Tag Archives: Caribbean

New Book – It’s Madness, Plus

(21/01/19 – ETA: Also new, Peepal Tree Book of Contemporary Caribbean Short Stories, “The collection includes the work of, amongst others, Opal Palmer Adisa, Christine Barrow, Rhoda Bharath, Jacqueline Bishop, Hazel Campbell, Merle Collins, Jacqueline Crooks, Kwame Dawes, Curdella Forbes, Ifeona Fulani, Kevin Jared Hosein, Keith Jardim, Barbara Jenkins, Meiling Jin, Cherie Jones, Helen Klonaris, Sharon Leach, Alecia McKenzie, Sharon Millar, Breanne Mc Ivor, Anton Nimblett, Geoffrey Philp, Velma Pollard, Jennifer Rahim, Raymond Ramcharitar, Jacob Ross, Leone Ross, Olive Senior, Jan Shinebourne and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw.” Read more.

I’ve been meaning to share announcement re this Caribbean collection focused on madness in the writing of Caribbean wordsmiths.


From an Antiguan-Barbudan standpoint, writings referenced include Freida Cassin’s With Silent Tread and Jamaica Kincaid’s writing in general, it seems, in, for one, a chapter entitled ‘Fighting Mad to Tell Her Story’: Madness, Rage, and Literary Self-Making in Jean Rhys and Jamaica Kincaid. The latter, if I’m reading the preview correctly, argues that “Jean Rhys and Jamaica Kincaid make(s) purposive use of ‘raving’ and ‘raging’ women in projects of literary self-making that are finely attuned to the geopolitical and cultural legacies of colonialism.”

More broadly, the book, Madness in Anglophone Caribbean Literature: On the Edge, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018, edited by Bénédicte Ledent, Evelyn O’Callaghan, and Daria Tunca, “takes an original view of madness as a potential space of political, cultural and artistic resistance, (and) looks at a wide range of Caribbean texts, including recent work”.

I’m interested in this, having touched on mental health issues (born of societal pressures in an uneven world) in my novel Oh Gad! and women dealing with the external and internal messiness of being in a lot of my writing – with the possible exception of Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure (lol). And I agree that it (madness) has been under-discussed not just in criticism but in our Caribbean reality – plus I’m just interested in feminine emotions and how they are sometimes mis-categorized as irrationality and/or madness, and how on the page female characters are, problematically, expected to be likeable (or else) – and things of that sort.  So, I’ll likely check it out at some point; and you can too.

“This collection takes as its starting point the ubiquitous representation of various forms of mental illness, breakdown and psychopathology in Caribbean writing, and the fact that this topic has been relatively neglected in criticism, especially in Anglophone texts, apart from the scholarship devoted to Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). The contributions to this volume demonstrate that much remains to be done in rethinking the trope of “madness” across Caribbean literature by local and diaspora writers. This book asks how focusing on literary manifestations of apparent mental aberration can extend our understanding of Caribbean narrative and culture, and can help us to interrogate the norms that have been used to categorize art from the region, as well as the boundaries between notions of rationality, transcendence and insanity across cultures.”

Chapters listed are “Kingston Full of Them”: Madwomen at the Crossroads by Kelly Baker Josephs, “Fighting Mad to Tell Her Story”: Madness, Rage, and Literary Self-Making in Jean Rhys and Jamaica Kincaid by Denise deCaires Narain, Madness and Silence in Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore and In the Falling Snow by Ping Su, Speaking of Madness in the First Person/Speaking Madness in the Second Person? Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” by Delphine Munos, What Is “Worse Besides”? An Ecocritical Reading of Madness in Caribbean Literature by Carine M. Mardorossian, Performing Delusional Evil: Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother by Rebecca Romdhani, Horizons of Desire in Caribbean Queer Speculative Fiction: Marlon James’s John Crow’s Devil by Michael A. Bucknor, When Seeing Is Believing: Enduring Injustice in Merle Collins’s The Colour of Forgetting by Alison Donnell, Migrant Madness or Poetics of Spirit? Teaching Fiction by Erna Brodber and Kei Miller by Evelyn O’Callaghan, and (Re)Locating Madness and Prophesy: An Interview with Kei Miller by Rebecca Romdhani. (Palgrave)

Should be an interesting read.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved.


