A reminder that the process with these Carib Lit Plus Caribbean arts bulletins is to do a front and back half of the month, updating as time allows as new information comes in; so, come back, or, if looking for an earlier installment, use the search window. (in brackets, as much as I can remember, I’ll add a note re how I sourced the information – it is understood that this is the original sourcing and additional research would have been done by me to build the information shared here – credit and link back if you use).
Antigua and Barbuda Cultural Director Khan Cordice co-arranged and drilled Republic Bank Exodus to a second place finish in the panorama of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival. The presentation marked the return of local calypso legend King Short Shirt’s “Tourist Leggo”, their test tune, to TnT Carnival, after its popularity and outsider status resulted in it being banned from competition there in 1976. Khan and co-arranger Terrance ‘BJ’ Marcelle earned 280 points to the 283 points earned by winning pan orchestra Renegade. Khan holds the record as the youngest pan arranger to win in nantional competition, at 19, and ties with the late Victor ‘Babu’ Samuel for the most wins with eight. With this step, he is being hailed as a world class arranger. (Source – Daily Observer by Newsco)
Books and Other Reading Material
Let’s use Trinbagonian writer (still based in Trinidad) Kevin Jared Hosein’s current book tour (every writer dreams of such a publisher push!) and, in particular, his recent appearance on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom (live in studio, not no zoom t’ing), to big him up on the publication of Hungry Ghosts, which is already getting Booker Prize talk.
In Hosein’s British TV interview, we receive some insights and reminders re how story gets made. “In my childhood village, I was interviewing some elders including my grandfather about some of the literatures that had vanished over time and I wanted to make a small compilation of those moments that might have been lost in time or relegated to memory,” he said of the genesis of the book, set in 1940s Trinidad. Bringing his biology and environmental science training to the table, “I drew from a lot of what I knew of symbiotic relationships between animals and their relationship with landscape and habitat, and I fit that together because at the time this novel is set…(Trinidad) was kind of like a frontier.” The cowboys of that frontier, the interview suggests, were the British who saw their influence waning and the Americans who “brought with them a version of the American dream”, and, then, of course, the local people of varying ethnicities and their journeys there. The interview touched quite a bit on colonialism suggesting some exploration of that as a major theme. But for Hosein it was about reclaiming his country’s stories before they slip from memory. “I wanted to give life to those illustrations in the history books.”
Just in his late 30s, Hosein is already an accomplished writer, with milestones including the regional win for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (2015 for “The King of Settlement 4”) followed by the main prize (2018, for “Passage”). He has been published in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean (with “The Monkey Trap”, which was also shortlisted for the Small Axe Prize). He self-published his first book Littletown Secrets. Peepal Tree, a Caribbean focused press based in the UK, published his second book The Repenters, in 2016, and The Beast of Kukuyo was a Burt Award winning title published with Jamaica-based Blue Banyan imprint Blouse and Skirt Books in 2018. The Repenters was long listed for Bocas and nominated for the International Dublin IMPAC Award. Hungry Ghosts is published by Bloomsbury, a British worldwide publishing house.
Congrats to Kevin Jared Hosein and as a reminder of the journey, read “Kevin Jared Hosein breaks it down” published to Wadadli Pen in 2017. (Source – Kevin Jared Hosein on Facebook/image via Bocas on Twitter)
Antigua-born, Virgin Islands-raised, Switzerland-based poet Althea Romeo-Mark has a summer 2023 release planned.
On the Borders of Belonging, she said, is dedicated to “my forefathers, the Finches, Marshes, Josephs, Hendriksons, Willetts and Maynards, who willingly and unwillingly crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean Islands from European and African shores; my parents, Gilbert Romeo, Daisy Marsh Romeo with whom my siblings and I had our first immigrant experience and whose animated storytelling lit my imagination; and immigrants who have sacrificed everything in search of new homelands. For most, these are havens, the secondhand homes, which, though ill-fitting at first, eventually become the accepted abode after several decades. Despite living on the edge of belonging, passing time, and survival instincts, allow most to settle well in heart and mind, in new SHELL/ters.” (Source – ARM in the Caribbean Writers group on Facebook)
Barbadian writer Karen Lord‘s The Blue, Beautiful World – described as a space opera – has an August 29th 2023 release date.
“The world is changing, and humanity must change with it. Rising seas and soaring temperatures have radically transformed the face of Earth. Meanwhile, Earth is being observed from afar by other civilizations . . . and now they are ready to make contact.
Vying to prepare humanity for first contact are a group of dreamers and changemakers, including Peter Hendrix, the genius inventor behind the most advanced VR tech; Charyssa, a beloved celebrity icon with a passion for humanitarian work; and Kanoa, a member of a global council of young people drafted to reimagine the relationship between humankind and alien societies.
And they may have an unexpected secret weapon: Owen, a pop megastar whose ability to connect with his adoring fans is more than charisma. His hidden talent could be the key to uniting Earth as it looks toward the stars.
But Owen’s abilities are so unique that no one can control him and so seductive that he cannot help but use them. Can he transcend his human limitations and find the freedom he has always dreamed of? Or is he doomed to become the dictator of his nightmares?”
Lord who has wracked up several awards (the William L. Crawford Award and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature) and nominations (the World Fantasy Award ) in her career has announced that two books from her backlist (Redemption in Indigo and Unravelling) have been acquired and are slated for re-release. “The reprints will have new covers, and extra material. I’ve written four short stories about our favourite characters from Cygnus Beta, filling in some offscreen events.” (Source – Karen Lord on Twitter)
Jamaican writer Jacqueline Bishop has published her eighth book.
Patchwork: Essays & Interviews on Caribbean Visual Culture has been issued with the support of Intellect Publishing and the University of Chicago Press. On the cover is an image of the writer’s great grandmother Celeste Walker holding up one of her patchworks and it seeks to shine a spotlight on Caribbean women like Ms. Walker, whose art is ripped from cloth and reflects their African heritage. Bishop’s previous books are Fauna, My Mother who is Me, The River’s Song, Writers who Paint Painters who write, Snapshots from Istanbul, The Gymnast and Other Positions, and The Gift of Music and Song: Interviews with Jamaican Women Writers. (Source – the author via JR Lee email)
“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.” – this Judy Blume quote inspired a post featuring Antiguan and Barbudan Children’s Literature <—check it out. (Source – in-house)
“Notoriously, Caribbean slave owners extracted greater profits from working an enslaved person to death and purchasing a new one than from providing for a slave until old age and creating the conditions for natural reproduction.” – p7 from Troubling Freedom #whatimreading
Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of Education, Sports, and Creative Industries will be holding the 2023 National Literacy Festival on March 2nd 2023 under the theme “Enriching Lives and Preserving Our Culture”. All citizens are invited to Drop Everything and Read for at least half an hour. The Ministry hopes that all business places and corporations will join the activity. We at Wadadli Pen hope that all participants will make it an Antiguan and Barbudan book.
Like the film, the play features the music of reggae legend Jimmy Cliff and other Jamaican artists, including the titular track. The film was produced and directed by Perry Henzell and co-written by Trevor Rhone. Pulitzer prize winning playwright, who has also written new music for the stage adapation, Susan Lori-Parks is responsible for bringing it to Broadway.
Choreography of this stage musical is Edgar Godineaux, and Sergio Trujillo and Tony Taccone are co-directors. (Source – The Public Theatre on Twitter)
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!, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and The Jungle Outside). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.
Be sure to check out the latest Carib Lit Plus (mid to late April 2021) for other arts events upcoming in Antigua and the region.
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.
Primarily, in this space, I’ll be sharing discussions, in Question and Answer format, of craft, and insights to not only the author/artist’s journey but the story of the arts in Antigua and Barbuda. This is a Work in Progress. The main criteria, so far, for inclusion, apart from the Q & A structure and the arts/art history focus, is that these are interviews not conducted by someone who is part of the artistes’ publishing and/or promotional team, and are interviews that are in the public sphere on a platform independent of the artistes and/or their publishing and promotional team. Beyond that, it’s what I come across and you can also link me interviews that fit the very broad stated criteria by emailing wadadipen at gmail dot com
Barbara Arrindell in Cacique magazine – January 2023
“We speak of this orange (creative) economy quite a bit these days, and we need a greater investment in the arts so that creatives and those involved in the craft can continue to create without worrying about being able to sustain themselves.”
