We want to shout out St. Andrew’s. No, St. Andrew’s won’t be winning the prize for the school with the most submissions. That prize will go to Island Academy which put in a hell of a strong numerical showing in this year’s Wadadli Pen Challenge, with one of its students making the long list. Together, they account for roughly one-third of this year’s entries.
To be clear, we prefer when young people submit of their own volition, because they love to write, because they have something to say, because they want to challenge themselves, not because they’re pressed to do so by a teacher. But we do reach out to teachers because they have access that we don’t have to young people, and can help us not only spread the word but identify and encourage young writers in their orbit of influence to write. And so, we appreciate the teachers who help us access and motivate these young people. We appreciate even more the teachers who go the extra mile and assist young people with getting their submissions in – because maybe not everyone has a computer, or maybe some don’t understand the submission requirements, or maybe, more troubling still, that one young person lacks the confidence to even try.
Given that the Challenge’s age range is 35 years and younger, not all entrants are attached to educational institutions. But, for those who are, this year, we had submissions from students at Antigua Girls High, Antigua Grammar, Baptist Academy, Christ the King High, Five Islands Primary, Glanvilles Secondary, Island Academy, Ottos Comprehensive, St. Andrew’s, St. Anthony’s Secondary, St. Nicholas, Sunnyside, and Vibrant Faith Ministries schools; and Antigua State College and the University of the West Indies. Clearly, we need to figure out ways to attract more public school participation – one way we try to do so is with the prize for the school with the most submissions, a prize which has been won by public schools like Buckley’s Primary and T N Kirnon in the past, but which hasn’t seemed to translate to continuity on the part of those schools nor served to inspire other public schools at the levels of consistency we would like.
The work continues.
But, in the meantime, we big up those where teacher influence clearly helped boost the numbers – notably St. Andrew’s and Island Academy. Island Academy will, of course, be getting its props and prizes at the May 13th awards, 5:30 p.m., during the Wadadli Stories Book Fair.But we want to give some you-go-you (!) to St. Andrew’s in this platform for collecting and submitting more than 10 entries on behalf of its students. Yes, and yet, that the entries were collected, scanned, and submitted, put them at risk of elimination since entries were to be typed and submitted in Word so that they could be easily formatted for blind submission to judges (the judges can’t know who wrote what story). We never want to eliminate an entry if we can help it. Still, and this is why we emphasize submitting per guidelines, we won’t always have the time and resources to assist entries that don’t follow said guidelines (and we shouldn’t, because there’s a lesson to be learned there). That said, we should be tougher on this point than we are. But as a development programme, we have, in the past, rather than discard incomplete or incorrectly formatted submissions, given the submitters an opportunity to correct and re-submit. We can’t underscore enough that this is not something folks should count on; rather read the guidelines and submit accordingly, at risk of elimination. As is, despite us bending over backwards, something like five 2017 entries had to be cut for a range of reasons including late submissions, notwithstanding a built in grace period.
So, thanks to the staff at the Best of Books for making the effort to type the St. Andrew’s bulk submission which enabled us to give these young writers a chance, and thanks to the St. Andrew’s staff for making the effort to get the entries in in the first place – efforts which paid off with two students from St. Andrew’s ending up on the long list.
We want to encourage more teachers to encourage their children to get involved and to assist them with submitting per guidelines. Wadadli Pen’s Challenge is more than a competition, it is an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to develop your writing skills, an opportunity to express yourself, and, yes, an opportunity to shine. At Wadadli Pen, we remain committed to nurturing and showcasing the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, but we don’t do this alone.
So, shout out to St. Andrew’s.