YEAR LAUNCHED 2004 YEAR LEGALLY INCORPORATED 2021 (as Wadadli Pen Inc.)
THE WADADLI PEN STORY In 2003, Joanne C. Hillhouse, who had just published her first book The Boy from Willow Bend, hatched the idea of a literary prize for Antigua and Barbuda. She was inspired by a luncheon speech at the 2003 Caribbean Canadian Literary Expo in which Guyanese writer Ruel Johnson lamented the lack of nurseries for writers in the Caribbean – something she was able to relate to as a writer who came of age in Ottos, Antigua. She was motivated by the lack of systems in her community to encourage and support her own writing journey, the fact that such systems still did not exist, and a desire to provide such support for other young writers. Since the 2004 launch of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and its Wadadli Pen Challenge, there has been an intermittent Independence literary arts competition, periodic themed essay competitions, and intermittent community-driven lit arts initiatives but no sustained programmes, state or otherwise, focused on nurturing and showcasing the literary arts as Wadadli Pen has done, prioritizing arts development over a sustained period with consistency. There is also (to 2021) no national lit arts coordinator (or similar appointment e.g. laureate or writer-in-residence) as recommended by a former coordinator of the Independence lit arts competition in a 2011 open letter.
Hillhouse initially pitched her idea – for a Caribbean-imagined fiction writing contest targeting teens and younger in Antigua and Barbuda – to the Young Explorer, a youth publication, and author (Considering Venus)/screenwriter (The Sweetest Mango, No Seed) D. Gisele Isaac. Both immediately came on board. And though neither remain active partners in the project (though Gisele has consistently been one of its many patrons through the years), their collaboration at the outset made it viable. Credit must also go to the late Alstyne Allen (1973-2015), for whom the Best of Books-sponsored Challenge plaque has been re-named as of 2016. Alstyne, sister-friend of founder Hillhouse as well as Young Explorer associate and sister of its owner Douglas Allen, was the key volunteer in the early years and remained a great support in the years after her active involvement.
In addition to its flagship project (the Wadadli Pen Challenge), the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize has engaged in a number of activities – from workshops to lit arts showcases to school visits to making nominations for awards like the National Youth Awards – over the years. This website and the resources and databases it has built is one of these activities.
Media has been vital; including the years ABS TV/radio sponsored promotional ads and recordings of winning pieces plus numerous interviews, the year local TV/film production company HAMA assisted with producing several dramatized readings for radio broadcast (with the Optimist Club of St. John’s youth drama group), the year Daily Observer came on board as a patron in addition to publishing Wadadli Pen notices and winning pieces over the years, and the early years of partnering with Young Explorer for publication of the winning pieces. Credit must be given to Antiguanice.com (and online services like 365antigua.com and others) which made space for Wadadli Pen on its platform – the Antiguanice.com page, launched in 2006, ensured a constant online presence for Wadadli Pen before this blog even existed.
Credit must also be given to the OECS Cultural Network Project and specifically Heather Doram, then Culture Director, who recommended Wadadli Pen for participation; Armelle Chatelier of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States; consultant Deb Andrews; and tech advisor and support Ken Shipley (who created the Wadadli Pen logo during this period). A lot of the information which formed the basis for this site (with the exception of the Antigua and Barbuda bibliographies which Hillhouse originally researched for the 2005 Independence literary arts exhibition) was created while Wadadli Pen had the resources – including domain hosting and tech support – afforded to it by the OECS and Alliance Francaise project. Participation in the OECS Cultural Network allowed for online site building and networking via a portal. That project ended in 2007.
(images above from the 2014 Wadadli Pen Challenge awards, also the 10 year anniversary of the project – cake sponsored by designer Danielle George-John’s Danz’s Sweet Dreams)
The web pages were backed up. Hillhouse, who had worked closely with Shipley and Andrews on developing the site, was able to pull from that backed up content and records kept since 2004 to launch this Wadadli Pen blog in 2010. Twenty 10 also marked the return of the Wadadli Pen Challenge after a 2007-2009 hiatus. To meet the challenges of running a project like this with volunteers and to facilitate the process of the project becoming a legal non-profit, a permanent committee (consisting of longtime patron and author Barbara Arrindell of the Best of Books, longtime partner and author Floree Williams Whyte, two past winners Devra Thomas and Margaret Irish, and Hillhouse) was put in place in 2016.
Wadadli Pen continues to innovate, with projects like the 2019 Antigua and Barbuda Readers Choice Book of the Year initiative, while continuing to develop this website and the Wadadli Pen Challenge, and dreaming of doing so much more to nurture and showcase literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. Wadadli Pen received its incorporation papers as a legal non-profit, November 2021.
