Tag Archives: Caribbean young adult fiction

On Bill Burt, the Burt Award (for Caribbean Literature), and the 18 teen/young adult Caribbean fiction titles it produced

Burt-Award-winners-book-covers

Home Homethe beast of kukuyoThe Art of White RosesThe-Dark-of-the-SeaMy-Fishy-StepmomA-Dark-Iris

The-Unmarked-Girl-Jeanelle-Frontin

You may not know the name Bill Burt. After all, he was a Canadian commodities broker. But you may know some of the titles above (all Code Burt award titles from the Caribbean). That seal on all but the newest of the pictured titles (This year’s titles are not yet published but the original edition of the winning 2019 title The Unmarked Girl is pictured) is the Oprah’s Book Club seal of teen/young adult Caribbean literature, that little edge, that extra endorsement to help them stand out and perhaps be picked up. It is an endorsement. It indicates that these titles have been tapped by writers, editors, and other literary professionals from the Caribbean and elsewhere who served as judges (refreshed every year), as being among the best new writing from the region in the teen/young adult genre.  It is Bill Burt putting a ring on it.

Accepting Burt Award trophy

That’s Bill Burt, left, above presenting me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) with the first runner up trophy for the inaugural Caribbean Code Burt award, for my then unpublished manuscript Musical Youth, at the 2014 Bocas literary festival in Trinidad.

A trophy. The most substantial single cheque of my creative writing career to that point. An opportunity to be published and to select the publishing house I would be working with from among several options in the Caribbean. A guaranteed order of the books. That was my prize. It was an amazing boost at the time.

Musical Youth and all of the pictured books benefited from someone, who, with the funds he made through this stock market investments, helped amplify stories from typically marginalized communities of which the Caribbean was only one.

Winners ...and #MusicalYouths in their own right ... members of the AGHS winning cast from the secondary schools drama festival collecting copies of Musical Youth.
(above and below, me presenting copies of Musical Youth at local schools)Musical Youth copies 2014 3

The Burt Award, named for Bill Burt and administered by CODE, a Canadian non-profit, stimulated the production of teen/young adult fiction specific to communities whose voices are not often heard in the vast publishing world. He presented the first Burt Award (for teen/young adult African literature), in Tanzania in 2009. The programme subsequently expanded to Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Canada (specifically among First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people), and the Caribbean.

The initial guaranteed order of the winning books was/is distributed to teens and young adults through individuals and institutions that work with youth. If you appreciate that funding is a major hindrance for working artists and for independent publishers, you will appreciate how significant this prize is; if you can appreciate that this was about producing books teens and young adults in the region would WANT to read, you would see how impactful this prize was or could be.

I entered that first year (October 2013 submission deadline), after they had adjusted initial proposed guidelines to accept unpublished manuscripts. I had to print, bind, and FedEx the manuscript from Antigua to Trinidad. I believe the guidelines were adjusted the following year to allow for online submissions but submissions had to be professionally bound in 2013. It wasn’t cheap but it was one of those invest in yourself moments and it was worth it because, thanks in great part to this programme, the book that manuscript birthed, Musical Youth, placed with Caribbean Reads publishing, out of St. Kitts, has become one of my best performing books. I can’t imagine Musical Youth even existing in a Burt-less world, especially given that two weeks out from the deadline I started writing something to submit (which is not the advised way to approach competitions of this nature but is the way this book came to be). Future Burt finalist Shakirah Bourne (of Barbados) who wrote her title (My Fishy Stepmom) in less than a month, blogged recently about how this bit of foolhardiness on my part inspired her (after some disappointments that made her consider not submitting at all):

“Five months later, on October 7th 2017, Antiguan author, Joanne Hillhouse shared the invitation to submit to the 2018 CODE Burt Award on Facebook. Initially I dismissed it. The deadline was October 31st, 24 days later. But Joanne is an amazing blogger and so I checked out her post ‘The BURT Blog – Memories to Keep and a Trophy’ and was amazed to read that she wrote her award-winning book Musical Youth in less than two weeks!”

When I heard this year ahead of the announcement of the last Burt finalists at the Bocas lit fest which administered the prize regionally, that this would be the last year, I wrote back to them “Congrats to the shortlisted writers. Sorry to hear it’s coming to an end. Sorry as well to learn (as I just did in this email) of the passing of Bill Burt. He did a great thing.”

