Category Archives: Wadadli Pen News

Wadadli Pen competition, open mic, workshops (and related) notices

#TBT Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival


The date stamp on this picture is November 5th 2010. The occasion is the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival which launched in 2006 as the Caribbean International Literary Festival before re-branding the following year. It was a post-Independence annual event, one of the first of its kind in the region; since eclipsed. The ABILF puttered to a quiet end – the last installment that I’m aware of was 2013 after a big start and uneven run (and while there were subsequent whispers of its return, they seem to have been just that, whispers).

Not the first (or last) time our little island has executed ambitious ideas (speaking specifically of arts initiatives) only to then run behind. Should we count it as a miracle then that Antigua’s Carnival is this year celebrating its 60th anniversary? Or maybe a template given the clear commitment across all sectors?

From the beginning, the ABILF attracted marquee Caribbean and international writers, so the line-up wasn’t the issue. In 2010, I remember Eric Jerome Dickey was there, Althea Prince, Lorna Goodison, Anthony Winkler, Elizabeth Nunez, Zee Edgell (I may be mixing up years but these are some of the names that come immediately to mind from that year). Pictured are renowned Guyanese poet and children’s author John Agard (at the mic), and seated at the head table (right to left) one of my favourites Guyanese poet Grace Nichols, and Barbadian poet Esther Phillips – who went on to launch the BIM Literary Festival and Book Fair in 2014. The location is the grounds of the Anchorage Inn, one of three locations the festival had during its run – beginning at Jolly Beach and ending at Jolly Harbour, with some events also taking place, I believe, at Halcyon Resort.

I don’t know the ins and outs of why this didn’t last, but from what I do know I’m going to say – money (with a side of lack of vision to see the potential). As with many things art in Antigua and Barbuda, private citizens led the way on this – specifically travel and media entrepreneurs, sisters Pamela Arthurton (a Wadadli Pen patron) and Joy Bramble. I can’t speak to what level of state support they received; I just wish someone with access to state resources had had the vision to keep this going before we got left behind.

It’s something that a group of private citizens launched a new literary national event, the Wadadli Stories Book Fair this year (2017). But this throwback photo reminds me of what once was and, if we hadn’t lost momentum, when you consider the spread of literary festivals as not only arts but tourism events across the Caribbean region (something I wrote about in Writer’s Digest), what could have been all now.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, 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, Fish Outta Water, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. Also find me at:


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Wadadli Pen 2017 Intern Michaela Harris Shares her Experience

(Images: left, Michaela as a 2013 Wadadli Pen Challenge finalist; right, Michaela as 2017 intern co-emceeing the Challenge awards ceremony)

To truly give an accurate account of my experience as a volunteer intern of the Wadadli Pen Challenge 2017, I must first state that I have participated twice in the past. I always thought that it was so difficult to get the right story, express one’s self in the right way, and paint the picture of your story so vividly that the readers experience it as if they were sitting with you, in your thoughts, as you wrote.  This year allowed me to understand that the people who “just had to read my story” also faced difficulties and in most cases, difficulties that were more than my own as a participant. For that I am deeply thankful.

intern orientation 2

(Image: Internship orientation – Michaela, right, with Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator, author Joanne C. Hillhouse)

My internship began in December 2016 and came to an end in May of this year. My tasks were, but not limited to, administrative and promotional work. I became a youth media ambassador, making media appearances promoting the programme on youth friendly traditional media platforms & recommending and targeting youth social media platforms. I also assisted with flyer distribution.  Additionally, I checked the group’s email, responding to requests or concerns, and relaying  urgent information to my boss, Ms. (Joanne) Hillhouse.

Initially, I thought that the tasks listed were going to be a walk in the park but I soon learned otherwise. For the duration of this internship, I was also attending the Antigua State College as well as managing the youth arm of a community service organization, Junior Chamber Youth under JCI Antigua. I quickly developed a rhythm of doing things; check the Wadadli Pen inbox every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, do college assignments on a Saturday, and plan the meetings for the Youth organization on Sundays. At first it worked, but the unpredictable nature of life soon took things for a spin. Assignments that were due in the same week could not be done on a Saturday. Time also had to be allotted to studying for upcoming tests. Making time for activities with family and friends was also a factor I hadn’t considered initially because I never thought it would be too difficult. I am proud to say that I never gave up even on the days when it all became quite frustrating, and I owe that to not only the support of loved ones around me but to the facilitators of this challenge. Ms. Hillhouse would always encourage me, in a short but effective email, to keep pushing and allow myself to develop from this learning experience. However, as this was not a suicide mission, I was always encouraged to express when it was too much for me to handle. Short visits to see Wadadli Pen volunteer and partner Barbara Arrindell at the Best of Books were also very motivating. She would always share kind words with me and smile that could brighten anyone’s day.

