Category Archives: Wadadli Pen 2016

CARIB Lit Plus (Early – Mid July 2020)

A Note from the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Team

Recently, an eagle-eyed reader of this blog brought an incident of plagiarism related to a 2016 Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge entry to our attention. While it is four years too late to retrieve the prizes this entry would have received, we have removed it from public view and corrected the record, we will be informing the recipient, and will be more diligent in future to ensure that plagiarized entries are not rewarded. The development of young people, the encouragement of original creativity, and the integrity of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize are important to us. We wish to thank Mary (the reader’s name) for bringing the offence to our attention and we apologize to the author of the original piece which was plagiarized. It is not in keeping with our mission and our standards to steal from another writer. We will do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.


Britain based, Jamaican born dub poetry pioneer Linton Kwesi Johnson is the 2020 recipient of the PEN Pinter Award. The award is meant to defend freedom of expression and celebrate literature. Read details of his win at The Guardian.

Book News

FINAL-Obeah-Race-and-Racism-Invitation-page-001-232x300 British Virgin Islands writer Eugenia O’Neal’s latest book investigates Obeah, Race and Racism: Caribbean Witchcraft in the English Imagination. Her book is being published by UWI Press. A virtual launch is set for April July 17th 2020 11 a.m. Register here. Her previous books include the pirate adventure Dido’s Prize, reviewed on this blog. She’s also been previously interviewed here on the blog about Publishing.

crCaribbean Reads Publishing has announced that it is actively seeking #ownvoices manuscripts for middle grade readers, roughly 8 to 13 years, with a Caribbean setting.  There’s no published cut off date but don’t sleep on it. Go here for submission details.

The Bookseller reported that Hamish Hamilton has acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, Doubleday the US rights, and Bond Street Books the Canadian rights to Ayanna Gillian Lloyd’s The Gatekeepers. A ghost story and a love story set in modern Trinidad, Lloyd’s homeland,  it has been described (per Hamish Hamilton) as “mythic and timeless” and at the same time “sharply contemporary”. The book is set to debut in 2022 with a second novel Dark Eye Place to follow in 2024. Now, that’s how you do it!

Reading Recs

Bocas Curated Reading

Bocas has been very active this COVID-19 season with a lot of online content including an arts survival kit that includes readings of works by Bocas prize winning poet Richard Georges, former Commonwealth Short Story prize winner Ingrid Persaud, Andre Bagoo, Anu Lakhan, a tribute to Kamau Brathwaite, and more. Find it online here.

You can also find up to 40 renowned Caribbean and other writers reading Brathwaite’s work on YouTube at the Kamau Brathwaite Remix Engine.

Home Home

The US edition of Home Home (Delacorte Press) by Trinidadian writer Lisa Allen-Agostini dropped somewhat quietly during quarantine but it’s been getting some big reviews. The Burt Award winning title, initially issued with Papillote Press, was written up in Publishers’ Weekly, which said: “Allen-Agostini (The Chalice Project) uses clear, concise prose to break down the daunting reality of depression and anxiety. Strong interpersonal dynamics balance hard themes, including homophobia, suicidal ideation, troubled parent relationships, and the minimization of depression, resulting in a quietly optimistic story.”

You can also catch Allen-Agostini in conversation with Diana McCaulay, Shakirah Bourne, and me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) in Caribbean Writers Discuss Publishing Lessons, Breakthroughs, and Rights right here on the Wadadli Pen blog.

Lit Events 

Antigua and Barbuda Conference Cancellation

The annual joint conference of the University of the West Indies (Antigua and Barbuda Open Campus) and the Antigua and Barbuda Studies Association, usually held in August, has been cancelled. The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books which typically launches at the conference will be out in the Fall.

Caribbean Literature Day 

July 12, 2020 has been proposed by St. Martin’s House of Nehesi Publishers as Caribbean Literature Day. The call was made a the closing of the 2020 St. Martin Book Fair, its 18th.  Writers, aspiring writers, literary festivals, book clubs, journals, creative writing programs, and all creative artists, institutions, and media of the Caribbean region; all Caribbean peoples; and all lovers of Caribbean writings, authors, and books, from everywhere in the world have been asked to participate. How? Per a press release, “by reading the works of your favorite Caribbean authors; buying Caribbean books, published in the Caribbean and beyond, and by Caribbean authors; and presenting Caribbean books as gifts. Celebrate the day with books, recitals, and with discussions about books, of poetry, fiction, drama, art, music, and all the other genres by Caribbean writers.” Here’s the full press release: OES News 20_Statement_Caribbean Literature Day

ETA (09/07/20) The Institute of Gender and Development Studies Regional Coordinating Office (IGDS-RCO), out of the University of the West Indies’ Jamaica campus, has announced that it will be teaming up with House of Nehesi Publishers to celebrate Caribbean Literature Day. It will host two Zoom webinars under the theme: The Gendered Word on July 12, from 12 noon to 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Poets, writers and teachers of literature in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean are invited to read their work and the works of other Caribbean writers or comment on Caribbean literature. Those who wish to participate may email their interest at:

Also, contact Lasana M. Sekou Projects Director

To Shoot Hard Labour

The seminal Antiguan and Barbudan retelling of the history of Antigua and Barbuda from the lived point of view of Samuel ‘Papa Sammy’ Smith is being celebrated all month long on Observer Radio 91.1 FM. The virtual summer reading project will air specifically Fridays (July 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st) on the popular Voice of the People programme which typically runs from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., later, I believe, on Fridays. It is being co-produced by Beverly Georges of the Friends of Antigua Public Library based in New York. Special guest presenters will include Dr. Natasha Lightfoot, Agnes Meeker, Paddy ‘the Griot’ Simon, children from The Cushion Club Reading Club for Children in Antigua and Barbuda, me (Joanne C. Hillhouse), and the co-author of To Shoot Hard Labour Keithlyn Smith. A number of activity tie-ins for young readers are planned. See flyer:  diorama


Don’t forget to check Opportunities Too for more opportunities with pending deadlines.