That’s why I’m writing this because Bill Burt did a great thing and we need more people within and without the region to replicate this kind of philanthropy – in fact, one of my dreams for Wadadli Pen is that someday it has the resources to support a writer now and again in the region or maybe even the sub-region, maybe just Antigua and Barbuda, for completion of a project – just give them a financial break for a bit so that they can focus on creating. It’s the kind of help I need and as with Wadadli Pen itself, started because of a void in my experience of anything to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, I want to be in a position someday to support other artists in the ways that I don’t feel supported today.

Bill Burt’s life at least from his 40s onwards (I think) is a reminder that there is great value in giving if you can, where you see the gaps, simply because it needs to be done.

I know this is running long but I wanted to run through the books and some developments (re the authors’ professional trajectory) certainly in the Caribbean since winning the Burt award. Starting with 2019 (via bocaslitfest) and working back to the inaugural year, 2014, with the hope that you will consider purchasing (sharing, reviewing, recommending) these specifically Caribbean books, which wouldn’t exist as they do (as exciting new titles from Caribbean publishers for the teen/young adult market) without Bill Burt.

The Burt Award will not be accepting submissions from 2020 on; it will be interesting to see if any philanthropic entity steps in to the gap.

2019 titles:
Winning title – The-Unmarked-Girl-Jeanelle-FrontinThe Unmarked Girl by Jeanelle Frontin (Trinidad and Tobago), published by Mark Made Group Ltd (which is a Caribbean-based company providing arts and entertainment services of which publishing is only one component) – a quick google suggests that Frontin submitted the first of three ebooks in her YaraStar trilogy; self-published, according to Looptt (which suggests to me that Mark Made is not a traditional publisher but either a vanity or hybrid, paid for their services by the author). That book (already awash with five star reviews on Amazon) and the entire series just got a boost.

The Accidental Prize by Tamika Gibson (Trinidad and Tobago) – Tamika, a returning finalist, submitted a manuscript which puts this in the to-be-published category. Gibson, also a 2016 finalist for Dreams Beyond the Shore, published by Jamaica’s Blue Banyan Books, and named one of 2017’s best contemporary teen reads by Kirkus, said, “What’s phenomenal about the Burt Award is that it’s a direct path to getting your books into the hands of readers. Entering the competition has freed me to focus on writing the best novel that I can, without having to worry too much about the business aspects that come after the book is finished.”

Daylight Come by Diana McCaulay (Jamaica), also a manuscript – Diana is also a previous winner for 2015’s Gone to Drift which has since had an American edition published (2016) with Harper Collins after its initial release with Dominica’s Papillote Press. McCaulay was already an award winning and critically acclaimed author and activist when she first triumphed at Burt and hasn’t missed a step with another non-Burt book published in 2017 (her fourth novel) and Daylight Come forthcoming with, I believe, Peepal Tree press (which is UK based but publishes primarily Caribbean fiction and has been a favourite of the main Bocas prize).

2018 titles:
Winning title – The-Dark-of-the-SeaThe Dark of the Sea by Imam Baksh (Guyana) – also a repeat winner this is his second previously unpublished manuscript to find a home with Jamaica’s Blue Banyan Books after 2015 Burt title Children of the Spider which was published in 2016.  He explains in this linked article how the increased visibility positions him to do more to boost literature in his country even as he continues to work on his next novel and embraces opportunities to travel and present his work (most recently featured at the Edinburgh literary festival)

My Fishy Stepmom by Shakirah Bourne (Barbados) – manuscript, the Caribbean edition since published by Blouse and Skirt which is an imprint within Blue Banyan. Bourne is an independent filmmaker and self-published author now with a literary agent (I mention that this is the Caribbean edition of the book for just this reason as she also landed the book with an international agent right around the time it was shortlisted for the prize, as she blogs here). For her, there are loads of emerging opportunities (of which being a featured presenter at the 2019 Edinburgh festival is only one).

A Dark Iris by Elizabeth J. Jones (Bermuda) – manuscript, since published by Blouse and Skirt (Blue Banyan Books). You’ll see Tanya Batson-Savage’s Blouse and Skirt and/or Blue Banyan Books on this list a number of times as it has published more Burt Caribbean titles than any other imprint. Specifically, The Dark of the Sea and Children of the Spider by Imam Baksh, My Fishy Stepmom by Shakirah Bourne, The Beast of Kukuyo by Kevin Jared Hosein, Girlcott by Florenz Webbe Maxwell, Dreams Beyond the Shore by Tamika Gibson, Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph, and the very first Burt Caribbean winning title All Over Again by A-dZiko Simba Gegele. This means that this independent Caribbean publisher’s list has grown by almost 10 (maybe more by the time this year’s winning books are published) because of this prize’s investment in the region and in the process new voices from across the region (Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda, and Jamaica just from this list alone) are being either heard or amplified. I have had the opportunity to work with Blue Banyan as an editor of one of the named books and can attest to how seriously Tanya takes the job of shepherding these books in to the marketplace.

