Tag Archives: adventure

FORBIDDEN

By Vega Armstrong

Vega Armstrong

“This is a well-thought out story with an interesting plot and good use of vocabulary.” – JUDGE

 

In 1669 there was a slave plantation in Antigua called Betty’s Hope.

My name is Amelia and I’m nine years old. My father is a slave master named Christopher on a small Caribbean island called Antigua. My mother is named Elizabeth and I also have a seven year old little brother named William.

Father started the plantation a year ago but has only just brought us from England now that everything is running smoothly. Now that we are here he probably feels complete. He has a satisfied look on his face.

Father helps us out of the donkey cart and has three of the slaves bring our baggage inside the house while he shows us around. After he finishes the tour William and I are left to wander outside as father is taking mother inside the house . Some of the slaves, waist deep in the sugar cane, are staring at me.

I keep looking around but not at the fields anymore but at the sugar mill. It is magnificent! It is a tall stone building in a cylindrical shape but it narrows at the top. There are also four wooden arms on one side and the center of them is almost at the top of the mill. Close to the first mill there is another one that is in use now. I cautiously walk towards it, curious about how it works. I grab William’s hand in mine, squeeze it tightly and he squeezes mine twice in reply. William and I are really close. We went exploring a lot when we were back in England and also on the boat.

We approach the mill him walking ahead slightly. As we get there I realize what a bad idea it is but it’s too late. William is swept up in the blades and within seconds there is no trace of him. I scream at the top of my lungs. A scream so loud I am not sure it actually belongs to me. I fall to the ground weeping not able to breathe because I am choking on my sobs and to be honest I want to be with William wherever he is so I don’t mind if I die right there and then.

My parents come running to me and my mother crouches down next to me and my father is standing next to me surveying the surroundings for anything that could have upset me. He crouches down on the other side of me asking what happened.

“William,” I croaked. “He, he got swept up in the blades and he, he hasn’t come down.” I was sobbing so hard at this point barely able to say those words.

At that moment I see him fly from the blades and his limp body fell to the ground near my mother and I scream again and start soaking my clothes with even more tears. My mother tries to pick me up but I wriggle out of her arms and run to William’s body I grab his hand which is now covered with blood. My mother picks me up and carries me away. I notice some of the slaves have on smug smiles and some were whispering to each other but one young boy is staring at William in horror with tears running down his cheeks. We locked eyes and for a brief moment I feel some comfort.

1675

I wake up and grasp in my thin sheets for William to be there but he isn’t. I step out of my room and tiptoe downstairs afraid to wake my parents.

There is some bread on the table and I rip off a chunk as I walk outside. I see the same boy who cried over William cutting cane in the fields. He is fifteen now just like me and I run up to him calling his name.

He drops the blade he is using to cut the cane and opens his arms to hug me. I squeeze him with all my might which doesn’t faze him and in return I feel his strong hands squeezing back, full of passion.

We stay like this for a few seconds before we let go. I draw back and he slips his hands into mine. I look at his fingers as they intertwine with mine and then I meet his eyes.

“Are your parents awake?” he asks as a concerned look crosses his face.

“Not as yet” I reply. His facial expression seems to relax but his grip around my hands hasn’t.

My father emerges through the front door dressed in a white cotton button-down dress shirt and light brown cotton trousers. John drops my hands suddenly and I turn around so abruptly, my long brown braid almost hitting him in the face. I turn back to him and say “I’ll see you tomorrow John, the same place, same time” I turn and run over to my father to give him a hug.

As I am about to embrace him he asks “What were you doing with him?” The question shocks me. Had he seen us holding hands or worse, hugging? These thoughts cross my mind but I decide not to show my fear.

“What do you mean by that father?” I ask very well knowing that he disliked when I answer a question with a question.

“You know perfectly well!” He snaps back.

“What do you think you saw?” I ask  challenging him in an innocent way.

“The two of you hugged and then held hands!’’ He was practically shouting at this point.

“You must be mistaken father I wouldn’t ever disobey your rules”

“Enough! You can’t lie to me Amelia. Not anymore!” He yells at me and in a hushed tone he adds “These slaves have no heart darling, you can’t possibly ‘like’ one of them”

“You know you’re right, I don’t like him” I begin…

“Now you’re making sense sweetheart” He says to me in a voice you would use to praise a dog.

“I love him, and his name is John!” I finish and run back into the house.

Two weeks later

John and I are meeting behind the house to discuss running away together.

“We need to get away and soon too. Your father is making me do twice the amount of work as the other men,” he says. I can hear the desperation in his voice. He can’t even be bothered to conceal it.

“Slaves” I correct and he gives me a glare so I slip my hand into his and kiss him on the cheek. I agree with him but I don’t know where to run to. Antigua is very small and I have never been given the opportunity to explore it.

