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ESU doles out prizes for Zuill Memorial | The Royal Gazette:Bermuda Arts & Entertainment

Owain Johnston-Barnes

Published Aug 30, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 30, 2019 at 12:19 am)

Creative writers: the English Speaking Union has handed over $8,000 in prizes to island writers as part of the first William S Zuill Memorial writing competition. Shown are Elsa Stevenson, Alisa Bernardo, Betty Azzario, Don Moore, president of the English-Speaking Union in Bermuda, Nasir Simmons and Nalani Dowling (Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)

Creative writers: the English Speaking Union has handed over $8,000 in prizes to island writers as part of the first William S Zuill Memorial writing competition. Shown are Elsa Stevenson, Alisa Bernardo, Betty Azzario, Don Moore, president of the English-Speaking Union in Bermuda, Nasir Simmons and Nalani Dowling (Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)

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The English Speaking Union has handed over $8,000 in prizes to island writers as part of the first William S Zuill Memorial writing competition.

Dozens of authors submitted their work to the competition, named in honour of the late author, historian and former editor of The Royal Gazette.

Nasir Simmons, who aims to become a screenwriter, won the $2,000 top prize for his play Sea Salt and Sell Swords — A Bermudian Pirate’s Tale.

Mr Simmons said the play was about a group of just freed slaves turned pirates, who are locked in a debate over what paths they should take in life.

He added: “They are questioning their outlaw lifestyle, what it means to be a pirate and whether their actions are immoral.”

Mr Simmons said he was thrilled at the reception for the play, but added that he planned to work to improve his craft further.

He added: “As a writer, you need to be writing all the time, so I’m always trying to get into competitions and continue my work.

“It’s important to get people to look at my work and find out what they think, so I can find ways to make it better, more accessible.”

Betty Azzario won in the 1,000 words or less category, and a $1,250 prize, for her story Bancroft, about a homeless Bermudian man.

She said: “I wrote about Bancroft as a character sketch; both my family and I, had experiences with Bancroft. We would get him dinner around Christmas time.

He once went to my brother’s church and wouldn’t stop singing, so I wrote about that. He had this very deep, rich baritone voice.”

Ms Azzario said she was pleased to win the award because William S Zuill had presented her with her first writing prize when she was a child.

Alisa Bernardo took home the prize in the 2,000 words or less category for her story Wreck Hill Pirates, which she said was inspired by stories she told as a tour guide at Fantasea Diving and Water Sports.

She added: “It was a play on words about how our economy in Bermuda was started through piracy. We tell the tourists that the people who lived on Wreck Road would light a bonfire at night and lure ships in.

“They would end up on the reefs because no foreign captain could negotiate them and the Wreck Hill residents would go out and offer assistance, but we wouldn’t do it without a prize of 50 per cent of the goods.”

The journalism student — who already has a scholarship from the ESU, said she was glad she had entered the competition and put her creative energy to work.

Ms Bernardo also won $1,250.

Elsa Stevenson won $500 for her story The Fisherman in the 16 and under category.

Sarina Drover won the Judges’ Prize and Jessica Fae Sapsford took home the Poetry prize.

Both were awarded $750.

Nalani Dowling and Adam Gauntlett won honourable mentions, and $500 prizes, for their entries.

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