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Peepal Tree Eulogizes Recently Deceased Jamaican Writer Hazel Campbell

JamaicaOnMyMindcoverimagehazel campbell

Back in 1991, when Peepal Tree was only six years old, I published Hazel’s collection Singerman, which I have always thought was one of the very best collections of short stories we have ever done. It is a matter of regret that at that stage in Peepal Tree’s life it was not possible to do much more than publish the book. I was not able to provide the kind of promotion the book deserved. I was still working as a lecturer in FE, there was as yet no Hannah Bannister handling marketing, no website, no social media, and reviews only came from sources that were specifically friendly to what we were doing. The reviews were very enthusiastic but appeared only in places such as small specialist postcolonial journals and The Morning Star, and were not sufficient to give Hazel the kind of attention outside Jamaica that she had within her country.

A couple of months ago, we noted we were down to the last handfuls of copies of the original print run of Singerman. I had no doubts that this was a title we should republish, even though it did not exist in any electronic format (another consequence of publishing in 1991) and the book had to be scanned and OCR’d to restore it to publishability. I had been disappointed that the new collection of stories Hazel had once told me (in an email) that she was working on had never materialised. She was concentrating on the essential business of writing books for children.

I had read many years ago the two collections of stories published by Kamau Brathwaite’s Savacou Co-operative, The Rag Doll and Other Stories (1978) and Woman’s Tongue (1985) – which was why I’d been so excited when the manuscript of Singerman arrived through the post. I found my copies of these books and began rereading with some trepidation – were they as good as I remembered? By this stage the idea of putting together a collected edition of all Hazel’s short stories was forming in my mind. The stories from those Savacou collections were good – with one exception. I emailed Hazel to ask whether there were stories written after Singerman and what she thought of the idea of a book of collected stories. There were new stories, though not enough for a book to themselves, and Hazel was clearly delighted with the proposal, though she mentioned that she wasn’t in such good health. She sent the eight new stories – all good ones – that very nicely brought the collection into the twenty-first century. I was particularly drawn to those that dealt with some of the issues of ageing in contemporary Jamaica in a disturbingly comic way. I mentioned to her that I thought one of the earliest stories might be left out, and Hazel wholeheartedly agreed – it was too sentimental – which it was, in a quite uncharacteristic way.

It was when I mentioned to Jacqueline Bishop, currently in London pursuing further studies, that I was working on this book that I learnt that Hazel’s not such good health was, at 78, much more serious than I’d supposed. I knew Jacqueline had interviewed Hazel for the Jamaica Observer in the excellent series of interviews she conducted (which will be published by Peepal Tree later next year) and I asked her if she’d like to write an introduction to the collection. She did. And at this point the project took on a sense of urgency. We had already experienced deaths that changed the nature of the publishing process. It saddens us still that Abdur-Rahman Slade Hopkinson never saw his collected poems, Snowscape with Signature, and that Archie Markham died unexpectedly in Paris when we were expecting him back to launch his memoir, Against the Grain, which again he’d never seen in print. We didn’t want this to happen with Hazel.

But the stories are there, collected together in a fat 345-page volume, called Jamaica On My Mind (a title Hazel came up with only a week or so ago), written between the early 1970s and within the last few years. Hazel was also very much involved in the choice of images for the cover. It perhaps gives some indication of her state of mind that a couple of ideas were turned down because, to her, they looked “too anguished”.

Read on.

