I attended and reported on the first of the Best of Books Wadadli Pen Open Mic for the Daily Observer. The article was published on May 10th 2010. Here it is.
By Joanne C. Hillhouse
The Best of Books premiered its Wadadli Pen Open Mic on Saturday attracting a gathering of just under 20, writers of various ages. Only one of the presented pieces, a humorous dramatized telephone exchange between a local and imprisoned investor R. Allen Stanford, was specific to the theme ‘Only in Antigua’, with the requested humorous tone. But the organizers welcomed the variety of themes and genres – poetry, short fiction, anecdotes – presented by the likes of Kimmolisa Mings, Joy Lawrence, Muerah ‘Artist’ Boddie, Best of Books staffers Barbara Arrindell and Glen Weeks, and others. The session included a reading of a story written by a former finalist in the Wadadli Pen competition, one of several past pieces posted to wadadlipen.wordpress.com – the new and growing blog of the literary arts development initiative.
Speaking to the group during the wrap-up, Arrindell, whose self-penned bit of historical fiction stirred quite a bit of discussion about local lore, said the initiative built on the existing programme in the interest of continuity. She said, “We are continuing on a road that’s already been set,” referencing the competition which began in 2004. This was in response to one audience member’s concern that too often “things start up and fall apart (in Antigua).”
As the comment suggests, interest in the initiative by those who participated seemed high. One said, “I think this is a good start…I am sure there is much more talent out there and so much more that can be done.”
Best of Books plans to continue the new Open Mic series – one of several current on island literary initiatives others of which include August Rush’s twice monthly Expressions series and, not unrelated to this, Women of Antigua’s annual theatrical production entitled, this time around, When A Woman Moans, set for May 28th and 29th; as well as Island B-Hive’s book of the month club which also kicked off last week and continues monthly, the next session set for the evening of June 3rd.
The next Wadadli Pen Open Mic, meanwhile, is set for the second Saturday in June. The theme for that second evening of literary sharing will be ‘The Father I Wish I had’ and, as Arrindell has expressed in previous emails, they’re encouraging people to pre-register, write to the theme, come out on the night in question, and receive constructive feedback. In other words, more than a showcase, the activity is envisioned as having a developmental role. In fact, the original press release launching the event indicated, “the Wadadli Pen Open-Mic will also host workshops to assist writers in the art of re-writing their own work and sessions that will focus on the art of story telling and public speaking.”
The first Wadadli Pen Open Mic was held at the store’s Royal Palm branch, which will continue to be the venue going forward.