Tag Archives: John Robert Lee

Reading Room and Gallery 34

Here I share things I like that I think you might like too. But not just anything. Things related to the arts – from the art itself to closer examination of the art to the making of the art…like that. There have been 33 installments in this series before – use the search window to the right to find them; and there’ll be more additions to this installment before it too is closed – so come back.

MISC.

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Keanu Reeves: Reading From Paul Gauguin’s ‘Noa Noa’

REPORT

“I didn’t know much about publishing, so I reached out to several local writers who had been published but didn’t get much response. It was only when Rosalind Carrington replied that I was able to gain some traction. She would introduce me to Sharon Miller and these two women were the only ones who gave me the time of day. So many people just didn’t even respond! So I am grateful, everyday, that they did,” she details. In the course of editing her novel with the mentorship she received, she would come to realise that though she had the basic novel idea down in words, it was her craft of writing that needed something more. She explains further, “People think that in writing — well we all learn to write, so a writer simply puts words to paper, crafts a story and then goes out there, gets published and wins an award right?” she says with a laugh. “There probably should be another word for what we do — but it’s not as simple as ‘writing’ implies. It’s a different craft altogether; a very solitary profession that requires hours and hours of work and a certain disposition. As a writer you not just have to be able to tolerate solitary confinement but also somehow enjoy it.” – re Celeste Mohammed. Read more.

FICTION

‘“Micah, you know you white too, right?”
“I tell you to stop that shit. I not white.”
Keisha snorted.
Micah’s face got a little redder despite his tan “You know is the expats I talking about Keisha – the foreign kinda white, the rich peoplekinda white. Acting like if the place belong to them.”’ – Ayanna Gillian Lloyd

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“When time come for food to share, she take out she KFC and start to eat.” – from The Cook by Lisa Allen-Agostini in New Daughters of Africa, presented as the Bocas Lit Fest

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“Climbing the tree was easy, the sequence of steps and grips was like recalling a once-forgotten language. As I maneuvered along the branch to my old window, surprised it could still bear my weight, the backyard lights next door came on. I stopped moving, the pillowcase of pills swinging to a silence. The justice let out two of his goldendoodles to pee. Every summer when I was a boy, the justice and his wife had paid me twenty dollars a week to walk their dogs. Then he gave me the clerking position. Everything in my life had been handed to me.” – The First Bed by Matthew Socia

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‘It feels cold at first but that is the wind on the waves. Take a deep breath and fall to me.’ – from Part 4 of Paul Andruss’ The House by the Sea

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“The next letter, an H, took a few weeks to appear, made by juxtaposing the calf of our fire chief with the pinkie finger of the oldest woman in town. Some accused them of copycatting, writing on their skin in marker for the attention it would bring, but those who saw in person knew the sheen of the marks in the light—the matte finish of a coffee bean—and all soon admitted it was authentic.” – The Marks by Chris Haven

Antiguan and Barbudan fiction and poetry here and here.

POETRY

“Some days the body is a clenched fist. At other times it is a door knob leading out.” – Enzo Serin, Haiti, reading from forthcoming book ‘When my body was a clenched fist’, poem ‘Born to Triggers’

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INTERVIEWS

“I have always loved the image-making power of poetry.” – Grace Nichols. Read her full interview with Jacqueline Bishop: Nichols 1, Nichols 2, Nichols 3, Nichols 4

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‘I get a lot of questions from people that are How did this person do this thing? And I’m like, “Well, in chapter blah, blah blah, they said they were going to do this thing that way.” One thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to not read accurately. People read fast these days, so they don’t catch all the details, and I tend to write in a lot of detail.’ – N. K. Jemison

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‘We can’t know how long the book, or any of us, will live but … “something remains”’

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‘John Robert Lee: Papillote Press, “the small and invaluable Papillote Press,” has made a significant mark in small press publishing regionally and internationally with the important authors you have published and the awards that some of the books have garnered. As a result, are you overwhelmed by manuscript submissions, budgetary and other constraints? Have you set yourself a tight selection policy and publishing schedule?

Polly Pattullo: I am essentially a one-woman band, so I do have some difficulty in making sure that manuscripts don’t pile up. I am well aware how frustrating it is to have to wait for a response, and I would hate to have such a reputation.

Even so, I welcome manuscripts – in a way you can never have too many, because you might miss a gem and I always ask someone else to get a second opinion.

It is very much a labour of love and I think I am a bit choosy, but you have to be true to yourself.’ – read the full interview

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“Carribeans love racket sports. My dad played a lot, so I started out going to his matches and serving as a terrible ballboy. The only thing we watched as a family on television was tennis, Breakfast at Wimbledon was big in my house. I had forgotten about those days, but I am fond of them. I never would’ve written the book without it. Here’s a good example: My dad rarely calls with breaking news, but one day he rang me up and said, ‘Turn on the TV, there’s a tennis poem being read on the air.’ It was Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated encapsulating his time at one of the big tournaments. Dad wanted to make sure I saw my personal Venn Diagram becoming one circle.” – Rowan Ricardo Philips

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“Who are our most important writers today?

