Category Archives: The Business

Section where you can find industry news and insights

On editing and other services for Writers/Others

“So you’ve finally finished your first draft. Maybe it’s a novel. Maybe it’s a non-fiction book. Maybe you’ve written a picture book for children. Perhaps you love what you’ve written. Perhaps you’ve read it and decided it wasn’t really that good after all. Whatever you’ve written and however you feel about it, there is something you still need to do. Edit.” – this is from an article about – duh – why you should edit your writing. It gives good reasons. Check it out.

Having said that, I am now considering building another data base to add to the numerous Wadadli Pen data bases (bibliography and its sub-bibliographies of Antiguan and Barbudan writers, website linkages for local and Caribbean writers, Caribbean writers bibliography, Antigua and Barbuda lyrics and songwriters data base, journals in which Antiguan and Barbudan artists have been published, reading rooms, awards, art discussions, media history, plays, lit arts, opportunities, and opportunities too, the data base of past Wadadli Pen winners, and others including the one I direct would-be authors to most – the resources page which is a data base for published authors and freelance writers).

My serviceswriting, editing, training – will be listed but I’ll dig around and add other lit arts or maybe just general arts related services available in Antigua and Barbuda. What do you think? Is that something you’d be interested in? What services would you like to see listed?


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). All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.



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Musical Youth Reflection after Release of the Second Edition

The thing they don’t tell you about your book coming out is how busy you’ll be, too busy sometimes to take it in – and depending on what else is going on in your life not necessarily anything close to the high the moment demands. It’s not ingratitude that has you thinking, when another person says “congrats”, “what for?” – you’re just too tired, maybe even too stressed to remember that there’s even something to celebrate. And there is, there is. This book, your first or your 15th, is the culmination of so many hours of dreaming and working, is the fulfillment of so much possibility and improbability, it’s ingratitude not to be grateful for it. And that feeling can add to the stress as well. But hang in there, a time will come, maybe on a random Wednesday afternoon about a week or so late too late when the feeling will hit you. Feel it. You did that.

And with that, I’m here to say that I’m about a week late on posting here about the release of the 2nd edition of Musical Youth.

(cover art by Antiguan and Barbudan artist Glenroy Aaron)

Let me tell you about this book. It’s about creative teens doing creative ish like me and my pals did in our teens, all the while learning and growing. You know already (maybe) that I wrote it in a fortnight and took a shot at submitting this very rough thing (unedited and beta read only by my teenage niece which made sense to me at the time since she was the target audience) to the CODE Burt Award inaugural competition for teen/young adult literature with a little gentle prodding from my sister and the guy at the first book binding place I tried. Yes, I had to get it printed, bound and Fed Ex’d to Trinidad – talk about investing in yourself.  I was checking my email about 3 a m or so one morning months later when I received the news that I had made the short list and immediately called Alstyne (the person who always made sure I stopped to celebrate but who has since passed over but) who was still very much alive then and joined me in screaming and can you believing over the phone. I travelled to Trinidad and came home to no fan fair (which a friend of mine still gripes about) though, honestly it didn’t occur to me then to expect anything. It seemed to me that I had won more than I had dared hope when I submitted the manuscript. Did part of me wish I had won? Of course but the winning book AdZiko  Gegele’s All Over Again is delightful and I am happy to be in company with it and Colleen Smith-Dennis’ Inner City Girl as the first in a series of award winning Caribbean books targeted at contemporary teen readers in the region, with appeal for lovers of good literature everywhere. This book has taken me places (and through CODE, Burt, and Bocas – the entities funding and/or administering the prize – I’ve had opportunities to judge, organize and run a workshop, mentor, and more) and these characters are among my favourites that I’ve written – so much so that I’m working on a sequel (I have been pretty much since the beginning but this past week have legit done some work on it).

