Tag Archives: Keisha Lynne Ellis

Reading Room and Gallery 22

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 iterations of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 22nd one which means there are 21 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.

AUTHOR PROFILES

‘Goodison, who is married to the author and academic J. Edward Chamberlin, divides her time between Toronto, British Columbia, and Ann Arbor, where she teaches Caribbean literature at the University of Michigan. Though she no longer lives in Jamaica, the country, she insists, will always be the focus of her writing. “Part of it has to do with the sort of ways in which I feel a lot of people don’t know Jamaica,” she says. “They only have one image of Jamaica, from the news, or from meeting some Jamaican person who’s a creep or something, and they think all Jamaicans are like that.” She describes the Jamaica of her childhood as “a very complicated, complex, rich place” but concedes things have gotten worse. Does she feel a responsibility to correct the misconceptions? “I don’t know that I can do that, but I can just tell you — I can be a witness. I can say, ‘In my life I saw this, and I knew this about Jamaica. If it doesn’t exist now, believe me, it used to exist, and hopefully it can exist again.’ ”’ – from She comes through: Lorna Goodison is one of the best writers you’ve never read by Mark Medley

NON FICTION

“I had no way of knowing then the extreme ways we’d learn to hurt one another.” – Give Hostages to Fortune by Mehdi Tavana Okasi

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“I had this image of throwing yourself out into the water, only to have it spit you back out, over and over again. I didn’t need to ask why he’d kept trying, what he was looking for, because the answer was apparent. If there is nothing where you are coming from, then you are looking for something, for anything. No matter what you find, it will be better than what you had before, it will fill your empty hands. It was like casting a net out, if you were the net, your life unfurling out into an unknown adventure, falling over danger, looking for something to pull back in. I couldn’t imagine the kind of leaving that entailed—where your family faded into a previous life—what home could mean then, if every ship-taking was a search for somewhere else to belong.” – The Texture of Joy: A Stowaway Story by Akwaeke Emezi

CREATIVES ON THE BUSINESS

“While my own experience as an editor informs my approach to my writing, as a writer I’m still learning about working with other editors. Having your personal essay red-inked by someone at The New York Times is a different experience than having your roundup of local Irish pubs tidied up by your regional paper. And working with a professional on a novel you’ve labored over for years is another thing entirely.” – Jessica Strawser on 4 Truths that will Change Your Perspective on the Writer/Editor Relationship

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“Mastering other things taught me that one becomes something not by wishing to be, but by learning to be. Mastery is the result of hard work. And ardor.  And the slow accretion of knowledge that comes from study and from practice.”- Mary Jo Bang

VISUAL

“After each morning run, we would come home and raid the mango tree.” – go here to view Danielle Boodoo Fortune’s Mango Morning

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tpa-islandEric Fischl’s A Visit To/A Visit From/The Island uses two adjoining large canvases to contrast vastly disparate groups of people seemingly in the same setting. On the left he depicts what appears to be a white upper-middle-class American family of four vacationing at a sunny, holiday resort. The second panel portrays a frantic scene in which a group of black men and women, who appear to be refugees, try to pull themselves from a bluish black churning sea. Rendered in much darker, ominous hues than those of its counterpart, the frenzied image was based on a photograph of Haitian refugees arriving on the Florida coast. While the two canvases depict jarringly different scenes, the similarities between the images also emphasize their polarity. For instance, both depict foreshortened naked bodies lying diagonally in the foreground, highlighting the stark shifts in color and context between the panels. The relaxed laziness of the tourists pitted against the desperation of the Haitians emphasizes the inequalities between the two groups and the irony in the choices that racial difference and privilege allow—the whites are paying to visit an island that the residents risk their lives to leave.
Artist: Eric Fischl
Image: “A Visit To / A Visit From / The Island,” (1983)
Source: The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York website

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“I haven’t managed to draw my main character yet because even her image is giving me trouble…With Kieran, I learned that he was more than just a warrior and a prince but he has plans of his own.” – Want to know your characters? Try a character sketch by Dana Nuenighoff

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“Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.” – Stephen King and his big desk

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“Normally I enjoy the writing process, but in this case it was making me miserable. I would spend most of the day procrastinating before sitting down and forcing myself to hit my word count (1000), and even then I would find myself adding adjectives to beef it up. More than once my mother commented on how I’d clearly lost my love for writing, which she found alarming. But I didn’t listen to her because I thought I could get through it and turn my uninteresting story into something worthy of publishing. I was wrong.” – Maria Murnane on When to pull the plug on your book

