YouTube pushed this at me (because they know I enjoy Roy Wood Jr’s Beyond the Scenes segments).
This PEN America report about book bannings for banned books week showed up in my inbox. But what does book bannings in America have to do with me, more to the point what does it have to do with Wadadli Pen? After all, it’s not like I have Caribbean book ban numbers to share. In fact, a quick google (cause that’s all I had time for) turned up only a 2018 twitter thread by Rebel Women Lit about the time the former eduction minister and current PM of Jamaica launched a campaign to ban books containing bad words, books like late Belizean writer Zee Edgell’s classic Beka Lamb. The same thread mentioned bans in the 1960s against books related to socialism and Black power, books like Alex Haley’s Malcolm X biography and Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
Yes, book bannings can get ridiculous (let’s face it, they’re always ridiculous) but they also come at a cost – imprisonment, fines, law suits, and other financial and societal costs. Of course, the greatest cost is how it diminishes free thought and choice – underpinnings of democracy, and the opportunity books provide to expand your world.
Believe it or not, I actually have some personal experience with books of mine being challenged if not banned.
The Boy from Willow Bend was already on school reading lists when I was asked if I would consider cutting what was deemed to be sexual content – that request came through the publisher (from a school in another Caribbean country, not Anguilla) and, though grateful for the interest in my book, my answer was no. It’s a coming of age tale and as the main character moved from childhood to young adulthood feelings of attraction for the opposite sex and not quite knowing what to do with those feelings was a natural part of his journey. This character also experiences physical abuse and grief, loss and depression, poverty and abandonment etc. Ironically, the (admittedly off page but referenced) sexual abuse of a female character didn’t seem to raise any red flags. I was also once invited by the then language arts coordinator to the Ministry of Education here in Antigua to discuss some of the challenged content in the book. I remember being bemused (Jamaica Kincaid would never) at the whole scenario as she took me through the challenged areas underlined or circled in pencil. One challenge was for a bad word – the kind of bad words we said in conversation with each other as children and hoped no adult overheard or nobody told on us, and the other was for the same sexual feelings (but no actual sex) scene. In fairness, there is a physical reaction but I actually think you would have to know what’s happening to know what happened in that scene but maybe not; either way it’s a thing that happens. I couldn’t figure what I was expected to do. The book was several years published by then, nothing could be done to change that fact, and even if I could run a special censored version of the book, I wouldn’t. It was for them to decide to put (or in this case, keep it on the list) or not and I hope they would have vetted it before including it (its inclusion, again, meaning the world to me which is why I prepared this study guide). There is one other challenge-y thing, but it’s hearsay from a parent-teacher meeting where some parents allegedly objected to my book’s inclusion because of the use of the local vernacular. But, of course, that’s not all nor I hope the majority of parents.
I think literature and the arts provides opportunities for discovery and conversations, and in the controlled environment of a classroom an opportunity for context. In a world where young ones are exposed through their phones to more than we’ll ever know, having conversations about issues arising from reading a work of art together with the opportunity to guide said conversation seems a better option to me than the wild wild west of the internet.
I’ve told the story before of the parent at a medical lab who was taking my blood when she realized I had written the book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight. She related that a teacher at her daughter’s school was teaching it, which I knew as I had been invited to answer their questions (I don’t believe it was on the official schools reading list though).
She said some parents had contacted her to see what she thought about the book being taught, so she read it and told me (as she had them) that she had no issue with it, she thought her daughter could handle it. Dancing is a drama framed in a romance, which at the same time deals with societal issues. When I was her daughter’s age I was reading books like The Tempest and To Kill a Mockingbird in school – talk about societal issues. I believe it was important to the teacher who introduced Dancing to her students to introduce them to local and Caribbean authors (not to put words in her mouth but we know that’s an issue), to imagine their world (the kind of work I try to do here with Wadadli Pen) but eventually, as I understand it, it was a losing battle, her efforts were cancelled – and Dancing has since gone out of print.
read the books they don’t want you to read and the books they do want you to read, read and boost the books that you do read, and if you’re concerned about the books your children are reading, maybe read with them and have conversations about it, and advocate for books that are challenged at your children’s schools because, sure, books are dangerous but in the best way, they open up your mind, your empathy, your awareness of worlds beyond your world, your imagination, you don’t have to agree with them or even like them, but a book that challenges how you see the world is sometimes the best book reading experience, and the impact is not a fixed thing, it can change you or it can reaffirm you, or it can do nothing more than entertain you, and that’s okay too
…books are powerful things as are the various arts (and media generally), and that’s why autocracies try to silence artists (and burn books) because heaven forbid people think and feel other than what a strongman wants them to think and feel…
So, that’s why the universe moved me to take a minute (!) and blog about banned books because this might not be as topical in the Caribbean as it is in the US but don’t sleep.
