Tag Archives: Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival

Classic: in Conversation with three Caribbean Authors (2010)

I actually just found (re-found?) this one. It’s one of the interviews I did in 2010 in the lead-up to the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival (remember when we had one of those?). It’s a bit dated – and given that the literary festival is now defunct, some of the commentary is sadly ironic – but I thought I’d share it for your reading pleasure.


This is a photo from the first Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival in 2006. I don’t believe this ran with the original piece but it includes two of the interviewed authors – Elizabeth Nunez and Verna Wilkins, 2nd and 3rd from left. I am at the far right.

One-on-one with three regional authors
November 3, 2010   Joanne C. Hillhouse  Arts and Culture, Specials

Daily OBSERVER caught up recently with three authors slated for this year’s literary festival, November 4 to 7.

All esteemed award recipients, they are: Belizean Zee Edgell, author of Beka Lamb, In Times Like These, The Festival of San Joaquin, and Time and the River; Trinidadian Elizabeth Nunez, author of Anna In-Between, Prospero’s Daughter, Bruised Hibiscus, Grace, Discretion, When Rocks Dance, and Beyond the Limbo Silence; and Grenadian Verna Wilkins, founder of Tamarind Books in the UK and a children’s.

Each was asked the same questions; here are their answers.

Daily OBSERVER What can people expect from you for the 2010 literary festival?

Zee Edgell: I hope to participate in workshops, the panel discussions, do readings, meet with students and the general public and do book signings.

Elizabeth Nunez: Reading and discussion of my latest novel, Anna In-Between, as well as the story of my development as a writer. I will also talk a little about the state of publishing fiction today and directions for the future.

Verna Wilkins: People can expect (me) to share 23 years of my experience in the UK both as founder and publisher of the well respected multicultural Tamarind Books list and as an author of 35 children’s books.

DO: …what, if anything, in your view sets the lit fest in Antigua apart?

ZE: Visiting schools, and meeting with students in Antigua were the outstanding features…

EN: What sets this Festival apart is the easy accessibility to writers and the informal atmosphere that encourages interaction between emerging and established writers.

VW: What sets ABILF apart for me is the fact that it makes contacts with schools and teachers possible. The discussion forums are enlightening and meaningful.

DO: …has it evolved, in your view?

ZE: I’ve attended one literary festival in Antigua, so I’m not able to comment on this evolution.

EN: What is extraordinary is that the organizers have managed to continue this festival in spite of the financial challenges of the times. The festival continues to seek out popular writers but at the same time is committed to giving voice to new writers as well as literary writers who have not enjoyed a wide reading audience. Participants get introduced to books that they would not ordinarily have known.

DO: Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to this year?

ZE: I am looking forward to the activities listed…also to seeing more of Antigua.

EN: I am looking forward to hearing Lorna Goodison, whose poetry touches the heart and opens windows to the Caribbean world both known and unknown.

VW: I am looking forward this year to discussing ‘The Reluctant Reader’ with teachers and carers with a view to putting in place strategies for re-engaging with books.

DO: You’ve seen the festival line up, is there anyone in particular you’re hoping to engage – and why?

ZE: I am hoping to engage as many participants as possible.

EN: I love the line up and can’t wait to hear all the writers.

VW: I am looking forward to engaging with the writers who do grown-up books in various genres; hopefully an enabling process to write for adults and to get started on my autobiography.

DO: …Can you speak to why festivals of this nature should persist in these tough economic times?

ZE: I am not able to answer this question, especially as so many people are in economic difficulties.

EN: All the major movements in the world have been propelled by books. The great works of writers such as CLR James and George Lamming set the foundation for independence in the Caribbean, and writers such as (James) Baldwin, (Richard) Wright and (Zora Neale) Hurston helped usher in the civil rights movement in the U.S. We need writers not only to entertain us with stories, but also to mirror our societies, give us a sense of who we are and who we can be.

VW: Festivals should persist through these financial times so that we can continue to share ideas which might take us to a brighter future.

DO: What do you think of the lit fest’s emphasis on youth?

ZE: I think, where possible, a love of reading should be encouraged from the cradle. A literary festival focused (on) Caribbean youth is a great contribution to the present and future development of the Caribbean.

EN: This is an excellent idea. Young people need models so that they have living proof of what is possible for them to attain.

