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Farewell, Grand Dame (Saying Goodbye to Mary Quinn)

Today, we say goodbye to another member of the Antigua and Barbuda literary community.

Mary Geo Quinn, reflexively and enduringly referred to as the Grand Dame of Antiguan and Barbudan Poetry (not an official title, as there is no official title for writers in Antiguan and Barbuda, but an honorific respected by the literary community of which she was a part and by the wider community in recognition of her status as one of our local literary elders), has died (June 13th 2019). I learned about it a few minutes ago when the condolences started appearing in my social media. Mrs. Quinn was up in years, yes, but death continues to be as surprising as it is inevitable. I hope she was with family in the end and that she knows that the words she worked to put out in to the world were not in vain. I’ve been in the room (sharing platforms with her) and seen how children responded to her folk-leaning poetry. It’s one of the reasons I booked her when asked to organize authors for the National Reading Festival one year and asked her to participate in the 2006 Word Up! Wadadli Pen/Museum fundraiser and literary showcase in which she paid no attention to my imposed time restriction. The opening image of this post, by photographer Laura Hall, is from the latter event. Her popularity aside, I sensed some frustration (beginning when I, as a young one desperate to get published, found myself in a room with her, a much older one similarly hopeful/hungry, awaiting the outcome of some writing competition or other – the details are blurry but that’s the first time I remember our paths crossing and I remember some frustration with the outcome). That’s normal and inevitable for any writer but especially as a writer trying to get some footing in a country where the literary arts are at best an afterthought (with token nods to development) and in a wider world where you are near-invisible.  The last event I was at where she was recognized was a Culture Department event a couple of years ago, where she was presented, I believe, with a plaque (accepted by her son Paul, for her contribution to the literary arts). I have mixed feelings about that event and about the Culture Department’s gestures re the literary arts for a number of other reasons but not the recognition for Mrs. Quinn. I remember, as I write this, that round about 2004, she was one of the writers (myself included) who received a plaque from the local UNESCO office for her contribution to the literary arts.

The Readers Choice Book of the Year initiative (for which her last book was in the running) aside, I last posted about Mrs. Quinn here on the blog when she launched her last book Hol’ de Line and Other Stories in 2017. She was 85 at the time.

Over the years, Mrs. Quinn, a beloved local-folk poet, has picked up some external recognition for her writing – including winning a 1961 competition organized by the Venezuelan Embassy in Barbados with her story ‘By Hook or By Crook’ and, in 2000, the King of Redonda Prize for her Recollections about the relocation of the village of Winthorpes to make way for the American Base when she was a child, and being highly commended for her short story ‘Joe’ in the 2002 Commonwealth Short Story competition, one  of only a couple (literally) of Antiguans and Barbudans to earn any recognition in that still ongoing international competition.

As a poet, the genre she’s most known for, she has self-published (because independent publishing was and is still often the only option available to writers from a small space and for some emerging writers the preferred form – as publishing continues to shift globally) – more than are listed here (going back to the 1970s) because they were often prints rather than traceable/researchable publications. She had more traditionally published work in her later years – Reflections with Macmillan Education in 2003 (I haven’t seen a copy of this but it is listed on their website though without a cover and out of print) and Hol’ de Line (for which her family gave her the full author treatment).

(this is from the June 13th 2017 edition of the Daily Observer newspaper)

Mrs. Quinn, regular listeners to Observer Radio’s Voice of the People might remember as the lady from the Observer library who late host Winston Derrick name checked daily at the start of his show – with her thoughts/words (was it the thought of the day or the word of the day?). Born in 1931, she worked as a teacher from age 15 and retired as head teacher.

I apologize that this is somewhat all over the place-I admit that I am growing tired of writing these art obits (as I age up) and it is rushed (it is late at night and I have to work, remember Wadadli Pen is not a paying gig, and no time to do proper research), but I didn’t want to leave Mrs. Quinn unsung at her passing.

When the Caribbean Compass article announced her victory in the (seemingly one-off) regional King of Redonda Prize, it quoted a judge as saying, “Recollections should rank as a West Indian classic.” – something that could also be said of the late Antiguan and Barbudan poet.

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Quinn.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. Do not re-post or re-use in whole without permission nor excerpt without crediting and, where possible, linking back. Respect copyright. All rights reserved.

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You and Your Wiki – Caribbean Writers Edition

Recently, Caribbean Reads publisher and author Carol Ottley-Mitchell posted an article headlined, ‘Are You Wiki Ready?