TCW Webinar and Launch

The Caribbean Writer has announced that Volume 34 after COVID related delay launches its digital edition on July 7th 2020 and the print edition “on or about July 16th 2020”. The editor, Alscess Lewis-Brown (who has Antiguan and Barbudan roots by the way, though resident in the US Virgin Islands) has also announced a July 19th 2020 webinar. The six hour event, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., will be held under the theme ‘Interrogating the Past, Re-imagining the Future’. There will be presentations and an opportunity for contributors past and present to share for five minutes one of their published pieces. This is The Caribbean Writer’s facebook page; here’s the sign up link.

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.


Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business, Wadadli Pen 2016, Wadadli Pen News, Workshop

Reading Room and Gallery 27

The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too  – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 27th one which means there are 26 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one. – JCH


“I am a black woman writer from Trinidad and Tobago. I was born here to Trinidadian parents. I have lived here all my life. I do not have an escape route to Elsewhere, whether the route is through money, family connections or non-TT citizenship.” – Lisa Allen-Agostini, A Black Female Writer’s Story


Read the winning Wadadli Pen Challenge entries through the years and across several genres here.


this too is disputed – not the flowers – rather, the origin
of bananas; they may have come here with Columbus on
a ship that in 1502 slipped into Orcabessa the way grief
sometimes slips into a room. …” – Place Name: Oracabessa by Kei Miller


“Which is to say, it wasn’t easy for me.  And it wasn’t easy for the professors, agents, editors, publicists and publishers who each took a risk and supported my work in first getting published. But fucking miracles of miracles—it happened. I deserved it, for sure. But so do a shitload of others for whom the miracle hasn’t happened as yet. We’ve got to try and do right by those writers and those books. And even those of us who have one or three books published—we have to keep proving ourselves and the industry has to keep taking a chance on us.” – Tiphanie Yanique


“Why does the land speak your poem?

The land is doing what all good poets do, it is speaking for people – the Taino who were the original inhabitants – who have no voice.” – Lorna Goodison speaking on her poem “Reporting Back to Queen Isabella”; also read the poem.


“We don’t see you. The future is not you. The future is not your story. And the future is not black sci fi. So if we don’t exist in the future, where do we exist? Only in the past.” – Canadian film director Sharon Lewis on her film Brown Girl Begins, based on Nalo Hopkins’ Brown Girl in the Ring


“Sometimes I listen outside closed doors, a thing I never would have done in the time before. I don’t listen long, because I don’t want to be caught doing it. Once, though, I heard Rita say to Cora that she wouldn’t debase herself like that.” – excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale


(Audio reading by Ali Smith of Grace Paley’s A Conversation with My Father) “Story here is a matter of life and death; the father is old, ill and dying; they both know it, and so does the reader. But this breathtaking, breathgiving short story, which never compromises on this truth or the admittance of inevitable tragedy, is profoundly, comically generous in its open-endedness, and leaves you both shaken and renewed by the heart, the fight and the life in it.” – link for full listen


“I sharpened the knife on the bottom of a saucer and quartered the potatoes, and then fried them with the garlic and a fistful of coriander. My mother returned from the garden holding a cluster of beets, her hands black and her feet black, and she asked why we never had any napkins and she must always wipe her hands on the pages of English grammar books.” – from Waiting for the Electricity by Christina Nichol


“Swami did not listen to the naysayers. He continued to sit and fast on his pulpit while the highway took shape around him and stretched further and further into the west. The road shone just like when Charlton Heston parted the sea to rescue the Jewish people and lead them to the Promised Land. Swami continued to chant while Friendship Village slowly disappeared. One by one, families succumbed to the generous compensation offered by the government for their feeble acres. Some agreed to relocate to more affluent areas in the west, to houses blessed with running water and electricity. Others even moved overseas to start a new life. Many bought second hand Japanese cars. The children who sat in the backseat often waved at Swami as they passed him on their way to the Promised Land of cineplexes, shopping malls, American chain restaurants and coffee shops.” – “How the Professor Made History” by Suzanne Bhagan


“That was the day I learned you should never try to pull your fingers out of an eel’s mouth, not a live one or a dead one. Not if you want to have any skin left to carry him home with, and especially not if it’s a twenty-pound silver-belly.” – Eel by Stefanie Seddon


“Still, he shut up and drank the tea, the sweet-milk making it go down more easily. Sweet milk was his favourite thing next to an ice-cold soursop suckabubby. As with the suckabubby, he would clamp his mouth to the opening and coax out the thick liquid when Tanty wasn’t looking. Tanty preferred to buy the sweet-milk since it lasted longer un-refrigerated than the evaporated sort, and their fridge did little more than take up space.” – excerpt from The Boy from Willow Bend by Joanne C. Hillhouse


“When I tell you, I could only love you in England, I also mean that you could only love me here, as well, but I cannot say this because you would not understand, you would argue, and tell me that love conquers all. We speak in English, and I cannot tell you that I know this is not true.” – I am a Bird by Kathrina Haji Mohd Daud


“Jules Poitevin is 54, he has three children, two sons of 17 and 14 and a nine-year-old daughter. He had felt that two children were more than enough, but his wife really wanted a little girl.

