A Good Read: The Allure of Anguilla by Melanie Reffes (The newest literary festival/book fair in the Caribbean)
It was nirvana for literary lovers over the US Memorial Day weekend when the Anguilla Literary Festival was the hottest ticket on the island.
The four-day fête, hosted by Paradise Cove Resort, celebrated the best and the brightest wordsmiths from Anguilla, USA, Canada and Caribbean with readings, workshops, panel discussions, scrumptious breakfast and lunch buffets prepared by the hotel’s creative chefs and a welcome reception at the swishy Viceroy resort.
Officially dubbed the “Anguilla Lit Fest: A Literary Jollification,” the auspicious festival featured best-selling author and keynote speaker Terry McMillan of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale fame who although did not read from her own work, did offer a treasure chest of tips for aspiring writers and hardcore fans during her workshop, “So You Want to be a Bestselling Author? The Real Deal.”
“Write as if your work will not get published,” McMillan told the crowd of fans, “this way you use your true voice when telling a story.”
Holding court under the white tent at Paradise Cove, she was enthralled by the young writers in the crowd who came from the local high school. “On a personal note,” she added, “a good story is like an itch you just have to scratch.”
Other fan favorites included Tony award winning actress and author Sheryl Lee Ralph who extolled the virtues of being a diva as she read from her acclaimed book Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original DreamGirl.
Prolific St. Maarten poet, author and House of Nehesi Publishers founder Lasana Sekou opened the Festival with a spirited reading from his Brotherhood of the Spurs delighting the early morning crowd with an excerpt about the drama of the cockfighting tradition in French St. Martin.
“There is Caribbean life beyond the sun, sea and resorts,” noted Sekou, “this Festival adds excitement to a Caribbean holiday as so many travelers these days want an experiential vacation and will time their trip with an event that appeals to them, like Anguilla’s Literary Festival.”
Other five-diamond writers included American Hill Harper, author of Letters to a Young Brother: Manifest Your Destiny and the wildly popular The Wealth Cure: Putting Money in Its Place who entertained with his unique take on the upcoming USA election; Antiguan author Marie-Elena John; and beloved Anguillan storyteller David Carty who delighted festival-goers with his tales of the island’s history.
Aptly named hotel packages offered for the Festival included Paradise Cove’s “Lit Talk Anguilla”; Cuisinart’s “Invitation to Exhale with Terry McMillan”; Little Butterfly’s “Lit Talk Anguilla”; and Anacaona’s “Book Binder Girls Getaway.”
“Literacy has always been of paramount importance to the people of Anguilla,” said Hon. Haydn Hughes, Parliamentary Secretary, Tourism, “we look forward to kicking off this worthwhile effort celebrating the literary arts and by so doing, motivate young writers to embark on a career in writing.”
Organized by a committee of book-loving Anguillans, the festival was timed to increase visitor arrivals during shoulder season.
“Visiting the island in the spring can be a vacation audition by our guests who then decide to return for their winter break,” said Sherille Hughes, one of the members of the organizing committee, “we started working on the Festival in February and immediately saw a great interest from the island’s public and private sectors and from tourists.”
- Melanie Reffes is an award-winning travel journalist based in Canada.