Category Archives: Wadadli Pen Open Mic

In 2010, Best of Books requested permission to run an open mic under the Wadadli Pen name. I thought it was a great idea and, as I didn’t have the time and resources to pursue it myself was happy to see them take it on. I would like to see more interaction between the original Wadadli Pen and the Open Mic…hopefully publishing some of the Open Mic pieces here will deepen that interaction.

Wadadli Pen 2020 – What Popped, What Flopped

Season’s Greetings.

Just doing my annual check-in to see what people responded (and didn’t respond) to on the blog this year. It’s an important part of building engagement and community – or so the experts say. Let’s dive in.

The Most Popular Post or Page apart from the Home Page (obvs) was the post on Most Influential Antiguans and Barbudans. This started out as an ask on a friend’s facebook page that I decided to archive here on the site. Listed are some of the people we lost in 2020 like Edris Bird, Swallow, Joseph ‘Calypso Joe’ Hunte If 2020 has taught us anything this year it’s how fragile everything is, life, reality, our sense of what tomorrow will bring. I always believe it’s important to recognize the people who put in the work and helped shape and define our culture; this year just underscored and put that in bold.

Andre Warner, pictured with the Alstyne Allen Memorial Challenge Plaque, sponsored by the Best of Books, was co-winner of the Wadadli Pen challenge 2020 with youngest winner to date 11-year-old Cheyanne Darroux.

The Second Most Popular Post or Page was Wadadli Pen 2020 (which, God willing, will be flipping to Wadadli Pen 2021 soon) and the Fourth Most Popular was Who Won What in 2020? (referring to our annual writing challenge), while About Wadadli Pen (summarizing our work 2004 to date) was our Fifth Most Popular. The work we do at Wadadli Pen being this blog’s reason for being, I”d, of course, be happier if either of these was number one but I get it. Every year we’re able to keep this thing going even as our lives get more stretched is a miracle, but our passion endures. We had several people asking about the Challenge after it wrapped this year, by the way. So we invite you, while you’re, here give the blog a follow to give us a boost and ensure that you never miss any of our content again.

The Third Most Popular Post or Page was Antiguan and Barbudan Writings which I am personally happy to see because we work hard on keeping the records updated and, frankly, the new publications are coming so fast and furious these days, it isn’t easy. That said, if you are releasing new books, email us ( the details per the page’s format, so that we can keep the reading public informed and enter you in to the ‘official’ Antiguan and Barbudan canon. #fortherecord Oh and look up, I rotate covers randomly in the site banner at least quarterly as an extra way of giving our authors a boost.

Our calypso/music posts were also popular this year (likely for research purposes) and so our Sixth (Short Shirt’s Top 100), Seventh (Antiguan and Barbudan song writers), Eighth (Nobody Go Run Me (lyrics)), and Ninth (Antiguan and Barbudan Cultural Icon – Paul King Obstinate Richards) Most Popular posts were all about the calypso music.

From the Harper Collins catalogue images of Big Cat books including Turtle Beach by Antiguan and Barbudan author and Wadadli Pen team member Barbara Arrindell.

And I’m glad to see that something new (and publishing related) made the top Ten as the Tenth Most Popular post is Collins Readies Rollout of #OwnVoices Caribbean Children’s Books. Hopefully that means lots of sales. You can pre-order now.

As usual, we give a boost to the least viewed/least popular posts of the year as well. There are a bunch of them at basically the same level, so I’ll just put 10 I like at random (blogger’s privilege). Meeting Ashley Bryan – about my introduction to the famed award winning children’s writer who happens to have Antiguan and Barbudan roots, You and Your Wiki Caribbean Writers edition – in which I spoke about the need for us to create wikis for our Caribbean talent (not a cause=effect but I subsequently got, through no involvement of my own, my own wiki), Culture must be Free – Latumba (one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite calypsonians and the project to transcribe as many of our lyrics as we can continues), After Reading In the Black this is a book edited by Althea Prince and for those looking to read the Black experience in this year of Black Lives Matter worth revisiting right now, A Barbuda Adventure – the sister island’s been on my mind a lot lately and in this piece a prize recipient (actually someone who accompanied one of our recipients of a prize from Barbuda Express) reminds us of what’s so beautiful and precious about it (what should be preserved not crushed and run over by capitalist blindness), Wadadli Stories Q & A – this is 2017 event is last of our community literary festivals and that’s kind of a shame,
(image of Wadadli Pen prize recipients at the 2017 book fair – photo by Linisa George of Art. Culture. Antigua.)

Tell the People the Truth (lyrics) – another addition to our lyrics project and a reminder that you can help by submitting lyrics and credits, verified, for our data bases, You Feel Dat – from the Wadadli Pen open mic series, Re Resources, Opportunities, and More – telling you about some of the other work of the blog, and Read Beyond – because we all should be reading beyond our comfort zone.

Jamaican author Diana McCaulay is one of the Caribban authors interviewed in one of the blog’s most popular new postings of the year.

ETA: I should probably clarify that, unlike previous best ofs, this post wasn’t specific to posts or pages made in the year of popularity. That list takes considerably more time, usually, to pull together; so some of these posts and pages are years old. But I decided to do a quick scan of the insights to see if I could at least pull out which 2020 posts landed well. The who won what in 2020 and Collins posts already listed above are the top ones, followed by the 2020 Wadadli Pen short list announcement, and winning 2020 Challenge entries Two Worlds Collide, A New World, The Fabled Truth, Tom, the Ninja Crab, and The Beast of Barbados. At about number 5 most popular was the first post in the series of exclusive interviews with Caribbean writers on publishing – lessons, breakthroughs, and rights. Also making the top 10 of popular posts posted this year is the 2020 challenge patrons post (which is important in attracting future patronage, so thanks).