The post touched on the unreliability of some of the content on Wikipedia – its bug being its feature, the fact that anyone can update Wikipedia makes it a dynamic resource but also makes it an unreliable resource (or, at minimum, potentially so). It is for this reason that when coaching students on the use of Wikipedia, when teaching Media Writing or Communications, I’ve encouraged them to check the citations and to make sure that content is verifiable as accurate…while also emphasizing that cutting and pasting Wikipedia content is not researching (it’s plagiarizing which is legal-speak for stealing). But I digress.

Ottley-Mitchell’s post encouraged Caribbean writers to check their Wikipedia entry for accuracy, correcting and/or reporting any inaccuracies.

“Wikipedia is notoriously unreliable, but widely used and so it is important that all artists, (but of course our main concerns at CaribbeanReads are Caribbean artists), make sure they are accurately represented on this platform… And so, while we are not organizing an official ‘wikipedia editathon’ …we encourage Caribbean artists to join with other artists and set aside some time tomorrow to look up your profile on Wikipedia and make sure you are accurately and effectively represented. Also feel free to post here about what you found and what you changed.”

This post noted that “(Caribbean) writers often do not have pages or their pages are incomplete.” This is true (from general observation; I haven’t actually done a count).

I may have mentioned here before, perhaps when politicians in Antigua and Barbuda were giving out IT hardware (laptops and ipads) to students and teachers, that it might be simultaneously important to help shape the way we use the hardware. Encouraging a culture that creates and not merely consumes online content, for instance – and, Wikipedia entries seemed a good place to start, in my view, with research, preparation, and uploading. A version of what I do here on the blog when I profile artistes or create data lists (re published writers from Antigua and Barbuda etc) – which is why the blog has become a resource where people come for Antigua and Barbuda song lyrics, writer listings, media history, artist obits. etc. Needless to say, there’s no evidence that anyone took me up on that (suggestion about ways to encourage students especially to engage with the Internet in more productive ways – creating content not just consuming it).

When I Google Antiguan and Barbudan writers the data base here on Wadadli Pen is at least in the top three, but at the top of the list (not surprisingly) is Wikipedia. Second is Antigua and Barbuda’s largest online platform where my CREATIVE SPACE series is syndicated for just that reason (Antiguanice.com) – sharing an article from a popular US LitHub in which Antiguan and Barbudan writer (me) is mentioned.

Incidentally, the featured images on Google were of three writers and two athletes of international renown who’ve had biographies written and/or co-written biographies about them.

On Wikipedia, the Antigua and Barbuda listing has three sub-categories and two pages – the two pages being for author Jamaica Kincaid (obviously) and Melvin Claxton (?) whom I will definitely have to look in to. But moving on for now to the first of the listed categories, I find five listings – can you guess? – Jamaica Kincaid, Marie Elena John (the only listed novelist – Kincaid is also a novelist but only John is cross-referenced in the Antiguan and Barbudan novelists sub-category), sisters Anne Hart Gilbert and Elizabeth Hart Thwaites, and Zahra Airall (also the only writer listed in the Antigua and Barbuda dramatists and playwrights sub-category): all legit listings but only a fraction of potential legit listings. Some of it is about incomplete listing and/or tagging as there are Antiguan and Barbudan writers (like Ashley Bryan whose parents are from Antigua and Barbuda, and like Althea Prince and Eileen Hall who were born and raised in Antigua and whose families go back generations in Antigua) who can be found on Wikipedia but are only recognized as American writers (or Canadian, in the case of Prince).

Since I’m at Wikipedia, I do one additional search ‘Caribbean Writers’ (re-directed to Caribbean Literature) which has a breakdown by country. Checking ‘Antigua and Barbuda’ (listed as ‘Antigua’ only), I find three names – Jamaica Kincaid, Marie Elena John, and Joanne C. Hillhouse (me – in red – signalling – no page). Here’s the thing, as I explained to Carol in conversation about her original post, the rules per my understanding, and I actually agree with them, are that you shouldn’t create (actually not so much a rule as “strongly discouraged” as it turns out) nor update (“acceptable” under very specific circumstances) a Wikipedia page about yourself.

Carol, who had edited other people’s pages, but not even looked at her own (which I can relate to) actually promoted self-editing (as seen in the original Caribbean Reads post) – Caribbean artistes, she said, are self-promotion shy.  My general feeling is this is true (re being self-promotion shy) – it’s something I’ve had to and still work to overcome in order to get the word out about my books as a writer from a small place for whom no one was (is) checking nor making space.

