Category Archives: The Business

Section where you can find industry news and insights

New Book Alert!

My main and social media knows me well; it’s been flooding me with news of multi-award winning Jamaican author Marlon James new book (I mean, that’s the marketing dream team any writer wish they had amirite? because they are outchea!). The book is Black Leopard, Red Wolf (from Riverhead Books) and it’s the first of a three book epic fantasy fueled by African mythology. In other words, fan of fantasy or not (which I am), it’s the book we’ve been waiting for. As I said on Marlon’s facebook, I like that he takes big swings and with some like Bill Maher recently trashing comic books and comic book readers, that he doesn’t give a tosh (is that an expression…well, it is now) about your genre snobbery. I haven’t read Jim Crow’s Devil but I have read the historical slavery narrative The Book of Night Women and the historical crime drama A Brief History of Seven Killings. And in addition to points blogged in my reviews, as he adds Black Leopard, Red Wolf to his bibliography, it’s easy to see that he’s someone who responds to the challenge of big ideas and deliberately or not (because I wouldn’t presume to speak his intention) creates literature (say it with a high brow accent) with popular appeal. And I’m here for it because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again a good story is a good story and he tells them well.

With Black Leopard, Red Wolf, he steps, from everything I’ve been reading (haven’t read the book yet though), in to George R. R. Martin territory (doing what Game of Thrones did with its euro-rooted historical fantasy and mythology for African-diasporic storytelling – a la Black Panther). And I’m here for that. Don’t put Black literature, Caribbean literature, nor for that matter Marlon James literature in a box.

Here are some links:

“In these pages, James conjures the literary equivalent of a Marvel Comics universe — filled with dizzying, magpie references to old movies and recent TV, ancient myths and classic comic books, and fused into something new and startling by his gifts for language and sheer inventiveness.” – New York Times

‘Kris Kleindienst, Co-owner of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Missouri, selected the new novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James, whose novel A Brief History of Seven Killings won the 2015 Man Book Prize. Kleindienst told Forbes, “Marlon James possesses almost frightening levels of talent. The arc of his career has barely begun, but he has already shot past the best of what other writers could ever hope for. His work is wholly original, while paying homage to all the important literary ancestors. Black Leopard, Red Wolf holds the promise of being an archetypal epic for the 21st century.’ – Forbes

I have some other links bookmarked but I haven’t had time to read them as yet (this only got posted today because people are inboxing me links as well)- bottom line from Lit Hub to Time this book is getting all the buzz. I peep in my timeline that it is in Antigua (at the Best of Books)

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From the Best of Books’ social media.

– and I’m not above hard hinting them that I have a Blogger on Books series wherein I talk books I’ve read (think they’ll share a review copy? yeah, I tried it!), but until then I’ll let the anticipation build (because the way my book buying budget is set up…)

In all seriousness though, did I say new book alert!

Also new, this one already has its own post (a couple of them) but I’m mentioning it here as the publisher (UK/Caribbean independent Papillotte) now has it posted on their site, Saint Lucian Writers and Writing (edited by John Robert Lee) – an author index of prose, poetry, and drama. So look out for that one as well.9780995726314-300x462

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger 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.

Remember to vote for your favourite book by an Antiguan and Barbuda, 2017-2018.


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Before You Ask…

I spied a comment recently lamenting the difficulty the writer had getting friends and family to read a manuscript, in part or whole. The comment was posted to a writers’ group and the discussion that followed, as happens, seemed a good topic for a post in this space.

First, I understand the writer’s desire for feedback and frustration at the lack thereof. Speaking as a writer myself, I’ve experienced this and, conversely, I’ve experienced writer-editors who’ve been more than generous with their time. One, my friend Gisele, also my editor on the job at the time, returned my manuscripts red inked with edit notes (something she did whether I asked for editorial feedback or not); another, Christine, a writer I’d met at a workshop, gave me some critique notes (after informing me that she only had time to read part of the manuscript) and a suggestion that I apply for the international fellowship to participate in the Breadloaf Writers Workshop. Both were extremely helpful. I made the edits, and I applied and was accepted to Breadloaf with an international fellowship; and I have three books to show for those relationships. While working on draft eleventybillion of the third one of these books, I would read excerpts  to my friend Alstyne (RIP) and though she was not herself a writer, her feedback purely as a reader – what she reacted to enthusiastically or less than enthusiastically, the questions she asked, the commentary she gave – was helpful to me not only in shaping that book but in keeping me going. The thing she gave me that was invaluable was her genuine curiousity about how the story would turn out and her belief not only in the story I was struggling to tell but in me as a writer. Yeah, I miss her.