Barbara Arrindell and Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing creative writing on ABS TV’s Antigua Today –
– (January 12th 2022)
Barbara Arrindell in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE –
“One of the early writings I did was a play called Dreams…Faces…Reality…and that play was actually performed over 25 times in Antigua and Barbuda… it was used as a tool to help students in the schools understand everything concerning HIV/AIDS.” – Barbara Arrindell with ABS TV (2020)
“Nellie Robinson, Dame Nellie Robinson is listed somewhere in our history as being the first chairperson of the artists association of Antigua and Barbuda, but so is a lady named Elizabeth Pickney…back in 17something… I found one in the 18th century too… we’ve had an artists association here many times and it’s been so far apart that each person thinks of themselves as the first chairperson of… in terms of history, there’s a book called A Brief History of Antigua written by Brian Dyde. Brian Dyde wrote brief histories for about four or five islands around the Caribbean, if it was five, four of them are still in print, guess which one is not in print, the other four were taken on and used in the school systems in the other islands, guess which one they couldn’t even sell one print run for…?” – Barbara Arrindell in conversation with Dorbrene O’Marde, Heather Doram, and Joanne C. Hillhouse on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
“I don’t really have a routine, I just take advantage of times when I don’t have anything to distract me, when I can get stuck into writing for as long as I want. I like to write with my feet cocked up on a comfortable sofa, and a good view in front of me. We have a small apartment in the old walled city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, which looks out onto a plaza with trees, a few birds singing, passing salsa music, and sounds of people chatting and relaxing. That’s my spot. When I am researching, of course, it’s different: if I’m not working online on the above-mentioned sofa, I’m usually sitting at a table in a research library somewhere in the Caribbean, or in Cornwall.” – Sue Appleby, author of The Cornish in the Caribbean (2019)
“If I was to specify what path I’m on and what matters to me the most I think it would be inspiring people…I have a reservoir of information that I could then pass on.” –
‘I was literally born into the theatre. My parents met each other through the Antiguan drama company “Harambee Open Air Theatre”… and since then they have both always nurtured the love and appreciation for the arts, exposing me to varying types of performances, including visiting ensembles to the island, and performances whenever I traveled. I remember my father taking me to see Cats on Broadway at a young age…it was exciting, and just cemented the fact that that was what I wanted to do with my life … perform and create productions that would make people feel the way I felt as a child sitting in that theatre. My mom then enrolled me in a drama programme called Child’s Play, under renowned Jamaican dramatist and storyteller Amina Blackwood-Meeks.’ – Zahra Airall talking to The Uncaged Phoenix (2018)
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Rilzy Adams part 2 (2022) – “When writing, where this was concerned, the one thing that I really wanted it to feel like and be like was Antiguan… I was very intentional with everything from the food choices to the music…but I also wanted them for the most part to be not necessarily heartwarming but …my general brand, for everything I write…Antiguan, full of love, and spicy.”
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Rilzy Adams part 1 (2022) – “I started writing epic fantasy. I think that’s what I wrote for a very long time…but eventually I said to myself, well, this is what I like to read so I’m really confused as to why I’m not writng it and that’s when I started to segueing into trying my hand at writing romance novels.”
Glenroy Aaron participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Emile Hill, Mark Brown, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “To be honest, I have learned a lot more about the Antiguan aesthetic from this conversation than from my years of observing art in Antigua. I say this because there is so little indigenous Antiguan art to observe, and historic recording of it is also quiet faint. My art is basically an attempt to capture the beauty around me and the moments in which they occur. My techniques and methods continue to evolve as exploring New continues to excite. Forays outside my comfort zone to explore deeper emotions have produced interesting results; with some apprehension as to the commercial viability of such ventures. The balance between creativity and viability is tricky but can be done, as others have found ways to make it work. Themes and scenes indigenous to an artist’s place of birth will ultimately make its way onto an artist’s canvas but considering the fusion of influences and cultures that have existed on the islands for some time now, an Antiguan aesthetic may be a bit difficult to define. Further, holding that many view art as a visual expression of the artist’s thoughts and emotions, we can appreciate that some of these ideas and emotions may not be “local” in scope.” Read in full.
“When I was growing up there was the WPA…a programme the government set up for free schools in art and music for all the communities throughout the United States and my parents with six children…sent us all out to the free classes, so we were all painting and drawing and playing the piano… I was not able to get a scholarship (to art school) because they said it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a black person.” – Ashley Bryan talking to BBC Sounds about his early development as an artist.
Tammi Browne Bannister talking to David DaCosta (December 28th 2016):
“When I was little, I loved reading Aesop’s Fables and was attracted to the humor, the lessons, and the tragedies and of course the way these tales made me think about the characters long after reading. I’ve written a few.” Full interview.
Mark Brown participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “I view art making as a human activity which cannot be defined as mine or yours, and this is based on the type of work which I engage in. My work, in my mind, is about responding to stimuli, that act of engaging with my feelings about my environment, religion, identity, sexuality, all of which most, if not every human being faces at some point in life. As a result, for me Antiguan Art, like Art elsewhere, is individual voices singing their own tune. Of course we may use objects specific to our culture [that have] distinct meaning but many times these same objects may have a different name in another culture and [be] used in different contexts, but then it is also specific then to that locale. How else do we explain lending your voice in paint or any other medium to a specific issue in a way that you deem visceral and then later on somewhere else, Google for instance, you discover another artist on the opposite side of the globe exploring the very same idea in very similar ways. To me it is just the act of discovering, in visual format, that which is buried deep within with the ultimate aim of finding out the real reason for my being “here” and at this time.” Read the full discussion here.
Mark Brown (2015) on Popreel, Swedish TV: “The main aim of the Angel in Crisis series was to bring a sort of humanness to people like her (the nun), priests, people who have to bear that burden of conforming to what society expects of them.” Interview begins at 7:35.
Jazzie B. talking with Chris Williams for Wax Poetics (May 14th 2014): “’Keep On Movin’ actually came about lyrically because we were at the Africa Center in Covent Gardens, and we were being put under a lot of pressure by the police. It was due to the fact that other clubs in the area were empty and ours kept being full. Every so often, we would get the squeeze put on us. At one particular moment, they threatened to close us down. The whole concept of this song came from there.” Full interview.
“We shot this at Half Moon Bay and this was supposed to embody just light and sand and turqouise waters, and just playfulness and joy, like there was supposed to be an innocence to it because this is where you meet the Yemoja character and so this was really just about having fun and just playing with my body and the dress under the water and trying to imagine what Yemoja wuld have felt just being in clear chrystal blue waters.” – Christal Clashing discussing Yemoja’s Anansi in a February 2022 CREATIVE SPACE art and culture column
‘Of the many pieces that Shane has drawn over the years, one of his favourites features former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer squatting in his office chair. The caption below it read, “Dem say me a squat, but squatters have rights.”
The inspiration for this cartoon, Shane shares, “This was done at a time when UPP’s position as government was uncertain, and they were awaiting the results of the three seats. [Then] ALP said Baldwin was squatting in the Prime Minister’s office.”’ – Shane Daniel, cartoonist with the Daily Observer newspaper, interviewed about his art by the Daily Observer by Newsco
“Sometimes I try to have this hope that we have reached a stage where black people are not being treated unfairly and [this news] just dropped me into a rabbit hole again.” – Heather Doram (Daily Observer, 2021)
“In my current creative phase, I feel so invigorated, so inspired, so playful, and so expressive. As both an artist and a woman, I am exploring new spaces, taking on new challenges, transcending my past, and shaping my future.” – Heather Doram (2020 interview with findyello.com)
Heather Doram on Observer Radio in a discussion which also included Joanne C. Hillhouse, Barbara Arrindell, and Dorbrene O’Marde (October 2017): “My feeling is that I have lived under several administrations and I really do not get the feeling that there is that widespread support for the visual and performing arts…you just use them when you need them…we do not even have a national gallery in Antigua and Barbuda so we the artists are there producing work in sort of isolation. I’ve seen it in many other countries where the national gallery would commission work; this sort of spurs the whole generation and activity of work and then the artists start to feel that sense of involvement and that their art work can actually support them…the same thing I’m sure applies to the literary artist…something like the cultural development division should be that nexus of that sort of leadership, this is where the cradle is…I would really like to see more support for the arts generally.” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Heather Doram participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Mark Brown, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “They were reactive and passionate. They were not satisfied with the realistic interpretation of the Antiguan landscape. They wanted to push boundaries, they wanted to produce work with the visual language of engagement with their audience. Many of their works responded to and explored social, political, gender issues and self. The younger generation sought to explore their roles as messengers in their visual language. I think artists like Mark [Brown], Emile [Hill], and Zavian [Archibald] can be included in this group. They are much more open to expressing themselves and exploring a range of media and techniques in their work.” Read the full discussion here.
