Tag Archives: Erna Brodber

Jamaican Writer Erna Brodber Among Recipients of the 2017 Windham-Campbell Prize

‘The 2017 recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prizes are: in fiction, André Alexis (Canada/Trinidad and Tobago) and Erna Brodber (Jamaica); in nonfiction, Maya Jasanoff (United States) and Ashleigh Young (New Zealand); in poetry, Ali Cobby Eckermann (Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal/Australia) and Carolyn Forché (United States); and in drama, Marina Carr (Ireland) and Ike Holter (United States). This is the first year that prizes have been awarded in poetry.

“The telephone call and later the representation on paper of a miracle was so frighteningly surreal, I am still wondering if I have been trapped in a composition of mine,” said Brodber.

This is the fifth class of prize recipients. Since the prize’s inception, 43 writers representing 12 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America have received the prize. Past recipients include Oscar-winning playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, essayist and novelist Teju Cole, novelist C. E. Morgan, and nonfiction writer Geoff Dyer.

The Windham-Campbell Festival will take place at Yale on Sept. 13-15.’

READ MORE.

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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

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“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

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“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.

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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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

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“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.

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“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

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“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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FICTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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“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.

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“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

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“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

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“…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

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‘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

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

BLOG

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

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

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

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

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

Reading Room Xlll

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.

NON FICTION

“‘I didn’t know blacks were Catholic!’ she stammered.” – Toi Derricotte

INTERVIEW

with Mary Robinette Kowal:
“It’s okay that you don’t understand it, she wasn’t speaking to you” – Read More. Trivia: I’m mentioned in this interview for my involvement in this project (i.e. the book she’s discussing Of Noble Family). Listen to the interview to find out how.

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with Erna Brodber:
“Well, I write because I am too shy or too lazy to do something else—go around and preach, for instance. If I could do other things, I don’t suppose I would write.” Read more.

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with Quincy Jones:
“You want to see kids getting into music instead of shooting each other.” Read more.

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with Angela Davis and Toni Morrison:
“This is a bit of an aside, but it relates to what you just said about creating firm boundaries with people. Once, I saw you reading at Columbia University, and a woman stood up and said, ‘Toni Morrison, I would love to read you this poem I wrote,’ and you said, ‘No.'” – Read more.

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with Isabel Allende:
“I don’t have a plan when I start writing. On January 8th, my starting date, I turn on the computer and open a vein. Books are written with blood, tears, laughter and kisses. Usually I have a vague idea of a time and a place where the story may happen and that’s pretty much it. In the daily exercise of writing the characters come out of the wallpaper; at first they are vague shadows but soon they become real people. My job is to be flexible, not to impose on them my own ideas, allow them to act and tell me their stories, like actors in a play. I never know when or how the book will end and often I can’t even describe it until I print it and read the whole manuscript on paper. Only then I know what the story is about.” Read more.

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with author Edwidge Dandicat:
“I think mostly in English and in Creole. There’s a constant flow of translation going on in my head. I hear the characters in whatever language they’re speaking—mostly Creole and sometimes also French—and I’m like the scribe in the corner taking notes.” Read more.

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with author Stephen King:
Lahey: Great writing often resides in the sweet spot between grammatical mastery and the careful bending of rules. How do you know when students are ready to start bending? When should a teacher put away his red pen and let those modifiers dangle?

King: I think you have to make sure they know what they’re doing with those danglers, those fragmentary and run-on sentences, those sudden digressions. If you can get a satisfactory answer to “Why did you write it this way?” they’re fine. And—come on, Teach—you know when it’s on purpose, don’t you? Fess up to your Uncle Stevie!

Read more.

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with Mud Season editor Rebecca Starks:
“What I’ve learned is that it’s no good rationalizing, as a writer: the poem, the story, the essay—they have to work. Readers feel the flat lines, they puzzle over plot or characters that feel under-motivated, they are really looking for something in some way transformative. Once you realize that real people are reading what you’ve written—taking it very seriously, debating it, wanting to root for it—you realize that what you send out has to be able to stand up to that. You don’t abandon the work—you go back and finish it.” Read more.

