This post was grabbed from the social media page of Michaela Harris, pictured left next to me (centre) in an image she grabbed from my social media*. The image is from the 2013 Wadadli Pen Challenge awards and the comment in her post references her involvement in Wadadli Pen – as a finalist in 2012 and 2013, and as our first ever intern in 2017. Her sentiment is unexpected and deeply appreciated.
I’m sharing it here not to blow myself up but to remind you to remind your teen or yourself (if you happen to be a teen) that they have up until September 20th 2019 to apply for internships with the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize ahead of the 2020 Challenge season. From the press release announcing the internship:
“The ideal candidate is a recent secondary school graduate or college student, between 17 and 23; but genuine interest, not age, is the bigger qualifier. The selected interns may receive recommendation/endorsement letters on satisfactory completion of the internship.”
“Creative writing has held my interest for a very long time. As a child, I had dreams of becoming a famous author or poet alongside another career choice. Though timid is not particularly an adjective I would associate with my younger self, I often wrote pieces and kept them as my own tiny treasures. However, over time, I longed to share my work with others, as this would help me to grow as a writer and an individual. It was also my desire to inspire other young people like myself to express themselves.”
“My internship began in December 2016 and came to an end in May of this year. My tasks were, but not limited to, administrative and promotional work. I became a youth media ambassador, making media appearances promoting the programme on youth friendly traditional media platforms & recommending and targeting youth social media platforms. I also assisted with flyer distribution. Additionally, I checked the group’s email, responding to requests or concerns, and relaying urgent information to my boss, Ms. (Joanne) Hillhouse.
The ways in which I developed from this internship are numerous. I first and most importantly was challenged to learn better time management skills as a young adult. My writing, whether in emails or for my previously submitted blog post was soundly critiqued by Ms. Hillhouse to encourage better writing each time. An immense level of professionalism was cultivated as I was entrusted with access to the email account which held confidential information. I also gained experience with both the prep and appearance for a radio interview at Observer Radio Station. My final task was to co-host the Wadadli Pen awards at the first Best of Books book fair this year alongside Ms. Hillhouse and Ms. Arrindell. It was truly a pleasure.”
The internship programme is hoping to attract up to five interns to work in different areas of the programme this time around. See the linked press release for application details.
*p.s. here’s the text that accompanied the original photo on my social media: With a pair of Wadadli Pen 2013 winners at the awards ceremony. The one on the right, Asha, was our first back to back overall winner and went on to win a literary arts National Youth Award. If she wants, she’ll be a writer someday. The one on the left, Michaela, went on to be our first (and as yet only) ever intern in 2017 and gave helpful feedback on my performance as a mentor. She’ll be a boss someday. We’ll be recruiting new interns for the 2020 season. Details to come but big picture… This time around I’m hoping for more than one intern to be paired with each of our team members and help lighten the load while picking up some skills and experience for the resume. There will be no cash remuneration as the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize is a completely voluntary activity for all involved. It is an opportunity for a professional development and volunteer experience for a young Antiguan and Barbudan (national and/or resident). Intern may also receive a recommendation/endorsement letter from the team member with whom he/she is paired on satisfactory completion of duties. The search was limited to Antigua State College students in the past but this time I’m opening it up to any young resident between 17 and 23 (the college years…roughly… but you don’t have to be in college). Email email@example.com Expressions of interest here on facebook in comments or DMs, or anywhere other than email, will not be acknowledged. So, email and put your best foot forward. Read about Wadadli Pen – the project that’s been nurturing and/or showcasing the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda since 2004 – here https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is researched and written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). Excerpting, reblogging, linking etc. is fine, but PLEASE do not lift ANY content (images or text) wholesale from this site without asking first and crediting the creator of that work and/or copyright holder. All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.
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.
“These days, I meet far too many young writers who try to start off with a novel right off, or a trilogy, or even a nine-book series. That’s like starting in at rock climbing by tackling Mt. Everest. Short stories help you learn your craft. They are a good place for you to make the mistakes that every beginning writer is going to make. And they are still the best way for a young writer to break in…” – George R. R. Martin
“Be careful to stay consistently in one verb tense unless your narrator is a person who might switch tenses.” – Crawford Killian
“As I’m sure you know, Time is never a neutral, abstract thing. Nor merely a clock-ticking-on-the-mantlepiece thing. Time for writing your novel is time not for other occupations, not for other people. It’s time stolen from your loved ones; time they will probably resent you not devoting to them. Time is closing the door behind you and not answering when people knock – not unless they knock very hard, and shout words like ‘Fire’ and ‘Bastard’ and ‘I’m leaving – I really am’.” – Toby Litt
“I should be clear: there are plenty of times when the thought of reading my own story one more time makes me want to vomit.” – Max Barry
“I do think that as a society, even though my work is valued in the tertiary system as a text, writers are often seen as artists. And artists are often connected with entertainment, and seen as not scientific and not affecting evidence-based decisions.” – Oonya Kempadoo
“One Wednesday night, while Pastor was telling us that blessings were five miles upstream so we should, like Enoch, wait on the Lord, I started reading Salman Rushdie’s “Shame,” hiding it in the leather Bible case. I had never read anything like it. It was like a hand grenade inside a tulip. Its prose was so audacious, its reality so unhinged, that you didn’t see at first how pointedly political and just plain furious it was. It made me realize that the present was something I could write my way out of. And so I started writing for the first time since college, but kept it quiet because none of it was holy.” – Marlon James
“But for those of us who are called to this craft, we know we must write. Because it’s true, your mother, father, brother, sister or cat could end up hating you, but if you don’t write, you’ll end up hating yourself. Ultimately, we write not for the world but for our own souls.” – Bushra Rehman
“We recognize, in their faces—in their actions—their fearlessness. They haven’t yet been anesthetized by the daily grind of adult life. They still think they have a puncher’s chance at beating everything.” Interesting post by Matthew McGevna, my co-panelist at the Brooklyn Book Festival, about the genesis of his book, Little Beasts. Read his full post.
