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EASY MAGAZINE: New book write on time


SDB MEDIA

EASY MAGAZINE: New book write on time

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CULTURAL LUMINARY Dr Cynthia Wilson has dedicated most of her life to the arts.

She had authored several publications, received numerous awards and about six years ago retired her pen after deciding her writing days were through.

“I really had not intended to write a book,” she insisted during a lengthy interview with EASY magazine at her St Michael home.

Be that as it may, a higher power was seemingly not in agreement with her decision and her resolution was cast aside at the beginning of this year. It all stemmed from a conversation with close friend Cicely Spencer-Cross. The Christmas holiday had concluded and the two were reminiscing about their past Christmases.

Apparently, Wilson’s story left Spencer-Cross so impressed that she suggested it be written for publication. But Wilson was wholeheartedly against this because she believed she was suffering from a case of writer’s block, hence “I think my writing days are over”, she told Spencer-Cross.

But fate wasn’t having it. There will be a publication number three. The octogenarian got engaged in a similar conversation with another dear friend, Merle Niles, who also tried to persuade her. But because she hadn’t written for a while, Wilson still believed it wasn’t possible. Recounting the conversation with Niles, she clearly remembered her words.

“I am sure sitting down there in that room in your head there are lots of stories waiting to rush out if you open the door. So you should just open the door,” Niles advised.

 “The way I write is very peculiar. People sit down and think about what they will write about . . . .Well I write longhand because I never learnt to type so I have my hardback exercise book and my pen. There is some entity in my head that corresponds with my pen that just uses me as a channel. Between the two of them, they just write what they write. Sometimes they write a whole page and I would look at it and think, ‘did I write that?’ So I said, “You know what? If these stories are in my head just let them come out. I wrote the first story that Cicely had told me about, then other things started to come to me and I was just writing down – that’s how it happened,” she laughed.

cynthia-wilson

Subsequently Stories For The Young And Young At Heart was birthed. Edited by Linda Deane and illustrated by Shakeel Clarke, the collection of original tales from Barbados follows an adventurous green monkey, a globetrotting bear and cow, three resourceful rats and a hen.

Wilson was born on June 16, 1934, in Lucas Street [then known as Street Road] in St Philip and she wrote her first poem for her beautiful baby sister when she was just eight years old.

The second of seven children, Wilson credited her parents, father a teacher, mother an omnivorous reader, for her love for reading and writing. Upon her transition to Queen’s College, the love for writing was honed under a fabulous English teacher named Ruth Bynoe

“Every week she would have us write a composition. The first composition I wrote, she said she did not give A+ but she gave me it. This was on music, and it was printed in the Queen’s College magazine,

“I was in fourth form and most things in the magazine were from girls in fifth and sixth forms so I felt so pleased that little me was in the magazine with these big girls,” she recalled, still beaming with pride.

Funny thing about that composition was that Wilson knew nothing about music apart from liking it. So to obtain that A+ she had to write it in such a way that anyone who read it might believe she was an expert in the field. And indeed they did.

In 1953 at age 19, then in lower sixth, Wilson won a Barbados Exhibition. This led her to the University of the West Indies, Mona campus in Jamaica where she joined a club called the Scribbler’s Group with the likes of Nobel Peace Prize laureate to-be Derek Walcott and acclaimed writer the late Slade Hopkinson.

A few weeks after Wilson arrived in Jamaica, her father died. This was so taxing on her that she repeated her first year. In the following four years, she earned a general degree in English, Latin and history.

Writing was now put on the back-burner as Wilson began a career as a teacher. However, this was short-lived, and after one year she left for Paris to meet the man who would become husband, Ronald. The two had met earlier in Barbados when she 15 years old and he was a pupil at Harrison College.

“He was studying medicine in Paris. I arrived on July 14 [1959] and we left in September and went to Morocco and that is where my daughter Anne-Marie Saâdia was born in April 1960.”

A few years later in 1963, the couple welcomed their second child, son Mark. By this time they had transplanted to London.

In 1969 they returned to Barbados.

Although she was not very active in the arts at this point, she still longed to be a part of it. Upon her return to the island, in her opinion, there was a dearth of vitality in that area. That was when she came up with the idea for a national festival to celebrate artistic expressions.

Several years later, in 1973, Wilson’s desire came to fruition when she and a number of other cultural practitioners worked tirelessly to create the National Independence Festival Of Creative Arts (NIFCA).

The dawn of NIFCA was not only a turning point for the island but also for this multi-linguist as it became a catalyst for her to again pick up her pen.

She entered NIFCA and submitted some poetry and either fortunately or unfortunately it wasn’t deserving of an award.

“My poetry didn’t deserve it and I didn’t feel any way about that,” she quipped.

“I found I began writing stories in my little hardback book and putting them under the bed because they wouldn’t see the light of day. I would only read them to close family and children,” she said.

In 1995, Wilson suffered a stroke.

“My daughter said to me, ‘Mummy, you have all those stories under the bed. Let me tell you something: I am not going to publish them posthumously . . . .If you want them published, try and do it now’.”

A few years earlier she had met a young publisher who had approached her about publishing some of her work.

“By this time he had published work for George Lamming and Kamau Brathwaite and I sent him the stories and he [published them]. That was my first book Same Sea. . . Another Wave: A Collection Of Short Stories in 1996. He said, “Lady Wilson, the publishing bug has bitten you and this will not be your last,” Wilson recalled.

Indeed it wasn’t. Soon thereafter she was again ready and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

“I had been writing poetry every now and again. I had a number of poems and I put them together and I asked a lady friend of mine, Naila Folami Imoja – she had a printer called Home Grown Press. I published it under the name The Hibiscus Bears A Blue Flower: Poems And Musings. Things kept happening and I kept writing,” she added.

This publication was followed by Unfinished Business, the highly acclaimed Whispering Of The Trees and Listening To The Hills.

It has been almost a decade since her last publication, and Wilson hopes Stories For The Young And Young At Heart brings enjoyment to its readers and a realisation that animals, people, trees are all one.

Wilson is not sure if the Caribbean can expect another literary piece from her any time soon mainly because she doesn’t necessarily prepare herself to write.

“It does when it is ready. It holds me and sits me down and says ‘You sit down here and write me’,” she said, laughing. (SDB Media)

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