To keep a marriage running, you had to make sacrifices.” – Paxadol by Arnon Grunberg


“Their memories had become muddled with what they had been told, and what they wanted to believe.” – Paddle to Canada by Heather Monley


“But he did not touch her. Instead, as he watched her check the soup, he felt sadness for her, too. He felt awful that she had to make this soup base every Tuesday. He knew that years ago, she had a miscarriage. He knew that the daughter she did give birth to, the one who survived the pregnancy, didn’t call home often enough and that her son could only call collect from jail. Touching her breasts would make her less important than what she was, and she wasn’t important at all.” – DeMisty D. Bellinger’s French Fry Soup


‘When I arrived at the gallery, I found other unsure-looking writers waiting for the salon to start. Unless we’re behind a desk and a mountain books, we writers often look lost. We spend much of our writing lives isolated, and we forget what it’s like to be surrounded by others who speak the same creative language…. When the salon ended, I walked up to the Great Hall where an opera singer gave “the gift of song” to visitors who accepted her offering. Her voice filled the vast hall as she sang to a little girl who sat on her mother’s lap. Afterward, I poured over images and artifacts from the “One Life: Sylvia Plath” exhibit. I might have missed it all had I decided to stay home that day.

Sometimes we must force ourselves into different environments and open ourselves to art outside of the modes we work in. I’ve written before about visual work that inspires my own craft, but I must continually remind myself to resist spending day after day in front of a computer screen. When we open a channel of inspiration, we enrich and broaden our work.

As spring (finally) arrives for many of us, let’s force ourselves into the sunshine, into worlds outside our usual routines to shift our perspectives, even when we don’t particularly feel like it. There is never a perfect time. To wait for a perfect time is to risk running out of time altogether, and that would be truly missing out.” – Dorothy Bendel, managing editor, Atticus Review (from their e-newsletter)



“I wasn’t keeping it simple. By keeping it simple I don’t mean abandoning any intricate details of what I envisioned. I simply mean that I was leaving out some fundamental basic things that would strengthen the work I was doing. I had to revise my approach to these fundamental aspects of how I was working and keep it simple. In this case, keeping it simple meant, for me, not to overlook the fundamentals.” – from Levi King’s Emerging Director Residency – Week 2 Blog Post


“The poem stalled here. I went back to my journal later and edited a few times, and you can see the lines I crossed out as well as how the final draft came to be. I think it is important for the poet to trust that first voice that a poem appears in, insomuch as that first voice often contains a several different possibilities that cannot all be explored. Now, I may try to split that voice and discover more than one poem, but more often than not, it is a process of whittling away and discarding to find the right direction and emotion that I need to capture.” – British Virgin Islands’ poet Richard Georges

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!, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and Musical Youth). 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.


Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business, Wadadli Pen 2004, Wadadli Pen 2005, Wadadli Pen 2006, Wadadli Pen 2010, Wadadli Pen 2011, Wadadli Pen 2012, Wadadli Pen 2013, Wadadli Pen 2014, Wadadli PEN 2015, Wadadli Pen 2016, Wadadli Pen 2017, Wadadli Pen 2018, Wadadli Pen News, Wadadli Pen Year by Year

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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Merry Christmas


It’s here, people (almost), the most wonderful time of the year…or so the song says. Whether your 2017 has so far been good, bad, or, more like, the rollercoaster ride of a bumpy Antiguan road or a deceptively smooth one (you know the one, where a pot hole as deep as the Grand Canyon suddenly drops in out of nowhere), here’s hoping 2018 is better.

A reminder to check out our most popular posts of 2017.

A reminder to vote for your favourite Antiguan and Barbudan book of 2017.

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A reminder that I have a new creative writing workshop series starting in 2018 and that you don’t have to be in Antigua or Barbuda to participate.
Promo Flyer corrected

And if you’re wondering about the Wadadli Pen 2018 Challenge season, bear with me, it’s been a challenging stretch, decisions are being made; will update as soon as something has been finalized. Meantime, always feel free to flashback to the winning stories of years past and see the work and the writers we’ve helped shepherd  into the public space in 13 years of existence.
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Thanks for taking this journey with us and here’s hoping your Christmas is indeed Merry.

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!, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Do not re-use content without permission and 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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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business, Wadadli Pen 2004, Wadadli Pen 2005, Wadadli Pen 2006, Wadadli Pen 2010, Wadadli Pen 2011, Wadadli Pen 2012, Wadadli Pen 2013, Wadadli Pen 2014, Wadadli PEN 2015, Wadadli Pen 2016, Wadadli Pen 2017, Wadadli Pen News, Wadadli Pen Year by Year, Workshop

Wadadli Pen: What Trended in 2016

Happy New Year in Advance! We made it! 2017 here we come!

Just one more bit of 2016 business.

It’s always interesting to see what people engaged with over the course of a year. Wadadli Pen has existed as an online platform in this space for six years. In that time, it has provided a window to Wadadli Pen (who we are, the work that we do); to the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda; to Antigua and Barbuda and not just to the literary arts, and I have enjoyed the journey and the growth. I enjoy blogging in this space and appreciate you reading and engaging and sharing. So, let’s see what you’ve been reading, engaging with, and sharing the most, shall we? Scroll to see the top posts of the year according to YOU!


Wadadli Pen Logo
The Wadadli Pen 2016 challenge: the long list

This makes sense. The long list is the first chance people who’ve submitted to the annual Challenge have to see how things are shaking out. So, they check in, and I can feel the excitement and, on the flipside of that, the disappointment; as a writer myself, I am intimately familiar with that emotional seesaw, and I don’t take any bit of that processing of their submissions and unveiling of the cut lightly. And, as seen in this year’s posting, in keeping with Wadadli Pen’s development agenda, I don’t hesitate to make it a learning and growth opportunity for the writers. Remind yourself who made the 2016 long list by clicking here.