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‘We need to be humble and dedicate ourselves to a lifelong study of the craft of writing. What I think he meant by “contempt” is trying to take shortcuts. Becoming a writer must involve reading widely, learning techniques from others and committing to a daily practice of developing the craft. If you don’t do this, if you just write something and publish it, then write more and publish that, then you’re showing contempt for writing.’ – Andrew Blackman reporting on a workshop he attended at the BIM lit fest

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“Currently completing the fourth draft, stalling somewhat as I approach the last eight passages that I believe need to be added in; experience has taught me that determining the end of a draft is rather like running towards the end of the rainbow.” – Louise Mabey blogging What an Unfinished Novel Looks Like

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“You have to learn how to interpret and not just imitate” – Jake Gyllenhall, breaking down his process

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“Don’t tell anyone the story until you’ve written it.  At least this is advice I wish I’d heard and listened to, early on.  I’ve found that if I tell my friends about any story or book I’m working on, I begin to lose enthusiasm for it – not because of their reaction or anything they’ve said but because, having said it, it’s like I feel less need to actually write it.  That’s difficult to explain but perhaps other writers will understand.” – Eugenia O’Neal blogs ‘My Top Writing Tips’

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“A slight girl with fawn’s eyes offers a plastic cup of water-angels to my mother. A fallen bamboo ceiling swallows the moon whole. There is so much wonder, awe and terror in every gesture, every movement. The moon washes the dust from her face, becomes her true self in the forest. Then it solidifies, comes together…” – Danielle Boodoo Fortune blogging on her Moon Water series of paintings

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“Here I was trying to get my daughter to stick to a specific formula for writing, and she was forging her own path. What worked best for her was writing by the seat of her pants, starting on the computer and editing as she wrote. The funny thing is, it is the same method I use.” – from One Size Fits All by Jewel Amethyst

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“On my way home from work tomorrow, I will bring myself to stop at Kinko’s and print out all one-hundred and seventy pages of my crappy first draft. I will hole-bunch the pages, stick it into a three-hole binder and get up Saturday morning, procrastinate a lot, curse out my editor, and then bring myself one step closer to the sweet pain of publication.” – Kara Stevens on what you need to know if you’re serious about becoming an author

POETRY

“Brown men crowd an island hilltop,
voice French-Creole and Spanish,
not the English patois of generations
assembled there before them.” – The Nation Builders by Althea-Romeo Mark, read it on her blog at Aroma Productions or view her reading of it (above) at the Medellin Poetry Festival in Colombia. Romeo-Mark was born in Antigua, grew up in the USVI, and has lived in the US, Africa, the UK, and now Europe.

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“Unexpectedly,
The street light began
To malfunction,
Coming on and off,
Plunging me into bouts of
Darkness and light.

Buzz, crackle, darkness,
Buzz, crackle, light.” – From Kimolisa Mings’ Dark Warrior

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“What if I told you
I’d never made love before” – from What the Spirit Knows by Soyini Ayanna Forde at SX Salon

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“I was left there, tutu shredded,

I couldn’t dance

anymore.” – This did not happen by Thylias Moss

INTERVIEW

“Many of my poems start with an image, but these started with language and weaved through images bringing me places I hadn’t been in a while.” – Angela Voras-Hills at the KR Conversations

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“One thing that I went in to Yale with was to make to sure I left exactly how I came in, because that’s who they accepted. Take what you need, get what you need for your tool belt, but don’t lose the essence of who you are. I think I did it.” – Atlanta’s Bryan Tyree Henry (aka Paper Boi)

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“The revolution for all Black lives starts in the mind and manifests in the physical, so I hope this book that contains so much true history mixed in with fiction can help people understand that nobody gets free unless we’re all free.” – Brooke Obie

FICTION

“This supposed to be our country. You shouldn’t have to sell your soul to feed yourself.” – Nassau Burning by Keisha Lynne Ellis

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‘For long minutes he forgot his knobby knees, scars and grizzled body hair. He forgot his big flat feet and narrow buttocks. Her gaze gave him beauty and grace. Her soft eyes pulled him out of his role as Cowboy and into the role of sweet pure lover. “Come, let me bathe you.”’ – The Cowboy’s Mermaid, or, A Story of Wet Love in the Dry World by Shannon Barber

