Youth worker Daryl George is the winner of the main prize in the 2016 Wadadli Pen Challenge, a writing contest first launched in 2004. The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize was started by local author Joanne C. Hillhouse, to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. Over the years she’s been working with various partners and patrons to do just that.
George -the first male winner of the overall literary prize – was the judges’ unanimous choice for his win in the 18 to 35 age category and for the main prize for a story, Tropical Moonlight Sonata, described as a “a beautifully written piece” – simple, but with vivid descriptions and great depth. In it, a character named Jamal discovers or rediscovers a baby grand piano in a pawn shop far from home and…
“For a split second the cobblestone floors turned into ceramic tiles, and the cold air warmed into the humid tropical heat. The musty air filled with the smell of hundreds of books chock-full of mildewing pages of notes, time signatures, and middle and bass clefs before fading back to the dimly lit pawn shop.”
You can read the full story, and, in fact, all the winning stories online right here at Wadadli Pen (use the search feature to the right or just click the linked story).
George’s name has joined former winners on the Challenge plaque which is sponsored by and hangs in the Best of Books bookstore on St. Mary’s Street. The plaque has been (re)named the Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque in memory of a recently deceased member of the Wadadli Pen family – Allen volunteered with the project during the critical first years 2004 to 2006. Douglas Allen, Allen’s brother and publisher of Young Explorer, a partner in the project’s early years, was on hand to assist with the prize giving.
Other winning entries include 13 to 17 winner and second placed overall Alyssa Charles’ Faded Glory, a story in which the 17-year-old Antigua State College student tackles young love and touch choices; and 12 and younger winner and third placed overall Chammaiah Ambrose’ Guilty, a poem in which the 11-year-old Antigua Girls High School student empathizes with the fish she catches. Both Ambrose and George are repeat Wadadli Pen finalists.
The winners’ circle was a mix of repeaters and first timers. Repeaters included past finalists 16-year-old Irene B. Williams student Zahra Emanuel, honourable mention in the 13 to 17 age category for her story My So Called Father; nine-year-old Judah Christian, a Sunnyside Student; and 10-year-old Zion Ebony Williams, a Baptist Academy student, second and third placed in the 12 and younger category, respectively, for their stories My Worst Day Ever and A Dinner to Remember; and 11-year-old Avriel Walters, honourable mention in the latter category for her story My Cousin. First timers included Barbuda teacher Jemelia Pratt, who was honourable mention in the 18 to 35 age category for her story of the Cuban revolution Les Trajó Aquí; 15-year-old Glanvilles Secondary student Diamond Wayne, runner up in the 13 to 17 age category for her poem Granny for Sale; 16-year-old Antigua Grammar School student Canice James, honourable mention in the same category for his story Heroic Night, and the 12 and younger honourable mentions – Denejah Browne, Rolanda Cuffy, Kya Matthew, Morgan Leah Simon, and Laila Tahir, all Christ the King High School students. Christ the King was rewarded as the school with the most submissions.
The prize haul was roughly EC$4,000, give or take, thanks to contributions of gifts and cash from individuals (Juneth Webson, Dr. Hazra Medica, Pamela Arthurton), businesses (Frank B. Armstrong, CaribbeanReads Publishing, Papillotte Press, Paperclips, Barbuda Express, Raw Island Products, and the Best of Books), and even other community projects (Cushion Club, CODE, the Just Write Writers’ Retreat). Hillhouse kicked in copies of her books Musical Youth and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings as well. Hillhouse thanked the patrons and partners – which included this year’s judges Floree Whyte, Cedric Holder, and Glen Toussaint, Wadadli Pen media/school ambassador Margaret Irish, advisor Barbara Arrindell – without whom another successful year of the Wadadli Pen Challenge would not have been achieved.
Hillhouse expressed hope of sourcing funding to take writing workshops to schools in Antigua and Barbuda beginning with the winning school, where she could provide instruction in crafting stronger stories.
She maintains that the point of Wadadli Pen, completely voluntary over the years, is to help writers and non-writers alike develop confidence with and appreciation for the written word. As usual, she commends those who took the Challenge for daring.