Tag Archives: writing

Do our children lack the abilty to imagine?

I was asked to present at the public library camp over the summer, as I did last summer.DSC_0346Couldn’t do it. But it provided the opportunity to introduce the children to the writing of one of our Wadadli Pen Challenge winners (or so I hoped).

Margaret Irish - winner of the Lead by Example Teachers Prize collects her gifts courtesy Caribbean Reads Publishing and plaque sponsored by Joy Lawrence.

Margaret Irish – winner of the Lead by Example Teachers Prize collects her gifts courtesy Caribbean Reads Publishing and plaque sponsored by Joy Lawrence.

Margaret Irish is the winner of the Lead by Example Teachers Prize 2014, and, from the beginning, the idea behind that was encouraging teachers to write, and getting them to get creative in a way that could inspire their students to do the same, inspire them to share their own stories. The teachers were Challenged to submit entries that they could share with their students. Margaret’s The Skipping Rope is a good example of this and that’s why I thought she’d be a good match for the library programme. She readily agreed to do it (thanks to her for doing that) but as she informed me in a subsequent email (shared with permission) she didn’t share her story after all. Instead, she said, “I took them through an exercise in learning to use their imagination” I’m still disappointed she didn’t share her story but adjusting to the circumstances in the field is perfectly reasonable; matter of fact, absolutely essential. Her adjustment was driven by her observation that “students are unable to write creatively, simply because they cannot, they have not developed their imagination.”

As I write this, I remember one of the judges making a similar comment in her review of the 2014 Wadadli Pen Challenge submissions (a comment that echoed the 2005 judges’ report, in which the judge commented about the writers playing it safe, if I’m remembering correctly). The 2014 judge wrote: “The talent is there but I think they need to be taught a few techniques in story writing. I think they suffer from writing too many structured school stories. It is as though they don’t know they can use their imagination.”

This judge’s comment also has me considering another part of Margaret’s email. When she asked the 80 or so students (campers) how many of them liked writing compositions, only five or six raised their hands; when asked how many hated writing compositions “you should have seen the frustrated looks and defiant hands. It was sad.”

Sad indeed.

Possibly, part the problem is in the phrasing. One of the participants in my summer media training workshop at the Department of Youth Affairs comes to mind. She was distracted and disruptive throughout, but, as our rap sessions revealed, sharp as a tack and quite articulate and opinionated. Like most of them she resisted settling down to the work. I remember when she was required to present her review of the first film we’d watched. She hadn’t written a thing and I know she expected me to skip her but I told her she was still expected to present. And she did; she winged it. Interestingly, she did a pretty good job, there was good recall and clear insights in her ramblings and I couldn’t help thinking she’d have had a pretty good presentation if she’d taken the time to even organize her thoughts into bullet points if she didn’t want to write. I remember my one on one with her to discuss the article that each participant was required to produce at the end of the two weeks. She identified her topic, one of the topics we’d discussed earlier in the week but as I pressed re her action plan, trying to get her to focus and to draw on the tools and techniques I’d been sharing with them, it was clear she had no interest in the assignment or the topic. The assignment I dug in my heels on – I was determined that each person would at least try – but why would you pick a topic you had no interest in? So I threw it out and opened up a conversation with her about her genuine interests; it was a bit like pulling teeth at first but eventually I got her talking about one of her biggest interests and suggested to her how that could be a story. She hadn’t finished by the end of the week, and, frankly, I was doubtful she would, but she’d started. When she showed me her progress, it was primarily structured as responses to the questions I’d thrown out to guide her and I realized she’d need more time learning to structure them into prose. But I counted the baby step of getting her started on something as a win. The connection I’m seeing between that story and Margaret’s observation and the judges’ comments is the way we sometimes get locked into this square way of thinking, everything inside the box. One of the reasons I do Wadadli Pen is to awaken that idea that the stories are right there in their own backyard, in their own lives, not remote from their reality. Sometimes it’s enough to get them thinking and talking about the stuff they actually want to think and talk about, a little difficult to do in a one-off session with 80 people (with anything over, say, 15 – 20 really). Sometimes you have to jump start the conversation with films or songs or really whatever works. And, as I tried to do with the breaks and journaling activities at the DYA workshop, sometimes you need time to just be still within yourself, idle even, let your brain just float.

