Category Archives: The Business

Section where you can find industry news and insights

Writer Shoutout, Diversity Discussion

author books

Passing on this new book announcement from Guyanese-Canadian author Yolanda T. Marshall which I came across in the Caribbean Writers Facebook Group (N.B. new book shares, especially of non-Antiguan-Barbudan books, is not a regular service as this site is completely voluntary and subject to blogger’s time and the blog’s purpose, but, as with everything, there are exceptions). The book is Sweet Sorrell Stand. I’m not a big sorrel drinker but it is a quintessentially Caribbean drink and the eye-catching image of Caribbean children with a sorrel stand – not a lemonade stand – up North delighted me, and when I visited her page, the image of black Santa with the Caribbean black cake (not cookies) also tickled me. Sorrel typically being a Christmas drink, she takes a bit of creative license marketing it as a summertime beat-the-heat option. But, hey, why not.

Since I started writing my own picture books – actually before that, since I’ve been reading to children – I have become keenly aware of the diversity deficit in children’s publishing. I was aware of it before, of course, but it became more of a conscious concern as I read to my nieces and nephews, to children of the Cushion Club, to children in schools to which I was invited; this awareness, and the need to have something of my own to read, prompted me to try my hand at adding writing for children to my oeuvre. There are many shades to this problem but Marshall’s books address two of them at least – the need for black children to see themselves (racial) and the need for Caribbean children to see themselves (cultural), and of course in terms of larger western (let’s stick with western) culture, it also has the potential to push back on assumptions, like of course, Santa is white, duh, or the right of little black kids to be as entrepreneurial as little white kids with their lemonade stands, even if they’re selling bottled water to help out their mom and go to Disney, without having the police called on them or the threat of same for lack of a permit (i.e. white neighbor is inconvenienced).

I mention the need for openness because I’m still reflecting on a post I saw recently in an online book group I belong to in which this group member declared that she was giving up on a particular book not because it was badly written but because African books by African authors were too African for her; and it hit me funny as a Caribbean author writing Caribbean books and as a Caribbean reader who grew up reading primarily American and British books because for most of us growing up in the Caribbean that’s what was available and accessible, without the benefit of the “dictionary” she said was lacking with this African book that had committed the crime of being African (note: the book is clearly written in English otherwise she wouldn’t have bought it so it’s not a matter, I don’t think, of trying to read a foreign language book so much as a book with elements that are foreign to you – as I and others like me had to because it’s a privilege to have such ready access to yourself on the page). Commenters seemed to agree with her but I can’t help thinking that it would do us all better to challenge ourselves to step in to the world of whatever we see as other, even if we stumble a bit more over unfamiliar places, things, and here and there words we don’t know. It would make us more empathetic, I think, in the long run, less likely to call police or threaten to call police on a little black girl selling water.

About the book: Miss Marshall’s latest release is “Sweet Sorrel Stand”. In this children’s book, Rose and Nicolas loved their favourite Caribbean sorrel drink so much, the siblings decided to create a sorrel stand with the assistance of their parents. Their Sweet Sorrel Stand was a success in the neighbourhood. The main ingredient of the drink is the Roselle plant (Sorrel), a species of hibiscus which is native to West Africa. The red flower buds are boiled, strained, sweetened with sugar, with a touch of ginger, cinnamon, orange peel and cloves. Once cooled for a couple of hours or overnight, it is served with ice. It is known to be very rich in antioxidants. Traditionally, this drink is served during Christmas holidays. On a hot summer day, it is a refreshing alternative to lemonade.

To read more about Marshall’s books, visit her page – I’ve also added her to the Caribbean Writers online page here on the blog.

To check out children’s picture books by authors right here in Antigua and Barbuda, here’s where you go.

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 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on 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.


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A Love Letter from Linisa

Linisa GeorgeI’m calling this a love letter because love isn’t only romantic. In the note that follows, you’ll hear loud and clear Linisa Geroge’s boundless love for her sister in art, Zahra Airall, and the complicated love artists have to the journey, as well as passion (a kind of love) for the art that flows through her. I want to share the love as I felt it reading this, and so, with Linisa’s permission (from her social media):

“I’m feeling a bit emotional right now, so please allow me this moment to share something. As most of you know Zahra and I have partnered over the years to do quite a bit of creative projects in Antigua. Last year we made the very difficult and frustrating decision to take a year off from Poetry In The Pub. Many of you were sad and while we understood your emotions, we needed to step back and work on individual projects that needed our attention. There were things that we wanted to do that kept haunting us because we were not putting the time needed into getting them off the ground.

