The timing of this post is funny (not haha) as the world slowly shuts down to halt the spread of an international pandemic. No hysterics here. Just a reminder to be safe – follow the guidelines – and don’t panic.
Check a trusted source and tune in to official fact-based updates via local news outlets. Recommended though that this news intake be in manageable bites (to reduce fear and panic), and that we all embrace ways to stay lifted. To wit, this being an arts site, we hope you’ll appreciate this montage of Italians coping with song.
Now, on to arts news from Antigua and Barbuda, and the wider Caribbean.
The Wadadli Pen 2020 Challenge has a short list! Thanks to judges Floree Williams Whyte (judging chief/Wadadli Pen partner), Glen Toussaint (bookseller, writer), and Danielle Boodoo Fortune (Bocas winning poet, and artist). Entries still in the running are: Oh, Beach that I once loved; The John Bull Effect; The Beast of Barbados; Two Worlds Collide; A Bright Future for Tomorrow; My Favourite Dish; A New World; A Mermaid; Lead Me Lord; The Fabled Truth; and Tom, the Ninja Crab. See who the writers were, here.
Zadie Smith, a UK writer, of Jamaican descent on her mother’s side, was shortlisted for the Folio Prize. Already well known and celebrated for books like White Teeth, Zadie is one of eight singled out, this time for her book Grand Union. The winner is due to be announced this March. More here.
Here in Antigua and Barbuda the Directorate of Gender Affairs Awarded 25 Women of Wadadli, a first time initiative held, appropriately, on International Women’s Day, March 8th 2020. “DoGA Executive Director, Farmala Jacobs, said that this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day is especially significant and that the Woman of Wadadli Awards aimed to recognize the unsung heroes among us.” Among the 25, there were broadly eight artists (Colleen Simpson – Culinary Arts, Heather Doram – Culture, Noreen Phillips – Fashion, Zahra Airall – Fine Arts, Marion Byron – Music and Entertainment, Mako Williams – recognized for Tech is also an artist, and Wadadli Pen core team member Barbara Arrindell – recognized as a changemaker, but also a writer). The Literature prize went to Wadadli Pen’s own Joanne C. Hillhouse.
Exclusive Interview: M. J. Fievre
Featured on Hillhouse’s Jhohadli blog, this interview with Haitian-American writer M. J. Fievre traverses the territory of depression and her own experience with it and the creative expression that emerged. Her book Happy, Okay? uses various literary forms to speak to her mental health journey (in progress) and another book touched on, Badass Black Girl, is meant to be a guide to young girls in their own process of emerging. Check out the full interview here.
New from Peepal Tree Press, from PEN English Translation winners Puerto Rico-based Loretta Collins-Klobah and Maria Grau Perejoan, a bilingual anthology of thirty-three contemporary Caribbean women poets The Sea Needs No Ornament/ El mar no necesita ornamento. It is the first bilingual anthology of contemporary poetry by women writers of the English- and Spanish-speaking Caribbean and its Diasporas to be curated in more than two decades. The anthology presents a selection of work by poets from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and from various Anglophone Caribbean islands and the Diaspora. Each poem is presented first in the original, followed by the translation. The majority of poets have not yet been widely translated nor included in a bilingual anthology of this scope.
Klobah is a past Bocas winner.
This one actually came out in late 2019 but we missed it, so
The ArtsEtc Winning Words Anthology is very much in the spirit of what we try to do here at Wadadli Pen. It is a developmental programme that helps to nurture and showcase new writing in Barbados – from fresh and established voices. The only difference really is the resources behind it (e.g. the National Cultural Foundation). Kudos to the NCF for all it does to push literary arts in BIM.
We also want to acknowledge that past Wadadli Pen finalist Rilzy Adams dropped three new self-published ebooks late in 2019 – 12 Dates of Christmas (Love on the Rock Book 1); You, Me + Baby (Love on the Rock Book 2); and Brand New: A Love on the Rock Novelette.
Jacob Ross has released the second book in his Michael ‘Digger’ Digson crime noir series. Black Rain Falling (published with Sphere) picks up after The Bone Readers (Peepal Tree), which introduced the Caribbean forensic detective to the literary world, with a couple of new mysteries to solve.
Monique Roffey – already prolific and profound as the author of books like Archipelago and White Woman on the Green Bicycle (both published with Penguin) – has a new one (with Peepal Tree) The Mermaid of Black Conch, in which a fisherman on a fictional Caribbean island meets a cursed woman of the sea. The UK-based Trinidad writer previously won the Bocas Prize for literature and has been shortlisted for several other major international awards. Early reviews for this one are good too: “The setting is slow and lush, full of colour and texture, which makes it beautifully three dimensional, with a feeling of movement that lifts and carries you through. There is beauty in the grimness too.” (Jess Sturnam-Coombs)
Also out this March, An Autobiography of the Autobiography of Reading (CSL Kreisel Lecture Series via the University of Alberta Press) by Dionne Brand. Most online bios found through google describe her as a Canadian poet but she is Trinidad and Tobago born and raised. And this book is informed by her Caribbean colonial upbringing. In it, the “internationally acclaimed poet and novelist Dionne Brand reflects on her early reading of colonial literature and how it makes Black beings inanimate. She explores her encounters with colonial, imperialist, and racist tropes; the ways that practices of reading and writing are shaped by those narrative structures; and the challenges of writing a narrative of Black life that attends to its own expression and its own consciousness.” (book summary)
Guyanese actress, Shuri from Black Panther, Letitia Wright has reportedly signed on to star in the bizarre story of a pair of Barbados-born, UK-based twins. In a nutshell, “They became known as The Silent Twins as they refused to communicate with anyone but each other, and ended up in Broadmoor Hospital after they turned to crime. Jennifer and June spent 11 years in Broadmoor where they were studied by doctors and psychologists, but the pair would still only communicate with each other and became catatonic when separated.” Interesting. Check it out.