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“She had looked him down, vaguely surprised and annoyed, with the air of those who are never asked where they are going.” – from Le Silence de Chagos by Shenaz Patel

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“Sometimes I’d stare in the mid-darkness at how white he was. If I pressed his skin, he’d bruise deep fuchsia and you’d be able to see it even in the dark. I was very dark compared to him. He was so white it was freaky, sometimes. Othertimes it was kind of cool and beautiful, how his skin would glow against mine, how our bodies together looked like art.” – from Gideon by ZZ Packer

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“You’re in this together now, and some part of you hopes you die together for the sake of simplicity.” – Last Chapter on Hotel Stationary: a Short Story by Ursula Villarreal-Moura

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Reading Room and Gallery lll

The stacks were overflowing at the original Reading Room and Gallery and Reading Room and Gallery ll; I decided to expand. Read on at Reading Room and Gallery IV.

DISCLAIMER: By definition, you’ll be linking to third party sites from these Links-We-Love pages. Linked sites are not, however, reviewed or controlled by Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize nor coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse); and Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse) disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to any linked sites and does not assume any responsibility for their contents. In other words, enter at your own risk.

Here you’ll find stories, interviews, reviews, poems; you name it…a totally subjective showcase of (mostly) Caribbean written (sometimes visual and audio visual) pieces that I (Joanne) have either personally appreciated or which have been recommended (and approved) for posting/linking. If you’re looking for the winning Wadadli Pen stories (and I hope you are!), check Wadadli Pen through the years. You can also see the Best of Wadadli Pen special issue at Anansesemwhich has the added feature of audio dramatizations of some of the stories.

POEMS

Claude McKay is a Jamaican born writer though my favourite book of his Home to Harlem is actually set in the U.S. where he was a pivotal part of the Harlem renaissance. Another of his novels from that period was recently discovered. And while this poem isn’t a new discovery, it’s definitely one of my favourites. If you’ve heard of Claude McKay’s If We Must Die.

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Exile by Geoffrey Philp …and another one by the esteemed Jamaican-American poet; you can feel the anguish in this one, Oshun.

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Lorna Goodison is a mistress of the pen, no two ways about it. Here’s another one I recently came across: Some of my worst wounds

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Sharing Kimolisa Mings’ She Wanted a Love Poem…because I like it …and because sometimes a girl kinda does.

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This is priceless …Langston speaks… and the negro speaks of rivers

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The Preachers Eat Out by Camille T. Dungy and the same, audio-visual version. Speaking of audio, the first link takes you to the poem’s posting at From the Fishouse, a free online audio poetry archive featuring emerging poets (cool idea) and co-founded by Dungy.

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Still sharp, Wadadli Pen alum posted this Untitled poem to her blog and I just had to share it (it’s sort of an un-love poem):

I cannot not love you, yet,
I cannot explain it anymore than I can explain my existence
or the state of the universe before God spoke it into being”

SHORT STORIES

This Helen Klonaris story, Addie’s House is sensual, seductive …and sad.

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From the forthcoming (at this writing) Womenspeak collection out of the Bahamas comes The Serpent and I, ariveting revision of the Creation story told, by Keisha Lynne Ellis, from the female (the Eve) perspective as she becomes self aware and discovers her world. Interesting twist on the Serpent as well, a decidedly more interesting character than the male (the Adam of the tale).  Here’s an excerpt from her painful first sexual encounter between ‘Eve’ and ‘Adam’: “My muscles contracted and with each of his movements a deep, throaty cry moved up my stomach and escaped from my mouth.” Read more.

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Some of the wonderful short stories I discovered at the Callaloo Writers workshop (2012) are Edward P. Jones’ The First Day – of course we didn’t have the benefit of the author reading it as he does here, Sherman Alexie’s What You Pawn I will Redeem – we read two of his; this was my favourite, and Junot Diaz’s How to date a Brown Girl – which weirdly I preferred reading for my self over listening to this audio 🙂

NON FICTION

Not sure this is the best spot for this but not sure where else to put it. Still, it spoke to me today because as any freelance writer knows, as the pendulum swings, you sometimes doubt yourself and your choices especially on the days when you just feel burnt out, tapped out, just plain out of energy, motivation, and ideas.