Because the imagination is key to everything: without the imagination there  is no writing, without the imagination there is no creativity, without the imagination there is no visioning, no seeing beyond where you are to the impossible. This is not just about writing now because seeing beyond where we are is something we need as individuals, period, and as a nation; it is this imagining that guides our feet, and lifts a song of promise and possibility in our souls, staving off stagnation and cynicism. So what is it about our environment that has them so uninspired and how can this be addressed not by way of one-off sessions but consistently?

Questions to ponder. Because it’s not that our kids lack imagination. As author Andre Dubois lll said, “We’re all born with an imagination. Everybody gets one.” And it is the font from which writing flows, and not just writing but everything that’s magical in the world.

During her session at the camp, Margaret read C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, instead of her own story (and I still, all said, have some issues with that decision because why not do both). She chose that story though I think to reinforce the idea that “when using one’s imagination, the events do not have to make sense.” It opened up the opportunity for her to engage them in an active exercise in which they would make up a story on what one could find on entering a wardrobe. And I’m pretty sure she wasn’t looking for shoes…maybe unless they were ruby red slippers which, clicked three times…conjured up a magic carpet that spirited you away to…Wonderland???

It sounds like she did it as a chain writing exercise, which I do too, as it’s a great way to get everyone involved and a good way to get out of the safe zone as you never know what the person before you is going to add to the story so you can’t over think it, you just have to go with it. Which reminds me of another quote (for you writers still reading this) from the Dubois article: “I love that line from E.L. Doctorow: ‘Writing a novel is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights—‘ but you keep going until you get there. I’ve learned over the years to just report back anything that I see in front of the headlights: Are they yellow stripes or white? What’s on the side of the road? Is there vegetation? What kind? What’s the weather? What are the sounds? If I capture the experience all along the way, the structure starts to reveal itself. My guiding force and principle for shaping the story is to just follow the headlights.” It’s a good way to get out of that zone of what writing is supposed to be and just letting it be, a good way of just imagining where the story could go. It sometimes takes them a minute to warm up to it, to embrace the freedom inherent in the idea that everything doesn’t have to make sense. At least not the first time around; that’s what revisions are for.

To answer the question headlining this piece, no they don’t lack the ability to imagine, though it sometimes needs to be nudged awake, even as we put to sleep this idea that writing is this daunting, insurmountable, dead, and deadly boring thing.

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Spreading the word re another writing and reading opportunity, an alternative to my own Jhohadli Writing Programme, this one via the Best of Books.

summer camp primary 2014 Best of Books Teen Writing Camp 2014

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The Jhohadli Writing Project Set to Begin

I’m in the process of preparing for the first session of the Jhohadli Writing Project, successor to last year’s Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project. Unlike last year’s programme, which was a one week camp free to teen and tween participants thanks to generous donors recruited by me, the JWP is a week to week, one session per week, pay as you go creative writing programme for writers at various stages and levels or for people who simply need to boost their writing skills for some other purpose. My expectation is that it will continue beyond the summer as  long as there is interest. That it is not sponsored/free probably accounts for the comparatively low registration. But I plan to press on with this project and anticipate that it will grow as time goes on.

It begins the first Thursday in July, continuing weekly thereafter, with the ‘teen stream  – creative’ programme (as that is where the confirmed registrants have come from). As explained on my Jhohadli site,

“This is for anyone in the teen bracket; into being creative, interested in learning more about craft and open to receiving constructive feedback on works-in-progress. As we work together, participants will hopefully become stronger artistes, and more aware of the great art in and beyond their world.”

As the synopsis suggests, we’ll be looking to other works, Caribbean and non-Caribbean,  classic and modern literature and art for instruction and inspiration, and participants will be encouraged to read, observe, discover and write, and will engage in discussion and receive feedback and guidance.