That’s just a sampling of the times I reached out for and received feedback, and these are the books that came to be as a result – once you add on the editors that actually worked with me on prepping the books for publication.

There were many other times when I reached out to people and did not receive feedback.  Or the time I received only partial feedback  from a certain teenage reader in a very tight window but it was enough to help me figure out if the content, tone, and language of a certain teen/young adult novel would connect with a teenage reader.

Djeri with Musical Youth.jpg

Sometimes, as with the children’s books, I got creative about seeking feedback by sneaking them, blind, in to reading material being critiqued (kids, teen workshop) or testing them on children I would be reading to anyway (children’s reading club, schools).

The times when feedback was sought and the answer was either no or no follow through, I may have been disappointed at the time but I wasn’t mad. Honestly. Okay, maybe a little mad but I understood.

See, some of this overlapped with me getting requests to read this, write that from other people and sometimes saying yes even though I knew I didn’t have the time either because I genuinely wanted to, wanted to give back some of what had been given to me, or couldn’t figure out how to say no. So when I say I understood, I understood. The requests to pick my brain or read work became more plentiful after I became a published author i.e. a writer in the public domain. And the thing is each person thinks that they’re not asking much, but it adds up, you know, it takes time.

That’s one of the reasons I added editing and critiquing to my freelance services after a time – (initially with some guilt but) I was doing it anyway and with my time covered, and a commitment made to a client, there was a guarantee that I could get it done and in a timely manner.

The person who inspired this post also griped about the circle not leaving reviews that could help with promotion once a book had been published. I’ve experienced this as well. And it’s frustrating. But I remember, too, the times I’ve been asked to review books. It’s time consuming and a positive review is not guaranteed (at least not from me, nor do I expect them from others if they believe the work doesn’t merit it). I got one of my most scathing reviews from a Caribbean blogger I reached out to and bent over backwards to get the book to, and I have others here and there who took the book and never bothered to post anything. The former is one of the realities of being published, the latter I can’t do anything about except choose more carefully next time. Meanwhile I do try to pay it forward by posting reviews – hence my Blogger on Book series, which I have to admit is more fun than writing reviews for a paying publication (though not financially smart, right?) because I feel freer to review or not review (I never want reading to feel like a chore). That said, I will take those paying review gigs because baby’s gotta eat.

The responses to the original poster was pretty much as I expected though – people are busy, there’s no expectation that they’ll have the time, or interest, if they do, say thank you; if they don’t, accept it without malice. And if they still don’t follow through after saying yes, roll with that too and don’t keep them in your mind; sometimes people are well-intentioned but time is short (been there, both sides).

I suggested some other avenues that have been helpful to me in terms of feedback re  works in progress or, more usually, fresh drafts – and better, in some ways, if you wish to receive constructive critical feedback:

  • A writers’ group
  • Writing workshops (physical and/or online)
  • A writing mentor
  • Online writing platforms where you can post work for feedback (I’ll count here online writing memes and prompts)
  • A paid editor, critique
  • Submitting to writing contests and lit journals (short story, poem, longer work in progress)

I have benefited from all of these and I offer at least three (see my services here).

As for friends and fam, and writers you know, try to understand, before you ask that it’s a big ask. If they can do it, sure, but, if not, it’s important to remember that everybody’s busy living their life. Frustrating as it can be.

Friends and fam are not always the best critics in any case – though they can be good for encouragement.

Take what you can get and find other avenues.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger 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.

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Finding Readers, Finding Books

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(a book lover’s social media share)

An interesting social media post recently asked book lovers how they found new books, new authors – a question always of interest to authors like me always trying to land our promotion and marketing efforts where it can have the most impact.