I don’t think this is a useful question for a creative writer to consider (at least not for me). What’s more crucial for me to think about is: How can I do my best work yet?” – Thomas Glave

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“Anancy, for example, is the kind of figure who endures in the imagination because he represents many conflicting aspects of the self in one vessel – he is often selfish and greedy, so in that regard offers a cautionary tale of the baser aspects of our nature. And yet, here is this tiny creature who routinely outwits others with far more power and who often is the cause of so much that happens in the stories, good and bad. The twinness in his nature is where his appeal lies for me.” – Bocas winner Shara McCallum interviewed for the Jamaica Observer’s Bookends by Jacqueline BishopShara Book 1Shara Book 2Shara conclusion

NON FICTION

“I write, seeking an art that will last as the shadows lengthen, one that braids the lyric to the political without sounding like a jeremiad from the sidewalk or a piece of propaganda that will live only for a moment. I seek a political, nuanced, understanding, beautiful, blood-incarnadined art that brings all of us, no matter our differences, to life.” – Gabrielle Bellot

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“The story of why my own family came to be in the Caribbean had been blurred over time: it was something to do with the British, something to do with slavery, but that was all that was shared. Decades later the Guyanese-American journalist Gaiutra Bahadhur published the seminal book Coolie Woman, which brought much insight, but there have been few other notable works. Guyana doesn’t feature in the history books or the school curriculum in Britain. Consequently, when I tried to explain to my schoolfriends where my family was from – ‘What Ghana?’, ‘No, Guyana in South America’, ‘What like Ossie Ardiles?’, ‘No, he’s Argentinian’. When the Falklands War began in 1982, there were even more questions to navigate.

This is astonishing when you think that the British had such a role to play in that nation’s birth and how central that colony was to the United Kingdom’s industrial wealth and growth in the nineteenth century. Unlike the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad, it is possible that Guyana’s unique geography (being attached to the South American mainland) has rendered it and its history all but invisible from the collective British consciousness. Perhaps fittingly, it was the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.” – The Forgotten World: How Scotland Erased Guyana from Its Past by Yvonne Singh

CREATIVES ON CREATING

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“I’ve learned to listen to them when they argue with me.” – C. S. Marks

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“I lay my head on the pillow at night purposefully with a scene in my mind so that my subconscious will work out the kinks. I often pop awake with ideas. Or maybe I don’t, but when I sit to write, more ideas still happen to flow.” – C. Hope Clark

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“You have to leave room for the story to grow unexpectedly.” – Cecelia Ahern

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“People say, I write for myself, and it sounds so awful and so narcissistic, but in a sense if you know how to read your own work—that is, with the necessary critical distance—it makes you a better writer and editor. When I teach creative writing, I always speak about how you have to learn how to read your work; I don’t mean enjoy it because you wrote it. I mean, go away from it, and read it as though it is the first time you’ve ever seen it. Critique it that way. Don’t get all involved in your thrilling sentences and all that . . .” – Toni Morrison

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“I am writing this now on a laptop in central Mexico, in a region where my ancestors lived for centuries. My office is a leather equipal table and chair on a covered terrace. On either side of me, a Chihuahua snoozes. Next door a palm tree rattles like a maraca, and down in the town center a church bell gongs the hour.” – re Sandra Cisneros. Read more.

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“I was one of a number of writers invited to Finland in the late 1980s as part of a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Finnish book. The trip really resonated with me, even though it didn’t occur to me at the time that I might use small details I picked up during my time in Finland in a novel. But of course, given the nature of the celebration itself, it makes sense that I did, and I’ve now generally come to be more aware, whenever I travel, that something I see or feel might make its way, in a transformed form, into my fiction.” – Meg Wolitzer discusses the writing of The Wife

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‘The Southern writer Rosemary Daniell once looked at me as we sat on a panel at an early Atlanta Book Festival and murmured with wonder, “Hmm, a writer with a happy childhood.” Well, of course, it was not all happy. We all have our own bag of rocks, and a writer of color in this country has more than her share. But it was my childhood.’ – Tina McElroy Ansa

DISCUSSING ART

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“She’s still being sexually abused but now she also has three children to watch and a farm to keep, and he’s just brutally beating her constantly.” – the Margos discuss movie vs. book, The Color Purple (Alice Walker)

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Discussions of Antiguan and Barbudan art by the artistes can be found here.

Discussion of Antiguan and Barbudan art by critics can be found here.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Please note that, except otherwise noted, images on this site also need to be cleared if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

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Angles of Light 2

Earlier this year, I shared audio of my reading on Chapel FM (in Leeds, England) programme Angles of Light. The Juleus Ghunta (author Tata and the Big Bad Bull author) production will broadcast part 2 on March 23rd as part of Chapel FM’s annual arts festival, Writing on Air (WOA). It will feature readings by 26 poets, including John Robert Lee, Nancy Anne Miller, Marion Bethel, Mervyn Morris, MJ Fievre, Chadd Cumberbatch, and Ann–Margaret Lim. The show will be one and a half hours long.

Here’s the day’s programme:

WOA Programme 2019_Anges of Light_Mar 23rd.jpg

Angles of Light 2 is at 9:45 p.m. Here’s where you can listen live.

As someone who tries through Wadadli Pen to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, one way being through this platform, Juleus Ghunta (my list buddy: we both have books – my Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and his Tata and the Big Bad Bull – with Caribbean Reads publishing) deserves credit for bringing Caribbean writers to a platform to which he has access. Respect.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (founder and coordinator of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, and author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Oh Gad!, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All rights reserved. Subscribe to this site to keep up with future updates.