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or credit. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Literary Arts in Antigua and Barbuda – a Reflection

This past weekend left me in a bit of a reflective mood. I attended a literary event organized for Black History Month by our Culture Department and a women’s empowerment event and Cottage of Hope fundraiser organized by The District (a clothing boutique) on Sunday, and felt much more inspired (in a positive way) by the latter. Enter side note –>Here’s where I should insert a picture of me contributing copies of my children’s books Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and With Grace to the Cottage c/o The District, but I only remember to take pictures 50% of the time. I do hope that the young people who get to read the books enjoy them. Exit side note–>The Sunday event (which included testimonials from the likes of TnTs soca diva Destra and AnB’s soca diva CP) emphasized finding your passion and doing that, and in the doing, sharing.

So, as I reflect on my journey in literary arts, an improbable journey that I ventured out on and continue to venture out on despite the obstacles and setbacks, I can feel confident that it has been driven by my passion for writing, and that through Wadadli Pen and other projects, not just my books, I’ve been finding ways to share that passion. I mean, so much else is uncertain, and increasingly I question whether Antigua and Barbuda wants me at all, and it’s always a financial high wire act but I am happy that I haven’t let fear and disappointment  stop me from doing the thing I was put here to do.

Art Culture Antigua

This is from the IG of Art. Culture. Antigua – an online platform by Linisa George, promoting the arts. The announcement concerns the current Wadadli Pen Challenge season and features an image from the 2017 season awards ceremony held during the Wadadli Stories Book Fair – a community led lit arts showcase. Art. Culture. Antigua is back as a 2018 patron and the Best of Books continues to sponsor the Challenge plaque, pictured. Wadadli Pen was first launched by me in 2004 – writers who have partnered with me on the project over the years include D. Gisele Isaac (a founding partner), Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau, Brenda Lee Browne, Linisa George, Monica Matthew, Barbara Arrindell, Joy Lawrence, Floree Whyte, Glen Toussaint, Claytine Nisbett, and others, with contributions by several regional and international writers as well.

It is in this frame of mind that I think, too, about the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda and how its strivings and whatever hurdles have been cleared are largely a reflection of the talent, passion, hard work, and will of the literary arts practitioners. We have had to cut and contrive a path of our own making – and, true, this may be true of artistes every where but especially so where there is no real infrastructure, nor resources, to support the artiste’s journey. We hustle and hustle hard, and still are asked to give even when our cups are empty (often without the asker considering what is the cost of this to the artist and what is the value of this to our community).


Presenting to the 12 and younger winner Verdanci Benta at the first Wadadli Pen awards ceremony in 2004.

When I started the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize in 2004, it wasn’t because I had an abundance of time and resources; it was because I saw a need and had/have still a passion for the literary arts. It has been my pleasure in the years of maintaining this blog – which launched in 2010 to encourage, report on, celebrate the continued journeying of the community of literary artists in Antigua and Barbuda of which I am a part, among other things.


A&B writers who got together to apply for Commonwealth funding to attend the Calabash literary festival in Jamaica in 2007.

From this reflective space, I thought I’d share some of our journey as writers in this Antigua-Barbuda land. There is no way in this reflecting to hit everything everyone did to create and sustain vibrancy in the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda over the past 7+ years since I’ve been documenting it in this online space, but I can share some highlights N.B. where programmes have floundered often its due to lack of financial support and other resources to keep it going; the energy runs out when you’re burning it at both ends and still trying to make your bills. Wadadli Pen has been on the brink a number of times when I just didn’t feel like I had any MORE in me, and, honestly, it’s often someone from the community of writers who (along with the interest and expectation of the participants) pushes me to keep going and whose volunteer efforts help make it possible for me to do so.

2010 –

ABILF 2010

Here I am reading from Antigua-descended writer Ashley Bryan’s Anansi-themed Dancing Granny under the children’s tent at the ABILF. Before writing my own children’s books, Anansi was my go to when asked to read to children.

This blog launched in April 2010 and committed to spotlighting not only the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (a project committed to nurturing and showcasing the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda since 2004) but the literary arts (and then some) in Antigua and Barbuda (and beyond) – one example of the type of coverage I did as site blogger from that first year was ‘Lit Happenings Antigua-Barbuda Nov 1-8 2010′.

Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival launched in 2006 by two entrepreneurial (Montserratian!) sisters with strong author support and so much potential but, notwithstanding a revival in 2010, unfortunately has not survived.

Wadadli Pen Open Mic launched in 2010 using the Wadadli Pen name but run by the Best of Books and acting as a development platform for young/budding writers.

The Cushion Club – a reading club for children in Antigua and Barbuda – continued its relationship with Buckley’s Primary; this project began with school visits by me and CC leader Cedric Holder to the school, one of several schools we’ve both visited over the years, to read and run story workshops. The prize was sponsored by Cedric on behalf of the Cushion Club because of his desire to encourage greater interest and aptitude in the humanities. Cedric has also consistently contributed a prize to the Wadadli Pen Challenge on behalf of the Cushion Club.

Wadadli Pen returned after a 3 year hiatus – its life 2004-2010 to that time chronicled in this post.

Voices from the Lagoon, a collection of student writings shepherded by scribe and teacher Fransene Massiah-Headley released.

Number of publications in 2010 (not including the student publication which isn’t listed in the data base of Antiguan and Barbudan Writings, and specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda):  7


2011 winner Devra Thomas with Best of Books owner E. M. Grimes-Graeme.

Wadadli Pen 2011 winner, seen here receiving the Challenge plaque sponsored by the Best of Books, is now part of the Wadadli Pen team.

When a Woman Moans – after bringing Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues to Antigua beginning in 2008, the Women of Antigua reached out to local writers to contribute pieces to this homegrown theatrical production and we (specifically Melissa Elliot, Elaine Spires, Brenda Lee Browne, Floree Williams-now-Whyte, Tameka Jarvis-George, Marcella Andre, Joanne C. Hillhouse and Salma Crump, with WOA co-founders Linisa George and Zahra Airall) did.

