The establishment of the Caribbean Publishing House has created a much needed opening for emerging Guyanese writers to have their work published, its editor Professor David Dabydeen says.
The Publishing House was set up by the Government of Guyana which has pledged US$100,000 annually for the facility. It is the fulfilment of a pledge made by President Bharrat Jagdeo during Carifesta X, after an appeal was made by Professor David Dabydeen. Formally established in May last year, the publishing house has since republished 11 books in the ‘Guyana Classics’ Series. These books were formally launched by President Bharrat Jagdeo on Friday evening at a ceremony held at the Umana Yana.
In an exclusive interview with this newspaper on Friday, Professor Dabydeen said that while the Publishing House was currently republishing works which belonged to the Guyana Classics Series, the intention was to publish fresh works written by local writers. Dabydeen noted that in the past there had been limited opportunities for young writers to showcase their work, but that this would change with the establishment of this new publishing entity. There was only one criterion for getting a manuscript published, Dabydeen said – it had to be of the highest quality. The intention was to build the Publishing House into one of the most respected in the world, and consequently the focus had to be on quality, he emphasised.
Dabydeen, who is voluntarily serving as the editor of the Publishing House, is supported by consulting editor of the House, Dr Ian McDonald, and an editorial board. The editorial board comprises several outstanding Caribbean writers such as Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, Earl Lovelace and Pauline Melville.
Dabydeen says that he was willing to continue in his capacity as editor for the next 2 to 3 years. After that he would most likely relinquish the editorship to focus on his own literary pursuits. However, before he handed over the responsibilities of managing the Publishing House, he would like to see an office established locally to run it. This did not have to be anything elaborate, he said, since the staffing would consist of an editor, copy editor, secretary and a driver. He would also like to see the printing of the books undertaken locally as well. Discussions are ongoing to see how soon this particular objective could be achieved, he said.
Meanwhile, Dabydeen disclosed that one of the main aims of the Publishing House was to develop an interest in creative writing among the youths of the Caribbean, especially those in Guyana. He said that it is this interest which would see him collaborating with the Government of Guyana in holding special writing workshops for children and young writers in the area of creative writing.
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr Frank Anthony, during his presentation on the 2010 Budget, said that a special essay competition would be held in schools during the academic year and the 30 best essayists would be chosen to attend a workshop in August with Professor Dabydeen. Dr Anthony explained that during the workshop, these young writers would develop creative pieces which they would perform in December at the Festival of Words in honour of National Poet, Martin Carter. These creative pieces would also be published the Minister said.
Dabydeen told Stabroek News he was excited about this particular initiative, since it would have a lasting impact on the children. According to him, he and another professional writer would be judging the entries to the competition to select the participants in the workshop. He said he hoped to have the workshop conducted by two writers where the participants would be divided into two groups – one consisting of students aged 8 to 12 and the other aged 13 to 16. Dabydeen intends to partner with another writer to hold the workshops. He stressed that the workshops, festival and the publishing of the children’s creative pieces would create an interest in literature and ultimately boost their self-esteem. The intention was to have this particular initiative become an annual one, Dabydeen said.
Asked if writers from other Caribbean countries would be given the opportunity to publish their manuscripts via the Caribbean Publishing House, Dabydeen answered in the affirmative. Nevertheless, he admitted that his real interest was in promoting the work of Guyanese authors and strongly suggested that works by Guyanese writers would be given preferential treatment.