I WISH to thank Mr Ruel Johnson for replying to my letter published December 12, 2015 in the Guyana Chronicle ”Get your facts right, Reverend.”I am delighted that he cleared up the issue I raised pertaining to his winning entry, ”Fictions” with stories he re-used from his previous winning entry ”Ariadne & Other Stories.”
He is now saying that both of his winning entries were unpublished manuscripts and he decided to drop in a few stories from his first manuscript into “Fictions,” when he decided to publish it in a book that can be clearly understood.
It would be wise if Mr Al Creighton can make available Mr Johnson’s winning manuscript ”Fictions” to the Guyanese literati for us to decipher if those same stories, ”Killing the Kitten & April” were listed in both manuscripts, then I will be able to have ”my facts right.” Mr Johnson is not in a position to speak for Mr Al Creighton, the Administrator/Secretary of the Prize. I also want Mr Johnson to know I never went into silence, I replied to his queries in Stabroek News pertaining to the Caribbean Press. I became silent when I could not answer questions about the Press; only Mr Anthony and Dabydeen were able to answer.
I also want him to know I write actually every week in most of the papers on different issues.
I also want Mr Johnson to know that I have nothing against him winning the prize and I congratulated him for winning it twice. It’s unfortunate that he did not address the other issues I raised about Judges who were entrants and from 1987 to 2015, all overseas-based writers winning the Prize all the time. He agreed that the Guyana Prize needs to be reformed to better serve resident writers. I will put it more bluntly that many of our resident-writers entries were cheated, because of all these former judges winning the prize all the time; some have won it 4-5 times already. The Guyana Prize for Literature needs more scrutiny and a new brochure needs to be written. They should include rules to bar judges from entering and also those who won should submit another entry after five years, thus gives other resident writers a chance for their new voices to be heard.
He raised another issue about the Caribbean Press, his lifelong obsession. To begin with I am not the Administrator of the Caribbean Press, the former Minister of Culture Mr Frank Anthony and Professor David Dabydeen were the ones who govern this Press.
I am not the only editor there. What I do know is Dr Dabydeen is the one who evaluated and published manuscripts he deems fit to be published. I was not aware Dabydeen was here, it was only when I saw him win the Caribbean Award that I knew he was here. I sent him an email and he called and we spoke briefly. I wanted to discuss the Caribbean Press, but never had the opportunity to meet him and Anthony face to face.
I edited two collections of children’s poetry but received only one copy from Volume 1 thus far. According to Dabydeen, I will receive Volume 2 soon from the Ministry of Culture. Where the Press is going next I do not know, but I am not doing editing now for any literary works. The Press was supposed to set up a board over three years ago; to date nothing has happened — that seems very incompetent to me. I wish Mr Johnson well in his present tenure as ”Cultural Advisor” and hope he represents the Guyanese literati well. God bless you Mr Johnson, have a great holiday.
Rev Gideon Cecil