Antigua-penned and independently produced films The Skin (written by Howard Allen/produced by HAMA) and Dinner (written by Tameka Jarvis-George/produced by Cinque) earned slots at the Jamaica Reggae Film Festival.

D. Gisele Isaac and I were invited by the A & B Consulate in Canada to participate in Independence activities there, participating in panels and sharing our work alongside writers based in Toronto.

The Best of Books Book Fair (and Wadadli Pen Awards) – this was the 10 year anniversary of the book store and the return to full strength of Wadadli Pen which was on hiatus in 2007, 2008, and 2009 (simply because I couldn’t see a way to carry it anymore), and had an abridged programme in 2010 (returning because it is a programme I care passionately about). The partnership has endured.

A word on school visits – many of us as writers in Antigua have done them – teachers call us sometimes as with the St. Mary’s Centre for Excellence; other times as with Joy Lawrence’s school tour promoting Wadadli Pen, we volunteer – the schools need a consistent programme but it cannot be on a voluntary basis given the time commitment for prep and actual presentation and because school presentations is something for which writers should actually be compensated (<–offsite link).

The Independence Literary Awards – this version** of it actually dates back to 2005 with first Brenda Lee Browne and then Barbara Arrindell at the helm. I was among the judges in the first year, and that was also the year I started building the data base of Antiguan and Barbudan writers, for the Museum exhibition we also did that year. In 2011, Arrindell announced her retirement with an open letter in which she called for the installation of a year round literary arts point person and development programmes, a call that landed, it seemed to those of us in the literary arts community, on deaf years.

The literary arts programme in the prison, facilitated by Brenda Lee Browne on a volunteer basis published its first collection of works from inside the prison.

Number of books published in 2011(not including the prison publication which isn’t listed in the data base of Antiguan and Barbudan Writings, and specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 4


Most of the awardees of Wadalipen with Joanne Hillhouse 2012

Wadadli Pen Challenge 2012 photo call.

Antigua and Barbuda penned and independently produced documentary film Melissa Gomez’s Silent Music shows at the Toronto Film Festival.

The Friends of Antigua Public Library, based in New York, hosted the U.S. launch of my first U.S. publication Oh Gad! 

Art at the Ridge which is not around anymore had regular art shows and took over for a time the annual Christmas card competition; they also became a Wadadli Pen patron and partner in these years.

Just Write Writers’ Retreat launched at Mount Tabor by Brenda Lee Browne.

Linisa George is spotlighted at the Poetry Parnassus during the Olympics and published in the companion collection The World Record – this collection includes works by writers from every Olympic country; through her own efforts Linisa became Antigua-Barbuda’s selection.

I had works included in Womenspeak Caribbean Arts and Letters out of the Bahamas – other Antiguan and Barbudan writers like Brenda Lee Browne and Barbara Arrindell would publish with them in subsequent years. That year, my story Genevieve, later published in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings (2014), was short listed for the Small Axe Fiction Prize. I was also published that year in the University of the Virgin Islands’ Caribbean Writer, from which I’ve also received two literary prizes over the years; not my first or last time publishing with them but they have quite high literary standards and reputation, and it’s always nice to make the cut.

Number of books published (not including  works in anthologies, and specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 7


Caribbean Writers Congress with Marin Bethel and Leone Ross 2013

At the Caribbean Congress of Writers in Guadeloupe with Bahamian writer Marion Bethel and UK based Jamaican writer Leone Ross.

Antiguan Authors Day – a promotion at the Best of Books.

On the heels of the publication of my novel Oh Gad!, I had the opportunity to participate in a number of off island literary showcases such as the Caribbean Congress of Writers in Guadeloupe.

The Public Library holds an annual Summer Read programme; writers – myself and others – have been asked to volunteer to do presentations and we have.

Dr. James Knight wrote and independently produced a documentary on the life and music of King Short Shirt. It premiered at Deluxe Cinema and was also subsequently screened in Jamaica.

An open letter from me re Wadadli Pen.

My first Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project launched – as it prepared to launch I contemplated ways to make it interesting. After our week of workshop activity, I was happy to receive this positive review from a parent.

Antigua-Barbuda collection edited by Althea Prince launched in Canada.

Joy Lawrence Explored the History of Parham in the second book in her village folk history series.

An online magazine inspired by the poem Black Girl in the Ring was launched by the poem’s writer and the site’s publisher Linisa George.

Number of books published (not including journals, online or otherwise, and specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 6



Collecting my Burt Award prize at the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad.

The launch of my book Musical Youth included readings by other writers – specifically past Wadadli Pen finalists and was followed by a workshop organized and facilitated by me and sponsored by the same organization, CODE, that sponsored the Burt Award for which Musical Youth placed second overall, earning itself a publication deal. This was a busy year for me in several ways with, among other things, the release of the mass market edition of Oh Gad! and recommendation on NPR in the US; also the release of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings.

Wadadli Pen celebrated record number of entries on its 10th anniversary and more importantly the participant response was #inspired

I was asked to volunteer as guest editor of regional online publication Tongues of the Ocean to produce an Antigua and Barbuda issue and drew on my network of writers and artists to do just that. The final publication included works by Althea Romeo-Mark, Brenda Lee Browne, Gayle Gonsalves, Kimolisa Mings, X-Saphair King, Heather Doram, Glenroy Aaron, Barbara Arrindell, Tammi Browne-Bannister, Tameka Jarvis-George, Marcus Christopher, Dorbrene O’Marde, Hazra Medica, Linisa George, past Wadadli Pen finalists Devra Thomas, Shakeema Edwards, Emile Hill, Rosalie Richards, Vega Armstrong, Zion Ebony Williams, and others.