SUMMARY Wadadli Pen’s flagship project has been its annual writing Challenge, guiding young Creatives toward culturally relevant literary expression, and nurturing and showcasing their best efforts. In time, the Challenge extended its age window up to 35 from 16, and added age categories; and expanded from fiction to other genres (poetry, creative non-fiction), other arts (visual) and other prizes (e.g. Lead by Example Teachers Prize, and various themed prizes). Other activities have included workshops, recording and broadcasting of winning works, and this Wadadli Pen website promoting not just the programme but the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda , the Caribbean, and beyond.
GOAL To Nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda
(Judge and, as of 2016 core team member, Floree Williams Whyte, left, with 2017 winner Kaeiron Saunders and the Alstyne Allen Memorial Challenge plaque.)
-To promote a love of the written word among young people in and of Antigua and Barbuda
-To provide opportunity for fledgling writers in and of Antigua and Barbuda
-To channel youthful energies in and of Antigua and Barbuda into creative endeavours
-To promote the works of young writers in and of Antigua and Barbuda
-To give young writers in and of Antigua and Barbuda a chance to see the works of their peers
-To create a lasting impact by preserving the literary endeavours of young Antiguans and Barbudans (and residents thereof) and putting them to use – for instance, in promoting future contests or storytelling generally
-To celebrate Antiguan and Barbudan art and culture (generally) while also engaging (where possible) with arts from the wider Caribbean and other parts of the world
It is not easy to quantify the impact of a project like Wadadli Pen but partners attest that looking in to the beaming faces of the winners at every Challenge awards ceremony, there’s no problem qualifying it.
It’s in the effort and the pay off…
“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…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 …young persons to increase their writing ability just a little bit more.” (Daryl George, 2016 winner, in an open letter)
…it’s in the moments…
“I looked at the face of a young man as he heard his words being read on stage and it was like magic … ” (observer @ Wadadli Pen awards ceremony, personal note). The observer was speaking of 2011 youth winner Orique Gordon pictured above in 2013 during Hillhouse’s Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project, an opportunity afforded him due to his participation in Wadadli Pen. Participants have also been gifted the opportunity to participate in Brenda Lee Browne’s Just Write Writers Retreat and to be coached by authors like Elaine Spires.
…it’s in giving young people a space to express him/herself and getting even one writer to find his/her voice…
“Wadadli pen opened the door to my creativity, it inspired me to let go of my fears and speak out, and most of all it helped me to channel all the energy I had by simply putting pen to paper giving something a narrative shape and in so doing I began to believe in the shape of my life again, in beginnings, and middles, and endings.” (Liscia Lawrence, pictured above, a 2004, 2005, and 2014 finalist, in a 2014 open letter to Wadadli Pen. Read the full letter.)
…it’s in the way potential shines through…
“I write to express appreciation to you and your team for allowing young writers like [my son] to explore their writing potential. He was quite reluctant to enter at first, but warmed up to the challenge. Excited, elated and ecstatic are just a few of the words that could explain how he felt, by being able to share his story and be rewarded for his effort.” (letter from a mother)
Hillhouse said during the 2020 awards announcement, done virtually due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, “We continue the work and hopefully continue to boost the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda because that’s what Wadadli Pen is all about. Our mandate is to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. It’s not about me; it’s not about any of the members behind the scenes. It’s about these young people and encouraging them to write. Because I think we realize even now in these sort of times that we’re in that finding ways to get out all the anxiety and confusion and even the restlessness that we all feel, writing and creating generally is a part of that and of course building your language skills and improving your critical thinking skills and your ability to think creatively and also realizing that your story and your voice matters. All of these are the reasons why we write, all of these are the reasons why we encourage the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize.” And here’s how to contribute and how to submit to Wadadli Pen.
The difficulties of doing so aside, there has been an effort, from the beginning, to track the numbers and try to quantify the value and impact of Wadadli Pen’s work.
Total Number of (eligible) submissions over the years (to 2021): 758
Average number of annual submissions over the years (to 2021): 54
Best year: 2017 – 96 eligible submissions
Number of submissions: 45
Trivia: Fiction only; two main categories – overall winner plus a top three and best writer under 12
Winner Gemma George collecting the computer she won from Comnett owner Gerard Shoul in 2004.