(Me at the Miami Book Fair in 2018…it took some time but I landed there finally and hope to be invited back)

You’ve got to build a brand, all my research told me, when I was fighting to get my first two books (The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight) back in print and trying to find representation for my third book and first full length novel (Oh Gad!). I did so (Google me). But my reason for not building a Wikipedia page for myself is not about that reluctance to self-promote. It’s about my belief that for the platform to be stronger as a resource, an encyclopedia, even one so open about who can contribute and update content, said content should be objectively written by people who deem you a necessary part of the public discourse based on the work you’ve done or the celebrity you’ve earned. Otherwise it’s just …facebook. That doesn’t mean I won’t correct or request corrections if there is ever such a page (as Carol points out, one reason for artistes to engage is to ensure that their page reflects their full accomplishments and does not do them harm with false claims). But as I have no page, it’s not been an issue.

How you choose to engage with Wikipedia is, of course, up to you. I do think I could do more to share some of the content I have researched about Antiguan and Barbudan, and Caribbean writers – but it’s a time issue. Still, I’ll see what I can do – I’ll try to do better. If you’re a writer and you opt to add or edit your own content, Carol and I both emphasize being factual – and, I would add, include (for all our students’ sake) proper citations. And I do hope that our schools, research institutions, librarians, and individuals in the Caribbean will plant as much as they consume online so that our Caribbean landscape (and not just literary arts) can have more of a presence on the information superhighway. Also, so that there is more content from our specific knowing (note I said knowing, emphasizing provable/verifiable data-driven content sharing) available to Caribbean and other researchers (including media and students).

Thoughts?

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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

Congrats, NAACP Lit Award Winners

A little late but – having shared the nominees, previously – I want to say congratulations to this year’s NAACP lit award winners. Namely,

Michelle Obama – Biography/Autobiography – Becoming
Margot Lee Shetterly – Children’s Fiction – Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
David Mann and Shaun Sanders – Debut Author – Us Against the World: Our Secrets to Love, Marriage, and Family
Tayari Jones – Fiction – An American Marriage *An American Marriage recently won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction, among many other accolades including being an Oprah’s Book Club selection.*
Daymond John – Instructional – Rise and Grind: Outperform, Outwork, and Outhustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life
Donna L. Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, Minyon Moore, and Veronica Chambers – Non Fiction – For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics
Alice Walker – Poetry – Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart
Jacqueline Woodson – Youth/Teens – The Dream of America

Congrats to them all and to all the nominees. The full list and book and author information here.

Pictured are a mix of winning and nominated books; credit for the information to the African American Literary Book Club.

 

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Congrats, Tayari: Women’s Prize for Fiction Winner 2019 – An American Marriage by Tayari Jones — Word by Word

The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 winner was announced on June 5 and the prize this year went to American author Tayari Jones for her novel An American Marriage, published by One World, who brought us my favourite book of 2018 Kintu by Ugandan author Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Renowned for publishing: “emotionally engaging stories with […]

via Women’s Prize for Fiction Winner 2019 – An American Marriage by Tayari Jones — Word by Word

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June 11, 2019 · 2:33 am

Carib Plus Lit News Round Up (early June 2019)

Musical Youth and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, my award winning teen/young adult novel and one of my children’s picture book, have been added to the Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Tourism #whatcoollookslike campaign. Best of Books is offering 20 percent off both books all summer long, while stocks last.

Pulitzer winning African-American writer Alice Walker (The Colour Purple) recently told Vincentian writer N. C. Marks whose book Plastered in Pretty was previously announced on this blog: “I’m reading Pretty and I’m loving it. It’s fresh, you are writing for these times. I also like the fact that you spoke in your language.” One celebrated writer showing an up and coming writer some love. Read about it here.

ETA: TnT writer Andre Bagoo was spotted on the long list for the Alpine Fellowship.

Bahamian writer Alexia Tolas is the Caribbean winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize – here her hometown paper catches up with the writer (I get an unexpected shout out from the winning writer). Looking forward to reading her story and the other short listed entries.

Also having a moment is Barbadian writer Shakirah Bourne whose first novel, My Fishy Stepmom, a Burt title, debuts this year; and who took the time, in this post, to share how she landed an agent. She references how a post about my own Burt adventure encouraged her to go for it (another unexpected shout out). Shakirah’s post has been added to the Wadadli Pen Resources page where writers can find tips for navigating the world of writing, publishing, presenting…and getting paid.

Also see our recent congrats posts to Danielle Boodoo Fortune and Kendel Hippolyte.