VW: The emphasis on youth is dear to me. I write children’s books because I firmly believe that children who engage with books in the early year, the years in which the personality takes shape and attitudes are formed, tend to achieve academically. They also acquire a good vocabulary and can tap into various types of reading…for study or for pleasure…(also) the interaction with published authors gives them invaluable opportunities to speak with role models for success.

DO: Who would be on your wish list for a future ABILF?

ZE: My wish list would include reading and writing workshops for small groups of interested students.

EN: More Caribbean writers from the region and the diaspora.

DO: …in what directions would you like to see (the festival) grow and how do you think it could begin to do so?

ZE: I think a greater emphasis should be placed on obtaining funding for the festival. In general, most writers do not earn very much from their writing. Although airfares and accommodation are provided to writers, attending a festival without honorariums or fees is quite expensive for most writers, at any time. Funding for fees and/or adequate honorariums would assist writers to more easily participate in the Festival. Perhaps experts who may be economically able to volunteer could be recruited to write grant proposals to funding agencies, the business and professional communities, and individuals who might wish to contribute as partners …

DO: …what’s your favourite memory (from past ABILFs)?

ZE: I enjoyed meeting the students, fellow participants, including the Festival organizers, and seeing something of Antigua.

VW: My favourite memory of the festivals is meeting other black authors from the US and sharing their wide range of writing. I learned a lot and my confidence as a writer grew.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love

2011 TOP 10

Well it’s the time for year-end lists, so who are we to resist? Here’s our top 10 of 2011.

Caribbean writers from left: Jamaica's Carolyn Cooper, Trinidad's Danielle Boodoo-Fortune, Bermuda's Angela Barry, Barbados' Dana Gilkes, Barbados' Esther Phillips, Trinidad's Ramabai Espinet, Caribbean literary giant George Lamming, Antigua's Joanne C. Hillhouse (that's me), Trinidad's Patricia Mohammad, Barbados' Margaret Gill, and Curdella Forbes of Jamaica.

1. Tracking readership over the past year, site stats show that beyond the homepage, the bulk of our readers (2175 views) have been drawn to Robert Lee’s Discovering West Indian Literature in English – a Selected Bibliography. Little surprise considering that most people find us via facebook, google, and the Caribbean Literary Salon, and that many people come to us while scouting for ‘west Indian literature’ and particular Caribbean writers. We’re blessed to have this valuable resource on the site (notwithstanding that it really needs to be updated). Thank you, John.

2. Next in the line-up is the story the Legend of Banana Boy. This as a search engine term remains popular and, frankly, a head scratcher. But we’re glad that readers  (594 views) are discovering this 2011 story, winner in the 13 to 17 age category of Wadadli Pen 2011.

3. Blogger’s Bio. I’ve come to understand that as a consequence of my book, The Boy from Willow Bend, being taught in the Antigua and Barbuda schools, students will periodically be sent to research me (a prospect at once surprising, overwhelming and flattering). I know because many of them have over time called the house, facebooked or emailed me. And, of course, some (391 views) did their legwork, scouring the internet and making their way to my Blogger’s Bio.

4. About Wadadli Pen. If you stumble upon us, makes sense that you’d want to research what you’ve stumbled upon. ‘About Wadadli Pen’ fills that need for information about the programme; our 346 views bear witness.

From an Antigua Public Library online display: from left me and my books, D. Gisele Isaac and Considering Venus, and Joy Lawrence with her books.

5. There is no listing of Antiguan and Barbudan writing (that I’ve come across) as comprehensive as the one we have on this site. But then Antiguan and Barbudan Writings is at least six years and counting in the making; and at 244 views, the fifth most popular area of the site.

6. It thrills me no end that my musings on books I’ve read, Blogger on Books, is (with 240 views) one of the more popular areas of the site. I only wish those who viewed would respond and share some of their favourites as well.

Scene from Antiguan film Working Girl

7. Of all the sub-bibliographies, Playwrights and Screenwriters , one of the ones most in need of development keeps attracting strong readership (234 views); reflective, perhaps, of a high level of interest in the country’s burgeoning film industry.

Me on a panel with Eric Jerome Dickey at the ABILF

8. Spotlight – Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival. This may have been postponed in 2011, but is still an activity with some legs, obviously; 219 views don’t lie.

Singer/songwriter Swallow performing.