Gone to Drift

Reflecting on Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay

My relationship with this book goes back to me serving on the 2015 Burt Award judging panel, a year after I was a finalist myself. I loved it from the first time I read it, in fact I loved it before it was a book when McCaulay won recognition from the Commonwealth Short Story competition for a story I realize looking back was the genesis of this book. We actually spoke about that story, in 2012, during Diana’s first interview here on the site. Diana is technically part of the Wadadli Pen family having donated copies of her books to our awards programme, and, in 2016, thanks to her publisher, we were able to gift Gone to Drift as well. This post is my musing on the book, which I still love and continue to share whenever I get the chance. I feel it picked up some traffic from being shared on sites like Repeating Islands and passed on by the author and publisher as well. So, I appreciate that…and I appreciate this book. Read the post and feel free to share as well.


new-plaqueWho Won in 2016

No surprise here; the who won and who won what in the annual Wadadli Pen Challenge is always one of the biggest posts of the year – which is good for our winners, our patrons, and Wadadli Pen. Take a second look at the 2016 crowd.


Books for 1735: this is a picture post


Students of CHSS donate books and hug an inmate of 1735, Antigua and Barbuda’s prison.


Ayanna Shadrach, a teacher at Clare Hall Secondary rallied her students to give back; specifically they collected and donated books to the prison. I was happy to not only contribute to this act of goodwill but help amplify it. It took some time for her to be able to deliver the books to the prison, in part because of a contagion outbreak, but it’s finally done. See the pictures of the delivery.


roland prince - Copy (1)

Remembering Roland Prince

2016 was a car crash of a year as far as music is concerned – so many greats gone so quickly and some so unexpectedly: Merle Haggard (a loss to country music), Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest (a loss to hip hop), Maurice White (a loss to Earth Wind and Fire fans…and who isn’t), Leonard Cohen (“Hallelujah”), Glenn Frey (Eagles’ co-founder and co-lead), Rod Temperton (you might not know the name but if you’ve ever listened to Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall or Thriller or watched The Colour Purple, for instance, you know his songs), Prince (the loss of the Purple one still hurts), Vanity (one of Prince’s protégés), David Bowie (an icon), George Michael (“Father Figure”), and for us here in Antigua and Barbuda and the world of jazz internationally Roland Prince – at one time dubbed the best in the world by people who know more about these things than I do. Re-read what I wrote on his passing.


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Zahra performing in a local production of The Vagina Monologues which she co-produced and co-directed.

Congrats, Zahra – 2016 NYA Winner for Literary Arts

Zahra Airall won the literary arts award at the National Youth Award, and as we always cheer our artistes – especially our literary artistes – this was our big up to one of the hardest working women in Antiguan and Barbudan arts. Read it here.


Time to Talk

One of the books I blogged in 2016


Blogger on Books lll

I work hard to keep Wadadlli Pen and me separate (especially with the moves I’m now making to solidify it as a legit non-profit); though as I am founder-coordinator and chief blogger here at Wadadli Pen, there’s inevitably overlap. From so many of the site-relevant pictures and articles I have written in my journalistic life ending up here on the blog to my blogger on books series which is really just my opinion about books which found a home on what’s essentially a literary blog. Well, the series has relocated to my personal blog and this was its last installment here–> Check it out.


Claytine Nisbett Walking into Walls standing next to a piece by Xhyphensaphair King

Claytine Nisbett, a former Wadadli Pen volunteer, and founder of Walking in to Walls (an online advocacy project), alongside art work by X-Saphair King. This was at a Directorate of Gender Affairs event in which King and several other local artists showcased their work, at the intersection of arts and advocacy.

Remembering the Artist: X-Saphair King

The blog’s other big obit of the year was X-Saphair King, and I take no joy in saying that.

“Joanne, I am deeply saddened to read this news. I did not know him as a person, obviously, but X-Saphair’s work was stunning. What a loss to Antigua and Barbuda, and to the Caribbean as a whole. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.” – Nicolette Bethel, editor of Tongues of the Ocean in which X-Sapphair’s art work had been featured, commenting below the post about his passing.


Conference organizer, Brown University Professor, Paget Henry of Antigua.

Dr. Paget Henry, pictured here at a past conference at the Enlightenment Academy is one of the chief organizers of this annual August event.

Gender Equality in Antigua and Barbuda: Call for Papers

I can’t really account for the popularity of this one (it’s really just a call for papers for the 2016 Antigua conference) – though, obviously, I’m happy if it played a role in or reflects a heightening of the profile of the more than 10 years old Conference. Maybe using buzzwords like “gender” in the tags had something to do with its attraction. I did note some new faces among the panelists and attendees at this year’s Conference – so, good.



ADA drummers, 2006..

Antigua Dance Academy marks a Milestone, is ignored

This one attracted a lot of shares and comments quickly; I hope it leads to deeper appreciation and action not just with respect to ADA but the arts as a whole with all its potential to be transformative and revelatory in and for and to Antigua and Barbuda. If only we knew the power of this thing we take for granted.

Some comments in response to the article/blog:

“So thrilled (and disappointed) to read this today. THRILLED for ADA… I’ve had the pleasure of attending their performances in the past and was impressed with their professionalism, skill and commitment to being culture preservers with little to no support…what, really and truly, will it take for us to get bored with giving lip service to support of the Arts (in it’s many forms) in Antigua & Barbuda?!”

“I encourage you all to keep up the great and important work you have been doing in the cultural arts. We are on the precipice of a culture and arts renaissance.”

