Tag Archives: Diana McCaulay

Press Release – Wadadli Pen, New Prize Pays Tribute

A Wadadi Pen Release, the second after the release announcing the launch of the Wadadli Pen 2021 season, was disseminated to the media on March 10th 2021. Thanks to media like the Daily Observer, and many others – including longtime patron Antiguanice.com. The text is copied below.

Press Release

Wadadli Pen, New Prize Pays Tribute


March 10th 2021

On the heels of launching the 2021 season of the Wadadli Pen Challenge with a March 26th submission deadline, the organizers announce several additional and very meaningful patronages.

Cedric Holder, father of Zuri Holder, who died tragically in a road accident in January, has requested inclusion of a plaque to honor his memory. The Cushion Club Zuri Holder Achievement Award, inclusive of a gift certificate toward the purchase of books, will be awarded to a writer 12 years or younger. Cedric is a long time Wadadli Pen patron, his gifts typically made in the name of the Cushion Club Reading Club for Children, with which he is chief volunteer and of which Zuri was a member. Zuri also had history with Wadadli Pen – 2nd place in the 12 and younger category in 2011 and 3rd place overall and winner of the 12 and younger age category in 2013.

Zuri with his two prize certificates from the 2013 Wadadli Pen awards ceremony.

“His passing remains a huge personal loss to his family, friends, and all the communities he belonged to,” said Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse, who also volunteered with the Cushion Club and knew Zuri for many years as a result. “We welcome Cedric’s desire to keep his name alive in this way, while contributing meaningfully to the development of other young people.”

Wadadli Pen also welcomes a cash contribution (EC$300) from award winning author Rilzy Adams, pen name of local lawyer Rilys Adams. Rilys, author of almost 20 self-published books, recently collected an international romance industry award for her novel Go Deep, only her latest accolade. Rilys is also a former Wadadli Pen finalist (2nd place in 2005 and 2006) – one of two former finalists who are 2021 patrons. The other is Daryl George who has contributed EC$250. “It feels good to see that Wadadli Pen has not only survived these 17 years, since it first launched in 2004, but that the people who’ve come through the programme have gone on to do great things, of which we are only a small part,” Hillhouse said, “and that they’ve looked back.” The Wadadli Pen core team also includes two former finalists.

Though focused on nurturing and showcasing the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, Wadadli Pen is networked with Caribbean literary entities and one, Diana McCaulay and her publisher Peepal Tree Press have pledged her latest award winning book Daylight Come to the Prize Package.

More than 80 books including Big Cat Caribbean titles have already been received from Harper Collins (UK). Other announced 2021 patrons, so far, are the Best of Books, Moondancer Books, award winning Jamaican author Olive Senior, and new local author Patricia Tully.

Wadadli Pen is still hoping to attract more patronage for both the Wadadli Pen Challenge and the #readAntiguaBarbuda readers’ choice book of the year initiative. To support the work, email wadadlipen@gmail.com To create and submit to the Wadadli Pen Challenge download the submission form at the Wadadli Pen 2021 tab on wadadlipen.wordpress.com There, too, you’ll find the link to vote for your favourite Antiguan and Barbudan book of the year.

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Reflecting on Gone to Drift & our Caribbean environment

Papillote_-_Gone_to_Drift
As I neared the end of Gone to Drift, the tug of war between the politics of development and protection of the environment was trending in my own country, Antigua. According to reports from a watchdog group, destruction of mangroves was already in play at the site of a government-sanctioned resort development project. Round two or three for this particular bit of land and sea (which had drawn developer interest and watchdog protests since at least the mid-90s).

Antigua-Mangroves

Image pulled from site of mangroveactionproject.org (petitioning in 2015 against the destruction of the mangroves)

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Image of recent activity at the development site posted to the facebook page of activist group, the Movement (facebook.com/theMovement268)

Once again, we were at the intersection of “jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” and environmental stewardship. It’s a fault line running up and down our Caribbean, blessed with a beauty that draws people from all over the world to us, which makes tourism everybody’s business and anything that gets in the way of that a liability. What do mangroves do anyway? Only act as a buffer zone between land and sea, a shield during storms and such, protect our coastline from erosion, purify both the water and the air by absorbing impurities and pollutants, act as a breeding ground and nursery for marine life, and a harbor for not only fish, but amphibians, reptiles, birds, and some mammals, with proven importance to our fisheries sector as we need mangroves to play their role in the replenishment of fishstock and maintaining the sea’s all too rapidly disappearing biodiversity. Mangroves are also part of the tourism product as a locale for eco-tourism adventures such as kayaking (which I’ve been fortunate enough to do through mangroves at least twice in my landlubbing life). But, yeah, mangroves, who needs them. The irony is the very things we are so quick to uproot and destroy in the name of tourism are the very things which add to our appeal as a tourist destination. And that’s what was on my mind as the tension ramped up in Gone to Drift – a young boy racing against the clock to save his grandfather, a fisherman who had run afoul of dolphin poachers.

“His grandfather said Kingston Harbour had once been full of them, that no night’s fishing would have passed without seeing the shining mystery. ‘Where they go, Gramps?’ the boy had asked.

‘Sea too dirty for them.’

‘Why the sea get dirty?’

His grandfather had grunted. He was a man of the sea, not a man of words. Now Lloyd was sure he was lost at sea.”

The author of the book is Diana McCaulay who, when she’s not busy being an acclaimed Jamaican author, is racing a clock of her own; raising her voice against the short-sighted-ness of destroying the environment indiscriminately in the interest of “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” (McCaulay is founder and CEO of the Jamaica Environmental Trust)

Locating her story in the world of the poorest of the poor, she shows an awareness of the realities that would drive men and women to this short-sighted-ness.

Speaking to the environmentalist who was helping him track down his grandfather and who was also trying to save the dolphins, Gone to Drift’s young and highly sympathetic protagonist Lloydie (the boy) asked:

“Why you trying to stop it?”

As much as his grandfather had taught him about the need to protect the seas which gave them life, he still had the practicality that environmentalists often run up against – now for now, later for later, man mus’ lib.

He mused, “…dolphins should be left in the sea where they belonged” sure…  “but if the tourist places needed dolphins, they had to come from somewhere. And if money was to be made from capturing dolphins, there were a lot of them in the sea and many poor people would get some money.”

And that’s where we often find ourselves, and that’s what politicians have become so deft at manipulating (beats visioning a path to development that also factors in sustaining the environment).

So it’s hard not to think of these things as I read Gone to Drift, hard not to empathize with how overwhelmed Lloydie feels as forces bigger than himself align against him because in that sense he is the small man standing in path of the backhoe making a beeline for its latest environmental target and he is also the man behind the controls of the back hoe who has a family to feed, both pawns to the machinations of forces bigger than them, and the environment hangs in the balance. And the security guards who look like both will hustle hard when the walls are up to keep them both out – as the security guards at the hotel Lloyd tries to get in to to speak to the lady who could help and the guard at the hospital which doesn’t typically cater to people like him do in Gone to Drift.

But perhaps I’m projecting and he is just a boy trying to find his grandfather.

Remove the sub-text about the larger environmental issues and you still have a pulse quickening drama, and a poignant social narrative, at the  heart of which is a boy you come to not only root for but love. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Lloydie managed at least twice to bring tears to my eyes.

“Lloyd wiped his eyes. It was hopeless. He would never know his grandfather’s fate. Perhaps one day the wreckage of his boat would be found, maybe a splintered plank of wood with Water Bird written on it would wash up on the coast. He would never know. There would never be a grave anywhere, perhaps not even a funeral or a nine night. Maybe he would live the rest of his life waiting for Water Bird to round the point at Palisadoes until the span of a human life was finally over. How long would wondering last, how slowly could hope die?”

And this wasn’t even the first time I was reading his story.

See, Gone to Drift was a finalist for the 2015 Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean literature. A finalist in 2014Musical Youth, I was one of the Burt judges in 2015. I remember really enjoying this story, and reading it again was an odd mix of losing myself in it again and tracking the things that had changed between the time I had read it, in manuscript form, and now that it had been through the rigors of editing and was an actual book. I wondered if the tension wasn’t as tightly strung, or if I just knew too much; but in the end neither mattered because I still felt pulled to turn the pages, to find out what happened, and did it happen in time. And I’m still left at the end with an urge to pull Lloydie into a hug for the uncertainty of the world in which he now finds himself, and curious to find out, what happens next.

“If the boys waded into the sea, within a few steps they would be out of their depth and caught in a tearing current…”

McCaulay is good at what she does. Among her strengths, characterization – as I said Lloydie is as real to me as my own nephews and I feel as protective; and world building. World building, you say, but her story is set in Jamaica, it already exists. It does and it doesn’t. She admits to fictionalizing parts of that world. But even if you think you know that world, what she and all good writers remind us is that there is general knowing and there is specific knowing. And this is a world specifically of men and women of the sea. She had to put us there, then when the grandfather was a boy coming of age in St. Elizabeth and now, the bleaker reality Lloyd lives in in Kingston, where the sea has become a desert and desperate men and women make ill-conceived choices. She draws that world vividly and poignantly and beautifully.

Is Jules a little too good to be true? Maybe. She really does go out of her way to help a boy she barely knows. Are some of the characters’ motivations a bit murky? Yeah, I mean why would someone everyone agrees is mixed up in the badness even give the boy looking for the grandfather who may have fallen victim to that badness the time of day much less his phone number?