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Filed under Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery

Reading Room and Gallery 30

The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too  – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Share by excerpting and linking, so to read the full story or see all the images, or other content, you will need to go to the source. No copyright infringement is intended. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 30th one which means there are 29 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one.JCH

POETRY

“The tiny footprints you made on the home we shared, I could never erase them, and you had me wrapped around your finger while his fingers were wrapped around my neck.” – Catalayah by Wendy Hara

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“How many tied cotton bags of crystallized sugar were you and your father’s other bastards given to suckle? So you could, years later, find yourself” – Poems by Jacqueline Bishop

THE BUSINESS

“You need an agent because you’ll be so eager to publish that you’ll pay them” – Tayari Jones

BLOG

‘More forgiveness and understanding.  I talk quite unexpectedly to Ronald Bickram.  (There’s no such thing as an innocent introduction.)  He was an entrant in the non-fiction category for the Bocas Prize.  He admits his work needed more vigorous editing.  “I went back and found a mistake on every page!”  We have a frank talk about the need for work to be in the best place possible before being released to the world, and for judges and entrants to have conversations similar to ours.  “For writers like me to know what to do—how to make the work better,” he says.  We shake on this, and he tells me he has a relative in Black Rock, St Michael, not far from where my mother grew up in Barbados.  She has a Chinese restaurant with local flare, Wing Kwong.  “Tell Rene you met me!”’ – NGC Bocas Lit Fest 2018—Day by Day by Robert Edison Sandiford

CREATIVES ON CREATING

‘Lovers Rock is also about what she goes through in the industry: “I walk into a room and I’ve had my own label for the past five to seven years and the energy is still like, ‘Who do you think you are?'” she says. “I finally was like, ‘No, no, no, you’re not gonna keep disrespecting me.’ The response to the question, ‘Who do I think I am?’ is always, ‘I know who I am, a queen. Who do you think you are?'” – British soul-pop singer Estelle talking to NPR about her new West Indian inspired lovers rock album.

FICTION

“In the autumn of Maria’s eighteenth year, the year that her beloved father—amateur coin collector, retired autoworker, lapsed Catholic—died silently of liver cancer three weeks after his diagnosis…” – Mary When You Follow Her by Carmen Maria Machado, Illustrations by Sergio García Sánchez

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“People assume all kinds of things about you when you’re silent. That you’re stupid. That you’re smart. That you can’t hear. That you can’t communicate. That it’s a religious thing. That it’s an attention-seeking thing. Over the years, Ghillie heard them all. The religious thing was closest to the mark, although truth be told, his motives were far from holy. He made a vow to speak only when he had something worth saying, but he persisted with it because of how crazy it made people. Social workers, teachers, policemen, doorsteppers, they couldn’t bear his silence. Sympathy turned to rage in a surprisingly short space of time, particularly if he didn’t meet their eyes. It gave him a perverse sense of pleasure, saying nothing as they wheedled and cajoled, pleaded and threatened.” – Lynda Clark’s ‘Ghillie’s Mum’

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“Laura had passed her entire life in a world of dreams. She dreamed of being beautiful, but was decidedly plain. She dreamed of living in a big house, but lived in a shack. She dreamed of having a large family, but had only her elderly parents.” – an Excerpt from Chechen Writer Zalpa Bersanova’s Novella ‘The Price of Happiness’

NON-FICTION

“The Great Emu War officially commenced in October 1932 with just three members of the Royal Australian Artillery — Major GPW Meredith, Sergeant S McMurray and Gunner J O’Hallora — heading into the Wheatbelt with two Lewis guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition. Game on.” – The Great Emu War: When Australia’s Wildlife Fought Back by Tom Smith

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‘We would make up games to entertain ourselves. There were always so many kids, babies, and toddlers around that you had to kind of invent an activity that would be good for all ages. I excelled at this (probably my need to entertain, or just my inherent geekiness). There was the game “questions in a hat,” where we’d rip up small pieces of paper and write anonymous, naughty questions for each of us to pull out of a hat and answer (I’ve since turned it into a drinking game with my friends). We made up dances to show off in the club. We’d play characters and perform skits for one another. We were all the entertainment we had and it was glorious.’ – Issa Rae

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“Cap’n Tim Meaher, he tookee thirty-two of us. Cap’n Burns Meaher he tookee ten couples. Some dey sell up de river. Cap’n Bill Foster he tookee de eight couples and Cap’n Jim Meaher he gittee de rest. We very sorry to be parted from one ’nother. We seventy days cross de water from de Affica soil, and now dey part us from one ’nother. Derefore we cry. Our grief so heavy look lak we cain stand it. I think maybe I die in my sleep when I dream about my mama.” – Zora Neale Hurston ‘Barracoon’ excerpt

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“I was reluctant to ask him where he was going, what he was doing these days.  Part of me was always reluctant to ask this of my friends from primary school, absurdly afraid to embarrass them.  At 14, I had been awarded a partial bursary to a private boarding school in the city, which got its prestige from selling itself as an international school, thus attracting children of ministers, ambassadors and the wealthiest in the country.  My single mother was a primary school teacher, with a permanent government job, so in primary school I had been considered fairly well-off.  As a boarder, I was one of the school’s poorest students, often called to the principal’s office because my mother had missed paying her share of my tuition.  The fact that I attended this school, taking French and Drama lessons, around students who spoke English all the time and talked back to their teachers, meant that the trajectory of my life had taken a sharp turn from my primary school friends.  Whenever I saw them, I worked hard to reassure them that I had not changed, that I was still the same person who had gathered with them over the soft sorghum porridge we ate at break time.” – Good Manners by Gothataone Moeng