“Congratulations to Veronica Yearwood and the Antigua Dance Academy for your hard work and dedication that enabled you to reach this great Milestone.Veronica I feel your pain, having been there myself in our early days of dance in Antigua and the struggles we all experienced. You must not give up. Stay strong, you are doing a marvelous job with the young ones… Do let me know if I can be of assistance in anyway.”

Veronica and ADA, whatever resources they lack, have a lot of goodwill in the community, as evidenced by how quickly this post jumped to the top of the year’s rankings. Read it here.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and, forthcoming, With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out Please note that the images also belong to us and ask first if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

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To submit or not…why is this even a question?

Fact, Antigua and Barbuda has a lot of literary talent – look at the sheer number of writers these 170 square mile twin-small-islands continue to produce. Fact, there is literary enthusiasm (just peep the eager, so when do we start, comments re the 2016/2017 season of the Expressions Open Mic over on their facebook page). Fact, relative to facts one and two, we under-submit to journals, anthologies, and contests (can’t say we don’t know when we have an Opportunities and Opportunities Too (the one with pending deadlines) page, plus facebook pages like Just Write  to keep us in the loop). What’s that you say? The claim of under-submission is opinion, not fact? Over-statement considering our size? Maybe, I mean I don’t know the submission levels for every small island but…

Case in point, the Commonwealth Short Story competition’s submissions from Antigua and Barbuda after 2012 (when my story Amelia at Devil’s Bridge, also shortlisted for the Small Axe fiction prize and taught in two college/university courses, one in NY and the other in Belize, that I’m aware of, was one of the prize also-rans included in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the CaribbeanPepperpot1-524x800):

2013 – 4 submissions
2014-8 submissions
2015-3 submissions
2016-9 submissions

I don’t have numbers for earlier but if I’m recollecting my conversations with the Commonwealth rep overseeing the comp correctly, it was consistently less. And these uneven numbers though they reflect an improvement seem a trickle to me (even though we’re a combined 100,000 people if you want to stretch the truth a little), relative to facts one and two.

Is it the ‘unattractive’ prizes?£2,500 for regional winners,  £5,000 overall plus a bump of recognition that can lift any emerging writer’s stock.

Is it the tight submission window? I mean sure it’s every year at the same time (November 1st – Independence Day in Antigua and Barbuda) but who can remember?…oh that’s right I remind you months in advance on Opportunities Too.

Is it the prohibitive no entry fee?

Is it that our mangoes will never get a fair shot against them apples? Except the Caribbean is its own region – remember the dark days when we were linked with Canada; and from this region, our writers – like Trinidad’s Sharon Millar have claimed the main prize.

What is it then?

I have an inkling.

It’s scary.

As someone who’s been submitting to this prize for more years than I care to think of, I understand the intimidation factor and the soul crushing power of rejection – it’s hard putting your stuff out there and being told it’s not good enough. But you know why I keep submitting (well, apart from the obvious masochistic streak that keeps me getting up like a fighter that doesn’t know when she’s been beat)? Because I have stories I need to tell and I’m not about to let anybody tell me that those stories aren’t worth telling – my characters won’t have it. Because I know that sometimes these things are less about the quality of the work and more about how something clicks in a particular moment in time – I know (because some of you’ve told me ) that you have read winning stories and gone …but, but, but how? Don’t matter, it was that story’s turn and frankly, they’ve been good choices, the ones I’ve read (and I do try to read them for the enjoyment factor but also to learn and grow). Because if I’m being honest with myself my story probably did need some work and I’d rather work to get better because I know that talent is such a small part of what makes a writer – we’ve got to be committed to the journey and the work. Because I am a writer and this is the rhythm of the writing life, and you need to develop the resilience to survive and game it (and give yourself permission to cry when it’s too much but DON’T GIVE UP). Because I am good enough dammit (repeat that three times!) and some day they’ll have to admit it – yes, the part of me that grew up hearing  Solo affirm in song We bigger dan dem, will not allow size to limit her. A mix of positive affirmation, drive, and badmindedness (harnessed for good) – because, whatever it takes, for me to pick myself up off the ground and try again.

And so as I look at the trickle of submissions relative to the literary activity and enthusiasm for the literary arts here, I want to encourage you to find your whatever it takes, keep working on your craft (inquire re what didn’t work with your story if there’s an avenue to do so), keep growing, and keep submitting. Now you may say, I don’t write for that and that’s fine, if you don’t…but if you do want to take your shot and you’re talking yourself out of it, tell yourself to get out of your way and go through. And no, this isn’t the first time I’ve come here to urge you (and myself) to go for it…don’t think of me as a broken record, think of me as your favourite song on repeat, and get up and dance.

Carry these facts with you for some inspiration.

Diana McCaulay of Jamaica was the regional winner in 2012 for her story the Dolphin Catcher. That story was the root of her manuscript Gone to DriftGone to Drift which was the first runner-up for the 2015 Burt Award for teen/YA Caribbean fiction and has since been published to critical acclaim by Papillote Press. Diana, before and since the Commonwealth short story comp, has published several books, and won or been short listed for several regional and international prizes. She and her publisher are also past donors (2013, 2016) to the prize package for the annual Wadadli Youth Pen Prize challenge and we’ve reviewed her book here on the site as well (teaser: we loved it).

Sharon Millar of Trinidad & Tobago was the regional and overall winner in 2013 for her story The Whale House. She’s since gone on to publish her first book The Whale House and Other Stories to critical acclaim including right here on Wadadli Pen . It was also longlisted for the 2016 Bocas prize.

