Anguilla, the 13,000 person, eel shaped island, is poised to become the next Cannes for the black literati. Neighboring Saint Martin and Saint Thomas, the island hosted its first-ever Lit Fest titled “A Literary Jollification” and featured famed best-selling authors Terry McMillan, actor Hill Harper, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, Randall Robinson among several others. Topics ranged from the real deal behind becoming a bestselling author to the new rules of publishing and how to get work from inspiration to publication in a crowded, social media marketplace.
On writing, Terry McMillan stressed to the attendees that knowing one’s voice is critical in their approach to writing. “Write as if no one is ever going to read it,” said McMillan, “people are more concerned about what you care about, not what you think.” The audience was filled with local and international bibliophiles as well as students who are aspiring to be the next generation of writers from one of the local schools. Malaika Adero, Vice President and Senior Editor of Altria/Books/Simon & Schuster shared her perspective on how this world of social media is driving the way books are marketed.
“If an author’s work has resonance, the readers will find it,” said Adero as she talked about the more international writers and works she green lights that develop cult followings. On the potential death of bookstores, Marva Allen, owner of HueMan Bookstore in New York said bookstores need to evolve to embrace the cultural climate of the community similar to the Apple brand – become a cultural experience.
The fest featured local Caribbean writers and publishers as well such as Lasan Sekou who shared the essence of Writing 101 – write about what you know. “If the story is about or relatable to the reader, they will read it,” said Sekou. Many of these authors are working on their next projects including Hill Harper whose next book will get to the root of the mass incarceration crisis and ways to end recitivizism in America’s prison system. For many of the attendees, it was their first time to the island of Anguilla but judging from the collection of literary genius, Anguilla’s Lit Fest will likely become the spot for established writers and those on their journey to becoming the next best-seller.