If you or any young person you know could benefit from this kind of programme, you can contact me at any time at jhohadli@gmail.com for more information or to register.

Feedback from last year’s camp:

“It was truly a help to me and this experience inspired / encouraged me to continue writing as well as share my writing with others.”

“You helped me on my path to being a writer. Thank you so much and I’d like to return next year. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.”

“I’ve been slacking off on my writing and this got me on track.”

“I gained a lot of tips in writing to make it more realistic.”

“I also got a lot of healthy criticism to better my writing skills.”

“I learned a lot from this camp. I can honestly say that my writing has improved from this experience and because of it I’m sure I will get better. Highlight of my summer.”

“I definitely gained more confidence in my writing and extra knowledge on writing stories, books, etc.”

“I gained courage to share my work with others, I learned to look beyond/deeper than what’s on the surface and to show the readers rather than telling them, which makes the piece much more interesting. I also learned that detail is very important.”

“The activities we did were very helpful in developing writing, reading , observational skills and more.”

The Jhohadli Writing Project is a writing instruction and mentoring project spearheaded by Joanne C. Hillhouse, author of several books including The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad! Joanne is also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach, and workshop facilitator who operates out of Antigua and Barbuda but is not limited to Antigua and Barbuda in her interactions with clients or her literary ambitions for herself and others with talent, potential and a strong work ethic. Joanne is passionate about the literary arts and hopes to stir similar excitement and confidence when it comes to literary expression in programme participants.


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An Audience with Elaine Spires

Elaine seated, with copies of Singles Holiday, its sequel Sweet Lady, and first book What's Eating Me? laid out before her and from left, me, Marcella Andre and Barbara Arrindell standing alongside.

Elaine seated, with copies of Singles Holiday, its sequel Sweet Lady, and first book What’s Eating Me? laid out before her and from left, me, Nia Comms founder Marcella Andre and Best of Books manager Barbara Arrindell standing alongside.

“I think as a writer, that’s all you can hope for, that you brought something alive for somebody.” – Elaine Spires during a conversation with other writers and book lovers at an event Saturday 7th June 2014 at the Best of Books on St. Mary’s Street.

I think we got caught up, put bibliophiles in a room and say talk books and it be like that. Elaine is a Brit who began her relationship with Antigua as a tour guide for tourists from the UK and now has a home here. Write what you know…her stories explore that terrain. I look forward to reading the first of the Antigua series, Singles Holiday, but Elaine is already readying book three which she says will be out in November.

The discussion went to some interesting places, beyond plotting, characterization, writing techniques and strategies (particularly interesting to me, strategies for writing humour that feels unforced), reading habits, editing, and publishing, to the challenges of writing the Other without stereotyping and of writing fiction that draws from real life without being too literal. I don’t think Elaine anticipated quite so many questions though I believe she rightly took it as a sign that we were all engaged, and certainly handled them well. Her readings, meanwhile, hinted at the humor to be found in situations where you take people out of their natural habitat and let them wander around and bump into things for a while. It also hinted at the allure of Antigua.

Elaine is a patron of Wadadli Pen, her gift, one of time to the winning writer, time to review works in progress and offer advice and direction, a mentorship which assists in fulfilling the Wadadli Pen mandate of assisting with the development of the literary arts. This year’s winner, Asha Graham, has already benefited from her session with Elaine.

It’s been a busy few weeks in Antigua for Elaine who has spent her time here at work on her forthcoming short story collection and the pilot of a TV series based on characters first seen during stagings here of When a Woman Moans, Maisie and Em. She returns to England where she continues work on the adaptation of Singles Holiday for the stage.

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad! – also a freelance writer, editor and writing coach and instructor). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.


