Tag Archives: Mervyn Morris

A Blast from the Past

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Writer and academic, Ifeona Fulani, posted this blast from the past on facebook recently. Thankfully, this is largely a good memory and an opportunity to talk about the value of writing workshops. This one was my first (that’s me in black in the middle). Some of the other people pictured are workshop leader Olive Senior (seated), Sarah Pemberton Strong (far right) – who was not only with me (and another friend) when I got my first tattoo but suggested the design, and some others I’ve reconnected with all these years later via facebook (though I didn’t automatically make the connection) – Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, Donna Aza Weir-Soley, Ifeona Fulani (who I knew then as Faye), and Guichard Cadet…probably others and I just haven’t made the connection as yet.

As I explained during a recent (as yet unaired) TV interview, I participated in this workshop during an in-between period in my life. It was my first ever writing workshop and came at a time when I was struggling with the choices or, it felt at the time, lack of choices that lay before me as someone who wanted to be a writer but felt like she’d have to sacrifice that dream to what was practical. This workshop (the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute at the University of Miami) was a moment in time that allowed me to see another possibility. It was a transformative summer in many ways. But it wasn’t easy.

My memory is murky on this, so forgive any misspeaks, but the workshop was recommended to me and I recommended for the workshop by Mervyn Morris, currently Jamaica’s Poet Laureate, then, during my University of the West Indies days, my mentor. I submitted a sample of my writing and other required material, and earned a spot. I was among, if not the youngest in my group; scared but hopeful. I had only shown my work to a handful of people by that point and yet here I was in my first workshop where the writers were considerably more accomplished and certainly not shy about telling me all the ways what I had on the page didn’t work. There were tears that summer, tears and so much doubt. But there was also adventure (did I mention my first tattoo? … Well that was only a small part of it), new friendships, and so many growth opportunities. Not only didn’t I stop writing as you feel like doing sometimes after a drubbing but I went down new roads in my writing – one a vaguely familiar road, one so unfamiliar I had to wonder how I’d ended up there; two different manuscripts…and so much poetry. I read my writing before an audience for the first time that summer…and lived.

The familiar road referenced above was the dead end alley in The Boy from Willow Bend, which would become my first published manuscript.

After that first, bruising critique, Vere showed up; barefoot, running down a willow-tree-lined dead end alley. I knew that alley. It was my place of first knowing, a vague early memory. I revisited that space and – sitting there, cheered by my flat mate, the other half of my summer writing group of two, with whom I shared bits and pieces – built from it a world more fiction than fact but rooted in something solid enough to anchor me, and hopefully the reader. I got to know the boy, his character biography including many things that didn’t end up in the story but which certainly informed my understanding of him as I wrote the things that did.

Workshops are good for getting you out of your comfort zone, for challenging you, for allowing you to prove to yourself what you are made of as a writer.

At summer’s end, I stepped in to what-I-had-to-do-for-now knowing that I would never lose sight of who-I-truly-wanted-to-be. I returned to my world a writer, even if I was the only one who yet knew it. It (didn’t make me immune to but it) helped me overcome all of the petty nonsense you find on the job because I knew that that was not my life; my life existed in the moments outside of that space writing and living, and poking around for a way to make writing my life. It took some doing but that summer, the summer of ’95, was really the jump start for what came after, the bumps and scratches, the setbacks, knockdowns… and the breakthroughs.

One such breakthrough came when in January 2001, I signed the contract with Macmillan for the release of The Boy from Willow Bend. The book would be re-issued by Hansib in 2009, and has been taught in schools in Antigua and, I believe, Anguilla…and it will forever remain a highlight of my writing life, the moment a boy at a school I visited in February 2015 said to me that he played Vere, the boy in The Boy from Willow Bend, in an in-class dramatization.

The girl in this picture doesn’t know any of that; and if she did maybe she would have decided it was too hard – because it has been at times, too hard – but maybe she would decide, it was worth it and that she was strong enough…and that she was indeed a writer. Little did she know that the summer workshop she was participating in would begin to give her not only some of the tools but the drive to do just that.

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C.
Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!  Fish Outta Water, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, and Burt Award finalist Musical Youth), founder and coordinator of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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

READING ROOM IX

Like the title says, this is the ninth reading room. Use the search feature to your right and the term ‘reading room’ to find the others. Eight came before, pack-full-0 good reading: poetry, fiction, non fiction, and some visuals too. Good reading makes for good writing. So use the reading rooms like your personal library and enjoy. And remember, keep coming back; they’re never finished. As I discover things, things get added. And don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts re not only what you read here but also possible additions to the reading room.

INTERVIEWS

Haitian American writer M. J. Fievre, who interviewed me for her website recently, has this really cool interview of her own.

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My work is never finished. Even as I read something that’s published, I still want to change it.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Read full interview here.