Number of submissions: 63
Trivia: Prize added for school with the most submissions – Buckley’s Primary was the winner
Number of submissions: 23
Trivia: This year marked the introduction of the Best of Books sponsored Challenge plaque; and winners this year also received t-shirts emblazoned with the Wadadli Pen logo, sponsored by Sharon Embroidery
Number of submissions: 23
Trivia: First year of the Wadadli Pen art Challenge (won by, left below at the awards ceremony, Shem Alexander, who would again be an art prize winner in 2014 in addition to being a working artist with his unique turpentine bark paintings and Antiguan folklore and African-inspired themes like the piece pictured right below). This year also saw the addition of other genres besides fiction (i.e. poetry and creative non fiction); first themed Challenge (Black and Beautiful); changed age categories to 12 and younger, 13 to 17, 18 to 35 and upped the overall age limit to 35 to the Wadadli Pen Challenge. For the first (and to date only) time there was no overall literary winner, only age category winners
Number of submissions: 40
Trivia: For the second ever Wadadli Pen art challenge, artists and budding artists were invited to register to create illustrations related to winning stories (the stories were written for the children’s market)
Number of submissions: 57
Trivia: Additional one time themed sub-categories Origins and Liberate Love; for the first time, there was an announced short list ahead of the actual awards; and the prize for the school with the most submissions returned and has been there since – prize went to the Antigua Wesleyan Junior Academy; also Wadadli Pen’s first year of documented reader reviews
Reader reviews (2012):
“Read and thought the poet was much older. She is quite a talent!” (facebook, re winning poem Smitten by Rosalie Richards)
“I loved the story! Vega is a very talented writer. Congratulations to Vega!”
“Wow! So impressed!”
“Very nice story. Vega is very talented.” (Anansesem readers, re Vega Armstrong’s ‘Legend of the Sea Lords’)
“This was epic!”
“…very interesting and entertaining…”
“I really do love this story. The voice that comes through is sweet, sincere and very special. I hope Akeile continues to write!”
“I too was impressed by Akeile’s story. She masters the simplicity and brevity that children’s authors aim for. All aspiring children’s authors can stand to learn a lot from reading children’s writing.”
“This story is so incredibly lovely, and the illustration accompanies it perfectly. I look forward to reading more by Akeile Benjamin in the future!” (Anansesem readers, re Akeile Benjamin’s ‘Adventures of Mr. Coconut’)
Number of submissions: 55
Trivia: Anansi themed art prize, and introduction of adult and junior category of art winners
(2013 awards ceremony)
Reader reviews (2013):
“Congratulations on a very timely story Mr. George, one need not be a rocket scientist ‘to get it’. I hope it gets read by more than just the ‘usual suspects’…………………….”
“Really good read. Your craftsmanship is amazing…I’ love to see more
(Wadadli Pen comments section, re ‘Ceramic Blues’ by Daryl George)
Number of submissions: 79
Trivia: Introduction of the Lead by Example Teachers Prize; for visual artists there was a cover design Challenge in which artists had to design covers for short listed stories
Reader reviews (2014): “Very good piece. It’s good to see a young person coming up through the ranks who is talented and using that talent at such a young age. I guess they’re right when they say AGE is just a number….. Lovely story.” (Wadadli Pen comments, re Asha Graham’s winning 2014 story ‘Lajabless’)
Number of submissions: 31
Trivia: Flash Fiction Challenge only – winner take all; no age limit
Reader review (2015): ” Keep up the good work in bringing our budding talent to the fore. I enjoyed them all.” (from the Wadadli Pen comments section)
Number of (eligible) submissions: 49
(Douglas Allen, brother of Alstyne Allen, for whom the Challenge plaque is named, and founding Wadadli Pen partner, hoists the plaque for the first time with 2016 winner Daryl George)
Reader Review (2016): “So good” (on facebook, in response to Chammaiah Ambrose’s winning entry ‘Guilty’)
Number of (eligible) submissions: 96
Trivia: The Challenge Awards was held as part of the one-time Wadadli Book Fair; the awards were hosted by intern Michaela Harris, a former finalist
Reader reviews (2017): “An excellent short story” …“I got really caught up in it…excellent” …“Congratulations Zion, well done👏👏👏” (facebook comments in response to Zion Ebony William’s story ‘Those Who Don’t Hear Will Feel’)
Number of submissions: approximately* 59-68 entries (unable to verify final count but all eligible stories were read and judged)
Trivia: Winner Kyle Christian recalled in his thank you’s being encouraged to continue writing by the coordinator at one of the awards ceremony years earlier and how, despite being discouraged that year, he did just that. One of his prizes was a spot in coordinator Hillhouse’s Jhohadli Writing Project adult writing workshops
Reader Reviews (2018): “Perfectly written. Loved it.” – (past Wadadli Pen finalist and published author and attorney Rilys Adams commenting, on facebook, on Kyle Christian’s winning story ‘Creak’)
“Captivated and waiting in anticipation of more… words.” (on facebook, on Kyle Christian’s winning story ‘Creak’)
Number of submissions: 57
Trivia: Read Wadadli Pen Diary – 2020 Season Reflections . Extra bit of trivia – Wadadli Pen recorded its first main prize tie and first main prize win by a writer under 12.