We here at Wadadli Pen wish that Hazel was still among the living, are glad that she left her words to enchant us (to borrow a descriptor from Peepal Tree’s Jeremy Poynting) in death, and pray that her soul rests in peace…as we do the souls of others who have fallen from the Caribbean literary community in 2018:

Trinidad and Tobago born and reared Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul

Exif JPEGAntiguan and Barbudan playwright, actor, and award winning mas designer and builder Rick James

Jamaican contemporary author Garfield Ellis

St. Lucian literary icons Garth St. Omer & Gandolph St. Clair

Trinidad calypsonians and calypso writers The Mighty Shadow & the Original De Fosto Himself

Antigua and Barbuda’s King Smarty Sr. – father to 3 times crowned calypso monarch Smarty Jr. and a journeyman calypsonian in his own right

Rest in Power to them all.




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Mailbox – Saint Lucia – for the Record

I’m sure they have their complaints – and they did suffer the debilitating loss of their Folk Research Centre to fire earlier this year – but from where I’m sitting St. Lucia does a commendable job of researching and documenting its artistic resources, resource people, and accomplishments. I’ve written before about The Bibliography of St. Lucian Creative Writing Poetry, Prose, Drama by St. Lucian Writers 1948-2013, The Saint Lucian Literature and Theatre: an Anthology of Reviewsfor instance, and credited the work they’ve been doing in the area of documentation and research with funding from the state and private sector, and lamented the lack here – even as we do what we can here on the site – documenting what we can of our media history, art developments, and literary publications, to start, and in fact one of the ‘documents’ here on the site, a curated Caribbean lit anthology, was compiled by the man who is a common denominator of the various St.  Lucia publications – poet John Robert Lee.  I admit some low level envy that there is tangible support for this kind of work in St. Lucia as it suggests to me that the powers that be (and the private sector) understand that art and culture has real value (though, like I said, I’ve talked with enough of us artist types across the region to know that we all have our complaints).

All of that preamble to say, here they come with another one:

Author Index - book cover DRAFT 1 .jpg

Published by Papillote Press, it is due for release in early 2019. I’m told by John that March 1st 2019 is publication day. This is the original cover concept; watch this space for the final cover.

John goes out of his way to keep the community of Caribbean writers, inasmuch as we are a community, connected and informed; and because he does that for others, I thought it important to share this here.

Keep doing what you’re doing, St. Lucia.

As with all content (words, images, other) 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!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. You’re also invited to follow me on my author blog http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.


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Missed Announcements (Commonwealth, Burt)

ETA: New announcement alert! Kevin Jared Hosein has won the overall Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Congrats!

I missed a couple of announcements which is understandable, this isn’t my job after all, but I wanted to get back to them even if they aren’t technically new(s) any more, because these authors deserve their dap – and because there are so few opportunities specifically for Caribbean writers, I like to highlight the ones that are. Call it inspiration for any of the rest of us out here putting pen to paper (fingers to keyboard, thumbs to keypad, whatever) every day.


First up. This dude. This dude right here!hosein

He made all the newspapers in his native Trinidad and Tobago for being that rare unicorn to repeat a Commonwealth Short Story Writers Prize win. The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2000 – 5000 words) across the Commonwealth. The overall winner receives £5,000 and regional winners receive £2,500. Translators receive additional prize money. Hosein, as I mentioned on my facebook, has been on a roll lately between being longlisted for Bocas (for The Repenters in 2017), being shortlisted/placing second for the Burt Award (for The Beast of Kukuyo in 2017), and now winning his second Regional (Caribbean) Prize for the Commonwealth Short Story Competition. I had a conversation recently with someone about whether it was fair for past winners to repeat and I think it is – a past winner is still a writer, writing, and not as set for life as some might like to think, and if the judging is blind as we like to think it is then their odds of winning/losing are the same as anyone else’s. I don’t think it necessarily has to stack the deck. And if you break through in any competition against a proven winner wouldn’t that feel even more like a win? I don’t know, apples and oranges in terms of scope, but Wadadli Pen winners can keep competing no matter how many times they win, as long as they’re still age eligible, because for them and every entrant it’s about challenging themselves; at least that’s how I see it. I certainly plan to keep going for everything I’m eligible for because I’m far from set/still hungry and because I always want to challenge myself to be better. A competition isn’t really an exact science as far as good, better, best is concerned – I know this all too well having been a judge of competitions myself – but for me the challenge isn’t really on the judges’ end but on mine, challenging myself to be better than I was two sentences ago. When it’s a personal challenge like that, chances are you may be inclined to step back anyway because been there, won that. Though of course that prize money and the come-up a win gives a writer is also nothing to cut your eye at. Within all of it though, hopefully bigger than all of it, is the desire to continue telling your stories:

