It pays to Experiment, It’s essential to dream

“That’s when the hand fell out. Goldine stared. It was just a hand—innocent looking, really, brown with black hairs, manicured nails, bruised knuckles, and a Rolex.” – from The Cat has Claws by Joanne C. Hillhouse

I just came across this noir piece I wrote and can’t remember if I’d shared it here. It’s an example that proves the headline of this blog posting (It pays to experiment…). I’d read but never written noir before. I decided to try my hand at it (because, why not) and what I wrote was picked for publication in Akashic’s Mondays are Murder Series.

More recently, there’s the fairytale With Grace, which I wrote when I was trying to work through some very negative feelings which I decided to channel into this very positive medium, sort of a way of turning that frown upside down I guess. Fairytales, of course, we know sometimes have dark origins and deal with some what could be the stuff of nightmares but, in the fairytale world, they all lived happily ever after, and with that certainty we can get through the bad stuff. The world doesn’t work like it does in children’s stories, of course, but good things can come out of challenges. And out of the challenge that led me to write With Grace came a story I love very much, I really do, because the fairytale form was an interesting and stimulating challenge for me and I also enjoyed colouring outside of the lines a little bit.  I was encouraged when I shared it with the participants near the end of my Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project last summer and they gave it the same treatment we’d been giving, with my guidance, every story they themselves had shared. They critiqued it.

What they thought worked… “very descriptive …the song was good …effective use or irony…good manipulation of the stereotype(s)…good  (haunting) ending…”

What they thought needed work… “(character’s name withheld) interesting but the introduction was abrupt …need more description of (character name withheld), her back story and what she looks like … some explanation of (plot point withheld)…”

Sidenote: one of my nieces was in that workshop and, though I thought she knew, I think it finally hit her that this is what I do, write stories, because she came up to me afterwards and said with a kind of curious wonder in her voice, “Auntie Joanne, you wrote that…?”

Anyway, I listened to the feedback and the story evolved. More happy news, the story was an honourable mention in the Desi Writers Lounge 2014 short story contest and they’ve contacted me about including it in a forthcoming publication.

“This story came ever so close to making it to the top three. With Grace combines feelings of love, hate, greed and generosity to weave a powerful narrative that is magical in spirit and human in character. Hillhouse is an accomplished writer and her elegant prose shines through in this story.” – DWL on their website, re With Grace

This is in addition to my still very early hope of turning it into a children’s picture book. Yeah, looks like the bug has well and truly bit after Fish Outta Water. UPDATE! In 2015, I signed a contract with a children’s book publisher for Grace!

Right now, I’m reviewing edit notes for my forthcoming young adult novel, Musical Youth. By now, you’ve probably heard the story of my 11th hour decision to go for the Burt Award and the story that evolved from that. I’d written stories that have been marketed to the Young Adult market before – The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight were originally part of Macmillan’s schooner series for the teen and young adult market, but they weren’t written, I’ve said time and again for that market; they were just written. With Musical Youth, I was keenly aware of audience during the writing, which is unusual for me, because for me its story first, audience second. But somehow during the writing these blended in my mind, I was writing about teens, I was writing for teens. And I was taking a leap. Look how it turned out:

“Musical Youth is a beautifully crafted novel with the leitmotiv of music running throughout it. This is a powerful and credible story of young love between two likeable heroes. The characters’ gradual exploration and growing knowledge of each other is reminiscent of the way a novice would learn how to play a new musical instrument and slowly get better at it with practice. The use of musical images and the regular musical rhythm that reverberates throughout the text will delight young adult readers.” – from the website of CODE, sponsor of the BURT award

second prize for the Burt Award and (once I get past this editing hump) hopefully in short order a book that will become a favourite among young adult readers from the Caribbean…and maybe beyond. A girl can dream. UPDATE! The book’s out and readers are responding.

A recent dreaming spot during the Emerge wellness retreat (https://www.facebook.com/ECaribbeanWomen) ...because I need a picture for this post and why not this one.

A recent dreaming spot during the Emerge wellness retreat (https://www.facebook.com/ECaribbeanWomen) …because I need a picture for this post and why not this one.

The moral of the story , I think, is try new things, in life and in writing; you never know…

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, Wadadli Pen News

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