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I can relate to Andre Bagoo’s post at Exit Strata about notebooks, to the desire to keep journalistic and other ‘work’ writing separate from my creative writing, and to the reality that they sometimes overlap. I can’t say, like he does, that “I find I have rejected the separation” I still feel a bit like George Costanza on Seinfeld – my worlds are colliding, my worlds are colliding! But I guess I’ve begun to realize that that’s not always a bad thing.

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Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of Ninth Ward, writes about the angst and ecstacy…The Rhythms of a Writing Life. One of my favourite lines: “Writing a novel is an impossible dream. Like Don Quixote, we tilt after windmills.”

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Permission to write (from yourself and others) – Anton Nimblett gets personal on this topic, here.

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Andrew Blackman’s posts from the BIM Literary Festival on Earl Lovelace, Derek Walcott, and Austin Clarke; also check out his reviews of the poetry readings which formed part of the festival while there.

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Discussing the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel starring a who’s who of British geriatric thespians and Dev Patel with an associate recently, the question of stereotypes came up. We both agreed that the film was charming but where he was over the moon about its portrayal of India, I shared with him that some with first hand experience of India expressed displeasure at the the outsider perspective (let’s call it the Western gaze) and the way the film stereotypes India. He dismissed these concerns and you’ll have to judge and see for yourself. I think you’ll find it both charming and at the same time stereotypical. But then most stereotypes kind of start from a bit of truth or a solid impression that loses authenticity and nuance in repetition and overuse, don’t they; stereotypes are lazy and overly simplistic and where they appear in art often under-serve the group or culture they hope to illustrate. So, while black athletes dominate the NBA, it’s stereotypical to assume that all black boys are good at or have a natural affinity or inclination for basketball. Tennis or golf, as it happens, may be their sport; or they may not be into sports at all. I googled common Caribbean stereotypes and in this article and other places came across things like hard working and (paradoxically) laid back, religious and (perhaps connected to this) homophobic, love to party and yet loves/values education; plus there’s some stuff about voodoo… and do you know anybody that actually says “Hey, Mon”? Now there might be a bit of truth here and there in some of these assumptions but it would be silly to think that this is reflective or even representative of Caribbean society. If you’re Caribbean and you don’t talk like a walking stereotype you might even be asked if you’re actually from the Caribbean or have maybe lived somewhere else. So, why am I saying all of this. Because it strikes me that that adherence to stereotype about African culture, certainly as presented in literature/art, is at the heart of this biting commentary by Binyavanga Wainaina. By now you’ve seen Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s TED talk on the danger of a single story and Wainaina’s Granta article, in a much more sarcastic (much much much more sarcastic) way makes a similar point; challenging people engaging with (and yes writing about) a culture to abandon the stereotypes – the starving African, the loyal servant, the resplendent African sunset – for a richer experience. Check it out.

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“‘Til Shiloh was a decisive turning point in the artist’s stellar career.  It marked his transition from dancehall DJ to roots reggae Rastafari icon,” writes Dr. Carolyn Cooper in her blog posting Happy Birthday all the same, Buju. I agree wtih her about Til Shiloh – one of my favourite albums by my favourite dancehall artiste; an artiste whose musical insights evolved as he matured, evolved beyond the single song that has hung over and, in the minds of some, defined that career. Looking forward to more great music…someday. Read the rest of Dr. Cooper’s thoughts re Buju his music and his incarceration, here.

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“There is a Haitian saying which might upset the aesthetic images of most women. Nou led, Nou la, it says. We are ugly, but we are here. Like the modesty that is somewhat common in Haitian culture, this saying makes a deeper claim for poor Haitian women than maintaining beauty, be it skin deep or otherwise. For most of us, what is worth celebrating is the fact that we are here, that we against all the odds exist. To the women who might greet each other with this saying when they meet along the countryside, the very essence of life lies in survival. It is always worth reminding our sisters that we have lived yet another day to answer the roll call of an often painful and very difficult life. It is in this spirit that to this day a woman remembers to name her child Anacaona, a name which resonates both the splendor and agony of a past that haunts so many women.

When they were enslaved, our foremothers believed that when they died their spirits would return to Africa, most specifically to a peaceful land we call Guinin, where gods and goddesses live. The women who came before me were women who spoke half of one language and half another. They spoke the French and Spanish of their captors mixed in with their own African language. These women seemed to be speaking in tongue when they prayed to their old gods, the ancient African spirits. Even though they were afraid that their old deities would no longer understand them, they invented a new language our Creole patois with which to describe their new surroundings, a language from which colorful phrases blossomed to fit the desperate circumstances. When these women greeted each other, they found themselves speaking in codes.<!–

How are we today, Sister?
-I am ugly, but I am here.”