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.
July 6th 2019 – 6 p.m. – The Royal Society of Literature – New Daughters of Africa – part of the Africa Writes Festival @ the Knowledge Centre, the British Library, London – this is obviously not being held in Antigua (and though I’m unlikely to be there, I wanted to let my Caribbean and especially my Antiguan people know about this, one of the events being held to promote the New Daughters of Africa). “Twenty-five years after Margaret Busby’s Daughters of Africa anthology, a new companion volume brings together the work of over 200 writers from across the globe – Antigua to Zimbabwe, Angola to the USA – to celebrate a unifying heritage, illustrate an uplifting sense of sisterhood and showcase the remarkable range of creativity from the African diaspora.” Details here.
April 30th 2019 – A feature of Antigua Sailing Week is Reggae in the Park at the Nelson’s Dockyard, an official UNESCO heritage site. Go here for details.
March 31st 2019 – – last year this empowering afternoon had everyone from Destra to CP and even one of the authors up for book of the year Janice Sutherland.
March 31st 2019 – Wadadli Pen Readers Choice Book of the Year voting deadline. If there’s a book, released between 2017 and 2018, by an Antiguan and Barbudan that you read and liked. Vote. If you haven’t read any of the books on the list; there’s still time. Here’s where you go to see the books and vote.
March 9th 2019 – the public launch event of New Daughters of Africa at the WOW – Women of the World Festival on London’s Southbank. This is not being held in Antigua (and though I’m unlikely to be there, I wanted to let my Caribbean and especially my Antiguan people know about this, one of the events being held to promote the New Daughters of Africa). “Twenty-five years after Margaret Busby’s Daughters of Africa anthology, a new companion volume brings together the work of over 200 writers from across the globe – Antigua to Zimbabwe, Angola to the USA – to celebrate a unifying heritage, illustrate an uplifting sense of sisterhood and showcase the remarkable range of creativity from the African diaspora.” More here.
‘”(Carol) Mitchell, who is the author of the popular Caribbean Adventure Series and Barberry Hill, also runs a burgeoning publishing company called CaribbeanReads. Her company focuses on the young adult genre and has in the past published some of the Burt Award winners, including Antiguan (and Barbudan) Joanne C. Hillhouse’s ‘Musical Youth.’
However, she is concerned that most of the winners come from the larger Caribbean nations, such as Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Guyana and the competition is missing out on the great talent in the smaller islands.
“I do believe the results reflect perhaps, a lack of access to the resources that may be key to producing a polished manuscript that has a shot at winning,” says Mitchell.
She explained that while the judges accept work that has not yet been accepted by a publisher, these manuscripts are expected to be at the same level of structural soundness, grammatical and logical accuracy, and thematic relevance as any published manuscripts that may be submitted.
“It is important for would-be submitters to ensure their work is in the best possible condition,” she says. “If you are planning to submit a novel, there are a few things you should do. If you haven’t already done so, read some of the work of previous winners and of highly acclaimed young adult novels that are similar in theme to yours. This is not so you can copy their plot or style but so that you can get a feel for the type of writing that appeals to young people (and to the judges). If you don’t enjoy reading these books, the young adult genre may not be right for you.”’ – Read the full article at Dominica News Online
Read more about this and other Opportunities and upcoming deadlines (Opportunities Too) here at Wadadli Pen. Also check out these Resources the site continues to compile to assist writers on the journey. To read about past Caribbean Burt titles, go here.
Congratulations to former Wadadli Pen judge, Brenda Lee Browne, on the publication of her first novella, second book this year, London Rocks.
London Rocks is the story of Dante Brookes, a young man growing up in London in the late seventies and early eighties when sound systems ruled the party scene for young, Black British youth of Caribbean heritage. He navigates the loss of friends, police harassment and being a teenage father while forging a career as an MC. Dante stumbles into the acting profession and also becomes a writer. It is through these disparate experiences that he learns that the pen and mic at mightier than the sword.
Also in the final quarter of 2017, Browne – whose volunteer initiatives in the Antigua and Barbuda arts community, in addition to judging for the Wadadli Pen Challenge, have included a creative writing programme in the prison, coordinating the Independence literary arts competition, the Just Write Writers Retreat, various creative writing workshops, and spearheading advocacy for a national gallery – published a literary journal (her first book), the Just Write Antigua Journal, made up of visual writing prompts which she captured herself during her photographic wanderings around the island.