But these are minor quibbles in a story that is well paced, well drawn, well characterized and in which the author reminds us that while this is first and foremost about family, the stakes are much, much bigger than one missing man. A whole way of life has slipped away, people have turned on themselves and their own best interest. And what is one little boy in such a world?

The realities are heavy for a young adult book, because the author keeps it real; but, you know what, Lloydie’s journey also reminds us that it’s not your size but your heart that matters.

Well done, McCaulay. A timely read. One teens and young adults of the region will find enjoyable as they piggyback the persistent boy’s adventures – including one notable chapter as a stowaway on a coast guard ship; and one adults – unable to ignore the larger implications – will find revealing, topical, and, perhaps, inspiring.

I suggested earlier that I may be projecting. And I may. But I know this, McCaulay’s writing is not distinct from her advocacy.

“Will stories induce us to act, I wondered?  I am not sure.  But I do know this – stories make us feel, in a way no scientific recitation of facts can accomplish.” She wrote this in one of her posts while serving as a Commonwealth Writer in Residence, and it suggests to me that there is a link, though perhaps not always deliberate, between what she writes and the issues she comes across in her work as an environmental warrior. That is not to say that she writes in a didactic (or even pedantic) fashion, she doesn’t, there is still the organic pull to story, the instincts that drive any creative writer at play. When I interviewed McCaulay shortly after her Commonwealth short story win for the Dolphin Catchers, where we were first introduced to the characters in Gone to Drift, she said of the origin of the story, “an image came to me of a boy sitting on a wall beside Kingston Harbour in the rain.  Nothing else, not why he was there, or who he was.  I sat down to describe this image and the rest of the story kind of came to me.  If I were making this into a novel, I would start writing down things about the main characters, the storyline, possibly an outline of chapters, before just writing.”

As her author notes at the back of Gone to Drift indicate there was a lot of that extra work, including extensive research put in, but, first it was that evocative image that worked to (and succeeded at) pull(ing) us in:

“The boy sat beside the crumbling wall and stared out to sea. It was full dark and rain hissed on the water, but he was sheltered from the downpour where he sat…”

 

p.s. Diana McCaulay’s Gone to Drift is published by Papillotte Press which presented a copy of the book as a prize for the 2016 cycle of the Wadadli Pen Challenge (a fact that had no bearing on my enthusiastic recommendation of this teen/young adult page turner). It’s a good read. For other good reads (according to me), search for ‘blogger on books’ to your right.

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!, Fish Outta Water, and Musical Youth – fyi in Oh Gad! development v. the traditional use of the land is a one of the plot threads). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (credit). 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.

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Caribbean Writers Online

Links to artiste/writer pages (websites and/or blogs) from the Caribbean region – artistes listed here are either Caribbean born or Caribbean descended (in the latter case, they are listed under their country of lineage). I’ve opted to list per country of birth or origin, though the writer may have grown up on elsewhere.

Please note, this page is a work in progress – links will be added over time – if you have a link you would like added, email wadadlipen@gmail.com for consideration – if linked or if sharing this post, please link back.

Antiguan_writers_group_with_Caryl_Phillips_2[1]

From left, Antiguan and Barbudan writers S E James, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Brenda Lee Browne, Akilah Jardine, Marie Elena John w/Kittitian author Caryl Phillips at the Calabash literary festival in Jamaica (2007).

 Antiguan and Barbudan Writers on the Web

group photo

This image is from a fiction editing workshop in Guyana and participants included some of the writers listed on this page – Joanne C. Hillhouse, first left back is listed among the Antiguan and Barbudan Writers on the Web; and below Shivaneee Ramlochan (Trinidad and Tobago), second from left, front; Richard Georges (BVI), second from left, back; Nailah Imoja (Barbados), third from left, front; Ruel Johnson (Guyana), third from right, back; Felene Cayetano (Belize), front, right. (2016)

Barbados

Shakirah Bourne

Babara Ann Chase

Nailah Imoja

Karen Lord

Sandra Sealey

Edison T. Williams

Belize

Felene Cayetano

Ivory Kelly

Bermuda

Yesha Townsend

the British Virgin Islands

Richard Georges

Eugenia O’Neal

the Dominican Republic

Junot Diaz

Grenada

Tobias Buckell

Oonya Kempadoo 

Guyana

Maggie Harris

Ruel Johnson

Yolanda T. Marshall

Caribbean Writers Congress with Marin Bethel and Leone Ross 2013

Leone Ross, right, shows up in the Jamaica section. Pictured here at a writers’ conference in Guadeloupe with Joanne C. Hillhouse and Bahamas’ Marion Bethel.

Jamaica

Raymond Antrobus

Tanya Batson-Savage (publisher and editor Blue Banyan Books)

Jacqueline Bishop

Amina Blackwood-Meeks

Diane Browne

Colin Channer

Carolyn Cooper

Kwame Dawes

Jonathan Escoffery

Yashika Graham

Diana McCaulay

Alecia McKenzie

Kei Miller

Opal Palmer Adisa

Annie Paul

Geoffrey Philp

Leone Ross

Olive Senior

Safiya Sinclair

Puerto Rico

Lisa Paravisini-Gebert

Ivette Romero-Cesareo

St. Kitts & Nevis

Carol Mitchell 4 by Joanne C Hillhouse

Carol Mitchell is pictured here as a guest presenter at Joanne C. Hillhouse’s Jhohadli Summer Youth Project writing camp in Antigua, 2013.

Carol Mitchell

Caryl Phillips

St. Lucia

John Robert Lee

Derek Walcott

Suriname

Rihana Jamaludin

Karin Lachmising

Trinidad and Tobago

Lisa Allen-Agostini

Vashti Bowlah

Danielle Boodoo Fortune (see also this link to her various past blogs)

Summer Edward

Marsha Gomes-McKie

Nicholas Laughlin

Sharon Millar

with Sharon Millar

Sharon Millar, left, makes a point at the V I Lit Fest 2015 as Joanne C. Hillhouse listens.

Paula Obe

Ingrid Persaud

M. Nourbese Philip

Shivanee Ramlochan

Leshanta Roop

Lawrence Scott

Liane Spicer

U. S. V. I.

Tiphanie Yanique

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Blogger on Books III

UPDATE! (October 4th 2016) I’ll be moving the Blogger on Books series (really just my take on books I’ve read and liked enough to write something about) to Jhohadli (my personal blog) with the next book. This archive will remain here on the Wadadli Pen blog. It’s the second major move for this series which began on my Myspace – remember that?

This is the third installment of Blogger on Books where I talk about books I’ve read and have something to say about. Usually if I’m posting about a book, I either liked it or liked something about it. You can read Blogger on Books l and Blogger on Books ll here.

The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 9 Number 1 Fall 2016
The Bibliography of St. Lucian Creative Writing    Poetry, Prose, Drama by St. Lucian Writers   1948-2013 with related supporting material compiled and edited by John Robert Lee with assistance from Anna Weekes
The Boy who loved Batman: the True Story of How a Comics-Obsessed Kid conquered Hollywood to Bring the Dark Knight to the Silver Screen by Michael Uslan
Broo ‘Nansi and the Tar Baby (a US Virgin Islands Story) collected and written by Dr. Lois Hassell-Habtes Story as told by Ector Roebuck
Brown Pelicans (Caribbean Natural History Series) by Mario Picayo
The Caribbean Writer Volume 29
Do You Know Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay
Littletown Secrets by K. Jared Hosein
Point of Order: Poetry and Prose by Ivory Kelly (foreword by Zee Edgell)
A River of Stories: Tales and Poems from Across the Commonwealth, Natural Elements Series, Volume 4 – Fire (compiled by Alice Curry)
Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden
Susumba’s Book Bag (the erotic edition)

Time to Talk by Curtly Ambrose with Richard Sydenham

I felt bereft when Bernice McFadden’s Sugar ended. I’m still trying to decide if the ending was unsatisfying storywise or if the story was so successful that the leaving was inevitably melancholic. Either way, it’s certainly a reminder that as much as we’ve been conditioned by fairytales, we very (very) rarely get the endings we want. There’s no denying though that Sugar was a compelling read anchored both by a compelling title character and a convincing if unlikely bond between two women that was the heart of the story. I’m talking about church going elder Pearl, who’s been grieving the violent death of her daughter for 15 years, and Sugar, who the short answer would say is a whore, given her profession, but who on closer examination of her very complex life, is really a woman who never got a fair shot – not since her mother abandoned her without a name, not since she was raised in a whore house, not since her every attempt to break with the trade goes fubar. Sugar at times seems like her own worst enemy, her survival armor so thick, nothing, not even well meaning efforts, can penetrate, and certainly her own heart can’t break out. Except it does, thanks to Pearl – seriously, their relationship is easily my favourite part of this book – and she does let something like love in, but she doesn’t trust it, doesn’t trust herself, and the pattern that’s marked her life to that point re-asserts itself. You’ll root for Sugar and your heart will break for her, you’ll be warmed by the bonds she forges with her substitute mothers especially Pearl and realize that she’s hungry for that most essential of relationships. And I suppose my frustration in the end is I wanted that for her too. In the ways that she makes me care, in her detailed and layered characterizations of her essential characters, in the way she colours in the world of the story and roots it in its time and place, in the descriptions and the mood and atmosphere that she crafts so well, McFadden has rendered one of those books that you could see transferring really well to film because it paints pictures in your mind and makes an impression on your soul. But there are things about the plot that feel improbable to me and in fact there are time when the clues dropped about Sugar’s history kind of leave me floundering so that certain essential connections are not made (in my mind) and certain other connections when they are made feel…unlikely…like what are the odds. It didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book which had some emotionally powerful moments not in an overwrought way but in simple, simple gestures that pack a punch.top