“Editing can also lead to moments of humor. At some point, when two of my main characters, an older female scientist and a working mom who grow very close over the course of the book, clasped hands for something like the fifth time, I almost cried out with irritation, and wrote ‘There is way too much hand clasping in this book! Stop it!!’” – Kamy Wicoff
“You are not imagining it, my art has become darker over the last couple years. For so long my attitude was that I just wanted to paint upbeat, joyful images to increase the beauty in this world, and not dwell on negativity, which would just be feeding it.
At the time, that meant bright, vibrant, ‘sunny’ colours … sometimes I literally painted on yellow canvases.
But the times we live in have a dark undertone, and I am not immune to it. As artists, it is not just our nature, but our job to FEEL, and to be a channel – through our art – to make others FEEL.” – Donna Grandin
“How could his daily toil
of hammer, saw and nails;
an old lady’s reckoning
of last month’s window
against the patching
of her roof this week —
how could her life of sacrifice
and his of labour, sweat
and boiling sun
be totalled up
in this small word?” – Word (on teaching an adult male to read) by Esther Phillips
Heather Doram’s Rootedness and other art pieces from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Canada, showed during the Pan Am Games, featured in this showing at the Textile Museum of Canada. See all the pieces here.
This beautiful painting (I want it soooo bad) is Gardener of Small Joys, 2015 by Danielle Boodoo-Fortune (artist). Danielle is a Trinidadian-Tobagonian artist (and a Wadadli Pen ally having served as a judge in 2014 and 2015); she is superbly talented in both the visual and literary medium. Here’s a link to her work. And to a review of her work in the Arc.
The film Ah! Hard Rain is the story of a fishing village struggling to survive due to over fishing by huge trawlers from, Europe, China, etc. The film sponsored this special performance at the British Museum, on Saturday 15th August, 2015 by providing two of the amazing Moko Jumbie performers, all the way from Trinidad & Tobago, who feature in the soon to be released film Ah! Hard Rain. Photo is from the Ah! Hard Rain facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AhHardRain
“As writers, we live double lives: lived once in the world of others, and again, in the quiet of our own minds. It takes a certain amount of will and courage to leave with regularity the circle of humanity in order to enact a kind of theft, which is one aspect of what the writing life seems to be.”
“Of course I’m intimidated, but I’m also protected by social and artistic privilege. You can be immune if you’re a Rex Nettleford, or a rich gay dude, but for a poor or middle class person, not so much. And nobody is ever really immune. Gay men are still getting shot in the face in New York, there is still too much stigma against HIV for no reason. Job discrimination. Some stores want a legal right to discriminate. It isn’t over.”
“I think that if we help to support this type of creative behaviour, musically and artistically, our culture in the music and arts sector can evolve greatly. A lot of people get discouraged because from a young age they are being told that they can’t succeed at their dream because it’s not the normal doctor or dentist stereotypical job that their parents see fit for sustainable income. If the government and more people took it seriously and equally took risks and chances then an infrastructure could be made for year-round arts and music on a more realistic economic level for people – instead of this fairytale, ‘movie star’ illusion that’s being fed to young kids through TV and internet.”
“I used to keep this journal…and I knew my mother would read my journal (so) my journal was just negative space; so if there was a bird, I would not say there was a bird – I would describe the cloud around, trees, skies, just leaving a blank space of the bird. So if my mother read it, she would not see the bird.”
“The analogy in my head is like I’m driving down a lane, a bumpy lane like so many of the off roads in Antigua, and I’ve never been on that road before and there’s a bend and I don’t know what’s around the bend but I want to find out so I keep going, even though it’s a little bit scary…”
“I wish someone had told the very young me that good writing is the ticket to success in nearly everything. I didn’t learn that until my junior year of high school when a history teacher taught us how to research and organize our essays and term papers. Suddenly, I realized I could use my writing skills in every subject (except math, unfortunately). My grades soared. It’s those skills that got me through college and graduate school, and it’s those skills I still use today as I outline and work on my books. We can do our young people a big favor by helping them learn to write well.”
“More immediately, I’m trying to earn a living in the way that is most enjoyable to me. I love the world of literature, and I hope to support myself in it. I come from the small island of Antigua and I always wanted to write; I just didn’t know that it was possible. I would pretend when I was a child that I was Charlotte Brontë, because I’d read Jane Eyre when I was ten and, although I didn’t understand it, I loved the idea that this woman had written a book. I wanted to be her.”
w/Colin Farrell …yes, that Colin Farrell…Colin is officially the first Hollywood actor in the Wadadli Pen Reading Room…as if Hollywood actors need more publicity, right?…But whatever, I like this interview and love his accent…no apologies….besides it’s always interesting hearing artists, from any area of the arts, talking about their craft…and always refreshing to see the ways in which their journey and sensibility is not that foreign from your own:
Interviewer: Was that the last time that you were on stage?
Colin Farrell: …other than struggling to be myself on things like this.
“Firstly, more creative arts education programmes are needed at all levels of our education system. The arts will evolve when young people come to a better, informed understanding of the arts. This education also creates an audience for the arts, an audience that is informed, understands what is being presented to them, and so they are better able to appreciate and evaluate creative arts.”
