Wadadli Pen Challenge Response – Daryl George

One of the items we inadvertently skipped on the Wadadli Pen Challenge 2016 Awards ceremony was the response from the winner. This probably had something to do with things always being a bit harried on that day and this being a new feature. I believe I added it to the programme in part in response to one of my grant rejections (in anticipation of future such applications) that required more on the impact of the programme – I think somewhere at the back of my mind was the idea that the participants were better able to speak to this than I was. We had one such letter, submitted by a past finalist on the occasion of the programme’s 10 year anniversary; maybe we needed more (beyond the by the numbers accounting). I hope/believe there was also in my thinking a desire to let the winner have his/her say as winners do in numerous award ceremonies. Well, no matter, whatever the reason, we forgot and skipped it.

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Winner Daryl George with Douglas Allen, brother of Alstyne Allen in whose memory the plaque is named at the 2016 Wadadli Pen Challenge Awards Ceremony.

But, wait, that’s what this blog is for and it’s probably better this way as it gives the winner more time to think through what, if anything, he actually want to say. So, with thanks to him for taking the time to do this, here now is the response from repeat finalist and 2016 overall and 18 to 35 winner Daryl George, author of Tropical Moonlight Sonata.

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Daryl’s response:

It gives me great pleasure to provide the response for the 2016 edition of the Wadadli Pen Prize. The Wadadli Pen Challenge, going on 12 years strong, is the only literary competition in Antigua and Barbuda geared towards youth, and one of only a very few in the entire Caribbean. Thanks must go out, first and foremost, to Joanne Hillhouse: the time, energy, and effort necessary to arrange the Wadadli Pen Challenge is significant, yet she does it anyway. So too for the many sponsors who do believe in young people and who have put their money where their mouth is when it comes to investing in our youth and our culture.

Writing for the Wadadli Pen Challenge this year wasn’t easy: and that is precisely why it’s so beneficial, year in and year out. It is only through effort that we can grow, and only through difficulty can we triumph. We had a number of young persons enter the Wadadli Pen Challenge in 2016, and I believe that the process of writing a cohesive story or poem in 600 words or less, tailoring each word and each sentence for maximum impact, has allowed these young persons to increase their writing ability just a little bit more. I hope that those who had the fortune to receive feedback from this challenge will continue to broaden their talents, and to hone their skills to become even better writers.

With the good also comes the bad, and with the yin also comes the yang. I was disappointed this year at the coverage, or lack thereof, from a number of prominent local media houses. In a time where positive stories about youth seem to grow rarer and rarer, I do believe that this was an opportunity for them to step up and provide coverage in order to motivate those youth seeking positive avenues for their expression. I also am disappointed in the lack of supporting initiatives from relevant government stakeholders in pushing the culture of Antigua and Barbuda: too often we focus on promoting the “sexy” issues and topics around our youth while ignoring the amazing ability of the literary arts to act as a powerful force in promoting our local culture.

That being said, I look forward to 2017. I look forward to youth across Antigua and Barbuda sitting down, whether with pen and paper or on their laptops, and dreaming. Using their words to paint landscapes, using their imagination to create vivid images, and using their creativity to touch the soul of others. I look forward to youth stretching themselves to come up with their own unique stories, their own personal characters. And I look forward to reading all about their adventures next year and in years to come.

Couldn’t have said it better.

For a reminder of who won what in Wadadli Pen 2016, go here.

To read winning stories through the years, go here.

For more about Wadadli Pen, go here.

As for similar (youth-specific, purely literary) prizes in the region, he’s right, there are few. The Allen Prize comes to mind and more recently Poui’s Trini Kids can write. And there’s the region-wide Burt Award which is open to people of all ages but which is specifically looking for content targetting young (specifically teen/young adult) readers. Initiatives like these are, as Daryl said, critical to crafting a reading and writing culture, a culture that gives youth another avenue for expression and development, a culture that promotes arts appreciation and creative thinking, and a culture of triumph through effort and persistence. What’s the measure of persistence? Consider Daryl, a youth worker, who has consistently submitted strong entries but who took four tries to get his name emblazoned, as overall winner, on to Wadadli Pen’s Alstyne Allen Challenge plaque; and, believe it or not, that’s short in writing and publishing time.

Thanks, Daryl, for sharing your words.

p.s. here’s a bit of trivial – Daryl became in 2016 the first male to claim the main writing prize since Wadadli Pen launched in 2004.

As with all content 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 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 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 A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Wadadli Pen 2016, Wadadli Pen News

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