Broo ‘Nansi and the Tar Baby like Brown Pelicans below is from Little Bell Caribbean. As with that one, I had the boy read it aloud; this time instead of asking him to write a review, I just asked his opinion. Here’s what he said: “That was a nice story.” Actually that first part was spontaneous and then I asked what did you like about it, to which he responded: “I like the part with the song. I like when the part with tar baby and when Bro Tukuma say ‘Brer Nancy les go’ and Brer Nancy say ‘I’m not finished yet’. I just don’t understand; he not listening. Why doesn’t  he listen?…I like the end; it rhymes.” After further consideration, he added spontaneously: “So, basically, this is just about two spiders, a tarbaby, and brer nansi almost being killed.” I should add that after the main story, there’s an explanation of who Anansi is and his place in African and diasporic lore; when I tried to add to the explanation he held up his hand (wait, wait, wait) and continued reading. So, I’d say it’s a good book to grab and hold even the interest of a reluctant (and boy is he reluctant) reader.top

Brown Pelicans (Caribbean Natural History Series) by Mario Picayo – this glossy book seems a good blend of nice visuals, history (the bit on Caribbean monk seals and why they became extinct, for instance), geography (maps), art (there’s some pelican inspired poetry), and science (all the pelican facts). But as I did with Pippi Longstocking (scroll down for that), I’m deferring to my nine-year-old on this one since this is more for his age group and reading it aloud to me and then writing what he thought was part of my strategy to pull him away from his ipad for five seconds. Here’s what he wrote: “The title is Brown Pelicans. I like the story because pelicans are my favourite birds and how they catch fish. I don’t like the story because they didn’t say why their feathers are oily and why they have webbed feet and why their beak is long. I know that pelicans are big, they can measure water depth and circle in the air to stop fish. The author is Mario Picayo. I like them because of their big beaks, oily feathers and webbed feet.” Okay, then.top

The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books (Volume 9 Number 1) very little space to the purpose suggested in its title, reviewing Antiguan and Barbudan books. The bulk of the volume publishes papers from the 2015 conference and some papers from a couple of decades ago – all, or mostly, with an economic theme. For people who understand that talk, those articles will be of interest and maybe in another platform they would be for me too …but when I crack the Review of Books, I really want to read book reviews and, Lord knows, there are more than enough books by Antiguans and Barbudans that have not been given critical treatment. So, that’s my gripe with this edition. That said, of the non-book-related articles, the one I found of particular interest was Juno Samuel’s The Making of the University of Antigua and Barbuda, because the re-purposing of a new secondary school into a university is very topical, controversially so, in Antigua and Barbuda right now (Fall 2016). Samuel’s piece reminds us of Antigua and Barbuda’s long tradition as a leader in education and that this university business is not a new idea, nor the opposition to it a new issue, but what his careful accounting of the work that’s been done and the thought that went in to the work by the original committee underscores is that it takes more work than simply re-purposing a building; and given the work already done, one has to wonder where’s the continuity. If this is an issue you are concerned about, you ought to read Samuel’s article which basically moots that a university is not only doable but necessary…but not this way. The unasked (and perhaps rhetorical) question as ever is can we (ever) look past the politics on such things? The actual reviews now get only pages 181 to 230 of the Review but they make for compelling reading. Natasha Lightfoot’s Troubling Freedom is on my to-read list and Review editor Paget Henry’s review has me even more convinced that this is a rendering of an unexamined area of our Antiguan history with a fresh approach to the reading of that history. Beyond that, there are three reviews, one by me, of Mali Olatunji and Paget Henry’s The Art of Mali Olatunji, each with a different angle on what each review agrees is a significant contribution to the Caribbean artistic, philosophical, and literary canon. I liked Jane Lofgren’s artistic insights on the book but then I also found intriguing associations Ashmita Khasnabish makes to Indian mysticism. So my request to the editor is more reviews, please.top

Time to Talk by Curtly Ambrose with Richard Sydenham – Curtly Ambrose, for the uninitiated, is a knighted former West Indies fast bowler from Swetes, Antigua. He first played for Windies in 1986 – there for the latter part of its days of dominance; his grit providing sparks of brilliance and hope during the team’s tumble from the top. Read the full reviewtop

>A River of Stories: Tales and Poems from Across the Commonwealth, Natural Elements Series, Volume 4 – Fire compiled by Alice Curry . Some entries feel out of place in this and, honestly, I’d count my poem Under Pressure among them. In fact, I’d say, in general, that this type of collection favours the folk tale. As a collection of writing from around the Commonwealth, it is at its best when it is sharing folk tales that tap in to the soul of the culture – you feel like you’re learning something about the people from whom the story came, about what informs the way they approach life. That said even among these, some of these tales end abruptly while others do a better job of coming to a point (and perhaps making a point). I found it a fascinating read overall. I like the idea of it and the execution, apart from whatever nitpicks I’m making here, was pretty good as well. I wasn’t in love with the art work and I did wish there was a bit more on the countries and the individual writers – a couple of lines. But I do appreciate the colossal amount of work that would have gone in to this; and I largely enjoyed engaging with so many different countries in a way I don’t get to do outside of an Olympics opening ceremony. Some standouts for me: Son of the Sun from Tonga, About a Chief and his Beautiful Wife from Botswana, The Beginning of Smoke from Brunei Darussalam, The Land Crab in the Kitchen from Maldives, The Gifts of Months from Malta, How to Share Five Cakes from Sri Lanka, The Tricky Invitation from Malawi (sidebar: I found an interesting Anansi oral/video/animation version of this that I used in one of my workshops alongside this version – a workshop focused on giving teachers tools and inspiration for bringing creativity into the classroom), Compere Lapin pays a Price from St. Lucia, Bhadazela and Mningi from South Africa, the Glass Knight from the United Kingdom, The Spear that Brought Fire from Zambia, the Burning Heads of the Susua Hills from the United Republic of Tanzania, and A Ball of Fire from Trinidad and Tobago. I don’t want to sound like I didn’t like the poetry, some of it just didn’t seem a good fit for a collection of this type but some did the job well – e.g. Fire from Namibia, War Song from Papa New Guinea, Creole Woman from Belize, and because, of course, it’s Paul Keens Douglas and his poems are always tales of the folk – Banza from Grenada.top

Do You Know Pippi Longstocking? by Astrid Lindgren – This is a children’s book so though I read it first, after my second to last nephew read it, I asked what he thought of it with the intention of sharing his review instead. It’s succinct: “I’m surprised she is a little girl and so strong. I really liked it.” Yes, I realize we have some work to do regarding his conditioning already at such a young age re what girls cannot do…especially since no one, girl or boy, could lift a horse like Pippi does in this story.top

Littletown Secrets reminds me of, those sort of fantastical children’s books from back in the day, books like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series – you know what I mean, those books about normal children interacting with the abnormal world in a way that to our childish brains seems totally plausible and fun. Like, of course, there’s a talking rabbit who’s in a hurry and a giant, magical tree. Of course. Some of us never quite outgrow that and for us magical realism and, really, the many branches of speculative fiction exists (big up to all the adults who never lose sight of their inner child). Anyway, the point is, I really enjoyed Littletown Secrets – and my nephew enjoyed Littletown Secrets. In fact, he read it first, in 2014 after I bought it at Bocas. Yes, it’s that kind of book – the kind of book to lure a reluctant reader, a boy no less, and apparently they’re the archetype of reluctant reader, into the magical world of storytelling. The story is set in a small indeterminate town in Trinidad – I’m not sure they say that specifically; but the author K. Jared Hosein is a Trini and the book does mention the Savannah (which admittedly is located in the capital but) as a community space where kids play cricket and old friends re-connect. The organizing principle of the book is that the central narrator is the town’s secret keeper – which he becomes when instead of a lemonade stand, he sets up a Secret Keeper stand as his summer hustle – and each chapter is a different secret, each reflective of the ‘deadly sin’ that introduces it. The author uses the known deadly sins but gives his own definitions. Wrath, for instance, is the “the trait of setting oneself on fire and colliding in to others”. The redefinition of the sins sets up its own set of expectations – a darkly humorous tone and an entertaining and instructive tale in which lessons are learned, though maybe not always by the participants in the tale – and it delivers. It is totally invested in the madness it sets up – the world under the well, the magic mirror, the ghosts in the clock tower, mechanical bats…why not. And it invests you, the reader, in that world and in the lives of the characters – rooting for the good guys, hoping that the lazy and badminded get their comeuppance or learn the error of their ways, hoping that the good guys win. And they do, for the most part, this is the realm of they all lived happily ever after after all. Except this is not a fairytale and so we meet the keeper of tales as an adult – emotionally restless – who gets the opportunity to have his dreams of becoming a writer come true, if he would just give up his secrets. This sets up an opportunity to show how you can take life and make story without betraying life. That exchange at the end between the secret keeper/storyteller and one of his former clients tickled the storyteller in me. And I think the book as a whole will peak the interest of the young reader in your life – boy, girl, reluctant, avid – and may call to the child in the adults in your life, too…even if that adult is you. I can safely say that I’ve never read another Caribbean book QUITE like this one and now that I have I’m even more eager to read his second book, The Repenters.top

