?Rito Allen, my father, was a generous man. Daddy give away all kind of thing, to all kind of people, and that is one reason why he was so popular.
It wasn't the only reason, mind you. Daddy was a bright man, and a bold entrepreneur. He used to have this big, gasping laugh that was contagious, you couldn't help but laugh too when you hear it. And he was good looking too bad, a real ladies' man. To me I find he was a good father. He used to read plenty, and between he and my mother I always had something to read and always wanted to read it. I don't know if is he I get my writing gift from, but I sure is he I get my first typewriter from. He wasn't a real bubbly fella, and I can't remember him ever getting excited about my writing, but I know for sure he went by Ashe on Edward Street in town and buy a baby blue electric typewriter for me once he realise I was serious about writing.
Is a combination of them reasons, plus some others, that is why I name The Allen Prize for Young Writers after my father. I want the Allen Prize to have the same generous spirit he had, and I want it to make a name for itself just the same way how he do it for heself. With the help of the board and committee members, plus all kind of other people who giving support along the way, The Allen Prize going to start work in September. The main idea is to give prizes to teenage writers, youths from 12-19 years who writing either poems, fiction, creative non-fiction or drama. We also going to be giving educational seminars once a term, in T&T, for young writers. And then, at the end of the school year, we going and give a workshop for the youths who win Allen Prizes in the competition.
When I was a youth that baby blue typewriter make all the difference to me. I used to spend hours, days, weeks tapping away at the keys. Somehow the tension in the keys was a little too strong and they used to make little holes in the paper when you was typing. For years all my stories and poems and plays had spots on the paper so that, when you hold the paper up to the light, it look like little stars twinkling through the sheets. I loved that typewriter, and somehow I think it was a part of why I am a professional writer today. Another big influence on me was winning the Clico Poetry Day Poetry Writing Competition when I was a teenager myself. I win it in the second year it was around, 1990, and it was to me a signal that, hear nah, you could write for truth; look, somebody go give you money to do it. Is a sense of pride, of possibility, of the future that Clico give me in that prize.
I want to return them feelings, that sense of pride and possibility that people give me. I want other young people to experience the sensation that somebody believe in them and see their potential to be a great writer. I want young writers today to have the encouragement I get, silently, from my daddy, and publicly from Clico. That is why I, with so much help from other people, started The Allen Prize. Now is time to make that intention a reality. Is time to put my money where my mouth (and pen) is. September coming up fast fast and I have to concentrate my attention on bringing The Allen Prize to all the secondary schools in T&T. It go be plenty work. I ent fraid. I going brave, with God and good friends on my side. I hope it work. Don't be surprise if I call you asking to support the prize, because we endowment small and we dreams big and big dreams does cost big money.
From September, God willing, I going and work full time for my dream. It mean giving up some other things. One of them things is this column. For about four years now I writing in this space and I ent go lie, when I finish this column today I go cry a little bit because it was such a honour and a privilege to be able to write, week after week, about national and personal issues in the Guardian. I know I was one of a small few, and I never ever take that lightly. When I write here, I was writing not just for me but for all the voters, all the parents, all the young people, all the women, and every other constituency that I represent at the time.
You know that as a writer, literature was always close to my heart and more than one column I put out was about writing and the need for better writing and more publishing in the region. The Allen Prize is a tangible commitment to making that happen. In the same way, as a mother and someone who believe in children's rights, I want to give support to young people–support beyond the words I could write in this space. Of course, just because I giving up the Guardian don't mean that I giving up writing. I can't stop that, I go dead if I stop writing. You could look for me on my Web site, lisaallen-agostini.com, and you could look out for the books and poems I go be writing too. But in the meanwhile, is bye-bye for now. Parting is such sweet sorrow.