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“I don’t chase what I hear on the radio. I try not to compete with anybody. And even though I’m a musician, I don’t necessarily follow a certain set of rules. Sometimes my mistakes turn into interesting music because I do things that aren’t supposed to be done. Really it’s more about a state of mind. I grew up with a certain standard of music, watching my father and his peers. For them, music had a deeper purpose than one’s own selfish gain. It was never just a business.” – Ziggy Marley, full interview here.

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“I am inspired by kindness. When I see ordinary people practicing kindness in ordinary ways—smiling at strangers, getting up to give a seat to someone else on the bus, helping someone with their luggage, stopping to speak to a homeless person—I am inspired because I am reminded of humanity.” – Dena Simmons. Read more.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – funny, as many interviews as I’ve seen and read with her, I never realized I’d been pronouncing her last name wrong. So, thanks for that Tavis Smiley. And thanks to both the Nigerian writer (Adichie) and American interviewer (Smiley) for an interesting conversation on the things people would rather not talk about. Here’s to uncomfortable conversations.

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Commonwealth podcasts featuring writers from across the Commonwealth including, from the Caribbean Lorna Goodison (Jamaica) and my girl Ivory Kelly (Belize).

That's Ivory, to the right, with me in Glasgow, 2014.

That’s Ivory, to the right, with me in Glasgow, 2014.

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I hope you didn’t miss this one, but in case you did, Jamaican writer (poet, fiction writer, essayist) and professor Kei Miller in 2014 won the Forward Prize. It’s kind of a big deal, made bigger still by the fact that he’s the first non-white poet to take the British-based prize in more than 20 years. For that, you get two links: his interview/profile in the (UK) Guardian and the Forward Prize announcement.

That's Kei to the right - hanging in Glasgow (with me and others), 2014.

That’s Kei to the right – hanging in Glasgow (with me and others), 2014.

Bonus, peep Kei in this British Poetry Book Society line-up of 20 poets to watch. And listen to the poet talk about his work and journey as a writer, here.

Another bonus: Kei’s Carcanet interview.

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Renaee Perrier (now Smith) was one of my block sisters during my UWI days. Check out this interview about her writing life.

FICTION

“Gramma had told me stories about jumbies—people who had died but could walk about in the night. They lived in dark shadows and all the bad scary places. But my jumbie daddy was different.” Read all of Neala Bhagwansingh’s Jumbie Daddy.

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Audio clip of A-dZiko Gegele and Roland Watson-Grant reading at Bocas 2014 – good stuff.

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Love this story (The Headstrong Historian by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), first because it’s a good story well told…and a good example of a story having an epic span…but also for its view of pre-colonized Africa and the slow process of that colonization and the deliberateness of that/the trade off and of the decolonization of the mind…it resonates… it really does in unexpected ways… “Nwamgba was alarmed by how indiscriminately the missionaries flogged students: for being late, for being lazy, for being slow, for being idle, and, once, as Anikwenwa told her, Father Lutz put metal cuffs around a girl’s hands to teach her a lesson about lying, all the time saying in Igbo—for Father Lutz spoke a broken brand of Igbo—that native parents pampered their children too much, that teaching the Gospel also meant teaching proper discipline.” Makes you wonder, what’s really our culture (as once colonized descendants of Africa), a culture we defend so arduously, and what was thrust upon us until we didn’t know how to separate ourselves from it. Colonization is a hell of a thing. When people say get over it, it’s in the past, they don’t know. Anyway, you can also find this story in The Thing Around Her Neck, an Adichie book I highly recommend.

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“This story moves. With each stop and each passenger, the reader becomes more invested the bus driver—and more worried about the pig. The final line is satisfying in way that made me want to cheer.” – Kenyon Review on why it selected Karen Lin-Greenberg’s Care  

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Wanna hear something weird? While reading this story, which I really liked by the way, I pictured everybody in it as black, and specifically African American – the man, the sick woman, the angel, all black. There was no detail in the story (or none that I found on first read) to contradict me and yet there was detail enough to make these people – and angel – fully realized beings. It didn’t occur to me until I got to the end, and saw the picture of the author, that they may or may not be. Hm. That’s the funny thing about reading sometimes, how we project our reality or a context that makes sense to us (since my reality while black is not African American) unto the characters. It defaulted to what was famliar. But it just goes to show, though, that details of a character’s race, hair colour, eyes (details that, like any other, should really be used only in so far as they serve the story) may or may not be necessary to seeing the characters and the world of the characters. Maybe we see them as we’re meant to see them. Like I said, black or white, I found these characters to be really interesting (for the things unsaid between her and her lover, for the angel’s other worldliness and bewilderment with our world, and oddly enticing sensuality, for what it says about the nature of living and dying). Read Amy Bonnaffons’ Black Stones here.