The Bibliography of St. Lucian Creative Writing    Poetry, Prose, Drama by St. Lucian Writers   1948-2013 with related supporting material compiled and edited by John Robert Lee with assistance from Anna Weekes – this is not something you read cover to cover, though I did flip through it; it’s a resource – a valuable one. And in this digital age a resource that works best with a companion digital version that is readily updatable. The print version can become dated very quickly – which is the case here as I read, for instance, Vladimir Lucien’s single entry in the Poetry section (Fathoms of Sunset and Other Poems, 2009) knowing that he’s since gone on to win the Bocas prize for Sounding Ground. But such is the limitation of print in an era where just about any information you can think of is at your fingertips. But recordings like this are still absolutely necessary for the record, and there’s no denying the work and the patience involved in putting this together especially as the author said “many publication, even those produced by reputable local printing houses, lacked basic bibliographic information. Many carried no date of publication. I found a publication with no author’s name, no title, no date!”  If I was to do something like this for Antigua – which I guess I sort of have been doing with the bibliography (and its sub-lists) of Antiguan and Barbudan writing – I would take the approach of having a print version covering a particular time period, as this did, with a plan to update it every five years or so with a readily accessible and steadily updated digital version as companion. All of this takes time and money, of course, so all a researcher can do really is what they can. I’ve done fiction, poetry, non-fiction, children’s fiction, screenplays/plays, songwriting, short stories/poems, awards, blog, and review lists on this site (slower than I’d like and investing more time than I have to give because nobody’s paying me to do this), and even I’m impressed with the breakdowns this author takes the time to do – there are primary lists broken down by genre, then an extensive list of supporting material, then author indexes broken down by genre, selected articles, index of literary periodicals, international anthologies with St. Lucian writers, dissertations etc. background readings – plus an appendix of Caribbean blogs (Wadadli Pen even gets a shout-out). As comprehensive as I’ve tried to be here on the site, the inclusion of unpublished and oral pieces would be a step too far for my individual resources; not for Lee though and he needs to be applauded for his meticulousness. I hope the St. Lucian arts community and government and people appreciate what he’s pulled together here (and support both the digitization and periodical updating of the print version). As for why this matters, think only to that proverb re the lion and the hunter and the importance of having a record of our lives in our words.top

The Boy who loved Batman: the True Story of How a Comics-Obsessed Kid conquered Hollywood to Bring the Dark Knight to the Silver Screen by Michael Uslan – the site I won this book from doesn’t exist anymore; that’s how long it’s been since I’ve had it. I’m a bit of a fangirl so I’m fairly sure that’s why I threw my hat in the ring but I had no idea what to expect when I opened it. It has been a good read for the most part – part memoir, part inspirational, part how-they did-it, part fanboy/fangirl fantasy. It is, as the title said, the story of the boy who loved and revived The Batman – specifically Michael Uslan is the one who brought my era Batman (Michael Keaton) to the screen but, yeah, he also executive produced your Batman (Christian Bale) too. Essentially, the dark, tortured Bruce Wayne who has eclipsed the sort of pop art ’60s era version of Batman is all his doing. And in this book he tells how he did it. It began with his love of (read: obsession with) comics as a kid, with teachers who encouraged his creativity and rebel spirit, with parents who supported even if they didn’t always understand, with mentors, with doubters and self-doubt and setbacks and despair and compromises, and luck and preparation meeting opportunity and all that jazz. For a writer, an artiste, like me I was especially keen on tracking how he held on to his dream of creating something while circumstances conspired to stick him in life’s cubicle. The how-he-did-it part in the end was the bit I obsessed about as I looked for clues to my own journey. I gained some insights but I also learned there’s no magic to it, just holding to your dream even if life does necessitate some detours and pauses. An interesting read for the movie buff, the comic obsessed, Batman lovers, and just anyone whose ever held a dream they felt impassioned by in spite of the odds – and as I am all those things, I quite enjoyed it.top

Point of Order by Ivory Kelly is an easy read. Which is not to say it’s a shallow read – quite the contrary. What I mean is that it’s a pleasurable read but it can be like that unexpectedly steep drop into the deep end at the beach. Only the drop here is into matters of politics, gender, and identity. Neatly organized into poetry and prose with sub-categories of the former, the collection opens strong with WMD – and, on reflection, was fair warning that a collection that references a leader (Dubbya?) “spending soldiers like loose change” wasn’t here to make nice on serious issues. From Crayons in which a mother commits to a quiet rebellion to reverse her daughter’s rejection of self (conjuring the doll test); to Heart of a Dragon in which she tries to get beneath the hard scales to the heart of the dragon, stand in for police and more specifically police overreach, really insisting that the dragon look at himself; and beyond what quickly becomes clear to me is the running theme of tension between opposites – things as they are, things as the poet would like them to be, each sandbox-tree-like dig a rejection of the way things are. It’s there in pieces like Contradictions (the warring opposites threaded together with irony as it comes hard at the community’s ongoing battle to reconcile itself with itself); in Writer’s Block (where the warring impulses are within the writer, and specifically the feminine writer who wonders “how can I write this poem/with all those voices in my head?” except she is writing the poem, making the act of writing an act of rebellion, a feminist act); in Perspectives and Schoolbooks (where the tensions/contradictions are cultural); in Time and the Sittee River (where nature and wo/man war); in Public Service (where it’s the frustrating push and pull between the Public and the ones it claims to serve, all evidence to the contrary). It also needs to be said that though very, very Belize specific, much of what Kelly writes is Caribbean relatable (there are even a few “jacks” in there – thought that was an Antiguan thing) and, now and again, thematically universal. I liked almost everything in part one; in the second poetry section, my likes were a bit more spread out (Vocabulary Lesson, Unshackled, Fences, Civil Disobedience – a sharp reminder that the pen is mightier than the sword with its pointed line “some braved Jeffries’ gun/Threw missiles at policemen/Me? I drew my pen.”). Coming from that it was a bit hard to switch gears to the third section of poetry – which dealt with affairs of the heart but Mr. Write did make me laugh out loud on the bus – try that without getting funny looks. Did I mention the humour built in to the situations is part of the book’s appeal? Far from being abstract, a lot of the poetry is rooted in specifics, situations, that help give the reader a sense of connection. My favourite poem in the fourth and final section of poetry for instance was A Bouquet of Pencils, which, with this very specific line “No more half pencil/(the good half for your brother)”, stirred memories of having to share mangoes with my sister – how she would get the seed and I would get the sides – and spoke to a time where you didn’t have a lot, but you had enough.

On to the stories. I had already had a taste of Ivory’s storytelling skills thanks to her story in Pepperpot and the opportunity to hear her read from it in 2014 when we both participated in a session at the Aye Write! festival in Scotland– that’s how long this book has been sitting on my shelf and me too shame though there are just more books than time (there are books that have been waiting longer – read me! read me!). I liked all the stories – tout monde sam and baggai. The first ‘If You kyaa ketch Harry…’ will resonate with any adult Caribbean person who has been through at least one election cycle, ‘Andrew’ will strike a familiar note for anyone who has been to school in the Caribbean – though its tensions are very Belize specific; and ‘Family Tree’ might throw you for a curve until you consider the non-nuclear family model with all its stray branches pervasive throughout the Caribbean (you’ll not only find its not that far-fetched, you might be moved to wonder why it doesn’t happen more). ‘The Real Sin’ was the weakest of the stories in my view simply for being a little too-heavy-handed with its messaging, but even so it had some strong moments – the quiet moment of two friends laid out side by side not looking at each other, absorbing life changing  news was one such moment, the infuriating meeting to discuss that life changing news with administrators who have more sanctimony than empathy was another well executed scene.

So all in all, big up to mi sistren from Belize; an easy read on uneasy issues.top

This edition of Susumba’s Book Bag is Rated R. Not actually but with its focus on the erotic, it’s fair to say it falls in to that category – even if it didn’t at once tickle your fancy and your Muse (and it does; both). My favourites are Sharon Leach’s Her and Him which counterbalances the coldness that has settled in to a 20 year marriage – “She thought about the morning after the last child, Astrid, her baby had left home for college, how they’d both sat staring at each other over breakfast at the dining table, two strangers with no words to say to each other.” – with the heat that’s stirring between the partners in the marriage and someone outside it. Who might surprise you. It didn’t me, the big reveal more a confirmation of what I had suspected. The titillating details aside, this is really  a feminist unpacking of a relationship in which the wife is lost and searching, and on the verge of claiming something for herself, and the husband is arrogant and clueless, and on the verge of being cuckholded (and I can’t feel a lick of sympathy for him in he arrogant, selfish self!). In poetry, I was moved by Gillian Moore’s Oya All Over, mythical and messy at the same time (“she’s never learned to say no to what she really wants”). If  you think this has feminist overtones, you need to read Peta-Gaye Williams’ If You Lead I Would Follow, the poetic voice’s assertion of dominance over her own pleasure, by extension her own life (a criticism, intentional or not, of the dominant point of view that the man is the head of all things womanly, the home, the marriage bed etc. that counter-argues you can be the head if you know how to head things right, and only then):

“And can you touch me?
Oh sure! But with conditionalities attached
Cause if you’re gonna touch me without reaction
It is better you just watch me…”

Love it!

Her other poem of note (for me) is Navigating my Vagina which deals with the awkwardness of early self-exploration. I would share something from it but
“I flip through the pages eager and keen” was the only PG quote I could find. Be warned, this book is hot (so kids, this one nuh fuh yuh).