INTERVIEW

“I think it’s important for us to be honest; to say, yeah, we’ve overcome but also talk about the ugly side of it. Because I’ve found in my experience sometimes you wonder if it’s you alone going through this. If, you know, why isn’t it coming as easy as this particular person. And you’re not hearing the ugly part of it: the I can’t feed myself part of it, the I don’t know where the school fee is coming part of it, the my God I wonder if I can be like one of those women that, you know, sell their bodies to make a dollar part of it, the ugly part of it, the whole you know what I need some new underwear but I’m going to wear the old tear up ones because school fee need to be paid ugly part of it. I just think it would be better if people shared that because we overcome it and it helps us to feel less alone.” – Zahra Airall in Candid Conversation with Alicia Ward

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“I’m also aware that of the 400 or so writers featured on the BBC’s ‘Caribbean Voices’ programme over 15 years, only 71 were women and that’s only 1/5th of the voices featured. It was  bit of a ‘boys club’, as Alison Donnell says in her essay ‘Heard but Not Seen’ [in The Caribbean Short Story Evans, L., McWatt, M. and Smith, E. (eds.) (Peepal Tree Press, Leeds, 2011), 29-43]. Many of the female Caribbean writers of that time have evaporated into thin air. There are over 200 private collections of papers in the West Indiana Collection at UWI in Trinidad. I was the first West Indian woman to add my papers, four years ago, in 2014. I was shocked to find this out.” – Monique Roffey

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“I’ve been immersed in 19th century newspapers and memoirs, mostly from Trinidad. They are fascinating and, because of the blatant blind spots and racism, disturbing.” – Rosamund King

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“SE (Summer Edward): Seven Stories, the UK’s National Centre for Children’s Books, recently acquired the archives of UK-based award-winning Guyanese children’s authors, John Agard and Grace Nichols. I find it unsettling that institutions in the UK are more concerned about preserving Caribbean children’s literature as cultural heritage than we here in the English-speaking Caribbean are. What do you see as some of the advantages of creating our own repositories to collect archival material related to the Caribbean children’s literature?

JRL (John Robert Lee): The advantages are that we are better placed to understand the roots and sources of our literature, to identify the authentic stories and storytellers, to make connections between the stories, our histories and our community lives, and to see how the older stories can provide a continuity into the present and future, and even generate new stories that have an authentic foundation in the traditional experiences and values of the past. Our own repositories provide national archives of what we recognise as important records of our literature and history.” – Read the full interview in Anansesem

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“PS: When did you decide to pursue your art and writing full time?

Danielle: There was one very clear moment in 2011 when I just could not ignore the pull toward a creative life anymore. It felt like drowning very slowly, little by little each day. I had no idea how I would make it work financially, but I had to leap anyway and have faith. Before this I was an English teacher, and although I loved, and still love, working with children, my heart was pulling me toward something else. Not one day goes by where I am not thankful for the chance to live and work in my purpose.” – Danielle Boodoo Fortune interview

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“When I actively started thinking about what I wanted to publish, Una Marson’s Pocomania was on the list. I had been coming across the name of that play as a quintessential Jamaican work since I was doing my BA. I then learned that it was housed in the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ)  and I thought, that needs to change. If that play was so important, why don’t more contemporary people have access to it? One of the key things to know is that without the printing press, we would probably have forgotten Shakespeare by now. We need to give more of our playwrights similar access. Publishing the works of our playwrights is a part of how we acknowledge, celebrate and keep good work from disappearing into the ether. I, therefore, made my first proposal to publish the works more than a few years ago and the timing wasn’t right. But finally, last year it came to be, and the more I learned about Una Marson, the happier I was that we had managed to publish this.” – Tanya Batson-Savage

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“Many of the older writers are still important: Walcott, Brathwaite, Naipaul, Harris, Rhys, Lamming, Hearne among others. Lorna Goodison, Mervyn Morris, Earl Lovelace, Ian McDonald, the late Victor Questel, Dionne Brand and those who follow that first ‘Golden Age’ generation. Many new voices have arrived, many of whose works are rewarded by big prizes: Kwame Dawes, Claudia Rankine, Marlon James, Vahni Capildeo, Kei Miller, Vladimir Lucien, Tiphanie Yanique, Ishion Hutchinson, Shivanee Ramlochan, Ann-Margaret Lim, Richard Georges, Jennifer Rahim among others. These and their many other colleagues are important. Time will tell, of course, how truly important and significant they are. Then there are many Caribbean writers who have grown up in the diaspora: Caryl Phillips, Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy and others. Peepal Tree Press, Carcanet and Papillotte Press are doing a great job in publishing the works of the older and newer writers. And we have not even touched writers from the other language areas of the Caribbean.”    – St. Lucian poet and archivist John Robert Lee interview with Caribbean Literary Heritage

