered it at the Frank Collymore Hall at NIFCA’s Literary Arts Gala, since many felt it had an altered view of certain aspects of the discord within the Barbados Labour Party.
The difference was how the other character Maguffie seemed rather dictatorial in eliminating dissent by removing the journalists.
Sandiford admitted that he alluded to certain countries and how they repressed the media. One of his favourite quotes, he said, was from Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate any moment to prefer the latter.”
The award-winning Bajan believed that Barbadians took for granted the rights of a truly free Press and he hoped Massiah – once printed – would make them really stop and think about their rights and privileges.
The family reference in the story in no way considered Mia Mottley; it examined the possibility of ‘what if either Tom Adams’ or David Thompson’s children kept up the tradition’.
The tale is one of a series of entries for a proposed book that looks at the transition of life or the change of ideas or how things and concepts can decay or lose their initial drive.
However, while the author acknowledged that the title character is from a political family, that is the only similarity to Mottley since he wrote the original story two years ago.
He said nuances might have slipped in while retelling it from the first 250-word draft he did as a challenge from the students of his writing class at Barbados Community College.
Once prodded, he revealed his earliest memories of crafting words outside school in Montreal, Canada.
“I was about eight or nine in Grade 6, doing comic book-like stories in a Hilroy exercise book. I had no idea for scripting, I?just drew pictures and told the stories with it.”
What is his next move? Apart from trying out in the Commonwealth short story contest, he’d eventually like to try for Canada’s Booker Award.
Sandiford added that provided his schedule allowed for it, he’d like to assist the National Cultural Foundation in finding the next generation of Barbadian writers and helping them hone their skills.