Maggie Harris, originally of Guyana, many years resident in the UK, was the regional winner in 2014 for her story Sending for Chantal. Maggie already had a long list of credits when she won the prize and she hasn’t missed a step, winning the Guyana (Poetry) Prize in 2015 for 60 years of loving. She’s also a 2014 prize donor to the annual Wadadli Youth Pen Prize challenge.

K. Jared Hosein of Trinidad & Tobago was the regional winner in 2015 for his story the King of Settlement 4. An earlier story of his had also made the cut in the aforementioned 2012 Pepperpot collection and he had self-published Littletown Secrets (check blogger on books for this site’s review). He has since published to acclaim The Repenters with Peepal Tree Press. And, with his permission, I’ve used both an earlier and the final draft of King of Settlement 4 in workshops, as an illustration of the tweaks that happen to make a story better as it goes through the editing process.

Lance Dowrich, a school principal in Trinidad and Tobago, won the regional prize in 2016 for Ethelbert and the Free Cheese. I’m not as familiar with his work, but given the trajectory of the other writers on this list, I have no doubt we all will be in time.

It’s worth noting, in case you’re feeling big-island intimidation that Antiguans and Barbudans have registered in this competition before. And no, I’m not talking about Pepperpot. Mary Quinn’s story Joe was highly commended in the 2002 Commonwealth short story competition as was Hazra Medica’s Banana Stains in the 2008 competition – in the years before the literary prizes out of the Commonwealth was restructured.

Keeping it real, I’d like to see Antigua and Barbuda make the short list and even win, and I believe we can, and so I submit every year. How about you?

As with all content (words, images, other) on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!) – still a writer journeying.

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Wadadli Pen Challenge Response – Daryl George

One of the items we inadvertently skipped on the Wadadli Pen Challenge 2016 Awards ceremony was the response from the winner. This probably had something to do with things always being a bit harried on that day and this being a new feature. I believe I added it to the programme in part in response to one of my grant rejections (in anticipation of future such applications) that required more on the impact of the programme – I think somewhere at the back of my mind was the idea that the participants were better able to speak to this than I was. We had one such letter, submitted by a past finalist on the occasion of the programme’s 10 year anniversary; maybe we needed more (beyond the by the numbers accounting). I hope/believe there was also in my thinking a desire to let the winner have his/her say as winners do in numerous award ceremonies. Well, no matter, whatever the reason, we forgot and skipped it.

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Winner Daryl George with Douglas Allen, brother of Alstyne Allen in whose memory the plaque is named at the 2016 Wadadli Pen Challenge Awards Ceremony.

But, wait, that’s what this blog is for and it’s probably better this way as it gives the winner more time to think through what, if anything, he actually want to say. So, with thanks to him for taking the time to do this, here now is the response from repeat finalist and 2016 overall and 18 to 35 winner Daryl George, author of Tropical Moonlight Sonata.

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Daryl’s response:

It gives me great pleasure to provide the response for the 2016 edition of the Wadadli Pen Prize. The Wadadli Pen Challenge, going on 12 years strong, is the only literary competition in Antigua and Barbuda geared towards youth, and one of only a very few in the entire Caribbean. Thanks must go out, first and foremost, to Joanne Hillhouse: the time, energy, and effort necessary to arrange the Wadadli Pen Challenge is significant, yet she does it anyway. So too for the many sponsors who do believe in young people and who have put their money where their mouth is when it comes to investing in our youth and our culture.

Writing for the Wadadli Pen Challenge this year wasn’t easy: and that is precisely why it’s so beneficial, year in and year out. It is only through effort that we can grow, and only through difficulty can we triumph. We had a number of young persons enter the Wadadli Pen Challenge in 2016, and I believe that the process of writing a cohesive story or poem in 600 words or less, tailoring each word and each sentence for maximum impact, has allowed these young persons to increase their writing ability just a little bit more. I hope that those who had the fortune to receive feedback from this challenge will continue to broaden their talents, and to hone their skills to become even better writers.

With the good also comes the bad, and with the yin also comes the yang. I was disappointed this year at the coverage, or lack thereof, from a number of prominent local media houses. In a time where positive stories about youth seem to grow rarer and rarer, I do believe that this was an opportunity for them to step up and provide coverage in order to motivate those youth seeking positive avenues for their expression. I also am disappointed in the lack of supporting initiatives from relevant government stakeholders in pushing the culture of Antigua and Barbuda: too often we focus on promoting the “sexy” issues and topics around our youth while ignoring the amazing ability of the literary arts to act as a powerful force in promoting our local culture.

That being said, I look forward to 2017. I look forward to youth across Antigua and Barbuda sitting down, whether with pen and paper or on their laptops, and dreaming. Using their words to paint landscapes, using their imagination to create vivid images, and using their creativity to touch the soul of others. I look forward to youth stretching themselves to come up with their own unique stories, their own personal characters. And I look forward to reading all about their adventures next year and in years to come.

Couldn’t have said it better.

For a reminder of who won what in Wadadli Pen 2016, go here.

To read winning stories through the years, go here.

For more about Wadadli Pen, go here.

As for similar (youth-specific, purely literary) prizes in the region, he’s right, there are few. The Allen Prize comes to mind and more recently Poui’s Trini Kids can write. And there’s the region-wide Burt Award which is open to people of all ages but which is specifically looking for content targetting young (specifically teen/young adult) readers. Initiatives like these are, as Daryl said, critical to crafting a reading and writing culture, a culture that gives youth another avenue for expression and development, a culture that promotes arts appreciation and creative thinking, and a culture of triumph through effort and persistence. What’s the measure of persistence? Consider Daryl, a youth worker, who has consistently submitted strong entries but who took four tries to get his name emblazoned, as overall winner, on to Wadadli Pen’s Alstyne Allen Challenge plaque; and, believe it or not, that’s short in writing and publishing time.

