Wed | Feb 8, 2023

Sharma Taylor – lawyer yields to childhood passion

Published:Monday | April 25, 2022 | 12:10 AMDavid Salmon/Gleaner Writer
Sharma Taylor: “I am very grateful to be shortlisted again this year.”
Sharma Taylor: “I am very grateful to be shortlisted again this year.”

From an early age, Sharma Taylor knew that writing was her calling.

And not only has the attorney-at-law been able to pursue her passion, but she has also achieved a major milestone in her literary journey.

Taylor is one of 26 writers who have been shortlisted for the globally acclaimed Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Since resuming writing eight years ago, this is the fourth time she has been shortlisted for the coveted award.

“Each time, it is still very much an exciting, unexpected, and thrilling experience. I am very grateful to be shortlisted again this year,” she said during a Gleaner interview.

Have Mercy follows the story of Esme, a single mother who is dealing with the end of her relationship.

Perturbed by the constant cries of her younger neighbour’s baby, she goes to investigate and is confronted with a harrowing truth and is left to contemplate her own ideas of motherhood.

Taylor explained that the story should cause readers to reflect on mental illness and the hardships women experience as caregivers, especially when a relationship ends.

LOSING HERSELF IN LITERATURE

Exploring the personalities of her characters is its own reward as she loses herself in the pages of her tales.

Armed with a vivid imagination from a young age, Taylor reminisced on her journey when she first picked up the pen when she was 10 or 11.

“I wrote a historical romance novel. I remember a scene where a carriage was going over some cliff. I don’t know what I knew about romance at that time, but I always had that imagination,” she laughed.

The seed of passion germinated when Taylor attended St Andrew High School for Girls, benefiting from the tutelage of literature teachers such as Dr Lisa Tomlinson, who now lecturers at the Institute of Caribbean Studies at The University of the West Indies. Taylor also fondly remembers learning at the feet of Wayne Brown, the now-deceased Trinidadian poet and short story writer.

Brown, who was the winner of the 1973 Commonwealth Poetry Prize, had editorship roles for The Gleaner and Jamaica Observer’s arts sections.

Coming second in the Observer’s writing competition and attending classes tutored by Brown were some of the happy memories of Taylor’s teenage years.

Despite initially wanting to be a teacher, it was the courtroom that courted her attention. Her mom, who was a primary-school teacher, encouraged her writing but warned her that the classroom would not offer much money.

However, rediscovering the passion for story writing eight years ago has allowed Taylor to rekindle fulfilment from her hobby. That happened while she attended a public writing course while working in Barbados.

“When I was at Cave Hill, many, many years ago, I reconnected with my former writing teacher, Professor Jane Bryce. She was teaching a writing course that was open to the public, and I took it. She told me about the Commonwealth Prize and she encouraged my writing,” Taylor, vice-president, general counsel, and corporate secretary at Sagicor Group Jamaica, said.

Since then, Taylor has married literature and law and is eager to share her stories with the world.

Her debut novel, What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You, was inspired by the first submission for which she was shortlisted. Her book is being published by Virago Press and will be available in July in bookstores across the Commonwealth and on Amazon UK.

Her dream is to publish a collection of short stories, including those shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

When asked if she believes she’ll cop this year’s award, Taylor said that winning is secondary for her.

“I entered it to see if I can get feedback because one of the beauties about being shortlisted is that an editor works with you to get it published,” she said.

david.salmon@gleanerjm.com