“Well, the idea for Hurricane came when my son — who was four at the time — asked me from the back seat of the car, ‘Who is going to get my pants?’
This was August 2005, and we were driving a few bags of clothing and food to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort. What a great question! Of course I didn’t know, but I began to imagine who would get his pants — and then I began to actually IMAGINE who would get his pants. And I was off and running . . .”
“But it’s getting weird lately; some nights as he rocks on top of me, I start to imagine that I’m Her…” – Starfish by Randy Triant
“He always cooked his pepper pot on their Oh Gad, claiming coal fire gave a better flavor, but Nora knew that it wasn’t the fire that made the dish unforgettable, it was him. It was the way they would sit on the veranda, with a bowl of the aromatic stew and listen to him recount the tales of his youth, stories of climbing mango trees and oil pan cook out by the dam. Of adventures in the sugar cane fields, and of jumbi, and sokuna and all the things that made up the lore of the country side. All their legends told in his base voice, punctuated by belly laughs and mouthfuls of pepper pot.” – The Grave Digger’s Wife by Random_Michelle (Michelle Toussaint)
“Legend states that the Moss is a creature hatched from a chicken egg layed on Good Friday after three months of incubation. The egg is placed under the arm of the person wishing for the Moss and has to stay there until the three months have passed. Once it begins to hatch, at the moment it emerges from the shell, one must say: ‘Mweh seh mette ou’ (I am your master) before it can say it to you, needless to say what happens if you fail. If you accomplish this then the Moss is charged to fulfill your every desire not unlike the Djinns of Persia. However it seems that a Moss comes with a terrible price…” – Glen Toussaint, Tale of the Moss. Read more.
“Outside, I see a million butterflies flitting about in the golden sunlight. He once told me that there’s a place in Kingston where, in butterfly season, you can see them falling out of trees like golden rain. We’d made plans to marry beneath one of those trees. But those plans, like Isaiah, have all disappeared. Suddenly, an image of Peter and Denise appears before me, the money they have promised me for one night.” – Read all of Sharon Leach’s Sugar.
If you’re out here freelancing, this article actually has a lot of stuff I’ve tried and continue to try …with mixed results.
“Build relationships with your readers as best you can. Building a loyal following of readers who are willing to pay for your books is your most effective way of personally combating piracy.” – if you’ve written and been published, chances are you’ve come across some site purporting to offer your book for free at some point. As with any theft, it feels like a violation…and it’s cutting in to your royalties. This article provides tips for writers on dealing with piracy.
“I thought back over the many interactions I’d had with agents – all but two of them white – before I landed with mine. The ones that said they loved my writing but didn’t connect with the character, the ones that didn’t think my book would be marketable even though it was already accepted at a major publishing house. Thought about the ones that wanted me to delete moments when a character of color gets mean looks from white people because “that doesn’t happen anymore” and the white magazine editor who lectured me on how I’d gotten my own culture wrong. My friends all have the same stories of whitewashed covers and constant sparring with the many micro and mega-aggressions of the publishing industry.” – Daniel José Older on Diversity is not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing
“After colossal effort and countless attempts to acclimate myself to them, I focused on changing my way of seeing them. I pulled the curtain from the other side and started to explore the depths of their world. It took me a while, but I came to the conclusion that criminals laugh, too”. – from 1000 Lashes Because I Say What I Think by Raif Badawi. Translated by Ahmed Danny Ramadan. Read more.
“When I was a little girl I was sent to mass every Sunday, but I did not pay much attention to the mass, which was mostly in Latin. My interest was drawn to the ceiling of the church where there were hundreds of paintings of pink-faced cherubs, angels and saints. There was not one black face on that ceiling! I deduced that black people did not go to Heaven. I was a child, how was I to know that those paintings were some artist’s depiction of The Great Beyond?” – Daisy Holder Lafond, I could have been a terrorist
Storytelling by Jamaica Kincaid, Josh Axelrad, and Sebastian Junger from the Moth Radio series: link.
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.
Elaine seated, with copies of Singles Holiday, its sequel Sweet Lady, and first book What’s Eating Me? laid out before her and from left, me, Nia Comms founder Marcella Andre and Best of Books manager Barbara Arrindell standing alongside.
“I think as a writer, that’s all you can hope for, that you brought something alive for somebody.” – Elaine Spires during a conversation with other writers and book lovers at an event Saturday 7th June 2014 at the Best of Books on St. Mary’s Street.
I think we got caught up, put bibliophiles in a room and say talk books and it be like that. Elaine is a Brit who began her relationship with Antigua as a tour guide for tourists from the UK and now has a home here. Write what you know…her stories explore that terrain. I look forward to reading the first of the Antigua series, Singles Holiday, but Elaine is already readying book three which she says will be out in November.
The discussion went to some interesting places, beyond plotting, characterization, writing techniques and strategies (particularly interesting to me, strategies for writing humour that feels unforced), reading habits, editing, and publishing, to the challenges of writing the Other without stereotyping and of writing fiction that draws from real life without being too literal. I don’t think Elaine anticipated quite so many questions though I believe she rightly took it as a sign that we were all engaged, and certainly handled them well. Her readings, meanwhile, hinted at the humor to be found in situations where you take people out of their natural habitat and let them wander around and bump into things for a while. It also hinted at the allure of Antigua.
Elaine is a patron of Wadadli Pen, her gift, one of time to the winning writer, time to review works in progress and offer advice and direction, a mentorship which assists in fulfilling the Wadadli Pen mandate of assisting with the development of the literary arts. This year’s winner, Asha Graham, has already benefited from her session with Elaine.