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“In Ghana, I had worked in theater and for Ghana Television. In Barbados, I wanted to carry on theater directing. Since the theater companies were self-segregated, I (being white and nervous about intruding across evident racial lines) went to the one known for white or near-white members and a lot of European plays. They asked me if I had a play to suggest. Death and the King’s Horseman was an ambitious project to do outside Nigeria, requiring a lot of solid grounding in Soyinka’s cultural contexts. It was also ambitious as to the casting, in Barbados. It is a powerful story about English colonial intrusion on an ancient culture, told, as Soyinka carefully explains in his introduction to the play, from within Yoruba social space, focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the title character. He and his society are the core of the play, and so most of the main parts require actors of African descent. To find those actors, I needed to upset the self-segregation common in Barbados theater at the time, and I approached a group of black actors and writers. Earl Warner, later very well known as a major theatrical figure in the region, agreed to play the main role, Elesin. The white actors for the colonial parts came from the company producing the play. The production involved about fifty people, a fairly large budget, and a lot of work.” – Elaine Savory interviewed by Kelly Baker Josephs

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“Our societies are not just diverse but complex, convoluted, so the poetry has to stretch itself formally to cope.” – Pamela Mordecai interviewed by Kelly Baker Josephs

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“What I find myself most drawn to and excited by (both in my own reading and in programming the festival) are voices and perspectives which are not what anyone would expect. I think that many of us, even here at home in the region –  we should know better – we sometimes have very narrow ideas of what the Caribbean is, or should be. What is a Caribbean subject or voice, or topic or question or anxiety, and I’m not keen on that. I think we are far more various than we give ourselves credit for.” – Nicholas Laughlin interview for Caribbean Literary Heritage

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“It took coming here to see that my voice was a voice that needed to be heard.” – Brenda Lee Browne, Real Talk with Janice Sutherland at Phenomenal Woman  And read more Antiguan and Barbudan artists discussing their art and more here on the site.

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“The irony of the Internet, which was supposed to rob us of our attention span and be the death of journalism, is that it has actually promoted a new passion for longform nonfiction. It’s also given us more opportunities to find and discover poets, who are a big part of the movement towards essays as well, since they are doing work that is increasingly hybrid. In general, the best thing I can say about social media and the Internet is that it has allowed a lot of people to bypass the gatekeepers, such that I don’t know if there’s a real gate any more.” – Alexander Chee

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, Musical Youth and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Reading Room and Gallery 28

The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too  – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 28th one which means there are 27 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one. – JCH

ESSAYS/NON-FICTION

“I’ve referred to mas as some of my earliest exposures to theatre and storytelling. I especially enjoyed the huge King and Queen of the Band costumes which have largely disappeared from Antiguan mas but which, after showing off on the stage, would take up the whole of Market Street as the parade inched along. The younger ones lobbying for Carnival to be moved from the city to the wider, less cramped, safer spaces on its outskirts can’t imagine how intimate and joyful that feeling was. We would sing the calypso, dance to the soca, and as the costumes floated by, or were dragged or carried by revelers who, despite their size and presumed weightiness, seemed buoyed rather than burdened by them, our eyes would open wide at their grandeur. They were shiny and colourful, a moving canvas; big and bold, inventive and daring. The costumes designed by Heather Doram, still one of Antigua’s finest artists, and built by her husband Connie Doram, come to mind – this would have been later, I think, in my pre-teens, during the costume segment of the Queen Show. Time bends in memory. The when isn’t important, just that it was all mas, and that mas at its best was like visiting the L’ouvre in France or the Museum of Modern Art in New York; only it was our art, from arwe imagination, telling our stories, and it was beautiful, and powerful, and magical. Of course, I wasn’t thinking all of that back then, not at three or thirteen. Back then it was just a feeling that exploded in my body like fireworks. That’s what mas is at its purest, that feeling: pure joy.

I would capture that feeling from the inside for the first time the first time I played mas in 1989.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse, A Life in Mas in Moko: Caribbean Art and Letters

VISUAL ARTS

“This color scheme is quite challenging at the moment. It’s a weird variety of colors. I’m taking my time and I know I’m working slower than normal, but the final product matters more than just rushing every moment.” – Brandon Knoll at Chaotic Works discussing a work-in-progress

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Madonna– “In Jamaica, all archetypes of the Virgin are painted white. Referencing images of black madonnas in several European countries, I am going back to archetypes of ancient Egypt, the continent of Africa, archetypes like Isis, from whom it is believed the patriarchs modelled the Virgin Mary. Archetypes who expressed wrath, anger, and revenge – not the present day image found around the island churches, but one who when you call on her justice will be served.

I am using a common ‘Mary’ mold which I have painted as a black female archetype and have installed her at various locations in the corporate Kingston area. Some were removed or stolen and only one remains in Manor Park, Kingston where the men sell newspapers and cigarettes.

…I created another Madonna to replace the one that was damaged. When I went towards the same newspaper, cigarette men in the wee hours of the morning, they asked me what I wanted. I told them I have come to replace her (she was missing her head). They just replied ‘we love Mary’ and they helped me by taking the statue out of the car and placing her in what they felt was a safe spot. They believed a mad man had pushed the other black Madonna down causing her to lose her head, but they promised to keep watch over this one.” – Kristie Stephenson re her ‘Lady Justice’ sculptures, in Interviewing the Caribbean Spring 2017, p. 148-152

INTERVIEWS

“A lot of critics think A Brief History of Seven Killings is horrifying, but I don’t think so, and I don’t think the characters think they’re living in horror. The fact is that even the most terrible situation is normal for the person living in it. In a lot of ways, this is the funniest book that I’ve ever written. It has the most humor and the most ridiculousness—certainly, it’s the most experimental. I don’t know about horror, but there’s violence and brutality. It opens up with a dead guy, but then again, death and horror is a Western association. It’s certainly not that way in the East. It’s certainly not in non-Anglo storytelling. This character’s horror comes from something quite living, not from anything spiritual—it comes from the fact that he was murdered. The horror that exists in the book isn’t supernatural: it’s the basic cruelty that human beings commit against each other. That is the scary stuff. Anything might happen at any time, and that’s what’s unnerving. It’s real, upfront, everyday fear.” – Marlon James

***

“Rumpus: Claire of the Sea Light is set in the fictional seaside town of Ville de Rose, a town shaped by its beauty—hence its namesake—but also the mountains above it, the sea at its border, the buzz of its single radio program, and the corruption of its civil servants. Talk to me about building this world. Specifically, I’m interested in how you break up and bring together social classes using topography.

