Category Archives: A & B Lit News Plus

News of what’s happening literally in Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua & Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed Vlll

This picks up where the previous installments of Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed pages left off (use the search feature to the right to dig them up).  As with those earlier pages, it features reviews about A & B writings that I come across as I dig through my archives or surf the web. You’re welcome to send any credible/professional reviews that you come across as well. They’re not in any particular order, I just add them as I add them; some will be old, some will be new. It’s all shared in an effort to underscore Antigua and Barbuda’s presence in the Caribbean literary canon.

The Travel Bag site (not a review site but a site of recommendations by travel experts) makes several literary recommendations with regards to Antigua and Barbuda (excerpted below) in 2014:

unburnableautobiography of my motherohgadno-seed-poster-emailskinposter-carl-veronnewmango-poster-email

“Essential Holiday Reading…For a thrilling read, on your next trip to this tropical paradise, pick up the remarkable Unburnable, by Marie-Elena John. This sprawling crime drama/murder mystery is split between the Caribbean and Washington DC, and follows Lillian Baptiste as she is drawn back home by the lure of scandals and secrets from her past. It is a truly storming read, and would suit any avid book fan with a penchant for darker mysteries…

“Notable Antiguan Books…The 1995 novel, The Autobiography of My Mother, by Jamaica Kincaid, is very well known in Antigua. It is also highly regarded, despite being surprisingly controversial amongst western scholars. This book, which follows the tale of Xuela Claudette Richardson, explores themes of motherhood, colonialism, race, love, loss, fear and redemption… If you have any interest in the history of this beautiful island, Kincaid is a more than skilful (sic) guide – take a chance and pick up one of her novels for your next trip.

“Notable Antiguan Authors…If you are looking to dive into something fresh and modern, give the magnificent Joanne C Hillhouse a try …In some ways, Hillhouse is a natural successor to authors like Kincaid – Oh, Gad (Oh Gad!) certainly shares certain narrative characteristics with The Autobiography of My Mother. For a fresh and contemporary read, give this young author a try.”

“Notable Antiguan Films…No Seed, a drama which explores the subtle nuances of Caribbean politics. …also horror flick, The Skin, which follows a young couple as they encounter strange occurrences, in the wake of finding and selling an ancient artefact. In 2001, The Sweetest Mango was released to acclaim on the island – it tells the story of a woman who returns to her island home and becomes involved in a complicated love triangle.”

The named films were written by D. Gisele Isaac (No Seed, The Sweetest Mango) and Howard Allen (The Skin).

Read the full article which also includes recommended music from Antigua and Barbuda here.


Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery

Mailbox – Papillote Publishes Two More Award Winning Titles

Papillote Press is announcing the forthcoming launch of two new Burt Award titles –

“On 31st May we’ll be publishing two award-winning YA novels. Both were winners in the Burt Prize for Young Adult Caribbean Literature (2017).

The overall winner, The Art of White Roses, is a breathtaking first novel, set in Cuba just before the revolution. The author, Viviana Prado-Núñez, is a teenage writer from Puerto Rico.

The bestselling YA novelist Daniel José Older describes the book as: ‘A gorgeously written story, full of nuance, sadness, and the joy of growing up. A terrific debut from an exciting new voice in young people’s literature.’

Home Home by the Trinidadian writer Lisa Allen-Agostini addresses teenage mental health in a novel that also explores the LGBT family.

Patrice Lawrence, author of Orangeboy, is a fan: ‘I loved this book. It vividly creates a world of depression and lost opportunity but also of hope and unconditional love.'”

From the Advance Packages –

About Home Home:

When a depressed Trinidadian teenager is sent by her mother to Canada to live with her lesbian aunt she feels lonely and in exile. But with the help of her aunt, a gorgeous-looking boy, and her Skyping best friend “back home”, she begins to accept her new family and her illness. Then her mother arrives and threatens to take her back to Trinidad. Where then is home?

Home Home

About the Author:

Lisa Allen-Agostini is a widely-published novelist, journalist, and poet from Trinidad & Tobago. Her first YA work, The Chalice Project, was a sci-fi novel set in the Caribbean. She writes primarily about the Caribbean, its people and its culture. She lives in Trinidad with her family.

About The Art of White Roses:

It is 1957, in a quiet Havana suburb. Adela Santiago is 13 and lives in a small blue house with her family. But something is amiss. Students on her street are disappearing, her parents’ marriage seems to be disintegrating and a cousin is caught up in a bombing at a luxury hotel. Welcome to a world where police shoot civilians in the street, where in the
cramped pews of churches, in the creaking wood of front porches, in the floating smoke of Havana alleyways, a revolution is brewing. Welcome to Cuba. What it means to be young when bad things happen and it’s not your fault.

The Art of White Roses.jpg

About the Author:

Viviana Prado-Núñez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1998 and now lives in the US where she is a student at Columbia University, NYC. Viviana was only 14 when she formed the idea of her protagonist Adela, loosely based on her grandmother who left Cuba after the revolution. The novel was written when the author was still in high school.