It’s been a busy few weeks in Antigua for Elaine who has spent her time here at work on her forthcoming short story collection and the pilot of a TV series based on characters first seen during stagings here of When a Woman Moans, Maisie and Em. She returns to England where she continues work on the adaptation of Singles Holiday for the stage.
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! – also a freelance writer, editor and writing coach and instructor). 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 the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.
This article (In Praise of Editors, Agents, and Every Other Gatekeeper in Publishing by Chris Pavone) is about the importance of publishing gatekeepers in ensuring that the work that’s put out is of a certain quality. There are different paths to publishing, of course, and the quality of the work is not definitively reflective of the path – whether self-published or with a publishing house of whatever size – so much as it is the commitment to doing the work justice at the writing and editing phases (i.e. taking the time and putting the work through the firing process of making what was once rough, shine… and yet textured). All but one of my books (a small self-published poetry collection) have been published with a publishing house. That’s my choice, that’s my path, still, for various reasons. That’s not to say that I won’t ever choose a different path or different paths since I quite like the idea of embracing whatever path is best for the particular work. To my mind, though, there is value in the gate keeping process, in being challenged or being forced to challenge myself to make the work better though I know from experience it can be discouraging, that good works sometimes fail to get due consideration or get around the play-it-safe-no-risk-taking barrier that also exists in publishing. Then there’s the pay day, which can be meagre unless you have the rarest of things a publishing house that prioritizes and aggressively markets your work combined with the good fortune of a breakthrough. For many writers off the map, self publishing or publishing independently is not just the easy option, it’s the only viable option, maybe even the only option. And it can be a good one if resources are put into editing and marketing, and the distribution can be worked out satisfactorily. I get asked all the time, since the first release of my first book The Boy from Willow Bend, how do I get published or can you help me get published; and, quite recently, I’ve been told self publishing is the best route what do you think???? The truth is, I don’t really have a definitive answer to any of these questions. I only have the benefit of my experiences, no ins, and maybe no great insights as each experience has been so different. I got published by writing and continuing to work on being a better writer, by being committed to telling a good story, by shopping around including research, networking as able, and submitting and shaking off the rejection, and trying again. Two books in, I actively sought an agent to help me find a buyer for my first full length novel but really so that I could have someone working to guide me through those gates…and beyond. It takes time, it takes work, and I don’t know any way around that; and even through the ups and downs and heart breaks, and the wishing certain things had gone differently, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now (to reference Maya). I believe to be a writer you have to read, I believe you have to live, I believe you have to be daring (not jump off a cliff daring but daring-to-go-where-it-hurts-and-stick-your-finger-in-it daring); I believe to be a published writer you have to do your research, come up with a good pitch, polish your manuscript, get a good agent if you can (which I’ll be honest can be as hard as getting a publisher), and be prepared to be kicked in the gut over and over again. And even then, it’s luck of the draw. You’ve just got to keep trying until you hit. If you choose to self-publish and increasingly that’s become easier thanks to e-publishing platforms, publish on demand and other cost saving options, still take the time to get it right. Don’t be so gung ho to put out a book that you neglect the writing or the importance of having a story, and just put out any old book. When I pick up a book to read, I may not check to see if it’s self-published or traditionally published but I will judge it (and, rare for me, since I like to finish what I start, may put it down for good) if I find it lacking – if the plot doesn’t hold together, the world isn’t well drawn, the characters are unintentionally inconsistent, or, heaven forbid, the grammar’s all over the place and the writing weak. The reason why people tend, right or not, to think that traditional publishing is better (or more credible) is that it moves beyond the vanity or self-indulgence that can prompt one to say I want to publish to the proving ground of I have something that’s publishable as there are presumably gatekeepers there to catch and correct the shoddiness. It’s not as black and white as that, of course, but if you’re self-publishing, I’d recommend you apply the same rigor to the process of getting your book out and into the hands of readers as the very best publishers will, so that when they read you, they’ll want to read you again and again. And, assuming it is a goal of yours, a well executed and well received self-published book can land you a publishing deal with one of those publishing houses that didn’t give you the time of day in the first place; everyone likes a success story. Speaking of Success Stories, if you’re committed to self-publishing, one that readily comes to mind is Jamaican Ezekel Alan, who won the Commonwealth prize with a self-published book. That was newsworthy, though, in part because it was out of the ordinary – out of the ordinary first of all for international grants, awards, fellowships to consider self-published books (usually the eligibility requirements, at least of the many I’ve researched, don’t allow for that…and now the Commonwealth book prize, one of the few that did, is a thing of the past). Fair or not, in the world beyond your world there are prevailing attitudes stigmatizing self-publishing (as there are hierarchies and perceptions regarding publishing houses as well). It can all be very confusing when all you want to do is to write your stories.
All I can tell you is to do your research. And no, I am not in a position to publish you or get you published (though I do provide coaching and editing services for writers and others); I am just a writer, and a writer still trying to figure out the next move and the next a lot of the time …when all I want to be doing is writing my stories.
Me at the 2012 launch of my book. (Photo by byZIA Photography)
I still do a lot of reading and research, and to answer questions you may have about publishing, I try to share them here with you. You can use the search feature to find more, but here in the meantime are a few perspectives:
This is some hard earned truths about writing and publishing by Randy Sue Meyers over at Shewrites.com – which, on the point of online networking, I’ve found to be a great resource and point of connection.
This article by Island Series editor Joanne Gail Johnson is also worth checking out
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, 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 the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.