Reader Reviews (2020):
“I read both winning entries and thoroughly enjoyed both but I especially loved the one that was written by the young lady because I got to share it with my granddaughter and great niece.” (on facebook, in response to the tied winning entries Bright Future for Tomorrow by Andre P. Warner and Tom, the Ninja Crab by Cheyanne Darroux)
“Great poem, I hope he continues to keep up the poetry writing even with the demands of medicine. Excellent and evocative.” (here on WordPress, in response to Oh, Beach that I Once Loved by Sethson Burton, 3rd placed, 18 to 35)
“Wonderful!” (here on WordPress, in response to The Fabled Truth by Aria-Rose Browne, 2nd placed, 13 to 17)
Some of the winning art pieces through the years – left to right, 2014 cover art by Alvin Livingstone, 2013 anansi challenge winning art by Garvin Benjamin, and 2011 winning illustration by Hudle Jennings.
Number of submissions: 72
Trivia: Approximately half of the entries are from one school, St. Anthony’s Secondary School, winner of the prize for the school with the most submissions. Be sure to check out the 2021 Patrons who make this possible.
Reader Reviews (2021):
“Beautiful story!” (here on WordPress in response to ‘The Juxtaposed Reprieve’ by Sheniqua Greaves)
MORE TRIVIA Most times individuals made it to the winners’ circle (2004-2021):
Daryl George – 4 times, 7 prizes (hon. mention, 18-35 – 2012, 2nd placed and winning writing for two different stories, 18-35, and 2nd placed overall – 2013, hon. mention, 18-35 – 2014, winner, 18-35, and overall winner – 2016)
Chammaiah Ambrose 3 times, 3 prizes (3rd placed, 12 and younger – 2013, 2nd placed, 12 and younger – 2014, winner, 12 and younger – 2016)
(Zion Ebony Williams, 2014)
Zion Ebony Williams – 3 times, 4 prizes (honourable mention, 12 and younger – 2014, 2nd runner up, 12 and younger – 2016, 1st, 12 and younger, and 3rd overall – 2017)
Vega Armstrong – 3 times, 3 prizes (honourable mention, 12 and younger – 2012, 2nd placed, 12 and younger – 2013, overall winner, 12 and younger – 2014)
Verdanci Benta – 3 times, 4 prizes (winner, 12 and younger, and 3rd placed overall – 2004, honourable mention – 2005, 2006)
Chatrisse Beazer – 3 times, 4 prizes (honourable mention, 12 and younger – 2005, 2006, and winner, 13 to 17, and 3rd overall – 2011)
Liscia Lawarence – 3 times, 3 prizes (honourable mention – 2004, 3rd placed – 2005, honourable mention, 18 to 35 – 2014)
Asha Graham – 2 times, 5 prizes (third placed for one story and winner for another, 13 to 17, and winner overall – 2013, winner, 13 to 17, and winner overall – 2014)
Number of appearances by named schools^ in the winners’ circle (2004 to 2021) i.e. number of times a student from the named school has been a finalist in alphabetical order (for art, lit):
American University of Antigua (1)
Antigua Girls High School (14) – also prize winner as the secondary school with the most submissions in 2013
Antigua Grammar School (4)
Antigua State College (19)
Antigua Wesleyan Junior Academy (3) – also prize winner as the school with the most submissions in 2012
Baptist Academy (5)
Buckley’s Primary School (1) – also prize winner as the school with the most submissions in 2005
Christ the King High School (8) – also prize winner as the school with the most submissions in 2016
Clare Hall Secondary School (2)
Foundation Mixed/Ms. Davis School (1)
Glanville’s Secondary School (1)
Golden Grove Primary School (2)
Irene B. Williams School (4)
Island Academy (4) – also prize winner as the school with the most submissions in 2017
Mary E. Piggott School (2)
Minoah Magnet Academy (2)
Ottos Comprehensive School (1)
Princess Margaret Secondary School (1)
St. Andrew’s Primary School (3) – also prize winner as the school with the most submissions in 2018
St. Anthony’s Secondary School (6) – also prize winner as the school with the most submissions in 2021
St. John’s Catholic Primary School (6) – also the primary school with the most submissions in 2013
St. Nicholas Primary School (3)
Sunnydale (1) – also prize winner as the school with the most submissions in 2020
Sunnyside Tutorial (5)
T. N. Kirnon (1) – also the primary school with the most submissions in 2014
Overall Student Winners (for art, lit), meanwhile, have come from (2004 – 2021):
Antigua State College (6)
Antigua Girls High School (1)
Golden Grove Primary (1)
Youngest Overall Winner – Eclipsing Asha Graham (2013) who had just turned 16 when she collected the first of back to back Wadadli Pen Challenge main prizes (and was actually 15 when she submitted), Cheyanne Darroux (2020) was at 11, the first main prize winner under 12.
