Lisa Allen-Agostini is a Trinidad and Tobago writer, editor, and stand-up comedian. She is best known for the Young Adult novel Home Home (2018). The manuscript won third prize in the 2017 CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.
Lisa Allen-Agostini was born in Trinidad. Lisa has written and performed poetry since childhood. Allen-Agostini attended Lower Morvant Government School and Bishop Anstey High School. She won a national school poetry writing competition in 1991. It gave her further impetus to become a professional writer.
Lisa Allen-Agostini self-published a book of poems called Something to Say in 1992.
Having been an actor with the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, she studied stagecraft and literature at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, while earning a BA in Literature in English (First Class Hons).
Her writing has reflected this experience, and she has written a handful of plays, one of which was staged as a dramatic reading as part of a playwrighting workshop headed by the late Tony Hall, a Trinidad & Tobago theatre legend.
Her journalist career began at the Trinidad Express, where Lisa Allen-Agostini was a feature writer and the editor of a weekly youth magazine, Vox. Moving to the Guardian, she continued to write features, eventually becoming assistant editor of features.
In 2001, she was awarded an Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship to The Washington Post and spent five months as a journalist on the Style Desk there.
Allen-Agostini left full-time work at the Guardian in 2007 as Internet editor but continued her affiliation with the paper as editor of the Sunday Arts Section. She joined the Newsday team as a freelance reporter in 2017.
Lisa resumed writing a column — this time in Standard English — in the Guardian from 2012— 2015.
Her first YA novel was The Chalice Project (Macmillan Caribbean, 2008). Her collection of poems, Swallowing the Sky, was published in 2015, and she co-edited the noir anthology Trinidad Noir (2008).
Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Wasafiri, sx salon, Susumba, Lightspeed Magazine, Moko Magazine, and Past Simple. A freelance journalist for many years, she wrote for the T&T Newsday, Caribbean Beat magazine, and other publications.
As a poet, Lisa Allen-Agostini has toured Trinidad & Tobago with an ensemble of women writers called Ten Sisters. Her work appears on the group’s self-titled CD, published by FishInk Press.
Lisa writes in different genres and voices but is probably best known in her homeland for her weekly column, written in Trinidad Creole, in the Guardian. It ran from 2006–2010 and covered issues of governance, parenting, society, children’s rights, education, the arts, and the economy, among others.
In 2009, Lisa Allen-Agostini founded The Allen Prize for Young Writers, an NGO registered in Trinidad & Tobago as a not-for-profit company. It aims to improve writing in Trinidad & Tobago by giving prizes, seminars, and workshops to teen writers, and publishing their works.
It began its inaugural program in September 2010 and worked until 2015. It is now on hiatus pending changes to its administrative and funding structure.
In 2019, she started the partnership FemComTT with Louris Lee-Sing. Just Lisa and Lyrix perform Caribbean feminist stand-up comedy. They co-host a twice-weekly talk show called The Givin’ Trouble Show on Facebook Live.
Lisa’s most recent book is the domestic noir novel The Bread the Devil Knead (2021). In March 2022, The Bread the Devil Kneaded was longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction and shortlisted out of six.
Photo credit: Paula Obé