Writing hasn’t made me rich in a way that the world recognizes (the opposite probably) but I love being able to write and tell stories that reach people in some way, and I love that one of those books has seamlessly rolled in to a second edition. Yes, I have had second editions of my books before (notably The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight) but usually it’s more bumpy (involving a book underperforming and/or going out of print, the legalities of reclaiming rights, the challenges of finding a new publisher); the publisher reaching out to say that the book has performed well enough for them to justify investing more in it, is a different corner turned in the winding road I’ve taken as a writer, journeying. The closest comparison is, again, The Boy from Willow Bend which has had longevity as my first book.

It is a week or so after Caribbean Reads, an independent press with roots in St. Kitts, announced that they have released a second edition of Musical Youth, and I am grateful (whatever else is going on in my life now, and there is a lot that’s not perfect, but I am grateful, this #gyalfromOttosAntigua is grateful).  Shout out to the friend who made me stop to toast the moment. As for my journey with Caribbean Reads (one of four publishers with which I have books currently contracted – the others being Hansib -The Boy from Willow Bend, Insomniac – Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Little Bell Caribbean – With Grace), when faced in 2014 for the first time really with the opportunity to choose from among several regional publishers interested in publishing the Burt winning titles, I was uncertain which way to go – which was positioned to do the most for the book, which would be most invested in working with me like I wasn’t an afterthought (which can happen with big publishers), which would be fairest; so many uncertainties in my mind as I narrowed my options to the three or so I was giving serious condition.  I honestly don’t remember  what tipped it in Caribbean Reads’ favour (and, no, it wasn’t just that of all the options it was, as an imprint with Eastern Caribbean roots, closer to home) but I haven’t regretted it yet – and, in fact, I was able to sell them on  a re-issue of another book I had reclaimed from a publisher I felt wasn’t doing anything for it (those uncertainties I spoke about) and re-issue that book as Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure which now has a Spanish language edition with an activity book pending.

I believe in Musical Youth and I am delighted that readers both at home and abroad continue to discover and embrace it, and I hope for much much more (and bigger and bigger sales – let’s keep it real) as the book moves in to its second life. Thank you to everyone who has been there in whatever way you have been there. I am grateful.

Here is Caribbean Reads announcement re the re-issue (excerpt):

“Musical Youth is the first of two Burt Award winners published by CaribbeanReads, the second being The Protectors’ Pledge by Danielle Y. C. McClean. The success of these titles speaks to the fact that we need Caribbean books and, more generally, #weneeddiversebooks.”

And here is a gallery of Musical Youth moments so far – captions in order pictured (Musical Youth on the bookstagram, Musical Youth part of a middle school chef competition in NYC, gifting Musical Youth to my alma mater after serving as narrator at the annual carol service, my niece and beta reader taking a book selfie, me taking a book selfie on holding the book for the first time, me with co-panelists at the Brooklyn Book Fair after presenting Musical Youth, me with co-presenters and education officials during a schools tour in St. Croix where I was presenting Musical Youth during the USVI Lit Fest, me presenting copies of Musical Youth to the Public Library during the launch at the Best of Books, me accepting the Burt award from the late founder Canadian philanthropist William Burt, and me presenting Musical Youth to students in St. Maarten as part of a schools’ tour during the St. Martin lit fest):

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 Writers Talking CARIFESTA Inclusion (or Lack Thereof)

This post started with this

It was shared to social media by a member of the Antigua and Barbuda literary community (tagging the local cultural gatekeepers and local authors like me) with the following question: “any of our writers have been invited to be part of the official Carifesta delegation sent by the Government and People of Antigua & Barbuada Antigua and Barbuda Festivals Commission. These 14 sessions of Carifesta outside of Antigua & Barbuda … which writers have formed part of the delegation? Is writing considered to be art? Is it an expression of who we are?”

Naturally, I assumed the poser of the question knew the answer to the question posed and was posing the question with purpose and I didn’t want to be drawn in.