2017 titles:
Winning title – The Art of White RosesThe Art of White Roses by Viviana Prado-Nunez (Puerto Rico) – this previously self-published novel was described by Kirkus as “An emotional coming-of-age story posed against the backdrop of the Cuban revolution.” It is one of three Burt titles issued by Dominica’s Papillote Press. What’s interesting to me is that Papillote, while not publishing Dominican books exclusively, had, certainly in my mind, been branded as a distinctively Dominican press (a press primarily concerned with stories out of Dominica) – with the publication of three Burt books out of Jamaica, Trinidad, and Puerto Rico in a short three year span, it emphatically broadened its brand to include the wider Caribbean.

Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini (Trinidad and Tobago) – this too is a Papillote book. I actually couldn’t find a lot from Lisa re the publication of the book but she did say this about its genesis on her blog: “The manuscript I first wrote a decade ago and rewrote while in hell in an airport in Suriname in 2016 is now being published as Home Home by Papillote Press, after being named third place in the CODE Burt Awards for Caribbean Literature in 2017. We’re hoping to do a launch at the 2018 NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

Yay!!!”

For a manuscript 10 years in the making, I suspect that “Yay!!!” is only the half of it. And that’s the other thing, some of us write new things, some find a home finally for that manuscript gathering dust because of an industry that makes very little room for voices like ours. ETA: Home Home has landed a deal with Delacorte (Penguin) for release of a US edition due in 2020.

The Beast of Kukuyo by Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad and Tobago) – Kevin was actually on quite a roll (with several Commonwealth short story wins, Bocas long listing)  when he placed in Burt so perhaps for him this didn’t change much but it certainly added to his coffers and his publishing credits.

2016 titles:
Winner – Dreams Beyond the Shore Dreams-Beyond-the-Shore-front-lr-190x300by Tamika Gibson (Trinidad and Tobago)

Girlcott by Florenz Webbe Maxwell (Bermuda) – who, per this article, dreamed of being a writer since her days reading the Bobbsey Twins and then of working in publishing, then a librarian only to find that she couldn’t work as a librarian in Bermuda because of segregation. With this book, the first dream is fully realized and she finally gets to tell the little known tale of segregation in Bermuda – and telling our under-told and unknown stories in a way that can enlighten generation now about the past is not a small thing. This is just one review I came across on booktube which contrasts segregation in the US and in Bermuda via Girlcott, indicating that this is a book primed for social studies discussion.
Beautifully Bookish Bethany, who seems to be American, said “(Girlcott is) super interesting… because I actually had never heard anything about Bermuda during the civil rights era… this is from an indie publisher but I really recommend it.”

The Protectors’ Pledge by Danielle Y C Mclean – published by Caribbean Reads
It’s worth noting here that one of the interesting elements of the Burt titles is that they underscore that the Caribbean story is not one thing; we write in different genres of different times and different futures, we have lore that is primed for exploration and expansion, and imaginations not constrained by the perceived tropes of Caribbean literature. There are many other non teen/young adult books that do this of course but if you’re looking for your teen reader you can find romance, adventure, crime, fantasy, coming of age, history, and so much more; just google them (I haven’t linked every book because I don’t feel like linking to Amazon but I have linked to the reviews I’ve written of the ones I’ve read).

2015 titles:
Winner – children of the spider 001Children of the Spider by Imam Baksh (Guyana) – Anansi as you’ve never seen…ze?

Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay (Jamaica) – a book that draws on the author’s career in environmental advocacy as it weaves a tight rescue tale.

Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph (Trinidad and Tobago) – I haven’t read the published version of this one yet though it is on my book shelf but I did read it when it was a contender for the prize as I was a judge that year. And speaking of telling different stories, this was is not only a Caribbean story but is another story that can be added to the library of books (if such a thing exists) about the fallout from 9/11, existing as it does at the intersection of Caribbean and American life. It’s also about grief as Home Home is about depression, as such tackling the still fairly taboo issue of mental health. These books (the Burt books generally) go there and really should be read not just by Caribbean teens but beyond.