My short story Amelia at Devil’s Bridge included in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean which had launched in Trinidad (at Bocas), Scotland (at Aye Write!), and New York (at PEN Awards Literary Safari), each of which I had the opportunity to participate in.  This particular story was shortlisted for the Small Axe Fiction Prize and subsequently excerpted in one of Harper Collins’ CSEC revision texts.

Number of Books published (specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 25


jamaicajoanne 2015 at V I Lit Fest

(with Jamaica Kincaid at the VI Lit Fest)

Lady of Parham – a published play inspired by the story of the ghost of Parham in Antigua – was shortlisted for the Guyana literary prize.

I was invited to the Virgin Islands Literary Festival – the featured writer was another Antiguan, Jamaica Kincaid.

Stories Handed Down –  a research and writing competition started by the Friends of Antigua Public Library some years earlier was won in 2015 by a Wadadli Pen regular. The FOAPL has also provided literary showcases through its Author in Residence series and book club, cultural remembrance through its Collecting Memories online data base, and programmes like its summer read project with the Public Library over the years.

The Cushion Club and Wadadli Pen teamed up to offer a summer reading challenge.

Dorbrene O’Marde becomes the first Antiguan and Barbudan long listed for the Bocas prize.

Joy Lawrence continues researching village histories .

The Art of Mali Olatunji which I reviewed in the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books 2016 edition.

Number of Books published (specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 33


A River Of Stories Flyer 2016-1

Antiguans-Barbudans Joy Lawrence and Joanne C. Hillhouse were included in the River of Stories series with selections by writers from around the world.

Joy Lawrence received a National Award, a rare occurrence for a literary artiste and one that required celebrating on the blog.

Independence Literary Arts Forum (this was a government project).

Writing workshop during the Best of Books summer camp.

Spilling Ink – an arts collective – launched a second book.

My picture book With Grace, a Caribbean fairytale launched.

The Antigua and Barbuda Review of books – edited by Paget Henry, and funded largely by Brown University where he teaches (which begs the question what will become of this project when he is no longer able to helm it?); he also organizes the annual Antigua Conference. The Review continues annually critiquing literary works by Antiguans and Barbudans such as Dorbrene O’Marde’s Nobody Go Run Me and Short Shirt/Shelly Tobitt’s classic Ghetto Vibes album. Both projects began roughly around 2004/5 (ish).

Number of Books published (specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 16



Leaving this one large so that you can see the covers of all those Antigua-Barbuda book titles in the background; and also the bright faces of our 2017 intern, right, and a finalist, left.

They’re not so officially but I call anyone who travels to represent our country in the literary arts a literary ambassador. In 2017, that was Barbara Arrindell at the Alliouagana Festival in Montserrat, where she presented alongside the likes of Paul Keens Douglas.

In fact, as much as possible, I try to cover any cultural ambassador in the arts, including our soca artistes.

If you’re lucky, your books travel without you and I’m fortunate that my books have traveled and one of their stops (this one fairly close to home) in 2017 was the USVI where With Grace was named to the Governor’s Summer Read Challenge.

Wadadli Pen found another way to give another young person an opportunity when it took on its first intern. Here she writes about her experience;  and the project announced a permanent team to push the project forward – included on this team are two writers/literary stakeholders and two former Wadadli Pen winners.

This is really an every year thing – every year for a number of years, I submit or am asked to submit recommendations for the Department of Youth Affairs’ National Youth Awards in Literary Arts; and the prize has gone to the likes of Linisa George and Women of Antigua (2012),  Linisa George and Glen Toussaint (2013),Wadadli Pen 2013 and 2014 winner Asha Graham in 2015 with another Wadadli Pen alum Angelica O’Donoghue copping the media award , Zahra Airall (2016),   Spilling Ink, an Antiguan and Barbudan arts collective (2017) , and others.

Just Write organized a workshop focused on historical literature and collaborated with visiting poet with Antiguan and Barbudan roots Tanya Evanson to offer a master class.

August Rush (the writing and producing duo of Linisa George and Zahra Airall) has given writers a regular showcase for several years consistently through its Expressions Open Mic series but as we all do, they hit a point where self-care and other projects forced them to shelve it in 2017. Another August Rush initiative that provided what was needed for a time is the Young Poets Society of Antigua and Barbuda.

Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure launched with a chat between the US based publisher, Trinidad based writer, and Antigua based writer (me).

Floree Williams Whyte launched independent press Moondancer Books and her first book under the imprint.

Claytine Nisbett launched her first book and re-launched her online magazine.

Tammi Browne-Bannister included in international collection. Submitting
internationally is something I continually advocate on the blog, using my own experiences as example.

We even launched an online book of the year prize that admittedly was too little, too late in terms of planning and promotion and that’s never a good look.

Number of Books published (specific to publication whether independently or with a local, regional or international press, ebook or print or both, by Antiguan and Barbudan writers living in Antigua and Barbuda): 18

2018-March 2018 workshop

Antiguan and Barbudan writer included in a top ten list of Caribbean female writers you should be reading on the Literary Hub.

In the tradition of the Open Mics more than a decade ago now at Traffic Nightclubs and possibly inspired by Expressions, we’ve had, for the past few years, Soothe: soothe

This like other literary/arts activities (including an upcoming workshop on self-publishing by Kimolisa Mings) is listed in the blog’s Arts Roundup series.

It’s worth noting that this blog has not limited itself to the literary arts, nor has the Wadadli Pen Challenge which has included art challenges (illustrations, cover design) over the years. Most recently, I reported on this showing by Antiguan and Barbudan art teachers, and discussion which touched on arts issues like the lack of a national gallery
And we continue to report on film such as the ongoing success of Vanishing Sail on the film festival circuit.

Here at the blog, I also don’t limit what I share to what’s happening domestically – for example, I’m always encouraging our writers to submit to programmes like the Commonwealth Short Story competition.