How cool are those covers?! I look forward to reading both and, with May 31st 2018 release dates, you can read them soon too. This is the third Burt title being published by Papillote, a press started by UK journalist Polly Pattullo, and which previously (I think it’s fair to say previously given its expanding catalogue) specialized in books by Dominican writers. Last year, it published Gone to Drift by Jamaican writer Diana McCaulay, which I wrote about here on the blog, and which has since also landed a US publisher.

The Burt Awards, FYI, is an initiative by Canada-based non-profit CODE in partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad and Tobago to mobilize the writing and publication of teen/young adult Caribbean fiction (and also, separately, teen/young adult African fiction, and Canada First Nations, Inuit, and Métis teen/young adult fiction). One of the project pillars is to ensure the development of the publishing industry in the Caribbean by giving Caribbean publishing houses the opportunity to bring these books in to the marketplace. See previously published Burt Award winning titles below:


And another announced forthcoming Burt title (from another publisher): the beast of kukuyo

As with all content (words, images, other) on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.


Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business

Bobby Margetson – A Reflection

One of my kids had a project on Robert ‘Bobby’ Margetson. I realized while trying to help with research (and no, research isn’t just calling up the family, not when you’re talking a class or more full of children all chasing down the same information) that as large as Bobby Margetson is in my memory, it’s hard trying to pull information together on him (on so many of our Antiguan and Barbudan cultural icons, really) using these internets. I’ve been speaking this for a while, but, in this regard, we need to do better. Not just be consumers but creators of content when it comes to the internet and from a policy standpoint be committed to documenting our culture and our history.

Keva with Flag

I couldn’t find a picture of Bobby Margetson, but this is his late daughter Keva Margetson, who in her time on this earth was one of the biggest champions of celebrating and canonizing our culture. In this picture she’s posing with the flag and dressed in the colours of our national dress; this picture is quintessentially her – I have to believe she got some of that love of culture from her daddy.

Since I invested the time, I’m going to post some of the information I dug up  around these internets about Mr. Bobby Margetson (RIP), who when I was coming of age in 1980s Antigua and Barbuda, was host of one of the most popular local TV programmes, Top of the Form – a quiz style show pitting school against school.

Before that though, he was the writer (lyricist, not sure about the composition of the music) of one of my favourite national songs, God Bless Antigua. I stand to be corrected but I believe that this was runner up for the competition to select a national anthem when we (Antigua) achieved Associated Statehood status (with England after centuries off colonial rule) in 1967 (we wouldn’t gain full political Independence until 1981 but ’67 is a significant milestone in the history). ‘God Bless Antigua’ may not have won an official place in that history but it’s still sung and beloved to this day.

According to the Cambridge Guide to Theatre, as previously referenced on this site, in our posting on Antiguan and Barbudan playwrights, Bobby Margetson led The Little Theatre which presented Caribbean plays. The Guide specifically mentioned two by Antiguan playwright Oliver Flax, The Legend of Prince Klaas, which was entered in CARIFESTA in 1972 and 1976’s A Better Way, which was directed by Edgar Davis.

The site that had the most information was The Case run by Ken Kentish, which seems to be dedicated to revisiting precedent setting legal cases in Antigua and Barbuda – cool concept and right in line with what I said about creating and not just consuming content. It referenced his prominence in our lifetime as a radio and TV personality – especially, for us young ones at the time, as host of Top of the Form; noted that he was born in Montserrat in 1928 to a medical doctor who moved to Antigua in 1947 (Hmmm is that the Dr. Margetson for whom the Margetson ward at the old hospital, Holberton, was named. Maybe we need a medical blogger to document that.).

“Less well known is that there was an attempt to deport him from Antigua in 1966,” Kentish reports in his set-up to the case. He noted that Margetson became a civil servant and then in 1956 left Antigua to study in England, where he married and started his family. When, the family re-settled in Antigua in 1965, Margetson continued to move freely without need for a work permit, according to the blog. But then in Christmas 1966 he was told that he had to leave by February 1967  and would need a work permit to work in Antigua; he applied and was denied. With Sydney Christian representing him, he took the case all the way to the Court of Appeal which decided that the authorities had acted unlawfully in restricting his movements. Why did this make The Case? “The case is still significant today. The powers available to the immigration authorities must be used for a lawful purpose. Anything less does not belong in a democratic society.” So, there you have it a, for me, little known fact that Margetson was not just a songwriter and radio-tv personality but key actor in a precedent setting case.

The case is referenced as well in John Lent’s book on Third World Mass Media and Their Search for Modernity: the Case of Commonwealth Caribbean 1717-1976. Lent reports that in 1968  Margetson, as a broadcaster, read a story on ZAL-TV/ABS TV about the ouster of a government minister and that’s what resulted in him being kicked out of the island (with the work permit being used as the reason). I’ve just added this note to the previously posted History of Antigua and Barbuda media.