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This excerpt of Roland Watson-Grant’s Sketcher tickled me in all sorts of ways. First, New Orleans. Been enamoured with New Orleans in literature since my Anne Rice college years. Second, born in the 70s myself, I laughed out loud at the narrator (also a child at the 70s) rolling his eyes about the 60s:  “It must have been the time o’ their lives, the Sixties, what with all that music and bell-bottom tight pants and lots of free love and everything. But I bet they still had headaches and mosquitoes and taxes, so I don’t know what all the fuss was about.” Third, intriguing characters, setting, scenario…and the CB craze of the early 80s…I remember that…remember my brother was into that too. Fourth, the writing…this isn’t just a nostalgia trip for me…the writing is alive and has the music and magic and sweltering energy of the landscape it describes. Moving this book up my to-read list. You will want to, too, after reading this.

NON FICTION

Poetry notes from my former mentor and teacher, Mervyn Morris.

“Poems work not just by what they say but by how they say it.” – See more here.

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The Pain of Reading is all kinds of heartbreaking. Read it here.

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“Read publishing contracts carefully before signing them… When selling rights to any work, remember that the fewer rights you sell, the better.” Read more.

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This is actually very similar with what I’m trying to do with the Jhohadli Writing Project – it gives me hope. Read, how I built my own literary scene and saved myself by Julia Fierro.

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Hell is my own Book Tour by Adam Mansbach made me laugh out loud and also strangely envious, as in at least you got to go on a book tour… ah the writing life, it’s not all glitz and glamour…in fact, often there’s no glitz and glamour at all… just four people at a book reading whom you nonetheless give your all.

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“The other way to escape the curse of knowledge is to show a draft to yourself, ideally after enough time has passed that the text is no longer familiar. If you are like me you will find yourself thinking, “What did I mean by that?” or “How does this follow?” or, all too often, “Who wrote this crap?” The form in which thoughts occur to a writer is rarely the same as the form in which they can be absorbed by a reader. Advice on writing is not so much advice on how to write as on how to revise.” – read more of Steven Pinker’s article on The Curse of Bad Writing.

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Kwame Dawes talks about how he writes. One of my favourite bits…

“My brain is a kind of cesspool that collects material unfiltered – or it may be filtered. I’m not conscious that I’m putting things into it. I may remark that something as interesting, but in truth what I’m doing is pulling something into that pool. When I make the decision to write a poem, I don’t know what is going to come from that pool. The act of writing brings together various and complex things. What I may access from that pool might happen immediately, or it may take years.”

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I’ve been given and received feedback, edited the works of others, been edited…and as I ruminate on both sides of that journey, I think it bears remembering that if you’re either hired to edit or just asked to give feedback on a piece of writing, “You’re being asked to consult—not commit a hostile takeover”, “Think of your reading mission as understanding the piece,” and “Don’t sacrifice feeling for critical thinking. Don’t forget to feel the piece.” Editing, like writing, is not paint by numbers. As writer, I try to listen to my characters and try to tell their tale authentically and insightfully. As editor, I try to come to each piece open to what the piece is trying to say and how the author is trying to say it, and hopefully guide them toward saying it clearly yet in their unique and distinct way. As I said in this article, it’s a delicate dance. Ten Essentials of Reading for Writers is an interesting read for those who’ve ever been asked to give feedback on a writer’s work in terms of striking the necessary balance.

REVIEWS

Black-ish – initial thoughts:My first requirement of a comedy is that it make me laugh. I can forgive a lot of things if you make me laugh. Black-ish, which debuted this Wednesday on ABC, made me laugh, sometimes. I run hot and cold with series star Anthony Anderson but found myself liking him in this role. His high pitched humour works here; and it better, as his perspective – his real moments and hyper real fantasies – are what drive the plot. It’s a family drama but, at least in the first episode, it’s the story of Anderson’s character struggling with the idea that the price of success is losing your blackness/your identity (as if there’s a simple definition of what blackness is) while at the same time, on the job at least, rebelling against being defined solely by his blackness (see the irony?). The show could do with more nuance, but I’d watch it again. Because it made me laugh; even if the humour wasn’t always fresh nor cuttingly funny. This is network television after all; the edge was a bit blunted and the message was laid on a bit thick. The performances are solid; the somewhat underused Laurence Fishburne’s dry wit balancing out Anderson’s hysterics, and Tracee Ellis Ross is a more natural fit as his wife than his last TV wife – I love you Vanessa (of the Cosby show) but I wasn’t buying the chemistry. The kids don’t really stand out yet, only in the general sense that they “don’t see colour”, which makes for some easy laughs. The challenge the show faces going forward, I suppose is being fresh and daring with both its humour and commentary, foregoing tired tropes and the easy laugh for laughter that makes you not only cut-up but consider and –re-consider your own prejudices. In that sense, it has the perfect lead-in in Modern Family, a show that’s all about challenging your assumptions while making you laugh out loud. And if it imprints the way Modern Family has, it’ll not only be a funny half hour comedy but ground breaking television. Time will tell.