Cray Francis talking with Good Morning Antigua Barbuda (April 5th 2016):
“I felt like I had to write my own stories.”
Claudia Ruth Francis talking with Italy’s Conoscere TV about her book Six Steps: An African-Barbudan-Caribbean Story (2022):
“I was very surprised when I realized that I was only six steps away from my ancestor who was on the slave registry in Barbuda.”
“It’s always a burning passion but it’s not a fruitful burning passion. You do the arts cause you love it and you have something you want to say.” – Gayle Gonsalves (2020) on ABS TV
“I’m a Caribbean poet foremost, I was not born in the BVI. I was born in Trinidad to a BVIslander father and a Trinidadian mother. His mother is Antiguan, her mother is Grenadian. He grew up in Guyana, and I grew up in the BVI. Because of that chain of connections, I think that the vibrations that drive my work are deep in the currents of this sea, those currents that touch each island – I would invoke that famous image of Brathwaite’s from ‘Calypso’, ‘the stone had skidded arc’d and bloomed into islands’.” – Richard Georges in Pree. 2018.
“As far as my poetic horizons go, I try to let the tides tug me along, and trust that they will take me where I’m meant to go. I thought I’d write a book of poems and then move on to spend some time experimenting with fiction, but poems seem to keep coming. I think I have to trust that.” – Richard Georges in Caribbean Beat. 2017.
Linisa George reads and talks about ‘In the Closet’, which was the Antigua and Barbuda Poetry Postcard for the UK series featuring works from the Commonwealth in time for the 2012 Commonwealth Games. “I’ve always been a poet…” she says, then explains the journey toward stepping in to that power. Link.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on WTP 93.5 for Wadadli Pen (May 20th 2023) –
Joanne C. Hillhouse with Margaret Irish and Barbara Arrindell for Wadadli Pen on Observer Radio 91.1 FM’s Voice of the People (May 9th 2023) –
Joanne C. Hillhouse interviewed on Observer AM about Anthony N. Sabga Award and #TheWritingLife (April 5th 2023) –
Joanne C. Hillhouse interviewed by Jacqueline Bishop for Jamaica Observer Bookends #InConversation series (March 26th 2023) –
“Your books are all exceptionally written, and the stories pull the reader in. Once you start reading, it is very hard to stop. What specific techniques do you find yourself employing in your writing to hold the perspective of young audiences?
I would probably say character, curiousity, detail, surrender. I think those elements are there no matter what I’m writing. It’s all story. And when I’m writing, I’m discovreing the story. Character leads me in; when it’s flowing, they walk around with me, even when I’m not engaged with the page. When writing Lost! , for example, one reference point was the school playground; those early days when some children cry every day, like the world is ending, while other children look around in excitement, and new friendships are formed. That feeling is what I remember trying to capture when Coral and Dolphin first meet – not a jellyfish and seal, two kids in a foreign land (the playground, the sea) feeling each other out. The fact that my writing is typically visual and detailed is a plus in this genre. I lean into details – in terms of language, taste, all the senses, all the ways we are specific, and I don’t try to manage the writing. I fall into the flow of it. Then with each writing session, rip up some of the thread and begin to crochet again to find the pattern. Because writing is revisions and rewrites and tweaks and fiddling and every bit of uncertainty and playfulness that comes with that.”
One correction: On the second page where it says “where the lick”, it should say “were the lick” (from the Antiguan-Barbudan vernacular). Pointed out as the error changes the meaning of the sentence.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on ABS TV’s Good Morning Antigua Babuda for March 8th 2023 International Women’s Day –
“It actually started as a conversation between me and my nephew and his mother that became this sort of bedtime story.” (speaking of To be a Cheetah)
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Joanne C. Hillhouse part 2 (2022) – “Part of it is that I knew that world: I was the girl with the guitar slung over her shoulder, going to practice, playing in the choir, being shy about it, being self-conscious about walking with the guitar..for me the interesting things were the kids discovering their love of art, and discovering their potential within the art space, and connecting with each other through art…and the instinctive urge to explore colourism in that space because it exists in our spaces, our Black spaces, our people of colour spaces, it exists, so all of those things were interesting to me; the romance, yes, but all of those other things as well.”
Barbara Arrindell and Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing creative writing on ABS TV’s Antigua Today (January 12th 2022) – “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It is not for you to judge what you’re creating as you’re creating it. Let it be. Let it breathe. But part of what I’m doing in my current stream of workshops is now when you come back to the work, how do you begin to edit it, how do you being to redraft it? Because if you are serious about putting your work out in to the world, that is going to be a part of the process. And one of the things I always encourage budding writers to do is to begin to think of putting their work out in to the world. Whether it’s submitting to journals, or contests, or beginning the process of starting to query longer works that they wish to publish. But before you get to that point, once you get past the ‘just write’, once you get past the ‘let it breathe’, is beginning to dig in to the work and refine it, and begin to put it out in to the world.”
“One of the things that you grow up hearing in the Caribbean is girls shouldn’t climb trees because they going blight the tree, meaning that the tree not goin’ grow or not goin’ bear, so I wanted to put a girl in a tree; we need to break those sort of stereotypes. One of the magical things about children’s picture books is that they are what begins that process of socializing children in to who they are and who other people are.” – presentation by Joanne C. Hillhouse at Write the Vision’s Aspiring Authors and Writers Virtual Literary Event
“Even the idea of taking on an internship as a writer, because he’s an aspiring writer, is a luxury…you have to be able to support yourself in order to do an internship that can help you figure out this writing thing sometimes; so all of the things you need to feed the life that will allow you to do the creative thing is sometimes the biggest challenge.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse on taking on her first personal intern; just one of the things discussed in this conversation with Diaspora Kids Lit
Joanne C. Hillhousein conversation with Andy Caul of ACalabash: “To write those kids in Musical Youth, I reached back to my own teen-hood when I had my group of friends and I used to play the guitar. I used to go to guitar lessons, to play guitar in the choir. We went to fetes, Carnival, talent shows, walk-a-thons, the beach, we walked from school together. We had our clique. We had shared experiences. And I know in the reviews, they particularly commented on the Black joy in Musical Youth. And I appreciated that because that, in a way, was a joyful existence. The thing that people misunderstand about Caribbean life and Caribbean people is that while it can be very hard, marked by poverty and other things, it’s not just that. It is just life. It is love and laughter and we have some of the most inappropriate sense of humor when it comes to some of the darkness and the things that we joke about and the things that we find funny. So, yes, there’s poverty. Yes, there is political victimization. Yes, there is all the narratives but there’s also friendship, laughter, fun, music and all that stuff. I did not feel like I was writing against anything. It felt like I was just writing what was true.” (2021)
“I wanted her to be blacker, I wanted her to be on the dark-skinned side of the spectrum and I wanted her to be natural, have natural (hair) …because part of it for me …in the world of children’s picture books we don’t see enough people at the darker end of the spectrum, especially as characters that children can feel affection for and love and recognize themselves in.”
–Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Trinidad writer-artist Danielle Boodoo Fortune in a World Book Day chat (2021) that involved audience questions.
– March 12th 2021 – Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing Wadadli Pen on the ABS TV morning show.
“The Boy from Willow Bend is by any measure growing up in abject poverty and in an abusive situation, and yet there is laughter and yet there is love and yet there is hope and yet there is dreaming and fancifulness because that is life. Life is not just one thing. It’s a myriad of things, and so that’s what I try to capture of this young boy coming of age in Antigua in this particular time.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse is the first National Public Library Author of the Month in January 2021
“For me they were people first and, of course, I had to research just how the world of the underwater would move, what I would need to know about arctic seals, what I would need to know about jellyfish, what I would need to know about sea turtles. So there was a lot of research in that regard. But in terms of the voices of the characters, they were children. They wanted to play and explore the ship, and, of course, Dolphin the Arctic Seal wants to get back home so he can tell his own adventuring grandmother about his own Caribbean sea adventure.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse in 2020 self-made video on her own platform but with audience submitted questions for the #Catapultartsgrant (specifically a Catapult Caribbean Creative Arts Online grant). She answered questions submitted via social media about story, craft, theme in Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and all her books
“Songs are universal and you don’t even have to know the lyrics sometimes to feel it.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing Musical Youth with gender advocacy group Intersect (2020)
“The first storytellers I knew were the calypso writers the Shelly Tobitts of the world,these were the people that taught me how to tell a story and how to tell Antiguan stories in particular.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse, ABS TV (2020)
“With writing, the story is there sometimes in the accumulated experiences, observations, and questions of your life. I had been a guitar student like the main character, I had done musical theatre and musical stuff with my crew as a teen, I had had my experiences of coming of age and colorism; it was all there, waiting to be pulled.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse 2019 interview with Ravishly
Joanne C. Hillhouse Emma the Little Bookworm blog interview. 2019: “I was interested in the dynamic between the sisters – sisters who are very different, and in the way, in a relationship, two people are experiencing the same moments in very different ways. So it was definitely character driven but I don’t think of it as writing the book to accommodate the characters or vice versa, so much as my discovery about my characters shaping the plot in the most natural of ways – I tried not to get in the way of that. In a way it became as much a conversation between them (Michael and Selena) as between my characters and me, as the story moved forward, chapter to chapter, with alternating character points of view on the evolving relationship.”
