Amanda Choo Quan

WINNING WORK: Amanda Choo Quan

T&T national Amanda Choo Quan has won the 2020 Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize—the region’s only prize for emerging writers.

Choo Quan topped the other two short-listed T&T non-fiction writers, Amilcar Sanatan and Melissa Doughty, in this second year of the prize, which is dedicated to the advancement of new Caribbean voices.

The prize will afford Choo Quan the opportunity to progress her winning work of non-fiction.

In an official Bocas Lit Fest announcement broadcast via Facebook Live last evening, Choo Quan was announced winner of the prize by chief judge Prof Funso Aiyejina.

The actual prize-giving will take place during the annual national literary festival, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, now rescheduled to September 18 to 20.

Choo Quan’s submission was summarised by Prof Emeritus Aiyejina as having “excelled because of the eloquence of the writing, the honesty of the emotions, the concreteness of the imagery, the transformative energy of the story, and the writer’s ability to weave the personal and the political, the ‘there’ and the ‘here’, and the ‘then’ and the ‘now’ into a seamless story”.

This year’s competition attracted 20 entries from six Caribbean countries—Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago. Their subject matters ranged from race and gender through women in cricket, the environment, mental health, religious fundamentalism, and ageing to cultural and sexual citizenship.

Launched in 2018, the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize is sponsored by Dr Kongshiek Achong Low, medical practitioner and chairman of Medcorp Ltd, in memory of his parents, Johnson and Amoy Achong, and is administered by the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad and Arvon in the UK.

In the first year (fiction) Sharma Taylor of Jamaica was the winner. The 2021 prize will be open to writers of poetry.

Dr Achong Low commented: “I am indeed delighted to hear that this year’s Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize non-fiction winner is a Trini,” adding, “The quarantine and self-isolation measures demanded to combat the ravages of the COVID situation have in no small measure demonstrated the immense value of the written word to mankind.

“The massive sharing of written works via social media and the popularity of the streaming giants like Netflix all remind us of the unquestioned power of writing to stimulate our minds and to entertain.”

In addition to the equivalent of US$3,000 and travel to the United Kingdom to attend a one-week intensive Arvon creative writing course at one of Arvon’s internationally renowned writing houses, each prize winner spends three days in London to network with editors and publishers, hosted by Arvon in association with the Free Word Centre.

Winners are also mentored by an established writer in the genre and will get the chance to be agented by a literary agency in the UK.

The announcement was the first of a weekend of virtual events courtesy the NGC Bocas Lit Fest that is offering, over the next few months, elements of the annual literary festival which was due to take place this weekend.

Today, the 2020 winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature is to be announced by chief judge Earl Lovelace, and tomorrow at 5.30 p.m. the popular festival Sunday launch will feature Canisia Lubrin and Jacob Ross reading from their excellent new novels, and Funso Aiyejina reading from his new poetry collection. Pavement Poets, a presentation of spoken word performances, will follow at 6.30 p.m.

These will all be live-streamed via the Bocas Lit Fest Facebook account.

To see the full calendar of virtual events being announced monthly and for updates on the call for submissions for the 2021 poetry edition of the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize for poetry, visit

T&T’s annual literary festival is title sponsored by the National Gas Company, lead sponsor is First Citizens, main sponsors are the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts and One Caribbean Media. The National Lotteries Control Board, Massy Foundation and The UWI are sponsors.


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