POETRY

“And maybe in their eyes

it may seem I got punked out

‘cause I walked a narrow path

and then went and changed my route

But that openness exposed me

to a truth I couldn’t find

in the clenched fist of my ego

or the confines of my mind

or in the hipness of my swagger

or in the swagger of my step

or the scowl of my grimace

or the meanness of my rep

‘Cause we represent a truth, son

that changes by the hour

and when you opened to it

vulnerability is power.” |

Saul Williams

http://loquence.tumblr.com/

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“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

Gang aft agley” – Robert Burns’ To a Mouse is copied here in Scottish and explained.

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When I read Scottish writer Liz Lochhead’s Kidspoem/Bairnsong, I was immediately drawn in. On the surface, an innocent scene – a mother prepping her daughter for school; an structurally almost a round, like those songs and poems we did as children. But it’s commentary on how we lose our mother tongue is deep and for the Caribbean person deeply relatable.

“…the first day I went to school

so my mother wrapped me up in my

best navy-blue top coat with the red tartan hood

twirled a scarf around my neck

pulled on my bobble-hat and mittens

it was so bitterly cold

said now you won’t freeze to death

gave me a little kiss and a pretend slap on the bottom

and sent me off across the playground

to the place I’d learn to forget to say

it wis January

and a gey derich day

so my Mum happed me up in ma

good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood

birled a scarf aroon ma neck

pu’ed oan ma pixie an my pawkies

it wis that bitter.”

Here’s Liz Lochhead reading the poem and talking about the genesis of the poem and the importance of writing our reality in our way, which, you know, is a foundation of the Wadadli Pen Challenge.

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This Tom Leonard poem immediately appealed to me for its defiant claiming of its mother tongue (Scots) – something we can relate to as Caribbean people, yes? Because as he writes “all livin language is sacred”.

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Ego Tripping – Nikki Giovanni

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“I sit and wring my hands,
at last old enough and sad enough,
and pathetic enough in my impotence
to do this” – Talking to Hamas by Alice Walker

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Beauty by Bermudian poet Dane Swan:

Bag lady, your eyes tell stories
of glory, despair, success, failure
deceit, withdrawn ineptness.

BLOG

The Art of Submission…or how to handle rejection without becoming bitter.

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So, you know how in Julie and Julia, a young writer undertakes the challenge of cooking and blogging Julia Child’s recipes for a year, and gets a book deal out of the experiment? Well, British writer Ann Morgan had a similar experience reading the world. Here’s an update re her book deal…and a big of inspiration for others laboring in the blogosphere.

VISUAL

Music video featuring Promise No Promises and directed by Jus Bus …very artistic visuals…very resonant lyrics…and a good bounce

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This is a film by Francoise Bowen. Filmed in Antigua, it re-imagines a moment of island history:

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cricket

This image of women playing cricket in St. Lucia, circa 1905 is one of my favourites from Rastas, Royals, and Revolution: 100 Years of Photography in the Caribbean. I was actually flipping through to see if there were any Antigua and/or Barbuda images and this one caught my eye. Good stuff. See more images in the series here.

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This film short is out of Barbados…summary: Auntie is a middle-aged seamstress and respected caregiver in her rural Barbadian community. 12-year-old Kera is her latest ward and a special child to whom she has grown uncharacteristically close. Seven years after Kera’s mother emigrates to England in search of a better life, Auntie is confronted with the day she long dreaded when the plane ticket arrives that will reunite Kera with her mom.

For more films of this type, visit AfroPop TV.

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Disbanded by John Pettie.

Disbanded by John Pettie.

The Starz series Outlander and my visit to Glasgow early in 2014 probably have something to do with this one catching my eye but the truth is I’ve always had an interest in Irish and Scottish culture and history. I came across this image while reading The Other Tongues: an Introduction to Writing in Irish, Scots Gaelic and Scots in Ulster and Scotland and looked it up online. According to this site, this is an image by John Pettie of a Scottish Highlander after his defeat at the Jacobite rebellion of 1746.

Here’s a bonus Scottish image from that same book(c) The Fleming Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationIt’s ‘Lochaber No More’, an 1863 image painted by John Watson Nicol. The title ‘Lochaber No More’ forms part of a popular 17th century Scottish folk song

“These tears that I shed, they are all for my dear,
An no’ for the dangers of attending or weir;
Tho’ borne on rough seas to a far distant shore.
Maybe to return to Lochaber no more” (full lyrics here)

The song is a lament. Lochaber, based on my research, was where Bonnie Prince Charlie recruited the first clans to his cause, sparking the Jacobite rebellion. The mournful nature of the song reflects the rebellion’s defeat at Culloden Moor in 1746.