“We have to leave” he insists.

“I know but where to?” He is silent for a moment.

“Somewhere. I’ll ask around,” he tells me and he seems very sure of himself so I leave the conversation there by kissing him.

I have to tiptoe to reach him. His lips are warm and slightly cracked from the sun. When I pull back he is smiling down at me. I come down from my tiptoes and smile back at him. I walk back around to the front of the house and slip inside.

My mother and father are in the kitchen waiting for me.

“Good afternoon father, mother” I greet them “I’m so sorry that I’m late but I didn’t realize the time” I am actually sorry that I am late because my mother looks concerned and I realize why. My father had a smug look on his face and I now know that he told her.

I sit in a dining chair opposite to them and bury my head in my hands. I hear the careful footsteps of my mother approach me and then stop. I look up and forgetting my manners I snap “Get on with it then!”

My mother looks genuinely confused. I turn to face my father and yell “Why don’t you kill him already father? Instead of torturing him!” Tears are running down my cheeks at this point. “He is the only one who cared when William died!” I am screaming at this point. “He cried over him!  Did you even shed one tear?” I am staring into my father’s eyes challenging him “Well, did you?” I stand and start to walk toward the stairs when my father runs in front of me blocking my path.

“If I kill him the other slaves will have a cause to rebel against me and then we would be nowhere and furthermore”. He pauses for a brief moment and then he continues, “If I ever see you with him again you will be sent back to England.”

I was thinking of how much William had wanted to stay in England. I push past my father and run up to my room. I lock the door behind me and move my dresser in front of the door for extra security. I pack a bag and within ten minutes I am ready to leave but I decide to wait till nightfall.

An hour after all the light had faded out of the sky I climb out of my window and carefully make my way down the side of the building. I run towards the little huts on the far side of the sugar cane fields. I find John wide awake while all the other men are asleep. He’s sitting by an empty fire pit staring into it as if there are flames in it that are mesmerizing him. I touch his shoulder and he jumps out of his trance.

“Let’s go”

“Now?” He asks. He was clearly confused but he was excited nevertheless.

“Yes, of course now. When else?” I giggle. He picks me up and spins me around which results in more giggling and he has to remind me to be quiet.

We hold hands and run into the bushes, letting the darkness swallow us…

Author’s bio: Vega Armstrong is a first form student at St. Anthony’s Secondary School. This is the third consecutive year she has entered the Wadadli Pen Challenge and the third year she has placed (2012, 2013). In 2014, she is, for the first time, the winner of her category, the 12 and younger age category and was a judges’ favourite for the main prize in the 2014 Wadadli Pen Challenge. Vega loves dancing, art, writing, reading and horseback riding.

Copyright belongs to the author; so, no stealing.

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What if?

So a publication asked me to submit a piece on writing tailored to kids to coincide with the release of Fish Outta Water. I was stumped but decided to give it a go. Just as I was submitting it, though, they said, never mind. Seems I’d missed the deadline I hadn’t been informed about. Needless to say I was pissed because time is not something I have a lot of; but then I remembered I have this blog for sharing things like this (and hadn’t had time to blog all week). So I won’t count it as time wasted but as the blog I didn’t know I was going to write. And you know what’d be really cool: if kids, especially kids 10 and younger, responded with their own response to the what if prompt in the comments section below.

How to Write Your Own Adventure

What if? …

That question can send the imagination on an exciting adventure.

What if an Arctic seal got lost in the Caribbean?

That’s the question that jump started my new book Fish Outta Water.

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In the real world, we learned that this is not such a far-fetched what if when Wadadli, the Arctic seal, was helped home by scientists after somehow ending up in our waters.

But what if the stranded seal had been befriended by a creature from the Caribbean Sea? What kind of creature would that be? Would it be friendly? Would it help the stranded seal find his way home? What kind of adventures would they have?

For each question, I imagined answers until the world of the story was filled with characters; and how the seal got lost to how he got home became the challenge driving the plot, as surely as the growing friendship between the adventurous twosome.

As for the world of the story, before the illustrator (Zavian Archibald) could draw it, I had to imagine it. I refreshed memories of being on or under the water with online images of our vibrant Caribbean underwater life and the creatures that inhabit it. Plus, I found inspiration in unexpected places, like watching the sway of grass in a brisk breeze as I tried to write the fluid world of the sea.

Because it’s the world of your imagination, you can bend the rules. So yes, the seal and other sea creatures in Fish Outta Water do talk, just like Nemo.

As for how it feels to be lost, to make new friends or to go on adventures, I have only to search my own experiences; and use the echo of those emotions to imagine how the characters might feel.

Of course, in the story, the adventure eventually comes to an end. To find out if the seal who daydreams of dolphins finds his way home, you’ll have to read the story; I don’t want to spoil it for you.