Michaela and GlennP_20170519_151707_vHDR_Auto

(Images: post-awards, Michaela stopped in at the Best of Books again to collect her certificate for successful completion of her internship and to assist with the prize giving to one of the winners, Ava Ralph, who did not make the awards ceremony)

The ways in which I developed from this internship are numerous. I first and most importantly was challenged to learn better time management skills as a young adult. My writing, whether in emails or for my previously submitted blog post was soundly critiqued by Ms. Hillhouse to encourage better writing each time. An immense level of professionalism was cultivated as I was entrusted with access to the email account which held confidential information. I also gained experience with both the prep and appearance for a radio interview at Observer Radio Station.  My final task was to co-host the Wadadli Pen awards at the first Best of Books book fair this year alongside Ms. Hillhouse and Ms. Arrindell. It was truly a pleasure.

At the end of my time with the Wadadli Pen team, I realized the great deal of work put in by all members of the team to make this initiative a success. The judges who had to read 93 [Blogger’s note: actually 96 eligible submissions at final count] pieces this year and be able to select the top three in each category, those who were responsible for soliciting and accumulating prizes for the worthy young writers, the set-up of the event itself, and the task Ms. Hillhouse held of overseeing all of these activities and more were mind blowing. As a participant in the past I only knew of attending the well put together ceremony not knowing the effort and dedication necessary to allow that seemingly small event. I therefore take this opportunity to express a heartfelt thank you to all who assisted me along this journey. A special and certainly deserving thank you to Ms. Joanne Hillhouse for the opportunity she gave to me. I hope to continue to learn from her and that many others will grasp the opportunity to do so in the future.  Wadadli Pen is only getting bigger and better each year, let us continue to encourage our young people to do positive things with their lives.

at Art Culture Antigua

My name is Michaela Harris, and I encourage you to start writing!

Blogger’s Note: Michaela’s internship completion letter from me as Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator read, in part, “(Michaela’s) experiences would have helped build her communication skills, her appreciation for the administrative tasks behind the scenes of any major project, her time management skills (as she had to manage the time on the project with her responsibilities as a student at ASC), and her sense of responsibility to the tasks she takes on (it’s worth noting that when the internship ended officially she offered to stay on to complete one of her major assignments). I found her to be enthusiastic and responsible, executing most of her tasks and taking direction and feedback well. It was our pleasure to have her on and are delighted to have served as a stepping stone toward her future goals.” This was our first time taking on an intern, my first time taking on an intern, so it was a learning experience for me as well, and we were fortunate that it was Michaela. We will do this again, I hope. Hopefully, an intern for each person on the team so that they can have more support while sharing their skillset and assisting with the development of a young person – Michaela’s critiques of her experience in the internship programme will assist with the shaping of these future relationships. Hopefully, we will be as fortunate in terms of the young people we attract as the programme moves forward.


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Art supporting Art

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Jane Seagull has gifted a custom made journal to our winning writer for the past several years, since her time as artist in residence at Art at the Ridge, which was also a Wadadli Pen patron at the time. We’re grateful that she’s still with us even though Art at the Ridge has closed its doors. Jane actually had a show on around the same time as the Wadadli Pen awards. The show is no more but she shared some of the pieces with me and (with her permission) I’m sharing them with you. Find her on facebook if you’re interested in purchasing her art or commissioning a piece.

And remember to support all our patrons – because arts patronage is rare and cherished especially here (not branding, not sponsorship, but just giving in the interest of boosting the arts because you realize that though not seen as an economic driver, art and creativity are essential…rare). The patrons for the 2017 season of Wadadli Pen (and really all information related to said season) can be found behind the Wadadli Pen 2017 tab above, see also About Wadadli Pen.


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Mailbox – Ujima

Claytine Nisbett is a former Wadadli Pen volunteer – she was with us for the 2012 season 

powder necklace

Claytine, right, making a book presentation to one of our 2012 winners.

