The first ever Annual Anguilla Lit Fest was a life changing experience for me. I was involved as a volunteer, looking after some Press and PR people. As a reward for helping I got a 2 day pass to the event. Although I have always been an avid reader and wrote professionally, It was my first Literary Festival and I was wide eyed and bushy tailed about the experience of meeting bona fide bestsellers like Terry McMillan up close and personal.
Terry’s masterclass was the highlight. She gave us a exercise. To write, in just a few minutes, either our own obituary or a paragraph or two on our greatest regret. I found myself writing about my thwarted creativity. The creativity that I had ignored and which had laid dormant since finishing my Arts Degree many moons ago. Creativity that I had pushed to the side – unacknowledged and insignificant in comparison to the respect I had for others. Others, like my friends who were practicing artists, actors and writers and the designers and illustrators that I had worked alongside, during my agency career in London, and whose skills I envied. I longed to write a novel but had never plucked up the courage to start, choosing instead to write commercially for others.
I wrote quickly and from the heart about how I had ignored my creativity for years because I (mysteriously/mistakenly?) thought I wasn’t good enough. I wrote about how I had disrespected the talent I was born with, using my skills to strengthen and support my clients voices rather than expressing my own.
When the allotted time was up I plucked up the courage to raise my hand and was selected to say my piece. I was incredibly nervous, and my voice quavered and cracked with emotion as I started to read, but there was so much good will under that tent, and I could sense the supportive audience egging me on, and just about managed to get it all out. I sat down to a round of applause and felt euphoric and sick in equal parts. I had a little cry too.
Afterwards, when I asked Terry to sign a copy of her book, Waiting to Exhale, she recognised me and wrote a wonderful, personal note on the title page. It said, “Glad you found your voice. Don’t lose it. ”
The weekend after Lit Fest my friends, Fiona and Rachel, fellow attendees, came to True HQ to drink coffee, talk books and discuss how best to get on with our writing. We were all inspired to be creative. We all had stories to tell. It was the first of many meetings where we met and read out and discussed what we had written or wanted to write. My first novel is the result of those meetings.