“Miss, Miss, yuh fat.
Yuh fat bodder me.
Yuh fat bodder me bad.” – that’s from Walking on the Street in Liguanea by Loretta Collins Klobah. If you’ve been to the reading room, you know I’m drawn to her poetry, having shared quite a bit of it here. But this series (which includes In the Bank at UWI at Mona Campus, Walking Montego Bay, Walking Below Sovereign, and In a Taxi) taking on the erotic through the lens of street harassment or creative, heavy-handed flirtation depending on your point of view resonated with me – taking me back to the streets of Jamaica which really could be anystreet, Caribbean, any public space where a woman is sexualized and, frankly, doesn’t always know how she feels about it – embarrassed, flattered, disgusted, harassed, threatened, a mix-up of these?

I’ll say this, lots of people do the erotic – it’s taboo and risqué and fun – but not a lot of people do it right, and these writers, the ones that stirred a reaction in me reminded that it’s not just about how raw can you be but how real (and I don’t mean in a throw away keeping it real sense but in making the moment matter, in tying it in to character, in giving it significance beyond the meeting of body parts…while making it hot).top

Gone to Drift – Remove the sub-text about the larger environmental issues and you still have a pulse quickening drama, and a poignant social narrative, at the  heart of which is a boy you come to not only root for but love. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Lloydie managed at least twice to bring tears to my eyes. Read more.top

After reading The Caribbean Writer (Volume 29, the 2015 edition), which I read almost every year, I like to share the pieces I liked even if I didn’t love the issue. I think this year’s write-up falls in to that category. I didn’t love it cover to cover but I did like…
10 Reasons why My Brothers like White Girls …intriguing title right?…plus the poet Felene M. Cayetano, I’m now realizing after the fact, is someone I met this past January (2016) in Guyana…there’s a dry wit I recognized in her when I met her that comes through in this poem from its opening lines …there’s also a rootsiness, an earthiness that pervades the ironic lines, the contrasting impulses within the black body as detailed in this poem…
I, also, liked Dike Okoro’s stuff (After Edwidge Dandicat and Rituals) well enough as well…Althea Romeo-Mark’s Now Massa Loved Some Hunting, Aprille L. Thomas’ Silver Anniversary, Khalil Nieves’ Guantanamera: Se Fueron, Dario R. Beniquez’s Ode to a Platano, D’Yanirah Santiago’s Boy: A Futuristic Take on Kincaid’s ‘Girl’…that’s it in Poetry…
In Fiction…Her Story, My Regret by Bibi Sabrina Donaie…actually I feel fairly certain I liked Bibi’s other story The Bakers as well (though I can’t be sure without re-reading)…but Her Story, My Regret definitely, for me, made a stronger impression dealing as it does with the still too prominent reality of the monster in your home…Nena Callaghan’s A Hanging has me reflecting meanwhile on the region’s dalliances with totalitarianism (with Big Brother’s complicity) and stirs a vague prickling of concern at how easy, with each infringement on our freedoms, it would be for any of us to sink in to such a state…and she does it with powerful passages like this:

“I still remember when Trujillo was killed, the secret celebratory handshakes among the adults, amidst the fear of what was to come, and me jumping on the bed trying to smash Trujillo’s picture, a mandatory effigy that all Dominicans had to display in their homes as if its very presence would protect them from Trujillo’s wrath. Trujillo’s picture not only told Dominicans who was boss, but also served as a reminder to anyone who considered taking actions against his totalitarianism, that he not only ruled the nation, he ruled their homes from afar as well.”

The Right Hand of God by Justin Haynes was a sad account of receding memory amidst internalized trauma…and then there’s Mona George-Dill reflecting on the pains (such as whipping days) and pleasures (mangoes for days) of a Caribbean childhood in Stonin de Mango…I used Neala Bhagwansingh’s Jumbie Daddy in a workshop this past summer (2015)… Haitian Boy meets Mommy by Isnel Othello and almost a counterpoint to it Heirs by Jonathan Escoffery…another enjoyable tale from a child’s perspective was Twanda Rolle’s The Sunday School Teacher, God and a Little Girl, Tim W. Jackson’s When the Sea shall give up the Dead was an immersion for both reader and character… Robbery at Rendezvous Restaurant by Niala Maharaj was suspenseful…while still on the subject of crime Dwight Thompson’s Haitian Carpenter proved quite the rapscallion, shout out to Antiguan Tammi Browne-Bannister and her Wee Willie Winkle on winning the Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for short fiction …Christine Barrow’s Evelyn  was a subtle tale that lands hard in its exploration of class, privilege, and moral compromises…and also on the subject of class and privilege the less subtle The Lives of Kenneth and Ramesh by Vashti Bowlah was also an interesting read…though the little boy especially was well written…Highlow’s Cricket Bat by James Baisden was highly entertaining… The Exhibition by Darin Gibson was a favourite…in part because it sits in the world of art and the pretentions it elicits …and Crab Girl by Ashley-Ruth M. Bernier was relatable…
In non fiction, I like Blake Scott’s read on tourism in revolutionary Cuba – very topical, recent events considered…the Jamaica Kincaid and Tiphanie Yanique interviews were insightful reads…in book reviews, I was surprised that Bethany Jones Powell’s review of  Vybz Kartel’s  Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto made me want to read the book when I am not a fan of the artist…that’s about it…
Oh, my CW award winning Flash fiction When we Danced and my poem Election Season ll are in this issue, as well.top

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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

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“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

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“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.

****

“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

***

“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

***

“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

***

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

***

“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

***

“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

***

“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

***

“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

***

“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

***

“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

***

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

***

“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

***

“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

***

“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

***

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

***

“…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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Reading Room and Gallery XVll

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), click the links or use the search feature to the right, to the right.

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“But the story could not be just about the pursuance of futility or the exploration of unfulfilled dreams. It also had to be about the possibility of recognizing those critical life-changing moments, and in recognizing those moments, having the courage to make the decisions that would perhaps minimize the deathbed regrets.” – Garfield Ellis

***

“The stories about Africans somehow miraculously have a Western protagonist and I was like wow do we not merit our ability to tell our own stories. So I started to write plays.” – Danai Gurira on her play Eclipsed (yep, Michonne is also a writer #blackgirlsrock #blackgirlmagic #TWD)

 

WRITERS ON PUBLISHING

“Two of the main things you have to figure out before launching a crowdfunding campaign are:
◾What will your contributors receive (perks)?
◾What is your funding goal?”- Liz Hennessy on crowdfunding her book

***

“Is it wise to publish the rough draft of a novel online, either serialized on my own blog or posted to a public critique forum or writing community? Will this deter agents and editors from accepting the manuscript, even if it’s appearing online only as a rough draft that will be rewritten? I have received answers on both ends of the spectrum—mostly from self-published writers—and would like an answer from an agent.” – Agent Barbara Poelle answers.

***

“In the meantime, you’re writing and preparing your own book for publication, but you’re also working towards building up a sizable group of reading friends who may very well wish to read what you have written. So, when your book is released, there are people curious enough to take a chance and read it. But, more importantly, you’ve developed a fan base that, if it isn’t disappointed in your book, will become your cheerleaders who then tell their friends, thereby increasing the size of your fan base.” – Susan M. Toy on Looking for Readers in the Right Places…

MISC.

“I am not familiar with Antigua’s capital, St. John’s. How will I find the hotel at night?  The taxi driver soon stops and says I have to get out here.  He parks and helps me with my bags. I breathe lightly as he walks beside me, pulls my bag along in alleys crammed with revelers dancing to blaring calypso.  We finally reach the hotel. I tip him well, grateful that he did not abandon me.  Checked into my room, the boom-boom-boom from bands, shake the room.  I wonder how I will sleep, but at 12:00 midnight the music stops abruptly as if someone had cast a magic wand.” – Althea Romeo Mark, an Antiguan born writer resident in Switzerland, reflecting on her visit home in prose and poetry.

***

“The internet isn’t just cat pictures, it’s the nervous system of the world” – caller on this fascinating site, Call Me Ishmael, which challenges readers to share how a book transformed their lives or why a book matters to them in the duration of a phone message

***

“I had a very difficult relationship with my mother, I think most daughter do” – House on Mango Street author Sandra Cisneros reading the visual, evocative, and poignant Have You Seen Marie and speaking at the National Book Festival

FICTION

“The angel was no less standoffish with him than with the other mortals, but he tolerated the most ingenious infamies with the patience of a dog who had no illusions.” – A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

POETRY

“He lights his pipe as they gather round,
Children with hopeful, eager faces
Longing for the old man’s tales
Of myths and legends from forgotten places…” – Song for the Mermen by Geeta Boodansingh

***

“Mexican”

is not

a noun

or an

adjective

“Mexican”

is a life

long

low-paying

job  – from “Mexican” is not a Noun written to forty-six UC Santa Cruz students and seven faculty arrested in Watsonville for showing solidarity with two thousand striking cannery workers who were mostly Mexican women, October 27, 1985 – by Francisco X. Alarcón

***

“And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that
concerns you
and though they fought a lot
it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference
but only that everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good
Christmases
and I really hope no white person ever has cause
to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they’ll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy” – from Nikki-Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

NON FICTION

‘I know from experience that this “symbolic annihilation” can have devastating consequences. I attended majority-white schools in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and never once had a Black-authored book assigned for class, nor did I have a Black educator until my last semester of my last year of university. Like Orville Douglas, I had tastes in clothes, music, and literature that some deemed “white” or at least not “Black enough.” I also struggled to build my self-esteem and rarely saw positive images of Black women on Canadian television. I wanted to become a writer but saw no young Black women publishing novels in Canada; at 19 I discovered the work of Toni Morrison and Jamaica Kincaid but couldn’t find Canadian equivalents.’ – interesting; Zetta Elliott presents a rarely seen perspective. Read Part l here and Part ll here.