(Edwidge) Danticat: When my first book, Breath, Eyes Memory, came out, I wrote about many real Haitian towns and a lot of people who were from those towns would say “you got this wrong” and “got that wrong,” so I decided to write about my own town by borrowing elements of different places. If you are inventing a town, you have all freedom. I added the lighthouse. Langston Hughes has a children’s book called Popo and Fafina, set in Haiti during the U.S. occupation because he used to travel to Haiti quite a bit. And I remembered that the story has a lighthouse in it, so I reread it and thought, I want a lighthouse, and the lighthouse went in. I could visually see the town and see myself walking around in it, but that takes many, many layers of writing. Sometimes in writing you have to live with things before you inhabit them, and that takes a very long time for it to stop feeling constructed and to start feeling like something real.” Read the full interview.

***

“Who do you write for?
Myself, who else? A great deal of stories that I ever write have been based on things I see in the news or people I hear about. Just the other day I sit down listening to my aunt and cousin talking about somebody who smoking out their whole house for ghosts.

There’s also another story that was in the news way back when in La Brea—where a whole family, granny and all, was taking care of this dead baby. The story fall out of the news a week later—we never get to know why any of this happen. Writing gives me the ability to imagine the bedlam of some of these situations. To figure out why.” – Kevin Jared Hosein interview with Caribbean Literary Heritage

***

‘What is most attractive and crucial about Kamau is that the world he creates erodes the invisible structures that govern how/why/what/from where we write. Walcott’s “White Magic” in The Arkansas Testament [1987], for instance, has always troubled me in the way it defends and argues for a world that, in tone and outlook, it is so distant from. The world of a spirituality that is quite real to me. Now, had the epistemic underpinnings of “White Magic” been different, we would’ve had a different poem. These underpinnings determine how we understand metaphor and what we can or do draw upon in creating figurative language. It decides what devices become the engines of our expression. Kamau gives me this, both through what he has done and what he gives me the courage to attempt.’ – Vladimir Lucien in conversation with John Robert Lee about the work of Kamau Brathwaite

***

“Because nothing in Brief History started the way it ended up. The first page I ever wrote is now on page 458. I was writing a crime novel starring a hitman who was trying to kill this Jamaican drug lord. I remember writing that, and thinking in the back of my head, “He’s one of the guys who tried to kill Marley.” But that was just going to be this sort of “Gotcha!” at the end, and my brief 120-page novel would have been finished. I just couldn’t finish it. I got to a part where I just couldn’t go any further. And I just figured, well, let’s find another character. So I created this character, another hit man, called Bam Bam. Then it was the same thing: writing the character for maybe forty, fifty pages, until I ran into a dead end.” – Marlon James in interview with Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

***

‘“Get Shorty” showrunner Davey Holmes asked Calderon Kellett if she feels an added pressure to get her show right, to which she replied: “For sure, especially when there aren’t a lot of Latinx shows right now on TV. Tanya and I know each other and we’ve done a million panels together. We’re like ‘the two.’”

To the horror of her fellow panelists, Calderon Kellett recollected the story of how when the two showrunners previously worked together in a writers’ room in 2012, they were called “sp– and span.” The only show that the two have worked together on is “Devious Maids.”

As she described looking back on her career when the Me Too Movement broke out, “everyone did a self-audit. I went through mine and thought: ‘Oh, my God. I’m so broken.’”’ – from Variety’s A Night in the Writers’ Room with Michael Schur (The Good Place), Peter Farrelly (Loudermilk), Tanya Saracho (Vida), Gloria Calderon Kellett (One Day at a Time), David Holmes (Get Shorty), Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Judd Apatow (Crashing), Andrea Savage (I’m Sorry), Gemma Baker (Mom), Jennie Snyder Urman (Jane the Virgin), Stephen Glover (Atlanta)

***

“Arimah: I often don’t care what things are called, or what the right word for something is, as long as what is said is understood. Magical realism, speculative, fantasy, science fiction—these are all terms I (and others) have used to describe my work, and I’m fine with all those labels. I’m sure there are arguments for the appropriateness of one or the other, but I’m not heavily invested (unless someone is trying to disparage any one of those genres. Then I’ll likely come to its defense).” – Lesley Nneka Arimah

***

“(BRUCE) MILLER We had a very long discussion in our room about what it actually feels like to get your period and how can you tell or not when you start to bleed. And the room, all they did was disagree with each other.

(LENA) WAITHE Because everybody has a very different experience.