This is a space where I’ll be placing articles about Antiguan and Barbudan literature that are not current but still worthy of inclusion in a virtual library of Antiguan and Barbudan literature. This is a work in progress.
Writer Althea Prince up to Big Things – Daily Observer (Antigua) – October 12th 2012
Excerpt: “In the Black is a collection of fiction and poetry by a mix of well known African Canadian writers, and yours truly. The credits read like a literary who’s who and includes the two writers to whom the collection is dedicated – George Elliot Clark, winner of Canada’s Governor General’s Award for Poetry and other prestigious prizes, and celebrated playwright Djanet Sears, who counts among her too numerous to mention awards, a Martin Luther King Jr Achievement Award, the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Canadian Screenwriting Award.”
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, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). 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.
Today, Good Friday 2017, has seen the Great Ducana Debate among Antiguans in my Facebook newsfeed (not sure where the Barbudans come down on the whole raisins/no raisins debate but among Antiguans it was epic). Apparently ducana is not ducana without it. Wait let me check with Cooking Magic – the longest running TV show in the […]
Administered by the Bocas Lit Fest and sponsored by CODE, the Burt Award has the specific target of unearthing and/or boosting teen/young adult Caribbean literature (CODE sponsors a similar prize among indigenous communities in Canada and in Africa). Since 2014, when the Caribbean Burt Award launched, this has included books like Diana McCaulay’s Gone to Drift, which recently sold US rights to a major publisher after being critically acclaimed in the region, AdZiko Gegele’s All Over Again, the first winning title, Imam Baksh’s genre-bending Children of the Spider, my own Musical Youth, which is now finding its way on to school reading lists, and other titles. The newest list includes some names familiar around these parts including the founder of the Allen Prize, a Trinidad project not unlike Wadadli Pen, and a 2017 Bocas finalist – talk about a BIG year – who recently broke down publishing in the region for the uninitiated. Here are the details as sent out by the Bocas team (not including featured images which are from previous Burt Award ceremonies at the Bocas Lit Fest, official author photos and screen caps, and book covers).
Burt Caribbean finalists 2014.
Burt Caribbean finalists 2015.
Burt Caribbean finalists 2016.
We’re excited to announce the finalists for CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, which recognizes outstanding writing for young adults by Caribbean authors!
Three finalists were selected from among submissions of both published books and unpublished manuscripts. The 2017 finalists are:
Lisa Allen-Agostini (Trinidad & Tobago), Waiting on the Bus – manuscript
Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad & Tobago), The Beast of Kukuyo – manuscript
Viviana Prado-Nunez (Puerto Rico/USA), The Art of White Roses – self-published book
The finalists were selected by an independent jury made up of writing, publishing, and educational professionals with expertise in young adult literature.
“We saw a wide range of submissions, from a photographic art book to an erotic novel, all with one very strong element in common: a love for place and culture, a celebration of Caribbean life, which was a wonderful thing to read in all its variations.” — chief judge Barry Goldblatt.
Up to $22,000 CAD in prize money will be awarded to a maximum of three winners, who will be announced on April 26th at the opening night celebration of the 2017 NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
To support the development of high quality, culturally relevant books, CODE will facilitate the publication of the winning titles by Caribbean publishers. CODE will also purchase and distribute up to 2500 copies of each winning title, which will be donated to schools, libraries, and community organizations across the region through CODE’s network of local partners.
Read the full press release here.
PAST BURT TITLES WHICH SHOULD BE ON THE BOOK SHELF OR IN THE E-READER OF ANY TEEN IN YOUR LIFE:
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, and With Grace; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). Excerpting, reblogging, linking etc. is fine, but PLEASE do not lift ANY content (images or text) wholesale from this site without asking first and crediting the creator of that work and/or copyright holder. All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.
The Bocas Prize is the only annual Caribbean-specific major book prize; it has become, in the few years of its existence, the one to aim for – as much for the size of the purse as the prestige (the prize having been won by the likes of Derek Walcott and Olive Senior). Only one Antiguan and Barbudan book/author has made the long list to date – Nobody Go Run Me/Dorbrene O’Marde in the non-fiction category. But while we keep aiming and striving, let’s celebrate the ones who have broken through in 2017. Some, like Jamaican Kei Miller, have made this list before, but for Trinidadian Kevin Jared Hosein it’s his first time in this company – as a fan of both (as you would have seen in my postings in the Blogger on Books series of some of their previous books) and of the way Beckles makes history accessible and connective, and of some of Ann Margaret Lim and Ishion Hutchinson’s poetry though I haven’t yet read their full collections. Congratulations to all who made the cut. Here are the details in a mailing from the people administering the prize:
Books by nine writers, the majority under the age of forty, have been announced on the longlist for the 2017 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, sponsored by One Caribbean Media.