Today is the 27th June 2018, and well look at the universe responding to our hardwork. I revealed on Monday that my first book will be available in August and I founded a collective that will focus on fostering collaborative work between all creatives. Zahra is presently in Turks and Caicos with her Honey Bee Theatre on tour with her play ‘Light In The Darkness’ sponsored by UN Women through the Directorate of Gender Affairs.

In order to grow and evolve you must make hard decisions. You must step away from certain things and people and seek clarity. You must go silent. You must bite the bullet and prioritize. You must some times strip everything down and start over. I won’t get into all the frustrating tears of weariness that we’ve shed, or the times we were so close to calling it quits on our haunting dreams. I just wanted to share with you what it looks like when you push through in spite of surmounting obstacles.

I’m usually a very private person but in the past year retreating and focusing on my health and personal and professional development has allowed me to unlock new levels of consciousness. I don’t have any answers to success or financial freedom, but I do know the joy and peace that come with owning your greatness and living out your passions. Art.Culture.Antigua will be back next week and the Black Girl In The Ring Foundation is slowly tying up all its loose ends. There are other things in motion that I won’t share just yet, but know that I’m putting in a shitload of work. I’ve sacrificed a lot, some very personal. I’ve messed up and had to check myself and do better. The losses are tough to understand sometimes, but I’ve learned from every last one.

Thank you all for being supportive, whether you know me personally or not. Thank you for your kind words and deeds when I needed it most. Thank you for challenging me to do and be better. Thank you for every criticism and pat on the back. Thank you for supporting the arts and for supporting Zahra and I and all our many many initiatives.

A special thank you to my close circle, who may not always understand my process and why I do certain things and make certain decisions, but show up to cheer me on without me even asking. You all are the real MVPs and you each know how much I cherish your unwavering love and support.

For who much is given, much is expected, so I felt it necessary to share this with you. I am supremely grateful. Everything is not right, but I am right where I am suppose to be. Give thanks ALL-ways.”

Linisa has announced a forthcoming project The Black Exhibit and her first book ‘The Flowers In Her Hair – an ode to Afro-Caribbean Womanhood’, both due this August 2018. Linisa  is a past Wadadli Pen Challenge judge and patron. Both Linisa and Zahra have built up a lot of goodwill in the arts community through the energies and time they’ve put in to local arts – on their projects and in support of projects by other artists. As their stagings of the Vagina Monologues and its local spin-off When a Woman Moans indicated they set the bar high.  In an environment where the art DOES NOT get the support, investment, attention, or boost it needs, Linisa and Zahra have invested time they could have been putting in to their own art in to building an arts community – Young Poets Society to Poetry in the Pub. Creating art, while making a living, while being an arts advocate, while life-ing is tiring – I know – so kudos to them for having the courage to step back to come forward. This is Linisa’s  Love Letter to Zahra and their journey as figurative twins (though not bound by blood they share the same birthday), but it speaks to me and my own journey (its trials and triumphs and, again, its trials) and I suspect it will you as well. We are, none of us, perfect, among the things Linisa testifies to above is that we are all flawed works in progress, but in many ways these sisters are #blackgirlmagic #repecttheirhustle #beinspired

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved.

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Commonwealth-Caribbean Writers

kk(Barbadian/Caribbean science fiction author, Karen Lord, author of Redemption in Indigo and other books and most recently editor of New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean, leads a session during the Commonwealth-Caribbean writers workshop which she co-facilitated with Jacob Ross at Ocean Spray Apartments in Barbados)

I got a ton of pictures from the Commonwealth workshop held  in June 2018 for Caribbean writers in Barbados (Read about it here) and thought I’d share some of them (so keep scrolling). The pictures were taken by workshop co-facilitator Jacob Ross and supplied by Emma D’Costa of the Commonwealth.

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(Senior Programme Officer, Commonwealth Writers, Emma D’Costa, centre, with participating writers Sharma Taylor, left, and Shakirah Bourne, right)

Speaking of Emma, I also got from her the Antigua-Barbuda numbers as relates to submissions to the Commonwealth Short Story competition (Read about the outcome of this year’s competition) and, my people, we need to step it up. I say that knowing that rejections are hard to ricochet from and maybe you don’t want to put yourself through that – you just want to write, that maybe competitions are just not your jam, that maybe you have reservations specific to this competition (or the politics of competitions in general), or maybe you don’t see your writing as being its own journey with a narrative arc that requires it to stretch and grow and reach beyond its immediate space. I hear all ah dat (and even feel you on some of it) but le me bend your ear anyway.