I continue to offer workshops via the Jhohadli Writing Project which (as I’ve announced on my author blog) is also available to offer workshops in schools and other institutions.

Really, can there be any talk of literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda without mention of international literary citizen Jamaica Kincaid who added to her considerable accolades with receipt of the Dan David prize from Tel Aviv University – among the literary and cultural news reported on the blog in 2017.

This blog has also covered many issues in arts and culture – in fact, it is to some of these posts that I point people when they approach us – writers and artists – for conversations that rarely, it seems, yield real, juicy, tasty, tangible fruit. Among the things that I have written about in this space…?

You can see from this listing – which is only part of the story and only over the 7+ years of this blog’s existence – that the Antiguan and Barbudan literary community has been doing and doing and doing (largely) without any wall, financial or otherwise to lean on.
The blog is, of course, also the home of my baby (as much my baby as any of my books have been), the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize. So we report on each year of the prize back to the beginning (2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018). Among the services this blog continues to provide are Opportunities and Opportunities Too (the former listing projects, funding, markets etc. and the latter upcoming deadlines); writing and publishing tips (with Resources, Publishing 101 with Eugenia O’Neal, Chatting Writing and Publishing in the Caribbean with Diana McCaulay, Womanspeak: the Lynn Sweeting Interview, Kevin Jared Hosein Breaks it Down, developing your writing skills –tips from Wadadli Pen, On Intellectual Property Rights, Negotiating an ebook contract as just a sample, not to mention the blog’s reading rooms and writing spaces); the A & B Literary Archives – Songwriters, Playwrights and Screenwriters, Antigua and Barbuda Children’s Fiction, Antiguan and Barbudan Poets, Antiguan and Barbudan Writing, Antiguan and Barbudan Fiction, Antiguan and Barbudan Non-Fiction, Published plays and screenplays, A & B Writings in Journals and Contests, Antiguans and Barbudans Awarded, Antiguan and Barbudan Writers on the Web, Song Lyrics data base, Antigua and Barbuda Media: An Abridged RecordAntigua and Barbuda Media: An Abridged Record, Author spotlights-. Jamaica Kincaid, Floree Whyte, Vivian Michael, Swallow, Veronica Evanson Bernard, Kush David, Marie Elena JohnGayle Gonsalves etc., A & B Artistes Discussing Art; A & B Literary Works reviewed; and more); regional and international news (literary festivals, the passing of Derek Walcott etc.); local Arts News – e.g. A & B Arts Round up, Meeting Ashley Bryan, Veteran Calypso Writer now a Novelist; Obits (Nerissa Percival, Roland Prince, Marcus Christopher, X-Saphair King, and others). Wadadli Pen, the blog, has also afforded me the opportunity to see the progress of young people I’ve come in to contact with over the years – such as when former Cushion Club kids shine, or when Wadadli Pen alums stride (e.g. Angelica O’Donoghue, Rilys Adams, Lia Nicholson, Kemal Nicholson, etc.) and, of course, though we still dream of doing a publication, anyone can read for free the winning stories through the years, or other pieces written since by Wadadli Pen alums.
I write all of this to say that work has and is being done, that our artistes have provided something to build on. Within these touchstones are answers to one of the questions now being raised, what do artistes need/want – I think at the root of it though is a desire to be valued, to be a voice, and to be in an enabling environment (access to information, resources, funding, and more). As we stay tuned to see what will jump off in what the Minister of Culture described as a year focused on the literary arts, we will continue working and collaborating, as we have done.

**re versions – When I speak to versions of things, I do so because it’s important to note that we tend to start and start over things in Antigua and Barbuda as though starting from scratch each time. Part of the problem is there has been too little recording of what has come before and too little continuity so that you often do feel like you’re starting from scratch. I discovered a weathered contributor copy of the 168-page book Young Antiguans Write, a 1979 publication of the Ministry of Education and Culture, at my friend Gisele Isaac’s house some years ago. Young Antiguans Write is a collection of the prize winning works of participants in the school creative writing competition that ran from 1968-1978. Both the publication and the creative writing programme was, to my understanding, largely the efforts of someone (Lucilla Benjamin) who was committed to the task within the Ministry. I’m going to assume that once that person moved on for whatever reason, the baton just lay their on the track, unclaimed. Because in my coming of age, I don’t remember such a programme or any sense of a literary culture in Antigua and Barbuda; what I remember is the Independence essay competition that I won one year earning myself a trip to another Caribbean island. There were tourism industry ones that I participated in as well. That was it though, spotty competitions specifically about Independence/Tourism and that memory is in part what made me insist that Wadadli Pen be about whatever the writer wanted to write about (no limitation re theme, the focus on the art not art in service to a particular theme). But as much as I wasn’t aware of Young Antiguans Write, it played a part in Gisele becoming a writer, and Gisele being a writer, the only other Antiguan-Barbudan novelist I knew at the time and the only one that was accessible to me (Jamaica Kincaid was an inspiration yes but a distant idea), us being friends made it possible for me to say, after reflecting on the lack of nurseries for writers in the Caribbean (shout out, to Guyanese writer Ruel Johnson for bringing that bit of clarity to my own fledgling journey as a writer then), hey let’s do this thing. And between me, Gisele and Young Explorer, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize was born. Starting, but not, though I didn’t know it, starting from nothing. One of the reasons I’ve been talking and angling to find a way to set up this project more formally is because I want it to be continuous; I want the baton to be picked up, and while it’s possible that whoever picks up the baton may not have the passion for it that I did (it is my baby, after all), they should have an awareness of and foundation on which to build – an operational template, a plan, resources, funding, and support – to make its survival not just a matter of will. We’ll see. Meantime, keeping a record of what we do, not just Wadadli Pen, not just my efforts, but our arts and culture (literary arts and beyond) has been important to me so that there is continuity, so that there is an accounting of all this ‘nothing’, so that no one can plausibly question (or believably overlook) the will, passion, talent, and hard work of those of us working in the arts in Antigua and Barbuda. We’ve been here.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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A Teacher Claims the 2017 Wadadli Pen Prize


A Teacher Claims the 2017 Wadadli Pen Prize

Twenty-three year old Kaeiron Saunders Saunders croppedwas announced, at the Wadadli Stories Book Fair on May 13th, as the 2017 winner of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge. Saunders, a lecturer at St. Anthony’s Secondary School (SASS), only the second teacher to be added to the Alstyne Allen Memorial plaquechallenge plaque, won the main prize and her age category, 18 to 35, with the poem ‘Not Another Island Story; as told by Auntie Gah’.