***

“Of course we had slaves! You can’t run a plantation without slaves. Everybody found that out at Emancipation. I was 43 when the apprenticeship time started and that was the beginning of the end for us. By then I had nine children, some lighter and some darker, and Mary Ann and me had married. I had a lot of mouths to feed in my family and the freed slaves would not work, no matter how much we paid them. I tell you the truth, I hated them. They belonged in the fields.” – David in 1848 – from Conversations with My Ancestors by Diana McCaulay, part of Annalise Davis’ White Creole Conversations

***

“There is also (and it remains the dominant impulse) a deeply embedded tradition of patient survival, of building from the ground up and a tradition of Creole inventiveness that transforms the world from whatever scraps are available.”  – Peepal Tree

BLOG

“I start the long process of giving up control to the road.
…The idea of train time as found time resonates with me all day. If I were at home, I’d be at work. And then I’d be home after work, doing more work on freelance projects. The dog would need walking, errands would need running, and I’d desperately want to get out and see my friends. My brain would not have any energy for words.” – Marianne Kirby on her residency by train

***

“Case in point. The performances of Maria Callas, the great soprano, sometimes ended with angry operagoers throwing rotten vegetables onto the stage. As legend tells it, the great Callas, with diva-like composure, simply picked them up and threw them back.” – Irene Allison blogging about pushing through self-doubt born of criticism of one’s artistic output

***

“So far there’ve been no murders on board, or mysterious disappearances, which is a tad disappointing. No missing Rembrandt Letters to recover, or Agents of Her Majesty’s Secret Service cleaning compartments of various super villains. I’m beginning to suspect our films haven’t accurately depicted the romance and adventure of train travel. I’m ready to solve though, so maybe soon.” – Bill Willingham blogs his residency by train

VISUAL

Danielle Boodoo Fortune’s Mango Morning

***

antiguan artist Frank Walter Ingleby Gallery“Startlingly clever, infinitely curious, and often somewhat eccentric, Walter is one of the most captivating, and yet largely unknown artists to come out of the Caribbean.” True confessions, I was not familiar with this artist and then I turned up not only that but this and this.

INTERVIEWS

“Fortunately, every time I am about to lose faith in men, God puts a good man in my path to show me that to every negative there is a positive.” – Tameka Jarvis-George talking about her life and art and where they intersect.

***

“…we were shelling down the place with Antiguan music and we were having so much fun. We realize that we have to make sure that we dominate as Antiguans and Barbudans. Because arwe small, arwe small but arwe tallawah, but we can only do it together.” – 9 time Antiguan and Barbudan soca diva Claudette Peters p.s. watching this interview, her discussion re the lack of money and management underscores that if you’re an artiste in Antigua, perhaps true across the Caribbean, you’re essentially an independent artiste – no big record deals, no big advances, no industry intelligence, financing your own recordings etc. etc. stumbling along – driven by passion and not much else.

***

But the only thing, in the end, that protects you is that you did the book the way you wanted to, because then if it succeeds or fails, at least you have that satisfaction. At least you didn’t compromise and then fail. If you compromise and then you succeed, that’s another kind of feeling. But if you compromise and fail, it’s two failures at least. – Alexander Chee on the 15 year gap between the release of his first and second book

***

‘But it’s still Me Before You that draws overwhelming volumes of reader mail. And Moyes—now 46 and living on a farm in Essex with her husband, a writer for The Guardian, and their three children, ages 10, 14 and 17—still personally answers every letter. “Sometimes people are sending you a page of very emotional stuff about their lives, and you can’t just say, ‘Oh, thanks for reading the book!’ You have to answer them properly,” she tells WD. “And I suppose because I was a fairly unsuccessful author for so long, I also feel an obligation because, you know, there’s always a part of me thinking, Thank you for buying my book!”’ – outtakes from Jojo Moyes’ Writer’s Digest interview

 

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Looking forward to this one…

Diana McCaulay’s Dolphin Catchers manuscript was a finalist earlier this year for the Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean Fic. Now comes this:

untitled

Forthcoming release of “Gone to Drift” by Diana McCaulay

Gone to Drift, the award-winning YA novel by Diana McCaulay, is set to be released by Papillote Press in early 2016

Papillote Press, the Bocas Lit Fest and CODE are delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of Gone to Drift by the award-winning Jamaican writer Diana McCaulay. This young adult novel, which won second prize in CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature (2015), will be published on 29 February 2016.

Gone to Drift tells the story of a 12-year-old Jamaican boy, Lloyd, and his search for his beloved grandfather, a fisherman who is lost at sea. An adventure story about a boy confronted with difficult moral choices it will inspire its readers to choose bravery over cowardice and to follow their hearts.

“This is my first novel for young adults,” says McCaulay, “and as reading meant so much to me as a teenager, I’m hoping Gone to Drift will be read and enjoyed by many Caribbean young people. I wanted to pay tribute to our long tradition of fishermen, and I’m so grateful the Burt Award has made that possible. I’m also thrilled that Gone to Drift will be published by Papillote Press, a Caribbean publishing house which I’ve long admired.”

Gone to Drift follows on from McCaulay’s two acclaimed novels, Dog-Heart (2010) and Huracan (2012) and is built on her 2012 Regional Commonwealth prize-winning short story, The Dolphin Catchers  (Granta Online). As well as writing, McCaulay founded and, for many years, ran the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET); she was also a popular newspaper columnist.

CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is an annual award given to English-language literary works for young adults (aged 12 through 18) written by Caribbean authors. Established by CODE – a Canadian NGO that has been supporting literacy and learning for over 55 years – with the generous support of the Literary Prizes Foundation and in partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest, the Award aims to provide engaging and culturally relevant books for young people across the Caribbean.

CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is currently open for submissions. Access the submission guidelines and entry forms here.

Founded in 2011, the Bocas Lit Fest administers major literary prizes for Caribbean authors and organises the annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago’s premier literary festival.

Papillote Press, based in Dominica and London, specialises in books about Dominica and the wider Caribbean. “I love this story. It entwines a tale of modern Jamaica with memories of the old ways of the sea. The reader follows Lloyd’s desperate search for his grandfather every step of the way,” says Polly Pattullo, publisher of Papillote Press.

For further information please contact the publisher: info@papillotepress.co.uk
“Gone to Drift  is a love story about Lloyd’s deep affection for his grandfather, and about the author’s deep love for Jamaica, its land and seas. A Jamaican coming-of-age story – realistic, often funny and deeply touching – it’s a story for adventurous boys and girls, and for grownups too.”
– Pamela Mordecai, author of The Red Jacket

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Reading Room Xll

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, use the search feature to the right, to the right.

VISUAL

“From its exposure, Negro Aroused (by Edna Manley) excited the public’s imagination and was acquired by public subscription and presented to the Institute of Jamaica to form the nucleus of an exhibition…” Read more about it here.

***

From the MoMA website: “(Wifredo) Lam painted The Jungle, his masterpiece, two years after returning to his native Cuba from Europe, where he had been a member of the Surrealist movement. The work, ‘intended to communicate a psychic state,’ Lam said, depicts a group of figures with crescentshaped faces that recall African or Pacific Islander masks, against a background of vertical, striated poles suggesting Cuban sugarcane fields. Together these elements obliquely address the history of slavery in colonial Cuba.” See it here.

INTERVIEWS

“The Irish were the bastards white, so even they were black” – McDonald Dixon says this and other interesting things in this interview with Vladimir Lucien.

***

“Of course you have to love music. It’s unlikely you’ll ‘make it’ in the first couple of years or make a whole lot of money, so you have to build your career and work hard to make it grow. It takes time to let the world know who you are, so if you don’t really love music then it is best not to get into it.” – Etana’s talking music but this applies to writing and probably all the arts. It’s not an easy road but the passion drives it. Read her full interview here.

***

“Don’t let fear of blundering hold you back, either—accept that you will likely blunder, and that to err is human. We all make blunders, but learning how to apologize and do better next time is also very important. Learn to listen and respond politely to feedback before you publish, and to change what needs to change. And learn that even after doing all you can, you will make mistakes. Learn from them and move on to do better next time.” – Tu Books editor Stacy Whitman on writing outside of your race and culture; and other issues at the intersection of publishing and diversity. Read the full interview and find out what her imprint is looking for as well.

***

“I’m not convinced that this is something I can live on. I have the time and space to do this now, but in terms of writing being viable I’m still not sure. I’m still not published yet.” – Sharon Millar in the Trinidad Guardian, 2013. Her first book The Whale House and Other Stories, reviewed right here on the blog, was released in 2015.

***

Uncomfortable exchanges typically make me uncomfortable …but this one amused me. Jean-Michel Basquiat being interviewed by Marc Miller… and sorta not there for some of his questions. It’s worth watching the whole thing.


