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, 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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Filed under Wadadli Pen 2013, Wadadli Pen News

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