This is an international competition, no entry fee, a lot of prestige, and a sizeable purse; plus as it breaks down the Commonwealth in to Asia, Africa, Canada & Europe, the Pacific, and the Caribbean, someone or someones from the Caribbean will be shortlisted and could win, potentially catapulting their writing/career to another level. In 2012, Jamaican author and environmental activist Diana McCaulay was our region’s winner; Trinidad & Tobago’s Sharon Millar who has since published a short story collection was the 2013 regional and shared overall winner with writers from Trinidad & Tobago also short listed, British-based Guyanese writer Maggie Harris was 2014’s regional winner with Trinidad & Tobago and Bahamas also making the short list, Trinidad & Tobago’s Kevin Jared Hosein whose star continues to rise was 2015’s regional winner with Jamaica and TnT also making the short list, TnT educator Lance Dowrich won the 2016 regional prize with Jamaica also short listed, Barbados-based Trinidad and Tobago writer and lawyer Ingrid Persaud (who hosted writers at the Barbados workshop at her beautiful home) 1nn
(That’s Ingrid Persaud, right, during the lime at her home, with Yesha Townsend of Bermuda, and Emma – clearly we had a grand time)

was the 2017 regional and overall winner with Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago also making the short list. In 2018, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are the region’s selections (four of them) for the Commonwealth Short Story short list.

(During the 2018 Commonwealth workshop for Caribbean writers there was a public reading and 2017 winner of the Commonwealth Prize Ingrid Persaud was a featured reader – we got to hear an excerpt from her novel in progress)

Though shortlisted in the earlier incarnation of this prize in 2002 and 2008, between 2012 and 2018, we (speaking about Antigua and Barbuda now) haven’t cracked 10 entries in any given year – our lowest years in that time were 2015 and 2017 (three entries each) and our best years were 2016 and 2018 (nine entries each), which points as well to an on-year, off-year pattern (not sure of the reason). I know we’re doing a lot more writing than that (for sure we are doing a lot more writing and especially publishing than we were doing even a few years ago – see the ever-growing bibliography of local books archived on this). Still even with the number of submissions from the region being comparatively low (238 in 2018 of 5128 submissions), the number of submissions from the two winningest Caribbean countries is over 50 percent of total submissions from the region (77 from Trinidad and Tobago, and 55 from Jamaica). Granted TnT and Jamaica are considerably bigger than us, and for that and many reasons (more literary models, a more vibrant arts/writing and publishing culture and tradition among them) the odds are in their favour. But still. As Caribbean Reads publisher Carol Mitchell said recently – referencing another regional prize, the Burt Award (for which my book, Musical Youth, published by Caribbean Reads, was a finalist in 2014, one of the very few small island finalists over the years) – we in the small(er) islands need to submit more.

‘…she is concerned that most of the winners come from the larger Caribbean nations, such as Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Guyana and the competition is missing out on the great talent in the smaller islands.

“I do believe the results reflect perhaps, a lack of access to the resources that may be key to producing a polished manuscript that has a shot at winning,”…’

Fair enough, but submitting can build your muscles (and resourcefulness) as a writer (and your chances of being a winning writer) and you never know what could come of it.

(Here I am at the public reading during the workshop, reading from my children’s picture book With Grace – which in 2017 was an official pick for the US Virgin Islands Governor’s Summer Read Challenge and of which I sold all three copies that I had on me after the Barbados reading – yay)

By way of example, I have never won the Commonwealth Short Story contest, but because of it I was published in 2014’s critically acclaimed Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean and specifically because of that I was invited to read at literary festivals in Scotland and New York, and am excerpted in a CSEC English A Caribbean revision guide, and have been read/studied at two tertiary institutions that I’m aware of (one in Belize and one in NY)- all off of one story (Amelia at Devil’s Bridge), easily one of my most travelled stories. And, yet, a story that didn’t win. This is in concert with other developments in my literary life (including referencing my Burt win, subsequently organizing and facilitating a CODE/Burt workshop here in Antigua; serving as a Caribbean Burt award judge; and, most recently, a mentor for a Burt/Code writer in Africa). All are part of the whole and none of it would happen without consistently writing and submitting. And of course none of it means that I am either where I want or need to be as a writer. After all, I still haven’t won yet, right?

This year not-winning landed me in Barbados for this Commonwealth workshop with other Caribbean writers, drawing strength and community from each others’ experiences (including or perhaps especially our challenges) on our respective islands and from the experience we shared together in Barbados. I felt disappointed obviously about not making the short list but welcomed the opportunity in the end to participate in this workshop because I remain a student of writing and because opportunities to immerse myself in spaces that encourage and respect and support my growth and journey as a writer are rare. And what I learn, I continue to teach, as I returned home to jump in to series 4 of my own Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Workshop Series and continue my own writing with new and/or re-affirmed goals. Winning the prize (any prize) would be nice to be sure but there is more to be gained from each experience. I know it’s scary and not winning can be disheartening, but sometimes it really is just how things shake out and not a verdict on the worthiness of our story nor of  us as writers (though the goal is to always work to be better by whatever metric is important to us). Keep going, write, submit. Because in the same way that if you let fear win you’ll never learn to swim, if you stop journeying as a writer because of an obstacle in your path, you’ll miss the adventure.