STORIES

“She was a widow and she had no close relatives to write to in the evenings, and more than one moving picture a week hurt her eyes, so smoking had come to be an important punctuation mark in the long sentence of a day on the road.” F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for The Great Gatsby. This is another of his writings, a short story entitled Thank You for the Light.

AUTHORS ON PUBLISHING

“Know this: no time is ever wasted. Every year you spend on your work is another opportunity to document your creative journey, and grow as a writer. Now why would anyone impose a time limit on that?” Read more.

***

“But it’s still essential for an agent to be a good negotiator. Why? Because it’s the agent who negotiates the initial offer (that’s what you’re paying them for!), not some hired contract professional. And often that necessitates some savvy pre-negotiating skills during the offer stage—before a contract is even generated. For authors further along in their careers, this is a given; they know it needs to be done. It’s not a maybe. And if your agent is not a good negotiator, you can see pretty clearly how that is going to impact your level of success and your long-term writing career. Your agent might not know how to do this.” – Kristin Nelson with Karen Dionne on what makes a good agent.

***

“I am not saying that my grandchildren are brilliant beyond words. I am not suggesting that you use your grandchildren for proofing, though it might not be a bad idea.  Rather, it’s a post to warn you about the importance of proofing, even of 500 words; the challenge of  self-publishing – it is essential to use professionals even if you, yourself, are a professional, or perhaps because you are a professional, and too confident by far. (That’s why you should also use an editor.) I tremble to think what might have happened, had I not unexpectedly (magically) come to Barbados.” – Diane Browne blogging about transforming her Commonwealth award winning story The Happiness Dress into a picture book.

***

“It only takes a couple of these poems for you to sigh whenever you see certain themes emerging from the words in front of you.” Read on to find out what themes make Oyez Review editor Hilary Collins sigh. And if you still want to submit, knock yourself out.

POETRY

“And what is praise but the offering up of one’s self…” from Let this be Your Praise by Tanya Shirley

***

Mindy Hardwick was one of the very first bloggers to interview me when my book Oh Gad! was getting ready to come out. And for a writer way under the radar of the big publications and critics (even the ones right here in the Caribbean) that usually cover the literary world, bloggers and readers posting online reviews have been invaluable to whatever ripples I’ve made in the water. We’ve never met but she’s been on my radar ever since. Recently, I read on her blog about this project she’s involved with, the Denney Juvenile Justice Center Poetry Workshop. I have a friend, Brenda Lee, who runs a similar project at 1735 (Antigua’s prison) without the kinds of resources suggested by Mindy’s donor funding list which includes the BECU School Grants, Greater Everett Community Foundation, Terry & Cheryle Earnheart Fund for Children, Tulalip Tribes, Everett Public Schools Foundation, and the Blanche Miller Art Exhibit Program. Because there’s really next to no support for the kind of project that Brenda has going (I don’t know of any support for the project than that of Gender Affairs under whose umbrella she does this volunteer work). I’ve shared here on the blog some of the poetry Brenda’s interventions have helped the incarcerated produce. The purpose of this post is to pass on some of the work Mindy has shared from her workshop (but I also want folks to keep in mind the work B has been doing here at home too). Both projects I’d venture have the ability to do a lot of good and, frankly, these kinds of arts initiatives need more support. If through the arts we can get the incarcerated to start thinking about their situation and giving voice to their feelings, then maybe we’ll begin to do more than cycle them in and out. The poems shared by Mindy, written by Teen Boy, suggest as much. They are One Last Chance and Fake Faces.

AUTHORS ON WRITING

“I never feel more clueless than when I’m asked for wisdom…because I’m still terrified with each sentence, with each word I write! I do believe you have to write for yourself and not for others, that in your writing you have to reach for what frightens you,  that you have to be a good literary citizen and support other writers. That you can’t wait for the Muse to show up and invite you over – you’re the hostess, you have to sit at your desk first, and start the party all on your own. Other than that…just keep the faith.” – Tara Ison

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Mary Robinette Kowal posted this writing/puppetry exercise that’s entertaining to watch even if you don’t try it. Check it out.

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“Exploring inner lives/outer facades, character wardrobes, and sleeping conditions are just three ways to begin to layer your characters in exciting, memorable ways.” – Kathleen Shoop tells you how at Writer’s Digest

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“Whether it’s your manuscript, your author bio, your book description, or any of your other marketing materials, it’s important to keep them free of errors so your readers can focus on the most important thing: the content.” – Maria Murnane with grammar tips.

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“Being lonely and beastly had little to do with getting into writing. But the solitude did help. As well as the misery through secondary school. I had plenty anger to get out. Thank God it didn’t have Facebook back then, else I woulda waste all that anger and emotion, scouring for ‘likes’ instead of moulding it into creative writing.” – K. Jared Hosein on how he became a writer and a beast.

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“And so I reached for empathy. Writers know about imagination, but it takes something more to truly occupy our constructed characters. It takes a conscious process of empathy, of asking ourselves – how would I feel if I were a young boy bullied at the standpipe every morning? What emotions would this catalyze? How would my future look from the mud beside the standpipe? For many months I went to bed with potential scenes in my mind, seeking the feelings that went along with them, and I wish I could tell you I had dreams of my novel in embryo, but I didn’t. Trust the darkness, I would tell myself staring into it, channeling Anthony Winkler’s advice. And somehow, that conscious commitment to empathy brought me words when I sat at my computer each morning, seeking the mind and heart of a twelve-year-old inner city boy. Were they true words, the right words, in the end? That is for a reader to decide. Over the years of Dog-Heart’s gestation, I learned that empathy was different to sympathy and I was far more familiar with the latter. In a place like Jamaica sympathy is frequently aroused. As I tried to understand my main character, I realized I needed more than sympathy. Sympathy is simple – something appears painful to me, and I feel sorry. Empathy seeks a more nuanced understanding of where another stands. Empathy is less willing to decide what is good or bad.” Read more of Diana McCaulay’s reflections on empathy and tapping in to character, when that character is so unlike you.

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“Writing the novel was much more about confronting uncertainty and the unknown. As I began to write, ideas, themes and characters slowly emerged. I had no idea that I would end up writing a scene where my main character butchers a deer, but as I began to explore her situation and the emotions she was battling with, it suddenly seemed strangely inevitable.” Read more about what Lucy Wood learned while writing her first novel.

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“Unreliable narrators tell a story in a way that is misleading or distorted. The unreliable narrator’s version of the story is skewed from the true understanding of the story.” Read Mindy Hardwick’s tutorial on wrestling with the unreliable narrator.

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“I LOVE seeing the craft in action. I love seeing students clear away the cliches, overwrought verbiage, the excess adverbs, the ridiculous formality, and just…express. Trust their writer’s eye.” – Leone Ross

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“Write where it hurts.  Write where it feels real.” – Jen Falkner, Why It Works: Making Guava Jelly by Sharon Millar

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“A huge amount of information about character and backstory can be conveyed through small detail.” – Sarah Waters, Tips on Writing.

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“you must now enter the silence alone and listen
Wait
Wait for the translation of the first line
Write
Write with your fingers searching the pigments on the palette…” John Robert Lee talks writing with Vladimir Lucien (both of ST. Lucia)

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“It’s about the degree to which we allow ourselves not to censor and do the work we should do on the page, and take the risk that we should. To do so without apology is my directive.” Read more of Myriam Chancy’s very interesting, very enlightening interview not just on writing but on the history and philosophy that informs it and informs some of our lives and reality as Caribbean people.

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This space is usually reserved for writings I come across by other people. But I was reading a piece just now on dialogue and I’ll share it. But it occurred to me that this is something I’ve written about to, posted to  my blog, and so though I don’t usually recommend writing by me in this space (because who does that?), I’m giving in the urge to share it in case you’re not following both blogs. So here’s what Maria Murnane wrote and here’s what I had to say on dialogue. My post is about listening, her post is about saying it out loud; I do both actually and like her I have been told that the dialogue is realistic so hopefully I’m doing something right. Anyway, just sharing.

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“Later, I read out what I had written to the rest of the group, received a fantastic reaction from them and, more important, the motivation to carry on.” – author John Teckman on the workshop experience. Read the full.

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,  Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad!, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. 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. And using any creative work without crediting the creator will open you up to legal action. Respect copyright.

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READING ROOM Vlll

Like the title says, this is the eighth reading room. Use the search feature to your right and the term ‘reading room’ to find the others. Seven came before, pack-full-0 good reading: poetry, fiction, non fiction, and some visuals too. Good reading makes for good writing. So use the reading rooms like your personal library and enjoy. And remember, keep coming back; they’re never finished. As I discover things, things get added. And don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts re not only what you read here but also possible additions to the reading room.

This one is uncategorizable (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that’s not a word; not the point). It’s the PEN World Voices
online anthology 2014 and I’m sharing the whole thing because I still can’t believe that I got a chance to be a part of this wonderful and prestigious activity. For me a highlight will just be sitting in the audience and listening to the greats read and discuss; but getting the chance to do my own salon style reading was pretty damn cool too. I want you to get the chance to experience some of what I did by sharing some of the other writers who participated via these anthology excerpts. It covers poetry, fiction and non-fiction and includes a piece of my Amelia and all of my Ah Write! as well as, from other Caribbean writers, who I’m happy to say I got along really well with, Barbara Jenkins and Sharon Leach.

INTERVIEWS

Elizabeth Nunez being interviewed on NPR about my book Oh Gad!

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Elizabeth Nunez being interviewed about her book, the memoir Not for Everyday Use.