POETRY

“But I am woman

conditioned

to nurse

my scream

like a mute child” – Madness Disguises Sanity by Opal Palmer Adisa

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Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit is still haunting, still iconic. I used it recently in a workshop, looking at the symbolism, imagery and other literary devices employed by the writer of the song, Abel Meeropol.

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”

I recently came across this NPR report about the writer of the song, and this page about the evolution of the song. Both are work checking out. And if you don’t know the song, you absolutely have to give it a listen:

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“It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?” – Marianne Williamson

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Ernestine Johnson, not your average black girl…

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It’s White House Def Poetry featuring Esperanza Spalding. It counts.

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“…but you know my food in de wild
going be fasting and prayer, my Mums.
I sure you don’t want my Papa up so…”

and him turn him eye up to de sky,
“to vex wid me right as I start out?”
“Why you can’t pray here, son?

I will keep food and drink far from you.
I will honour your fast. Is a thing I do for
Joseph plenty times when him was still wid us.” Read More of Pamela Mordecai’s Jesus Takes Leave of Mary and Goes in to the Desert from De Book of Mary a Performance Poem by Pamela Mordecai

BLOG

“I couldn’t go anywhere without thinking about the brutalities of the past and wondering what happened here, in this particular spot where I am standing now.” – Australians Halcyon McLeod and Willoh S. Weiland re their residency at Fresh Milk in Barbados.

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“I took the  mission to heart because I had to find out for myself what is possible, what can be done, when The Work is more important than feeding The Suits. Some got it, totally. Many others poked fun at our efforts.” – Joanne Gail Johnson speaks of answering her soul’s question

FICTION

“Can this be death?” Prince Andrei wondered, with an utterly new, wistful feeling, looking at the grass, at the wormwood and at the thread of smoke coiling from the rotating top. “I can’t die, I don’t want to die, I love life, I love this grass and earth and air . . .” – The Death of Prince Andrei Excerpted from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Constance Garnett

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“At Barnard, then-Marlene Boyer had been a theater major. Jess had seen her perform in several college productions: The Wife of Bath from ‘The Canterbury Tales’, a brown Hester Prynne in a modernist version of ‘The Scarlet Letter’. But now Marlene had the stage to herself. And she wanted Jess there to witness it and to tell the world about it.” – Quality Control: a short story by Edwidge Dandicat

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“The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o’clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 2th. but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o’clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.” – so begins The Lottery by Shirley Jackson; read the full story here.

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Beautiful and powerful and heart maddeningly sad …Light by Lesley Nneka Arimah

WRITERS ON READING

“Tell your story. Don’t try and tell the stories that other people can tell. Because [as a] starting writer, you always start out with other people’s voices — you’ve been reading other people for years… But, as quickly as you can, start telling the stories that only you can tell — because there will always be better writers than you, there will always be smarter writers than you … but you are the only you.” – Neil Gaiman

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“The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure. It’s not one to one: you can’t say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.” – Neil Gaiman

WRITERS ON PUBLISHING

“It’s a reality check for many authors just how much editorial work may be needed before their manuscript is publish-ready. And editorial work is largely undervalued. Most authors expect to pay good money for design. Less so for editorial work.  Many authors think that because they’re a good writer, they’re a good editor. Not so. I’ve had writers tell me they don’t think they need an edit because they’ve taught writing. Believing you can be the editor of your own work is presumptuous at best. It’s important to remember that you don’t have distance from your own work when you’ve been toiling away at your project for months or years. Few people have the discernment required to execute a final draft of a manuscript that only needs a proofread.” – Brooke Warner