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(Another book lover’s social media share)

Here are some of the other responses:

-friends’ recommendations (on social media… and, I would add, other places since more often than not these last few years of trying not to acquire new books until I can lighten my books-unread shelf, ‘new’ books have been thrust upon me by well meaning friends; and I can’t complain. As for how this affects my own promotional efforts, reader reviews are encouraged and used like those movie tag lines. They have proven especially useful being from a small place with my books receiving scant critical attention comparatively speaking, and, though that’s gotten better, I still welcome readers helping me create buzz by recc’ing a book of mine to readers in their network)

bookempt.gyal4(Yet another book lover’s social media share. credit: bookempt.gyal on instagram)

-reading  the book cover blurb and the first pages (online retail sites have made this easier, useful to me both as a reader and as a researcher building and sharing knowledge here on the site and in other places, but I remember I used to – and still – do this when shopping for or considering physical books. I even know people who, while browsing,  read the end and the middle to get a feel for the book – something the online retail sites have also made easier. I don’t get that part because, hello, spoilers. But I do try to accommodate readers’ need to know how it starts by publishing first pages on my Jhohadli blog)

-book related groups + review requests (this is the interaction part of social media, participating not just plugging, recommending other writers, not just pushing your own product; it’s time consuming but part of building community)

-freebies (as a writer and reviewer, with a blogger on books series, I get a number of requests to read books; and promotional giveaways have only gotten more plentiful in this age of internets.  It’s a bit more challenging to take on these reading assignments for the blog due to that time not being covered, plus it can be stressful, especially as I’ve been on the other side of this freebies for reviews relationship and know how it can feel when the person who copped the freebie doesn’t say word one about your book)

-recommendations on (person mentioned a specific literary platform but really all of them – not to mention #bookstagram #booktube the book blogging community and its many memes, and the myriad goodreads lists not to mention groups on facebook and specialized lists on twitter etc; it’s a lot to keep up with but I try to be in those spaces and try to connect my books with people in those spaces…of course, you have to give to get and that means making recommendations of your own)

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(Yet yet another book lover’s social media share. credit: baby making machine blog)

-Always ask my daughter (lol) – I like this one but this speaks to your real life reading partners and book clubs and the like, the book store employee who recs books he thinks you’ll like based on your reading history …those personal connections… book clubs and bookstores are among my mailing lists but beyond the lists are the relationships. Remember when you were in school and no two of you had a single penny to knock together but someone might have a book and that booked got passed around like mix tapes? How about that relationship with that friend you really see except for when it’s time for another book exchange every time a favourite author drops a new book? book conversations? book groups where there’s as much wine and idle chatter as book deep dives? you know what I mean) … it’s a beautiful thing.

oh gad in walmart posted by hadassa 2012
(book lover’s social media share)

How about you, where do you find your books?… authors, where do you find your readers?

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger 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.

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Reading Room and Gallery 32

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. Share by excerpting and linking, so to read the full story or see all the images, or other content, you will need to go to the source. No copyright infringement is intended. 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 32nd  one which means there are 31 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


A “If editing is key to writing, persistence is key to publishing.” – editors’ roundtable w/Jennifer Wortman, Megan Giddings, Luiza Flynn-Goodlett, and Robert James Russell.


“Sink into writing. Then when it’s written, come up for air and publish, because if you think about publishing before you finish the book, you’ll be outdated in your thinking by the time the book is complete. Just enjoy writing the story for now.” – C. Hope Clark


“This article is all about the trends I have observed in the publishing industry – in terms of manuscript publishers, self-publishing, and literary journals – over the last year or so. The key word in the previous sentence is “I”. This article reflects my personal opinion, and what I have noticed. I write a new/updated version of this article every year.” – Emily Harstone


“I think it’s a general misunderstanding, not just his. It’s as if we imagine an old book to be a time machine that brings the writer to us. We buy a book and take it home, and the writer appears before us, asking to be admitted into our company. If we find that the writer’s views are ethnocentric or sexist or racist, we reject the application, and we bar his or her entry into the present.

As the student had put it, I don’t want anyone like that in my house.