MILLER Right. And it’s funny because you think, “Oh, there’s a universal answer to this.” And really, I just need a line. (Laughter.) But it doesn’t help if you just have one person. It’s one person’s opinion and there is no one to challenge it.”  – Courtney Kemp (‘Power’), Peter Morgan (‘The Crown’), Bruce Miller (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), David Shore (‘The Good Doctor’) and Lena Waithe (‘The Chi’) in conversation with The Hollywood Reporter

***

“NPR’s LYNN NEARY: Woodson says she’d love to get rid of labels like struggling reader or advanced reader and encourage young people to concentrate more on how a book makes them feel or think.

AUTHOR JACQUELINE WOODSON: Labeling is not the best way to get young people to deeply engage in reading. I mean, at the end of the day, you take the qualifier away and they’re a reader. Childhood, young adulthood is fluid. And it’s very easy to get labeled very young and have to carry something through your childhood and into your adulthood that is not necessarily who you are.” Read the full interview.

FICTION

“We are in a graveyard,” Dionne said. She traced the name of her ancestor while Trevor’s hand worked its way beneath her dress and along the smooth terrain of her upper thigh. She liked the way it felt when Trevor touched her, though she hadn’t decided yet what she’d let him do to her. She’d let Darren put his hands all the way up her skirt on the last day of school. But here, where girls her age still wore their hair in press and curls, she knew that sex was not to be given freely, but a commodity to ration, something to barter with.’ – Excerpt of The Star Side of Bird Hill, by Naomi Jackson

***

“As she can no longer see the shore, The Woman has decided it is time to bail ship, to jump into the water she cannot swim in, wearing her heaviest shoes and heart of great mass. She leaves on her red hat, hoping it will be her grave marker, should anyone wonder what happened to the boat and why it is floating out in the great lake.” – Zombie V. by Melanie S. Page 

***

“We all got married — Suzanne, and Virginia, and I — and it was all we ever wanted to be at the time. I fought with my parents to get married, and Suzanne ran away from home with her boyfriend to get married, and Virginia saved her money for a year and eight months, eating a bag lunch at work every day and walking up from the square to save the five cents for the transfer and making her own clothes and only seeing movies when they came to the drive-in — all to get married.” – We by Mary Grimm

***

“I like Markham, but I’d like to kill him. I dream of doing it in front of a huge pack of boys. Clinically.” – Stickfighting Days by Olufemi Terry

***

“Two white boys sat on a bench outside the closed door while a white man in a billed cap kept watch over them. Walter thought maybe the Funhouse couldn’t be so bad, with white boys here too—until a crack of leather striking flesh came from inside, and a boy’s scream. Walter had never heard anyone scream that way except Mama, in her dying. His blood burned cold.” – The Reformatory by Tananarive Due

THE BUSINESS

“She (Kima Jones) reminds me that the first step in breaking out is actually taking the time to turn inward and look within.” – Poets & Writers in conversation with literary publicists Lauren Cerand, Kima Jones, and Michael Taekens

CREATIVES ON CREATING

‘When I taught writing, I told my students there was no reason to worry about punctuation until they had written something worth punctuating correctly. I was trying to show them that the important part of writing—the part their teachers didn’t teach them—was the revision process. The stopping and starting, the rethinking, the crossing out, the sharpening of a thought—that’s writing. It’s a verb, after all. Punctuation, which their teachers had “taught” them, was simply politeness, no different from covering your mouth when you sneeze.’ – Piano Lessons: Do Writers Need a Teacher or a Coach? by Jim Sollisch

***

‘TD: This was a very, very tough moment for me to write in the story. But it was always the moment I was writing up to, which is beyond the violence, trying to find some hope on the other side—how to process that violence. Why is there so much? There is even more violence than the excerpt I read that I cut out. This is the bogeyman, for the most part, this whipping shed. In real life it was called “The White House.” I call it “The Fun House” in my story. But this was the place where these boys very often lost their innocence and where their lives were in some ways damaged a great deal for the rest of their lives. Just the trauma of the violence. And there were also accusations of sexual abuse. But for the most part the accounts I read have been about the physical beatings. A man to my face, and this was a white man, talked about how he had the skin whipped off of his back. He could not see his parents on visiting day because of the damage to his skin and the doctor literally had to remove the fabric from his injuries. This is brutality, brutality against children. To me it would be a cheat not to express the full brutality of the experience. And it is difficult to do that to a twelve year old protagonist, or even have him witness it, or be afraid it would happen to him, frankly, when I think of my own son. But it would not be fair to the survivors of this school, and the survivors of the system overall, to gloss over the violence, because violence and sexual abuse mark so many experiences in the criminal justice system. Where you are removed from a home environment, where you have measures of safety and control, and put in an environment where you have no control, no name. There are statistics that show that the majority of sexual abuse in juvenile detention centers is not perpetrated by other prisoners, it is perpetrated by guards. Horror, typically, is violence by the monster, the daemon, the zombie.  In this story, the horror is human, and the ghosts are just survivors in their own way.’ – Tananarive Due on writing The Reformatory

***

‘Yeah, the president is just such a different joke world, because it’s a moving target that’s constantly evolving and it’s constantly changing. You could write 20 minutes about one thing and then he reverses his opinion. Well, now what are you going to do with that material? I could start writing my act today, but in five weeks when we go and tape, 20 different things would’ve happened by then. It’s not something I enjoy because it forces you to stay on topic with an issue. To report every week on what Trump did, you’re just saying he did this, here’s a joke about it, and here’s why you shouldn’t think that way. There’s got to be more. There’s got to be something bigger to that. To me the issue isn’t Trump, it’s the people in office who don’t stand up to him. That’s the bigger deep dive. Because if you look at all of the president’s antics since he’s been sworn in, the one consistent narrative is that nobody stands up to him. So to me, that’s what I want to talk about. I want to talk about who are all these people who don’t go, “Hey, man, don’t fucking tweet today.”’ – Roy Wood Jr. on writing jokes