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“… it was while dancing and touring the nation and European continent that he chanced to visit The Louvre Museum in Paris that he “met his Muse”. As he walked the halls there, he was consumed by what he saw. Looking at the work of the Masters in The Louvre, he was reminded of what he had unconsciously reached for in his sprawling graffiti pieces; he recognized realms of color, style, passionate expression and possibilities that he had never before imagined.” – from About Frank Morrison at Morrison Art

I see a Queen in Me by Frank Morrison

I see a Queen in Me by Frank Morrison

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Some good insights here….

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Cover image Summer One by Glenroy Aaron inspired by Summer 1, a poem by Joanne C Hillhouse.

Cover image Summer One by Glenroy Aaron inspired by Summer 1, a poem by Joanne C Hillhouse.

Glenroy Aaron’s Summer One is the cover image of the Tongues of the Ocean Antigua and Barbuda issue. Here’s his bio from the site: Glenroy Aaron has always had a passion for anything artistic. Drawings and doodling captivated him in his childhood years and this love of the arts was nurtured in primary and secondary school and later honed under teachers in the Cambridge art programme at the Antigua State College. Upon leaving school he continued with his passion, branching into oils, which is currently his primary medium. He strives to capture the beauty in nature and human emotion.

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

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

Personal Highlights from NILF and the Nature Isle

So the question I think I got most at the Nature Island Literary Festival was some version of what do you do? Ironic, considering I was at a literary festival, but understandable when you consider that most of us aren’t able to live by the pen. I ought to know. I’m living it, and way too often, it’s touch and go; other times though, weekends like this, it’s filled with words and laughter and opportunities to connect with other writers from our too far apart islands, to bathe in the language and creative spunk and spark of my people.

Me, with Barbadian poet Adrian Green who much to the delight of the audience performed twice during the festival. (Photo courtesy Celia Sorhaindo)

Highlights

I was able while at the NILF to re-connect with a former professor and mentor from my University of the West Indies days, Mervyn Morris

With former mentor and professor, Mervyn Morris. (Photo by Natalie Clarke)

; to re-connect with a newer friend from the land of publishing, Mario Picayo; to connect for the first time with the supremely talented Bajan brother Adrian Green, one of my festival favourites; to sit and chat with literary elder and engaging storyteller George Lamming (whomI’d seen speak a couple of times and whom I’d met before but never heard read from his work nor got the opportunity or maybe the nerves pre-NILF to sit and chat with).

It was also an opportunity to share my writing.

Photo by Celia Sorhaindo.

I read a new poem, Ode to the Pan Man, an old favourite, Ah Write! and, of course, an excerpt or two from my book Oh Gad!  one of the first readings I’ve done incidentally where nerves weren’t eating out my insides right beforehand – something I can only credit to how distracted I was by the opportunity to hear and listen to such great Caribbean talent, too distracted to wonder what I was doing among them and worry if I was about to fall flat on my face.

Photo by Celia Sorhaindo.

I didn’t, by the way. The reviews to my reading were largely positive and I’m hoping (as I do after every such event) that word of mouth will be positive and it will be reflected in my sales going forward.

But honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about that, then.

Such sentiments were drowned out by the festival energy, out under the tent, flanked by the green mountains of Dominica, on the grounds of the UWI campus, which was filled with music: from the Sisserou singers who opened the festival to the Venezuelan musician and dancers who provided lunch time entertainment to the Rastafarian (Nyabinghi) drummer who spontaneously accompanied some of the poets or just played for pleasure during the breaks so that it never felt like there was nothing happening to the blast of the trumpet during the poetic performances by Reseau Poetique Guadeloupe…

If you missed it, and I hope you won’t again, hint hint, you also missed:

Roger Bonair-Agard: the coolest things about him aren’t even the “duende” he has tattooed into his arm or the Mohawk he sort of seems to be growing out, though those were pretty cool, not when his words of fire are the main attraction;

Lennox Honychurch: the esteemed Dominican historian still has a charmingly boyish enthusiasm for his subject and an ability to make history come alive – as his audience, we were well and truly enraptured as he did a literature review of books mentioning Dominica by visitors, all the way back to Columbus’ time, all the way forward to the near-present (one of the striking things was how people really do see what they want to see, which is not necessarily the same as what’s right in front of their nose);

The Book Fair: though I would have liked to see my book and books by all the participating authors on sale at the event, it was for any bibliophile, a temptation, especially the Papillotte Press and local books section in no small measure because these, well, they are books by local authors and/or books reflecting local culture, and if you’re like me you kind of want to take a piece of wherever you visit with you (case in point the book of french creole sayings that I bought);

The Craft Fair: And how inspired of them to marry a craft fair to the book fair and literary festival, as if they just knew that Creatives (or is it just women?) can’t resist well crafted jewelry (I got three, count ‘em, three pieces – let’s just say that artisans Albert Casimir and Julian James are also persuasive salesmen);