I think we’d all be better readers if we realized that it isn’t the writer who’s the time traveler. It’s the reader. When we pick up an old novel, we’re not bringing the novelist into our world and deciding whether he or she is enlightened enough to belong here; we’re journeying into the novelist’s world and taking a look around.” – Brian Morton


“It must have been a gunshot. I’d know the sound of a .45 anywhere. And it came from upstairs. But I wasn’t going to let my curiosity get the better of me, like my captain in Afghanistan used to warn me.” – from “Our Dirty Little Secrets” by Geoffrey Philp


‘Girls do not climb coconut trees,’ he said, tossing the belt over his shoulder. ‘It spoils the nuts.’ – Matalasi by Jenny Bennett-Tuionetoa


“More than 20,000 submissions came in representing all genres of travel photography, from street scenes to wildlife. AFAR’s highly respected panel of photography judges selected the winners, whose work we’re proud to present here.” More here.


“and every deployment
is a Talking Heads song
and every morning
is an invitation to dance
in a pill bottle
and you’re not interested
in keeping busy
and you don’t want
more group texts
and you don’t want
your daughter learning
to shoot a rifle
with the other kids
who aim at a silhouette
of someone’s son
tied to a haystack” – Asking for a Friend by Abby E. Murray


“In a sense, the poem is again about gratitude. There is no regret or there is no even wishing it had not happened. It’s just a realization that we lost ten years of making frittatas together. As a mother and a daughter who loved each other and who love each other, that’s a lot.” – Alice Walker


“There was this place in Antigua, The Point, that’s always attracted me. It’s a really fascinating neighborhood. Not only was it a slave burial ground in the 1700s, it was one of the first places in Antigua where slaves started a revolt that led to a big uprising. It’s one of the only tenement yard systems left in Antigua. On top of that — being one of the poorest areas in the island — it shares walls with St. John’s, the capital and a duty-free port for cruise ships.” – Shabier Kirchner, Antiguan and Barbudan filmmaker discussing his short film Dadli. For this and more Antiguan and Barbudan artist interviews, go here.


“So many of us writers keep returning to our history of slavery. Why do we keep doing this? It’s because there’s still something to understand and retrieve from that past. Storytelling is a medicine and we are not yet healed.” – Marcia Douglas with Loretta Collins Klobah


“‘Not only do black women authors have to find other routes to market their books to mainstream audiences, often times they are even left out of conversations of classic novels within genres like fantasy, horror, science fiction, romance and even cooking. Why do you think black women authors are not recognized in all literary genres?’

‘I think it’s just we get overlooked at times, and it becomes this thing. Like science fiction — apparently black women do not like comics or sci-fi. We know that is not true. But it’s another stereotype that is placed on black women, and we can tell because we have been ignored from these spaces. It’s as if there can’t be any black elves in a story or something that is reflective of our existence.

I’m really proud that we have authors that push against these stereotypes, and can really show what it means to be a black woman in these spaces. I read an incredible science fiction book by Rivers Solomon called An Unkindness of Ghosts. Now, you would think by looking on television or reading books that black women don’t belong in [outer] space, and that’s not true. It’s just a reflection of the limited imaginations people can have, and what we see as futuristic.

All of these genres, like mystery and romance, have incredible writers like Beverly Jenkins. There are so many writers that we just don’t acknowledge in these spaces. But they exist.’ – Glory Idim being interviewed about her book Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves


“By the early 70s, we’d moved away from the politics of black power, purely, to a more class based politics.” – Linton Kwesi Johnson


“I was inspired to write Caribbean characters into the work I was doing by the fact that I grew up in the islands, and my biological father was Grenadian. I had a wide variety of friends and family who had Caribbean roots growing up. SciFi didn’t have a lot representation of that. As someone who was light-skinned but bi-racial, I was used to being in a culture with a wide variety of skin tones, but wasn’t seeing that in my SciFi much. I didn’t, much to my shock, realize this until I was much older. I had a scales-falling-from-the-eyes moment when I read Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling. He was a white American cyberpunk (a subgenre of SF) writer who set a book in Grenada. When I encountered it, I was so stunned because it exposed a whole gap in mind’s eye: why shouldn’t there be SciFi with Caribbean settings and heroes? And I saw all the stuff that I felt Bruce should have added! After that, I started drawing pictures of starships docked in St. Thomas. I later read Octavia Butler, and that confirmed to me that SciFi could be different than a lot of what I was reading.” – Tobias Buckell