2014 titles:
Winner – all over again - cover FAW 05JUN2013All Over Again by A-dZiko Simba Gegele (Jamaica) who has recently been announced as a Musgrave medal recipient (the equivalent of national awards) for her contribution to the literary arts. She said in the  linked article, “We are still in the very early stages, but there are a lot of fantastic writers right here in Jamaica. Unfortunately, most of them get on a plane and leave in search of greater opportunities for income and exposure. With technology moving the way it is, the good thing is that that is not even necessary any more as we can stay here and enjoy the benefits of these markets. But at a certain level, our work has to be recognised, we need to be taken seriously and it must be recognised that behind every great movie, song, radio or television programme is a good writer.” No lies detected and the Burt award – in fact other Bocas prizes are among the very few opportunities for writer development and reward in the Caribbean. That’s another reason why it’s sad to see it go- especially before another Eastern Caribbean small island writer could come through.

Musical Youth by Joanne C. Hillhouse (Antigua and Barbuda) – that’s me (the previous Eastern Caribbean small island writer that came through) and I would be remiss if I didn’t speak a bit on the opportunities I’ve had to work with the Burt Award and/or Code since being short listed for this prize. I organized and facilitated a workshop in 2014 (in addition to assisting with distribution and promotion of all three Burt titles here in Antigua and Barbuda)

my gift1.jpg

presentation of Colleen Smith-Dennis’ Inner City Girl at Clare Hall Secondary school

Gift to Library

copies to the Public Library at the official launch of Musical Youth

; I was recruited as a judge for the 2015 Caribbean Burt prize; and I was hired in 2017 as a mentor for one of the finalists of the Burt Africa prize. Thanks to Caribbean Reads’ hustle, my book Musical Youth (added to the schools reading lists in Antigua and Barbuda in 2018 and to a reading list in Trinidad before that, with its second and hard cover editions published in 2019)

MUSICAL_YOUTH_Cover_FRONT_Final

new edition released 2019

continues to find new readers (I’ve personally presented it at readings in New York, St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Croix, Barbados, and here at home).

with Muntsa Plana Valls and Auntie Janice and the staff at one of three schools visited

after a school presentation in St. Croix

It has earned accolades from the likes of Oonya Kempadoo (author of Buxton Spice) who said, “I first recognized the weight of her work by the response of the teens to her book, Musical Youth , in the Grenada Community Library. It remains one of the most popular books with teens, despite their tendency to shun Caribbean literature when they have a choice because they are required to read it in schools.”

Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis (Jamaica)

Bocas 5

Bocas Photo of finalists panel at the inaugural Code Burt award for Caribbean teen/young adult fiction (photo by Marlon James/original Bocas photographer)

If you’ve never heard of the Code Burt Award, I hope this post helps fill in the blanks and underscores the need for arts philanthropy. Per the Bocas press release announcing the wrapping up of the prize, “This unique literary award programme has inspired Caribbean writers to create fantastic stories; publishers have been supported to build young adult literature into their lists; teachers and librarians have been given fantastic resources; and young readers now have access to more books than ever before.”  I would say that we have always been telling fantastic stories and Burt gave us a platform to get them published while building the publishing infrastructure in the region and targeting the desired audience, ensuring that they, Caribbean teens, have stories they can relate to which also fire their imagination.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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Reading Room and Gallery XVlll

This page is for sharing links to things of interest around the internet. It’ll be sporadically updated; so, come back from time to time. For the previous reading rooms (1, 11, 111, 1v, v, v1 , v11, v111, 1x, x, x1, x11, x111, x1v, xv, xvi, xvii), click the links or use the search feature to the right, to the right.

ON PUBLISHING

“#3 Not following guidelines.
Double check all guidelines before submitting to a magazine. Is there a word count requirement? Should your name be removed from the piece? Should your document be in Word, pdf, or rich text format? If it’s an email submission, do they want the document attached, or pasted into the body of the email? Do they accept simultaneous submissions? Don’t risk getting your piece being tossed out because you didn’t follow the rules.” – (here at Wadadli Pen I know this one well) – read the rest of the list of mistakes writers make when submitting.