Oldest Overall Winner – Margaret Irish (2015) and Kevin Liddie (2021) were main prize winners in years when the prize opened up to all ages.
Youngest Finalist (meaning the youngest person to receive a prize in any age category) – This is a three way tie between Freya Platts-Costeloe, a visual arts finalist in 2011, Chammaiah Ambrose, third placed in the 12 and younger category, for her story ‘How Tigers Got Stripes’ in 2013, and Zion Ebony Williams, an honourable mention with her story ‘The Night I went to Cricket’ in 2014; all three were eight years old at the time of recognition.
Recordings and Publications:
2004 – 2006 Winning stories were published by then partner – Young Explorer
2004 Winning stories were recorded by ABS Radio (as read by the writers)
2005 Winning stories were recorded by HAMA (as performed by the Optimist Club of St. John’s Youth Drama Club) – recordings were distributed for broadcast on radio – – now uploaded to you tube
2011 Select winning pieces through the years featured in a Special Wadadli Pen Issue of Anansesem: the online Caribbean Children’s Literary Journal called the Best of Wadadli Pen
2012 Akeile Benjamin’s ‘The Adventures of Mr. Coconut‘ and Vega Armstrong’s ‘Legend of the Sea Lords‘ published in Anansesem
2014 ‘The Night I went to Cricket’ by Zion Ebony Williams, ‘Legend of the Sea Lords’ by Vega Armstrong, and ‘Smitten’ by Rosalie Richards published in a special Antigua and Barbuda issue of Tongues of the Ocean
December 2019 – Rosie Pickering’s 2018 poem ‘Damarae’ published in Interviewing the Caribbean (Caribbean Childhood: Traumas and Triumphs Pt. 1), edited by Opal Palmer Adisa and published by the UWI Press
June 2020 – winning entries ‘Worlds Collide’ by D’Chaiya Emmanuel and ‘Tom, the Ninja Crab’ by Cheyanne Darroux read on ZDK Radio
Variously over the years winning stories have also been published in Antigua and Barbuda’s main daily, the Daily Observer
All winning entries can be read here on Wadadli Pen
Recognition – for nominations made by Wadadli Pen# or received in connection with achievements under Wadadli Pen:
2005 Wadadli Pen finalists Sandrena Martin, Rilys Adams, Liscia Lawrence, and Sarah Ann Li received literary certificates from the Optimist Club of St. John’s for their contribution to the literary arts
2015 Asha Graham who won Wadadli Pen back to back in 2013 and 2014 was awarded the Literary prize during the National Youth Awards for her achievements
2018 Kyle Christian who won Wadadli Pen in 2018 also won the Literary Prize at the National Youth Award
#Wadadli Pen coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse has made nominations for lit arts and various other categories of the National Youth Awards over the years and has seen many of those nominees go on to win prizes – this list only covers awards received by Wadadli Pen participants for lit arts
2005, 2013 Wadadli Pen writing workshop
(additionally Wadadli Pen finalists have participated in other workshops organized and/or facilitated by Joanne C. Hillhouse including her 2013’s Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project ,
judge Brenda Lee Browne’s Just Write Writers Retreat which for several years has offered a spot to the winner, and the 2014 CODE sponsored workshop for teen/YA fiction; the 2011 junior art winner has also participated in the Edison Liburd art camp as a part of her prize)
Other notable developments:
2006 Word Up! Showcase and fundraiser held in partnership with the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda – Wadadli Pen finalists Rilys Adams and Sandrena Martin given the opportunity to participate in this showcase alongside seasoned Antiguan and Barbudan writers
This is a cut from the press coverage of Word Up! Read the full article: Word up
2007-2009 Wadadli Pen was on hiatus. It would return from hiatus with a new Challenge and Word Up! 2010 part of a week of activities organized for Black History Month (in collaboration with community partners)