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Wadadli Pen “gave me a voice”

Wadadli Pen has been alive and kicking for 10 years. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the time and energy to put into it, and to know if the impact is worth the effort. The enthusiasm of past finalists – Lia Nicholson, Latisha Walker-Jacobs, and Angelica O’Donoghue – in taking on the role of media ambassadors, volunteering to assist with launching the Wadadli Pen 2014 Challenge at the start of January with  appearances on various TV and radio programmes, was reassuring in this regard. And then there’s this note from past finalist Liscia Lawrence. It gives not only reassurance …it made me smile, and tear up. I want to thank Liscia for sharing. Have a read and if you know any boy or girl with a story in their heart, perhaps locked so deep they might not even know it’s there or are perhaps too reticent to let it out, encourage them to write and submit. The deadline is January 31st 2014. Joanne C. Hillhouse, founder and coordinator of Wadadli Pen

By Liscia Lawrence, special to Wadadli Pen

Before the Wadadli pen, I would have never thought that anyone would be interested in anything I had to say, I mean who would want to listen to the ramblings of a little child. In growing up I was always reserved, a shy kid I’d say who preferred to be on the sidelines looking in. I always felt as if I didn’t fit into this world like no one understood me, the world was such a confusing place back then. I’ve always had a very active imagination but was too afraid to express myself meaning I kept everything bottled up inside to a point where I felt as if my head would explode. At one point my reality and fantasy worlds became intertwined, I was overwhelmed by something I did not understand – my own brain. For years my mind never came to a comma let alone a full stop. When I first heard of the competition I got really excited and I remember thinking “wow that sounds great I should enter” but then I thought what would I write about?, Out of the thousands of students who would enter the competition what made me or my story so special that anyone would want to read it? Through the encouragements of my past English teacher I entered my first piece anyway. With my expectations very low, imagine my surprise when I found out I had gotten honorable mention and there I was thinking that I didn’t have anything to share that was worth sharing. By the next year I had more confidence and I entered again with my short story entitled “Misinterpreted” where I placed third.  Wadadli pen opened the door to my creativity, it inspired me to let go of my fears and speak out, and most of all it helped me to channel all the energy I had by simply putting pen to paper giving something a narrative shape and in so doing I began to believe in the shape of my life again, in beginnings, and middles, and endings. Thing is I was on a fast track to self-destruction, and when your mind crumbles to dust everything you thought you knew suddenly becomes something to question.  You have to build reality up again. And the bricks we use to shape our realities are called words.  The Wadadli pen competition gave me the opportunity to use my words and in so doing build my confidence, eliminated my fears, it gave me a voice and a whole new meaning to life. The world is a confusing place. Books are our maps. Without the ability to write, I’d quickly find myself very lost indeed.

Liscia’s story Misinterpreted won her third place in 2005; read it here 

Liscia’s story The Day I saw Evil won her honourable mention in 2004; read it here 

This is the photo call in 2004, the first year of Wadadli Pen - that's Liscia, standing, second from left.

This is the photo call in 2004, the first year of Wadadli Pen – that’s Liscia, standing, second from left.

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Reading Room V

Like the title says, this is the fifth reading room. Use the search feature to your right and the term ‘reading room’ to find the others. Four came before, pack-full-0 good reading: poetry, fiction, non fiction, and some visuals too. Good reading makes for good writing. So use the reading rooms like your personal library and enjoy. And remember, keep coming back; they’re never finished. As I discover things, things get added. And don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts re not only what you read here but also possible additions to the reading room.


The Nakedness of New by Althea Romeo Mark is a haunting piece about what it is to be a stranger in a strange land trying to find your footing. It gives one pause re their sense of feeling encroached upon by foreigners, non nationals, immigrants, whatever you want to call them. We are them sometimes when we find ourselves far from home:

‘A “foreigner” is dust in the eye
and many believe I have come
to plunder their treasures.’ Read more.


Paper Boats by Trisha Bora.


The Call by Danielle McShine.


Etiquette for Fine Young Cannibals by Simone Leid


Where Mine by Hal Greaves


De Poem’s Birth by Opal Palmer Adisa


What is a Poem? by Althea Romeo-Mark


A Creed by Kei Miller


Street Violence by Oscar Tantoco Serquiño Jr.


Sliver of Light by Sanjulo


A Testament to the Cycle of Truth by Martin Willitts


Chameleon Thoughts by Danielle Boodoo Fortune. Read more of her poems here.


Don’t exactly know how to categorize this but it’s beautiful and poetic to me.


Ernestia Fraser’s My Caribbean Mother is rich in imagery and symbolism that’s a feast to the senses. Read it here.


Gaulin Child by Helen Klonaris, director of the Bahamas Writers Summer Institute (I really need to do some more research on that, btw).


Barbara Jenkins has won prizes from Bocas and the Commonwealth; this – Something from Nothing - is one of her winning pieces.


A children’s story about growing up from a new and fun perspective @ Anansesem by Latoya Wakefield. A good bed time read-along.


In this clip, the first story Kincaid reads in the audio ‘Girl’ is one of the stories we read during the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing project. I don’t think it read on paper to them “a bit like a horror story” as suggested in the commentary supporting the video; rather I think they recognized it as being the somewhat familiar protective and proprietary tension in the relationship between Caribbean mothers and daughters, albeit heightened and from another time. Perspective is an interesting thing. I like to use it as an example that form is not written in stone (form can in fact be formless) and that characters and place can be clear as day without being plainly stated. The story is 90 percent monologue about 10 percent dialogue; I first read it in Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction and it is one of my favourite Kincaid stories.


2012 Commonwealth Short Story prize winners.


A bleak and sobering insight to life in a Haitian ghetto; Ghosts by Edwidge Dandicat.


A Fish-eye Country by Ashley Rousseau


Kei Miller’s eulogy for dub poetry that interestingly had me thinking of calypso. Perhaps you too will see the connection.


An interesting encounter stirs a discourse on language, arwe language in this blog posting by Dr. Carolyn Cooper.


Less than Great Expectations by M. J. Rose is one of those hard truths about the business articles for those of you thinking of being writers. It says, among other things:

There are the occasional meteoritic rises to success. Every year, of the 10000+ novelists who get published, there will be five debuts that make the list because they were anointed and the system worked.

Those five aren’t worth analyzing. They are the lottery winners – the five with just the right book and just the right agent at just the right time to just the right publisher who has just the right line up with just the right foresight to make it happen.

The list of authors to pay attention to and learn from are the other 99% on the bestseller list who got there after 5, 7, 10, or 18 books. Jodi Picoult became a bestseller with her 8th. Janet Evanovitch with the her 18th. Carol O’Connell, who is one of my favorite writers, made it with her 10th.

It’s a rare author who gets anointed right off the bat.

I’m four books in, seven if you count the ones I’ve co-authored…and those are some daunting figures; but I’ve never been picked for anything so I continue working hard, learning, growing, hardening myself to the realities, while holding on to the dreamy girl who loves to read and still wishes on a star.


Life opens up when you do by Rilys Adams (Wadadli Pen alum)


I’m sharing this not because of the poster of one of my favourite movies that accompanies the post but because it’s a process and affliction any writer can relate to – the war within.


I’m not an exhibitionist but I do love playing mas at Carnival; I see no contradiction. This blog post by Brenda Lee Browne explains it all.


A charming, engaging, and thought provoking read on the danger and impracticality of a single story. By my old Breadloaf roommate and author of Evening is the Whole Day Preeta Samarasan. True Stories.


Every writer needs an editor, Maria Murnane asserted at Shewrites.com and she’s not lying. And I’m not just saying that because I provide editing services.


Insert writers (and perhaps every other type of artiste where it says singers and musicians) and the LA Times’ David Ackert speaks the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.


I’m sharing this one because hearing that someone wrote a great novel in six months or two weeks, landed an agent on the first try, and licensed film rights and re-publications in various languages before the book was even on the shelves can get discouraging. The truth for most writers can be a lot more bleak; but as my mother is always saying nothing happen before it’s time…yeah that and wha fu you is fu you. Anyway, read Randy Sue Meyers’ journey to literary success. It’s a reality check…but oddly encouraging.

This is one of my pieces, an article I did for Bookbird about Wadadli Pen.


This was a blog posting that caught my eye. It’s about the business of promoting your book (a business I’m still trying to master). Have a read.


“An alarm clock or a ringing telephone will dispel a new character; answering the call will erase a chapter from the world.” Isn’t that the truth? Try getting people to understand that though. In this article on writing, African American author makes a strong case for exercising discipline and prioritizing writing the way we do other things that matter in our life. But he makes clear it’s not about word count but about keeping the world of the story alive by engaging with it every day…as it can become like mist with time.


This article is about how Reagan K. Reynolds, a self-described “a white American in my early twenties, raised in a privileged home where education was never considered an interference of cultural ethics but a foundation for them”, engaged with the writing of Antigua and Barbuda’s own Jamaica Kincaid. She said, among other things: “Kincaid uses her pen to reach over and poke at my own social constructs built within the boundaries of gender, race, occupation and education. The floor beneath who I think I am and who I think others are comes apart in an earthquake of literary moments. These moments exist because authors like Kincaid are brave enough to create them…I have become addicted to the uncomfortable sensation that occurs when discovering a perspective that is unlike my own.”


Preeta Samarasan is the author of Evening is the Whole Day. She was also my roommate at the Breadloaf Writers Conference in 2008. Needless to say, I’m a fan of her writing and this particular piece is both touching and thought provoking. Also it makes me think about how I obsessed about main character Nikki’s eye colour in Oh Gad! – it was a tie to her father, to her sister – but as expected though I knew children, black or, I suppose, mixed children, with just that shade, and did the research just to be sure, some have questioned it, the probability of a black or even a mixed race woman having that eye colour. As Preeta said, though, discussing her daughter’s blue eyes, it can be complex and assumptions can be far off base especially when the person doesn’t really take the time to observe.


Thinking of publishing? Anthony Horowitz asks a thought provoking question you may want to consider first.


Garfield Ellis’ testimonial is the stuff inspiration is made of.


Bahamas-centric but Ian Gregory Strachan’s Columbus’s Ghost:Tourism, Art and National Identity in the Bahamas is an interesting read on tourism’s impact on Caribbean arts. Example: “Governments even attempt to take carnivals and other folk festivals, which have historically been sites of grassroots cultural resistance and commodify them as sources of exotic entertainment for the tourist. And when they are not producing the exotic, the natives are cultivating a colonial past that adds to the visitors’ sense of a quaint island atmosphere. They are keeping alive the Royal Police Marching Band, and preserving the plantation Great Houses. Private concerns occasionally purchase such relics of slavery and turn them into inns for tourists. Seventeenth-and eighteenth- century forts are refurbished and the exploits of long dead pirates are heralded.” It makes the point that the omnipresence of tourism is such that it begins to shape the creative imagination: “So pervasive and overpowering an industry must, through its physical presence, economic presence, social presence, and media presence, impose itself on the imaginations of Bahamians, impose itself in such a way that it begins to influence how Bahamians imagine themselves, how Bahamians imagine the landscape of their country, their community, and their world.” Like I said, interesting.


Reasons why you should not become a writer and signs that you already are in this Matt Haig article, Why You Should Write.


I wasn’t sure where to place this but I figure here’s as good a place as any and something all of us writers need to hear at some point. It’s about Processing Feedback.


I’m sharing this not because I’ve read this poet (I haven’t, yet, at this writing) but because I really enjoyed some of her responses, specifically:

I started trying maybe 1988 or so, started calling it poetry around 1990, then tried to write poetry a few years later, but really started writing poetry about 2000. And I say that because that’s when I started to understand my obligation to the craft…

“It’s difficult, not just because I’d like to do more writing, but because one intrudes on the other… a sort of identity disorder. I am beginning to resent this world and all its demands. It has no patience for reading and writing. It pulls at you…

“Just before the printing of it, I looked at the collection and couldn’t find one thing worth reading. It was all horrible compared to what I’m currently writing. Now post publishing, the opposite has happened: I adore them all and everything I write now can’t possibly be as good. I’m sure it’s a conceit! I’m waiting on the scales to lift from my eyes, to be balanced again…

“I have all sorts of great expectations and dread! I’m sometimes afraid of myself. Do people profit from receiving their hearts desire? Are they better off? Will it help or hurt my estimation of my work? Do I deserve it? I am a vat of questions. But all this is accompanied by a resounding sense of life being purposeful! Of being smiled on…”

These responses are from Jamaican poet Millicent Graham in an interview at Yard Edge.



