A Teacher Claims the 2017 Wadadli Pen Prize
Twenty-three year old Kaeiron Saunders was announced, at the Wadadli Stories Book Fair on May 13th, as the 2017 winner of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge. Saunders, a lecturer at St. Anthony’s Secondary School (SASS), only the second teacher to be added to the Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque, won the main prize and her age category, 18 to 35, with the poem ‘Not Another Island Story; as told by Auntie Gah’.
The Wadadli Pen Challenge, an Antigua and Barbuda literary prize launched in 2004, requires that entries be Caribbean, while leaving the interpretation of that up to the writers’ imagination. For some it can be constricting, for others an opportunity to freely imagine a transforming Caribbean. This poem does both, acknowledging the confines of the same story told over and over,
‘“Not another island story, Auntie,
I’ve heard it all before”
But every year, around this time
Auntie Gah would add more.’
As it presents and critiques this nostalgic approach to Caribbean storytelling, it, also, makes the point that neither the Caribbean nor our perception of it is fixed in time.
“Hush and listen to my story
The point is not to criticize
But to show that the good within a society
Is relative to each new generation’s eyes”
That this rhythmic poem both acknowledges and subverts the clichés, earned the judges’ approval. They dubbed it a “great piece!”
Also coming in for approval were Devon Wuilliez, a 16-year-old Island Academy student, for her poem, ‘The Great Big Dumz’, and 11-year old Zion Ebony Williams, of Baptist Academy, for her story ‘Those who don’t hear, will feel’. Both won their respective age categories – 13 to 17, and 12 and younger – on the way to claiming the 2nd and 3rd prize overall.
It’s worth noting that while Saunders and Wuilliez are first-timers, Williams first submitted to Wadadli Pen in 2014 and has made two previous trips to the finals of her age category before this year claiming the top spot and a spot in the overall top three. For organizers this line-up is reflective of what Wadadli Pen hopes to do: encourage new voices to come forward, challenge practicing voices to keep pushing themselves, and foster growth in terms of the craft of writing in Antigua and Barbuda.
Other long listed writers are Andrecia Lewis (author of ‘Strange’), enrolled at the Antigua State College; Ava C. Ralph (author of ‘Non Fiction?’), of Antigua Girls High School; Francis Yankey (author of ‘And She Sang Fire’), of the Antigua Grammar School; Fayola Jardine (author of ‘Shakiyah and the Mango Hater’); Lucia Murray (author of ‘Mr. Duppy’), a student at SASS; Shadiael Simmons (author of ‘Brave 11-year-old saves Baby from Fire’), a student at Baptist Academy; St. Andrew’s students Emma Belizaire (author of ‘Cricket is My Life’) and Ashley Francis (author of ‘Our Caribbean’), plus Island Academy, the school with the most submissions. Their rewards are a mix of cash, gifts, and time. Contributing patrons are Art. Culture. Antigua, Barbuda Express, the Best of Books, Brenda Lee Browne, Caribbean Reads Publishing, Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis, the Cushion Club, Danz’s Sweet Dreams, the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank, Frank B. Armstrong, Harper Collins, the International Women’s Club of Antigua and Barbuda, Jane Seagull, Jennifer Meranto, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Juneth Webson, Little Bell Caribbean, Monique S. Simon and the Caribbean Folklore Project, Paperclips, Raw Island Products, the West Indies Cricket Board, and one other regular patron who prefers to remain anonymous.
For the full breakdown of winners and prizes, and to read the winning stories, visit wadadlipen.wordpress.com
This is the press release circulated for media use about the 2017 Wadadli Pen Challenge after the May 13th 2017 Awards during the Wadadli Stories Book Fair. Please feel free to share. If you have questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured image courtesy, a group shot of finalists and Wadadli Pen coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse, at the awards, courtesy Art. Culture. Antigua.