I seem to remember Bobby Margetson also worked with the Culture Department researching folk iconography; that’s how I’m remembering him in his later years (say, the 1990s), though I can’t find specific reference of that online (so, grain of salt).  Though I do vaguely remember a conversation with his now late daughter Keva, whose own work in their area of cultural celebration (e.g. with the Vitus Cultural Performers) I came to respect, in which she spoke of someday publishing his research. I’m not sure what has become of that project (or if I’m even remembering that right). But since I’ve touched on Keva, it would be remiss not to note that one of Margetson’s greatest contribution would be his offspring – from the likes of Keva and her work in culture (notably Carnival and Independence), to Robin and his contributions to pan with both Gemonites and Panache, to grand-offspring, Keva’s daughter, Patrice, who is a singer and media personality, as host of the ABS TV morning show.

GMAB DEC 5 2017 6

Screen capture: That’s Patrice to the right, holding copies of my children’s books (With Grace and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure) during a promotional December 2017 appearance on ABS TV.

I’m sure there are many gaps in this accounting (and perhaps there is an even more comprehensive accounting of the life of Bobby Margetson out there and my google-fu is just failing me) but as this site has done with the likes of Marcus Christopher, Roland Prince, X-Saphair King, and others, we try to pull together what we can towards putting the names of our Antiguan and Barbudan artistic icons in our record.


As with all content (words, images, other) on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

Leave a comment

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

A & B Arts Round-up – March 7th 2018 –>

This page or series of pages is specific to arts and/or cultural events being held in Antigua and Barbuda.

May 20th 2018 – Call for papers – 13th Annual Conference and Distinguished Lecture (August 16th -17th 2018) – the University of the West Indies Open Campus Antigua and Barbuda, the Antigua and Barbuda Studies Association, and the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Enlightenment Academy. Details re Call for Papers: UWI-ABSA Conference 2018 Call for Papers

April 14th 15th 2018 – Antigua Opera Society’s first ever performance at Catherine’s Café and the National Sailing Academy. Read more at

March 23rd 2018 – the National Public Library Celebrating Local Author of the Month – Mid-Afternoon Tea and Coffee Author Reading and Book Signing 12-2 p.m. – Author’s books on sale.

March 22nd 2018 – 6:30-8:30 p.m. – Sugar Ridge – Hub Dot Antigua has announced an event themed ‘Making the World a Better Place’

March 12, 14, 19, 21 – Public Library – 6:30pm -7:30pm – Intentional Self-Publishing Workshop with Kimolisa Mings

March 10th 2018 – 7 p.m. – 3 a.m. – Soothe 7 pmto 3 am

March 10th 2018 – March 2018 workshop
N.B. the Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Series will continue as long as there’s interest and time. To be informed of future workshops, request addition to the mailing list by emailing jhohadli at gmail dot com

Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Links We Love

Lost! Audio Book

My picture book Lost! is now also available as an audio book. Listen to a sample here.

Lost Cover Front 4



Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Links We Love, Literary Gallery

Thanks, Kaeiron

That’s right, thanks to last year’s Wadadli Pen winner Kaeiron Saunders for braving the early morning to encourage people (specifically Antiguans and Barbudans 35 years and younger) to submit to the 2018 Challenge. Thanks for representing well on short notice and without one of us on the planning team as back-up. In the early morning no less. On ABS TV’s live broadcast of Antigua Barbuda Today. You’re the real MVP.

KS Antigua Barbuda Today Jan 24 2018

In the interview, Kaeiron, now a medical student, chatted a bit about her own journey in writing and towards Wadadli Pen.

“I used to write when I was in high school and I hadn’t done it for a long time. …I am really grateful because I think writing is such an important skill…the foundation for everything whether it’s marketing, public speaking (etc.)…”

And about why anyone considering entering shouldn’t let fear stop them.

“If you’re scared, you should definitely make use of the opportunity because you have nothing to lose and it will only make you a better writer.”

As she went to pains to emphasize, there is no entry fee, and the takeaway could be a tidy basket of goodies (we offer cash and prizes, giving what ever we are able to gather from our patrons) and the intangible and indescribable feeling that comes of telling your own story.

We’re so glad that Kaeiron found value in the experience and was emboldened to encourage others to go for it, too.

Kaeiron also read her 2017 winning entry, Not Another Island Story; as told by Auntie Gah

KS Antigua Barbuda Today Jan 24 2018 4

This year’s prize is winner take all (all of what? we’re still working on that…but you know we always come through with the goods). This means that rather than category winners, there will be a single winner. We’re also not doing the two tiers of judging this year, wherein long listed writers get editorial notes and get to re-submit, so be sure to submit your best effort. Entries should be 600 words or fewer, any genre, any topic, but with a Caribbean aesthetic and for 2018 inspired by some aspect of Caribbean history – this does not mean you have to write historical fiction, just that you have to use some person, place, thing, mythology, or other aspect of Antiguan-Barbudan history as your jumping off point or as a reference point. Rope it in somehow. Be creative; don’t dabble in clichés. Remember to use the submission form (2018 WADADLI YOUTH PEN PRIZE SUBMISSION FORM) for proper processing of your entry. Do all this by February 28th 2018.