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“My advice for young writers is to keep reading widely and for pleasure. And don’t get discouraged! So much of it is just mule-like persistence. That’s what I feel I learned this time around. There were many times when Swamplandia! failed and I had to pick it up and try and write it again. There were stories in my collection that were just duds, they’ve been voted off the island, and it was only because I had this material commitment to getting them out the door that I was willing to keep working at them. I really do think that’s the best advice—to keep at it.” – Karen Russell

***

“An interesting insight into the process came when the pair considered how they had arrived at rather different descriptions for the location of the windmill-giants – Jull Costa has them ‘on that same plain’, whereas Bush situates them ‘in the nearby field’. It transpired that, rather than seeking a literal translation of the Spanish ‘en aquel campo’, each had pictured what they read the original to mean and then found a way to render the image in English.” – Ann Morgan on dueling translations of Don Quixote

***

“Not only do I not see movies as I write, I can’t visualise, well, anything. At all. I don’t even dream in pictures. I have absolutely no concept of what it would be like to see things that no one else can see.” – Jo Eberhardt

***

“It happens too often that beginning fiction writers fail to give their characters jobs or occupations. Weak stories by beginning writers often feature adults who are wealthy without any discernible means of income or who perform the indiscernibly ambiguous task of “work.” Characters are described as working each day, but the reader is never told what they do or how their daily jobs affect them or their interactions with others. Characters do not earn money; they simply have it. There are no bills, no expenses, and, of course, no financial struggles.” – Amina Gautier

***

“So here you have a man at the beach, but he can’t enjoy it; he has to sit, because of his paranoia, with his back to the water, sitting in a chair; he wears a Hawaiian shirt but there’s a bullet proof vest under it; he likes a red wine spritzer but it tastes like Skittles which is very loaded…Trayvon Martin had a pack of Skittles.” – Rowan Ricardo Phillips, born in New York to Antiguan parents, reflecting on his poem News from the Muse of Not Guilty after a reading of the poem, from his collection Heaven, on CBC Radio.

***

“You start from building this world with their rules, and then you just follow logic in order to come up with the rest of the details. So once you have this simple fact that you’re treating couples in a certain way and single people in another way—and there’s a bit of a concept that this is almost like a prison drama or something, at least in the first half of the film—then you pick up on those things and you borrow things from other kinds of situations … We tried to get into the heads of people that would be in charge and what they would come up with.” – Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos on the making of his film The Lobster

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Writing other…Mary Robinette Kowal provides some insight to culturally sensitive approaches to doing so.

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“The second thing is reminding myself: You don’t have to write anything that you’re not deeply interested in. Every time I remember this, it’s a relief and a surprise.” – Rita Mae Reese on curing the affliction of not-writing.

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“I use traditional women’s techniques, such as sewing, beading and applique. I incorporate found objects in my work; they are clues towards understanding my story and that of women in general.” – Heather Doram

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“So much of what the filmmakers did in creating and then editing their work is what we writers strive for when polishing a manuscript: pinpoint the heart of the story and stay true to it, cut what can be lost, and always direct conflict and pacing.” – Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton w/ Elena Greene discuss The Lord of the Rings’ adaptation from book to film and what writers can learn from the choices the filmmakers made. It’s a five part series that begins, here.

***

A long form interview on the arts is a rare thing, especially in a Caribbean print publication, so kudos to Jamaica’s Observer for this series of poetry month features, this one spotlighting American Tim Tomlinson, co-founder of the New York Writers’ Workshop, in conversation with Jamaican-American poet and artist Jacqueline Bishop. Tomlinson’s book Yolanda, an Oral History in Verse, is focused on the Phillipines but his connection to the Caribbean – his time spent visiting and diving in various islands and countries but most especially the Bahamas is explored as well. Essentially, this interview is about both his journeying as a person and how that has informed his writing, how he creates, generally, and specifically in the case of Yolanda. W/thanks to Jacqueline Bishop for sharing, here have a slow as you sipping your iced tea kind of read:

Tim Tomlinson 1Tim Tomlinson 2Tim Tomlinson 3

***

“That was one of those magic moments. That came out pretty much whole cloth. Every now and then you ride the tiger. Most days the tiger rides me, but every now and then I ride the tiger. That’s my favorite chapter in the book. The opening chapter of The Given Day is another example. It’s my favorite chapter in The Given Day. It was written in two nights. It was rewritten extensively for prose, but it just came out.” – Dennis Lehane

***

“When I closed my eyes, I could smell flue-cured tobacco. I could feel the hot sun beating down on me. I could hear the southern accent of a teacher whose voice reminded me of poetry.” – Shannon Hitchcock on the inspiration for her book Ruby Lee & Me

VISUAL ART

Online gallery of Netherlands artist Marijke Buurlage.

