Established in 2011, Anguilla Lit Fest has been growing in popularity year on year. A celebration of literature and self-expression, held in one of the most coveted Caribbean paradises, it's no surprise that Anguilla Lit Fest (AKA "Lit Fest") has attracted big names right from its inception.
Welcome to Anguilla Lit Fest at Paradise Cove
Guest speaker-led workshops and presentations, discussions and cocktail parties all make up the Lit Fest events.
On the 5th Anguilla Lit Fest, one particular event caught our eye, "Crime That Pays - Mysteries and Thrillers," a panel discussion that was to be moderated by former publisher at St. Martin's Press, Mr. Dan Weiss (publisher of The Vampire Diaries and Sweet Valley High).
It was time to find out what Lit Fest was all about. Here is what unfolded...
Lit Fest's festivities take place over 4 days. Workshops, guest presentations, discussions and cocktail parties... it's a jam-packed 4 days!
The first major day that kicks off Lit Fest (and the day that we were attending) is the Friday. It starts at 8am with the sweet "Rise & Shine" presentations.
Held out on the spacious deck by the sparkling pool at Paradise Cove, a mouthwatering breakfast is served as folks settle into the morning and chat in anticipation of the highlight of breakfast... the breakfast presentations.
Lit Fest's Caribbean Breakfast
Miss Sherille Hughes (owner of Paradise Cove) and Carla Harris (the Mistress of Ceremonies at Lit Fest 2016) welcomed all and then we were straight into the presentations.
Lit Fest 2016 saw three presenters for "Rise & Shine," all hailing from the Caribbean.
Ex-diplomat to Nigeria, Fabian Adekunle Badejo is ingrained in life in St. Martin. His writings cover a wide range of topics, from the personal and more emotional to topics that touch on public issues (business and politics).
Fabian Adekunle Badejo
He has written several books and began his discussion speaking of culture in the Caribbean, how culture relates to writing and how culture shapes our writing. And, how important it is to write what you know. Fabian shared his experiences, too, on how he dealt with early rejection from publishers and how he persevered. Weaved with personal anecdotes, Fabian's warmth and kindness shone through strongly.
Montague Kobbé followed Fabian. Montague is an author we all know well in Anguilla as his parents are both Anguilla residents. Among his works, The Night of the Rambler and On the Way Back both take place in Anguilla.
Montague shared his thoughts on how to write for your audience and the importance of context and self-expression, echoing Fabian's sentiments. He also touched on his own experiences and how living in so many diverse countries (Venezuela, UK, Anguilla, Spain, France, Italy) has affected him, too. He captivated the audience with a read from his latest book, On the Way Back. A deep and interesting man, he had the audience on the edge of their seats throughout his presentation.
Lastly, Paul Keens-Douglas stole the show. An entertainer and writer, there wasn't a dry eye left in the house by the end of his performance.
Paul began by explaining what motivated him to start writing. "To capture the sound of the people of the Caribbean," he explained. "We were early pioneers of writing this kind of thing, writing dialect, making our own vocabulary, capturing sound on a page," he continued. "You don't consider yourself a writer, you just write," he smiled.
Pearls of wisdom delivered with such humor and light heartedness, Paul was full of passion. 100% genuine, you could feel his happiness as he read his vibrant poems and as he enthused about what writing gives to him, "a sense of freedom - a world without bounds, without rules."
A true inspiration, Mr. Paul Keens-Douglas! Thank you!
Presentations came to a close all too quickly. It was time for a break (and a poke around the book shop gazebo)...
Book Shop Gazebo
... before moving onto the panel discussion.
The event that drew us in was here!... Heavy hitters Dan Weiss, Alafair Burke, John Searles and Valerie Wilson Wesley were on the marquee.
Under the Tent for the Panel Discussion
Moderating the discussion, Dan Weiss kicked things off with an open question, "What is it about crime that interests us so much?" Fascination with the dark side and dark questions... Intrigue... The question is any of this going to resolve itself?... Perhaps it is the resolution we crave so much. A thought-provoking discussion.
Crime That Pays Panel Discussion with
Dan Weiss, Alafair Burke, John Searles, Valerie Wilson Wesley
John Searles, Author of
Boy Still Missing and Strange But True
Dan moved the conversation to the topic of writing a series. "Do you view a series through the same lens as a one-of book?"
John, also a book critic, explained what he saw as the principal challenge... writing each book as though your audience is coming to it for the first time.
Dan expanded and shared more personal experiences, for example, when his publication house tried to expand Sweet Valley High, showing the characters as adults. "The audience went nuts," he explained, "They didn't like it at all. It's a very hard needle to thread sometimes."
A Q&A session followed and the whole discussion wrapped up with a chance to speak to the panel members one on one. Inviting and kind, they were generous with their time and advice.
Dan Weiss, Publisher at Crooked Lane Books
Lively and interesting, this panel discussion was a must for any aspiring writing - whether interested in crime or not. The insights shared were priceless.
The later part of the morning saw us into lunch and onto one of the main highlights, the Maverick Luncheon.
Caribbean Lunch at Lit Fest
Kate White, New York Times bestselling author
and editor in chief of Cosmopolitan
In similar fashion to the breakfast presentations, lunch was held with a heavy hitting guest speaker.
A big name in publishing, Kate White is a New York Times bestselling author and the former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan.
Accomplished to say the least, she had everyone's attention right from the start as she spoke about an important topic... gutsiness!
Kate shared her strategies on how to be gutsy, and why it's so important to move ahead.
Reject "the way we've always done it"...
Don't wait for someone to give you permission...
Go big or go home...
How do we make this bigger, better, bolder and more bad ass?...
The lessons in Kate's speech apply to everyone in every field and in every facet of life.
Not even 2pm, and the day was not over yet. Classes on creative writing, "pitch and editor" speed-dating (a chance to get direct feedback on your novel) and an end-of-day cocktail party all followed. With such experienced participants, it's an excellent opportunity to expand your knowledge and network if you are an aspiring writer. It's truly, every writer's dream!
All in all, Anguilla Lit Fest is a beautiful celebration of literature, but its significance doesn't end there. Writer or not, at the end of the day at Anguilla Lit Fest, everyone leaves with the same lasting impression - inspired.