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I like Kenyon’s Why We Chose It series in which they explain, well, why they chose a particular story for publication. It can be instructive to writers. And as I write this I’m reminded of what we try to do with Wadadli Pen, this labour-intensive system of having the judges provide edit notes, returning the short listed pieces to the writers with these notes so that they can consider ways of improving their submission before re-submitting for the final round of evaluation. I’m reminded that not every person submitting appreciates how rare that is; with most contest and/or journal submissions either you’re in or you’re out (rejected! rejected! rejected!) and they don’t have time to hold your hand. So it’s always a little baffling to me when the short listed writers don’t take up the opportunity to at least consider the edits. It’s not obligatory and failure to take up the edits won’t result in penalization but as a budding writer why wouldn’t you take the benefit of the wisdom of those with a bit more experience wrangling words? I remember in particular this poem from a few years ago that was a favourite of the judges but parts of it were messy; the writer though opted not to revisit it and another strong piece made stronger by the writer taking the opportunity to review the editors’/judges’ suggestions edged it out. At least in my mind that’s how it played out; maybe it wasn’t that close. But I do remember the piece being strong and I do remember the writer blowing off the idea of revisiting the piece (just seeming disinterested); and I do know that though the writer didn’t go home empty-handed, another writer’s name made it on to the Challenge plaque that year. Anyway, the Why We Chose It series reminds me of those kinds of opportunities, missed. The explanation in the post linked here made me not only think of Wadadli Pen but of my own submission experiences and of being on the other side of this when editing Tongues of the Ocean. In the latter role, there was a part of me that wanted to give every story submitted a shot and so for the more promising ones I tried to work with the writer, offering edit suggestions…some of which were considered, some of which were completely ignored (not ignored as in, yes, I’ve looked at it, I disagree with you and I think it works as is; but ignored as in editing what’s that, huh, I can’t be bothered). In the end, I’m happy with how the issue turned out but I think I gave myself more work than I needed to (I should’ve just let go of the ones that were non-responsive or the ones that needed too much work to be publishable). But I really wanted to SHOWCASE the NOW Antiguan and Barbudan literary arts scene. We are here-ah we yah became my mantra but sometimes it felt like I was the only one who gave two bleeps about that. The process gave me a better appreciation, even after my years managing Wadadli Pen, of how a story can come just that close and still not make it across the finish line. Kenyon Review is one of those publications I’ve submitted to but failed to get into. But I’ll keep tinkering and *knock on wood* someday get across that finish line. Until then, I keep paying serious attention to posts like David Lyn’s Why We Chose It – The Seige at Whale Cay by Megan Mayhew Bergman.

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“Sooner or later, despite your best efforts, your book will go out of print. Either the publisher will notify you, or royalty statements will indicate that the book isn’t being sold any more. If you’ve protected yourself by including the contract clauses I suggested, you’re in good shape.

Not sure what your contracts say? Go to your files and check all contracts for your existing books. There’s a good chance your con­tracts contain these clauses. If you don’t have a clause reverting the rights of your out-of-print book to you, the going will be tougher, but not impossible.” – Robert W. Bly on What To Do When Your Book Goes Out of Print

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“My two cents is this: Be aware of the sea change we are in right now. Don’t assume anything. Do your homework and ask questions. If you get a traditional deal with no advance, I’d advise you to look elsewhere, or at least negotiate for much higher royalties. Save for publicity, no matter what path you choose. And if you have a publisher—whether it’s traditional or hybrid, be the squeaky wheel, though not to the point of becoming so annoying you start to alienate the team that’s working for you. You’re competing for attention at every turn on this journey, so don’t be afraid to make yourself noticed. To ask questions. To think creatively—and big. Work with your team to think outside the box about creative publicity and platform opportunities. Copy what’s been done well. Try to have some fun while you’re at it. Don’t ever ever give up on your publishing dream.” – Brooke Warner

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“Most important of all, I’m writing most days. I now understand viscerally (I took a while to really get this) that since the only variable I can control is the writing, I should make that my unrelenting focus. I get the occasional editing job, which I also enjoy. And from September, if all goes as planned, I’ll be teaching again–part time, of course. Writing must come first, whatever the hell is happening on the publishing front.” – More from Liane Spicer on her publishing journey.

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“send it out there and risk the rejection” – Maeve Binchy

VISUAL ART

Arianna by Antigua-born filmmaker Shashi Balooja:

Shashi

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Noel Norton photography Washer Woman

“(Peter) Minshall in his stunning and definitely spectacular King and Queen costumes employ(s) kinetic constructions, animated by the wearer and sometimes by modern technological devices such as the electric compressor in the King costume Man-Crab (1983). compressor pumped blood over a canopy of white silk. Minshall’s band, in this Morality Play, with Man-Crab as an allegory for the destructive power of modern life…and the Queen – Washerwoman who was the embodiment of purity and harmony. Washerwoman was killed, a surprising  victory of Evil over Good. It is a stunning piece of visual collective art.” – Tim Hector in the Art of Carnival and the Carnival of Art, originally published in his Fan the Flame column, recently reproduced in The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 8 Number 1 Fall 2015. Images taken (borrowed) respectively from the online photogallery of Noel Norton and a Caribbean Beat article on the man himself.