– shout out to her on her new-ish business venture Finders Keepers in Montserrat and on the recent publication of her first book, Life as Josephine .Life as Josephine


This post concerns the revival of another of her projects, Ujima, and her call for voluntary guest bloggers.

Per her email, the Caribbean-based, youth-focused, solution-oriented blog plans to expand when it begins posting on July 1st 2017, focusing not just on youth but on gender – an area of activism for Nisbett. Contributors do not have to live in the Caribbean but they should have Caribbean roots. And they should be between the ages of 16-39. Is that you?

Here are the details.JCH, Wadadli Pen founder/coordinator & blogger

Ujima Solutions Magazine is the Caribbean youth and Caribbean gender-focused blog whose mission is to not only discuss the problems but to present viable solutions to those problems so we can work on them collectively, leading to necessary change.

What sets us apart? The fact that we are not only talking about the problems but we are suggesting possible solutions to the socio-economic ills that are being faced by Caribbean youth, in addition to resolutions to gender-related matters such as domestic violence, limited access to jobs and job mobilization, human trafficking, improper healthcare systems, etc. Though we understand the fact that both men and women are affected by gender-related issues we cannot ignore the fact that women are disproportionately affected. However, we will not shy away from articles that discusses and presents solutions to the disadvantages that men face.

We also do not limit our articles to Caribbean persons only living in the Caribbean. We at Ujima Solutions do realize that we have Caribbean persons all around the globe who may live in an ethnic enclave of other Caribbean people or may be in constant interaction with other Caribbean persons. Those individuals may realize that there are disadvantages that are affecting Caribbean persons within that country and/or community. We welcome your input too! You are free to submit articles to Ujima Solutions Magazine.

Ujima (Swahili) –  To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.

We are always looking for guest bloggers so if you are interested please contact us at with your idea and/or article. Blogs must be Caribbean youth or Caribbean gender-focused and solution oriented. Subjects include but are not limited to:

Gender Equality

Youth Development




Youth Violence





Violence Against Women

Domestic Violence

Human Trafficking

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Wadadli Pen Challenge 2017 – The Picture Post

Yep, it’s that time again; time for our epic picture post – a time when I actually get to see what happened; because as anyone organizing anything knows, it’s actually kind of a blur (understatement).  The Wadadli Pen 2017 Challenge awards were held on May 13th at the tail end of the Wadadli Stories Book Fair (kudos to the organizer of that, btw). This year, we have pictures by Linisa George of Art. Culture. Antigua – which is already one of Wadadli Pen’s patrons so she’s already been more than generous with us; and Jon Whyte, who was there to support his wife, Floree, chief judge of the Wadadli Pen 2017 Challenge. Some pictures have also been taken from either the Best of Books Bookstore or the Wadadli Stories page on facebook and from a posting by Marissa Walters of the St. Andrews students. Here they are, in no particular order.

12 and Younger
Images of winners in the 12 and Younger age category – who were, in descending order, Zion Ebony Williams, Emma Belizaire, Shadiael Simmons, Ashley Francis.

13 to 17
Images of winners in the 13 to 17 age category – who were, in descending order, Devon Wuilliez, Ava Ralph (not pictured), Francis Yankey, and Andrecia Lewis.

18 to 35
Images of winners in the 18 to 35 age category – who were, in descending order, Kaeiron Saunders, Lucia Murray, and Fayola Jardine.

School with the Most Submissions
That’s Island Academy with 22 of 90+ submissions.

Tout Monde Sam and Bagai

Some highlights from Wadadli StoriesAt Wadadli Stories 6

Observer (front page standalone) + Caribbean Times (centre spread)

Some post awards pics
Things that happened after the awards for reasons beyond our control included the presentation of prizes to 13 to 17 2nd place Ava Ralph and to our intern Michaela Harris. Thanks to the staff of the Best of Books for these ones.

Ava and MichaelaMichaela and Glenn

Wadadli Pen 2017 Links

Wadadli Pen 2017 Patrons
A Teacher Claims the 2017 Wadadli Pen Prize
Wadadli Pen – Who won what in 2017?
Wadadli Pen Winners Through the Years – Story Links
About Wadadli Pen



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WADADLI PEN Challenge – Who won what in 2017?

