Kingston, Jamaica. An upper-form schoolgirl approaches me after an event, telling me that she wants to write a novel but is afraid it’ll come out bad.
I enter the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the first time out of a total of seven times.
I get a rejection email. Turns out it’s rejection season, so a series of other rejection emails soon follow from a bunch of other online publications and competitions, including Small Axe, Guernica, Breakwater and much more.
It is quite overbearing and stressful. I think I might be rushing. I need to be strategic.
I decide that if I want to traditionally publish and get attention, I need to make a plan and get something out there. Anything – but something good.
So I semi-self-publish a children’s book called “Littletown Secrets”. Semi, because the publisher, Lyndon Baptiste, is helping me get the books into stores and some readings.
He meets me at TGIF in Price Plaza to hand me the first copy. I become quite proud of it, especially the fact that the intended age-group seems to actually enjoy it.
I do some school visits and even sell them at a Christmas Upmarket. The stint with self-publishing is fun at first, but a hassle in the long run.
I receive an email from the senior editor at Akashic Books, Ibrahim Ahmed (now at Viking).
Turns out they’re partnering with Peepal Tree Press to form an imprint called Peekash, and publish an anthology of the best Caribbean entries of the 2012 CSSP.
My story, “The Monkey Trap”, is one despite not being on the shortlist.
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After seeing on a local newspaper that a local man has won a competition from Poetry.com, I decide to enter a poem. They write to tell me that I’m a winner of the competition.
Poetry.com turns out to be a scam. There are literally thousands of winners and you have to spend money to get your prize.
“Passage” (under a different name) is rejected by Granta Magazine during their open-call for submissions.
Granta Magazine publishes “Passage” after it wins the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
I accidentally put my name on my Commonwealth Short Story Prize submission. Immediate disqualification.
I submit a manuscript for a novel called “The Repenters” to Peepal Tree Press. Months go by.
I’ve been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for my story, “The King of Settlement 4”.
One week later, Jeremy Poynting, publisher at Peepal, emails me to say he’s read my novel and would like me to do some tweaks on the manuscript before Peepal would consider publishing.
He assigns Jacob Ross as the editor. Energized, I spend the Christmas vacation rewriting a third of the novel.
“The Repenters” is published by Peepal Tree Press. It longlists for the OCM Bocas Prize for Fiction, expectedly loses to Kei Miller’s “Augustown”.
I remember giving Jeremy Poynting a massive hug when I saw him at the launch of “New Worlds, Old Ways”, which I also had a story in.
Not many people have read “The Repenters”, but that’s OK. I’m very proud of it.
I’m a second-place winner for the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature. “The Beast of Kukuyo” is the name of the manuscript and you would be surprised how different the final product turns out to be, when compared to the initial manuscript.
It is almost embarrassing. Tanya Batson-Savage from Blue Banyon Books is one of my favourite people I’ve worked with. She spots a hideous goof where a character hot-wires a car, goes somewhere and then turns the key in the ignition.
This is why you need an editor.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kevin Jared Hosein is an author and science teacher born and raised in Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago. He is a two-time winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Caribbean region.
He has published three books: The Beast of Kukuyo (Burt Award for Caribbean Literature), The Repenters (longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Prize and OCM Bocas Prize) and Littletown Secrets. His writings have been published in numerous anthologies and outlets including Lightspeed Magazine and Commonwealth Writers
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