Wadadli Pen Flyer 2018 2

Good luck.


Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Literary Gallery, Wadadli Pen 2018, Wadadli Pen News

Literary Arts in Antigua and Barbuda – a Reflection

This past weekend left me in a bit of a reflective mood. I attended a literary event organized for Black History Month by our Culture Department and a women’s empowerment event and Cottage of Hope fundraiser organized by The District (a clothing boutique) on Sunday, and felt much more inspired (in a positive way) by the latter. Enter side note –>Here’s where I should insert a picture of me contributing copies of my children’s books Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and With Grace to the Cottage c/o The District, but I only remember to take pictures 50% of the time. I do hope that the young people who get to read the books enjoy them. Exit side note–>The Sunday event (which included testimonials from the likes of TnTs soca diva Destra and AnB’s soca diva CP) emphasized finding your passion and doing that, and in the doing, sharing.

So, as I reflect on my journey in literary arts, an improbable journey that I ventured out on and continue to venture out on despite the obstacles and setbacks, I can feel confident that it has been driven by my passion for writing, and that through Wadadli Pen and other projects, not just my books, I’ve been finding ways to share that passion. I mean, so much else is uncertain, and increasingly I question whether Antigua and Barbuda wants me at all, and it’s always a financial high wire act but I am happy that I haven’t let fear and disappointment  stop me from doing the thing I was put here to do.

Art Culture Antigua

This is from the IG of Art. Culture. Antigua – an online platform by Linisa George, promoting the arts. The announcement concerns the current Wadadli Pen Challenge season and features an image from the 2017 season awards ceremony held during the Wadadli Stories Book Fair – a community led lit arts showcase. Art. Culture. Antigua is back as a 2018 patron and the Best of Books continues to sponsor the Challenge plaque, pictured. Wadadli Pen was first launched by me in 2004 – writers who have partnered with me on the project over the years include D. Gisele Isaac (a founding partner), Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau, Brenda Lee Browne, Linisa George, Monica Matthew, Barbara Arrindell, Joy Lawrence, Floree Whyte, Glen Toussaint, Claytine Nisbett, and others, with contributions by several regional and international writers as well.

It is in this frame of mind that I think, too, about the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda and how its strivings and whatever hurdles have been cleared are largely a reflection of the talent, passion, hard work, and will of the literary arts practitioners. We have had to cut and contrive a path of our own making – and, true, this may be true of artistes every where but especially so where there is no real infrastructure, nor resources, to support the artiste’s journey. We hustle and hustle hard, and still are asked to give even when our cups are empty (often without the asker considering what is the cost of this to the artist and what is the value of this to our community).


Presenting to the 12 and younger winner Verdanci Benta at the first Wadadli Pen awards ceremony in 2004.

When I started the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize in 2004, it wasn’t because I had an abundance of time and resources; it was because I saw a need and had/have still a passion for the literary arts. It has been my pleasure in the years of maintaining this blog – which launched in 2010 to encourage, report on, celebrate the continued journeying of the community of literary artists in Antigua and Barbuda of which I am a part, among other things.


A&B writers who got together to apply for Commonwealth funding to attend the Calabash literary festival in Jamaica in 2007.

From this reflective space, I thought I’d share some of our journey as writers in this Antigua-Barbuda land. There is no way in this reflecting to hit everything everyone did to create and sustain vibrancy in the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda over the past 7+ years since I’ve been documenting it in this online space, but I can share some highlights N.B. where programmes have floundered often its due to lack of financial support and other resources to keep it going; the energy runs out when you’re burning it at both ends and still trying to make your bills. Wadadli Pen has been on the brink a number of times when I just didn’t feel like I had any MORE in me, and, honestly, it’s often someone from the community of writers who (along with the interest and expectation of the participants) pushes me to keep going and whose volunteer efforts help make it possible for me to do so.

2010 –

ABILF 2010

Here I am reading from Antigua-descended writer Ashley Bryan’s Anansi-themed Dancing Granny under the children’s tent at the ABILF. Before writing my own children’s books, Anansi was my go to when asked to read to children.

This blog launched in April 2010 and committed to spotlighting not only the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (a project committed to nurturing and showcasing the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda since 2004) but the literary arts (and then some) in Antigua and Barbuda (and beyond) – one example of the type of coverage I did as site blogger from that first year was ‘Lit Happenings Antigua-Barbuda Nov 1-8 2010′.

Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival launched in 2006 by two entrepreneurial (Montserratian!) sisters with strong author support and so much potential but, notwithstanding a revival in 2010, unfortunately has not survived.