Thanks, Daryl, for sharing your words.

p.s. here’s a bit of trivial – Daryl became in 2016 the first male to claim the main writing prize since Wadadli Pen launched in 2004.

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, Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad!, and Musical Youth). 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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Mailbox – Cushion Club

As promised, the Cushion Club (the Antigua and Barbuda reading club for kids with which I have volunteered with for several years) has been reaching out to the junior winners of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize 2016 Challenge (of which it is part patron)

we are sending you a BIG Cushion Club invitation to come visit us and share/read your story; we guarantee you will have fun with us.

…intent on having them come out to share their winning stories with the kids of the Club. We can confirm that Judah Christian, author of My Worst Day Ever, has accepted

 I accept your invitation on Judah’s behalf. He will be available on Saturday 28th May to share his story.

…via his parents, and will be sharing his story with the Club kids on May 28th. You’re welcome to join us and here Judah’s story come alive. The Cushion Club meets between 10:30 a.m. and 12 noon at the University of the West Indies Open Campus (Antigua and Barbuda) located on College Drive between Queen Elizabeth Highway and Sir Sydney Walling Highway (i.e. Factory Road). See you then.

Factoids re the Cushion Club’s contribution to the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize:

The Cushion Club’s chief volunteer Cedric Holder (a National Youth Award winner for his volunteerism) has contributed gift certificates in the name of the Club from the very first year of Wadadli Pen. Over the years, his pledge has been a given and Wadadli Pen has been grateful.

In this photo from the Cushion Club archives, Cedric reads to some of the children.

In this photo from the Cushion Club archives, Cedric reads to some of the children.

Factoids re young author Judah Christian:

His stories include The Worst Day Ever (2nd runner up for the 12 and younger prize in 2016) and Judah and His Friends Save the Day (a Best of Books Promising Writer Pick in 2015)

2015: Judah collecting his prizes from guest reader/presenter Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau. Be sure to check out her CD, I am Speaking.

2015: Judah collecting his prizes from guest reader/presenter Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau. Be sure to check out her CD, I am Speaking.

Judah - far right - with other 2016 winners in the 12 and younger category collecting prizes from Seven Seas rep.

Judah – far right – with other 2016 winners in the 12 and younger category collecting prizes from Seven Seas rep.

p.s. I believe Zion and Chammaiah have also accepted the invitations – dates to be confirmed.

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 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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After the Awards – a Wadadli Pen Challenge 2016 Picture Post

Oh and remember to check out who won what and read the winning stories.

with him

Me with winner Daryl George holding the Challenge plaque.

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Winner Daryl George with Douglas Allen, brother of Alstyne Allen in whose memory the plaque is named.

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Okay, first an aside, when I look at this picture I’m struck by all the natural – everybody appears to be wearing their own hair; that wasn’t always the case (natural hair revolution!). Everybody in this case is, from left, me, winners Chammaiah Ambrose and Daryl George, and patrons Dr. Hazra Medica and Akeilah Hillhouse for Frank B. Armstrong.

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Honourable mentions in the 13 to 17 age category – Antigua Grammar School student Canice James and Irene B. Williams student Zahra Emanuel.

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That green lipstick though! That’s Akeilah Hillhouse, rep for Frank B. Armstrong with winners in the 12 and younger category Chammaiah Ambrose, Zion Ebony Williams, and Judah Christian – in the ranking it’s actually Judah then Zion but that’s how they line up, I guess.

group photo glen photo 9

12 and younger, the most crowded field, yields lots of honourable mentions in addition to the top 3.

These additional photos are by Glen Toussaint of the Best of Books.

You’ve been warned: this is going to be a picture dump. I’ll be sharing memories of the Wadadli Pen 2016 Challenge season in pictures. Consider it a slide show like in those old school view finders and have fun!

p.s. to see the details of who won what and for links to the winning stories, go here.

new plaque

To the right is the now retired Challenge plaque; the left is the brand new Challenge plaque. All the names of the winners through the years have been re-located and the plaque has been (re)named the Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque for a past volunteer member of the Wadadli Pen family (and a really good friend) who died in 2015. I’m happy that we could remember her and her contribution to Wadadli Pen – as I really couldn’t have gotten through those early years without her help. The new plaque is sponsored by and hangs in the Best of Books bookstore on St. Mary’s Street. As for the old plaque, it’s now for me a Wadadli Pen memento, one with strangely emotional resonance (when I consider how far this project has come). I felt emotional doing a mock-up of the new plaque for other more personal reasons. Either way, this Wadadli Pen journey is not a dispassionate experience.

Raw Island products

This gift bag from Raw Island products valued at exactly EC$205.54 was among the prizes given to main prize winner Daryl George (author of Tropical Moonlight Sonata). For his main prize he also took EC$500, a pen (valued at approximately EC$150 give or take) and books from Pam Arthurton, a Barbuda Express voucher for two valued at EC$360 each covering travel to the sister island plus tour and lunch, more books from me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) and the Best of Books, including my Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings.


The Sweep series by Cate Tiernan was among the books donated by the Best of Books to the Wadadli Pen 2016 prize package. These went to 13 to 17 runner up Diamond Wayne (author of Granny for Sale) along with Lorna Goodison’s Selected Poems contributed by Pam Arthurton and EC$160 contributed by Dr. Hazra Medica.


Best of Books gave some games as well. Added these to the gift bags of Chammaiah Ambrose, Alyssa Charles, and Judah Christian.