Also, I don’t typically respond to everything I’m tagged in but I guess I had time ‘today’. I responded for the same reason I’m sharing the conversation here (without identifying the speakers, since I have not sought their permission to do so) because I am a writer and literary arts advocate who has made more than clear where I see gaps in the boosting of arts, including literary arts, by the powers that be. The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize was launched in 2004 because of a developmental gap I perceived as relates to local lit arts.  Disclaimer alert! Disclaimer alert! I am not saying nothing has been done. To do so would be disingenuous at best, a lie at worst. But there are gaps re lit arts (arts, really) support and inclusion generally, and (very important) consistently; and the process by which the CARIFESTA delegation is selected has never been particularly clear to me (with no intended shade at the artists who have represented us, this is something I queried in an article some years ago – not the selectees but the process by which selection is made). So, I think it’s fair that the question is being asked, reluctant as I am to be drawn in because criticism of any kind is too often interpreted as hateration and grudgefulness etc. But, and this brings me to the other reason I’m sharing this conversation (near verbatim), Antigua and Barbuda is reportedly next in the line-up (after Trinidad and Tobago this year) to host CARIFESTA, making this conversation about literary arts inclusion even more pertinent.

My response in that thread was: No, I have never been invited to be part of the official Carifesta delegation sent by the Government and People of Antigua & Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda Festivals Commission (responding because I was tagged and speaking only for myself). I can’t say which writers from Wadadli have formed part of the past 14 sessions of Carifesta (nor how decisions re the composition of the delegation are made). Yes, writing is an art and, yes, an expression of who we are.

Other writers’ response in that thread:

Other writer 1 –
Never been invited, however was asked to supply 50 books to be taken…when explained that they had to contact the publishers…and publisher willing to ship, however, needs specific details…told to contact secretariat…now what is the number? Who will pay for the books and if sold at Carifesta, what is my percentage…not a meeting or formal letter/email… I was contacted by [name redacted] by phone with follow up WhatsApp messages…

Other writer 2 –
[Name redacted] same with me concerning WhatsApp messages. In the end, I explained that I couldn’t send any books due to financial constraints. From what I understand, books would have been on display, but [redacted] never mentioned a delegation or anything along those lines. Plus by delegation, who would be covering flight and board? *Le sigh*

Other writer 3 –
I’m so clueless, this is the first I’m hearing of it. *goes and stands in the corner*

Other writer 2 –
[Name redacted] *joins you as it feels like writers in Antigua are not taken seriously*

Other writer 4 –


That, to the best of my knowledge, was the end of that conversation. And since I have no connected image, I’ll share this vid from a few years ago which begins Ah Write!

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator 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 which has a Spanish language edition). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out Please note that, except otherwise noted, images on this site also need to be cleared if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

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CALYPSO ALL-ROUNDER, DESTROYER … and Rising Star, Young Destroyer

This is a throwback to an article I did for the Calypso Association 50th anniversary magazine in 2007. In the interest of increasing awareness of the accomplishments of some of our iconic calypsonians and increasing appreciation for the art form, I figured I would share some of that issue with you. I’ve previously posted the issue’s articles on Calypso Jim, Calypso Joe, Franco, Swallow, King Onyan, Ivena, the Mighty Bottle, the King Zacari, and Scorpion. This particular article focused on father and son duo Destroyer and Young Destroyer. DO NOT repost without permission or credit.


One is The Man Who Might Have Been King; the other a royal contender or The Man Who Could Be King. Of course, for Leston ‘Young Destroyer’ Jacobs – former Junior Monarch and, via the CARIFESTA Calypso competition, reigning World Calypso King – Someday can’t come soon enough. His father, Oglivier ‘Destroyer’ Jacobs, meanwhile, seems pretty resigned to the fact that perhaps he’s peaked as far as competition goes. The closest he’s come is first runner-up spots in 1971 and 1989. If you ask both of them, though, they’ve already earned the crown a time or two, notwithstanding the final decision of the powers-that-be.