Meanwhile, an Antiguan-Barbudan boy is Peter Pan in a new adaptation by the director of the critically-acclaimed, Oscar nominated Beast of the Southern Wild.
Yashua Mack, a local boy, made his big screen debut in February 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival playing the iconic literary character who has been re-imagined many times over but, perhaps not with quite so much melanin. The film was also partially filled in Antigua, primarily at local landmark Hell’s Gate – an offshore island which is a border between the calm of the Caribbean Sea and the wilds of the Atlantic Ocean. A red carpet premiere was planned for Antigua-Barbuda in March 2020 (can’t confirm if this has been cancelled in light of COVID-19 government ban of public gatherings of a certain size – with this and all events call first).
Reading competitions seem to be catching on; there are two national ones in Antigua, one with a regional component. Here’s some news related to both.
A Grace Christian Academy student won the Rotary Antigua Reading Comp, for the third time. This is the second year in a row that it has featured a book by a Wadadli Pen associated writer – last year, The Wonderful World of Yohan by Floree Williams Whyte, Wadadli Pen’s chief judge and this year, The Boy from Willow Bend, the first book by Wadadli Pen founder Joanne C. Hillhouse.
(read the full article above from the Daily Observer newspaper 08-03-20 and this related blog post )
Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda placed third in the OECS edition of the Courts reading competition.
The Honorable Harold Simmons Folk Academy of The Monsignor Patrick Anthony Folk Research Centre has announced a FRC Saint Lucia Studies Conference for 2020 focused on “Creoleness/Créolité : Saint Lucian culture and cultural/creative industries in national development today.” The announced date is June 24-26 at the Finance Administrative Centre in Pointe Seraphine. The Conference seeks to provide an opportunity for researchers in the areas of Saint Lucian life and culture to present their findings in a Saint Lucian setting. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or the email@example.com
Online literary journal (out of Jamaica) Pree has announced a Pree Writing Studio initiative funded by the Prince Klaus Next Generation Grant. “With tutors of the calibre of Marlon James, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Kei Miller, Garnette Cadogan, Ishion Hutchinson, Ingrid Persaud and Safiya Sinclair those lucky enough to attend PREE’s inaugural writing studio are in for a treat. In addition there will be a publishing studio by Little, Brown/Hatchette/Dialogue Books publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove.” There may be some subsidy for writers unable to meet the total cost and this seems to be only the first of a planned series. Read more.
International Publishing Announcements
UK-based Jamaican writer Leone Ross’ latest book is the talk of the publishing world after inking a deal with Faber for the 2021 release of This One Sky Day. ‘Set on a fictional Caribbean archipelago called Popisho, This One Sky Day is described by Faber as “a sensual meditation on the nature of love and addiction” as well as “a dazzling, funny and incisive disquisition on post-colonial politics”. It also called it “a major work of fiction in conversation with Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, Arundhati Roy and Junot Díaz via the Harlem Renaissance and Anaïs Nin”.’ Read more.
Barbados’ Shakirah Bourne has landed a publishing deal with Scholastic for her Burt Award winning title, already released as My Fishy Stepmom by Jamaica’s Blouse and Skirt Books, to be released in to the US market as Josephine vs. the Sea Spirit. Per Publisher’s Weekly, “This middle grade novel features cricket-playing Jo, who discovers that her father’s new girlfriend is a powerful and vengeful sea creature and has to convince everyone of the woman’s true identity before she loses her dad forever. Publication is slated for spring 2021.” We don’t know the details of the deal but this is a big deal and we join the Caribbean literary community in congratulating her. If we’re counting right, this is the third Burt title to land a separate US publishing deal – maybe she should team up for a ‘how they did it’ seminar with Diana McCaulay, author of Gone to Drift which landed at Harper Collins, and Lisa Allen-Agostini, author of Home Home which is forthcoming this year from Delacorte Press, a division of Penguin Random House, after both being initially published by Dominica/UK’s Papillote Press.
Kim Johnson of Trinidad is seeking to republish his Illustrated History of Pan.
Meanwhile, in Antigua and Barbuda we say good bye to the long serving member of the longest running pan in the world the multi-award winning Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra, Eustace ‘Manning’ Henry.
Anansesem Announces a New Chapter
The founding editor Summer Edward is stepping down but the online platform for Caribbean children’s literature will carry on – which is what you love to see; succession, continuity. Summer also took the opportunity to announce the pending publication of her own book. Read her full statement.
CREATIVE SPACE on a New Platform
The Antigua and Barbuda art and culture series by JCH is now running every other Wednesday in the Daily Observer newspaper and on the Jhohadli blog online with extras.
The latest edition – second on this new platform – is Black History Month and Women’s History Month themed and headlined Centering Us, Year Round. Above is that second published article – be sure to look out for fresh articles in the series every other Wednesday
ABS TV has for several weeks been running Book Club, a Tuesday morning segment on Antigua Today. So far segments have included the likes of D. Gisele Isaac (Considering Venus) and Gayle Gonsalves (Painting Pictures and Other Stories). Not sure if it airs at a particular time in the daily national TV morning show but Tuesday’s the day. Kudos to ABS TV for this initiative.
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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, 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.