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What is the last book you read?
“The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. – Jus Bus. Read more of this Texas born, Antiguan-Barbudan raised producer-artiste’s interview with Luxury Locations. And just a reminder about this interview with him right here on Wadadli Pen.

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Opal Palmer interviews Jacqueline Bishop in Moko.

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Jack Neely interviews Nikki Giovanni for New Millennium Writings.

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“This was my main problem when I was just starting out: I was trying to say something. When I began to write, I was deeply self-conscious. I was writing stories hoping they would say something thematic, or address something that I was wrestling with philosophically. I’ve learned, for me at least, it’s a dead road. It’s writing from the outside in instead of the inside out.
But during my very early writing, certainly before I’d published, I began to learn characters will come alive if you back the f*ck off. It was exciting, and even a little terrifying. If you allow them to do what they’re going to do, think and feel what they’re going to think and feel, things start to happen on their own. It’s a beautiful and exciting alchemy. And all these years later, that’s the thrill I write to get: to feel things start to happen on their own.
So I’ve learned over the years to free-fall into what’s happening. What happens then is, you start writing something you don’t even really want to write about. Things start to happen under your pencil that you don’t want to happen, or don’t understand. But that’s when the work starts to have a beating heart.” – read more of this Andre Dubus lll interview.

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Loved so much about this interview, but, I’m biased, as I love all things Edwidge Dandicat…well, all things Edwidge Dandicat’s writing…don’t know her personally at all. Among the things I liked in this Guernica interview, the phrasing of the questions (How did you find her? – about Dandicat’s main character); the insight that Dandicat reads and re-reads to re-immerse herself in the world of the story and the sense she has of eavesdropping on her characters because I do that too; the judgments about certain writing choices e.g. English or Creole – I’m not an immigrant (she contextualizes it as a problem of immigrants writing in English) but I can relate to this: “people think it’s primarily a commercial choice. But for many of us, it’s a choice that rises out of the circumstances of our lives. These are the tools I have at my disposal, based on my experiences” – yep; her take on book reviews and categorizations and the burdens put upon fiction and her point that “fiction is not journalism or sociology or anthropology. Every story is singular. The way we get depth is by putting a bunch of singular stories together to tell larger more complex and sometimes even contradictory stories”… and more… I also find her description of her book as a hybrid between a story collection and a novel interesting and her references to books like it will be added to my reading list because one of my current writing projects seems to be veering into this hybrid territory. Anyway, reading interviews with great writers is always a master class for me, and Edwidge is one of the best in my opinion. Check out the full interview here.

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Michael Anthony, a Caribbean favourite, talks about his favourite meal, his favourite calypso, and more in this interview.

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New Orleans writer and journalist Missy Wilkinson about how being a journalist fuels her fiction and being a shape-shifter. Found this very relatable. Read the whole thing at Grab the Lapels.

VISUAL

Sandra Sealey talks about her journey as a writer.

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This Pinterest link is all visuals of Caribbean writers of fiction for children, teens, young adults. The clip, lifted from the site, features Tamarind publisher sharing in a very personal way why such diverse books are absolutely essential.

FICTION

“She breathes deep like she learned from the weekly yoga classes she paid for but eventually dropped. Deep breathing makes her dizzy. Too slow. Too many text messages buzz in the time it takes to exhale.” – from Empty by M. M. De Voe. More here.

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“And you!” Adele said “I raised my quivering arms on high; I laughed and laughed into the sky…. Edna St. Vincent Millet. You were so romantic!” – from Time Capsule by Carol J. Arnold. Read more.

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“We pushed north, praying for the aurora borealis, a whale breaching, something. An eagle dropped fish entrails on the deck. We studied the water’s flotsam for glass floats and fished out styrofoam cups.” – from The Famous Writer by Norma Shainin. Read more.

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“Najua had been in the room one night and Kate had asked Seth if people went to heaven when they died. Seth hadn’t hesitated to tell her yes, and to go on to say what he remembered from his childhood Sunday school lessons: heaven was a place of pure eternal happiness and joy, where no one suffered and no one got sick or hurt. He’d felt a twinge of guilt as he told his girl what he did not himself believe, but Najua smiled and nodded her reassurance that he was doing the right thing, her dark eyes moist and full of admiration. At the time, he’d taken it for more than that; he’d thought she might be falling for him too.” – Hush Little Baby by Vic Sizemore. Read the full.

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‘Cerberus closes both eyes, dreaming of the old man’s future, death waiting in the threshold to cradle him as it will never cradle Cerberus. He twitches in his sleep, wakes to the sound of Alma’s footsteps running through the front door, across the hardwood floor, out of breath, “Hi, Cerberus,” passing him like a warm, Aegean breeze.’ – from Cereus Sleeps by B. K. Loren. Read the full.

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“He is looking at her, has no wings to flick and she has none to fly off with and she knows from one moment to the next that nothing can get her out of the situation without leaving some sort of residue.” The tension is palpable and, unfortunately, if you’re a woman, all too relatable in Doro Boehme’s Thief Knot, Fastening at Canopic Jar.

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Coo Yah by Tammi Browne-Bannister, an Antiguan writer who now resident in Barbados, captures the shifting, dark poetry of a hurricane lashed landscape.

POETRY

Esther Phillips reppng for Barbados on the BBC’s Poetry Postcards.

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Alone by Maya Angelou. May she rest in peace.

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“Nothing understands the ecstatic wine
of this music like your body” – from Shostakovich: Five Pieces by Pamela Uschuk. Read also her poem Learning the Theremin.

NON FICTION

An interesting and important conversation and one of relevance to writers like us, far far far off the map of mainstream publishing. NPR’s To Achieve Diversity in Publishing, a Difficult Silence beats Silence.

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‘The hit or miss nature of words is well suited to navigating in the dark, and this story proves that words have great power even if the speaker knows they only have a 50% chance of being true. And even when the speaker knows they are 100% untrue, pragmatic words get a person past the gatekeeper and into the circus. Or, words can be thrown out into unknown territory like hooks on a line. Our friend Judith, who spoke Hebrew and Dutch before learning English advised my husband, “If you want to find your way in a foreign language, you must guess a thousand times a day. Be bold—guess!” Words infused with longing and thrown like dice—left, right, or straight ahead—can get you home.’ – from The Resiliency Gene by Ellen Graf. Read the full.

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Martin Scorcese on the difference between plot and story. You know, I just finished watching his film Shutter Island before posting this and, though he references other filmmakers, it’s as illustrative as any of them of the point he makes in this short clip. Watch and learn.

BLOG

From Shakirah Bourne’s Get Write! – On Dialect: How Caribbean People Supposed Tuh Talk In A Story, Eh?

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So when did you begin falling in love with books? Read Kamy Wicoff’s blog here – and feel free to share your responses in the comments section below.

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One writer’s journey to publication. She Writes.

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Antiguan and Barbudan Leonard Tim Hector is one of the greats of Caribbean thought (i.e. among those who researched, observed, analyzed, and offered insight to our lives, in his case, various areas of our lives – politics to sports to the arts). JAmerican writer Geoffrey Philp acknowledges as much in his preamble to a re-posting of a Hector piece on Caribbean literature and why it matters. Read here.

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Writers Read by Jeff Goins.

*NEW* REVIEWS
A section for books I haven’t necessarily read as yet but, thanks to these reviews, now kind of want to.

Annie Paul reviews Jamaican writer, and fast Wadadli Pen patron, Diana McCaulay’s Huracan.

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,  Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. 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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Literary quote of the week

Okay, so that’s not a thing but I just love that last year’s Commonweath Short Story winners (and wouldn’t most of us writers love to be on that list) got a chance to talk a year later about how winning the award affected their life and their writing. My favourite response came from Jekwu Anyaegbuna of Nigeria, winner from the Africa Region who said:

“Being selected has gathered stones and stars, and heaped them around my mind, to let me discover that one literary success is enough to compensate for hundreds of literary obstacles. I’ve got to know that rejection is the inevitable price to pay for the happiness of acceptance. Being edited by Granta also made me realise that the comma is the sexiest and most dangerous punctuation necklace that sentences could wear, so one should be very careful with its deployment. Winning means validation, that someone else appreciates your craft. It has brought some attention to my writing. The Guardian, as part its fiction project this year, recently commissioned and published my new story “The Swimming Pool.” Writers, by default, are always working on something: at the moment, I am plucking unwanted feathers out of my first novel – which I completed recently – praying and hoping that a literary agent will scoop it and build an everlasting home for it. And I am also peeping under the miniskirts of my new short stories, straightening them out to make them more fashionable. O dikwa egwu!”

There’s the beautiful language in her entire response; but also we writers all know the sting of rejection and she puts it into perspective with this line: “I’ve got to know that rejection is the inevitable price to pay for the happiness of acceptance.”

The 2012 Caribbean region winner Diana McCaulay (author of Dog-Heart and Huracan, copies of which she contributed to the 2013 Wadadli Pen prize package) said:

“You know how it is: you write stuff, you send it out, it gets rejected; or you send it to a competition, it doesn’t get longlisted or shortlisted or an honourable mentioned or anything – you wonder if they even received it, and then you start telling yourself you’re talentless and should stick to writing grant proposals. So to win a well respected prize is to vanquish those thoughts, at least for awhile.”

Rejection is a writer’s yolk and it can shake you off your game if you let it; I appreciate their reminders not to let it.

Read the responses from all the writers, here.

 

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