You’re at the Wadadli Pen blog so, presumably, you know this is the online home of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize. If you don’t, go here. I promise to stop talking all things Wadadli Pen soon (I know everyone is not as hyped as I am about this) but our Awards are next weekend and, in spite of my other readings and panel at the May 13th Wadadli Stories Book Fair, for me the dopest part of the whole deal (the part I’m most looking forward to) is the Wadadli Pen Awards when we finally get to pat these young Antiguan and Barbudan writers on the back, and encourage them to keep writing and to never ever be afraid of using their voice.
There is, of course, lots more to see and do at the Book Fair and for the rundown we have Best of Books store manager Barbara Arrindell, the person whose idea sparked this entire event. Kudos, in advance, to her for moving inspiration in to thought, thought in to action, and action in to an event I believe the entire community will enjoy. As you’ll see in the interview, there’s something for everyone.
Wadadli Pen: What possessed you to take this on?
Barbara: Many countries large and small have literally events as part of their national calendar of events. There are things planned by government entities and things planned by private groups. In Antigua we have a few activities planned by individuals and service groups and in more recent times there has been a reading day planned through the Ministry of Education but I believe we need more if we are going to encourage our population older and young to read and write more. And the more for me should show the fun side of reading.
Wadadli Pen: On the point of fun, in today’s world of addictive video games, social media, and Netflix bingeing, how can you (and by you, I mean, parents etc. and you the organizer of this event) convince kids that reading books isn’t just this chore they have to suffer through in school? In what ways does this event try to showcase that reading is not only fundamental but fun?
Barbara: We are having celebrity readers. Hopefully, these will be some names and people they know. We are hoping that the message that comes across is that if these “cool” successful people read and have come here just to read to me. Then maybe reading really is cool. Also we hope that they will be exposed to books beyond what they use in the classroom. We come across little people from time to time who have no books in their home other than their school books so they associate books only with school work.
Wadadli Pen: What goes in to organizing something like this? Tell us a bit about how the sausage gets made?
Barbara: Hmmm. Everything we do starts with making a decision to see it through to the end. If a lead organizer is lucky he/she finds a few people who share the vision and are willing to work as a team to make it happen. Contributing what they can and doing what they can. No exception here. So an online call was made for such people and two face-to-face meetings were held. Beyond that most of our organizing was done via WhatsApp. We’ve been lucky to have a few people like Natalie Clark and Marissa Walter who have been able to reach out to their contacts to get much of the physical things we needed. Marissa was able to secure bathrooms from Island Sanitation and tents from Digicel. She also reached out to our onsite vendors Bobby’s Treats, the Sunshine Ice Cream Man and Brydens. Natalie negotiated with ACB [Antigua Commercial Bank] to get use of the parking lot [note: the event venue is the ACB Parking Lot on St. Mary’s Street], she communicated with the police and EMS to have them on hand. She reached out to the youth empowerment centre to borrow some of their resources and to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. We have Louis Rivera and his team. They created our logo and have done much of the design work for our online promotion. Many other people worked behind the scenes. Sonja George is coordinating our 18+ Erotica tent. Glen Toussaint and team are pulling together a Comi-Com tent.
We have Jeriann George pulling together our celebrity readers. JerryAnn Francis working on our Jolly Phonics parents and teachers demonstration session. Mona Gardner of CHATS [Center for the Holistic Advancement of Therapeutic Services] and Dr Jillia Bird will be there conducting free screening. Dr. Bird will focus on sight. She will be testing young people 18 and under, while Ms. Gardner will be looking for things that have an impact on speech and the way we learn to read and process. She will see patients 0-99. She encourages parents to bring out their little children and have them tested if they suspect that there may be something going on that may stand in the way of their child learning. Sometimes understanding is all that is needed so that parents know how to proceed. The earlier the better, she says. And she wants to see adults because it is never to late to improve a situation. She also encourages people who have experienced a stroke or any injury that may have affected the brain to come and see her. This screening is FREE. in office these consultations could cost $200.
Wadadli Pen: How much are you looking forward to this… to be over? And as the person who publicly resigned her post as Independence Lit coordinator during the awards ceremony with an open letter challenging the Minister to hire a lit arts coordinator and get serious about the year round developemnt of the lit arts…how would you like to see this activity go forward beyond May 13th?
Barbara: I’m still annoyed at the fact that with all these highly educated people floating through our political landscape we have not seen fit to appoint someone to take responsibility for coordinating events .. as part of our culture .. you know the way we have a dance coordinator and a music person and pan ..And so much more. I get annoyed each month when I get an invitation from a government office in Barbados inviting me to participate in an activity and perhaps less frequently from almost every Caribbean space ..EXCEPT Antigua and Barbuda. I’m annoyed when all these people ask me for an hour of my time saying they are consultants with the government working on propoals to bring literary arts to the forefront in Antigua and Barbuda and then not a damn thing seems to happen. I’ve had two such interviews this year alone… and for the record I’ve blowm off a few others because I’d rather spend my energy doing rather than talking.
And on to Barbara’s final thoughts.
Barbara: Oh I haven’t mentioned our history and discussion corner featuring a talk by Keithlyn Smith author of To Shoot Hard Labour and a talk by the Reparations commission. I also haven’t mentioned our self development sessions and panel discussions. The first by HaMa on screen Writing. Then a session on moving your manuscript forward by Joanne Hillhouse and Chadd Cumberbatch. Then a session on business and inspirational writing by Chrys Ann Ambrose and Dr. Dave Ray. We’ll also have an international publisher on hand from Harper Collins UK who is flying in from the UK to coordinate our primary and secondary school spelling Bees and will be joining Joanne and Chadd’s panel discussion hoping to meet potential writers (primarily teachers interested in contributing to text books but authors in general).
And even more final thoughts.
Barbara: When I look at this event in it’s entirity ..the whole thing is dope. It is being promoted as “Wadadli Stories ..more than words”, yet we are starting off with a sort of academic thing A Spelling Bee because our Wadadli Stories do usually start with words so we want our young people to have command of our words and our language. But the event unfolds into so many unusual and interesting events. People walking around in costume as Comi-Com fans staking their claim in the literary world dispelling the idea that comics aren’t books… Our writers of Erotica ..saying we may not be for the young ..but we have a time and place … Our political figures ..our radio and TV hosts ..our musical stars our authors our artists ..our everybody .. getting involved.. now that’s cool. .and then we bring it to a close with the Wadali Pen writing challenge awards ceremony. We are happy to host this awards ceremony within Wadadli Stories because it is a celebration of dedication and commitment by the coordinators and the teachers who get it and know they need to encourage participation in writing challenges. We celebrate Wadadli Pen for providing young promising writers with an opportunity to flex their writing muscles for so many years. We are going to have little children and big grown men and women and everyone in between having a great time with “the word”… and we are doing it on the day before Mother’s Day and we hope that people will remember those who mothered the word in Wadadli… people like the Hart Sisters and Nellie Robinson … and many others ..people who ventured down their own path ignoring people who didn’t understand their methods.
Thanks to Barbara; sounds like it’ll be a busy and productive day, but also lots of fun. See you there, Antigua. You, too, Barbuda.
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, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, Musical Youth, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (credit). 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.