Joanne C. HillhouseLinda’s Bookbag interview, 2019: “Selena felt a strange kinship with his mother, this woman she’d never met.”
Joanne C. Hillhouse interview on Caribbean Literary Heritage (June 2018): “Honestly, the first thing that flashed in to my mind is Antiguan and Barbudan calypso and Paul Keens Douglas – especially Tanty and Slim at the Oval – on the radio. Neither of which qualify as reading but which were foundational to my introduction to Caribbean literature. It’s there in Antigua and Barbuda’s King Obstinate’s Wet You Hand – a song which was fun and funny to me as a children and which I’ve used as an example of scene building and character description in my workshops, or in the way he knits the story of Anansi stealing the birds’ feathers into another of his songs – songs that did what Calypso did which was be bold-faced and satirical and reflective of our lives and our truth (especially the truths we didn’t dare speak) while bearing our unique brand of humour and matter of factness about life’s tragedies. It’s there in the writings of Shelly Tobitt – named for Romantic era poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; though I wouldn’t see the connection until college. A romantic idealist in his own right, or so his lyrics would suggest, as a child Shelly, the calypso writer and frequent collaborator of Antigua and Barbuda’s best calypsonian and inarguably one of the best the region has ever produced the Monarch King Short Shirt (who Dorbrene O’Marde writes about in his Bocas longlisted biography Nobody Go Run Me), was to me a poet who used the frustrations of the people to comment on economic, social, and political issues in a way that was deeply and enduringly philosophical, with melodies that captivated. So, the calypsonians and the oral tradition (including the jumbie stories) would have been my first reading of Caribbean writing.” Full interview.
“When Heather was culture director…I remember her starting a national collection where she commissioned pieces featuring Antiguan and Barbudan icons…what has become of that? What has been the continuity with respect to that national collection?… things like that, like you can have someone with a good idea start something… but there was no continuity, so if there’s no continuity it’s like you’re starting from scratch every time someone gets fired up and passionate about something so that’s the whole point…if you have that continuity then this person’s efforts will connect with that person’s efforts and we’ll have progression instead of starting from scratch every time…one of the things I do on the Wadadli Pen website is I have a project where I record the books that are put out and the plays and the songs that are put out by Antiguan and Barbudan creatives and there’s no shortage of stuff in the last 10 or so years, there’s a lot of people just feeling inspired and doing their own thing… there is stuff happening independently by artistes who feel inspired and creative but not by any system that’s giving them foundation or supporting their efforts.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Heather Doram, Dorbrene O’Marde, and Barbara Arrindell on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on Observer AM (November 2017)
Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to The Culture Trip (July 2017): “in The Boy from Willow Bend, Vere’s mother leaves Antigua for better economic and personal opportunities in the U.S., and Vere himself leaves at the end; in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Selena and her sisters move to Antigua from the Dominican Republic for better opportunities, and at some point one of the sisters moves away from there as well; in the story, ‘The Other Daughter’, the title character moves to the US for educational purposes. I don’t know if it holds significance to me (there are many stories in which people don’t leave) so much as being a reflection of the reality that movement is a part of the Caribbean existence—whether it’s to seek higher education, economic opportunities, or a different kind of life—the Caribbean diaspora (i.e. the number of Caribbean people no longer resident in here or in the Caribbean country of their birth) is significant. We are a region of small islands with intelligent and talented people, sometimes the desired opportunities to recognize our full potential or even the cover needed to brave the economic storms stirred up in bigger places isn’t there. So, it’s just a reflection of the reality, I think (but just one part of the reality that I write).” Full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse in the Meet the Writer series at Grab Life by the Lapels: “I just enjoy experimenting within the story writing form, short and long. Much of what I write is character driven and distinctively Caribbean with (I like to believe) universal resonance – because I do believe the stories that are about the human condition can cross over without having to be diluted.” Full interview. 2016.
Joanne C. Hillhouse in Books, Inc’s Hamlet Hub (2015) – in response to “what’s the last great book you read?” – “I’m going to name two – Kei Miller’s Writing Down the Vision, which is non-fiction and Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow, which is fiction. I blog the reasons why here, but what it comes down to is writing that transports me from physical reality while grounding me in certain truths, truth being relative of course, and writing that just moves me, you know.”
Joanne C. Hillhouse on ABS TV (2015) – “The idea is that cost should not be a barrier to you being able to participate in something that could help you find your voice and express yourself” – re Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project
Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with book blogger Geosi Gyasi (2015): “I don’t think about it like that. I just tell the story. Sometimes the protagonist is a child, sometimes a teen, sometimes an adult, sometimes an old person, sometimes a jelly fish named Coral. The writing is always character first, not audience. During the editing process that’s when I’m challenged, often by the assigned editor, to think about things like can the target age group for this picture book understand abstract thinking, do I maybe need to be more literal, more detailed, more specific, provide clearer resolution, like that.” Read the full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse interviewed by Wandering Educators (2015): “Musical Youth is, as the name suggests, the story of young people who are exceptionally musical. Throughout the course of the novel, the course of one summer really, we see them coming together through music and being transformed by it. It is the story of Zahara, a girl and her guitar, and Shaka, a boy and his moves, it’s about the families we have and the families we make, and the potential that exists inside of us, if only…”
Joanne C. Hillhouse on Popreel, Swedish TV (2015): “The characters come to me; they don’t always reveal their stories fully, so for me writing is a journey of discovery. I can’t always see where it’s going but I’m kind of wandering my way through it and trying to figure out what is it all about.” Interview starts here at 8:50.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t know any writers from here, from Antigua, until I discovered Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid; the writers from here that I knew, and I have great respect for them, were the calypso writers, people like Shelly Tobitt and Marcus Christopher, because when I was coming up, calypso was the literature that I would hear that had some relevance to my community, the other literature that we read was mostly from America or from Britain. So it was a while before I could wrap my mind around this idea that this was what I was called to do.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse (2015) on Bookworm, Swedish radio
Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to M. J. Fievre at the Whimsical Project (November 21st 2014): “Calypso, the calypso at that time, sang the things people were afraid to say and reflected the concerns and reality of the folk, authentically, in their voice, in a way that stirred spirits. I think there’s a part of me that strives for that in my writing.” Full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse British Council interview (2014): “I think the dialogue in most of my work as written is important if I want the reader to hear it, to truly hear the character’s voice. The acceptance and the use of our mother tongue is still a struggle in the Caribbean where we’ve been colonized into this idea where it’s nothing more than bad English. Thankfully that way of thinking is changing, albeit slowly…but for me it’s never been a case of bad English, not when you’re talking about a language with a vocabulary and rules and history all its own, born out of a fusion of cultures, like so much else that makes us Caribbean.” Full interview reposted to Repeating Islands.
Joanne C. Hillhouse in Bookends in Jamaica Observer (June 29th 2014): “I’m not a genre. I know publishing likes to pigeonhole but I just write.” bookendsjune29
Joanne C. Hillhousein Tastes like Home (March 12th 2014): “when I wanted to include a kitchen scene in my book, Oh Gad! I went straight to Pepperpot. It’s my favourite dish and since I only eat my mother’s Pepperpot I really identify it with my mother and got her to explain the making of it to me for incorporation in the book, which is unusual in itself since she’s the typical: if you want to learn come-and-put-hand type of Caribbean cook.”
Joanne C. Hillhousetalks to the Frugal Feminista (2013): “I didn’t write with the children’s market in mind at all; I just told the story and because the first novella was a coming of age story, it was a natural fit for that market. But what it taught me is that sometimes you get pigeonholed by what you’ve done or how what you’ve done is defined by others and not by the full scope of what you can do and do do.”
