As the recipient of an honourable mention two years ago for her MARTY nomination in the Emerging Literary Arts category, author Peta-Gaye Nash was recognized on stage with a certificate at the annual awards gala.
Nominated again in the same category for this year’s event on May 7, she wants to go a step further and win the award.
Established 21 years ago, the Mississauga Arts Council awards recognize artistic and literary achievements.
“This is recognition for my work and something I feel compelled to do which is writing,” said Nash. “For me, it’s someone saying I like what you have to say and how you say it.”
The Mississauga resident since 2004 has authored an adult collection, I Too Hear the Drums, and five children’s books, including Essie Wants An Education, which will be launched on April 24.
The fiction writer said this book emerged after listening to a CBC report about Roma children being denied equal education.
“As I was thinking how unbelievable something like this could be happening now, I saw a squirrel in a tree staring into my child’s classroom,” said the married mother. “It occurred to me that the squirrel wanted to go to school, but couldn’t just like the Roma children. The book is very light-hearted even though the topic is heavy. It’s supposed to entertain children, but I want the message to be clear that education should be available to anyone who wants it.”
Nash said her passion for writing started at a very young age.
“I began writing journals and penning my feelings from the time I could write,” she said. “At eight years old, I wrote ‘I hate my mom’ and she read it and got very upset with me. She normally reads my writings and invariably I would be punished for some of the things I wrote.”
Her mother, Jennifer Wyss, and father, Peter Stuart, reside in Jamaica.
“My mother is an incredible woman and she often read books to me,” said Nash, the sister of Jamaican model, actress and former Black Entertainment Television (BET) personality, Rachel Stuart, who lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and three children. “She is a voracious reader.”
The eldest of three children, Jamaican-born Gaye spent four years in the United States until 1984 before returning to the Caribbean island and completing high school at Immaculate Conception. She came to the Greater Toronto Area in 1987 to attend McMaster University, where she graduated with a labour studies degree.
After finishing university, she bought a backpack, worked in a factory for a few months to save enough money to travel and then took off for two years.
“I wanted to see the world and while in Australia, I met a Norwegian and moved there,” she said.
The union didn’t last long and Nash returned to Canada, where she is now happily married to a Jamaican.
In addition to writing, she is an English Language instructor working with newcomers at Malton Neighbourhood Services.