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Tuesday 16th December, 2008

 

She does it write

 
 
 
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Lisa Allen-Agostini publishes her first novel, The Chalice Project

“I think that’s what I’m here for. It’s something I always wanted to do. I love journalism and continue to write but I think that if I don’t write books, I am never going to win the Nobel!”

Suzanne Bhagan

She does not watch television nor go out. What does Lisa Allen-Agostini do with all that free time? Write, of course. The T&T Guardian columnist recently published the Chalice Project.

Although already the co-editor and contributor to Trinidad Noir by Akashic Books, the Chalice Project is her first novel. Part of Macmillan Caribbean’s new Island Fiction series, her book is geared towards ‘tween’ readers (ages ten-16).

Written in large bursts over a three month period, Lisa’s book tells the story of Ada and Evan Brijlal. When these twin siblings turn 12, they discover strange things about themselves—they can now run at super fast speeds and time travel. They begin to realise their true identities and learn about the mother they never knew. This coming of age story explores parenthood, science, even rugby.

Although she has a first class honours degree in English Literature, Lisa really loves science. Her passion for science fiction literature translates on the pages of the Chalice Project. Two of her favourite books inspired it—The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester.

The 34-year-old mother is accustomed to telling tales. She would compose stories and poetry for daughters Ishara and Najja. When Lisa needed help writing the Chalice Project, she and Ishara would brainstorm, asking ‘what if’ questions to explore different plot scenarios. Her series editor Joanne Johnson also helped her make the novel’s second draft “more palatable for kids.”

Lisa has been writing since she was eight. In 1996, she joined the Trinidad Express and became editor of Vox, its popular youth magazine. Two year later, she joined the T&T Guardian, working in almost every department, eventually becoming associate features editor and Internet editor. With 12 years’ journalism under her belt, now she concentrates on writing fiction.

She says with a laugh, “I think that’s what I’m here for. It’s something I always wanted to do. I love journalism and continue to write but I think that if I don’t write books, I am never going to win the Nobel!”

Lisa is now working on another young adult fiction manuscript as well as another for the Island Fiction series. In January, she hopes to start “the next best West Indian novel.”

Concerning the local publishing industry, she laments that although there are many talented local writers, they remain at the “mercy of foreign publishers.” She supports the idea of a Caricom press, suggested at this year’s Carifesta celebrations. She would also like to establish her own publishing firm some day.

Regarding exposure of local writing on the international market, she typifies V S Naipaul’s House for Mr Biswas as the “consummate Trinidad novel” which was acclaimed worldwide because it was good. She frankly says, “Every story is a local story. It’s just whether the audience is ready to buy into that location. It’s the ability to offer our experience with such skill, such craft, such elegance that they must accept it.”

Although she has not yet held a copy of the book in her bare hands, she is pleased to contribute to Caribbean literature. She adds with a wry smile, “It’s great to be able to say that I am an author rather than a writer.”

Her parting advice to aspiring writers- “Write.”

More info

The Chalice Project by Lisa Allen-Agostini will be in bookstores soon. Also, check out the Reading Revolution on Facebook. The brain child of Lisa and fellow Island Fiction author, Francis Escayg, hopes to encourage more reading among ‘tweens.’