Just came across some notes I made in summer 2012 while participating in the Callaloo Writers Workshop at Brown University. Though I’ve written up my Callaloo experience here and there, I thought I’d share some of these quotes (third time’s the charm?) as Callaloo, a project of Texas A & M prepares to come to the Caribbean, Barbados to be specific in 2014.
“If it is not difficult, if it is not uncomfortable, then there’s no work being done.” – Gregory Pardlo
“Think about how you define things in their absence” – Ravi Howard
I don’t have the exact quote but I wrote this “I like what Maaza said about loving even the characters she doesn’t like” – that’s my other workshop leader, Maaza Mengiste
I also found these two notes to self…
“I am less interested in making my characters representative and more interested in making them people; and people are not representative. They are messy and confounding.”
“What do the characters want? What are they afraid of? What’s at stake? What are the consequences of their actions? How does the language tell the story?”
Don’t forget to search quotables for more…
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, and Oh Gad!), founder and coordinator of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize. 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 the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.
These are the National Youth Award Winners (Antigua and Barbuda) for 2012. You may notice some familiar names on the list:
Education Award Winners Joni Spencer, Joel Beazer and Adia Archibald
Diane Archibald, Outstanding Scholarship Awardee
Young Sports Man and Sports Woman, Quinton Griffith and Tamiko Butler
Young Journalist, Rory Butler
Young Media Practitioner, Cleveroy Thomas
Youth Friendly Media House, Observer Media Group
Tiffany Smith is a Wadadli Pen 2012 finalist and much more. (A Eustace Samuel photo from the Observer Media Group facebook page)
Tiffany Smith and Renee Smith, recipients of the Cultural and Performing Arts Award
Young Farmer of the Year, the Princess Margaret School Agricultural Science Programme
Linisa George was the Literary Arts Winner. We’ve written several times about Linisa here at Wadadi Pen for her soldiering on behalf of the literary arts and gender advocacy. Well deserved. (This is a Eustace Samuel Photo from the Observer newspaper facebook page)
Literary Arts Award Winner, Linisa George
Visual Arts Award Winner, Emile Hill
Tourism Service Award Winner, Coleen Samuel
Tourism Management Award Winner, Andre Roberts
Young Entrepreneur Award Winner, Mario Payne
Young Artisan Award Winner, Natasha Punter
Community Service Award Winner – Individual, Silvyn Farrell
Community Service Award Winner – Group, Rotaract
Young Professional, Ladesa Loren James
Barbuda’s Best, Renee Desuza
Young Activist Awardees, Women of Antigua
Linisa with Women of Antigua cast member Fayola Jardine. (A Eustace Samuel photo from the Observer Media Group facebook page)
Phoenix Award Winner, Paralympian Jamol Pilgrim
Corporate Award Recipients as Youth Development Partners – Sandals and Bank of Nova Scotia
Corporate Award Recipients for Philanthropy – Cool & Smooth, The Source and Ayoushe
Lifetime Service Award recipients – Charlene Warner-Samuel, Lucaso Brumant, Dr. Margart O’Garro, Edris George, Genevieve Smith, and Eustace ‘Gaytooks’ Harris
A Special Presentation was made as well to author Joanne C. Hillhouse and Regional Youth Development Specialist Glenyss James.
Me. Not for my work in the literary arts but for my youth advocacy…though of course via Wadadli Pen the two intersect. (A Eustace Samuel photo from the Observer Media Group facebook page)
The National Youth Awards, wrote Cleon Athill in her formal address, “is a bold statement about the importance of youth and their strategic significance in national development…National Youth Awards continues to make the point that youth development is everybody’s business; it’s a conscious effort to massage that sense of collective responsibility for growing citizens who understand that they have a role to play in nation building.”
This is me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) when I was rocking my cornrowed’fro-hawk. I’m reading from Ashley Bryan’s Dancing Granny under the Western Union children’s tent at the 2010 Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival. As I’m not myself a writer of children’s books but often get asked to read to children (perhaps because of my work with the Cushion Club and Wadadli Pen, and the fact that my first book is entitled The Boy from Willow Bend, who knows?). It’s a privilege and I embrace it when I can. But it means that I often have to draw on the writings of actual children’s writers…sometimes past Wadadli Pen stories…sometimes the writings of talents like Philip Sherlock and Ashley Bryan, since they’re both good for an anansi tale or two. When I’m reading, I lose myself in the story (and I have to credit the time reading to kids at the Cushion Club for making me comfortable with looking and acting like a fool in service to the story) and so I rapped the rapping parts while they kept the beat. It was a fun day.
It’s not clear if there will be an ABILF 2012 but I hope there is, even a children’s literary fair if not a full on festival as a reminder to the kids that reading is not only fundamental, it’s also fun.
As I come across reviews or dig through archived reviews, I’ll add them – first to last, and not necessarily in the order they were written. Been finding so many, I had to tie off this list and continue the series in other posts (use the search feature to find them).
Tameka Jarvis-George’s film, Dinner, based on her poem of the same name and directed by Christopher Hodge of Cinque Productions premiered in 2011 at the Reggae Film Festival in Jamaica, where it received the following review:
“Featuring an attractive pair of lovebirds, Dinner is a sweetly poetic and vivid 12-minute verse-to-screen clip from an Antiguan writer/director with an appealing, if slightly provocative, voice. It’s a small film with a big heart that explores intimate love, employing a slyly clever approach – cloaked in the guise of meal preparation. While getting dinner ready a radiant young lady (played by Jervis-George, who also provides a lyrical voice-over) is surprised by the early arrival home of her virile Rastafarian man, and before you can say ‘Come and get it’ a dining of a totally different variety plays out on-screen. Shot in vibrant hues by a surprisingly steady camera, Dinner is romp that ends all too quickly, but it was tastefully delightful while it lasted. B”
The Devil’s Bridge is an evocative work that will establish itself as another classic of the Caribbean and particularly Antiguan writing. It walks confidently, making its own path somewhere between Jamaica Kincaid and Wilson Harris. Because of its powerful visionary and ego-transcending achievements, this work will be compared to Harris’s Palace of the Peacock and Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John.”
