Story in “Jamaican voice” garners U.K. prize

Susan Siddeley’s humorous “After You, Mr. Mayor” has won first prize in a British contest, the first-annual Malton Literature Festival short story competition. The tale is based on her memory of an incident that occurred years ago while she was living in Jamaica. She is particularly pleased with the win because the story presented a unique challenge: writing in a “Jamaican voice.”

Susan currently divides her time between residences in Toronto, Canada, and Santiago, Chile, where for more than a decade she has been coordinator of Los Parronales Writers’ Retreats. She completed “After You, Mr. Mayor” during writers’ workshops she invited me to lead at Los Parronales in February 2010.

In Susan’s words …

“I grew in West Yorkshire, travelling to the coast every summer through York and Malton. ‘After You, Mr. Mayor’ is based on an incident when I was teaching in Jamaica, many years ago, and the builders forgot to put a staircase to a second-floor extension. In my story, Winston Williams is a do-it-yourself headmaster who constructs a computer room above his village school’s office, also forgetting the steps. His student helper, Leroy, tries to point this out, but isn’t heard until the day the Mayor comes to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony and finds he can’t go up. (Winston and Leroy always scrambled up a ladder.) Winston comes to terms with his gaffe, remembering Anansi, the Jamaican spider and folk hero, who’s never beat.

“Malton is a market town near York with a brilliant, award-winning museum. I drive by every year. The three-day Malton Literature Festival had readings and workshops in various venues. Closing ceremonies were held at the King’s Head Pub, where I hope to call for a pint next time.”


Susan Siddeley discovered a refreshing place to write at Santuario de la Naturaleza del Arrayan nature preserve in Santiago, Chile, February 2010.

SUSAN SIDDELEY has published three collections of poetry and is a two-time winner in Grain magazine’s “Short Grain Contest.”  She recently completed a blended family history and memoir with the working title Home First, which will be published independently in spring 2011.

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