Still, beyond all the competition talk, there’s a clear passion for Calypso. Destroyer, the man who – as entertainer, songwriter, tent manager, and association executive member – can be called an All Rounder in the Calypso game, declared, “up to now, I don’t listen no other music but Calypso.” It took his son only seven years of this kind of exposure before he first took to the stage. “Coming from a Calypso family, I’ve always wanted to become a Calypsonian professionally,” Young Destroyer said. “Even before 1990, I was kind of pressuring my father to put me in the competition.” It’s somewhat ironic that with his own seven-year old-daughter now chomping at the bit, Young Destroyer has decreed that she’s too young.

Both remember vividly, their first tent outing. “The first time I performed was at Kensington Court in a Calypso tent run by the carnival committee,” Destroyer reflected. “I had a song called ‘Bring back the Cat-o-Nine’. At the time, the big gun was Short Shirt and a guy named Skeech; the first runner up the year before. When he heard me sing, he came and said: “Youngster, you have a good song there, but good for the tent not for competition.” But at the end of the 1967 semifinals, it was Destroyer who made the cut – alongside the likes of Creole, Lord Lee, Mighty Dove, Smarty, and Brain; not Skeech.

Young Destroyer was, similarly, a hit, right out the gate. He went straight to the University, Swallow’s Calypso Pepperpot, where the crowd showered him with money as a token of their appreciation; the year was 1990. He won his first of four junior monarch crowns that year; the other years being ’93, ’96, and ’97. Added to this was a junior title claimed in Trinidad and, of course, last year the World Calypso King title.

Destroyer Sr. reflected, jokingly, that his young son used to taunt, “you know why you don’t want to give me no song, because you ‘fraid I goin’ win before you.” But while these words may have had the tint of prophecy, the son having claimed several crowns since his father relented and let him into the arena, both insist that there’s no rivalry. “We both share victories together,” said Young Destroyer. “I can’t be victorious without my father.”

True, he’s turned to other writers now and again and has received encouragement from others in the fraternity along the way, but his one true mentor, Young Destroyer declared, has been his father. His father, in fact, penned the two tunes – one of which includes the Best Social Commentary winner in local competition ‘Back of de Bus’ – that shook Trinidad at CARIFESTA in 2006.

Both admit having felt discouraged in local competition. There was the virtual shut-out of top positions during the Short Shirt and Swallow days. But even the decline or retreat from competition of the Big Three – King Obstinate being the third of this triad – the crown has eluded Destroyer. For him, a bitter memory is his loss in 1989 to King Fiah. His selections that year were ‘Discrimination’ and ‘Message from Gorkie’; and, he said, “I know I won that year.” What’s more, he claims that the judges knew it, too. “If is five judges,” he said, “nearly all of them come and say, ‘Destroyer, you know ah you win the crown; but how arwe go walk outa dis park wid all dem noise for Fiah.’”

As for Young Destroyer, he’s come close; 2002, for instance, when he was second runner up with ‘Don’t Write me Off’ and ‘W’ine Back’ or 2003 when he placed first with ‘Queen of My Heart’ and ‘Antigua Means Everything to Me’. Some contend that, like Jim a few years ago, he sang the wrong song when he didn’t pair ‘Popeshead Street’ with ‘Back o’ De Bus’ in 2006; but given how low he placed, Young Destroyer is not convinced it would’ve made a difference.

These disappointments made the victory in Trinidad that much sweeter. “I had this gut feeling that I would go down there and come home victorious just to prove to them that I have good talent and I have good songs to win the crown here any time,” Young Destroyer said. “I don’t know why I keep getting low marks, but I just wanted to prove to them that my father is still one of the best writers in the world.”

High praise indeed! Still, it’s not the first time Destroyer’s songwriting ability has been praised. Dorbrene O’Marde’s Calypso Talk, at one time the Antiguan Calypso bible, in 1988 praised his storytelling ability; its relevance and specificity. That relevance and specificity can be found, for instance, in lyrics like

“They move de surcharge from we light bill
but fuel variation killing we;
is All Fools Day,
is fool they fooling we.”

His favourite of his tunes, however, is ‘Woodpecker Sarah’, one of the best examples of the double meaning he likes to give to his lyrics. In the song, a single mom is forced to go in search of “wood” (wink wink) to burn coal to support her children.