As always, we couldn’t do this without support. In 2017, this has meant partners Barbara Arrindell, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Margaret Irish, Devra Thomas, Floree Whyte – along with intern Michaela Harris and judges Glen Toussaint and Sharifa George – volunteering, working together, and playing our roles. We, especially, couldn’t do it without our patrons; without them, we would have no rewards to offer our deserving writers. So, we pause to say thank you. Thank you for coming through (mostly). Thank you for making it possible for us to encourage and reward the cream of Wadadli Pen Challenge’s 2017 crop as decided by our judging team. Thank you for your tangible contribution to the arts and youth development in our twin island state, Antigua and Barbuda. To anyone reading this, we encourage you to support the businesses (also the individuals and organizations) that support the arts.

Here’s how the prizes break down – in addition to certificates for each winner from Wadadli Pen, sponsored by the Best of Books:

School with the Most Submissions Island Academy International School (22 out of 93 eligible submissions)

  • Writing workshop with facilitator fee and miscellaneous expenses to be covered by a patron who wishes to remain anonymous
  • EC$500 gift certificate toward the purchase of books, sponsored by the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank
  • CAPE and CSEC books across several subject areas, contributed by Harper Collins logo
12 and younger

12 and Younger category winners (from left Ashley, Zion, Shadiael, and Emma) at the May 13th award ceremony. Photo by Linisa George/Art. Culture. Antigua

12 and Younger

Finalists in the 12 and Younger category receive gifts sponsored by US-based Antiguan and Barbudan Juneth Webson and books contributed by Harper Collins logoplus:

Honourable MentionAshley Francis (11, student at St. Andrew’s School; author of ‘Our Caribbean’)

3rdShadiael Simmons (11, student at Baptist Academy; author of ‘Brave Eleven-year-old saved Two Months Baby’)

  • EC$75 contributed byArt_Culture_Antigua-logo
  • With Grace, a book by Joanne C. Hillhouse, contributed by publisher Little Bell Caribbean

2ndEmma Belizaire (11, student at St. Andrew’s school; author of ‘Cricket is My Life’)

1stZion Ebony Williams (11, student at Baptist Academy; author of ‘Those who don’t hear, will feel’)

  • EC$125 contributed byArt_Culture_Antigua-logo
  • With Grace, a book by Joanne C. Hillhouse, contributed by publisher Little Bell Caribbean
  • EC$50 gift certificate for books, contributed by the Cushion Club
13 to 17

13 to 17 category winners (from left Francis, Devon, and Andrecia) at the May 13th award ceremony. Photo by Linisa George/Art. Culture. Antigua

13 to 17

3rd (tie) – Andrecia Lewis (17, student at Antigua State College; author of ‘Strange’)

3rd (tie) – Francis Yankey (16, student at Antigua Grammar School; author of ‘And She sang Fire’)

2ndAva C. Ralph (16, student at Antigua Girls’ High School; author of ‘Non Fiction?’)

1stDevon Wuilliez (16, student at Island Academy International School; author of ‘The Great Big Dumz’)

18 to 35

18 to 35 winners (from left Lucia, Kaeiron, and Fayola) with the Best of Books sponsored Alstyne Allen Memorial Plaque at the May 13th awards ceremony. Photo by Linisa George/Art. Culture. Antigua

18 to 35

3rdFayola Jardine (author of ‘Shakiyah and the Mango Hater’)

  • EC$100 contributed by Caribbean Reads Publishing
  • Books on writing – 3 A M Epiphany by Brian Kitely and This Year You write Your Novel by Walter Mosely, and Just Write Writers’ retreat scholarship, contributed by Brenda Lee Browne
  • Books contributed by Harper Collins logo

2ndLucia Murray (student, St. Anthony’s Secondary School; author of ‘Mr. Duppy’)

1stKaeiron Saunders (teacher, St. Anthony’s Secondary School; author of ‘Not Another Island Story; as told by Auntie Gah’)

  • EC$300 contributed by Juneth Webson
  • Gift basket/bag of products contributed by Raw Island
  • Book on writing – Unleash the Poem by Wendy Nyemaster, contributed by Brenda Lee Browne
  • Books contributed by Harper Collins logo
Winner K S