“I write for an ideal reader — an actual person who is now dead, but who still sits on my shoulder asking certain questions about authenticity and truth. This ideal reader was a renowned, respected and important author and critic, and he became my friend. I write for him because he represents for me the best in literature, in thinking, in humanity and because I always want to write something that he would like to read.” – Tessa McWatt


“How you wear the environment is the key to auditioning” – Mahershala Ali


‘Atticus is the quintessential emblem of the “good white Southerner,” of “moral white America.” What I hope that my book will do—by providing the historical context for understanding what Lee was battling with and what she was trying to do with the character of Atticus—is help us be more well-informed about the political struggles that shaped not only her, but also the South and the nation more broadly. Whatever you may think of To Kill a Mockingbird as a piece of fiction, I think that understanding Atticus and critically engaging with how we’ve long been taught certain romanticized notions of racial morality are important for all of us.’ – Joseph Crespino


Q. What if you were in a room with aspiring writers? What advice would give to them?

Francie Latour: Read read read read. The best way to become a better writer is to read, and to study the architecture of every good piece of writing you come across.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger 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.

Remember to #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda

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Welcome to 2019

We made it, y’all. We each hit different speeds and temperatures this year and because our online lives are so curated we can think it’s all smooth sailing and temperate climates with every body but us. Not so. Don’t let any of us fool you. We live, that’s all, through the Antigua-sized potholes and the rough weather, we live and though flipping the calendar from 2018 to 2019 isn’t some magic door to everything-better, it is, if nothing else, an indicator that we’re still here. Another day, another opportunity to be, to dream, to work, to hope, to laugh, to cry, to do, to journey…imperfect as this journey is. Okay? And as someone once close to me used to say often, ” be good to you”.


In spite of the challenges – and they were many – 2018 was good to me in a few ways. One of those ways was the release of the Spanish language edition of Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure. I was about to say that it’s my first foreign language translation but technically it’s not even my first Spanish language translation – my poem She Works (which won a prize and then didn’t did manage to get translated before things fizzled). Which was cool to see. But this is the first book translation…except maybe not something something a university student in Italy, The Boy from Willow Bend. But it is the first commercial book translation. And it’s Caribbean Reads, one of the newer (if not the newest), smaller independent presses I’ve had the opportunity to work with that did it.

They share that and other developments re books by all their authors in their year end round up. Two other developments specific to this #gyalfromOttosAntigua are the addition of my other Caribbean Reads book, Musical Youth, a Burt award winning title, to the secondary schools reading list in Antigua and Barbuda (it had also previously been added to a schools reading list in Trinidad); also my participation in the Miami Book Fair.

Real talk while these developments were developing, other parts of my life weren’t going so well (so even as a part of me was promoting these developments, the inner me was struggling to stay upbeat). But it’s nice to look back and realize yeah, I did that. The literary achievements, yes, I am beyond thankful, but also survived 2018. Here to live another day.

And guess what, you did to. Celebrate yourself.

Okay, if you want to  read the entire Caribbean Reads round up, go here.

And again Happy New Year, let’s make it great.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger 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.

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Check us Out

I spent part of Saturday 15th December 2018 at the Best of Books Bookstore as part of their in-store display of local authors. Yes, we were right there to greet and hopefully entice readers doing their Christmas shopping.December 2018 3And yeah, we did some of that but we also caught up, talked movies, talked comics, talked comic book films – so you know it got spirited #booknerds We’re our own special brand of misfit cool – so don’t come for us.December 2018 2Do come for our books though. There is still time between now and Christmas. And since books – unlike bread – don’t go stale, there’ll be there after Christmas too.December 2018 1

So, let me tell you about these books real quick. Starting with the books (the pictured books) by the authors who were present.