2010 Launched this website; there was a previous site (2005 – until the project/financing ended in 2007) built as part of the OECS Cultural Network Project sponsored by Alliance Francaise – Wadadli Pen did not have the independent funding to keep the website going beyond the project’s run but this WordPress blog has filled the gap and become a literary arts resource (with its resources page and opportunities pages, among other things), a Caribbean (Carib Plus Lit Series, Caribbean Writers Online, Literary Festivals of the Caribbean, plus) and Antiguan and Barbudan resource (with data bases of all books published ever by Antiguans and Barbudans, with genre sub-lists for non-fiction, fiction, poetry, children’s lit, anthologies, plays/screenplays, A & B Writing in Journals, A & B Artistes Discussing Art, other people Writing Antigua Barbuda, Antiguan and Barbudan songwriters and song lyrics, professional writing services (on island), Literary Arts in Antigua and Barbuda, Antiguans and Barbudans Awarded, the Antiguan and Barbudan Media: an Abridged Record, even an A & B Arts Wish List, plus), and beyond (with a Reading Room and Gallery series, Blogger on Books – which can now be found on Hillhouse’s personal blog, and more) – platforms like the Anansesem online bookstore and the blogger who dubbed it “a huge archive of anything literary that is Antigua and Barbuda…” have attested to Wadadli Pen’s value as a resource
2010 The Best of Books sought and received approval to begin using the name for a new open mic series, the monthly Wadadli Pen Open Mic which is independent of Wadadli Pen and hosted by Glen Toussaint, a writer in his own right, who would also later serve as a Wadadli Pen judge and, as a Best of Books employee, host of several Wadadli Pen Challenge awards ceremonies
2014 Wadadli Pen celebrated 10 years of existence
2015 Wadadli Pen teamed up with the Cushion Club Reading Club for Kids to launch a Summer Reading Challenge
2016 Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse, having put together a plan for the future of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize as a year-round development programme with a strong foundation, began the process of moving it from a project and labour of love to a non-profit that she hopes will endure as an arts development institution well in to the future. She pulled a core team (effectively a Wadadli Pen advisory and action board) together. This core team consists of past and current Wadadli Pen annual Challenge partners Floree Whyte (who has worked with the programme as a judge since 2102) and Barbara Arrindell (who, as manager of the Best of Books, has effectively supported the programme from the beginning, 2004, and more actively beyond being a patron since Best of Books started hosting the awards ceremony in 2011), and past Wadadli Pen winners Devra Thomas (who won in 2011) and Margaret Irish (who won the Teachers’ Prize in 2014 and the main/flash fiction prize in 2015)
2019 the Challenge was on hiatus but the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize had a Book of the Year initiative with winning author Vivian Luke (F.A.K.E.) being asked to pick a school to receive a prize of books (valued just under EC$1000) sponsored by our patrons. The selected school was the Foundation Mixed School
The work continues.
In addition to local coverage of annual Challenge activities (much thanks to the local media), Wadadli Pen has picked up some regional and even international notice as well. Samples…
“It is possibly the best testimony to the value of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize that one of its past winners is now a member of the organising team…” Lisa Allen-Agostini writing in Caribbean Beat in 2012 in a piece headlined Budding Pens: the Wadadli Pen Writing Competition
Article by Wadadli Pen founder Joanne C. Hillhouse in Bookbird: a Journal of International Children’s Literature – headlined Wadadli Pen and Young Writers in the Caribbean
This mention “Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (Antigua and Barbuda) and the Allen Prize for Young Writers (T&T) both incorporate workshop sessions into their organisational structure, resulting in rich dividends for fledgling youth scribes” by Shivanee Ramlochan in the Trinidad Guardian
Social Media (samples)
(video by Floree Whyte)
“I have had occasion to see work from this group, some from young people under 15, and was very impressed…” Diane Browne, Jamaican children’s author, writing on her blog
Guest post by Wadadli Pen founder Joanne C. Hillhouse on the blog of Summer Edward, founder of Anansesem – headlined Nurturing Another Generation of Antiguan and Barbudan writers
A feature in the 2016-2017 edition of Simply Antigua and Barbuda – which referenced the history and purpose of the project, and also pointed to the work we’ve been doing here on the website to build a data base of books by Antiguans and Barbudans
June 2010 – Wadadli Pen Scribbling Success Stories (read article). EXCERPT: “Maybe it’s the pure pleasure I experience reading the creative efforts of our young writers through the years; the way their storytelling prods at relevant social issues and reveals, in some instances, a literary maturity I didn’t necessarily have at their age.”
