Literary prizes can be encouragement and affirmation. They can also be a huge let down. Winning or even being long or short listed for one can give you a bump and help your words reach a wider readership. Winning or even being long or short listed for one can give you a more solid footing on this uneven ground that we walk as writers. Going for one, though, is a scary leap of faith, as leaping by definition means jumping off of something – in this case certainty into uncertainty, with the possibility of landing hard and ending up bruised (though hopefully not broken).
At the moment, in the Caribbean, the three prizes offered by the Bocas festival in Trinidad are the region-specific ones we’re all leaping toward. I’ve leaped – toward each of them, actually – and at least three times out of four have been bruised (the one exception being the success my manuscript Musical Youth in the Burt Award contest for young adult/teen fiction – it placed second and found itself a publisher). I admit both the ‘failures’ and successes here (I write as frankly as I can about the writing life) because whether you’re going for the Wadadli Pen Challenge or Bocas, I want to encourage you to keep writing and keep leaping. I’m not an eternal optimist but when something matters to you (as writing does to me and others like me), you have to leap, don’t you. Because it’s about chasing dreams (it’s about faith and believing and trying; it’s about hope and possibility). Don’t let a few bruises take that away; you, we, are made of hardier stuff than that.
For those who have soared this time around, big up every time. And especially so, the ones who have been connected with Wadadli Pen in some way. People like Danielle Boodoo Fortune, a brilliant Trinidad and Tobago artist and poet who is a two time Wadadli Pen judge; and Lynn Sweeting, a Bahamian, who, as editor and publisher of Womanspeak, has actually been interviewed on this site. With special mention made of Nicolette Bethel as well, founder and editor of Tongues of the Ocean, the online literary platform which currently has Antigua and Barbuda in the spotlight and invited yours truly to edit. All three women are on the Hollick Arvon Long List.
The Burt Award is connected lock, stock and barrel thanks to my involvement as one of the year’s judges. Beyond that Jamaican Diana McCaulay, one of the finalists, has been interviewed on this site and has in the past donated copies of her previous books to the Wadadli Pen Prize page. The Wadadli Pen crowd should be particularly interested in the Burt Award – in part because its about creating content for the contemporary Caribbean teen and young adult; in part because it’s an opportunity to Challenge yourselves and possibly become a part of creating said content. I’ve been encouraging people to go for it, and I hope they do. See 2015 finalists here.
I’ve already written about what it means to have an Antiguan on the long list of the OCM Bocas prize; that’s the big kahuna and no Antiguan and Barbudan has made the list before – and it is an Antiguan and Barbudan, Dorbrene O’Marde, whose work has already been featured on this site and who has contributed his books to the Wadadli Pen Challenge prize package in the past.
Of course, I’m rooting for various people on all of these lists for various reasons – some I’ve met, some are a part of my network, some have been very generous toward me, some I feel inclined toward because of how much I enjoy their writing – but I had to give a nod to those who are in some way a part of the extended Wadadli Pen family.
We congratulate them and take encouragement in our own strivings from their accomplishments.
As with all content (words, images, other) 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, Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad! and Burt Award finalist Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.