My trip October 2011 to Canada was quite stimulating and not just because of the brisk weather, or gastronomic adventures, the opportunity to catch up with old friends, or even the day spent at Niagara …no the good vibes began with Telling Our Stories, an Evening Showcasing Antigua and Barbuda’s Writing. For me, it was a sigificant night and not just because I dread readings. But I’d upped the ante by deciding to read, for the first time, ever, from my forthcoming book Oh Gad! – my first with a major American publisher, my first full length novel … a lot was riding on the audience’s response to the reading. Not least of which whether an audience would be able to connect with this world and these characters that have consumed my writing life these past several years, through more drafts than I can remember, and more rejection (and finally acceptance) than I like to think about. Now, I look back on that night fondly because there was so much love and acceptance in that room; I shared Ah Write and Da’s Calypso, two sections from Oh Gad! plus The Arrival and Scenes from a Caribbean Childhood before ending with From Ottos. The mood was good, the response was good, and Oh Gad! had made its debut. Here are some highlights:
From the event programme:Wendy “Motion” Brathwaite is an award-winning poet, emcee and playwright. Motion spans the realms of music, theatre and spoken words, composing works for stage and screen. Lauded by NOW Magazine as a “multi-talented, truthful artist,” her published works include Motion in Poetry and 40 Dayz. Tune in to her latest words, sounds and drama at motionlive.com.
From the event programme: Hon. D. Gisele Isaac-Arrindell is speaker of the House of Representatives in Antigua and Barbuda. She is the Executive Director of the Board of Education and a UWI Lecturer for the Cave Hill Undergraduate Programme at the Antigua State College. She is a graduate of St. John’s University, New York where she obtained an M.A. in Government & Politics with a concentration in International Relations. She has a B.Sc., summa cum laude, in Journalism with a concentration in Literature. She’s an active member of the Tyrells Roman Catholic congregation; President of the Professional Organisation for Women in Antigua & Barbuda (POWA). She writes a weekly column, “Agender,” in the Daily Observer newspaper. She was featured in “Women West Indies” TV documentary series, 2006. She’s the 2005 recipient of the CMA/PAHO National and Regional Award for “Best Feature in Health Journalism” and the 2004 recipient of the UNESCO award for contributions to literacy & literary arts. She’s a benefactor of the “Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Prize” literary competition. She is author of Considering Venus, a novel, (Seaburn, NY, 1998). She is passionate about calypso music, reading, writing on social issues and watching Law & Order.
For a hint of what I’m talking about checking this clip of J-Wyze’s Mr. Lucky.
From the event programme: Jelani “J Wyze” Nias is the quintessential hype man & emcee. Once a key member of the Soul Controllers, he has a radio background that includes 10 years as the dynamic voice of the Trauma Unit (Flow 93.5 fm) as well as stints in community & internet radio. J Wyze also has an unrelenting dedication to the community, which has earned him numerous awards including the “Arts Starts Upcoming Community Artist Award”, “Factor Demo Grant”, and “Toronto Arts Council Writers Grant”. Born to a jazz musician father who has toured North America, and Europe with greats like Toots and the Maytals, and a mother who still sings in an inspirational gospel choir, J-Wyze wanted to be an entertainer for as long as he could remember. After immigrating to Canada from Antigua via Bermuda in 1989 at the age of 12, J Wyze began performing at spoken word events in the mid 90s. He was winner of a Sears Drama Festival acting awards/scholarship, SLAM Poetry competition and is a published poet & writer.
From the event programme: Award winning author, Dr. Althea Prince teaches sociology at Ryerson University. During 2002 to 2005, she was Managing Editor of Canadian Scholars’ Press & Women’s Press. Her work in Community Education includes Creative Writing Workshops for youth in Antigua, and in Canada. In 2011, Dr. Prince served as ‘Writer-in-Residence’ at Newcomer Women’s Services, Toronto; and in September 2011, she was appointed Writer-in-Residence with the Toronto District School Board. Her awards include ‘The First Annual Award for Literary Excellence’ in 2007 from The Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival.
From the event programme: Joy Lapps began playing the steel pan in 1997 at Malvern’s Church of the Nativity under the direction of Vince Cato. As she realized her love for the instrument, her solo career soon came alive, earning her the title “Princess of Pan”. Her efficiency with the tenor pan and her diverse performance range have led to greataudience receptions, and flattering recognition from seasoned professional pannists. Joy performs primarily as a soloist and with her jazz trio, quartet or to an even larger musical ensemble. Joy has released three CDs of various gospel and Christmas songs. Thankful for the opportunity to record great songs written by other artists, Joy is currently focused on writing and arranging new music for her ensembles.
From the event programme: Joanne C. Hillhouse is the author of Oh Gad! – a novel scheduled for publication in 2012. A University of the West Indies graduate and international fellowship recipient to the Breadloaf Writers Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont, Hillhouse also participated in the Caribbean Fiction WritersSummer Institute at the University of Miami. There she began work on her first book, The Boy from WillowBend, which is on Antigua and Barbuda’s schools’ reading list. In addition to her second book, DancingNude in the Moonlight, Hillhouse has published in African, Caribbean, and American journals. She’s beenannounced as the 2011 recipient of the David Hough Literary Prize by the Caribbean Writer andpreviously won a UNESCO Honour award for her contribution to the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. That contribution includes her Wadadli Youth Pen Prize project –http://www.wadadlipen.wordpress.com. Joanne C. Hillhouse is a freelance writer and editor. For more visit http://www.jhohadli.com
For a comprehensive report on the Canada Independence anniversary celebrations; see this report.