***

‘From the moment the idea for the story first came to me, I imagined it as a story in which the main character is falling and is considering the most important moments and people in his life. I think that framework gives some flexibility to the narrative, some elasticity, because that experience would be very different for each of us, depending on our personal and larger history, who we are, what we value most, and who or what we are most concerned about. Another news item that often catches my attention here in Miami is how many construction workers fall while working to build very expensive hotels or apartment buildings that they would not be able to afford to stay or live in—so that became one of the elements at play in “Without Inspection.”’ – Edwidge Dandicat

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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

Blogger on Books lll

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

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

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

Time to Talk by Curtly Ambrose with Richard Sydenham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love

Reading Room XIV

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.

CREATIVES ON THE PROCESS

“Calypso provided lessons in how to play, teasingly, with language.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse

***

“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

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“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

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“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

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I almost passed this one over because I’d never read Anne Lamott but there was too much good insight here to overlook…and now I want to add Lamott to my very long and ever growing reading list. Here’s Theo Pauline Nestor on things you can learn from reading Anne Lamott.

***

“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

***

“This is how I know that the symbols we write and read about are as real as flesh, and are one of the only means of remembering ourselves and our personal and ancestral stories.” – Danielle Boodoo-Fortune. Read and see her Amazona and And Other Winged Creatures.

***

“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

POETRY

“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

***

“She was stabbed in a bar in Kingston.
Only men attended her funeral, extra drunk.” – Ishion Hutchinson, Prudence from Far District

***

“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

***

“And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:” – Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

***

“…the beach say, This him. John Goodman
he name, originally Jean-Paul Delattre,
brother of Stephen Dillet, first coloured man

in Parliament. Come here on a boat
from Haiti back then, back again,…” – Goodman’s Bay ll by Christian Campbell

***

“…their lines uneven, their slow step out of sync
marching with wrinkled faces to commemorate
a war they didn’t start, majesty’s ship that didn’t sink
distended necks show a conceited attitude

for having served mother England.” – from Memorial Day by Reuel Lewi

VISUAL

DSCN4639

Danielle Boodoo Fortune working on a mural project in Trinidad… when I bookmarked this a while ago, my note to myself was why can’t we have something like this in Antigua… turns out, we do, sort of; check out the Antigua Graffiti series.

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Heather's image

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.

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i want

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.

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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

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

INTERVIEWS

w/John R. Lee:

“…how the literature has developed through personages and work, I’ve always been conscious of that; I’ve always been conscious of the cultural context of our literature and our arts…”

***

w/?uestlove:

“I don’t mourn the bad, I don’t celebrate the good, I just walk forward.”

***

w/Attica Locke:

“We exist in the middle: We’re not demons or angels — we’re human beings. And so that is what needs to be reflected in the art of our nation.”

***

w/Anne Germanacos:

“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.”

***

w/Diana King:

“As for me, I just was not the type of Jamaican singer that was ‘hype’ at the time so no attention or encouragement was given. Dreams can die like this.”

***

w/Marlon James:

“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.”

***

w/Justin ‘Jus Bus’ Nation:

“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.”

***

w/Yiyun Li:

“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.”

***

w/Joanne C. Hillhouse:

“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…”

***

w/Diane Chamberlain:

“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.”

***

w/Jamaica Kincaid:

“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/Jamaica Kincaid:

“I was up all night long, working on a sentence,” she said. She hadn’t finished it yet.

***

w/Michael Anthony:

“I realized I liked words, the sound of words” – Listen to the full interview 

***

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.

***

w/Oonya Kempadoo:

What’s the best advice on writing you ever received? “Just write.”

***

w/John Robert Lee:

“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.”

***

w/Tamara Ellis Smith:

“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 . . .”

STORIES

“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.

***

“He is taking the back way to town so that he can look at this man’s corn and consider the way in which his corn looks better.” – listen to Austin Smith’s Friday Nigh Fish Fry

***

“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.

***

“Miss lady house burn down, everybody outside. Not even the moon out but everybody out.” – Read all of Glen Toussaint’s Is Obeah dat burn down di house or Goat Mout!?

WRITERS ON PUBLISHING

The only part of this Andrew Lowe article I didn’t like was “He said no. Something about how he never allows his images to be used for commercial reasons.” which, to me, felt vaguely dismissive/mocking of the photographer’s choice but overall I thought it was an interesting and insightful take on the process of cover design… something, incidentally, we’ve tried to tackle with the Wadadli Pen Challenge.

***

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.” –  on Diversity is not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing

NON FICTION

“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.

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Reading Room Xll

This page is for sharing links to things of interest around the internet. It’ll be sporadically updated; so, come back from time to time. For the previous reading rooms, use the search feature to the right, to the right.

VISUAL

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

***

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

INTERVIEWS

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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


STORIES

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

AUTHORS ON PUBLISHING

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

POETRY

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

***

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

AUTHORS ON WRITING

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad!, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. And using any creative work without crediting the creator will open you up to legal action. Respect copyright.

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