Among his favourite songs by other Antiguan Calypsonians, meanwhile, are Latumba’s ‘The Love I Lost’, Short Shirt’s ‘Inspite of All’, and Calypso Joe’s ‘Poor Little Negro Boy’. Young Destroyer’s favourites include King Obstinate’s ‘Wet You Han’ and ‘Always Come Back to You’, Short Shirt’s Tourist Leggo’, Swallow’s ‘Fire in de Backseat’, and his dad’s ‘Woodpecker Sarah’. In fact, he added, “I like all my father songs.”

Talk of his father’s songs must inevitably lead to his father’s politics and its influence on his music. Destroyer wears his red proudly, joking when picking up his 2007 National Vibes Star Project Award for producer of the year for ‘Back of de Bus’ “bury me with this and red.” But he’s of the view that he’s held true to the Calypsonian’s mandate to sing it as he or she sees it. “When Labour was in power, I sing ‘Jail Cart’, ‘Country Running Good’, and ‘All Fools Day’ and all them things there,” he said. “Even Labour Party supporters, even ministers come and say, ‘if you’re a labour supporter, why sing these songs? You not doing the party no good’. I tell them ‘is Calypso, you sing what you see’.” His son’s ‘Greedy Horses’ and his own ‘Beg Georgie Pardon’ were also anti-establishment. It could be argued, however, that he was showing his colours when he came down harder on current Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer than he did on former PM Lester Bird when singing of the injustices done to late activist, analyst, and newspaper editor Leonard ‘Tim’ Hector. But as Destroyer sees it, he was merely looking at it from Tim’s perspective. “When I was writing that song, I did some research with some people close to Tim,” he said.

Of course, if we touch on Destroyer’s politics, it’s only fair that we touch on Young Destroyer’s widely reported brushes with the law and the potential impact this has had on his Calypso career. “Well, look where I am now,” he replied when quizzed about this. “I’m now the Calypso King of the world. Sometimes in life there are obstacles in people’s way. It can make you better or make you worse. It’s how you plan to come back from these obstacles. Young Destroyer is a person that lets nothing bring him down, regardless of what people think. I know what I’m headed for.” What he confidently asserted, during the interview, that he is headed for in 2007 is all the crowns – party and Calypso – and more. “This album, the world is looking forward for this album,” he said, “so we can’t politicize this album. This album is to market Antigua, to market the product, and reach even further than CARIFESTA King.”

Destroyer, meanwhile, wouldn’t be competing, at least, not up to press time; but he remained on track with his work with the Masters Calypso tent, where Young Destroyer was scheduled to make his latest run for local Calypso glory.

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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Carib Plus Lit News (Mid-to-late-July 2019)

UK-Kittitian writer Caryl Phillips said re the winning Commonwealth Short story of 2019:

”Death Customs” is a remarkable short story that manages to be both personal – following, as it does, the painful narrative of a woman who has lost her son – and deeply political, in that it charts the division of a land as it topples into civil war. We are encouraged to view the descent into bloodshed and mayhem as a domestic squabble between two brothers who can only be reconciled in death. The voices employed are beautifully resonant, and the story shifts gears, and ranges across time, with eloquence. ‘Death Customs’ is poetically intense and complex in form and subject-matter, yet the story remains admirably lucid and moving, and deservedly wins the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.’

The winner is Constantia Soteriou from Cyprus with Lina Protopapa translating the story from Greek into English. Caribbean short listed writers were Shakirah Bourne of Barbados, Kevin Garbaran of Guyana, Rashad Hosein of Trinidad and Tobago, and Alexia Tolas of the Bahamas – who was also the regional winner. Also on this year’s panel of judges was another Caribbean person Barbadian writer Karen Lord.

For the report from the Commonwealth Writers on the outcome of its annual, international short story competition, go here.