Joanne C. Hillhouse on phd in creative writing blog (2012): “I’ll mention three. Jamaica Kincaid because like me she’s an Antiguan writer and because after reading Annie John, I knew that I had a lot of work to do but becoming a writer wasn’t as improbable as it seemed. Edwidge Dandicat whose writing I admired and whose geographic landscape (she was also from the Caribbean and only a few years older than me) made me see possibilities. Zora Neale Hurston because I like both her writing and her spirit and, like her, I’m committed to rendering my world in its full-bodied authentic self.”
Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing Oh Gad! in Your Style magazine (2012): “It’s about sisters, and identity, loss and recovery, love and betrayal, politics and belongings – I suppose all the things that are on my mind.”
Joanne C. HillhouseOh Gad! launch in New York (2012): “I try to give a great sense of atmosphere, and just to make it come alive for the reader so they can see it and feel it and smell it and touch it so that whatever it is, you can connect with it. That’s what I try to do because that’s how I think I interact with the world. I always have a notebook with me, and things strike me; it might be the way the sun feels on your skin or the way the colours are bleeding across the sky at sunset, whatever it is, it’s a moment and you can use that moment at some other point in your writing and so I tend to capture it. I steal moments.”
Joanne C. Hillhouse in Caribbean Book Blog (2012): ” It’s a part of what I try to capture in my books from reminiscing on chasing butterflies during the summer in my first book The Boy from Willow Bend to ‘borrowing’ my mother’s pepperpot recipe for an epic pre-picnic cook-down in Oh Gad!”
Joanne C. Hillhouse on Mindy Hardwick’s Blog (2012): “It’s reciprocal; you give and you get. A recentish example…I remember feeling a big grin form on my face and a big whoop storm up within me on receiving in the email a poem written by a girl I used to read to/with when she was much younger, at the Cushion Club, a kids reading club with which I’ve volunteered for several years. I didn’t even know she wrote until then; and I remember feeling so proud and doing with her what others have done with me, offering frank assessment and encouragement. But that’s just one example of how delightful it is to see them grow into themselves. I know I’m such a small part of their world but whenever I come across the kids whom I’ve had the opportunity to interact with through the Cushion Club, Wadadli Pen, the Great Young Minds art camp, or some other workshop activity, or even personal interaction and see them doing their thing, sometimes I can’t help feeling like a proud mama – or big sister.”
Joanne C. Hillhousein conversation with Danielle Boodoo-Fortune (2011): “I can’t think of any specific elemental metaphors that re-occur. But I do find that I tend to write the working class experience (because that’s where I’m coming from), and some version of my tanty who died when I was a child sneaks in more often than I realize, and that while most of my stories are set in Antigua there’s often some reference to Dominica, where my mother is from but which I’ve only visited twice. And I suppose I play with the senses a lot; light and shadow, sounds – whether it’s birdsong or music (yes, a lot of music); the taste and smells of our environment – from the fruits the pit latrine and, yes, water. It’s such a rich environment; I suppose when I write I instinctively want the reader to taste it and smell it and really see it – how nuanced and interesting it is. I believe in detail.”
Fiction. It challenges me and I fall in love with the characters and enjoy discovering the story. Poetry, because it’s my outlet; it’s not always about publishing, often it’s just about getting it out. This is the medium I use for that type of writing more than any other…for me, the most accessible, I guess. Though it is it’s own kind of challenge (technically). But I like all forms for different reasons.
Joanne C. Hillhouse interviewed on Caribbean Literary Salon (2010): “In the end, though, it all comes back to the writing. And that’s why I say write, not for anyone else, not to publish – all of that will come or not – but because you have to; because you love it.”
Emile Hill participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Mark Brown, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): ‘Ok so I’m a bit of a texter (cell phone, social media etc.) and on more than one occasion I’ve found myself engaged in several conversations, all completely different subject matter and all requiring a different “Emile” to deal with each of them. And I think, in this day and age, this happens to most persons at some point in time. The series I’m working on presently deals with the “multi-sidedness” of human interaction and relationships. It’s caused me to ask myself some questions, looking at whether this is a means of masking the true self and why? Is Survival a reason? What makes us accommodate each other so, switching faces? Is the face we see real, fake (and sometimes, does it even matter)? With regards to the Antiguan and Barbudan aesthetic, I think that every artist’s contribution is one that continues to make up the grand tapestry of who we are and so I think it fits simply as a local artist’s perspective on things… another thread in the tapestry.’ Read in Full.
“There’s a piece that I did that I call ‘8-8-21’ that I wrote after teargas Sunday last year. I call it ‘Freedom 8-8-21’…it starts by saying, I think, ‘Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. When the youth are protest ready, they become revolutionary’. And it goes on from there and it just kind of encapsulates the entire Sunday, everything that happened that Sunday. Because I happened to be there. That was my personal experience. I was caught up in it. I was gassed as well… that piece means a lot to me not only because it was my experience but also it’s history, it’s chronicling what happened that day.” – Dotsie Isaac, in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE
“No it was not difficult getting started because I was always writing” – D. Gisele Isaac on ABS TV. 2020. Full interview below.
Foster Joseph, jazz vocalist and musician, in conversation in 2021 with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE –
Clifton Joseph in Never Apart: ‘…the first person to really encourage me into the writing/performing arts was an older man in my village of New Winthropes in Antigua, Mr. Murray, probably, visually, the most black, blackest person in “Blizzard” as we called our home on the northern coast of the island. I think I was around ten years old and in addition to singing the Antiguan calypso songs we heard on the radio, Mr. Murray would actually pay me a penny, or sometimes two-pence (we were still using the British colonial currency at the time) to make up my own “calypso” verses. The only snippet I remember from then are three lines: “in January they called me clinky, then in February they start to call me sebassie, and in June they start to call my cousin boone”…I have to give Mr. Murray maximum props for sparking that early interest in writing and performing.’ Full interview.
Clifton Joseph talking with Ian Ferrier (2007): “Hip Hop, Dub Poetry, Dancehall, Reggae all sort of come out of the same African inspired, Caribbean, American, emphasis on words, rhythm, repetition; all of those things pull from the same pool of stylistic influences.”
Tameka Jarvis-George interviewed about her comic series August by Jump magazine: “I wrote to escape everything I didn’t like and anything that made me uncomfortable. I love my fictitious world.” Full interview. 2018.
Naomi Jackson, a New Yorker of Antiguan and Barbadian descent, author of critically acclaimed novel The Star Side of Bird Hill, in conversation with Writing Home: American Voices from the Caribbean –
“The Caribbean was both this place of joy and possible exile.” Listen here.
Shabier Kirchner‘s Love Letter to Antigua, an interview with Penelope Bartlett on Criterion Collection: “We are very proud people and yet we are so underrepresented on-screen by ourselves. I think Ousmane Sembène said it best: If we continue consuming images solely from abroad, and telling the stories of other people or absorbing others’ perspective of us, we will eventually lose our identity—and I truly believe that. The Caribbean is my home. Our people are the most interesting to me, and I just want to share the truth of who we are through local eyes.” Full interview. 2020.
Shabier Kirchner talking to Caribbean Beat magazine about his film Dadli: “While I was shooting this test footage, there was no agenda. I wasn’t looking for a main character. We weren’t recording sound, so there weren’t any interviews. I was just walking around shooting things that were interesting. It wasn’t until many months later that we realised there was this boy who kept appearing in the footage. So Tiquan became the force behind the narrative. After we had an idea of what we wanted the film to be, we tracked him down and interviewed him.” Full interview. 2019.
“(Shabier) Kirchner: That’s Antigua’s old sugar factory. It’s been abandoned for many years; I used to go there as a kid. It was like Tarkovsky’s Stalker. You could completely lose yourself there, let the imagination would run wild. I always loved that place. Visually, I’ve been shooting it for years, and I knew I had to shoot it on 16. It’s a coincidence that Tiquan was talking about running away from home and finding a place where he could just let loose. It wasn’t that specific place for him, but I’m assuming it was similar. What he described was what the sugar factory was for me.” Full interview. 2018.