The Wadadli Pen Challenge, an Antigua and Barbuda literary prize launched in 2004, requires that entries be Caribbean, while leaving the interpretation of that up to the writers’ imagination. For some it can be constricting, for others an opportunity to freely imagine a transforming Caribbean. This poem does both, acknowledging the confines of the same story told over and over,

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

As it presents and critiques this nostalgic approach to Caribbean storytelling, it, also, makes the point that neither the Caribbean nor our perception of it is fixed in time.

“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”

That this rhythmic poem both acknowledges and subverts the clichés, earned the judges’ approval. They dubbed it a “great piece!”

Also coming in for approval were Devon WuilliezDevon, a 16-year-old Island Academy student, for her poem, ‘The Great Big Dumz’, and 11-year old Zion Ebony WilliamsZion, of Baptist Academy, for her story ‘Those who don’t hear, will feel’. Both won their respective age categories – 13 to 17, and 12 and younger – on the way to claiming the 2nd and 3rd prize overall.

It’s worth noting that while Saunders and Wuilliez are first-timers, Williams first submitted to Wadadli Pen in 2014 and has made two previous trips to the finals of her age category before this year claiming the top spot and a spot in the overall top three. For organizers this line-up is reflective of what Wadadli Pen hopes to do: encourage new voices to come forward, challenge practicing voices to keep pushing themselves, and foster growth in terms of the craft of writing in Antigua and Barbuda.

Other long listed writers are Andrecia Lewis (author of ‘Strange’), enrolled at the Antigua State College; Ava C. Ralph (author  of ‘Non Fiction?’), of Antigua Girls High School; Francis Yankey (author of ‘And She Sang Fire’), of the Antigua Grammar School; Fayola Jardine (author of ‘Shakiyah and the Mango Hater’); Lucia Murray (author of ‘Mr. Duppy’), a student at SASS; Shadiael Simmons (author of ‘Brave 11-year-old saves Baby from Fire’), a student at Baptist Academy; St. Andrew’s students Emma Belizaire (author of ‘Cricket is My Life’) and Ashley Francis (author of ‘Our Caribbean’), plus Island Academy, the school with the most submissions. Their rewards are a mix of cash, gifts, and time. Contributing patrons are Art. Culture. Antigua, Barbuda Express, the Best of Books, Brenda Lee Browne, Caribbean Reads Publishing, Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis, the Cushion Club, Danz’s Sweet Dreams, the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank, Frank B. Armstrong, Harper Collins, the International Women’s Club of Antigua and Barbuda, Jane Seagull, Jennifer Meranto, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Juneth Webson, Little Bell Caribbean, Monique S. Simon and the Caribbean Folklore Project, Paperclips, Raw Island Products, the West Indies Cricket Board, and one other regular patron who prefers to remain anonymous.

For the full breakdown of winners and prizes, and to read the winning stories, visit


This is the press release circulated for media use about the 2017 Wadadli Pen Challenge after the May 13th 2017 Awards during the Wadadli Stories Book Fair. Please feel free to share. If you have questions, email

Featured image courtesy, a group shot of finalists and Wadadli Pen coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse, at the awards, courtesy Art. Culture. Antigua.


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Dear You…Yes, You… Thank You!

Dear Wadadli Pen followers, supporters, stoppers-by…

Season’s Greetings and heart-felt gratitude for keeping up with us this year and all the years you’ve been coming here.

As you’ll see from this note, we are poised to enter the 2016 Challenge season and I have my fingers crossed that this coming year is the one we move beyond a labour of love to a bona fide non-profit with a team committed to keeping it going beyond my individual efforts and unwavering passion to do so.

I remain amazed that the challenge is still here 12 years on and that through this blog I’ve been able to build an online resource that has proven to be of value to demographics ranging from local educators and literary enthusiasts to international bloggers and researchers.

Already Wadadli Pen has moved beyond what I envisioned when I thought it up. And, as I’ve blogged parts of the journey, you know it hasn’t always been easy – it’s not easy while trying to work your own literary hustle to try to provide support to others; too often you feel like you’re failing at both but somehow you kick yourself in the ass and get up and try again…tomorrow.

I want to say that as far as Wadadli Pen is concerned this could not have been done without the support of those who’ve given money, gifts, and, perhaps most importantly, the gift of their time. Those who’ve provided the right words of encouragement at just the right time have also been invaluable to finding that will and energy to keep going. So, thank you, all.

I’m wishing you all the blessings you deserve in the new year.

If you still wish to support our journey in some way (donations to the upcoming challenge season, gifts, the gift of time, words of encouragement), please reach out to wadadlipen (at) and thank you in advance for your invaluable contribution to this project.

With gratitude,
For Wadadli Pen

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Why I like doing this blog

This was originally published in 2010 (at a site that shall remain ghosted until they pay me what they owe me for unrelated freelance work, and again re-published with some subtle variation at Summer Edward’s blog), shortly after I started blogging.