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Technically this is musical and literary art (lyrics) shared via a visual medium but that’s not the point. RIP, Prince.

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“Nature is completely indifferent to the human endeavours whether they are good, evil, otherwise, whatever.” – Lori Landey and Beth Harris discussing Joseph Mallard William Turner’s Slave Ship

NON FICTION

“How many times over the years
I have explained
This.
Celie and her “prettier” sister Nettie
are practically identical.
They might be twins.
But Life has forced on Celie
all the hardships
Nettie mostly avoids…” – Is Celie actually Ugly? By Alice Walker

***

“Why, I asked my brother, did you like the film so much? So many messages. Look at the title. Everyone has problems underneath. Just because you are smart doesn’t mean u can work everything out yourself.” – Sejal Shah writing on Ordinary People

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“You must read to develop a deeper understanding of literary elements, such as character arc, subtext, voice, and narrative distance.” – Chuck Sambuchino in his article The Pros and Cons of getting a Creative Writing MFA at Writer’s Digest

***

Kei Miller’s essay in this BBC piece resonates with me – it’s truthful and thoughtful and bold as so much of his writing is even when speaking of his tentativeness writing the issue of race -how our whiteness and blackness mediate our interactions. That said, I feel that same prickle of disagreement I feel stir in me whenever a black person, black writer (especially if they’re from colonized or formerly colonized places like I am) say, I didn’t know I was black until… because it’s not my truth (my blackness didn’t limit my sense of possibility but the reality is that, like class and other things, our blackness or shades of blackness was and remains a way of separating ourselves from ourselves) even in the predominantly black places I have lived (including Kei’s Jamaica). The Caribbean is not insulated from these issues, though they are not as starkly or sharply or consistently experienced in whiter places like the US and UK. Beyond my own experiences (some touched on in my February 2016 Essence article Mirror Mirror and issues of colourism/shade-ism explored in my book Musical Youth), this fairly recent memory comes to mind: being in a roomful of children of different shades of black, in a public child-friendly space, right here on our predominantly black island, only to have another adult, call out to one of the children, “black boy, black boy” with a tone and cadence that suggested “bad boy, bad boy” and to have him look up, in full acceptance of this (internalizing it). My aside aside, give the audio clip a listen; it’s a really engaging and touching reflection from one of the Caribbean’s best.

INTERVIEWS

“A writer always benefits from being a kind of outsider. That is why I try not to belong to anything too much. [Alienation] makes you an insider-outsider . . . sharpens [your] sense of observation. You look at things with detached eyes. Even some words. Pondering these English words with your Creole eyes. . . . There always is a sort of dialogue going on [within] most artists anyway. They just soak things in that they ultimately try to reproduce some other way. I think having this dual lens has been very helpful.” – Edwidge Dandicat

***

“Grounded in the realities of our history and geography, but unbounded in their imaginative possibilities” – Philip Sander describing the work of Nalo Hopkinson jumped out at me as the very thing I’ve been trying to define when I speak of a Caribbean aesthetic as a criterion for (but not a limitation of) Wadadli Pen submissions.

***

“Shorter doesn’t mean faster or easier! Short story writing is a very different art from that of the novel, from pacing to character development. So for a novelist, it can actually take longer and be more of a stretch to try her hand at writing a short story. A rewarding challenge, certainly, but definitely a challenge.” – Lauren Willig

***

“I remember myself as a young child, my mother had books inside here, and one of them dealt with the Haitian Revolution. I was ever so proud of Toussaint L’Ouverture. I was just proud. I mean, there he was, sitting in the same book with Napoleon and all of these other great men. So, for me, the Haitian Revolution was very significant. I don’t know how it is in popular memory, because right now everybody’s sorry for the Haitians—and “sorry for” in the sense of, “We’re better off” or “They can wear our old clothes.” So I don’t know about it in the popular memory. But certainly historically, Haiti served to frighten late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century governments. Frightening them, and as a matter of fact, had them even more repressive towards their black enslaved workers because their fear of Haiti was so strong. So, I don’t know that it has popular resonances, but certainly for nineteenth-century politics, it did.” – Erna Brodber interview at SX Salon, a Small Axe Literary Platform

***

“What’s interesting to me is that of the women who have read this, every single one thinks that it is absolutely sexy and totally horny. Then I was like, ‘oh, so this is erotica’. And I was reminded again that erotica does not need to be explicit. And, of course, what is erotic and what we find sexy and will respond to viscerally in that way is entirely subjective.” – Leone Ross