(i.e. people who worked in some volunteer capacity with the WYPP)
Joanne C. Hillhouse (founder, coordinator, 2004 – ongoing)
Young Explorer (volunteer, partner publication, 2004 – 2006)
D. Gisele Isaac (volunteer, judge, 2004 – 2006, 2010)
Alstyne Allen, RIP (volunteer via Young Explorer, 2004 – 2006) – Challenge plaque now named for her
Charmaine Thomas (volunteer, 2006)
Mark Brown (art challenge coordinator and judge, 2010)
Renee Philip (art judge, 2010 – 2011)
Brenda Lee Browne (judge, 2010 – 2014)
Barbara Arrindell (partner as manager of The Best of Books, 2011 – ongoing; member of the Wadadli Pen core team, 2016 – ongoing)
Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau (judge, 2011)
Claytine Nisbett (volunteer, 2012)
Devra Thomas (Wadadli Pen 2011 winner, volunteer since 2012, member of the Wadadli Pen core team, 2016 – ongoing)
Floree (Williams) Whyte (judge, 2012 – 2018, member of the Wadadli Pen core team, 2016 – ongoing)
Linisa George (judge, 2013 – 2015)
Joy Lawrence (volunteer, 2014)
Carol Ottley-Mitchell (judge, 2014 – 2015)
Lia Nicholson (Wadadli Pen 2004 finalist-media ambassador, 2014)
Latisha Walker-Jacobs (2011 and 2013 Wadadli Pen finalist-media ambassador, 2014)
Joy James (art judge, 2014)
Angelica O’Donoghue (2006 winner and 2014 Wadadli Pen finalist-media ambassador, 2014)
Danielle Boodoo-Fortune (judge, 2014 – 2015)
Monica Matthew (judge, 2015)
Glen Toussaint (judge, 2016 – 2017)
Cedric Holder (judge, 2016)
Margaret Irish (Wadadli Pen winner teachers prize, 2014, and flash prize, 2015 – volunteer, 2016 – 2017; member of the Wadadli Pen core team, 2016 – ongoing)
Michaela Harris (Wadadli Pen finalist, 2012 and 2013,; intern/volunteer 2017)
Sharifa George (judge, 2017)
PATRONS The way Wadadli Pen patronage has been set up so far, 2004-present (as of 2019), has been as a gift (cash, prize) to the Challenge winner. It’s impractical to list all 86+ patrons through the years here but you can find the full breakdown of prizes and patrons by searching ‘who won what in (insert year here)’ for a year by year breakdown. Deepest thanks to them all. If you, too, would like to become a patron, contact email@example.com
CHALLENGES Overall, the number of submissions could be higher but there still needs to be more awareness of the programme among teachers – more interaction with the schools which requires more time (which requires more money) – as this is a voluntary project, time has to be stolen (and depending on other obligations this is not always possible). There needs to be a budget to cover promotion and marketing; readings and presentations; the annual Challenge activity and other projects the founder would like to undertake (such as in-school workshops year round, and publication and production of film shorts based on the winning stories). The programme has no consistent independent financing; prizes are solicited annually (cap in hand) – a different approach is needed and for that the project ideally needs to be established as a legal non-profit so that it can set up an account, put a permanent team in place, and raise funds and run development activities year round. Proactive steps toward formalizing the Wadadli Pen foundation have been taken. Most significantly, a vision and plan has been drawn up, and a team – an advisory and action board – is in place as of 2016. As at 2019, we have begun consulting with a lawyer who has offered pro bono assistance to facilitate this process. We will work together to overcome the stated challenges and grow. If you can help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
WADADLI PEN Finalists have gone on to achieve in the literary arts and other areas (N.B. Wadadli Pen does not take credit for their accomplishments; merely joins in celebrating them for continuing to strive and continuing to create)…
Mjolnir Messiah – a finalist in 2014 was Antigua and Barbuda’s CSEC top student. – 2021
Andre J. P. Warner – winner of Rebel Women Lit’s Caribbean Readers Awards best short fiction prize for his 2020 Wadadli Pen winning story ‘A Bright Future for Tomorrow‘ – 2021
Lucia Murray – the 2017 finalist has since become Intersect Antigua’s resident artist – 2020
Michaela Harris in 2019, two years after she became Wadadli Pen’s first intern in 2017, won the CFCCU 60th anniversary scholarship – congrats to Michaela who’s gone on to finish her degree – in 2018, Michaela started her own NGO Her Shine Theory “to support, guide and empower young women to define what authentically being their best self means“.
Rilys Adams, now an attorney, who released a spoken word CD Laid Bare (2009), continues to self-publish several ebooks per year as seen in Antiguan and Barbudan Writings; she was a nominee for best novel in the first Rebel Women Lit’s Caribbean Readers Awards in 2020/1 and a semi-finalist (x2) for the romance book industry’s Swoonies, also in 2021. In 2020, she won a Ripped Bodice Award for Excellence in Romantic Fiction for her novel Go Deep.