Read more of this Edwidge Danidicat article.

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Interesting Toni Morrison interview. But then when is Toni Morrison not interesting, right?

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As writers, we sometimes feel stumped or blocked. Walter Mosely urges us in this NY Times article (For Authors, Fragile Ideas Need Loving Everyday) to write anyway: “You don’t go to a well once but daily. You don’t skip a child’s breakfast or forget to wake up in the morning. Sleep comes to you each day, and so does the muse.”

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This is from a 1979 interview with James Baldwin. What I think as I read this is we’re living in the future he speaks of. How do we measure up to his optimism in spite of all?

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“Hah,” he burst out, clearly tickled. “Yeah, sure, I don’t mind being considered a badjohn myself!” This is an excerpt from a report on a discussion in NY with Trinidadian writer Earl Lovelace. Read the full report here.

INTERVIEWS

The PhD in Creative Writing site is essentially a series of interviews with writers about why and how they write. Interesting reading. Yours truly was one of their September interviews.

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In this interview African American writer Ashley Bryan, whose parents are from Antigua, talks about making picture books in kindergarten and how this set him on track to become an award winning children’s story book writer and illustrator. Go check it out…and whatever their talent, dream, or potential, encourage a child you know every chance you get.

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Do you think that part of the role of the writer is to remember or collect history?

I have a very clear understanding that I write about what interests me. I write about whatever happens to be my focus, obsession, and preoccupation. I write for no one, not even myself. I allow the story, or essay to “arrive,” and recognise that I am an instrument for allowing the piece to take shape, rather than contriving a topic or focus that is not interesting to me. My freedom to focus on whatever is of interest to me supersedes any role that might be attributed to writers from outside of their creative vision. Read the rest of this interesting 2011 interview with Antiguan-Barbudan-Canadian author Althea Prince.

VISUAL ART

Gossip sweet bad, ent? Think so? Check out this innovative art project by Bajan Sheena Rose with Adrian Richards, Natalie McGuire, and Yasmin Espert. Sweet Gossip where visual art meets street theatre meets performance art meets the internet.

…AND HERE’S SOME OF MY STUFF

Excerpt from Oh Gad! (my new book released in 2012) and me reading from the book.

Friday Night Fish Fry (fiction) @ Sea Breeze – http://www.liberiaseabreeze.com/joanne_c_hillhouse.html

After Glow (fiction) @ Tongues of the Ocean – http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/11/after-glow

How to Make Cassava Bread and Other Musings on Culture (non fiction) @ Antigua Stories – http://antiguastories.wordpress.com/food-2/food

At Calabash (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/at-calabash

Defining Moments (non fiction) @ Geoffrey Philp’s blog – http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/2010/12/defining-momentsjoanne-c-hillhouse.html

Off the Map (non fiction) @ Signifying Guyana –

http://signifyinguyana.typepad.com/signifyin_guyana/2010/12/guest-post-writing-off-the-map-by-joanne-c-hillhouse.html  and again at Blurb is a Verb

What Calypso Taught Me About Writing (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/what-calypso-taught-me-about

At Sea (fiction) @ Munyori – http://www.munyori.com/joannehillhouse.html

Pushing Water Up Hill (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/pushing-water-up-hill-one

Wadadli Pen – Nurturing Another Generation of Antiguan and Barbudan Writers (non fiction) @ Summer Edward’s blog – http://summeredward.blogspot.com/2010/08/guest-post-by-joanne-c-hillhouse.html

Cold Paradise (fiction) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/Hillhouse_ColdParadise.htm

Somebody! (fiction) @ St. Somewhere – http://visitstsomewhere.blogspot.com

Reflections on Jamaca (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/reflections-on-jamaica

Portent (fiction) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/Hillhouse_Portent.htm

Philly Ramblings 8 (poetry) @ Ma Comère – http://dloc.com/AA00000079/00004/36j

Ghosts Laments (poetry) @ Small Axe – http://smallaxe.net/wordpress3/prose/2011/06/30/poem-by-joanne-hillhouse

Benediction before the Essence (poetry) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/hillhouse_poetry.html

Prospero’s Education, The Arrival, Da’s Calypso (3 poems) @ Calabash – http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol4no2

Interview @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/interview-with-joanne-c

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, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon 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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Filed under Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery