Tag Archives: writing

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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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Wadadli Pen 2014, Wadadli Pen News

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 afflication 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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Aaah so

grammerlySaw this on Facebook today …some of my greatest hits of pet peeves are in there. Misuse of affect/effect and your/you’re can turn me off of a story in a minute. And “could of”?!? Seriously?

I know, of course, that perfection does not exist but proofing and editing do.

Full disclosure, here’s one of my grammar faux pas. I almost always have to look it up …but that’s the point, I look it up.

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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On writing dialogue

I’m not one for hard and fast rules (always, never…please!) but there are some good dialogue tips here

You know that part in your favourite show, usually the first 15 minutes or so, where characters are talking but they ain’t saying nothing (new) i.e. background and contextual overload in dialogue form …that’s what I think of when I read rule 1: Never use dialogue as an information dump (See what I mean about always, never… sometimes you’ve got to give a little something something through the dialogue …the trick is to keep it conversational).

My time as a reporter (where it’s all he said, she said with the occasional rebellion to something more descriptive) more than anything has taught me as much as possible to beware dialogue tags that get in the way of the actual dialogue which is rule 2: Use simple dialogue tags.

Having the characters do instead of or while talking is a good idea as well since that’s what we do in real life – see, I’m thinking and typing and listening to music all at once. Knew show don’t tell was gonna work its way in here some where. So, use the moments, reveal the characters, create forward movement, slow things down or speed them up, use the moments; rule 3: Use dialogue beats to help with story pacing and to convey information or emotion.

But it’s so pretty…. rule 4: Remember that often less is more.

Rule number 5 is Be careful when writing dialect.  Ok, here’s the thing, I try to write the characters’ voices as I hear them (not literally…exactly). In editing I read the dialogue out loud to hear it (for real this time). As the review process gets going I may nip and tuck here and there so that they still sound like themselves but can be understood…it’s not a science with me…but so far it works.

Read the whole article

I think my dialogue note, if I have one, is I don’t try to create my characters, I try to get to know them and be true to them in the telling. How they speak is a part of that. I am ever a student of this craft but reader response suggests I get it right (some of the time):

“… nicely managed dialogue that captures personality and mood.”

“The dialect is wonderfully written and rolls off the mental tongue while reading it.”

“I find myself caught up again in the complexity of the characters, in a fascination with a world with layers of languages I hardly know, with its sense of community.”

 “Even though the dialect wasn’t something I was used to at the end of the book, I felt that I could go to Antigua and carry on a conversation with the best of them.”

“The characters are so vivid, that I got this idea that when I will visit Antigua, I will meet them in the streets.”

*WARNING*Shameless plug alert* All reader reviews refer to my book Oh Gad! About which you can read more, here.

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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Closed for Carnival

..not us but as a visiting writer from the US anxious to get involved in the local literary scene recently discovered, everything kind of stops for summer and Carnival in Antigua and Barbuda. Notably Expressions is on hold (not sure of the return date but sometime in September no doubt); and the Best of Books Wadadli Pen Open Mic is on hold until September 14th. Even the Cushion Club is on break. As I told our literary traveler, the next summer spark that I’m aware of literarily is the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project. That’s my baby. My second baby after Wadadli Pen (don’t get jealous, Wadadli Pen). Jhohadli is me (that’s a pen name of mine bestowed on me by a Trini-block-mate during my UWI days and happily claimed by me as my literary alter ego (so no stealing); Summer is when it is (specifically August 12th to 16th); Youth is who it’s targeting (I can confirm 10 successful applicants between the ages of 8 and19; with  four others still to be confirmed); Writing (that’s what it’s about; we’ll be reading and writing and exploring to feed the writing because it’s a hungry beast); Project (I call it a project because that’s what it became when I decided to take it from the idea phase. And the idea grew out of this urge to do more than an annual challenge but needing to find a way to make it self sustaining and targeted at those who need and want it whether they have the money to access it or not).

As I wrote in another post APUA does not accept thank yous and as a working writer I had to find a way to cover my time and material costs, so I asked several businesses to sponsor tuition for participants. Those who agreed to do so are:

Brenda Lee Browne
Townhouse Mega Store
Caribbean Water Treatment
Dr. Jillia Bird (couldn’t find a link to her business so this is a link to her major activist cause)
Shirley Heights Lookout

with the Best of Books, Koren Norton, Silston’s Library, and St. John Cooperative Credit Union kicking in support as well.

I am happy with the response though I have more participants than sponsors. I had some rough patches, some misunderstandings, some bad feelings, some I don’t need this @#$&! moments but I also enjoyed receiving the application letters and preparing the programme of activities. So I’m doing this, and hoping for the best and encouraged by the enthusiasm of the applicants…

Snippets from some JSYWP application letters, pulled at random

“I’ve always desired to be tutored and mentored by a published author and the fact that you are an local author makes it much more appealing.”

“When I write I write from my heart. I express the way I feel, think and my emotion spills over into my writing.”

“My other hobbies are drawing, writing stories and I am now working on a comic …hoping it would become a cartoon one day.”

“I want to learn more about the art of writing so that my compositions can improve.”

“This opportunity will give me the chance to take my writing to another level and put to paper the many thoughts that constantly invade my imagination.”

“In my spare time, I enjoy reading books by Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Lemony Snicket. I enjoy reading books in general.”

“I am a thirteen year old Antiguan poet.  I have been writing poetry for a year and a half… In my spare time I like to read mystery books.”

“I have never attended a workshop like this and I am not sure what to expect.  One of my favorite things to do to pass time is read.”

“When I first began to write, my poems were scribbles at the back of all my school exercise books.”

“I am extremely interested in taking part in the jhohadli summer youth writing project, as I am very passionate about creative writing…”

“The thrill that I get when a new idea pops into my head coupled with my vigorous imagination are key factors that I believe that such a programme like this could benefit me tremendously.”

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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So, I thought I’d share some of the feedback to the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge 2013 season. In part because I hope it’ll continue to spark interest among other young writers still hiding their light under a bushel, potential patrons, media and the general public (and I hope that interest will translate into more support for the programme). In part, because I just want to take a moment to celebrate another successful year of pulling this off against the odds. Thanks to all patrons, partners, and well wishers; thanks especially to our young writers, FOR DARING (it’s not easy putting your work out there as all of us who’ve ever written a word and submitted it somewhere or even asked someone for feedback know all too well). So go read the stories, okay?

Okay, comments, here goes…

Comments VIA EMAIL (scrubbed of identification markers, I hope):

From the mom of one of our younger finalists:

“(My daughter) would like to thank the sponsors who donated her gifts and rest assured she will be reading them.  She has almost finished reading Trapped (in) Dunston’s Cave. She is all fired up and is already working on two pieces for next year.”


From one of the teachers:

“I really wanted to say thank you for affording my students and me the opportunity to share our stories and drawings. We will definitely by looking out for the next WADADLI PEN COMPETITION …Now that I’m exposed to what is expected (the stories that won were awesome!!!) I will definitely have to put in some extra work!! Awesome job!! You are a role model to aspiring writers. Shine on!!”

From one of the finalists:

“Just want to let you know that I think that the Wadadli Pen Prize is a great initiative and hope to see it continue!”


Left to right, overall winner Asha Challenger, third placed Zuri Holder, and second placed Daryl George.

Left to right, overall winner Asha Challenger, third placed Zuri Holder, and second placed Daryl George.



One teacher said:

“Congrats to Joanne C. Hillhouse and Barbara Arrindell (of the Best of Books) for keeping reading alive, and more importantly, for encouraging our young people to tell our own stories.”


Comment re St. John’s Catholic Primary’s win of US$500 worth of books from Hands across the Sea as the primary school with the most submissions:

“I am so proud to be a part of this school family. Blessings!!!”

“Congrats to my Primary School, I am so proud.”


To the overall winners:

“Education is power, keep up the good work; you guys are our future. I like what I see.”

Re winning story Asha Graham’s Revelations Tonight:

“I really enjoyed this… the scenery was amazing!”

Excerpts from reader comments AT CARIB ARENA:

“ Really like ‘Ceramic Blues’….we really need to come to terms with things and hypocrites in our midst. The story must be told!”


“Great to see this competition for our island’s young people. Congratulations to all winners! Keep up the great work, Joanne Hillhouse and others!”

Me, with the youngest of the 2013 Wadadli Pen finalists - art and lit. (Photo courtesy Antigua Chronicle)

Me, with the youngest of the 2013 Wadadli Pen finalists – art and lit. (Photo courtesy Antigua Chronicle)


“The Wadadli Pen Challenge is the ONLY serious story competition for the young people of A&B. It deserves far more support, from both the private and government sectors.”


“CONGRATULATIONS to all……keep working on the next chapter because ‘until the Lion tells (writes) his story it will always be told (written) by the hunter’. We’ve already heard a million hunter stories. It is a crying shame that this project, ‘The Wadadli Pen Challenge’ does not get the public support it deserves.”

Comments right here ON WADADLI PEN:

“Giant congratulations to ALL………….keep on taking it to the next chapter.”

“Keep Writing and a big Congrats to all the writers and winners this year.”

“Congratulations on a very timely story Mr. George, one need not be a rocket scientist “to get it”. I hope it gets read by more than just the “usual suspects”…………………….”

FINAL THOUGHT: Okay so for the first time, I think, I’ve left the comment section beneath the stories open. In the past, I felt very protective of the writers because of their ages and so closed the stories off to comments. But you know what, feedback is part of the writing life, so feel free to comment; but be constructive – abusive statements will be deleted.

Thanks for reading…and thanks to Antigua Chronicle for permitting the use of their photos.

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Literary Gallery, Wadadli Pen 2013, Wadadli Pen News

Making a Difference?

This is a blog post originally written and submitted for Elaine Spires’ blog, where I was guest blogging. I’m not sure if she still intends to post it, but I thought I might take a break from reviewing Wadadli Pen submissions for the 2013 Challenge to share it here, with you. The two things are connected after all.

When I was a wanna-be writer, the environment didn’t provide the opportunity and encouragement I needed. As a result, I think it took me longer than I would have liked to claim my path, my self-definition as a writer. That’s why I wanted to do the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, which I started back in 2004;  to provide that opportunity for young Antiguan and Barbudan writers.

I worry sometimes that the programme is not hitting its mark in terms of reaching the young people who really need that nurturing and encouragement. I don’t want schools or teachers to see it as just another obligation in an already too full calendar.

I tell myself that our aspiration is higher than that, that we can make a real difference in a young writer’s life and, at the same time, help foster self-expression and an appreciation for the literary arts in the wider community. When the entries are trickling in, as they are did this year, and real life is taking its pound of flesh, as it is, in other areas of my life, I wonder if it’s worth it; if all of these ambitions are nothing more than ego. Because if I’m being honest, I like how it feels when the awards come around and the young writers are recognized. It feels good, like I’m doing some good. And it reminds me of that episode of Friends where Phoebe tries to prove to Joey that there is such a thing as a self-less good deed. But if doing the good for someone else makes you feel good, is it truly selfless?

Yesterday A few Saturdays ago, I left the Cushion Club, a reading club I volunteer with, albeit intermittently these days, feeling pretty good. I had decided to do a kids writing workshop with the Cushion Club, bringing my two main voluntary activities together, in part in hopes of turning that trickle of Wadadli Pen submissions into more of a steady flow. My carefully laid out plans quickly fell victim to a late start, technical difficulties, and the stress of trying to get kids to settle when for all your prep you’re not settled yourself. I had to wing it, all of it. And I just decided to get the kids writing as quickly as possible before they got distracted and bored. Some did get distracted and bored at points anyway, but by the end, everyone had written and read something, and some some very interesting and creative things as well. I left the session feeling positive which if you know how I was feeling going in is quite the emotional switch; and I remember saying to Brenda Lee, the fellow travelling writer who’d stopped by to interact with the kids for a bit, that while I don’t get paid for the work I do with the kids, it feels good, so they do give me something back.

So perhaps there is no truly selfless deed, but perhaps there is nothing wrong with a little give and take, if your intention is to do some good and if you can see the blossoming of possibility as a result of it. I saw the blossoming of possibility during that joint Cushion Club-Wadadli Pen kids writing workshop.

That said, I’d like to say thanks to all the generous patrons who’ve given to Wadadli Pen over the years, for whatever reason. We couldn’t celebrate these blossoming young writers (35 and younger) as we do if not for you. Yes, that means you too, Elaine, for contributing a copy of one of your novels to our prize package for a second straight year. You’ll be have been added to our growing list of prize donors because a little public “thank you” is the least I can give to the people who give to a programme I care deeply about.

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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Open Letter to Schools in Antigua and Barbuda

We at Wadadli Pen are hoping that you had a good National Reading Day
We’d like to suggest that a writing exercise might be a good follow up to Reading Day. Perhaps the students having read and heard the stories of others can begin to imagine their own stories.
Food for thought.
Be reminded that the submission deadline is February 15th 2013.
Here are your art guidelines and your writing guidelines, and literary prompts if you need them. Be encouraged in the important work that you do and continue to encourage the students to do what they do best – dream, create, express themselves.
founder/coordinator Wadadli Youth Pen Prize
p.s. Remember the Secondary and Primary school with the most submisions also wins a prize.

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Reading Room and Gallery II


The stacks were overflowing at the original Reading Room and Gallery; I decided to expand.

DISCLAIMER: By definition, you’ll be linking to third party sites from these Links-We-Love pages. Linked sites are not, however, reviewed or controlled by Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize nor coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse); and Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse) disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to any linked sites and does not assume any responsibility for their contents. In other words, enter at your own risk.

Here you’ll find stories, interviews, reviews, poems; you name it…a totally subjective showcase of (mostly) Caribbean written (sometimes visual and audio visual) pieces that I (Joanne) have either personally appreciated or which have been recommended (and approved) for posting/linking. If you’re looking for the winning Wadadli Pen stories (and I hope you are!), check Wadadli Pen through the years. You can also see the Best of Wadadli Pen special issue at Anansesem which has the added feature of audio dramatizations of some of the stories.


Won’t You Celebrate with me (print and audio) by Lucille Clifton; also These Hips (actually Homage to My Hips).


You never thought by Nic Sebastian.


I have a theory about Reflection by Renee Ashley (The Robert Watson Literary Prize Poem)


As I write this I’m reading Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda (in Spanish and English) and amidst the lush language, I found this gem that seems timely (it being pre-Valentine and all at this posting) – Sonnet XVII which reads in part

Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
dentro de si, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra


I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

The full poem can be found here.


I am nobody’s nigger - bup! bup!


Liking the humour in Maelynn Seymour-Major’s Retired Woman War.


Still haven’t read The Help, nonetheless Carol Boyce Taylor’s Borscht made me think of it. Those who have read it can tell me if I’m totally off the mark.


As a fan of Gil Scott Heron’s The Revolution will not be Televised, I had to share this piece, Complainer, about the late poet-activist by Fred D’Aguiar.


Tell me One Fine Day I will walk with my Head held High by Bisi ADeleye-Fayemi (also found here) doesn’t leave you feeling empowered.


Twins by Tiphanie Yanique from Ma Comere.


One of my favourite shorts from one of my favourite writers: Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl.


Regular readers might remember me writing about Will Allison’s What You Have Left. Here’s an excerpt (kinda) from Zoetrope’s All Story.


Quirky, interesting tale from the New Yorker; A Man Like Him by Yiyun Li.


This origin story from the Shonga People in Zimbabwe, published in Anansesem, was quite engaging. Favourite line: “After this they knew that when they listened to the beat of their hearts, they would not feel trapped or lost.”


i’m still on a learning curve with this publishing business. But I can report that much of what this writer says is true, from my experience; and that I read it with an eye toward checking off what I’d done and what I still needed to do. Turns out I’ve done most of it and hope to see it pay off. For anyone thinking of publishing – either independentally or with a publishing house – this is useful information re marketing: http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/five-marketing-tips-to-drive-excitement-and-buzz


Anyone who knows me (well) knows how much I love and relate to the music of Lauryn Hill and even to her particular brand of ‘crazy’. It’s why I feel the need to share this: http://vigilantcitizen.com/latestnews/lauryn-hills-tumblr-letter-on-the-music-business/ which says among other things “I Love making art, I Love making music, these are as natural and necessary for me almost as breathing or talking.  To be denied the right to pursue it according to my ability, as well as be properly acknowledged and compensated for it, in an attempt to control, is manipulation directed at my most basic rights! “


A blog about Bocas and others in the series  by author Karen Lord.


“…knowledge of one’s own history and culture has intrinsic value.” Read more in this Carolyn Cooper response to a critic who calls into question the relevance of a course in reggae poetry at the University of the West Indies. Personally, I’d like to see a course in calypso poetry too.


“I thought that publishing a book meant I was a writer, but I was wrong. Convincing yourself each day to keep going, this means that you are a writer.” Read more of Last Lecture: Am I a Writer? by Cathy Day.


This blog entry by Tameka Jarvis shares her review of Rita Marley’s No Woman No Cry, a book I’ve reviewed here in Blogger on Books and which remains one of my favourite autobiographies.


Love this blog entry by Brenda Lee Browne… as I prepare for the launch of my new book, I can relate to the hesitance to dip your toe in the water. This is a scary, scary path we choose when we pour our heart, soul, energy, years of life into this thing that we then have to let go and await the world’s judgment.


This is actually a blog entry by Silver Sparrow author Tayari Jones. Silver Sparrow is on my to read list, NaNo which challenges you to write a certain amount of words in a month, is decidedly not on my to do list, her blog sums up why. Mostly, I like what she suggests about writing being a process not a destination. While challenges like the one mentioned can help a writer develop the discipline needed to finish a book, to take up pen and declare I want to write a book rather than I want to be a writer misses the mark; the latter requires investment in the discipline of actually developing craft and perspective. Read, live, grow, write (and edit, and redraft, and redraft, and redraft…), then (maybe) publish.


Perspective on the publishing industry … if Shakespeare was publishing today, would he be rejected too?