Professor Paget Henry,
Sociology & Africana Studies
Just came across this mention of my Boy from Willow Bend at Behind the Marog Kingdom listing it alongside Flying with Icarus by Curdella Forbes and the Legend of St. Ann’s Flood by Debbie Jacob as “useful stories for discussion” in getting Caribben boys to deal with their feelings. That’s kinda cool. It’s also listed as recommended books for boys here.
“The beauty, economy and precision of Kincaid’s prose transports even the most curmudgeonly and aloof reader into the abject state of gushy fandom.” – Saidiya Hartman, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia university, introducing Jamaica Kincaid for a reading.
“John expertly weaves history and fiction into an integral narrative that takes the reader on a fascinating journey where instincts, magic, intuition and, above all, love are the real protagonists.” – from this blog.
“UNBURNABLE is good, if not great. It is a magnificent attempt on a very large theme: recognizing and releasing the sins of the fathers (in this case, mothers, in a matriarchal society) to embrace one’s own destiny.” – from this blog.
“Marie-Elena John graciously takes you inside the history and lives of the people in Dominica. You will visist the island’s original Carib people, who discovered Columbus when he arrived in 1493. Yes, be careful because you may actually learn something by reading this novel. Don’t worry. Marie-Elena weaves a wonderful tale that will also feed some of your thirst for sex and action, while simultaneously increasing your knowledge of Africa and the Caribbean.” – from this blog.
“The diversity of the African diaspora is often overlooked in modern African American literature, and this page-turner fills in some gaps.” – from Booklist, found here.
“Strong writing and interesting supporting characters should keep readers occupied through the end.” – from Publishers Weekly, found here.
Re Considering Venus
“An interesting thing about Considering Venus is that Lesley’s sexuality is never defined. It’s just love between two women–with no barriers.
Isaac has written a lovely book, with just the right fusion of prose and poetry make it a joy to read.” – this from Sistahs on the Shelf in 2008.
“Artist and performer Iyaba Ibo Mandingo is undeniably talented. Though he describes himself “as a painter and
a poet,” in unFRAMED, Mandingo also demonstrates his abilities as a singer, dancer, performance artist, standup
comedian and storyteller…Visually, unFRAMED is a treat. Mandingo’s painting is colorful and expressive, and lighting designer Nicholas Houfek does an excellent job enhancing the various emotions that Mandingo conveys throughout his story. UnFRAMED is also very funny at times, especially in a sequence in which Mandingo makes light of his own name. Best of all, unFRAMED is worthwhile because it shares a different perspective on America, one that stands in stark contrast to most people’s naïve notion of a land of equality and opportunity.”
“There is no way an Antiguan or an individual who lives on the island cannot relate to this story. The island is too small and the story too concise to be shortsighted. As a returning national, I found it answered many questions as to the cultural dynamics of present day Antigua.”
Amos Morrill’s children’s book Augusta and Elliott received some positive feedback from readers and reviewers, such as:
“…there is much on the page to delight the eye, both in color and in content. The
text is simple but the message to children (and their parents) is clear: help
save our oceans.” – Charlotte Vale-Allen @ Amazon.com
“This simple storybook is filled with colorful drawings to tell the tale. Without harping on negativity, the fish throw a party to drum up support and start implementing change…This would be a great gift for anyone with kids. Amos would love to know that future generations will be more conscious of the fragile nature of our ecosystems and our need to minimize human impact.” – Kimberley Jordan-Allen
“…it’s often thought that there was next to no literature produced in the Caribbean until the mid-20th century. It makes Frieda Cassin one of the region’s first recorded woman writers, and it makes her novel the first such book to be published in Antigua. But much more interesting than these historical details is the novel itself, a distinctly dark and disturbing look at West Indian society…
There is much that is bad about this book. The dialogue is at times excruciating, and the familiar clichés of Caribbean life rather trying. But, as an insight into some of the phobias surrounding small-island society a century or so ago, it is fascinating. And what makes it all the more bizarre is that this dark indictment of a racist and neurotic world was written by a respectable lady who was probably a pillar of that very society.” – Caribbean Beat review, in its November-December 2003 issue, of Freida Cassin’s With Silent Tread.
A mixed review of Althea Prince’s Loving this Man from January magazine begins:
“Toronto author Althea Prince writes with such sensuality and grace that it creates a heady spell, drawing the reader into the center of the story. If only this were all a novelist needed to do, Loving This Man would have been a triumph. The fact that the novel does not come together as a satisfying read is connected to technical things like structure and voice, and even deeper underpinnings such as intent.”
Do you agree? Read the book, read the rest of the revew here and decide for yourself.
From my own review in Volume 3 Number 1 Summer 2010 edition of The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books, of Althea Prince’s body of work:
“By writing not only plentiful but plenty-plenty of who we are beyond skin and bones and the condition that landed us here, by rebelling with polite but persistent resolve against the hegemony that would box us in, by writing with heart and hardiness, with poetry and compassion, by nudging writers like myself to trust what we intuit, Prince continues to be an example to Antiguan writers yet becoming.”
