Wadadli Pen 2020 Diary – About Those Gifts We Give

According to site data, there have been 11 downloads of the 2020 WADADLI YOUTH PEN PRIZE SUBMISSION FORM today (more than a hundred since the mid-January launch of the Wadadli Pen 2020 Challenge) which is good news if it’s a reflection of interest and potential submissions. Let’s hope.

There are definitely more opportunities to win with four instead of the usual three age categories (6 and younger – thanks to a recommendation from our 2020 volunteer Eu-tisha Crump, 7 – 12, 13 – 17, 18 – 35) in addition to the main prize, plus 3 (count em, 3) themed prizes – the 3-panel comic strip for the artists, the Wa’omani prize for Barbudans, and the Imagine a Future for those with an interest in climate change and speculative fiction. A prize for the school with most submissions as well.


More than ever, given the expansion, we are seeking patronage (and have had a number of really good patrons come on board out of the gate for 2020 despite how late our approach was this year). The prizes aren’t the point of the Wadadli Pen Challenge, of course. The point is encouraging/nurturing creative literary and artistic expression among young people in Antigua and Barbuda, and showcasing it. But the gifts we give are a way of rewarding the best efforts of our participants – and for me as a working writer planting the seed that the arts have value. With the prizes, the goal has been to make the gifts be something that can truly be appreciated and, where possible, help with the artists development. At the same time, we accept whatever companies can give and package them specifically for the recipient. We hope that these gifts are appreciated. We certainly appreciate the patronage when we get it. And cake, we always appreciate cake.

Cake designed and made by Danielle George-John of Sweet Dreams for Wadadli Pen’s 10th anniversary in 2014.

Which brings me to a challenge we face when returning to someone who’s given before – a gift certificate, a cheque… If someone gives, they want to be sure that it’s appreciated. We can tell them thank you a million times and we do  but if the recipient doesn’t make use of the gift, they notice. This has happened a few times over the years – a cheque that wasn’t cashed a year after our prize giving, a lunch voucher for two at a nice beachside restaurant that was never used, excursions not taken, and other sweet things. This year we had one past patron say point blank “I have given a couple of gift certificates, for which none have ever been used, so I don’t think it makes sense to do that again.”

Which begs the question, do we have so much that we can afford to not even look a gift horse in the mouth? I remember being delighted with whatever gift I got entering essay contests in my youth – such contests were few and the prizes were rarely extravagant, though one of my earliest overseas trips was because of an essay competition prize (my first solo trip, though my parents had to pay for my sister to come along because, obviously). We’ve gifted plane tickets now and again over the years; I certainly hope they have given the recipient an adventure of their own before expiring.

Businesses don’t have to give. We try to remind them that it’s about community goodwill but in the end it’s their call and we are thankful when their response is favourable. We work really hard to make whatever they give work – to make it attractive to the particular age group receiving it – it helps the work when we make good matches (you can check any of our breakdowns of who won what by year to see how we do in that regard).

Are we so flush that we can afford to pass up gifts? How about claiming it and re-gifting it? Because not claiming it at all is not a good look.

I don’t mean to suggest that this is true with the majority of gifts but for the few that it does happen with, it makes the work of seeking patronage harder. And it’s already not easy – since I’ve been doing this (not necessarily specific to Wadadli Pen), there are companies that treat you like a beggar, which is not how I see patronage of community/youth development projects and arts philanthropy; and while we do try to ensure that companies get due mileage, we’ve had to say no to those that insist on exclusive branding – the philanthropic minded ones hang around even.

It’s a delicate dance – hard work filled with lots of reassurances and making sure the spotlight lands where it needs to (we’ve had one or two patrons complain, as well, if they feel, despite our best efforts, that they haven’t been mentioned or acknowledged in a way they find satisfactory).  I do it only because I believe in a project and want to see it thrive, and none of what we’ve received 2004 to present has gone in to my pocket nor any of the partners who’ve worked with me over the years. That dynamic may change when we become a legal non-profit as legal non-profits do have budgets and staff and a board; but that’s how it’s been – every year reaching out and making sure that everything we receive goes to the deserving artist and writers as reward for their efforts.

If you’re reading this and you are one of those artists or writers, it will help the ecosystem of Wadadli Pen for you to make use of what’s given so that when we return next year, we won’t have to ask twice.

One of the first major patrons was Comnett (represented here by owner Gerard Shoul). He gifted inaugural winner Gemma George a computer.

And we’re asking; so, if you’re reading this and are thinking of giving, we need it still, no gift too small (we love putting gift packages together) so please reach out at wadadlipen@gmail.com

-Joanne C. Hillhouse, Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator. All Rights Reserved.


Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, Wadadli Pen 2020, Wadadli Pen News

2 responses to “Wadadli Pen 2020 Diary – About Those Gifts We Give

  1. quollchaidiomedes13176

    thanks for your email and keeping me updated. I am unclear about several things though, which i would like for you to explain to me. Questions: 1. is there a specific topic or theme which the poem or whatever writing genre is being used must be portraying? 2. Is the finished pieced submitted by email?

    • There is no specific topic or theme. Entries (which can be a story, poem, creative non-fiction, 3-panel comic strip) must have a Caribbean-sense but can be on anything, any sub-genre, any tone, any style. That said, we are offering a special prize for a climate change-themed story (Imagine a Future that results from either action or inaction on climate change today). Other special prizes are not theme specific – the Wa’omani prize is for Barbudans only (but they can write about anything) and the 3-panel comic strip prize is for visual artists or visual artists in collaboration with writers (but they can draw/write about anything). You need to submit via email to wadadlipen@gmail.com with the submission form – see the Wadadli Pen 2020 tab at the top of the page for other submission guidelines.

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