“I suppose that my work is always mourning something, the loss of a paradise—not the thing that comes after you die, but the thing that you had before. I often think of the time before my brothers were born—and this might sound very childish, but I don’t care—as this paradise of my mother and me always being together. There were times when my mother and I would go swimming and she would disappear for a second, and I would imagine the depths just rolling over her, that she’d go deeper and deeper and I’d never see her again . . . And then she would pop up somewhere else. Those memories are a constant source of some strange pleasure for me.” – Jamaica Kincaid conversation in the Paris Review, 2022
“Writing, it seems to me, depends primarily on a kind of chaos [so] that categorisation . . . only hinders the reader and the writer,” says Kincaid, explaining that she prefers to think in terms of “different forms” because “when I started to write, I just wrote”. – Jamaica Kincaid, from interview in the Financial Times, 2022
Jamaica Kincaid talking with the BBC (in an interview which also included Jacob Ross and Claire Adam, 2018): “I didn’t know I wanted to tell stories. I knew I wanted to write and I thought I wanted to write about my mother and me, and a lot of my writing is about mother and daughter. But really I could early on see before any critic, I may have pointed it out to critics, that I was really writing about imbalance of power. And the mother country and the domestic mother is quite intertwined. If you really give a cursory and then thoroughly investigation into colonialism, you will see how much the colonial world has to do with the domestic and the domestic is almost always the female domain.” Full programme.
Jamaica Kincaid talking with Mother Jones (January/February 2013): ‘I think I was trying to understand how, short of an accident—you know, you pick up the phone, he says, “Your mother is dead. Her car. The Earth fell”—I never expected the everyday to suddenly become an accident. Suddenly you go downstairs and the pine floor is a gravel pit. I was trying to understand how the everyday suddenly becomes the unexpected.’ Full interview.
Natasha Lightfoot talking with Renee Goldthree for Black Perspectives (April 4th 2016): “In the UWI archives, there was an almanac for the West Indies in the nineteenth century, and it contained an entry in the year 1858 for Antigua. The entry mentioned that there had been a riot and that the island’s jails were completely full, but it also claimed that the riot was nothing of any political significance. The entry suggested that the rioters were basically rabble in the streets causing trouble—and not at all political. That entry raised my antenna so to speak. I thought that the way the entry was written was a sign that whatever had occurred was very political: there had been a riot in the streets for several days and the jails were full of rioters. I wanted to figure out what happened and why.” Full interview.
Joy Lawrence in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for Wadadli Pen (2013): “The history books we are familiar with are usually written from the European or American perspective. I want people to understand our story from our perspective – how we feel, our likes and dislikes, our goals and aspirations. No outsider can tell our story the way we can.” Full interview.
Joy Lapps talking with Joanne C. Hillhouse (December 2nd 2012): “I think that my strengths lie in composition and writing lyrics for music composed by others and by myself. My inspiration comes from my lived experience and some things I read about or see on the news, my spirituality and love of God, falling in love with my husband, the everyday challenges of life…etc.” Full interview.
“That’s the direction I want to go with my writing, where I want it to be a small Caribbean island, I want it to be genre fiction, category romance, in the Caribbean, because sometimes those are the books you want to read, you know, you don’t want to be thinking of the heavier literary fiction or whatever – sometimes you just want ice-cream.”
– Kimolisa Mings, CREATIVE SPACE interview, February 2023
“I was the representative for the Clare Hall Secondary school, my alma mater… I fell on stage…the crowd’s reaction was a mixture of *gasps* and laughs, and at that point I had to make a decision, ‘hey, you go continue or you go stop.’ Cause you can either be poor thing and people laugh at you for the rest of your life or you can act the shit out of this and make it worth it. And I stayed on that floor and I continued my entire performance from the floor. The next day, I was the front page article: If at first you don’t succeed, you try and try again . The next year, I was the billboard for the website. I had my own billboard on the road…which is something that is not normally given to an unplaced contestant…that experience that you would think would have deterred me or broken me down in some kind of way was something that opened a whole big spectrum to me as a person in terms of confidence and being able to think on your feet, you know, ‘you need to get this done, wha you go do.'” – Kevon Moitt, designer
(the self-produced documentary series was released in 2021)
Jelani ‘J-Wyze’ Nias, author of Where Eagles Crawl and Men Fly, talking about following his path to publication: “The biggest wall I encountered, not that there weren’t others, but the biggest was my own fear. And once you get through that fear/feeling of will people understand this, will people accept this, are people gonna see my vision, once you go through that then everything else tends to be a lot more easy to deal with.” – Watch the video.
Dorbrene O’Marde about writing Nobody Go Run Me about King Short Shirt (2022):
Noting that he had written the first chapter five years before beginning the book – “Writing is interesting in that sense…you start, you put it down, and sometimes you just don’t get back to it for a long long time unless something prods you, and it was this celebration of the 50th anniversary, that says ‘wow, I have written this thing here’.”
Dorbrene O’Marde in conversation with Heather Doram, Joanne C. Hillhouse, and Barbara Arindell on Observer radio’s BigIssues (2017): “We’re definitely not doing enough…you talk to groups today and mention Tim Hector …in schools, the name is not know; what he does has not been heralded…my interactions with young people…points to this particular void…history clearly is the subject of interest here, that we know who we are…the decisions about where we’re going will be made on the basis of that knowledge…if you understand the history of how we came to own these lands…then we wouldn’t behave the way we’re behaving, for example, with our land…” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Dorbrene O’Marde talking with Judd Batchelor at Batchelor of Arts Theatre Online (2016): “And one of the comments I made -which seemed to rattle some of the young writers, was the total absence of socio political concerns in this region, at this particular point in time when there is so much need for concern and there is so much need for understanding the post-colonial independence bind that we find ourselves in, that our leaders find themselves in that we as persons trying to inform leadership have not really clarified for ourselves. And my view of the role of the artist is to help in that clarification.” Full interview.
Dylan Phillips interview with Observer after his appearance on the media group’s Big Issues radio programme to discuss Art Week in April 2023: “In secondary school I was introduced to the Japanese comic genre of manga and that piqued my interests in art. I would draw my own little comics in the back of my books. I found comfort in it. I took art from forms one to two. Academically I wasn’t the best, so when it came time to choose my subjects for third form, the school decided to allocate subjects they thought I would have a chance of passing. Art wasn’t one of them. But I picked it up again when I entered form five, hoping to attempt it for CXC, but I wasn’t advanced enough so was not allowed to continue…Art is seen as a lesser occupation. If we can change the perception of art, I think that would be a good starting point. If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will always seem like a fool and sadly the school system here forces fish to climb trees. Our curriculum needs to be updated with the artistically inclined in mind, and there needs to be an avenue where a young aspiring artist can see a path leading to an economic future in this field.””
Althea Prince talks about her research and her writing with A Different Booklist bookstore in Canada: “We need to hear from women about their experiences, their creative journeys, so The Black Notes brought together older and younger women. The contributors include some young girls who are just reaching the age of maturity. The book seeks to bring together the two generations. We have then the viewpoint – not a complete cross-section of those, but as far as I was able – of those women and girls from the African-Canadian community. So the same objectives: the same business of giving equity, giving voice, allowing space for these voices to express their creativity. Some of it is non-fiction, some of it is fiction and some of it is poetry.”
Rowan Ricardo Philips talking with Deadspin about his tennis themed book The Circuit: a Tennis Odyssey: “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.” 2019.
Rupert Littleman Pelle, final interview, with the Cultural Development Division Research Department (2021): “I never believe I write a good song until I hear somebody criticize it. If I write a song and we can’t sit down in a group and discuss the song, and add and subtract, something wrong with the song, something definitely have to wrong with the song. And you can’t just change a line in a song like that. You write a song and somebody take it and they change a line can destroy the whole song. Because you na know what is leading up to the second verse or the third verse that have to do with the line in the first verse that you interfere with.”
Paul ‘King Obstinate’ Richards: “We’re prophets; a lot of things we write about comes true.” (King Obstinate on calypso, September 2013)
“…my little house is my own piece of paradise and it’s very conducive to creativity because it’s so peaceful and quiet. Singles’ Holiday and Sweet Lady are set on the island, and I’ve also developed a writing career over there. I wrote a TV series called Paradise View, which was shown on Antigua TV. When I last left the island, the people at the check-in desk were asking when they would get to see more. I’m now working on another show called Maisie and Em, which I describe as Golden Girls set in the Caribbean.” – UK writer Elaine Spires who made Antigua a home away from home speaking to Write’s Editing Services on the impact of island living on her writing
“They were great times – with the most amazing, talented, creative, strong, wonderful women. Their writing and innovative theatre pieces were daring and searingly truthful and just blew me away. I was honoured to be asked by Zahra Airall one of the founder members of Women of Antigua to write a piece for their show When A Woman Moans. I wrote the first Maisie and Em sketch which I performed as Em with my great pal Heather Doram taking the role of Maisie. Heather is an internationally famous artist and actress who has since become a TV host. The sketch brought the house down which was rewarding and humbling and so I was invited to write for them again the following year. It was a thrill and honour to be a part of it.” – Elaine Spiresspeaking with The Publish Hub
“One of our goals was to have the Cultural Division of Government fully support this organization and work alongside us and our artists. A fraction of that goal has been achieved as the Festivals Division recently came on board to sponsor our signature event, The Ink Project.” – Spilling Ink, for CREATIVE SPACE. 2020.