I’ve been drawn time and again these past weeks to the new Wadadli Pen blog ( I’ve not long started; a tweak here, a twitch there. Time consuming as it can be, as much as it challenges my limited technical knowledge, I feel energized by this as I don’t much else right now. Maybe it’s the pure pleasure I experience reading the creative efforts of our young writers through the years; the way their storytelling prods at relevant social issues and reveals, in some instances, a literary maturity I didn’t necessarily have at their age.

Mired in things, it’s sometimes hard to feel the heft and texture of them; and in the first three years of this competition, 2004 to 2006, I was a bit of a headless chicken trying to make sure everything ran just so.

I read the stories, sure; appreciated them. But as I edit and post, I feel like I’m reading them for the first time. So it was, for instance, that I was seeing, with a certain clarity, the parallels between Gemma George’s Stray Dog Prepares for the Storm and Damani Tabor’s Irate Beggar, one with a dog and the other with a human at their centre but both really speaking to the way society recoils from its responsibility to the less fortunate.

And when at the Best of Books Open Mic after my reading of Kemal Nicholson’s Ma Belle, one listener commented on his effective use of irony, I felt collectively proud of these youngsters. They’ve proven that not only is Antigua a reading public, s/he’s also a writing public. It strengthened my resolve to bring this competition back, to keep it alive, wherever my personal fortunes may lie – notwithstanding my abhorrence of going cap in hand to businesses for patronage knowing the cause may be good but the reception not always pleasant, nor polite.

Interestingly, as I prepped the author notes to accompany the story postings, I realized that none of these, to the best of my knowledge, were beelining towards a literary career; but I felt fairly certain of two things – they’ll continue writing nonetheless in some way/shape/form, and their ability to express themselves in this way will be an asset in the courtroom or wherever they find themselves.

The other thing that I think draws me to this project is the growing number of publications and/or recordings by Antiguan and Barbudan writers, which I have taken it upon myself to catalogue these several years. I’ve begun posting these lists on the site and find that they are never done. No sooner have I ironed out a crease there, than someone will email to point out another crease an omission or such and I have to tend to that as well.

Far from making me feel hassled, it’s made me a little proud that here on this 108 square miles, we’ve produced such a wealth of publications (the vast majority books of non-fiction and poetry, with fiction a distant third and children’s fiction bringing up the rear); defiantly, persistently finding our way through the tiny cracks of a global publishing industry that really has little interest in who we are and what we have to say. Never mind, we seem to say, we’ll find a way.

Hence, the sheer number of publications, and the list, I fear/hope/dread/believe has only just begun to grow. There might be a lot more work ahead.

I’m thrilled to discover, as I have, that people are using the list, that people are being directed to it to discover who’s published what.

This list is particularly an eye opener – going back to that adage about how much we do or do not read – because growing up I really wasn’t exposed to/aware of much of what we had created, literally, and, frankly, the output then was paltry compared to the level of activity in the past decade or so. And for a long time, I don’t think I felt confident enough to believe in this pie in the sky dream of being a writer.

Even now, that that resolve is too often tested. And it felt then that there were no models, outside of the rich calypsos and Anansi storytelling, as I’ve said before, until I discovered Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John. Well, I feel fairly confident that young Antiguans and Barbudans with that secret dream in their heart can go to this list and I find inspiration.

I can’t mention that list without mentioning John Lee of St Lucia, whose similar listing of West Indian literature is also posted on the site. In fact, that’s an aspect of the site I’m excited about, the window I hope to open up not just to the Antiguan and Barbudan literary scene but to the wider Caribbean and the world really, as far as literary resources are concerned.

Wadadli Pen returned in 2010 and will be back in 2011, as my tanty would say, God spare life. With this time consuming blogging adventure, however, it’s kind of already here. I encourage readers to stop by and make use of it.

Joanne C. Hillhouse ( is the author of The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight; and the founder/co-ordinator of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (credit). If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Jamaica, Antigua, Jamaica Named Burt Award Inaugural Top Three

Bocas Photo of finalists at Burt award panel by Marlon James.

Bocas Photo of finalists at Burt award panel by Marlon James.

The first winners of a unique literary award that will provide thousands of youth across the Caribbean region with access to exciting new titles were announced on April 25, 2014. The inaugural gala for CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, recognizing outstanding literary works for young adults written by Caribbean authors, was held in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, as part of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest. A-dZiko Gegele received the first prize of $10,000 CAD for All Over Again (published by Blouse and Skirts Books), Joanne Hillhouse, from Antigua and Barbuda, won the second prize of $7,000 CAD for her soon to be published manuscript Musical Youth, while the third prize of $5,000 CAD went to Colleen Smith-Dennis of Jamaica for Inner City Girl (published by LMH Publishing.) The finalists were selected by a jury administered by The Bocas Lit Fest and made up of writers, literacy experts and academics from the Caribbean and Canada. – See more at:

UPDATE! I am thrilled, thrilled I tell you, to be in the top three and here’s a link to our panel discussion at Bocas.

and look forward to seeing my book Musical Youth in print. Here are some related links:

Bocas Literary Festival

Bocas Festival Sessions

Caribbean Children’s Literature Diane Browne


Global Voices Online

House of the Arts

The Jamaica Gleaner


Trinidad Express



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Workshop Space

UPDATE! Your’re also invited to check out the Wadadli Pen Prompts.

I’m calling this the workshop space for now. It’s where I’ll post links on craft and maybe writing prompts to help us hone our craft year round, not only at challenge time. Here goes:

Poets and Writers has numerous daily prompts, check them out.


This one’s an online poetry workshop; check it out.


I decided to share this post because it tackles the creative line writers must walk when writing historical fiction for readers with modern sensibilities; if you too are writing historical fiction, you might find it useful. It’s How to Put Women where there were None by Nick Taylor.


Best Books for Writers – an extensive list over at Poets and Writers


Genesis of an Idea.


Finishing your novel.


Grammar matters.


Use adverbs sparingly, says Maria Murnane. She also explains why you should just say it.