Longtime Caribbean-media Association boss, Wesley Gibbings, is coming to Antigua and Barbuda. He’ll be launching his latest book – a collection of poems – July 18th 2019, 6:30 p.m., at the Best of Books, on St. Mary’s Street. Wesley cover 1.jpgWesley Gibbings is an award-winning Trinidadian journalist, media trainer and press freedom campaigner who was born in 1958. His previous collections of poems include: On Life (1977); The Poetry of the Ages with Simon and the Prophets, a one-act play (1980); Cold Bricks and Warm Eyes (1988), and Lost in the City (1991). His work on Caribbean media development and journalism has also been published in books, instruction manuals and journals. In 2017, he was presented with the Percy Qoboza International Journalist Award by the US National Association of Black Journalists for work in the area of press freedom.

This has been added to the latest event round up as a local-event.


“After making the Milo-tea, I tell Mr MacKenzie, whose room is next door to we, don’t forget to lock the gate with the padlock when him come home on lunch break from the factory. Last week, Mama walk through the gate, all the way to Three Miles and then Kingston Harbour. If a postman never see her standing there swinging her arms like a fast bowler she woulda leap in and drown. He take her back home on his bike. Mr McKenzie don’t hear me or care to. Him think him 18-year-old girlfriend, Regina, sleeping with the mechanic downstairs who live beside Mrs James and her boys. His eyes already move from me to the clothes line where Regina in short-shorts, butt-cheeks on display for all to see, is pinning up his once-white merinos she destroy doing the washing.” – Jamaican-Barbadian writer Sharma Taylor’s Son Son’s Birthday was published in Adda (it’s shared in the Reading Room and Gallery but I loved it so much I had to share it here as well). Taylor is also this year’s recipient of the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize

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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Blurb is an Action Word

A blurb is not a review. It’s more of an endorsement from another writer – typically one who is more established, and ideally one who has read the book in advance and been gracious enough to attach their brand to yours – it’s  an act of faith and one not without risks. It is also a choice and an approached author’s decision to say no (even if by ignoring the request to blurb) should be respected. Their time and their name are of high personal value to them.

The good news is that a blurb can also be excerpted from a publicly posted review – so pull those excerpts.

(did you catch all the reviews of Morrison’s work and of the film about her work?…not that her work needs it)

It is a marketing tool. It can be found on book jackets,

(Sourced and/or selected by the publishers, the Oh Gad! blurb, credited to Eric Jerome Dickey, reads “A brilliant writer”; and the With Grace blurbs –  by author and publisher Mario Picayo, The Caribbean Writer journal editor Alscess Lewis-Brown, and the judges of the Desi Writers Lounge story contest who had described With Grace as “a powerful narrative that is magical in spirit and human in character” –  credited as endorsements can be found on my blog)

websites or blogs, social media, banner (which I did one once and which, after the launch, became an in-store display with quoted endorsements and reviews) – anywhere it might catch the potential readers’ eye.

I have been blurbed and I have been asked to blurb. It’s daunting either way (thankful when I get it, accepting if I don’t; and never take it lightly when asked to do it – even if I have to say no).

To the point of this post. Do you know where the term blurb comes from? Via (Merriam-Webster), it was coined at the 1907 American Booksellers Association banquet, when Gelett Burgess handed out copies of his book ‘Are You A Bromide?’ and on the jacket was an image of Belinda Blurb. Yep, the term – representing promotional text on a book jacket – was named after the first person to literally blurb.

And now you know, and in publishing as in life, to paraphrase G. I. Joe, knowing is half the battle.

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.


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

Reading Room and Gallery 35

Here I share things I like that I think you might like too. But not just anything. Things related to the arts – from the art itself to closer examination of the art to the making of the art…like that. There have been 34 installments in this series before – use the search window to the right to find them; and there’ll be more additions to this installment before it too is closed – so come back.