Like Kimolisa Mings (far left in each of the posted pictures) most recent Into the Black Widow’s Web, and earlier releases If the Shoe Fits and She wanted a Love Poem. Into the Black Widow’s Web is a Caribbean mystery beginning with the death of Audra Kellman and featuring private investigator D’Angelo Marshall walking the razor’s edge of the law and getting caught up in a web of secrets, and a case that could change his life forever. Similarly If the Shoe Fits is a mystery from the perspective of Cindy Ellington who wakes up in the middle of a gruesome crime scene with no memory of the night before, and is now on the run and uncertain if she is the killer. She wanted a Love Poem is a poetry collection. You can read my review of it here on the blog. I’ll add this. In addition to being a talented and prolific writer, Kim is savvy – she self-publishes, and has attention grabbing titles and covers, runs workshops on and assists others with self-publishing, and is quite internet savvy (building and running sites like Bus Stop Antigua and others). She did a guest post about ebook publishing which is her primary lane a while ago; you can check that out here. Kim has a few books – A Friend in Need, I do…NOT, If the Shoe Fits, and Into the Black Widow’s Web – in the running for the Readers Choice Book of the Year, so remember to #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda

Then there’s Brenda Lee Browne (middle in the top two pictures) with her book London Rocks (her other book Just Write, a photo/lit journal isn’t pictured but I’ll mention it because she mentioned that there’s a new smaller version of the original book now available). London Rocks though is her first book of fiction and it tells the story of Dante a young Black man of West Indian descent finding his way in London, finding his way through music. So Dante gives you a window to the dub music/sound boy scene in late 70s/early 80s England and to the realities of being a Black body in a largely white world. When Brenda, mother of one, is not writing, she’s working behind the scenes of professional cricket both in the Caribbean and across the way in India; she’s also been a journalist and a creative writing/communications instructor and text writer. Both London Rocks and Just Write are in the running for the Readers Choice Book of the Year, so remember to #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda

Michelle Toussaint (middle, bottom picture) has a book called Now Taking a Lover which is a collection of poems chronicling a woman’s journey from spurned lover, to finding love. She is a secondary school science teacher (trained in forensic science and science education), wife, and mother of three. She also maintains two blogs, Death by Expectations and What the Hell is Real.

Finally, there is me, Joanne C. Hillhouse (far right in each of the pictures). In one picture I’m holding Musical Youth and on the table you can see Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure.


In addition to being an author, I provide writing and writing related services, and I blog here (at Wadadli Pen, the online platform for the programme I started in Antigua and Barbuda to nurture and showcase the literary arts) and at jhohadli. Musical Youth was first runner-up for the Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean literature in 2014. It follows the drama – literally – of a group of teens involved in a summer production and deals with friendship, young love, family (including a bit of familial mystery), creating art, and coming to terms with colourism (in which lighter shades of blackness are given greater currency than darker). Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure is a picture book about the story of an Arctic seal stranded in the Caribbean and how he finds his way back home after making new friends. It is inspired by a true story. Lost! and its recently released Spanish edition is also in the running for the Readers Choice Book of the Year, so remember to #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda

There are some other Antiguan and Barbudan books on the table – Antigua My Antigua by Barbara Arrindell and How to Work Six Jobs on an Island by Shawn Maile (also in the running for the Readers Choice Book of the Year, so remember to #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda) – and on the shelf behind us – I can see Cooking Magic, a cook book from the country’s longest running TV show o the same name, and Explore Antigua and Barbuda by Gemma Handy (also in the running for the Readers Choice Book of the Year, so remember to #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda).

That’s it.

Check us out. Better yet, check out our books.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger 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.




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Media Matters

“Freedom of the press starts at the local level” – so says one of the journalists featured in this TIME Person of the Year video.

The Person is the journalists – some of whom have died, some of whom are incarcerated, some of whom have been threatened, all – of those who are living – doing what journalists do, tell the stories of our times, tell the stories of our lives. The lens through which they tell them varies, as does the intention, the slant, the resources, but those who honour the craft and the role of a journalist are simply trying to tell the stories as fully, as concretely, as honestly as possible. The powers that be wherever they are won’t always like this – they will make moves to discredit or stifle. Coming of age in Antigua, I remember the calypsos sang the stories the journalists couldn’t or didn’t, gave the commentary with a sharpness that the limited (largely state controlled) media of the time didn’t allow.