“The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them. The more we love them, and the more cleverly we torture them along the lines of their greatest vulnerability and fear, the better the story. Sometimes we try to protect them from getting booboos that are too big. Don’t. This is your protagonist, not your kid.” Read this and more tips from Janet Finch, author of White Oleander, an Oprah’s Book Club pick and later a film starring (the ageless) Michelle Pfeiffer, (Bridget Jones or) Renee Zellwegger, (the Princess Bride herself) Robin Wright, and Alison Lohman. Despite the star power, I really did prefer the book and I think Finch’s tips are really spot on. One of my favourites: “Learn to look at your sentences, play with them, make sure there’s music, lots of edges and corners to the sounds. Read your work aloud. Read poetry aloud and try to heighten in every way your sensitivity to the sound and rhythm and shape of sentences.”   Check them out.


This piece is on writing dialogue.


Check out what she says about “active description“.


“For a story to work, there needs to be both consequence and agency…” so says novelist Joshua Henkin. Read more.


“Active description requires the writer to think hard about the objective of the scene he’s writing, create conflicts based on the setting or other descriptive elements, and then write the conflicts INTO the description.” from this interview with author Holly Isle.


Here’s another one

This is a prompt I came up with to encourage folks to start thinking of their Wadadli Pen Challenge (2013) pieces…or to just write. I got an idea for another one today; will be posting that soon. So look out for more. Meanwhile, how about attempting this one.


This isn’t a quid pro quo for Andrew Blackman naming us one of the Caribbean’s top 20 book blogs, though that was pretty sweet. For some time now I’ve genuinely enjoyed reading his blog and it’s because of postings like this one in which he references things like “To write well, I need to spend less time writing, and more time staring out of the window… to think creatively, you need to let your mind wander, rather than trying to tame it” and “it’s less easy to concentrate when you’re tired, so it’s more likely that your mind will wander and come up with interesting ideas”. I’ll have to agree to disagree with him on the debilitating effects of coffee (“caffeine is bad for creativity”), however. Go read the blog…and then let your mind wander.


I thought about adding this post to the Reading Room – its a written and audio presentation, though which, in the end, seemed more appropriate for the workshop space given that it breaks down how to construct (or the elements of) a blues poem. It is The Blues a Craft Manifesto by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers at the Kenyon Review.


Here’s a whole list of writing prompts in different genres.


I spent part of today working on a response to an online writing prompt only to realize I’d missed the submission deadline. But though this serves as a reminder to me to double check submission deadlines, time spent working on craft is never wasted. What the hell, since they’re never going to see it, I’ll share what I came up with with you. The prompt was to write a 100 word or less opening to a story about a guy overhearing something he didn’t want to in a workplace setting. Here’s what I came up with:

Late shift at the station, only a handful on duty; Dean’s bored stiff, and restless, which probably explains how his hand comes to flip the audio switch for studio one when he stretches to fix the picture on one of the monitors.

At first he doesn’t understand what he’s hearing, but his brain soon catches on and little Dean perks up. He quickly flips it back, but the sounds, sucking and heavy breathing, stay; though through the glass separating studio and control room, he sees only the shadows of tripods, cameras and set pieces.

But now he knows they’re there.

That’s 100 words on the nose, chopped down from nearly 300 words on my first try; if I keep working at it, which I might, it might turn out to be something. If not, it was a fun and challenging exercise. Doing these prompts is one way of not only winning prizes and recognition, but staying limber. Here’s the link to the next Writers Digest prompt, if you feel like flexing your muscles. It’s a visual prompt this time (and I know Wadadli Pen judge and organizer of the Just Write Writers Retreat Brenda Lee Browne is a fan of those).


This is an exciting insight into the process of creating a story using visual prompts and one’s natural curiosity. If you haven’t read her book Girl with the Pearl Earring or seen the film you really should, and you’ll find yourself looking at the painting again and thinking, hmm maybe. Because it just could be. Stop and take in an image today and see what stories it reveals about itself to you.


One True Sentence by Kendra Bonnett


Memos to Poets by Kwame Dawes


Processing Feedback by Joni B. Cole


WADADLI PEN EXCLUSIVE! Diana McCaulay, Jamaican author of Huracan and Dog-Heart, and Commonwealth short  story prize winner for Dolphin Catcher talks writing, publishing, and more of particular interest to the Caribbean writer.


A little perspective on “show, don’t tell”  by Jessica Strawser


Take Your Readers Somewhere…The Importance of Place  by Kendra Bonnett


Don’t be Afraid to Use Pronouns by Maria Murnane.



Recommended books on craft (here’s some of mine; feel free to suggest your own)

Writing Fiction by Janet Burraway

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

The 3 AM Epiphany by Brian Kitely

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Wadadli Pen Open Mic Returns

Its a new season of Wadadli Pen Open Mic, organized and hosted by The Best of Books. They’re getting the ball rolling under the theme: Just Speak. Wadadli Pen Open Mic begins promptly at 7:30pm this Saturday 14th September @ Best of Books on lower St.Mary’s street. Invitation is extended to one and all to come out, share, listen and enjoy the word.

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The Mic is Hot

Literary Antigua reports that this month’s Wadadli Pen topic is:

“I Wish”
Open Mic starts at 7:30pm Saturday 8th June at the Best of Books.
A special invitation is extended to all our friends and family who currently back on island to come out and enjoy an evening of the word.

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Wadadli Pen Open Mic

As we enter the month of February, when we contemplate and celebrate the struggles, sacrifices, and inventions of those gone before us we enter another session of Wadadli Pen Open Mic with the topic: ‘I Am…’. No doubt a simple yet deep topic that we invite one and all to come and help express.


Wadadli Pen Open Mic starts @7:30pm Saturday 9th February


Blogger’s note: You know, if you wanted to test out your 2013 Wadadli Pen submission before submitting, this’d be the place to do it.

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