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“The fiction writer in me likes gaps in stories because I can jump into that gap and try to suggest something.” – Marlon James’ Vogue interview

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“There’s a place for everything…” – says Barbados’ Shakirah Bourne in this NIFCA interview:

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“To move past the ugly parts of history, you have to acknowledge them, on all sides, and this is what I think historical fiction can do so well: show how we got from there to here, but told through characters who see themselves not as history but as completely modern.” – Andrea Mullaney, author of The Ghost Marriage, 2012 Commonwealth Short Story winner for Canada and Europe

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“The area where I spent my childhood years was surrounded my trees, and always seemed just on the edge of wilderness. That area has changed so much, but there is still that space in my imagination that’s the same…” – Danielle Boodoo Fortune, Woman of Colour interview

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“What I’m trying to bring out is the power of words themselves, the power and musicality of words.” – Clifton Joseph

***

“Reading was such a sanctuary when I was a teenager, I wanted to see if I could tell a Jamaican story, a Caribbean story, that would interest even an urban teenager.” – Diana McCaulay re her new book Gone to Drift

FICTION

“In April of 1945, after facing only minimal resistance, Rhett was part of the Allied force that liberated a concentration camp named for the beech forests that surrounded it. The day was damp and overcast, with a heavy ground mist that sometimes hid the heaped bodies and sometimes revealed them. Living skeletons stood at the fences and outside the crematoriums, staring at the Americans. Some were horribly burned by white phosphorous.” – Cookie Jar by Stephen King

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“In death, we live far more richly than we do in life. Our lives are pale shadows in which we are preoccupied with the business of living. It is in death that we take on nuance and colour. We seep through the floorboards of houses, spread out and nestle there. We whistle through windows, ruffle curtains and inhabit the minds and memories of others. We take on a resonance that only memory provides. We become deities. We become ancestors.” – from Ayanna Gillian Lloyd’s Walking in Lapeyrouse

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“There was no rebuttal. She ended the call. From the decanter on side board, she poured herself a drink. The rum quelled the chill in her stomach — a chill reminiscent of rain-fly wings brushing against her skin. Where did they find him? They were hunting him for so long. Did he put up a fight? Errol had a point: There was really no need for her to kill him herself. But she wanted to.” – H. K. Williams’ Celeste in Moko

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“They’ve taken you, in the rolling melody of their steps and song, to the river Aripo inside the forest, and when they sit and beckon you to come join them, their feet, you notice, are not as they’re supposed to be. It’s a peculiar thing to miss, really, backwards feet. You sense that your own feet have been treading air when they come into contact once again with the marshy forest floor. You look back into the bush where you think you came from, and you want to go home.”- Wenmimareba Klobah Collins

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Edwidge Dandicat reads and discusses Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl and her own Wingless. And here’s Girl, so you can read along.

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“My wife is happiest on Sunday afternoon, when I leave the house. We have been married five years – too soon for us to take pleasure in each other’s absence.” – from Radio Story by Anushka Jasraj – Commonwealth Short Story winner for Asia

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“After years of working like a dog, clawing his way to fame and fortune—forfeiting family in the process—Desiree and the people of the island had broken down his mighty reserve and rewarded him with passion, friendship and the happiest times he’d ever experienced. He loved living in a place where everyone was aware of who he was, but not impressed or intimidated by what he had done. He admired the lack of social divides, that the Chief Minister played dominoes with ‘The People’, and that his best friend and “liming partner” was her cousin, and his Captain.” – Trudy Nixon’s Anguilla Boat Race, part of Akashic’s Mondays are Murder series

***

Mary Akers said about ‘Viewing Medusa’ after it had been posted at The Good Men Project: “For all you writers out there, this story’s publication is a testament to persistence. It won the Mary Mackey Short Story Prize, it was the story I submitted for my successful Bread Loaf waiter application, but for ten years, I tried unsuccessfully to get it published. I submitted it to 101 journals, 100 of whom rejected it before Matthew Salesses believed in it and brought it out into the world.” Here’s an excerpt from the story:  “I found myself unable to look away as she slurped her soup, dipping the pieces of dasheen in the broth and sucking them dry after each dip. When the soursop was served, she peeled away the bumpy green skin and slurped the fruit into her mouth, rolling it around until the smooth brown seeds were free, spitting them onto her plate. Soursop juice ran down her wrists and dripped off her elbows to the floor. I thought of Miss Connie, later, on her hands and knees, wiping up the stickiness while shaking her head at the lack of manners displayed by scientists.” – the voice/point of view and descriptions work well together to create a clear picture of the part of Dominica in which the story (which feels less fiction and more here’s how it happened) is set – the beauty and ruggedness in the landscape and the character of the people as compared with the visiting (presumably white) scientists, to create as well a certain mood of foreboding, and to suck the reader in…even if it spits that reader out the other end with questions, or rather one lingering question: so wait, she nar go do nutten? – Read the whole of Viewing Medusa here.

