In her CARIBLit series, Mellany P (New York Carib News) interviews Trinidadian writer Ryan Seemungal, one of the winders of the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival 2019 Emergent Writer’s Short Story Competition. [Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Here are excerpts:
As part of the ongoing CARIBLit series about everything books, we are sharing the shortlisted short story winners from last September’s Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival. Catch the interview below with writer, Ryan Seemungal who hails from Trinidad & Tobago. Read his BCLF short story entry, “Manzana Del La Muerte” HERE.
Share with us a little bit of your background.
I was born and raised in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago to two very hardworking parents who ensured I had the opportunities I wished for despite many challenging times. I love reading, guitar, acrylic painting, video games, music, and hiking. I am creative with interests in becoming a published fantasy and supernatural horror writer with a hint of social commentary. I have a deep love for mythology from around the world including Caribbean folklore, fantasy world-building, and geopolitics.
I did a BSc. Geography degree at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus (UWI-STA) because I felt it would fulfill both my environmental and literary interests. Professionally, I work in technical environmental services, environmental research, and graphic design. I volunteer my time and graphic design skills to several NGOs locally and regionally in areas such as climate change, mental health awareness, food security and more.
When did you start writing, and how did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
In 2010, I started writing poetry and even got some of my poems published in a local newspaper. As I developed my talent, I wanted to weave more intricate stories as a writer. It was in 2012, whilst still in A-Levels, I developed an interest in becoming a published fiction author. It was only in 2014, I really began writing short stories and developing ideas for novels that I intend to write. I’m an author already but for a work of non-fiction called “The Edible Campus,” which was a class project put together by two generations of Geographies of Food students and published by the Department of Geography, UWI, St. Augustine. I’ve also written a couple newspaper articles on plastic pollution and environmental mapping.
Do you prefer the novel or the short story, and why?
I prefer novels because they are more expansive with diverse plots, characters and environments. Short stories can be great and meaningful but as a writer, I think short stories are harder to write. Short stories, in my opinion, should always be insightful or thought-provoking in some way. I prefer writing for novels since I can fully explore an idea with as much room as I need for world-building.
What is your connection to the Caribbean? Do you have a favorite saying from Caribbean culture?
T&T is my home but I’ve also made many friends from other Caribbean nations including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis and more. I enjoy hearing their stories about the realities of life in their countries. I like learning about the ways in which we all relate and in what ways we are unique. If I had to say, my fav saying would be “Ent” which usually means “isn’t that so” but it can mean “I agree and feel the same way.”
Do you have a favorite Caribbean/Caribbean-descended writer? We would love to learn about a storyteller from your island whose writing has left an impact/impression on you (poet/oral storyteller/griot included)
I really like Sam Selvon’s short stories and style of writing. I read The Ways of Sunlight – an anthology of short stories written by him, but I’ve also read excerpts of his other works through school such as The Lonely Londoners and A Brighter Sun. His work is very relatable and reflective of common situations faced by Caribbean people. I would like to be more widely read in terms of Caribbean literature, so I’ve begun exploring works done by Dr. Eric Williams, V. S. Naipaul and Angelo Bissessarsingh. [. . .]
For full interview, see https://www.nycaribnews.com/articles/a-conversation-with-ryan-seemungal