Shem Alexander is an emerging visual artist (whose work has been described as “innovative an unique” – the Antiguan) who has participated in several national art shows and is also spotlighted in the Simply Antigua and Barbuda edition cited above; he graduated Midwestern State University in 2020 with the president’s medal for excellence and had an exhibition, Weight of Water, at Midwestern’s Juanita Harvey Art Gallery. He was also part of the senior art exhibition
Vega Armstrong, as of 2015, at only 14, ventured into music, initially doing covers but then spreading her wings as not only a singer but a songwriter with 2016’s The River Effect
Terrikia Benjamin won other literary prizes such as the Antigua Public Library Short Story Competition (2010), the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association essay competition (2012), and was the top CSEC student from a Government School in 2014, and 2016 Island Scholar
Ashley Clendenen continued to study art and has exhibited as a student in both Antigua and Barbados; she showed in a 2015 Orange Day Artivism event organized by the Directorate of Gender Affairs, Antigua.
Shakeema Edwards has excelled in other writing competitions (the Independence Literary Arts competition and others) including the Dancing Nude in the Moonlight next chapter contest with her winning poem and prose now included in the 10th anniversary edition of that book released in 2014; she has also published in Tongues of the Ocean; and, having graduated university continues on a career path in the field of writing and publishing in the US
Lia Nicholson, a Yale graduate, who said during a Wadadli Pen promotional interview in 2014 that she used her winning Wadadli Pen entry as her college entry essay, is as of 2015 a board member with the Environmental Awareness Group and was one of the speakers at the first ever TEDx event in the OECS, speaking on, what else, climate change ; in 2016, she was named as one of only 60 Queen’s Young Leaders from across the Commonwealth
Verdanci Benta was a winner in the Independence literary competition, 13 to 18 age category in 2006; according to google, she is (as of 2019) a council team member of JCI Nottingham (and hopefully still writing)
Angelica O’Donoghue founded Antigua Chronicle, an online newspaper; Angelica is a 2014-15 National Youth Award winner; and was named Woman of the Week in St. Lucian Voice
Kohylah Piper continued writing via her poetry blog, The Deafening Selah, started in 2015
Tiffany Smith won a National Youth Award for Culture and the Performing Arts in 2012; she was a 2015 recipient of the Mill Reef Fund Education Grant which helped her earn a first class honours degree from UWI in psychology and english with a concentration in creative writing
Damani Tabor became an Antiguan and Barbudan senator and vocal political operative in 2014
Devra Thomas has since published in Tongues of the Ocean
Zion Ebony Williams placed among the top 5 students in the country after the national assessments required as primary school students move to secondary school (formerly the Common Entrance Exams)
RIP to Zuri Holder – regrettably in 2021 he was in a fatal car accident; we at Wadadli Pen mourn the loss of our family. His family through the Cushion Club – which has had a long relationship with Wadadli Pen – established a youth award (for the 12 and younger winners) in his name. Gazelle Goodwin was the first name added to the plaque in 2021.
Wadadli Pen has benefited greatly from the support of various businesses, writers, and other individuals; people who understand the value of philanthropy (giving back). Each has had a hand in youth and art development in Antigua and Barbuda. From founder-coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse “To anyone who has supported us in anyway, we say thanks for your past and hopefully future support as we, knock on wood, continue to experiment and grow. And we encourage everyone to support the businesses and people that support the arts.”
Click on the links throughout this post and/or use the drop down menu to the right to access particulars about each year (the names of the winners and the patrons who helped us reward their efforts).
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Want to correct an error? Want to find out how you, too, can support the work of Wadadli Pen? Contact Wadadli Pen at email@example.com
Be sure to subscribe to or follow the site to keep up with updates.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your support.
p.s. photographers include Colin James (2004), Laura Hall (Word Up! 2006) – Gemma Hazelwood also took pictures of this event which can be found elsewhere on this site, Angelica O’Donoghue for AntiguaChronicle.net (2013), Zahra Airall (2010), Glen Toussaint and Barbara Arrindell of the Best of Books bookstore (2011 – ongoing), Linisa George (2017), Joanne C. Hillhouse, and several proud parents (various years). Thanks to anyone who has contributed to this project.
*Re approximate value/approximately – Wadadli Pen does its best to keep track of the numbers but due to some growing pains 2016 forward, the final figures were not verified between 2017-2018, and so the closest possible approximation has been given.
^Please note that we direct mail schools on our mailing list when the competition is launched; if you have never received one of these launch emails from us and would like to, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org We will not spam you with irrelevant information.