Now in its seventh year, the Prize recognises books in three genre categories — poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction — published by Caribbean authors in 2016.
In the poetry category, the judges have named books by three younger Jamaican writers. Ishion Hutchinson’s House of Lords and Commons is a meditation on home and abroad, personal and communal history, with a rich verbal register and intense engagement with the past literary canon. Ann-Margaret Lim’s lyrical Kingston Buttercup has a deep grounding in the landscape of Jamaica, whether the penetrating poems address the persistent legacy of slavery, Lim’s relationship with her mother, or the complications of contemporary Kingston. And Safiya Sinclair’s debut Cannibal is haunted by the character of Caliban from The Tempest, as it explores Jamaican childhood and womanhood, and otherness in a strange place that may be the United States where the poet now lives, or language itself. “We were delighted to read a set of poetry collections remarkable for their range of focus and poetic method,” write the prize judges. “Each entry made its own claims on us in terms of originality, appeal, and ambition. Throughout our discussions, all the collections impressed upon us the vitality of today’s voices in contemporary Caribbean poetry.”
The fiction category includes novels by two Jamaicans and one Trinidadian. Marcia Douglas’s magical realist novel The Marvellous Equations of the Dread is set at one of the bleakest moments of Jamaica’s recent history, after the deaths of Bob Marley and Emperor Haile Selassie, and coveys a sense of both history’s dread and the hope born of human creativity. In his debut novel The Repenters, Kevin Jared Hosein tells a transgressive, almost gothic tale of violence and punishment, exploring the darkest side of Trinidadian society and family history. And in Augustown, Kei Miller offers a historical epic ranging over sixty years of Jamaican history, with its complexities of class, ethnicity, religion, and language. “Due to the excellence and range of so many of the works, selecting a shortlist was extremely difficult,” remark the fiction judges. “We were impressed by the high quality of the entries drawn from a range of new and established writers across the region and beyond. The immediacy of their respective concerns for their culture and their pride in the richness of its history are obvious. They’re digging deep.”
The final longlisted books, in the non-fiction category, are all historical studies. Barbadian Hilary McD. Beckles’s The First Black Slave Society: Britain’s “Barbarity Time” in Barbados, 1636–1876 is a compelling history of the first 140 years of the colonisation of Barbados, “with great resonances for contemporary debates about reparatory justice for the crimes of history,” say the judges. Angelo Bissessarsingh’s twin books Virtual Glimpses into the Past and A Walk Back in Time, considered by the judges as two volumes of a single work, collect vignettes from the history of Trinidad and Tobago, offering an effortless read for those for whom the past is a forgotten country. Bissessarsingh, a self-taught historian who passed away in early 2017, during the judging period, won a devoted following among Trinidadian readers for his enthusiastic style and passion for research. And in Inward Yearnings: Jamaica’s Journey to Nationhood, Colin Palmer tells the story of Jamaica’s struggle to define an identity that embraces both its African heritage and its Anglophone western past. “Palmer’s prose immediately immerses you in sympathy for the people, events, and organisations that make this history,” the judges note.
The winners in each genre category will be announced on 27 March, 2017, and the Prize of US$10,000 will be presented to the overall winner on Saturday 29 April, during the seventh annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain.
The 2017 judging panels for the OCM Bocas Prize bring together distinguished Caribbean and international writers, academics, and publishing professionals. David Dabydeen, the celebrated Guyanese writer based in the UK, chairs the poetry panel, which also includes Cuban poet and translator Nancy Morejón and London-based agent Peter Straus. On the fiction panel, chair Susheila Nasta, founder and editor of the journal Wasafiri, is joined by New York–based agent and editor Malaika Adero and St. Vincent-born, Canada-based writer H. Nigel Thomas. And Jamaican Kim Robinson-Walcott, editor of Caribbean Quarterly and Jamaica Journal, chairs the non-fiction panel, which includes scholars Aaron Kamugisha of Barbados and Patricia Mohammed of Trinidad and Tobago.
The overall chair of the 2017 cross-judging panel is the eminent Jamaican poet and scholar Edward Baugh.
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.
If you discuss literature enough, eventually you will hear variations of the following: “English is such an easy major. You just make stuff up.” Or “There’s no wrong way to interpret a book.” Or even “You have it so easy, unlike us math majors. We actually have to find a right answer.” However, though literature […]