The Workshops: It was nice sitting in a class led by Professor Morris again with whom I was paired in the UWI mentorship programme and who also taught my first fiction writing course, and subsequently recommended to me the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute at the University of Miami, which I applied to and was accepted, where I started The Boy from Willow Bend during my first grueling workshop experience, and the rest is history, as they say. What I remember of Professor Morris, apart from the things that he introduced me to (including the Jamaican theatrical scene), was that he was one of the early readers and critics and encouragers of my work (perhaps the most significant since previous mentor Calvin Holder, who taught me English Lit at the Antigua State College). I didn’t think he’d remember me (it was so long ago). But he did and it was nice to see him again and to sit quietly (mostly quietly) while he gently nudged writers to discover the best in their work as he’d done for me all those years earlier. On a morning such as that, even the buzzing cell phones (sorry, this is one of my pet peeves… should you have to tell people to silence their cell phones in certain settings) were a mild nuisance, at worst. I enjoyed the bit of play he brought to the session and indeed, Professor Morris, randomness can be quite logical and illuminating, revealing things that are surprising and true (because, as you said, if you’re only using your conscious mind, you’re only writing about what you think you know);

The opportunities to engage in impromptu discussions around artistic issues and the issues that spring from that – from Dominican artistes lamenting some of the unexpected realities of attempts to collect artiste royalties to book publishing it was illuminating…and a reminder of how far we still have to go as writers in the Caribbean to creating an environment that encourages us along our path;

The organized discussions around issues like the lyrics in the bouyon music (which echoed the controversy surrounding Antigua and Barbuda’s road march winning song, Kick een she back doh and made me wish that just as WCK founders readily stepped to the stage to explore the meaning and the music, our artistes here could be similarly engaged) and the challenges (and contradictions) vis-a-vis press freedom (again, an issue all too familiar to Antiguan and Barbudan people);

The opportunities to reflect – like I’ll be musing over this point from George Lamming’s keynote address, borrowed I believe from Norman Manley: “There is a difference between living in a place and belonging to it”;

The opportunity to be engaged by fiction and poetry with which you feel a real sense of belonging – a connection – because at heart it’s about you, your world whether written by Merle Hodge in Trinidad or Adrian Augier in St. Lucia.

It is that sense of connection that no doubt stirred the audience to laughter and stirred other darker and more heated emotions, leaving us all (or certainly me) feeling filled, fulfilled, and enlightened, if a little wet – this is the nature isle after all.

Kudos to Alwyn Bully and his team, especially my host Natalie Clarke

who, combined with all the above, made this a truly enjoyable experience.

Please note all except one photo used in this post are courtesy Celia Sorhaindo. Other images from the festival can be found here. Please do not use any of her photos without her permission.

Find out more on the festival here.

A reminder that 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.

As for that recurring question about what I do for a living. This might answer the question.

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Literary Gallery

Reading Room and Gallery

UPDATE! The Gallery is now closed. Continue reading at Reading Room and Gallery II, Reading Room and Gallery III, and Reading Room and Gallery IV.

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

Here you’ll find stories, interviews, reviews, poems; you name it…a totally subjective showcase of (mostly) Caribbean written (sometimes visual and audio visual) pieces that I (Joanne) have either personally appreciated or which have been recommended (and approved) for posting/linking. If you’re looking for the winning Wadadli Pen stories (and I hope you are!), click on ‘Categories’ and go to the respective year for ‘2004 Winners’, ‘2005 Winners’, ‘2006 Winners’, ‘2010 Winners’, 2011 winners… You can also see the Best of Wadadli Pen special issue at Anansesem which has the added feature of audio dramatizations of some of the stories.

POEMS

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2011/02/over-hawkins-hill/ – hard to believe this writer is only 13; some interesting insights and beautifully rendered language here.

http://afrobeatjournal.org/en/Issue_2_Spring_2011/1/129/Debris-Poetry-Jamaica-Marcia-Douglas.htm – From Afro Beat Journal, Debris by Marcia Douglas, a British born, Jamaican writer, who reportedly teaches in the US. We are a migratory people, aren’t we; kind of like the juice bag she writes about that still floats somewhere in the sea.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2011/08/the-magic-mirror-tempts-lilys-white-daughter-1951 – a literary mash-up of Snow White and racial politics. Very interesting.

http://www.anansesem.com/2011/10/earths-water.html – imagery, personification…nature comes alive in this one by Summer Edward.

http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol5no1/0501042.pdf – literary shout outs aplenty suffuse this lively poem (When I Die by Ann-Margaret Lim).