Just found this fleeting but delightful reference by Jamaican Helen Williams to Ashley Bryan’s Beautiful Blackbird, referencing a reading of the book to a grade four class:
“This delightful story, with its rhythmic prose and adequate repetition, is adapted from a tale from ‘The Ila-speaking peoples from Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia)’ by Edwin Smith and Andrew Dale, (1920). The bold illustrations could be seen by the children at the back of the class. (Thanks to Pam Witte for sending me this book.) Several children asked me to read the story again…”
Referencing the writings of Althea Romeo-Mark:
“The gusting, twisting, reaching complexity of Romeo-Mark’s poetry and narrative matches the twisting, gusting complexity of her thought. And yet, the poems and narratives are not insistently complex. The rhythm and the ideas are both simple and matter of fact. Romeo-Mark’s wit is neatly carried by a direct cadence and where enjambment occurs; she states her case plausibly, clearly developing a seamless organization without falling into monotony.” – Review of If Only the Dust would Settle, P. 341 – 342, The Caribbean Writer Volume 25, 2011
“This book is also interesting…for the insight it offers to the immigrant experience.” – Daily Observer, 2010
“Romeo-Mark’s knack for connecting the inner and outer world, shifting easily between moods, and making connections across time and space, coupled with vivid imagery, make this a thoroughly engaging read.” – customer review, Amazon.com, 2010
and this review of her earlier work:
“The relationship between Romeo-Mark and the persona in her poems is complex. The poet seems to maintain a psychic distance from her persona. The voice in her poetry describes the ironies of the human experience in the Caribbean, North America, and West Africa.” – Vincent O. Cooper, JSTOR, 1994
Cris on Facebook on Considering Venus:
“If D. Gisele Isaac wrote “jiggy poo poo” on a piece of paper, I’d want to read it. She
has one of those writing styles that just draws you in and wraps you up in the
flow of her words. I felt like the characters in the book were real people that I could actually
bump into if I went down to the road in the supermarket. Now lemme tell you
bout the book: Considering Venus explores the lives of a heterosexual widow, who finds herself
falling in love, and teetering into a relationship with an old school friend
who just happens to be a lesbian female. The pair undergo the typical battles of a new “same sex” relationship
as the story unfolds. Now I have two BIG problems with this book. Number one: the book actually had
an ending, I wanted to stay in Cass and Lesley’ lives forever (no homo lol) and
number two: WHEY THE SEQUEL SO LANG WOMAN!”
Cris also said about Floree Williams’ Through the Window, also on Facebook:
“I really enjoyed this book. What I loved most about it was the author’sability to get you to ‘see’ the characters, and the places the
characters in the book went.”
Finally, her reader-review of my book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (yep, on Facebook) said, among other things:
“What stood out to me the most was that Joanne managed to “flesh out” such real characters and spin such a realistic story line into such a small book.” Thanks, Cris.
See a short write-up on Tameka Jarvis-George’s Unexpected at 365Antigua.com. Excerpt:
“‘Unexpected’ is a poignant, true-to-life tale that reflects a Caribbean-inspired ‘voice’ but is easily transferable and relatable to other cultures.”
Came across this old(ish) write up of young writer (and Wadadli Pen alumna) Rilys Adams’ first spoken word CD, Laid Bare. Excerpt:
“Her poetry is timely and captures the urgency to preserve the culture that is left, to uplift the nation, and savour memories with loved ones.”
Search Antigua has been making its pick of essential Summer reads. On its non fiction list, you’ll find Keithlyn Smith’s To Shoot Hard Labour (“a book every Antiguan should read”) and Symbol of Courage, and Monica Matthews’ Journeycakes. On its fiction list, you’ll find Marie Elena John’s Unburnable (“a suspense novel with many twists, turns and secrets”), my (i.e. Joanne C. Hillhouse’s) Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (“a nice, light, summer read for the romantics”), and Tameka Jarvis-George’s Unexpected (which “will have you curled up on the couch for a while”). Teen picks include my Boy from Willow Bend, Akilah Jardine’s Living Life the Way I Love It and Marisha’s Drama, Marcel Marshall’s All that Glitters, and Floree Williams’ Through the Window (“a great read for older teens and young adults”); while on the kids’ list are A Day at the Beach (“beautiful illustrations and the charming story of two children’s day at the
beach”) by writer Calesia Thibou and illustrator Gail M. Nelson, Floree Williams’ Pink Teacups and Blue Dresses, and Rachel Collis’ Emerald Isle of Adventure.
What did the late critic Tim Hector think of Dorbrene O’Marde?… Just came across this review of the latter’s last play (to date) This World Spin One Way…and it’s full of high praise indeed:
“Dobrene O’Marde is a valuable asset in a community with few valuable
assets. That is why this article was extended beyond the limits of a mere
review, proving that without the artistic integrity of the likes of Dobrene
O’Marde all dialogue is silenced, and we have only the tiresome monologue of
“…Let me say at once, that “This World Spins One Way” is Dobrene’s best written play, and probably the best play written by an Antiguan.”