Wadadli Pen Open Mic launched in 2010 using the Wadadli Pen name but run by the Best of Books and acting as a development platform for young/budding writers.

The Cushion Club – a reading club for children in Antigua and Barbuda – continued its relationship with Buckley’s Primary; this project began with school visits by me and CC leader Cedric Holder to the school, one of several schools we’ve both visited over the years, to read and run story workshops. The prize was sponsored by Cedric on behalf of the Cushion Club because of his desire to encourage greater interest and aptitude in the humanities. Cedric has also consistently contributed a prize to the Wadadli Pen Challenge on behalf of the Cushion Club.

Wadadli Pen returned after a 3 year hiatus – its life 2004-2010 to that time chronicled in this post.

Voices from the Lagoon, a collection of student writings shepherded by scribe and teacher Fransene Massiah-Headley released.

Number of publications in 2010 (not including the student publication which isn’t listed in the data base of Antiguan and Barbudan Writings, and specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda):  7


2011 winner Devra Thomas with Best of Books owner E. M. Grimes-Graeme.

Wadadli Pen 2011 winner, seen here receiving the Challenge plaque sponsored by the Best of Books, is now part of the Wadadli Pen team.

When a Woman Moans – after bringing Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues to Antigua beginning in 2008, the Women of Antigua reached out to local writers to contribute pieces to this homegrown theatrical production and we (specifically Melissa Elliot, Elaine Spires, Brenda Lee Browne, Floree Williams-now-Whyte, Tameka Jarvis-George, Marcella Andre, Joanne C. Hillhouse and Salma Crump, with WOA co-founders Linisa George and Zahra Airall) did.

Antigua-penned and independently produced films The Skin (written by Howard Allen/produced by HAMA) and Dinner (written by Tameka Jarvis-George/produced by Cinque) earned slots at the Jamaica Reggae Film Festival.

D. Gisele Isaac and I were invited by the A & B Consulate in Canada to participate in Independence activities there, participating in panels and sharing our work alongside writers based in Toronto.

The Best of Books Book Fair (and Wadadli Pen Awards) – this was the 10 year anniversary of the book store and the return to full strength of Wadadli Pen which was on hiatus in 2007, 2008, and 2009 (simply because I couldn’t see a way to carry it anymore), and had an abridged programme in 2010 (returning because it is a programme I care passionately about). The partnership has endured.

A word on school visits – many of us as writers in Antigua have done them – teachers call us sometimes as with the St. Mary’s Centre for Excellence; other times as with Joy Lawrence’s school tour promoting Wadadli Pen, we volunteer – the schools need a consistent programme but it cannot be on a voluntary basis given the time commitment for prep and actual presentation and because school presentations is something for which writers should actually be compensated (<–offsite link).

The Independence Literary Awards – this version** of it actually dates back to 2005 with first Brenda Lee Browne and then Barbara Arrindell at the helm. I was among the judges in the first year, and that was also the year I started building the data base of Antiguan and Barbudan writers, for the Museum exhibition we also did that year. In 2011, Arrindell announced her retirement with an open letter in which she called for the installation of a year round literary arts point person and development programmes, a call that landed, it seemed to those of us in the literary arts community, on deaf years.

The literary arts programme in the prison, facilitated by Brenda Lee Browne on a volunteer basis published its first collection of works from inside the prison.

Number of books published in 2011(not including the prison publication which isn’t listed in the data base of Antiguan and Barbudan Writings, and specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 4


Most of the awardees of Wadalipen with Joanne Hillhouse 2012

Wadadli Pen Challenge 2012 photo call.

Antigua and Barbuda penned and independently produced documentary film Melissa Gomez’s Silent Music shows at the Toronto Film Festival.

The Friends of Antigua Public Library, based in New York, hosted the U.S. launch of my first U.S. publication Oh Gad! 

Art at the Ridge which is not around anymore had regular art shows and took over for a time the annual Christmas card competition; they also became a Wadadli Pen patron and partner in these years.

Just Write Writers’ Retreat launched at Mount Tabor by Brenda Lee Browne.

Linisa George is spotlighted at the Poetry Parnassus during the Olympics and published in the companion collection The World Record – this collection includes works by writers from every Olympic country; through her own efforts Linisa became Antigua-Barbuda’s selection.

I had works included in Womenspeak Caribbean Arts and Letters out of the Bahamas – other Antiguan and Barbudan writers like Brenda Lee Browne and Barbara Arrindell would publish with them in subsequent years. That year, my story Genevieve, later published in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings (2014), was short listed for the Small Axe Fiction Prize. I was also published that year in the University of the Virgin Islands’ Caribbean Writer, from which I’ve also received two literary prizes over the years; not my first or last time publishing with them but they have quite high literary standards and reputation, and it’s always nice to make the cut.

Number of books published (not including  works in anthologies, and specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 7


Caribbean Writers Congress with Marin Bethel and Leone Ross 2013

At the Caribbean Congress of Writers in Guadeloupe with Bahamian writer Marion Bethel and UK based Jamaican writer Leone Ross.

Antiguan Authors Day – a promotion at the Best of Books.

On the heels of the publication of my novel Oh Gad!, I had the opportunity to participate in a number of off island literary showcases such as the Caribbean Congress of Writers in Guadeloupe.

The Public Library holds an annual Summer Read programme; writers – myself and others – have been asked to volunteer to do presentations and we have.

Dr. James Knight wrote and independently produced a documentary on the life and music of King Short Shirt. It premiered at Deluxe Cinema and was also subsequently screened in Jamaica.

An open letter from me re Wadadli Pen.

My first Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project launched – as it prepared to launch I contemplated ways to make it interesting. After our week of workshop activity, I was happy to receive this positive review from a parent.

Antigua-Barbuda collection edited by Althea Prince launched in Canada.

Joy Lawrence Explored the History of Parham in the second book in her village folk history series.

An online magazine inspired by the poem Black Girl in the Ring was launched by the poem’s writer and the site’s publisher Linisa George.

Number of books published (not including journals, online or otherwise, and specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 6



Collecting my Burt Award prize at the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad.

The launch of my book Musical Youth included readings by other writers – specifically past Wadadli Pen finalists and was followed by a workshop organized and facilitated by me and sponsored by the same organization, CODE, that sponsored the Burt Award for which Musical Youth placed second overall, earning itself a publication deal. This was a busy year for me in several ways with, among other things, the release of the mass market edition of Oh Gad! and recommendation on NPR in the US; also the release of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings.

Wadadli Pen celebrated record number of entries on its 10th anniversary and more importantly the participant response was #inspired

I was asked to volunteer as guest editor of regional online publication Tongues of the Ocean to produce an Antigua and Barbuda issue and drew on my network of writers and artists to do just that. The final publication included works by Althea Romeo-Mark, Brenda Lee Browne, Gayle Gonsalves, Kimolisa Mings, X-Saphair King, Heather Doram, Glenroy Aaron, Barbara Arrindell, Tammi Browne-Bannister, Tameka Jarvis-George, Marcus Christopher, Dorbrene O’Marde, Hazra Medica, Linisa George, past Wadadli Pen finalists Devra Thomas, Shakeema Edwards, Emile Hill, Rosalie Richards, Vega Armstrong, Zion Ebony Williams, and others.

My short story Amelia at Devil’s Bridge included in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean which had launched in Trinidad (at Bocas), Scotland (at Aye Write!), and New York (at PEN Awards Literary Safari), each of which I had the opportunity to participate in.  This particular story was shortlisted for the Small Axe Fiction Prize and subsequently excerpted in one of Harper Collins’ CSEC revision texts.

Number of Books published (specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 25


jamaicajoanne 2015 at V I Lit Fest

(with Jamaica Kincaid at the VI Lit Fest)

Lady of Parham – a published play inspired by the story of the ghost of Parham in Antigua – was shortlisted for the Guyana literary prize.

I was invited to the Virgin Islands Literary Festival – the featured writer was another Antiguan, Jamaica Kincaid.

Stories Handed Down –  a research and writing competition started by the Friends of Antigua Public Library some years earlier was won in 2015 by a Wadadli Pen regular. The FOAPL has also provided literary showcases through its Author in Residence series and book club, cultural remembrance through its Collecting Memories online data base, and programmes like its summer read project with the Public Library over the years.

The Cushion Club and Wadadli Pen teamed up to offer a summer reading challenge.

Dorbrene O’Marde becomes the first Antiguan and Barbudan long listed for the Bocas prize.

Joy Lawrence continues researching village histories .

The Art of Mali Olatunji which I reviewed in the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books 2016 edition.

Number of Books published (specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 33


A River Of Stories Flyer 2016-1

Antiguans-Barbudans Joy Lawrence and Joanne C. Hillhouse were included in the River of Stories series with selections by writers from around the world.

Joy Lawrence received a National Award, a rare occurrence for a literary artiste and one that required celebrating on the blog.

Independence Literary Arts Forum (this was a government project).

Writing workshop during the Best of Books summer camp.

Spilling Ink – an arts collective – launched a second book.

My picture book With Grace, a Caribbean fairytale launched.

The Antigua and Barbuda Review of books – edited by Paget Henry, and funded largely by Brown University where he teaches (which begs the question what will become of this project when he is no longer able to helm it?); he also organizes the annual Antigua Conference. The Review continues annually critiquing literary works by Antiguans and Barbudans such as Dorbrene O’Marde’s Nobody Go Run Me and Short Shirt/Shelly Tobitt’s classic Ghetto Vibes album. Both projects began roughly around 2004/5 (ish).

Number of Books published (specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 16



Leaving this one large so that you can see the covers of all those Antigua-Barbuda book titles in the background; and also the bright faces of our 2017 intern, right, and a finalist, left.

They’re not so officially but I call anyone who travels to represent our country in the literary arts a literary ambassador. In 2017, that was Barbara Arrindell at the Alliouagana Festival in Montserrat, where she presented alongside the likes of Paul Keens Douglas.

In fact, as much as possible, I try to cover any cultural ambassador in the arts, including our soca artistes.

If you’re lucky, your books travel without you and I’m fortunate that my books have traveled and one of their stops (this one fairly close to home) in 2017 was the USVI where With Grace was named to the Governor’s Summer Read Challenge.

Wadadli Pen found another way to give another young person an opportunity when it took on its first intern. Here she writes about her experience;  and the project announced a permanent team to push the project forward – included on this team are two writers/literary stakeholders and two former Wadadli Pen winners.

This is really an every year thing – every year for a number of years, I submit or am asked to submit recommendations for the Department of Youth Affairs’ National Youth Awards in Literary Arts; and the prize has gone to the likes of Linisa George and Women of Antigua (2012),  Linisa George and Glen Toussaint (2013),Wadadli Pen 2013 and 2014 winner Asha Graham in 2015 with another Wadadli Pen alum Angelica O’Donoghue copping the media award , Zahra Airall (2016),   Spilling Ink, an Antiguan and Barbudan arts collective (2017) , and others.

Just Write organized a workshop focused on historical literature and collaborated with visiting poet with Antiguan and Barbudan roots Tanya Evanson to offer a master class.

August Rush (the writing and producing duo of Linisa George and Zahra Airall) has given writers a regular showcase for several years consistently through its Expressions Open Mic series but as we all do, they hit a point where self-care and other projects forced them to shelve it in 2017. Another August Rush initiative that provided what was needed for a time is the Young Poets Society of Antigua and Barbuda.

Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure launched with a chat between the US based publisher, Trinidad based writer, and Antigua based writer (me).

Floree Williams Whyte launched independent press Moondancer Books and her first book under the imprint.

Claytine Nisbett launched her first book and re-launched her online magazine.

Tammi Browne-Bannister included in international collection. Submitting
internationally is something I continually advocate on the blog, using my own experiences as example.

We even launched an online book of the year prize that admittedly was too little, too late in terms of planning and promotion and that’s never a good look.

Number of Books published (specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 18

2018-March 2018 workshop

Antiguan and Barbudan writer included in a top ten list of Caribbean female writers you should be reading on the Literary Hub.

In the tradition of the Open Mics more than a decade ago now at Traffic Nightclubs and possibly inspired by Expressions, we’ve had, for the past few years, Soothe: soothe

This like other literary/arts activities (including an upcoming workshop on self-publishing by Kimolisa Mings) is listed in the blog’s Arts Roundup series.

It’s worth noting that this blog has not limited itself to the literary arts, nor has the Wadadli Pen Challenge which has included art challenges (illustrations, cover design) over the years. Most recently, I reported on this showing by Antiguan and Barbudan art teachers, and discussion which touched on arts issues like the lack of a national gallery
And we continue to report on film such as the ongoing success of Vanishing Sail on the film festival circuit.

Here at the blog, I also don’t limit what I share to what’s happening domestically – for example, I’m always encouraging our writers to submit to programmes like the Commonwealth Short Story competition.

I continue to offer workshops via the Jhohadli Writing Project which (as I’ve announced on my author blog) is also available to offer workshops in schools and other institutions.

Really, can there be any talk of literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda without mention of international literary citizen Jamaica Kincaid who added to her considerable accolades with receipt of the Dan David prize from Tel Aviv University – among the literary and cultural news reported on the blog in 2017.

This blog has also covered many issues in arts and culture – in fact, it is to some of these posts that I point people when they approach us – writers and artists – for conversations that rarely, it seems, yield real, juicy, tasty, tangible fruit. Among the things that I have written about in this space…?