But, know this, you too can write your stories; your story can take anything on any kind of adventure. You only have to ask yourself, what if?

 

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Reading the World: the Caribbean Leg

UPDATED TO ADD THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE FULL INTERVIEW

The world of social media is an amazing thing, connecting people from far flung areas. Know what else does that? Books; which intersects most interestingly with the world of social media via Ann Morgan’s Reading the World blog. A British freelance writer and editor, Ann is using her blog to share her year of literary, not literal, travel to 197 countries.

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ann-shots 6“(It’s been) great fun and I now have friends from all over the planet which is brilliant,” she informed me when I reached out to her from where I live, Antigua.

Social media brought me to Ann’s page, and as a Caribbean writer and reader, I was curious to see how she was covering my region. I wondered how she was finding the experience and what she was discovering about my world and the world-at-large in the process.

“I think I’ve learned to appreciate the value of difference more and the extraordinary variety of cultures we have in our world,” Ann said. She added though, “I’m also very conscious that as I’m only reading one book from each country this year, I mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that I have gained a rounded insight into any particular nation.” I appreciate this comment. It calls to mind Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s TED talk on the danger of a single story, in which she chastised those who make generalizations about the character of a country from a read of a single book, or even a single type of book about that place. Where that place has fewer writers, or fewer opportunities for its writers to enter the mainstream, that danger is more acute; the Caribbean, where, as I know firsthand, opportunities to publish are limited, falls into that category. I was thrilled, therefore, to see that Ann’s choices were unconventional and multi-layered enough to reveal several aspects of ‘the Caribbean story’.

“I think the variety and diversity of life in the Caribbean is something I can appreciate more now,” Ann said. “Here in the rainy old UK we are used to lumping the region together and just thinking of it as a sunny, tropical paradise. However the books I’ve read have showed me that the different nations have strikingly different characteristics: from the tensions between rich and poor in the Bahamas to the playful rivalries between different communities and islands in tiny places like St Vincent and the Grenadines, there’s so much to discover.” Her appetite stoked, she’ll continue sampling Caribbean literature, discovering more and more about its diversity and humanity as she goes.

So far, she’s discovered something of its fun and mystical side.  “I loved the myth about the Snake King as told by the children in Grade 6 at Atkinson School, Bataka, Dominica,” Ann  said. “The story was so rooted in the landscape of the island – with a specific rock formation on the island used as the staircase for the snake to climb out of the ocean. The illustrations also made it a really colourful, joyful book.”

She’ll also continue to discover its bloody history such as “…the brutal acts that took place under the regime of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. These form the backdrop and backstory to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz…it’s amazing that such a vibrant society could emerge from such dark times.”

Diaz’s was one of Ann’s favourite books of the past year. Other favourites were  Bahamian writer Garth Buckner’s Thine is the Kingdom exploring class and identity; Barbados born writer Glenville Lovell’s Song of the Night, of which Ann blogged he “creates a powerful and memorable allegory for the wave of change overwhelming the island”; Grenadian writer’s Merle Collins’ “atmospheric” The Ladies are Upstairs; and Haitian-Canadian writer Dany Laferrière’s I am a Japanese Writer (how’s that for a curveball when it comes to trying to pigeon hole Caribbean literature?). “However, for a story that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and keeps you reading way past bedtime, it would have to be John Crow’s Devil by Marlon James – my Jamaican choice,” Ann said.

The book she found most revealing, though, was an unpublished memoir by Trinidadian writer Vahni Capildeo, One Scattered Skeleton. “She is related to VS Naipaul, so grew up in quite a large shadow, but for her, the biggest obstacle seemed to be the fact that all the books published out there apart from Naipaul’s were from countries like the UK. Her descriptions of how books and formative experiences that we encounter growing up affect the way we read and write are fascinating.” That’s an interesting insight because it is true that most of us grow up, even now, reading books from outside. Ironic, isn’t it; and debilitating, if you’re a young girl, as I was, dreaming of being a writer. Jamaica Kincaid, an Antiguan born writer was perhaps the first time I saw someone from my backyard doing exactly what I wanted to do, telling stories that reflected me. I discovered her in my late teens. Given her celebrity, no surprise that she made Ann’s reading list. “Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid also has some fascinating things to say about the legacy of British colonialism,” she said.

One telling thing in Ann’s responses is that she found no formula to Caribbean fiction. Thematically, stylistically, tonally, they were as diverse as the countries and writers, themselves, as diverse as we who live here know we are.

“There is certainly no lack of stories to tell,” Ann said, “and publishers looking for fresh voices will find plenty of them in the region.” Hear that, publishers?

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As for you, readers, remember you don’t need a passport to travel. Like Ann discovered, “Reading books from other countries and cultures is one of the easiest, richest and cheapest ways of experiencing the world from other perspectives.”

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, 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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