“When I was growing up as a boy, they had great man like Quarkoo. He was good but he was not really my influence, so to say, to bring me to this point; but quarkoo was a genius in his days. I can recall he would sing on the latest murder. Anything happen, in a matter of an hour he on the street with a piece of paper selling it and making it very popular.” – Short Shirt, The Making of the Monarch
“What I’d like to see really is, to be honest, is not just for Halcyon but steelband in general, especially at Carnival time apart from panorama, the bands, they not that important. …You know before time steelband used to dominate the road and be an integral part of the whole Carnival thing. Now apart from panorama, after panorama, nobody waan here no pan again. …steelband will have to move to a next level, they will have to amplify the bands an’ dem.” – George ‘Scenty’ Thomas, former captain of Halcyon Steel Orchestra, on the occasion of the Grays Green band’s 50th anniversary, 2021
Amber Williams-King talking to the Toronto Arts Foundation: “The reality is that the voices, experiences and identities of those who are not a part of the dominant culture are often erased and disappeared away. As a Black femme who grapples with suicidal ideation, disability and the medical industrial complex, imagining myself in the future has, at times, been almost impossible. Art offered me the space to name these parts of myself, connect with others, and help build a world that does not thrive on the absolute destruction of me and my people.”
“You send the draft to the editor and you sit nervously for the next two weeks or how ever long …waiting for that email or that call…then you take the feedback, you kind of sit with it for a while, you think about it, then you try to work on another draft. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you won’t agree…it should be a conversation…it’s a dance back and forth that you have to be patient with, and, once again, give it some space, read the review, and give it some space before you go and work on the redraft.”
PHOTO credits: Pictures of Joanne C. Hillhouse and Joy Lapps are from the 2011 event Telling our Stories at the University of Toronto – event photo; of Tameka Jarvis George is from the 2006 Wadadli Pen/Museum literary showcase Word Up! – event photo/Laura Hall; of Jamaica Kincaid is from the 2014 University of the Virgin Islands literary festival – event photo; of Jelani Nias is a screen grab from a televised interview; of Nicoya Henry – event photo (credit unknown). Barbara Arrindell, Foster Joseph, Sonalli Andrews, and Floree Williams-Whyte video links are to Joanne C. Hillhouse’s CREATIVE SPACE vlog. Video links also pulled from ABS TV, Words Aloud, the Dan David Prize, Novek Designs, edwin1030, Petra the Spectator – this is believed to be within the realm of fair use – no copyright infringement is intended. Some of my own appearances on platforms by Write the Vision, Diaspora Kids Lit, Badass Black Girl, ABS TV, National Public Library, Intersect Antigua, and some videos produced for my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel are also included.
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, Fish Outta Water, 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.
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 artists by rippling the water together. For earlier iterations of the Reading Room and Gallery, go back to XVlll and follow the links for the previous ones from there. 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.
“The best career advice I can give is to stay flexible: When I was in grad school and teaching comp and freelancing—copyediting—I wrote my first book review for the Los Angeles Times.” – Carolyn Kellogg
“Don’t worry about failing. There’s a great video where Ira Glass explains that when you start in a new field, your work won’t be as good as your taste. It will take years for your taste and the quality of your work to intersect. (If ever!) Failure is essential. There’s no substitute for it. It’s not just encouraged but required.” – Mike Birbiglia’s Six Tips for making it Small in Hollywood. or Anywhere
“I quit my job, bought a one-way flight to Italy, and moved into a four-room farmhouse overlooking a valley. The Umbrian sun was as profound as it was supposed to be in pastoral Italy (after you quit your job, etc.). The valley was a patchwork quilt of olive grove and sunflower field; the row crops were bordered by copses of downy and turkey oak, as run through with pheasant and boar and stag, and, when seasonally appropriate, hunter. There was even an old paisano, Otello, who showed up now and again to instruct me on how to tend a newly-planted orchard of olive saplings. He spoke no English. I spoke no Italian. Va bene. Perfetto.” – Odie Lindsey, on becoming a writer…and a cliché
“Inspired by Anne Frank, she kept a diary, which her parents discovered and read aloud before other members of the family, an experience that deeply traumatized her and kept her from writing for decades. The incident provided the starting point for the title story of the collection ‘Bodies of Water’ (1990).” – on the passing of Michelle Cliff
“Henry’s shoes were on his team, and they weren’t leaving him anytime soon.” – from Tonya Liburd’s Shoe Man
‘The next morning, Naga complained to her mother, “De man beat me and tear me up last night.”
“Yuh go have tuh get used to that. Yuh is a woman now,” her mother said, handing her a cup of hardi tea. “Drink this, yuh go feel better.”’ – “Naga” by Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming
“It got me in a lot of trouble, that wanting to fit in…and so when that light bulb went off in my head that I could do something artistic and get paid at it…I gravitated…I found something that one, held my attention, and two, didn’t feel like work.” – Michael K. Williams being interviewed by Charlie Rose
“I have mentioned that the novel was born out of deep nostalgia. If I was back at home, and I saw my siblings every day, the space for the depth of reflection that birthed the story would not have happened. Since the work we do is imaginative, there is much value in trusting the power of hindsight. If I sat across from you at a cafe and I was to describe that moment on the spot, I would write about the obvious things you did. But if I lie down in my bed later that night, and the light was off, and I closed my eyes, the fine-grain details will trickle in. I will remember the unobvious things, the person scratching their wrist, or hawking into a napkin—those fine details that enrich fiction. That is, it is then, when the person is gone and the meeting is ended and the day is forgotten that things become closer, clearer.” – Chigozi Obioma
“If most days are not filled with writing, they are filled with the thought of writing – the fixing of a sentence I haven’t even written yet, testing it on my tongue, trying to figure out its pauses or its cadence, or else the chasing of some strange idea, the way I imagine Jamaican maroons would have once chased wild hogs through the thicket. And always I want to grab hold of this idea, to wring its neck then flop it down on the table like some mad surgeon, as if to determine how many poems or stories or essays can be removed from its guts. I have a bad knee though, and seem to chase elusive and slippery things. Most days I do not grab hold of anything. Most days they slip away, grunting happily in the undergrowth. I go to bed most nights, disappointed, but I say to the sound in the bushes just beyond me, tomorrow! Tomorrow I will catch you.” – Kei Miller. Read the full Guardian interview.