Catherine Bain and Gayle Gonsalves talk In the Black.


Sharon Millar is a Small Axe and Commonwealth winning short fiction writer and this ARC interview reveals why. Some of us can only wish we could express so completely and incisively how our stories are born and grow into what they become, what their signatures are and where they fit into the canon. A really interesting read.


Proust questionnaire answers from Mansa Trotman, daughter of well known Antiguan writer Althea Prince and a poet in her own right.


Interview with dynamic and innovative Bajan artist Sheena Rose.


This is a story we should know (yet another indignity in the history of African people). I’m putting it here because the posting includes a film (a cringe worthy depiction of a cringe worthy but all too real episode in the intersecting narratives of African and European people); the story  of the so-called “Hottentot Venus”. Her name was Sara Baartman. Here is her story.


This is another one of those not quite sure where it fits things but since it’s a video interview (see, it could have been interview), I’ll add it here. It’s a little known fact that Spartacus was one of my TV addictions while it lasted. The New Zealand born actor in this vid was an actor on that show, one of my favourite characters as a matter of fact. But this isn’t about that. What appeals to me about this vid (actually a single story broken up into about three vids) is the reminder of how important the arts (and a good teacher) can be in changing a young person’s life. Here’s Part 1, Part 3, and my favourite, Part 2:

“Choices…making the right choices.”


sectionscene from Fish Outta Water by Zavian Archibald. Love her art work.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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What if?

So a publication asked me to submit a piece on writing tailored to kids to coincide with the release of Fish Outta Water. I was stumped but decided to give it a go. Just as I was submitting it, though, they said, never mind. Seems I’d missed the deadline I hadn’t been informed about. Needless to say I was pissed because time is not something I have a lot of; but then I remembered I have this blog for sharing things like this (and hadn’t had time to blog all week). So I won’t count it as time wasted but as the blog I didn’t know I was going to write. And you know what’d be really cool: if kids, especially kids 10 and younger, responded with their own response to the what if prompt in the comments section below.

How to Write Your Own Adventure

What if? …

That question can send the imagination on an exciting adventure.

What if an Arctic seal got lost in the Caribbean?

That’s the question that jump started my new book Fish Outta Water.


In the real world, we learned that this is not such a far-fetched what if when Wadadli, the Arctic seal, was helped home by scientists after somehow ending up in our waters.

But what if the stranded seal had been befriended by a creature from the Caribbean Sea? What kind of creature would that be? Would it be friendly? Would it help the stranded seal find his way home? What kind of adventures would they have?

For each question, I imagined answers until the world of the story was filled with characters; and how the seal got lost to how he got home became the challenge driving the plot, as surely as the growing friendship between the adventurous twosome.

As for the world of the story, before the illustrator (Zavian Archibald) could draw it, I had to imagine it. I refreshed memories of being on or under the water with online images of our vibrant Caribbean underwater life and the creatures that inhabit it. Plus, I found inspiration in unexpected places, like watching the sway of grass in a brisk breeze as I tried to write the fluid world of the sea.

Because it’s the world of your imagination, you can bend the rules. So yes, the seal and other sea creatures in Fish Outta Water do talk, just like Nemo.

As for how it feels to be lost, to make new friends or to go on adventures, I have only to search my own experiences; and use the echo of those emotions to imagine how the characters might feel.

Of course, in the story, the adventure eventually comes to an end. To find out if the seal who daydreams of dolphins finds his way home, you’ll have to read the story; I don’t want to spoil it for you.

But, know this, you too can write your stories; your story can take anything on any kind of adventure. You only have to ask yourself, what if?


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