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Garfield Ellis and Helen Williams Cop Lignum Vitae Awards 2017

Garfield Ellis and Helen Williams winners of the 2017 Lignum Vitae Writing Award

Authors Garfield Ellis and Helen Williams were recently announced as winners of the 2017 Lignum Vitae Writing Awards, copping a total of J$750,000.00 in prizes. Ellis’ manuscript Land We Love took home the J$500,000.00 prize for the Una Marson Award for adult literature, while Williams’ Lost In the Cockpit Country earned her the Jean D’Costa Award for children’s literature (J$250,000.00). 

Interestingly, both Ellis and Williams made the Lignum Vitae Awards shortlist in 2015. Ellis was shortlisted for the Una Marson Award with Angel Share (since then published by Akashic Books) while Williams made the Vic Reid Shortlist for her manuscript Duppy in the Wardrobe.

Additionally, this win by Ellis makes it the third time he has snagged the Una Marson Award, having taken the inaugural prize with Flaming Hearts and Other Stories in 1993 and again in 1999 with Til I'm Laid to Rest. In announcing the award, Shirley Carby, Vice Chair of JAMCOPY noted that it felt as though the award had come full circle. 

The LVWA is the biennial awards staged by the Jamaican Writers Society (JaWS) and the Jamaican Copyright Licensing Agency (JAMCOPY). However, the Una Marson and Vic Reid awards were previously managed by the National Book Development Council. 

“Overall, there was strong writing that suggested that Jamaica continues to develop creative talent in prose!,” said Dr. Michael Bucknor, Chief Judge for the Una Marson Award. 

“The judges felt that the novel was intellectually and emotionally engaging, memorable, and refreshingly contemporary in both form and content.” Dr. Bucknor said.

Land We Love was one of four shortlisted manuscripts. The others were: Girls in Trouble: Stories by Sharon Leach, Loving Jamaica: An Exploration of Place by Diana McCaulay, and The Long Way Back Home by Robert McCarthy.

Williams’ Lost in the Cockpit Country was up against Nicardo McLean’s for Marvin Matthews and the Magical Abeng.  

There were no shortlisted entrants for the 2017 Vic Reid Award for Young Adult Literature. 

The 2017 awards returned to the National Gallery of Jamaica in Downtown Kingston in an evening that combined the visual arts, music and literature. on Friday, November 24, 2017 at 6:00 pm. The awards were hosted by Kalilah Reynolds with Dahlia Harris providing an engaging address encouraging artists to boldly making a living from their art.

Note: Edited on December 5 to reflect that Garfield Ellis has previously won 2 Una Marson Awards