The Bronte sisters aren’t Caribbean, unless you count the literary link between Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea or the fact that many of us children of the Caribbean grew up reading both books; either way, I thought this article on the Brontes might intrigue you as it did me.


I’m sharing this interview with Cara Blue Adams, fiction and non fiction of the Southern Review literary journal in the U.S., for two reasons – and, no, one is not her delightfully quirky name. One, I think her insights on the process submissions go through provide some insight and perspective for writers. Two, I found interesting the discussion about fewer women being published (and perhaps) writing…because with Wadadli Pen it’s actually the opposite. A grad student actually asked me about this once i.e. the level of participation among girls versus boys in Wadadli Pen, and it broke down that in 2004 only 12% of the participants were boys, 18 percent in 2005, 29 percent in 2006, 0 percent in 2010, 16 percent in 2011, 23 percent in 2012. The arts in Antigua, I think, are not seen as manly things, and many of the literary folk I come across (not just in Antigua but in the wider Caribbean) tend to be female, but, interestingly, many of the region’s literary legends are male. Interesting.

Their Eyes were watching God is not only one of my favourite books, Zora Neale Hurston, its author, is one of my literary heroes. For more on her, I recommend Valerie Boyd’s Wrapped in Rainbows. This is not an interview but a discussion with Alice Walker, Sonia Sanchez, and Ruby Dee on Hurston’s writing and legacy. It’s lengthy but worth checking out.


Jamaica Kincaid, uncensored…but then isn’t she always. And then there’s this one, I’m struck by how pretty she looks in this interview and by these words “I understood the book much better when I was writing it” (I understand this feeling so much as I try to answer questions now like ‘what inspired you to write this book i.e. Oh Gad!’ when that impulse is now a vague memory).


Surprise, surprise American Scholar Henry Louis Gates is a bibliophile. But do you know which Antiguan author is on his list of essential reading? And which Caribbean writer he’d readily take to the beach again? Check it out.


Author of the Caribbean Adventure Series Carol Ottley-Mitchell’s visual tale featuring the resourceful monkey Chee Chee. Perfect for classroom storytime.


Interview with and analysis of the artistry of up and coming talent Danielle Boodoo Fortune at the ARC.


Jamaica Kincaid reading at Columbia “the beauty, economy and precision of Kincaid’s prose transports even the most curmudgeonly and aloof reader into the abject state of gushy fandom.” – Saidiya Hartman, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia university


Something about this… Doggie in the Picture by Danielle Boodoo Fortune.


Excerpt from Oh Gad! (my new book released in 2012)

Friday Night Fish Fry (fiction) @ Sea Breeze – http://www.liberiaseabreeze.com/joanne_c_hillhouse.html

After Glow (fiction) @ Tongues of the Ocean – http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/11/after-glow

How to Make Cassava Bread and Other Musings on Culture (non fiction) @ Antigua Stories – http://antiguastories.wordpress.com/food-2/food

At Calabash (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/at-calabash

Defining Moments (non fiction) @ Geoffrey Philp’s blog – http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/2010/12/defining-momentsjoanne-c-hillhouse.html

Off the Map (non fiction) @ Signifying Guyana -

http://signifyinguyana.typepad.com/signifyin_guyana/2010/12/guest-post-writing-off-the-map-by-joanne-c-hillhouse.html  and again at Blurb is a Verb

What Calypso Taught Me About Writing (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/what-calypso-taught-me-about

At Sea (fiction) @ Munyori – http://www.munyori.com/joannehillhouse.html

Pushing Water Up Hill (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/pushing-water-up-hill-one

Wadadli Pen – Nurturing Another Generation of Antiguan and Barbudan Writers (non fiction) @ Summer Edward’s blog – http://summeredward.blogspot.com/2010/08/guest-post-by-joanne-c-hillhouse.html

Cold Paradise (fiction) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/Hillhouse_ColdParadise.htm

Somebody! (fiction) @ St. Somewhere – http://visitstsomewhere.blogspot.com

Reflections on Jamaca (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/reflections-on-jamaica

Portent (fiction) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/Hillhouse_Portent.htm

Philly Ramblings 8 (poetry) @ Ma Comère – http://dloc.com/AA00000079/00004/36j

Ghosts Laments (poetry) @ Small Axe – http://smallaxe.net/wordpress3/prose/2011/06/30/poem-by-joanne-hillhouse

Benediction before the Essence (poetry) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/hillhouse_poetry.html

Prospero’s Education, The Arrival, Da’s Calypso (3 poems) @ Calabash – http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol4no2

Interview @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/interview-with-joanne-c


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 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.


Filed under Links We Love, Literary Gallery