“Once you’ve chosen a setting, be specific about its nature. Your setting should never seem vague or half-imagined. Some writers will draw landscape maps. Some will create a layout for the house in which their characters live. If your story takes place outdoors, be aware of the terrain, the season of the year, the foliage, the weather, the color and texture of the sky. If your story takes place indoors, be aware of the architecture, the kind of furniture, the feel of the room (stuffy, open, cozy, cluttered), the amount and quality of light, the smell of the air. This does not mean you must describe all these elements in detail, but the more aware you are of your setting, the more you will be able to capture it and integrate it into the story.” – Abby Geni
“I wanted to write about the life of children and the lives of their parents without everyone thinking it was about me and my children and their life,” she said. “And of course, everyone thinks it is. It is not. I maintain it is not.” – Jamaica Kincaid speaking about See Now Then
“But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that only Romeo & Juliet would work. Middle grade readers know this play even if they haven’t read it or seen it performed; it’s embedded in our culture. My plan was to use the play as much as possible, plotting Star-Crossed on a track parallel to Shakespeare’s play: The Capulets and the Montagues became rival school cliques. Willow (Tybalt) throws a Halloween party but doesn’t invite Mattie, who sneaks in, disguised as Darth Vader. That’s where she meets and flirts with Gemma, who assumes that underneath the costume, Mattie is a boy. And so on.” – Barbara Dee
“Now that I’ve read through my manuscript a few times I’m starting to notice some little things that I never necessarily thought about during my first (or second or third) pass. I’m going through and carefully adding more layers to all of the characters so that they talk and feel like real people – complicated and varied the way we all know real people to be. During this process I can’t help but notice what may or may not be a big issue: I never described what my main character looked like.” – from Caitlyn Levin’s post ‘How do I look?’ at She Writes. In it, Caitlyn Levin notes that only at her third or fourth pass through her finished novel length manuscript did she realize she’d not described what the main character looks like. But does it matter, she asked. It’s a worthwhile read if you’re wondering how much or too little to reveal of character. Good insights in the comments section as well. Below, I’ll share excerpts from the ones I found most interesting (and perhaps most helpful to us all here at Wadadli Pen):
“If you choose not to describe your character, do make sure that’s an aesthetic choice used to maximum effect. For example, Dickens’s narrator in ‘Bleak House’ is so unreliable that we never realize she is beautiful until the final chapter, a ‘minor’ detail that sends us reimagining the entire book and feeling even greater empathy for our heroine…You might think of Dickens’s choice as setting the bar. If your reason is less compelling, less essential to the plot, consider going back through the manuscript to make one quick pass where you take an objective look at how much of your protagonist is truly on the page.” – ST
“I’m a visual person, so when I read a book, I flat out want to know what the character looks like. Our minds will always fill in the blanks, regardless. Tell me someone is blonde with blue eyes, and I will picture someone different than you. But at least it gives me enough to form a mental image to proceed. … She can twist a piece of her curly auburn hair around her finger, she can think of the size of her hips as she’s squeezing into a pair of jeans, someone can have an eye color just like hers.” – LGO
“Consider TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Scout doesn’t waste a word describing herself, but don’t we see her clear as day? She’s someone cantankerous tomboy we know from our past, the closest approximation in our lives, and that makes her personal to us. Neat trick, huh?”
This was my response:
“I think it comes down to what serves the story…what the character notices (or doesn’t notice) about herself and others says something about her. So I don’t have a problem with the author choosing to reveal or not reveal what a character looks like as long as it’s in harmony with the larger narrative. For instance, in my book Oh Gad!the main character’s struggles with her own place in things, her identity within her family is in part explored through the physical likeness and differences between her and other members of the family…that her mother largely exists in shadowed memory with a physicality that suggests an imposing persona is important to the narrative (and the understanding of that relationship) but what’s more important is her hands so that’s where the detail lies…that another characters’ peculiarities are illustrated often by his ‘strange’ physical appearance becomes important in the telling (as does her response to that ‘strangeness’)…in general, I tend to give something of the physicality because there’s usually a visual in my mind from which these characters are drawn but I give to the extent that it serves the story.
Bottom line, I do like detail that add texture to the world of the story (including the characters), but not if it gets in the way of the story. It’s a balance I’m still working to master.”
“A few weeks ago, I read a column by a young columnist in one of our newspapers. It was after The Olympics and we were just full up with gratitude to our athletes, and especially happy for our Usain Bolt. The writer said that he had read this book when he was in school about great sportsmen of the world, Mohammed Ali and Pele ( I think he mentioned those), and he wondered if he would ever see any greats like that again in the world, and here he was seeing our own Usain Bolt, as great an athlete as ever there was in the world. I was amazed.I wondered if he was referring to the Dr. Bird Series (he remembered the books arriving at his school in a box), provided by the Ministry of Education, and written by Peggy Campbell (of blessed memory), Karl Phillpotts and I.” – Diane Browne
“When I finished the novel I began to think about ways I could use the story with my fourth grade students.” – Patrick Andrus
The arts, culture, community – the issues, events, personalities surrounding these, I have learned, practiced and happen to believe have news value. The media gatekeepers don’t always agree; but that’s what blogs are for.
By Joanne C. Hillhouse
Musicians will shortly be able to register for training sessions organized by multi-panorama-winning arranger Khan Cordice. That’s only one of his summer projects during his break from studies toward his Masters in Music in the U.S.
“For this summer, apart from working with Hell’s Gate again, I’m hoping to hold two workshops,” Khan said. The first workshop will run from June 30th to July 4th. “This workshop is about harmony and improvisation,” he said. “It’s not just for pannists, (and) really not for beginners, though if beginners want to come, there’s something they can take away.” Ideally though, he’s targeting more experienced musicians and music students: “people who are about to write CXC and CXC students right up to the most advanced persons.” Cordice noted that the two hour sessions will not be merely theoretical but also practical. “It’s going to be intense but nothing that people can’t manage,” he said.
Cordice expounded a bit on the subject of improvisation saying, “it’s not spontaneous…I’m going to break down a lot of the myths…what’s spontaneous about improvisation is how well (you) put together all that (you’ve) practiced. It’s impossible for me to say a word I’ve never known. Music is a language; it has a vocabulary.” By the end of the workshop, he said, he expects people to have greater knowledge of the language and techniques, from chord substitutions to tension in harmony.
He also noted that he will be using four mallet techniques.
Another workshop will be held in late summer. The focus will be composing and arranging. This is right in Cordice’s wheelhouse as, though very young, he’s already claimed four panorama wins – 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 – as arranger with the oldest and winningest pan orchestra on the island, Hell’s Gate. He had an instinct for it as demonstrated by the fact that he won Moods of Pan on his first attempt, 2008, with the National Youth Pan Orchestra. Since then he’s won scholarships that have taken him to further studies first in the Caribbean and now in the U.S. More than instinct and technique though, he chalks up successful arranging to love: “it’s the same key for cooking, it’s the same key for writing,” he said, “love, passion. It’s possible to do a good arrangement and you have no connection, there’s no love, no passion, it’s text book arranging.” To win, though, he said, you have to mix the right ingredients with love. He underscores, as well, that winning is not necessarily the goal, or not the only goal, but to show yourself and the world what you are truly capable of. He takes great pride in the fact that at 69 Hell’s Gate is doing just that.
It’s worth noting that apart from being a proven pannist and composer, Cordice, who is just a semester shy of completing his Masters, also has a keen interest in music research and will, time allowing, do some of that this summer as well. He fears a lot has been lost through this lack of research and documentation, and recalled how trying it was to unearth information needed for his thesis on the history of steelband in Antigua, 1945 to present. “If we do leave it as it is, it’s going to be lost,” he said of the history. He hinted at a possible book project. This will not pull him away from what he loves most however, playing, composing, and passing it on. During his studies he’s taken up opportunities to travel and play and run workshops in other parts of the US and though he hopes to return home and teach, he plans to continue embracing all opportunities that come his way. “People want pan music, people want Antiguan music,” Cordice said.
He’s hoping, meanwhile, that Antiguans, too, want to learn more about their music. For the workshops, Cordice is hoping to attract at least 20, at most 30 participants. To register, or for more information, contact him at email@example.com or 725-6925; he said registration forms should be available by the end of the week.
As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.
Parham Primary Principal Anthony Hampson decided to have a mini-panorama at his school as a way of keeping children from scudding and disappearing to the beach in that time between the end of exams and the end of school. It worked. Each grade was well prepped and ready to represent by the time the actual event rolled around – July 4th. The prize, a cake, could have been gold or a trip to Disneyland for how excited they were, fired up as they were by the competition and hopefully by the music. They were playing nursery rhymes – Baabaa Black Sheep, Hickory Dickory Dock, This Old Man, Old McDonald had a farm, the Alphabet song – with the spunky young’uns from Grade 4 taking the cake. It almost doesn’t matter who won though. In fact, while the judges deliberated, the students lost themselves in a guest performance by Golden Sticks, a pan section from Hampson’s music academy Le Chateau d’Or, with cries of “another one!” until the emcee had to call a halt to the music so that we could get the results. The delay was long enough so that one parent who was running late was just in time for the results, though disappointed that she’d missed the performances. “They’re going to play again,” I whispered to her when it was revealed that her daughter’s class, Grade 4, was the winner. They did just that and she was able to catch a picture and the memory. So, between the children’s excitement, the pride of parents like her, and the organization of the event by the school, the outcome was secondary to the event and the flash of creative thinking that prompted the event. Kudos to all involved and to Mr. Hampson especially for his inventive approach to inspiring his students and keeping them at school. Now, if they could just get some quality pans as chief judge, a young pannist who already has multiple wins as composer and arranger at the national panorama to his credit, Khan Cordice recommended.
Is anybody listening?
Edited to add:I should mention that Khan’s recommendation was made to the zone’s education officer who earlier in the programme had said “music assists students in their academic development. …playing music helps you to learn.”
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, 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.