(Shout out to Sharma Taylor, pictured here amid the creaking towering bamboo trees at Coco Hill. Sharma is from Jamaica but resident in Barbados. On day one of the workshop, she reminded me that she’d taken the workshop session I co-facilitated with African American writer Bernice McFadden at the BIM Lit Fest in 2016. Small world, renewed connections. Sharma is one of the 2018 24 short listed Commonwealth writers.)

(Coco Hill Forest really was a side of Barbados I’d never seen before)


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(But we were game – that’s from left, Barbados’ Carlie Pipe, St. Lucia’s Katherine Atkinson, Bahamas’ Alexia Tolas, Mahmood ‘Mood’ Patel – Barbados filmmaker and owner of Ocean Spray and  this hill we were just about to hike, and me, Antigua and Barbuda)

(Through the forest we will go, through the forest we did go)

(Barbadian artist Carlie Pipe blended poetry and music for her presentation #Dampersand)

(The reading was dope with every one bringing his/her own flava, some reading from  Commonwealth prize entries, some switching it up with poetry, and some, like Shakirah Bourne, reading from previously published work – like her story from the Commonwealth Writers site Adda , one of two stories by her that I’ve used in my workshops by the way)

(After the readings it was dancing time – let’s see, that’s Nailah Imoja of De Bajan Bookshop and other things, with her back to the camera, she was the workshop’s point person in Barbados and emcee of the public reading; that’s her daughter next to her. In front of them, facing the camera is Bajan short story writer and filmmaker, whose novel a 2018 Burt finalist is forthcoming, Shakirah Bourne, and in conversation, to the right is Alexia Tolas of the Bahamas and Sharma Taylor of Jamaica-Barbados. Some of us are the other bodies you see in the back there dancing)


(The other Antiguan, Barbados-based Tammi Browne-Bannister)

(Some of our best conversations happened right here over breakfast and lunch, and occasionally dinner at Ocean Spray – pictured in the foreground are Emma, left, facing away from camera chatting with teacher and writer Alexia Tolas of the Bahamas; across from them, on his computer is lawyer-cum-writer, you may be familiar with his work re Groundation Grenada, Richie Maitland)

(Our facilitators really covered a lot of ground in the week we had together. There was much to absorb during the actual sessions. Me, absorbing)

(and I wasn’t the only one)

(in session – Bermuda’s Regina Ferguson and lecturer and veteran author Angela Barry – whom I first met in 2008 in Barbados when we were both on a panel dubbed Celebrating Caribbean Women Writers, on either side of St. Lucia’s Katherine Atkinson – a teacher, writer, tv personality, and publisher)

(That’s Shakirah Bourne to my right, your left, fresh off the Burt Awards ceremony and the buzz around her last and most international to date film A Caribbean Dream, a Shakespeare adaptation)

(Even session breaks were full of discussion – here’s co-facilitator Jacob Ross, whose latest books The Bone Readers and Tell No-one About This were short listed for major awards, with Shakirah Bourne and Sharma Taylor- this picture taken from Carlie Pipe’s public facebook page)

(the one-on-one sessions were invaluable; pictured is Alexia Tolas with award winning sci-fi author, workshop co-facilitator Karen Lord)

(I had a couple of sessions with the man himself Jacob Ross; here he is at his reading. Jacob is an acclaimed writer but I first new him as an editor)

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(Conversations never stopped even when we were kicking back – it was a truly rich experience)

(… and when I said the sea lullabyed me to sleep every night, I wasn’t exaggerating)

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.



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Carnival in to Arts

Carnival is, of course, an art form consisting of and celebrating many art forms in its own right, but I’m calling this post Carnival in to Arts because it announces the Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters 13th issue Carnival Suite. The Anu Lakhan edited issue sees Carnival through the perspective of the literary and visual arts with poetry, fiction, essays, sculpture, gaming, mas, painting from creatives across the Caribbean.