“Trinidad and Tobago writes itself. It writes loudly and quietly at the same time. Loudly, because it likes to boast of its best and worst parts. Quietly, because it thinks nobody cares to listen. This win, along with the many voices year after year whom have shortlisted and won for this little twin-island nation, is reinforced proof that people out there are entertained by our stories, derive meaning and relevance from them, and are moved by them. It is proof that people care to listen”. – Kevin Jared Hosein

Since you’re here btw, take a new look at a post Kevin did about writing and publishing from the Caribbean; I’ve recommended it for people trying to understand the industry, and recommend it here again for you – he breaks it down way better than I’ve been able to.


I posted the short list and a run down of all previous winners (and their books) of the Burt Award but don’t think I ever got around to coming back and letting you know the top three winners’ ranking. Not that it matters – apart from a little more bank depending on where you are in the ranking – as, per Burt’s template, all three top three will be published and widely distributed across the region. This makes the Burt Award – sponsored by Canadian non-profit CODE and replicated among the Canadian First Nations/Natives community and all of Africa – a tangible path to publication.

So you can look out for new books from Guyanese writer Imam Baksh (who claimed his second Burt win – top spot), Barbadian writer (and filmmaker – second in the ranking) Shakirah Bourne, and Bermudan writer (editor, tutor – third overall) Elizabeth J. Jones.  In addition to the book orders (up to 2,500 copies of each book), Burt also gives lump sum cash prizes to the winners – 10,000 CAD to the winner and 2,000 CAD each to the finalists. See the winners’ announcement here.

Looking forward to their books and I really do encourage you teachers, parents, aunts with teens – Caribbean or otherwise but especially Caribbean – in your life to introduce them to at least one of these books. These are modern tales of the young Caribbean experience or tales with particular, though not exclusive, appeal to this age group.

See the full list to date.

See also Caribbean Reads publisher Carol Mitchell’s encouragement to writers from the so-called small islands to big up themselves in these contests and Opportunities with upcoming deadlines for anyone seeking to challenge themselves to do just that.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). Excerpting, reblogging, linking etc. is fine, but PLEASE do not lift ANY content (images or text) wholesale from this site without asking first and crediting the creator of that work and/or copyright holder. All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.

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Small island writers encouraged to submit to Burt Award

‘”(Carol) Mitchell, who is the author of the popular Caribbean Adventure Series and Barberry Hill, also runs a burgeoning publishing company called CaribbeanReads. Her company focuses on the young adult genre and has in the past published some of the Burt Award winners, including Antiguan (and Barbudan) Joanne C. Hillhouse’s ‘Musical Youth.’

However, she is concerned that most of the winners come from the larger Caribbean nations, such as Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Guyana and the competition is missing out on the great talent in the smaller islands.

“I do believe the results reflect perhaps, a lack of access to the resources that may be key to producing a polished manuscript that has a shot at winning,” says Mitchell.

She explained that while the judges accept work that has not yet been accepted by a publisher, these manuscripts are expected to be at the same level of structural soundness, grammatical and logical accuracy, and thematic relevance as any published manuscripts that may be submitted.