You can see from this listing – which is only part of the story and only over the 7+ years of this blog’s existence – that the Antiguan and Barbudan literary community has been doing and doing and doing (largely) without any wall, financial or otherwise to lean on.
The blog is, of course, also the home of my baby (as much my baby as any of my books have been), the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize. So we report on each year of the prize back to the beginning (2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018). Among the services this blog continues to provide are Opportunities and Opportunities Too (the former listing projects, funding, markets etc. and the latter upcoming deadlines); writing and publishing tips (with Resources, Publishing 101 with Eugenia O’Neal, Chatting Writing and Publishing in the Caribbean with Diana McCaulay, Womanspeak: the Lynn Sweeting Interview, Kevin Jared Hosein Breaks it Down, developing your writing skills –tips from Wadadli Pen, On Intellectual Property Rights, Negotiating an ebook contract as just a sample, not to mention the blog’s reading rooms and writing spaces); the A & B Literary Archives – Songwriters, Playwrights and Screenwriters, Antigua and Barbuda Children’s Fiction, Antiguan and Barbudan Poets, Antiguan and Barbudan Writing, Antiguan and Barbudan Fiction, Antiguan and Barbudan Non-Fiction, Published plays and screenplays, A & B Writings in Journals and Contests, Antiguans and Barbudans Awarded, Antiguan and Barbudan Writers on the Web, Song Lyrics data base, Antigua and Barbuda Media: An Abridged RecordAntigua and Barbuda Media: An Abridged Record, Author spotlights-. Jamaica Kincaid, Floree Whyte, Vivian Michael, Swallow, Veronica Evanson Bernard, Kush David, Marie Elena JohnGayle Gonsalves etc., A & B Artistes Discussing Art; A & B Literary Works reviewed; and more); regional and international news (literary festivals, the passing of Derek Walcott etc.); local Arts News – e.g. A & B Arts Round up, Meeting Ashley Bryan, Veteran Calypso Writer now a Novelist; Obits (Nerissa Percival, Roland Prince, Marcus Christopher, X-Saphair King, and others). Wadadli Pen, the blog, has also afforded me the opportunity to see the progress of young people I’ve come in to contact with over the years – such as when former Cushion Club kids shine, or when Wadadli Pen alums stride (e.g. Angelica O’Donoghue, Rilys Adams, Lia Nicholson, Kemal Nicholson, etc.) and, of course, though we still dream of doing a publication, anyone can read for free the winning stories through the years, or other pieces written since by Wadadli Pen alums.
I write all of this to say that work has and is being done, that our artistes have provided something to build on. Within these touchstones are answers to one of the questions now being raised, what do artistes need/want – I think at the root of it though is a desire to be valued, to be a voice, and to be in an enabling environment (access to information, resources, funding, and more). As we stay tuned to see what will jump off in what the Minister of Culture described as a year focused on the literary arts, we will continue working and collaborating, as we have done.

**re versions – When I speak to versions of things, I do so because it’s important to note that we tend to start and start over things in Antigua and Barbuda as though starting from scratch each time. Part of the problem is there has been too little recording of what has come before and too little continuity so that you often do feel like you’re starting from scratch. I discovered a weathered contributor copy of the 168-page book Young Antiguans Write, a 1979 publication of the Ministry of Education and Culture, at my friend Gisele Isaac’s house some years ago. Young Antiguans Write is a collection of the prize winning works of participants in the school creative writing competition that ran from 1968-1978. Both the publication and the creative writing programme was, to my understanding, largely the efforts of someone (Lucilla Benjamin) who was committed to the task within the Ministry. I’m going to assume that once that person moved on for whatever reason, the baton just lay their on the track, unclaimed. Because in my coming of age, I don’t remember such a programme or any sense of a literary culture in Antigua and Barbuda; what I remember is the Independence essay competition that I won one year earning myself a trip to another Caribbean island. There were tourism industry ones that I participated in as well. That was it though, spotty competitions specifically about Independence/Tourism and that memory is in part what made me insist that Wadadli Pen be about whatever the writer wanted to write about (no limitation re theme, the focus on the art not art in service to a particular theme). But as much as I wasn’t aware of Young Antiguans Write, it played a part in Gisele becoming a writer, and Gisele being a writer, the only other Antiguan-Barbudan novelist I knew at the time and the only one that was accessible to me (Jamaica Kincaid was an inspiration yes but a distant idea), us being friends made it possible for me to say, after reflecting on the lack of nurseries for writers in the Caribbean (shout out, to Guyanese writer Ruel Johnson for bringing that bit of clarity to my own fledgling journey as a writer then), hey let’s do this thing. And between me, Gisele and Young Explorer, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize was born. Starting, but not, though I didn’t know it, starting from nothing. One of the reasons I’ve been talking and angling to find a way to set up this project more formally is because I want it to be continuous; I want the baton to be picked up, and while it’s possible that whoever picks up the baton may not have the passion for it that I did (it is my baby, after all), they should have an awareness of and foundation on which to build – an operational template, a plan, resources, funding, and support – to make its survival not just a matter of will. We’ll see. Meantime, keeping a record of what we do, not just Wadadli Pen, not just my efforts, but our arts and culture (literary arts and beyond) has been important to me so that there is continuity, so that there is an accounting of all this ‘nothing’, so that no one can plausibly question (or believably overlook) the will, passion, talent, and hard work of those of us working in the arts in Antigua and Barbuda. We’ve been here.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business, Wadadli Pen 2004, Wadadli Pen 2005, Wadadli Pen 2006, Wadadli Pen 2010, Wadadli Pen 2011, Wadadli Pen 2012, Wadadli Pen 2013, Wadadli Pen 2014, Wadadli PEN 2015, Wadadli Pen 2016, Wadadli Pen 2017, Wadadli Pen 2018, Wadadli Pen News, Wadadli Pen Open Mic, Workshop