The Antigua Carnival pre-season has already opened up (meanwhile, Caribana in Barbuda was recently cancelled due to the slow recovery from last September’s hurricane Irma and no doubt the fact that most Barbudans are still not home). So you can go ahead and add this Moko issue to your reading to get in to the spirit of things. I’m in the issue with A Life in Mas, an essay on, well, my life in mas, leading up to my experience of bringing a character from my children’s picture book With Grace to the road last Carnival 1– being a mas leader, which is a very generous way of putting it considering that we were the micro-est of mas, was a one-and-done experience though I did receive a registration reminder this year from the Carnival office. I will never be done with Carnival though. In fact, as I type this I realize this is my third time being published in Moko which previously published my poem Children Melee and my short story Game Changer, both of which are also Carnival themed. So, let this be a reminder, whatever your passions, write them and seize the opportunities to insert them in to the conversation. Moko is an opportunity to do just that as not just another market (albeit a non-paying one) but one of the few Caribbean-specific markets for creative work – a platform that allows you to occupy a small space in the Caribbean literary canon (Antigua and Barbuda, why not us?) and a journal that helps your writing to evolve by putting you through the rigor of selection and editing. So, challenge yourself. Get out there.

Shout out to Moko’s founding editors, the British Virgin Islands’ Richard Georges and David Knight Jr. who didn’t let their own hurricane lashing disrupt their agenda to create pan-Caribbean connections through the arts. I’m looking forward to reading this issue – the writers whose work I already know (like St. Lucia’s John Robert Lee, Bermuda’s Nancy Anne Miller, and Trinidad & Tobago’s Lisa Allen-Agostini and Barbara Jenkins; and the writers and artists whose work I have yet to discover. Check it out.

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.

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Reading Room and Gallery 28

The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too  – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 28th one which means there are 27 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one. – JCH


“I’ve referred to mas as some of my earliest exposures to theatre and storytelling. I especially enjoyed the huge King and Queen of the Band costumes which have largely disappeared from Antiguan mas but which, after showing off on the stage, would take up the whole of Market Street as the parade inched along. The younger ones lobbying for Carnival to be moved from the city to the wider, less cramped, safer spaces on its outskirts can’t imagine how intimate and joyful that feeling was. We would sing the calypso, dance to the soca, and as the costumes floated by, or were dragged or carried by revelers who, despite their size and presumed weightiness, seemed buoyed rather than burdened by them, our eyes would open wide at their grandeur. They were shiny and colourful, a moving canvas; big and bold, inventive and daring. The costumes designed by Heather Doram, still one of Antigua’s finest artists, and built by her husband Connie Doram, come to mind – this would have been later, I think, in my pre-teens, during the costume segment of the Queen Show. Time bends in memory. The when isn’t important, just that it was all mas, and that mas at its best was like visiting the L’ouvre in France or the Museum of Modern Art in New York; only it was our art, from arwe imagination, telling our stories, and it was beautiful, and powerful, and magical. Of course, I wasn’t thinking all of that back then, not at three or thirteen. Back then it was just a feeling that exploded in my body like fireworks. That’s what mas is at its purest, that feeling: pure joy.

I would capture that feeling from the inside for the first time the first time I played mas in 1989.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse, A Life in Mas in Moko: Caribbean Art and Letters


“This color scheme is quite challenging at the moment. It’s a weird variety of colors. I’m taking my time and I know I’m working slower than normal, but the final product matters more than just rushing every moment.” – Brandon Knoll at Chaotic Works discussing a work-in-progress


Madonna– “In Jamaica, all archetypes of the Virgin are painted white. Referencing images of black madonnas in several European countries, I am going back to archetypes of ancient Egypt, the continent of Africa, archetypes like Isis, from whom it is believed the patriarchs modelled the Virgin Mary. Archetypes who expressed wrath, anger, and revenge – not the present day image found around the island churches, but one who when you call on her justice will be served.

I am using a common ‘Mary’ mold which I have painted as a black female archetype and have installed her at various locations in the corporate Kingston area. Some were removed or stolen and only one remains in Manor Park, Kingston where the men sell newspapers and cigarettes.

…I created another Madonna to replace the one that was damaged. When I went towards the same newspaper, cigarette men in the wee hours of the morning, they asked me what I wanted. I told them I have come to replace her (she was missing her head). They just replied ‘we love Mary’ and they helped me by taking the statue out of the car and placing her in what they felt was a safe spot. They believed a mad man had pushed the other black Madonna down causing her to lose her head, but they promised to keep watch over this one.” – Kristie Stephenson re her ‘Lady Justice’ sculptures, in Interviewing the Caribbean Spring 2017, p. 148-152


“A lot of critics think A Brief History of Seven Killings is horrifying, but I don’t think so, and I don’t think the characters think they’re living in horror. The fact is that even the most terrible situation is normal for the person living in it. In a lot of ways, this is the funniest book that I’ve ever written. It has the most humor and the most ridiculousness—certainly, it’s the most experimental. I don’t know about horror, but there’s violence and brutality. It opens up with a dead guy, but then again, death and horror is a Western association. It’s certainly not that way in the East. It’s certainly not in non-Anglo storytelling. This character’s horror comes from something quite living, not from anything spiritual—it comes from the fact that he was murdered. The horror that exists in the book isn’t supernatural: it’s the basic cruelty that human beings commit against each other. That is the scary stuff. Anything might happen at any time, and that’s what’s unnerving. It’s real, upfront, everyday fear.” – Marlon James