“As an adult, when I was estranged from my mother, my father would ask me to recall those holidays where my mother labored in the kitchen for hours. He would ask me to think about why my mother went to such pains and expense. Was it just for her friends, he’d want to know? Of course not. He would tell me that my mother always felt an astute guilt at raising me away from my extended family. For all those holidays absent of grandmothers and aunts and uncles and cousins. Instead of allowing me to feel that loneliness, she filled up our house with guests. She feared that I would never know family as they knew it, that even though I professed not to feel that sense of loss, I had inherited it nevertheless. Her failure to teach me those values, my mother believed, extinguished in this world a way of love.” – Give Hostages to Fortune by By Mehdi Tavana Okasi


“Since my 30s, I’ve hated those birthday cards with their black balloons and messages of doom: How does it feel to be over the hill? Don’t collapse your  lungs blowing out candles!” – Judith Guest



At sunset,
when sunlight morphs into dusk,
slaps start: mosquito roulette.” – Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming’s Writer’s Digest winning Weekend at the Beach


“Rule No. 10: Revise, revise, revise.” – Colson Whitehead, Rules of Writing


“I resisted buying a scrapbook-like biography of Charles Dickens put together by Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, his great-great-great-granddaughter, on the occasion of his bicentenary (1812-2012). The book has photographs and facsimiles of documents: letters, his will, theater programs . . . I have the same birthday as Dickens (February 7th), and when he turned 200, I was a mere 60. A friend heard me talking about the book and surprised me with it.” – Brooklyn Book Fair pre-event interview with Mary Norris


“I was an avid reader when I was a pre-teen, so my mother would come home from work with Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High novels. It felt like Christmas each time. I would inhale the newness of the books, running my fingers across the pages, refusing to put creases in them. I was shocked when I came to America and found out that people leave books on sidewalks to take for free! I discovered The God of Small Things, The Alchemist, and 1984 this way. I had considered it an abomination to leave books on street corners, but I remember grabbing every one of those titles as if I were in a contest and grabbing gifts.” – Brooklyn Book Fair pre-event interview with novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn


“I daresay that as Caribbean writers, we are extremely fluent in the shapes and short story procedures absorbed largely from an English-focused curriculum; and later, from our exposure to narratives outside the Caribbean. In fact, we excel at them, much as we used to in cricket. If people don’t know it yet, the Caribbean is the producer of world-class contemporary short fiction in the Commonwealth, I’m thinking in particular of Trinidad and Jamaica. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I do contend that the caribbeanness of the Caribbean short story remains underexploited, though I’ve begun to see the emergence of writers who are reaching past the creole language to explore ‘folk’ tropes and structure.” – Jacob Ross in conversation with Jacqueline Bishop. Read the full interview: Ross 1Ross 2Ross 3Ross 4


‘Humph,’ Mavis say in her usual grunt: ‘Nuh worry. Mi find some US dolla under the dresser when mi clean it last week that mi aggo keep. But mi have something fi har though, man. De wretch nuh know sey is her toothbrush mi use clean the toilet.’  – Son-Son’s Birthday by Sharma Taylor

Antiguan and Barbudan fiction and poetry here and here.


“I write, and I take my writing seriously,” he said. “Awards affirm this. But were I to write for awards, I would be a failed writer.” – Kwame Dawes in article in The Daily Nebraskan


“Winning the regional prize for the Caribbean means everything to me. It means that I made the right choice. After my first semester in college, I had to make a difficult choice between doing what was expected of me and what I wanted. It seemed to be a selfish decision. I come from a struggling family and a struggling island, so as a girl with potential, I was expected to prepare myself for a lucrative career in the traditional professions: law, medicine, architecture. However, I chose to write. I got a lot of criticism for that choice. Many people asked me what I could do with a Literature degree: write children’s books; teach? I could, and there is nothing wrong with either. I make my living using my degree, and I am happy, but I still felt as if the true purpose behind my decision had not been realized. It has now.” – Alexia Tolas, of Bahamas, Regional winner (for the Caribbean) of the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story prize. Other regional winners are from Zambia, Malaysia, Cyprus, and New Zealand

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out Please note that, except otherwise noted, images on this site also need to be cleared if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

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