A great resource for reviews of Antiguan and Barbudan books is The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books edited by Brown University Professor Dr. Paget Henry. The 2011 issue includes reviews of the late Dr. Charles Ephraim’s The Pathology of Eurocentrism (“a major work of Africana existensial philosophy andBlack existentialism” – Lewis R. Gordon); Emily Spencer Knight’s Growing up in All Saints Village, Antigua: The 1940s – the late 1960s (“history written in a personal style” – Bernadette Farquhar); Leon H. Matthias’ The Boy from Popeshead, Theodore Archibald’s The Winding Path to America, Hewlester A. Samuel Sr.’s The Birth of the Village of Liberta, Antigua, and Joy Lawrence’s Bethesda and Christian Hill: Our History and Culture (collectively described as “…a goldmine for those who want to learn about the culture and cultural practices of each period” – Susan Lowes); and Paget Henry’s Shouldering Antigua and Barbuda: The Life of V. C. Bird (“an enlightening narrative of the leadership style and philosophy of Bird…” – George K. Danns). I’m delighted that it also includes a review of my own Boy from Willow Bend by the esteemed Columbia University Assistant Professor and daughter of the Antiguan and Barbudan soil, Natasha Lightfoot:
“For its thoughtful rendering of complex issues such as
gender, class, migration and death, for the swiftness of Hillhouse’s prose, and
especially for the captivating personality with which she endows the title
character, readers will be instantly drawn to this narrative.
“Hillhouse has crafted a story that adult and young readers
alike can enjoy, that truly captures the spirit of Antigua’s recent past.”
Online review of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (“an honest depiction of attitudes toward cultural mixing and interracial dating”)…love the name of this blog, btw: lifeasjosephine.
U.S. (specifically Rawsistaz’s) review of The Boy from Willow Bend reposted by 365Antigua.com: three out of five stars, the reviewer had some struggles with the language but liked the descriptions (“I could picture myself walking down the dirt roads looking at the willow trees or listening to the street musicians as I walked down the street”).
Jamaican children’s author Diane Brown’s review of Antiguan S. E. James’ Tragedy on Emerald Island
“The descriptions of the eruptions beginning, the ash, the fright of not knowing
at first what it is, what was actually happening, and then once reality dawned,
the fear of what would happen next, grabbed me. I was sitting ‘scrunched up’ in
my bed (which is where I read) with fright.”
and other books for older readers.
Reader comments on Floree Williams’ Through the Window can be found at the book’s Facebook page including:
“beautiful novel ” (Eric Jerome Dickey, author)
“The storyline was good, albeit one that …is not uncommon, however the characters and the way they unfolded during the telling of the story was indeed interesting.” (Marcella Andre, media personality)
Unburnable, Marie Elena John’s book attracted wide acclaim and a Hurston Wright nomination. Follow this link and this to see what other critics have to say about the Antiguan authors debut novel. Here’s a teaser:
“wondrously intelligent” (Chimamanda Adichie)
“Vibrant and powerful” are two of the words that have been used to describe Women of Antigua’s When a Woman Moans first staged in 2010 as a successor to its stagings of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. It was co-scripted and directed by Zahra Airall and Linisa George of August Rush Productions w/input from Marcella Andre, Carel Hodge, Floree Williams, Greschen Edwards, Melissa Elliott, and me (your Wadadli Pen blogger/coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse) in 2010 with the addition in 2011 of pieces by Tameka Jarvis-George, Salma Crump, Brenda Lee Browne, and Elaine Spires. Here’s what they had to say about the 2010 production over at 365 Antigua and see what audience members said at the When A Woman Moans group page on Facebook.
I have never checked Text Stats nor do I want to, but this article (The Secret Lives of Novellas by Daniel Torday) caught my interest for several reasons. One, because it referenced a couple of my favourite books, Annie John and The Great Gatsby: books which may not have met the standard for novel length but which are fulfilling and complete reads nonetheless, never mind what early critics and Fitzgerald himself may have thought of Gatsby in particular.
Two, because I find there’s a bit of an obsession over word length by authors-in-progress – i.e. I did x number of words today or how many words blah blah blah…. I never know the answers to these questions because I’m not in the business of numbers, the tool of my art is words and words count for me in so much as they matter to the story. So how many words are in the book, as much (or as little) as it takes to tell the story completely.
Three, because I’ve had to contemplate the novel/novella classification in marketing my newest book Oh Gad! It is my third book of fiction and based on the distinction drawn along numerical lines, my first full length novel. I don’t consider it my first fully told story however and know of at least one friend and colleague who is critical of what she sees as the dismissal of my earlier work by referring to Oh Gad! as my first novel. But, to be clear, I do not reject either The Boy from Willow Bend or Dancing Nude in the Moonlight – and if you haven’t read them already, I hope you will after reading this. Because for me they are stories fully told as much as Oh Gad!is. But the writing of Oh Gad!did feel like a marathon in a way that they didn’t for many reasons. The length of it is one, sure. But it’s more than that. The sheer number of characters, comparatively speaking; the wandering into, for me, unfamiliar territory; the struggle to understand the characters, something that was not as much a struggle with my earlier work; the number of parallel plots, again comparatively speaking. It was just a lot more to keep track of and realize, and the realizing of it is a significant milestone for me as a writer. So it is third, but it is also a first for me, again not just because of the number of words (which I don’t know) or the weight of it (which I also don’t know). Though I have to admit the size disparity between it and Dancing struck me the night of the launch as they sat side by side ready to be signed. The next story may take a different form and represent another first in my growth as a writer – because I consider myself ever to be a student of this craft. But suffice it to say that on the subject of novel/novella, this is a case of size does not matter for me, but what’s contained in the package and I hope that readers will find in each of these books something of value.
So, the point of all this; when writing, tell the story, I’d say…numbers and classifications and all that is less about the art and craft of writing than the business of publishing. In order to fully immerse myself in the world of my characters and tell their story authentically, I have to keep these two things separate. I think the writer of the referenced piece kind of found that to be the case as well.