“Rumpus: Claire of the Sea Light is set in the fictional seaside town of Ville de Rose, a town shaped by its beauty—hence its namesake—but also the mountains above it, the sea at its border, the buzz of its single radio program, and the corruption of its civil servants. Talk to me about building this world. Specifically, I’m interested in how you break up and bring together social classes using topography.

(Edwidge) Danticat: When my first book, Breath, Eyes Memory, came out, I wrote about many real Haitian towns and a lot of people who were from those towns would say “you got this wrong” and “got that wrong,” so I decided to write about my own town by borrowing elements of different places. If you are inventing a town, you have all freedom. I added the lighthouse. Langston Hughes has a children’s book called Popo and Fafina, set in Haiti during the U.S. occupation because he used to travel to Haiti quite a bit. And I remembered that the story has a lighthouse in it, so I reread it and thought, I want a lighthouse, and the lighthouse went in. I could visually see the town and see myself walking around in it, but that takes many, many layers of writing. Sometimes in writing you have to live with things before you inhabit them, and that takes a very long time for it to stop feeling constructed and to start feeling like something real.” Read the full interview.


“Who do you write for?
Myself, who else? A great deal of stories that I ever write have been based on things I see in the news or people I hear about. Just the other day I sit down listening to my aunt and cousin talking about somebody who smoking out their whole house for ghosts.

There’s also another story that was in the news way back when in La Brea—where a whole family, granny and all, was taking care of this dead baby. The story fall out of the news a week later—we never get to know why any of this happen. Writing gives me the ability to imagine the bedlam of some of these situations. To figure out why.” – Kevin Jared Hosein interview with Caribbean Literary Heritage


‘What is most attractive and crucial about Kamau is that the world he creates erodes the invisible structures that govern how/why/what/from where we write. Walcott’s “White Magic” in The Arkansas Testament [1987], for instance, has always troubled me in the way it defends and argues for a world that, in tone and outlook, it is so distant from. The world of a spirituality that is quite real to me. Now, had the epistemic underpinnings of “White Magic” been different, we would’ve had a different poem. These underpinnings determine how we understand metaphor and what we can or do draw upon in creating figurative language. It decides what devices become the engines of our expression. Kamau gives me this, both through what he has done and what he gives me the courage to attempt.’ – Vladimir Lucien in conversation with John Robert Lee about the work of Kamau Brathwaite


“Because nothing in Brief History started the way it ended up. The first page I ever wrote is now on page 458. I was writing a crime novel starring a hitman who was trying to kill this Jamaican drug lord. I remember writing that, and thinking in the back of my head, “He’s one of the guys who tried to kill Marley.” But that was just going to be this sort of “Gotcha!” at the end, and my brief 120-page novel would have been finished. I just couldn’t finish it. I got to a part where I just couldn’t go any further. And I just figured, well, let’s find another character. So I created this character, another hit man, called Bam Bam. Then it was the same thing: writing the character for maybe forty, fifty pages, until I ran into a dead end.” – Marlon James in interview with Joshua Jelly-Schapiro


‘“Get Shorty” showrunner Davey Holmes asked Calderon Kellett if she feels an added pressure to get her show right, to which she replied: “For sure, especially when there aren’t a lot of Latinx shows right now on TV. Tanya and I know each other and we’ve done a million panels together. We’re like ‘the two.’”

To the horror of her fellow panelists, Calderon Kellett recollected the story of how when the two showrunners previously worked together in a writers’ room in 2012, they were called “sp– and span.” The only show that the two have worked together on is “Devious Maids.”

As she described looking back on her career when the Me Too Movement broke out, “everyone did a self-audit. I went through mine and thought: ‘Oh, my God. I’m so broken.’”’ – from Variety’s A Night in the Writers’ Room with Michael Schur (The Good Place), Peter Farrelly (Loudermilk), Tanya Saracho (Vida), Gloria Calderon Kellett (One Day at a Time), David Holmes (Get Shorty), Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Judd Apatow (Crashing), Andrea Savage (I’m Sorry), Gemma Baker (Mom), Jennie Snyder Urman (Jane the Virgin), Stephen Glover (Atlanta)


“Arimah: I often don’t care what things are called, or what the right word for something is, as long as what is said is understood. Magical realism, speculative, fantasy, science fiction—these are all terms I (and others) have used to describe my work, and I’m fine with all those labels. I’m sure there are arguments for the appropriateness of one or the other, but I’m not heavily invested (unless someone is trying to disparage any one of those genres. Then I’ll likely come to its defense).” – Lesley Nneka Arimah


“(BRUCE) MILLER We had a very long discussion in our room about what it actually feels like to get your period and how can you tell or not when you start to bleed. And the room, all they did was disagree with each other.

(LENA) WAITHE Because everybody has a very different experience.

MILLER Right. And it’s funny because you think, “Oh, there’s a universal answer to this.” And really, I just need a line. (Laughter.) But it doesn’t help if you just have one person. It’s one person’s opinion and there is no one to challenge it.”  – Courtney Kemp (‘Power’), Peter Morgan (‘The Crown’), Bruce Miller (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), David Shore (‘The Good Doctor’) and Lena Waithe (‘The Chi’) in conversation with The Hollywood Reporter


“NPR’s LYNN NEARY: Woodson says she’d love to get rid of labels like struggling reader or advanced reader and encourage young people to concentrate more on how a book makes them feel or think.

AUTHOR JACQUELINE WOODSON: Labeling is not the best way to get young people to deeply engage in reading. I mean, at the end of the day, you take the qualifier away and they’re a reader. Childhood, young adulthood is fluid. And it’s very easy to get labeled very young and have to carry something through your childhood and into your adulthood that is not necessarily who you are.” Read the full interview.


“We are in a graveyard,” Dionne said. She traced the name of her ancestor while Trevor’s hand worked its way beneath her dress and along the smooth terrain of her upper thigh. She liked the way it felt when Trevor touched her, though she hadn’t decided yet what she’d let him do to her. She’d let Darren put his hands all the way up her skirt on the last day of school. But here, where girls her age still wore their hair in press and curls, she knew that sex was not to be given freely, but a commodity to ration, something to barter with.’ – Excerpt of The Star Side of Bird Hill, by Naomi Jackson


“As she can no longer see the shore, The Woman has decided it is time to bail ship, to jump into the water she cannot swim in, wearing her heaviest shoes and heart of great mass. She leaves on her red hat, hoping it will be her grave marker, should anyone wonder what happened to the boat and why it is floating out in the great lake.” – Zombie V. by Melanie S. Page 


“We all got married — Suzanne, and Virginia, and I — and it was all we ever wanted to be at the time. I fought with my parents to get married, and Suzanne ran away from home with her boyfriend to get married, and Virginia saved her money for a year and eight months, eating a bag lunch at work every day and walking up from the square to save the five cents for the transfer and making her own clothes and only seeing movies when they came to the drive-in — all to get married.” – We by Mary Grimm


“I like Markham, but I’d like to kill him. I dream of doing it in front of a huge pack of boys. Clinically.” – Stickfighting Days by Olufemi Terry


“Two white boys sat on a bench outside the closed door while a white man in a billed cap kept watch over them. Walter thought maybe the Funhouse couldn’t be so bad, with white boys here too—until a crack of leather striking flesh came from inside, and a boy’s scream. Walter had never heard anyone scream that way except Mama, in her dying. His blood burned cold.” – The Reformatory by Tananarive Due


“She (Kima Jones) reminds me that the first step in breaking out is actually taking the time to turn inward and look within.” – Poets & Writers in conversation with literary publicists Lauren Cerand, Kima Jones, and Michael Taekens


‘When I taught writing, I told my students there was no reason to worry about punctuation until they had written something worth punctuating correctly. I was trying to show them that the important part of writing—the part their teachers didn’t teach them—was the revision process. The stopping and starting, the rethinking, the crossing out, the sharpening of a thought—that’s writing. It’s a verb, after all. Punctuation, which their teachers had “taught” them, was simply politeness, no different from covering your mouth when you sneeze.’ – Piano Lessons: Do Writers Need a Teacher or a Coach? by Jim Sollisch


