Viviana Prado-Núñez’s ‘The Art of White Roses’ won CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

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A report by Damita Thomas for the Towson Patch.

From George Washington Carver Center For Arts and Tech: Last May, as a senior project for George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology’s literary arts prime, Viviana Prado-Núñez self-published a novel titled The Art of White Roses. This May, Prado-Núñez, now a freshman at Columbia University, is celebrating that her novel just won the fourth annual CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.

The award recognizes outstanding writing for young adults by Caribbean authors. For her first place finish, Prado-Núñez, who was born in Puerto Rico, will receive a $10,000 prize and 2,500 copies of her book will be donated to schools, libraries, and community organizations throughout the Caribbean. Prado-Núñez learned of her award during the NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

When Prado-Núñez called Suzanne Supplee, Carver Center’s literary arts department chair, to tell her about the prize, Supplee says that “as excited as Viviana was about the $10,000, she was even more excited that her work was going to reach beyond Carver, beyond BCPS.”

Prado-Núñez wrote and published her book as her senior independent writing project at Carver Center. Supplee created this initiative five years ago, when she took over as department chair. “I felt that the students needed to have something of substance to show for their completion of the program – a single work to reflect who they are as writers,” Supplee said. “I wanted them to have the experience of creating and sustaining a work of length. So many writers want to complete a book, but they get involved in school, work, life, and never find the time.”

Supplee’s Class of 2017 writers will present their senior projects at a coffee house and reception on Monday, May 15, from 7 – 9 p.m. at the school, 938 York Rd., 21204. Admission to the event is $5, and most of the 15 students will have copies of their self-published books – works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry – for sale at the event. After the event, the books will be available for sale on Amazon.com.

The project begins with students writing proposals. “Novels are gangly, unruly beasts,” Supplee said. “If they want to write one, I will want to know that they have the commitment to get that done. Sometimes their proposals are flimsy or seem too much like work that has been done before. I try to steer students, guide them, to produce their best work.”

As the students begin writing, some of them consult with mentors. “A lot of that decision – whether to have mentors – is driven by the students,” Supplee said. “Once I have secured the mentors, they go through BCPS volunteer training and primarily communicate with students online.” This year, six students have mentors. One student is working on a history of rock and roll in Baltimore. She sought as her mentor John Lewis, who was the arts and culture editor for Baltimore Magazine and who has written for Rolling Stone and other national publications. (Viviana’s mentor last year was Robbie Lavine, a writer whose daughter is a graduate of Carver Center’s literary arts prime.)

Supplee, herself a published author who writes every day, is also available to the students throughout the year as they work on their projects. Supplee has published three young adult novels; the most recent of these is Somebody Everybody Listens To (2010).

Beyond writing the work, Supplee says that the project offers a comprehensive lesson in self-publishing using Amazon’s CreateSpace. “They have to figure out spacing, fonts, acknowledgements, author’s notes, print runs…,” She said. “They have to write bios and arrange for cover art.” Some of the students create their own covers; some work with Carver Center’s visual arts students or reach out to family or friends for artwork.

While there is a cost involved in printing their books, students aim to sell their books to make a profit. In addition, Supplee says, several years ago, a student donated half of her Ben Carson Scholarship to create a fund to support self-publishing expenses for literary arts prime students who need that support.

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