9. Antiguan and Barbudan songwriters. If I’m disappointed with the lack of development of any area on this site, this is it. But readers (180 views) keep coming back…would be cool if those with information on A & B songwriters would ahare though.

10. While Blogger on Books deals with Books I’ve read and liked, the Reading Room and Gallery  (and now the Reading Room and Gallery II) links to select poetry, fiction, non fiction, and more. I like discovering new things and sharing them with readers. I’m happy, therefore, that the Gallery (with 157 views) rounds out our 2011 top ten.

Here’s hoping you’ll keep coming back and supporting the efforts of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, which continues to aspire to  nurture and promote the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2012.

Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Wadadli Pen 2011, Wadadli Pen News


This one is from the 2007 edition of the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival. That’s me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) with Eric Jerome Dickey, easily the most in demand person at that year’s event and one of the most personable. With his celebrity and the demands on his attention, it would have been easy for him to be aloof. But he wasn’t.

Eric Jerome Dickey with me (Joanne C. Hillhouse)

Nah, he was the essence of cool and far from superficial, maintaining contact with the island and the writers he met there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literary Gallery

2011 Sponsors and Partners

(This list will continue to grow as names are added, so keep checking back)

2011 Partners:

The Best of Books

Brenda Lee Browne (media and communications consultant/writer)

Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau (poet)

Renee Phillip (art teacher)

More on Past partnerships and Wadadli Pen history here.

2011 Sponsors:

ABI Insurance

Caribbean Alliance Insurance Company Limited

Seven Seas (via Antigua and Barbuda distributor Frank B. Armstrong)

The Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival

The International Women’s Club of Antigua and Barbuda

D. Gisele Isaac (author of Considering Venus; screenwriter, No Seed and the Sweetest Mango; fmr. Wadadli Pen judge)


Floree Williams (author of Pink Teacups and Blue Dresses, Through A Window)


Edison Arts

K & E Party Time and Rentals

Jennifer Meranto

Jewell Parker Rhodes

Marcel Marshall

See past sponsors here

Comments Off on 2011 Sponsors and Partners

Filed under Wadadli Pen 2011


The Best of Books Wadadli Pen Challenge 2011 has launched. “We’ve invited young writers to create content for young readers and we continue to invite businesses to support and reward those efforts,” said Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator, and author Joanne C. Hillhouse (The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight). She is in the process of soliciting prizes for this year’s competition.

ABI insurance is the latest sponsor to come on board. “We were looking for various youth community involvement programmes,” explained Senior PR and Marketing representative Sherie-ann Brazier.  Specifically, she continued, having concentrated their outreach efforts on the primary schools, they were keen to do something with secondary school students.

Wadadli Pen is open to primary and secondary school students, and young adults up to age 35. Winners will be selected in three age categories – 12 and under, 13 to 17, and 18 to 35; a top three overall will also be selected.

With so many prizes to give out, the organizers are thankful for the companies who’ve so far come on board. These include Seven Seas via local distributor Frank B. Armstrong, the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival, the International Women’s Club of Antigua and Barbuda, African American author of Ninth Ward Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Through a Window Antiguan author Floree Williams; also Antiguanice.com which is hosting a Wadadli Pen page on its site.

“We always want to help with anything that is educational,” said Margo Mason, marketing representative for Frank B. Armstrong/Seven Seas, which is also known for its annual sponsorship of the Rotaract Spelling Bee. “We want to continue with the development of the literary arts in the country. It’s the first time (we’re investing in Wadadli Pen) but hopefully won’t be the last.”

K.C. Nash, speaking for the IWC,  which annually provides scholarships to young women among other programmes, said, “Most of what we do as far as fundraising is in terms of education so we encourage programmes that are in the educational vein, especially with young people; we try to support them as much as we can.”

While Hillhouse continues to reach out to other businesses behind the scenes, she is, also, reaching out publicly to other businesses and individuals to give what they can to encourage the literary arts and literacy in Antigua and Barbuda. Since launching in 2004, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize has been able to give prizes big and small from computers to books, trips to pens. “We are extremely grateful for the generosity shown over the years,” said Hillhouse, noting that who gave what can still be seen at https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com

Her other appeal is to teachers, parents, and youth workers generally to help spread the word to creative young people who may have a story to tell, and can do so in 600 words or less. This year they’re targeting stories written with young readers in mind – the kind of story a parent might read to a child or a young reader would pick up and read on his or her own.  “As usual we want them to have a Caribbean sensibility,” Hillhouse said. The deadline is March 31st. For guidelines and writing tips, check the website.