‘TD: This was a very, very tough moment for me to write in the story. But it was always the moment I was writing up to, which is beyond the violence, trying to find some hope on the other side—how to process that violence. Why is there so much? There is even more violence than the excerpt I read that I cut out. This is the bogeyman, for the most part, this whipping shed. In real life it was called “The White House.” I call it “The Fun House” in my story. But this was the place where these boys very often lost their innocence and where their lives were in some ways damaged a great deal for the rest of their lives. Just the trauma of the violence. And there were also accusations of sexual abuse. But for the most part the accounts I read have been about the physical beatings. A man to my face, and this was a white man, talked about how he had the skin whipped off of his back. He could not see his parents on visiting day because of the damage to his skin and the doctor literally had to remove the fabric from his injuries. This is brutality, brutality against children. To me it would be a cheat not to express the full brutality of the experience. And it is difficult to do that to a twelve year old protagonist, or even have him witness it, or be afraid it would happen to him, frankly, when I think of my own son. But it would not be fair to the survivors of this school, and the survivors of the system overall, to gloss over the violence, because violence and sexual abuse mark so many experiences in the criminal justice system. Where you are removed from a home environment, where you have measures of safety and control, and put in an environment where you have no control, no name. There are statistics that show that the majority of sexual abuse in juvenile detention centers is not perpetrated by other prisoners, it is perpetrated by guards. Horror, typically, is violence by the monster, the daemon, the zombie.  In this story, the horror is human, and the ghosts are just survivors in their own way.’ – Tananarive Due on writing The Reformatory


‘Yeah, the president is just such a different joke world, because it’s a moving target that’s constantly evolving and it’s constantly changing. You could write 20 minutes about one thing and then he reverses his opinion. Well, now what are you going to do with that material? I could start writing my act today, but in five weeks when we go and tape, 20 different things would’ve happened by then. It’s not something I enjoy because it forces you to stay on topic with an issue. To report every week on what Trump did, you’re just saying he did this, here’s a joke about it, and here’s why you shouldn’t think that way. There’s got to be more. There’s got to be something bigger to that. To me the issue isn’t Trump, it’s the people in office who don’t stand up to him. That’s the bigger deep dive. Because if you look at all of the president’s antics since he’s been sworn in, the one consistent narrative is that nobody stands up to him. So to me, that’s what I want to talk about. I want to talk about who are all these people who don’t go, “Hey, man, don’t fucking tweet today.”’ – Roy Wood Jr. on writing jokes


‘From the moment the idea for the story first came to me, I imagined it as a story in which the main character is falling and is considering the most important moments and people in his life. I think that framework gives some flexibility to the narrative, some elasticity, because that experience would be very different for each of us, depending on our personal and larger history, who we are, what we value most, and who or what we are most concerned about. Another news item that often catches my attention here in Miami is how many construction workers fall while working to build very expensive hotels or apartment buildings that they would not be able to afford to stay or live in—so that became one of the elements at play in “Without Inspection.”’ – Edwidge Dandicat

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.

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‘Peepal Tree Press is thrilled to announce that the Saboteur Awards judges shortlisted Leone Ross’s Come Let Us Sing Anyway (Peepal Tree Press) for the award for Best Short Story Collection.

This is Leone’s second nomination of the year, after she was nominated for the Jhalak Prize, which last year was won by Peepal Tree Associate Fiction Editor and author, Jacob Ross for his riveting Caribbean crime novel, The Bone Reader. Peepal Tree is no stranger to award success, with wins including the Clarissa Luard Award, the Forward Prize and the Casa de la Américas Literary Award.

Independent and small presses dominate the Saboteur Awards, which celebrate the best books published by the little guys of the book world.

“It’s very nice to be shortlisted,” Leone said. “There are so many wonderful books nominated this year, and the fact readers can vote directly makes me grateful for all the people who’ve read and enjoyed my book.”‘

Come let us sing anyway

CONGRATS to Leone Ross. Read more here.

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BA & A – Writing and Public Speaking Workshops, JWP – Creative Writing Workshop Coming Up

Barbara Arrindell & Associates has offered toward the 2018 Wadadli Pen Challenge prize package a workshop entitled ‘Presenting: Telling Your Story Orally’ which will be gifted to the honourable mentions.

As for its wider community offerings, BA & A’s next set of courses come up in May. Given their support of Wadadli Pen, it seems fitting to share the registration information for their upcoming workshops. The first of the four week courses will be held in May and then in June registrants will get the opportunity to do the corresponding course and collect a certificate of completion. The goal is to empower participants to be competent communicators in the workplace.


Download the form to register:


Yes, I am one of the facilitators. This written communication course is different from my creative writing workshops as it emphasizes communication – purpose, strategies, and more as relates to the written word. Though creative writing is my passion, I do have a degree in Communications and have taught it, locally, at the college level at three different institutions.

For more on my Creative Writing workshop, see the flyer below (and contact the posted email address to register) – the winner of Wadadli Pen, incidentally, will be gifted a spot in this workshop.

April 2018

I have trained in fiction writing and editing, facilitated fiction/creative writing workshops, have edited for other writers, and, of course, write creatively – books, short stories which have been published in the Caribbean and beyond, won acclaim, been taught in educational institutions, and more. Plus, I am the founder and coordinator of Wadadli Pen. My goal is always to help participants access their best writing in a collaborative environment.

There’s still time to register for both.

Joanne C. Hillhouse


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