“now most ah dem against me
take me make big enemy
simply because I am not
what they all want me to be
and with their political views I can’t agree” – Short Shirt/written by Shelly Tobitt

“but ah go sing what ah see
ah go mirror society
culture must be free
they can’t muzzle me” – Latumba/written by Shelly Tobitt

They underscored for me (a young girl who would later become a journalist and a writer, a storyteller) the importance of truth – in fact and in fiction. What is truly at stake, what is the true emotion, what is true about this moment. I do believe that fiction helps us see into what’s really going on, what’s true, I do believe that news should try to give us what’s factual so that we can have an informed perspective about our reality. For me calling the news fake (not because of a legitimate error in reporting, which happens, but) simply because we do not agree with it is one of the most egregious developments in our public discourse in recent years. It puts us in to a space where not only do we doubt facts but we can’t trust reality, we’re all living in our individual realities, and not an objective reality – where the earth is round (there’s not even consensus on that anymore)…because, both sides.

I – having not only worked in media but conducted media training – believe that this TIME choice is important because the media is an important part of any functioning democracy and because facts matter #mediamatters It is for this reason, as well, that I’m re-sharing a post I did on the history of media in Antigua and Barbuda, credit to several sources notably Antigua’s Media: Now and Then by Milton Benjamin. You will note that since the advent of the first press, by Benjamin Franklin’s nephew Benjamin Mekom, Antigua and Barbuda’s long-ish history of activist journalism from Henry Loving advocating for the rights of enslaved people and free coloureds alike in The Weekly Register in the 1800s and losing many subscribers in the process (and being forced to give up the editorship) to Edward Mathurin’s The Progress in the 1940s advocating for “improvements in working conditions on sugar estates e.g. reduced work day and equal pay for women in the sugar estates, end to whipping on sugar estates, and end to share cropping” (yes, they were still whipping people in the 1940s, something I touched on in my novel Oh Gad!) to The Worker’s Voice, the media arm of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, getting its message re the working class out to the wider public. Also notable, if you read closely, is the use of media by various interests, especially political parties (the red’s Pointe FM and the blue’s Crusader are current examples of this, and that’s before you add the state media controlled by whichever party is in power, as is the approval of radio licenses, and the private media with party affiliations). You will note as well that the vices that trouble our media (foreign content i.e. passive consumption of culturally irrelevant media content primarily from up North, media professionalism – our emerging internet media not listing their publishers and editors on their about page is a concern, and press freedom vis-à-vis government roadblocks and intervention) are hardly new. You may note too the persistent push for independent media and investigative journalism (realities that have not abated, and of which Tim Hector’s Outlet and the Derrick brothers’ Observer are easily the most prominent examples having both fought battles with the powers that be all the way to the Privy Council).

As the TIME story broke in early December, Observer was embattled (again) – and why depended on what version of reality you subscribe to (i.e. they are being victimized by government trying to silent independent media which has been critical of them v. they are being held accountable vis-a-vis their APUA bill and their media license, an issue that has arisen as Observer having been booted from their base of operations and facing other hurdles transitioned to new staff-led ownership as they changed location). Whatever version of reality you subscribe to, there must be some acknowledgment that the cause of a free media requires consistent vigilance. The TIME video underscores how far south things can go if we slip on this point – you may argue that that’s a hell of a leap, and you’d be right …but you’d also be wrong.

I know someone who without the print media and in the days when Observer was silent (off the air as the issues sorted themselves out) was concerned – if something happened to us here on the island, who would know, they lamented. Well, there is social media but point taken. Media matters because (at their best and most responsible) they write and tell, and record in to history the issues, the concerns, the happenings, the facts, the reality, the stories of our lives. Party affiliation (no matter the Party) should not get in the way of us insisting on that.

And as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how bumpy the road, remember you can read  a summary of the history of media in Antigua and Barbuda, read our Antigua and Barbuda Media: an Abridged Record.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger 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.

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