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/179809 – A little hip action: Hip-Hop Ghazal by Patricia Smith.

http://www.online-literature.com/frost/748 – Nothing Gold Can Stay; love love this poem…and can relate to/understand it better now as a 30 something than I did when I first heard Pony Boy say it in one of my fav movies a a kid The Outsiders …years later I actually visited Frost Farm (Aside: visited Little Women  author Louisa May Alcott house that summer, too :-)) – Summer ’08, walked a good road that summer, which calls to mind another Frost favourite, The Road Not Taken.

http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/7126-William-Shakespeare-Sonnet-116—Let-me-not-to-the-marriage-of-true-minds— a favourite from the English bard, Shakespeare.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqOqo50LSZ0&feature=related – Maya. Enough said.

http://www.bartleby.com/126/52.html – ‘When I have fears that I may cease to be’ by another personal favourite John Keats.

http://ananseseminfo.blogspot.com/2010/12/sugarcane-dance.html – I just love how this feels. Summer Edward’s Sugar Cane Dance at Anansesem, a site for Caribbean children’s literature.

http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol4no2/0402115.pdf – Mervyn Morris (my writing mentor during my UWI days) says so much with such few words in this endearing piece.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/04/liberian-curfew/ – This poem set in war torn Liberia and written by Antiguan, Althea Romeo-Mark has been described as “powerful”, “touching”, and “strong”.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/12/chameleon-thoughts – Danielle Boodoo Fortune is a relatively new discovery (first heard her read in 2008) who’s quickly become an old favourite. Here’s an example of why. Here’s another example: Evening in the Room Built from Words.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/03/the-joy-of-planting-banana-suckers-in-your-own-land – The Joy of Planting Suckers in Your Own Land; of the compulsion to grow things (a plantain, a child, a nation, an idea…)

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/06/1-o-clock-mass  – ‘1 o’clock mass’ – the line that jumps out at me from this “do nations unite or do they divide”.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/08/sip-an-talk – a related piece (borders, immigration and themes of that nature) by Angelique Nixon.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/06/what-you-cryin-for -The causes and symptoms of crime take centre stage in this piece ‘What you Crying for?’ by Anku Sa Ra, well complemented by the Stevie Burrows image entitled, appropriately, ‘Crime’. Tongues of the Ocean is a multi-media site and this is one of the postings that have, in addition to the written, an aural presentation of the work.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/11/wheelbarrow-woman – Readers describe this Lynn Sweeting poem which challenges readers to “love up your own self fearlessly” as “refreshing and candid”.

http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol4no2/0402128.pdf – Delores Gauntlett’s Pocomania appeared in Volume 4 Number 2 in the Spring 2007 issue of Calabash.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/03/marassa-jumeaux/ – Geoffery Philp’s perspective on Haiti had an interesting “angle” on things. And for those who think Anansi is always up to no good for no good reason, check out his ‘Anancy Song’ here

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/current/ – This leads to Xan-Xi Bethel’s ‘Sister, Love’, a poignant piece on Haiti, complemented by Lindsay Braynan’s touching image ‘Help a Sistah Out, Man’.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/07/walcott-in-nassau – Walcott in Nassau; very effective analogy.

http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_if.htm – If.

http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/show/119806-Edna-St–Vincent-Millay-To-A-Friend-Estranged-From-Me – Actually discovered this as a teen in my much-dog-eared (translation: much loved) copy of Stephanie Tolan’s The Last of Eden. Love the imagery in the first verse, especially and the sense of loss and longing it evokes.

http://imani.wordpress.com/2007/05/13/for-my-mother-may-i-inherit-half-her-strength/ & http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/corporate/projectsandschemes/artmusicdesign/poems/poem.asp?ID=161 – two faves by Jamaica’s Lorna Goodison

http://sheeralmshouse.blogspot.com/2010/07/no-more-smalling-up-of-me.html – ‘No More Smalling up of Me’ by Jean Wilson

SHORT STORIES

If you’ve been to the Blogger on Books recently, you may remember my mini-review of American writer Will Allison’s What You Have Left. Here’s an excerpt from that very book. ALSO, you’ll remember me raving about Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck; I just came across one of my favourite stories from the book. So, read.

http://www.munyori.com/novioletbulawayo.html – a story by Zimbabwe-American writer Noviolet Bulawayo.

http://dloc.com/AA00000079/00009/19j – Pamela Mordecai’s Cold Comfort is all kinds of funny.

http://ananseseminfo.blogspot.com/2011/05/sun-moon-darkness-rain-and-heart.html – A Caribbean folk tale from Anansesem.

http://ananseseminfo.blogspot.com/2010/12/beaumont-and-moonflower.html – A children’s story; perhaps a bit of inspiration given Wadadli Pen’s 2011 theme.

http://visitstsomewhere.blogspot.com/ – The St. Somewhere Journal features new writings from across the Caribbean. Among your blogger’s faves in the Autumn 2010 issue are Kittian writer Carol Mitchell’s ‘Kept Promises’ on Page 4 and Trinidadian Shakira Bourne’s ‘Crossing Over’ on Page 6. While you’re there, check out my story ‘Somebody!’ on Page 30 and my essay ‘On Writing’ on Page 37.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/10/the-rain/ – This “delightful but dark” Christi Cartwright story was hailed by readers for its “vivid imagery”.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/03/landscape-without-horizon/ – “Brilliant”, “vivid”, “beautiful” are a few of the words that have been used to describe this short story by Bahamaian, Sonia Farmer.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/05/when-coffee-time-come/ – Randall Baker’s ‘When Coffee Time Comes’ was credited for its “great characterization”.

http://ananseseminfo.blogspot.com/2010/12/yohan.html – Check out this imaginative children’s piece by Antiguan author Floree Williams.

http://www.munyori.com/miriamshumba.html – Straight out of Africa and yet familiar to all.

