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On returns and reset: Roland Watson-Grant

Annie Paul

Two days before the next winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is announced on June 30 it gives us great pleasure to present an in-depth interview with Roland Watson-Grant, an exceptional if lesser known Jamaican author, whose latest short story The Disappearance of Mumma Dell has won the regional leg of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, a global competition with thousands of entries from all over the world. In this video interview I talk to Roland about the long pause after his second novel, Skid (2014) and the curveballs or googlies life has thrown at him these last few years. A spinal injury in 2015-16 slowed Watson-Grant down as he experienced not only a physical trauma but also a neurological one that affected the way he processed thoughts and feelings. He also opens up about the death of his beloved sister, Valerie, the inspiration for his story Cursing Mrs. Murphy, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Questions I asked Roland included these: With Mumma Dell, like the stories you’ve published in PREE, are you returning to the Caribbean? Is this the return of the Prodigal? Are you literally pressing a reset button that is taking your writing career in new directions? Are you also resetting your trajectory in the way you observed the patching and fixing of beautiful things at the repair shop of your childhood? In the way that a surgeon might reset broken bones? Was there a break that needed resetting? Are you strategically resetting your career? Tell us more about this. What does #reset look like for Roland Watson Grant? Describe it. Also a question suggested by Roland himself: Can a writer at home also be in a kind of exile?

We have been privileged to publish three of Roland’s superb stories in PREE and wait anxiously to hear whether he will clinch the global award this Wednesday. Winning the Caribbean and Canada region is achievement enough but winning the global prize will not only be a massive boost for Watson-Grant, it will also reinforce the Caribbean’s recent dominance of this prestigious award.

PS: Apologies for my overuse of the exclamation ‘WOW’ and for calling Western Kingston, Western Jamaica by mistake. I will find new ways to register awe and appreciation during interviews. Living and learning 🙂

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