“It is important for would-be submitters to ensure their work is in the best possible condition,” she says. “If you are planning to submit a novel, there are a few things you should do. If you haven’t already done so, read some of the work of previous winners and of highly acclaimed young adult novels that are similar in theme to yours. This is not so you can copy their plot or style but so that you can get a feel for the type of writing that appeals to young people (and to the judges). If you don’t enjoy reading these books, the young adult genre may not be right for you.”’ – Read the full article at Dominica News Online

Read more about this and other Opportunities and upcoming deadlines (Opportunities Too) here at Wadadli Pen. Also check out these Resources the site continues to compile to assist writers on the journey. To read about past Caribbean Burt titles, go here.

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Mailbox – People’s Choice T&T

You’ll remember that I tried to host a people’s choice for Antiguan and Barbudan book of the year at the end of 2017 that was dead on arrival (didn’t get close to the minimum number of votes needed to declare a winner). It was one of the most viewed posts of the year on the site but, for whatever reason, votes were very few. I was disappointed because I thought it was a fun way for fans to give a favourite book a boost – a boost for local literary arts overall. But, dey e dey.

That initiative was inspired by the Trinidad and Tobago People’s Choice book awards which was much better organized, resourced, and successful. They did it right and had quite the response, and a writer who might otherwise have flown under the radar (i.e. a writer who had not been in conversation vis-à-vis other awards coming out of TnT, like Bocas) gets some dap.

That writer is…Soulspection

Announcing the winner of the 2018 People’s Choice T&T Book of the Year

The overall winner, as chosen by the voting public, is Soulspection: A Collection of Poetry, by Michelle Borel.

The other books in the final voting round were (in alphabetical order by title):

21 Powerful P’s to Success, by Nichola Harvey
Don’t Go Mango Picking, by D.H. Gibbs
Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting, by Shivanee Ramlochan (also a Forward Prize Best First Collection 2018 nominee)
Men and Misfits, by Lyndon Baptiste
The Repenters, by Kevin Jared Hosein (also long listed for the 2017 Bocas prize)

Congratulations to all the finalists!

An initiative of the Bocas Lit Fest in partnership with Newsday and NALIS, the prize was intended to promote reading and buying of local books, and to get people talking about them. Judy Raymond, editor-in-chief of the Trinidad & Tobago Newsday, shared this sentiment, saying “Obviously as a news organization we want more people to read  — and write — and this prize is a brilliant way to encourage people to do both! As the people’s paper we’re especially glad to be associated with a prize that’s awarded to a local writer by local readers.”

A total of 39 books were entered for judging, and Borel’s book earned the most votes from a finalists’ list of 6.

As with all content (words, images, other) 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!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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Shout Out, Shivanee

33232540_10160478055985302_8151969136080060416_nShout out to Trinidadian-Tobagonian poet Shivanee Ramlochan who with Everyone Knows I am a Haunting has copped a nomination for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Shivanee has written for a number of years about the writing of others offering critiques of new and classic works in Caribbean Beat (also Caribbean Review of Books), at the Paper-Based bookshop’s blog (she’s also blogged for the Bocas lit fest), on her own platform Novel Niche, the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, and likely other places.  And now she’s out there in a big way.

She is in position to join other recent Forward Prize winners from the Caribbean including Best Collection winners Vahni Capildeo of Trinidad and Tobago (2016), Claudia Rankine of Jamaica (2015), Kei Miller of Jamaica (2014), and Best First Collection winner Tiphanie Yanique of the US Virgin Islands (2016). Richard Georges of the British Virgin Islands (who recently released the latest edition of Moko, the pan-Caribbean online literary journal that he co-founded) was a Best First Collection nominee in 2017.

Congratulations, Shivanee.

ETA: Ooops, shout out as well to T & T’s Vahni Capildeo who is once again up for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. Dope.

As with all content (words, images, other) 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!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.



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