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In this short film, a 13-year-old girl and her grandfather, hiding out in a wooded cabin after a plague, meet the challenge of their lives when her birthday trip to a trading post goes horribly awry. Starring Frankie Faison (The Silence of the Lambs, “The Wire,” “Banshee”) and introducing Saoirse Scott (“One Life to Live”). It’s directed by Luchina Fisher and is based on a short story written and adapted for the screen by Tananarive Due and Stephen Barnes – you may remember them from the first Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival in 2006.


WRITERS ON WRITING

“Rap is a poetic form, in fact one of the more strict and stringent poetic forms according to rhyme and meter”  – Roger Bonair-Agard

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“In The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal torments Clarice with memories of lambs being slaughtered on the farm where she lived as a child.” – Amanda Patterson on Torturing your characters

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“I am always far more impressed by writers who are able to craft complicated plots, for example, since this is an aspect of writing I find difficult.” – Writing Dialogue by Rowena MacDonald

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“A few years ago, at a venue in Manhattan, I read the title story from my collection — when I only hoped it would be a collection.   There was a nice little audience — other writers, friends, friends of other writers….my mother.   It went well, there was lively response and positive feedback afterward.  But most of all, the next day my mother sent me an email that said she was “proud” of me.  My West Indian mother, a woman of a certain age.  She’s encouraged me and supported me throughout my life, but she is not one to boast or to throw around words like “proud”.  That’s a level of permission, no Permission, that is invaluable.” – Anton Nimblett, author of Sections of an Orange

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“On writing, my advice is the same to all. If you want to be a writer, write.” – Anne Rice. Tips from my favourite author of vampire lore plus Madeleine L’Engle, Anne Lamott, Stephen King, Joss Whedon, E. B. White, Doris Lessing, Maya Angelou, Ray Bradbury, John Green and much more. Read them all here.

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“The truth is, in real life I’d treated this man poorly. The couch had been my sister-in-law’s doing — she’d been moving a bunch of stuff out of the apartment we shared, and she had the movers drop the couch at the car-repair garage where this guy worked. (It was actually pleather, the first lie.) I didn’t even know she’d done it until he called to thank me. He said nobody had ever done anything like this for him, given him a couch. He said it was like coming home to a room full of rose petals.It got me thinking: What if I had given him that couch? What if I’d been a person turned generous by pain, rather than stingy? So I wrote a story — created a kind of fictional terrarium — in which that possible version of myself might thrive. I tell this story to suggest that writing doesn’t correspond to lived experience just by reflecting or deploying it. The relation can take other forms: inversion, distortion, opposition; not merely wish fulfillment but hypothetical catastrophe. Fiction offers a set of parallel destinies.” – Leslie Jamison on Is It Okay to Mine Real Relationships for Literary Material? in the New York Times

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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Erna Brodber

“People read about these things in something called “history” at school, but it’s not made to relate to your real life. You hear about the slaves, and who wants to be related to the slaves? They’re not people, they’re some creature that you read about. So why would you believe it happened to your people, or anywhere near you?” – Erna Brodber

So Erna Brodber…read her in university. Met her recently in Guadeloupe. Sitting across from her at a dinner table and talking writer to writer was something unexpected and wonderful in my life. And getting the chance to hear her read…now have to add other books of hers to the reading list. I overheard someone after she read describing her as the Caribbean’s Toni Morrison. Hearing her read, I see the connection. There are layers and layers of meaning to both of their writing and a sense of knitting the loose threads between diaspora and home, reconnecting self and ancestral spirit. And both of their wells run deep. No doubt you’ve read many interviews with Morrison as I have; here’s a Brodber interview I just read and suggest you do too.

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