At the awards: Kaeiron Saunders, overall winner, with the Best of Books sponsored Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque which bears the names of all the winners since Wadadli Pen started in 2004. Photo by Linisa George/Art. Culture. Antigua

Top Three Overall

3rd – Zion Ebony Williams Zion

2nd – Devon Wuilliez Devon W for posting

Winner! Winner! Winner! – Kaeiron Saunders Saunders cropped

Featured image and some of the included images by Linisa George/Art_Culture_Antigua-logo Thanks to them. Thanks as well to the media who helped us get the word out including Antigua Nice, where Wadadli Pen has a year-round presence as their contribution to our project; and media who shared our notices and releases, or who hosted us for interviews (primarily ABS and Observer media). Thanks all; any oversights are not intentional.

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Saunders cropped

Saunders, a 23-year-old Biology teacher and lab technician in the Advanced Level Department of St. Anthony’s Secondary School, says, “(I’m) fascinated by interesting people, new places and written things. Creative at heart, student of science in mind.”

Judges’ Verdict: “Great piece!”

They adjudged it 1st in the 18 to 35 age category, and 1st overall in the 2017 Wadadli Pen Annual Writing Challenge.


“Not another island story, Auntie
I’ve heard it all before”
But every year, around this time
Auntie Gah would add more.

Gabriella was her Christian name
Affectionately called “Gah-Gah” for short
Telling stories, her favourite pastime
Making me listen, her sport

I suspected she was really my mother
She must have witnessed my birth
The details she knew about me
Were things that could not be learnt

Every story began the same way
With a throwback to the past
A tale about the good ole days
And how it saddened her that they didn’t last

We used to sleep with our doors open
And the village raised the child
Boys were taught to be chivalrous
Girls were taught to be mild

Now everyone does their own thing
Selfish as can be
Parents have kids without a ring
The teenage world revolves around “me”.

You don’t know who’s the teacher
And it’s not their age that’s the uncertain thing
You don’t know who’s the preacher
And it’s not just the congregation who sins

Now this part of the story
Was the part I hated most
Where everything turned ugly
Metaphorical gargoyles, goblins, ghosts

I wanted to interrupt her
Ask if this time we could change
Give the story a happy ending
Throw a hero into the game

So what’s the moral Auntie?
Don’t all stories have a good end?
A happily ever after?
An enemy who becomes a friend?

Hush and listen to my story
The point is not to criticize
But to show that the good within a society
Is relative to each new generation’s eyes

For a time will come, my little prodigy
When this story will be yours
You’ll look back in time happily
And face the future with remorse

You cannot see it now
Cause to the young, the present is bliss
But change is always hard to accept
So in a few years, you too will reminisce

The comforts you see as normal now
Will one day exist no more
And the comfort of your children
Their appeal to you will be a quart short of poor

The point, my dear child,
That I am trying to make
Is that this island’s story
Depends on the choices you make

Through its dreams a generation comes true
So while God holds the future
the future holds you
Responsible; be careful what you do

Don’t take it lightly
For when I glance into the past
I do it to remind you
That the present too shall pass

We’re busy making money
As though money maketh man
But our island dies slowly
Cause of death? Failure to plan

To plan a proper course of action
A map of the old which charts the new
Instead of building on the old foundation
We try to lay one anew

Listen to Auntie Gah’s story
My child, we must all receive
This island’s past lessons of wisdom
If we endeavour to all achieve


Please respect the writer’s copyright. And while we welcome feedback, please be constructive.

With thanks to our patrons, see this writer’s total prize haul below (and remember, support the businesses/individuals who support the arts):

EC$300 (contributed by Juneth Webson)
Pen (contributed by Paperclips) + Personalized journal (Jane Seagull)
External hard drive (Cushion Club)
Painting (contributed by the artist Jennifer Meranto)
Books – Perfect Life by Eileen Pollack, New York Actually by Sarah Morgan, The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington, Ex Factor, Summertime Dreams, The Woman Who Upped and Left by Fiona Gibson (contributed by Harper Collins)
Gifts (courtesy Raw Island Products)
Book – Unleash the Poem by Wendy Nyemaster (contributed by Brenda Lee Browne)
Two novels (contributed by the author Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis)
Inspirational card (from a line created and contributed by Monique S. Simon’s Caribbean Folklore Project)
Certificate x2 + Winner’s Name on the Challenge plaque (sponsored by the Best of Books)


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