To contact the coordinator, email wadadlipen@yahoo.com


Filed under Wadadli Pen 2011

Spotlight – Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival

I’ve been meaning to post on the Lit Fest for a while. It’s had its bumps  but after last year’s cancellation it has to be counted as a plus that it’s back. But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Read a full report here written by me off of interviews with the organizers. For my part, I thought the numbers were down, and the cancellation of the star attraction didn’t help matters. But I still think the lit fest has potential both from a tourism standpoint and from the general perspective of developing the literary arts through workshop activity, interaction with authors at various levels of the game, and fun activities for kids. Mistakes have been made, no doubt. And I certainly I don’t have the answers really for the things that aren’t working though it seems pretty clear that it needs more ideas and more hands on deck, more communication, more publicity, more support generally. The organizers seem to be doing some soul searching on all this and have extended an invite for input (as noted in the article linked above). I hope people will take them up on this as this won’t thrive without a real public buy-in. Here are some reminders of why the lit fest matters.

Celebrating Talent

Celebrating literary excellence: Here we see Althea Prince collecting the ABILF lit award. None was given out this year but I for one hope it returns.

Dame Gwendolyn Tonge (center) received a special award for her contributions to Antiguan society from the Hon. Hillson Baptiste, Member of Parliament, as Festival Founder Joy Bramble observes, during the Saturday noontime session of the 2007 Antigua & Barbuda Literary Festival.


Met Eric Jerome Dickey at the festival and he's proven to be a gracious, gracious man in person to me and other Antiguan writers



Bringing writers, local and international, starting out and advanced together: pictured here in 2006 are Althea Prince, Elizabeth Nunez, Verna Wilkins, Nalo Hopkinson, Marie Elena John, and me. Wilkins and Nunez have returned each year of the festival.


Elizabeth Nunez and Verna Wilkins, year 1.


on this panel Elizabeth Nunez, Verna Wilkins, Althea Prince, Nalo Hopkinson, and Marie Elena John


Panels like this 2007 one with Donna Hill, Verna Wilkins, Dawne Allette, and Victoria Christopher Murray provide insight to the writing process and the publishing industry.

Author Elizabeth Nunez makes a particular point about writing as novelist Eric Jerome Dickey looks on during a session at the 2007 Antigua & Barbuda Literary Festival.

Learning Opportunities

Ava Hutchinson conducts a session on raising creativity at the 2007 Antigua & Barbuda Literary Festival, held at the Anchorage Inn.

The Word

Marita Golden reading 2006

One of my favourite activities at the 2010 ABILF was the poetry night; listening to readings by Lorna Goodison, Esther Phillips, John Agard, Grace Nichols, Zee’s Youth Theatre and the Young Poets Society of Antigua and Barbuda. Also their after words about crafting and commitment to shaping the work into the best it can be spoke to the writer-still-becoming in me. I was busy with the Children’s Tent on Saturday so I didn’t get a chance to hear them under the big tent (below) but I didn’t feel cheated.

Esther Phillips, editor of BIM


Grace Nichols; Guyanese poet and winner of the Commonwealth poetry prize


John Agard

Generation Next 


The children's tent was sponsored by Western Union



Me, reading to the kids from Ashley Bryan's Dancing Granny


Marita Golden signs autographs for a group of young Antiguans. I remember her reading and workshops were personal highlights for me at the 2006 festival.

Motion 2008 at the Children's tent


...and Jason Cole and his bag of tricks


...and Verna and her Tamarind Books


Moments like this

A reading by Jamaica Kincaid, in Antigua, as rare as...as...rain in drought season

Antigua's youngest writer at the time, Akilah Jardine, signing copies alongside it's best known writer, Jamaica Kincaid.

one of the highlghts in all the years of the festival for me was reading at the Antiguan Authors Luncheon...when I was a little kid I didn't even know we had Antiguan authors!

...but, boy, are there; pictured at the first fest in 2006 are (standing) S. E. James, Marie Elena John, Rosalyn Simon, and me; and (sitting, from left) Althea Prince, Akilah Jardine, and Jamaica Kincaid.


2007 - kids from the Cushion Club meet Eric Jerome Dickey


face painting!


Filed under Literary Gallery