Finally, in acknowledgment of the New Daughters of Africa‘s original publication in the UK and the subsequent publication of US and South Africa editions, and the forthcoming Nigeria edition and UK audio book edition, I’d like to share that I am currently reading my contributor copy and really enjoying much of what I’m reading. Some of the Caribbean people I’ve read so far are: Trinidadian Barbara Jenkins’ A Perfect Stranger (“I stumbled to the bathroom – communal baths and showers – closed the door to a bath cubicle sat on the edge of a bathtub and cried.”), Trinidadian Elizabeth Nunez’ Discovering My Mother (“My mother told me the story about the first time she felt belittled by my father.”), Grenadian Verna Wilkins’ A Memory Evoked (“As the steelband rhythms died away I was aware, more than ever of the influence of y father on my own life.”), Jamaican Yvonne Bailey-Smith’s Meeting Mother (“Why would anyone want to live underground? Surely that was a place for the dead!”), Bermudian Angela Barry’s (“A choking fury flared in Susan’s chest.”), Bahamian Marion Bethel’s We were Terrestrial Once, Maybe and Of Cowrie Shells & Revolution (“But the sea-green leather strip/of cowrie shell was too too wide & long/for my rational hips- “), Jamaican Beverley Bryan’s A Windrush Story (“The morning Marva left all the leading figures of Priestman’s River came with their last-minute messages for family in England, as was the custom.”), Jamaica’s Carolyn Cooper with Finding Romance Online in 2018 (“What I admire about the typical Jamaican man is his absolute confidence in his masculinity. From yu name man, yu can get any woman!”), Jamaican Patricia Cumper’s Just So Much a Body can Take (“ETHEL: So hungry for the sunlight, is like it a go mad mi…”), Jamaica-born Ifeona Fulani’s Three Islands, Two Cities: The Making of a Black/Caribbean/Woman Writer/Scholar (“After one ear in Jamaica I returned to London, resigned from my job and sold my house.”), Bahamian poet Patricia Glinton-Meicholas’ Remebering, Re-membering, Slavery Redux, and Woman Unconquerable (“Go ahead, Lords of Fraud/and tainted tenure/repossess the kaprang/foreclose the shack.”), Jamaica-born Carmen Harris’ Hello…Goodbye (“With excitement, I raised the lid, inhaling the decades-old nostalgia of the island years.”), and… well, I’m only 170 pages in (this one’s a marathon read with more than 200 women of African descent from all over the motherland and diaspora).

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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Congrats, Danielle

Is it the year of Danielle? We think it might be.

Winning the Bocas Poetry Prize
Winning continuing critical acclaim (like this one in T & T’s Newsday) for the book in question Doe Songs
Winning the mommy lottery with the June birth of her second child

Above, Danielle is pictured (in the picture that prompted this post) at the Bocas Literary Festival facilitating a children’s workshop with my book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure which she illustrated as visual aid

Pictured immediately above is one of the characters from Lost! and Danielle and her first born with Lost!

Danielle is also Wadadli Pen fam having contributed copies of her art-branded journals and having judged (2014-2015) in the past. We love to see her soar.

p.s. check out her Etsy shop.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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Antiguan and Barbudan Authors at St. Martin Book Fair

 

That’s Antiguan and Barbuda writer/trainer/bookseller/WadadliPenpartner Barbara Arrindell (centre) and poet/writer/SpillingInkmember Olsfred James (right), with Shujah Reiph, co-organizer at the St. Martin Book Fair. They were 2019 guests of the 17th annual iteration of the Fair which wrapped on Saturday 8th June 2019.

Other participants included Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, a former St. Martin education minister and author (Language, Culture and Identity in St. Martin), US/USVI media executive of Anguillan descent Peter Bailey, Vincentian author of Plastered in Pretty N. C. Marks, award winning Jamaican author, essayist, and poet Professor Kei Miller (Fear of Stones to Augustown), Dr. Opal Palmer Adisa who is also a celebrated Jamaican writer (It Begins with Tears etc.), another beloved Jamaican author, resident in the US, Geoffrey Philp (Garvey’s Ghost et al), Barbados-based dramatist and lecturer Dr. Yvonne Weeks, among several others.

James (whose Spilling Ink has published two Ashes books and some poetry chapbooks), per the official programme, participated in an evening of Poetry at the Poets Lounge and an open discussion with students at the University of Miami.

spell.jpg

Arrindell (author of The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Other Stories, and Antigua My Antigua) co-coordinated a reading and spelling competition. Having been a guest of the Fair in 2015, I doubt that’s all they did.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator).

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