Could these books be more different? Two went to the school with the most submissions and the other two were prizes in the 18 to 35 age category. See if you can guess which went where.


winning writer reads

Winning writer Daryl George reads his story Tropical Moonlight Sonata at the Wadadli Pen Challenge Awards ceremony, 2016.

12 and younger

The winners in the 12 and younger category showing off their certificates and Seven Seas bags – also pictured, far left, is rep from Seven Seas distributor Frank B. Armstrong, Akeilah Hillhouse. Each bag included goodies (plus cash in the case of the top three) for the winners some sponsored by Frank B. Armstrong, Juneth Webson, the Cushion Club, CaribbeanReads Publishing, CODE, and the Best of Books.


Audience at the Awards, Wadadli Pen Challenge, 2016, the Best of Books.


From left, Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator – me (yes, sigh, wearing glasses), winner of the 12 and younger category Chammaiah Ambrose, winner of the 18 to 35 age category and overall winner Daryl George, and one of the 2016 patrons cultural advisor Dr. Hazra Medica. Sidebar: I know I’m wearing flats but was Hazra always so tall?


Chammaiah’s poem Guilty was a hit with the gathered audience.


Coincidentally, the Seven Seas rep who came out to the awards is part of my extended family, a cousin on the Hillhouse side. She stepped up to assist with the prize giving above and beyond the call of her duties as a Frank B. Armstrong/Seven Seas rep. We are grateful. She’s pictured here with the top three in the 12 and younger category – Chammaiah Ambrose, Zion Ebony Williams, and Judah Christian.


Me, with winner Daryl George, holding the Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque.

photo call

This is a photo call at the end with a mix of winners (Chammaiah and Daryl, centre), patrons (Medica, and Hillhouse batting for Seven Seas, right), and next to me (second from left) Douglas Allen, brother of the late Alstyne Allen – it feels weird typing that – for whom the Challenge trophy is named. Bit of Wadadli Pen trivia, the first three years of its existence Wadadli Pen was partnered with the Young Explorer of which Douglas is publisher and editor.


Still not used to pictures of myself in glasses (all that reading will catch up to you) but I couldn’t not share this – the winners’ plaque being held by winner Daryl George, centre, Douglas Allen, brother of the person for whom the plaque is named, and me.




Love this one! Akeilah presenting to Chammaiah Ambrose, the 12 and younger winner, on behalf of Frank B. Armstrong, me hovering in the background trying to get the prizes right. Best laid plans, man; I tell you.

Credits: opening vid, me. w/Music sampled from Chosen Sounds and Eminem. Not profiting from any of this, including the use of the music. Pictures by Barbara Arrindell of the Best of Books, except for the black and white which I lifted from cuz’s (Akeilah Hillhouse’s) facebook.

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Lost and Found! by Denejah Browne

Honourable Mention in the 12 and younger age category – Wadadli Pen Challenge 2016

Author’s comment about the story: “Lost and Found! is about Life in the Caribbean in the old days included taking care of animals and crops. Modern comforts have changed our lifestyle, however, we must not forget our Caribbean Life.”

Judge’s comments (positives only*): “Could be a good little story; there is a setting and theme and a happy ending.”

Note: *While only the positives are being shared with the public, in keeping with the development goals of Wadadli Pen, all long listed entries are returned to the author with the judge’s note  – both positives and negatives – for revision. Congrats to Denejah for being singled out for honourable mention and for taking the opportunity to review and revise her story. Keep working on your craft; keep valuing your voice and your art. – JCH

Denejah Browne

Denejah Browne.


Here now is Lost and Found! by Denejah Browne, 11, who loves to read and play music, especially pan, and who is a student at Christ the King High School:

Long ago in a small village on a Caribbean Island, lived a farmer and his family.  His wife Silvia spent her day attending to the crops in the field and cooking for her family.  Their children Luke and Sally were eleven and twelve years old and spent their days looking after the goats and chickens.  Their father took care of the cows and planting the fields.  They lived in a three bedroom house with dirt floors and a thatched roof.  The family lived on a big piece of land and made money from selling milk, eggs and crops which were, corn, sweet potato, peas and carrots.

Their day started at 5:00 AM when they got up to take care of the animals. Luke and Sally were in charge of the goats and chickens, who needed fresh grass and water and to be taken to a new grazing area often. They had 10 adult goats and 5 kiddie goats.  Luke and Sally loved the kiddies and would play with them for hours.  In the evening they would go back and lock them in their pens for the night.  One night Luke and Sally were in a hurry to eat dinner and forgot to lock the kiddies goat pen door.  During the night they got out and wandered into the fields.  The next morning, Luke and Sally were surprised and worried when they saw the kiddies were gone and ran quickly to tell mom and dad what had happened.

The search for the kiddies began as the family headed out to the grazing fields.  They searched for hours and could not find the kiddies.  Mom returned home to take care of the other animals that were forgotten due to the search.  Luke and Sally were now in tears because the kiddies were lost.  Dad stated that it was almost dinner time and they must go back home.    On their way back home Sally saw a white tail hiding in the bushes.  As they went closer they saw the five kiddie goats looking scared and hungry.  They were so happy that they found their kiddie goats.  Dad helped them to take the kiddies home safely and they made sure to lock the door securely.


For earning honourable mention in her age category, Denejah received:
Gifts contributed by Juneth Webson and Frank B. Armstrong, a gift certificate for EC$25 from the Cushion Club, and a certificate sponsored by the Best of Books.

Thanks to all partners and patrons for making the Wadadli Pen 2016 Challenge possible. Here at Wadadli Pen, we encourage you to support the businesses and individuals who support the arts.

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

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