A Candid Interview with Young Canadian Fiction Writer Robert Edison Sandiford Who Presently Lives in Barbados
Joyette, Anthony T., Kola
ROBERT EDISON SANDIFORD first came on the scene a little over a decade ago when the names and faces of Black writers began to appear in mainstream listings. He was a freelance writer for local newspapers, The Montreal Gazette and Community Contact among them. A few folks, including myself, came to view Sandiford, then in his early 20's, as the successor of the late Clifton Ruggles, one of a few African-Canadians to write for The Gazette around the late 1980's and early 1990's. Sandiford had other plans, like getting hitched and spending some time in Barbados (his other home) with his Barbadian bride, Delores. He is presently the acting literary editor of The Nation, one of the local dailies. Sandiford's work has also appeared in The Globe and Mail, The Antigonish Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Caribbean Travel & Life, The Comics Journal, and Erotic Stories in the U.K., among other publications. He is the author of Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall: Stories (Empyreal Press/The Independent Press, Montreal, 1995) and Attractive Forces (NBM Publishing, New York, 1997), a comics adaptation of his erotic stories illustrated by Seattle artist Justin Norman. A second adaptation, Stray Moonbeams, also with the same artist, will be out from NBM this fall, and Sandiford has recently completed his first full-length novel, Squirrels. Early this year, I caught up with him while he was in Montreal on his annual visit and decided to have a chat with him when he got back to Bim and had settled down from all the millennium hype. The following is what came out of our connection.
Joyette: Hello Robert. It is always a pleasure to chat with a fellow writer. How was your visit to Montreal. Are these annual retreats, pilgrimages, visits to the old neighborhood or family bonding?
Sandiford: This last visit was a good one-got a lot done in terms of meeting with people, friends, family, business associates. I seem to be getting better organized the more I do this back and forth thing, which is really about recharging the old batteries as well as reestablishing contact with the old neighborhood. I draw my strength from this place still and always will, particularly because of friends and family.
Joyette: Sounds like therapy to me. I guess we need a bit of that from time to time. In that sense home is always in walking distance... How is life in paradise? I read in the January issue of the Community Contact that you have done a good bit of writing and publishing since you went south. Would you like to elaborate?
Sandiford: Life in paradise is never quite that, and apart from the writing I've been doing for the paper, much of the publishing I've been doing has gone on elsewhere (between Canada and the U.S.A.). My first book, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, was recently reprinted; it's being used in the schools in Barbados. Stray Moonbeams, another comic's adaptation of my erotic love stories illustrated by Justin Norman (who also illustrated the first, Attractive Forces) should be coming out this year from NBM Publishing. But, despite an increase in activity on the literary front (more festivals and contests and the like), not much actual book publishing goes on apart from self-publishing. Which is fine as long as the quality is high. It isn't always.
Joyette: Are you saying that in spite of the political and economical gains Barbados has made over the years and the number of well known writers and artists it has produced there is nothing happening towards... say the creation of a national literature or something along that line? Satisfy my curiosity, Robert. If Barbados is still at that stage then it is reasonable to assume that the literary arts in the rest of the Caribbean fare similar fate. Would you say that such a situation is due to the exiled condition of Caribbean literature? Would you like to comment on these?
Sandiford: Whoa! I don't know if I would or could say all that. First, although I know St. …