***

“The fuel tank was empty. He’d collapsed from sunstroke and dehydration. He’d been raving incoherently. When he finally recovered he’d lost all memory of where he’d left his men. A Lysander was sent out to look for them but nothing was ever found. The unforgiving maw of the Sahara had simply swallowed them up.” – Bully Beef and Biscuits by Guy Carter – this was the 2015 winner of the Mogford Prize for Food & Drink Writing

POETRY

“In Trinidad, everyone knows

the Pitch Lake but few have been

few have seen the dark and strange

surface, the vast dirt a mind of its own:

asphalt lake as constant as change.” – from La Brea. Read that and other poems by Andre Bagoo in Moko.

***

“No one sees my tears
wafting through the branch clusters
weeping airy patterns into the jungle silence.” – from Mangrove Armour by April Roach in Moko

***

“We read menacing messages in the scowls
of passers-by. Some circle around,
mark the territory with treads of footprints,
count down days to our departure.” – Camp by Althea Romeo-Mark in Moko

***

“…crushed lemongrass
overcooked tourist flesh sizzling in the noonday sun
barnacled, rusted boats off Devonshire Dock
my neighbour’s garbage ripped open by feral cats
overpriced perfume – from Trimingham’s, I think
‘mountain fresh’ detergent scent of laundry drying on the line
frying fish and sun-ripened fish guts
Baygon and stale beer
overripe cherries
Limacol and sweat..” – from Kim Dismont Robinson’s Scents of Bermuda: Or, All De Smells That Accosted My Nose One Day When Ahs Ridin My Bike From My Momma’s House on Norf Shore To My House in Smif’s Parish

***

‘In the roaring of the wolves the doctor said “Do you feel tenderness”
She was touching me’ – Niina Pollari, sharing and discussing her poem Do You Feel Tenderness

***

“There’ve always been Sunday mornings like this,
when God became young again
and looking back you see
that childhood was a Sunday morning.” – Kendel Hippolyte (Sunday) – be sure to also check out the Dunstan St. Omer Red Madonna that accompanies the poem.

BLOG

“I think I had a very different vision of myself when I was young, and definitely thought I’d have a family and be a loving parent by now. Instead I’ve birthed books” – Zetta Elliott

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“Neglected authors fascinate me. While the particulars for their disregard may vary over time and from culture to culture, one thing remains constant: their perseverance despite official recognition. Such is the case of Eliot Bliss, a ‘white, Creole, and lesbian’ Jamaican novelist and poet whose collected poems have been resurrected by Michela A. Calderaro in Spring Evenings in Sterling Street.” Geoffrey Philp

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“Getting to the place in yourself that is beyond influence is the radical edge.” – Brooke Warner

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“…exploring a new space is a thing of wonder and an entirely individual experience…” – Sonia Farmer, blogging her Fresh Milk residency in Barbados

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Wadadli Pen Fam on Burt Award Short List

The season of short lists continues. Already this week, I’ve posted the short (well, long) lists for Bocas and our own Wadadli Pen. And now comes the Burt Award short list which I had the privilege of being on in 2014 (the inaugural year of this prize for Caribbean teen/young adult fiction).

This year, six finalists were selected from among 60 submissions of published books and unpublished manuscripts.

The 2016 shortlisted titles are… Read on

hint: one of them is Carol Mitchell

carol mitchell

Carol Mitchell.

, who has been featured here on the blog as a writer (see this write-up re her Caribbean Adventure series), who as a past judge and past and present patron is part of the Wadadli Pen family, and having guest facilitated part of the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project family as well, part of the Cushion Club family as well come to think of it for supporting our effort at a reading challenge in 2015, and who with her CaribbeanReads imprint is publisher of my book Musical Youth and Round My Christmas Tree in which my story Breaking with Tradition is included. Big up to her and all the finalists…including a couple of returning finalists from last year when I served as judge. – JCH

p.s. think we can snag an exclusive Wadadli Pen interview when she wins?

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, Wadadli Pen News