NON FICTION

This Jamaican children’s author asks ‘who are we writing for?’

I remember watching a group of kids at the national Youth Rally recently (Nov. 2011) chat and walk about during the Antigua and Barbuda National Anthem remembering how we couldn’t even twitch to scratch our nose singing the anthem every morning on the grounds of Holy Family School. How times have changed. It’s for this reason that I found the article ‘Tales out of School: Singing the National Anthem Word Perfect’ by Mary Quinn   to be at once sobering and amusing.

I’ll be the first to admit, I have my reservations about self-published material; while I appreciate the frustrations of the traditional route, and the desire to bypass them (been there, done that), there’s a part of me that believes the hurdles help ensure that what’s turned out is the best it can be – in terms of physical quality of the product and the quality of the content (stumbling over basic grammatical errors, plot gaps, character inconsistencies or other things that should have been caught and refined in editing takes away from the reading experience). That said, I’ve read poor material from the traditional route and really good self-published works (usually where the writer exercises the patience and good sense to invest in editing). So, with self-publishing more accessible than ever, as you consider the best route for your literary baby, I’m happy to share this article balancing both arguments while ultimately making a pro self-publishing case (in specific instances). Incidentally, the site is the online home of Bahamian writer Nicolette Bethel where there are other interesting postings on a range of topics.

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This is just one of the interesting points made in Susan Lowes’ article on Social Relations in Antigua in the 1940s: “In fact, it was by traversing this terrain that young people often came to know their “class.” Thus a young man would suddenly find that he was not allowed inside the gate of a close school friend, and realize that he was socially unacceptable to his friend’s parents. Or men who were good friends nevertheless did not visit each other inside their houses; those who reported that they were “very close” often got no further than the veranda. Women, as keepers of the indoors, controlled the most intimate types of socialization, ranging from house visits to marriage. Men, in contrast, socialized outdoors, on the streets and playing fields, in rum shops and clubs, arenas where they were less constrained by indoor standards of respectability. It was by and large the women who policed the distinctions of social class: who knew, and cared about, the genealogies, who determined who their children could socialize with inside the house and who had to remain an “outdoors” friend, and so on.”

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http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html – This is not a written piece but rather a piece on the power of writing and the danger of a single story. It’s one of the more circulated TED talks on the net, featuring Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie, author of Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and The Thing Around her Neck – which I read and reviewed in the Blogger on Books. On the strength of the latter book and the TED talk – which I can relate to so much as a girl from the Caribbean – she’s a new favourite of mine.

http://www.thereviewreview.net/publishing-tips/what-editors-want-must-read-writers-submitti – Submitting to literary journals? Read this first.

http://accordingtohoyt.com/2011/08/30/you-say-editing-i-say-proofreading – The importance of editing.

http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/the-criticism-that-changed-my – It may not feel like it at the time but constructive criticism helps us grow as writers.

http://ananseseminfo.blogspot.com/2011/05/writing-up-storm.html – tips for unlocking the literary imagination among students.

http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/7+Things+Ive+Learned+So+Far+By+Danica+Davidson.aspx – What aspiring writers need to know.

http://www.365antigua.com/cms/content/news-community-marcella-andre-commentary-haiti-march-27-2011 – I can FEEL Haiti in this piece.

http://summeredward.blogspot.com/2010/06/caribbean-picture-books-importance-of.html – Interesting piece on illustrations for Caribbean children’s literature; perhaps particularly interesting to me given that it ties in with our effort in 2011 to generate art to support the Caribbean children’s literature themed word entries for Wadadli Pen.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2007/03/poetry-terrors/ – On the writer and the blank page (by Kwame Dawes)

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/02/me-writing/ – On writing (by Trinidadian Paul Hadden).

http://www.candw.ag/~jardinea/ffhtm/ff971219.htm – The late Tim Hector putting into perspective the writing and life of (one of my favourites) the late Martin Carter.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/waves-and-murmurs/senior-lecture/ – Olive Senior, former winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, was actually my workshop leader when I attended the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute at the University of Miami back in 1995. Here she speaks at the Bahamas Writers Summer Institute in 2010 on ‘Writing and the Politics of Imagination in Small Spaces’. It’s a lengthy but interesting read.

INTERVIEWS

An interview with the always outspoken Dr. Carolyn Cooper, whom I personally remember as one of my favourite professors at the University of the West Indies.

“I find that in order to write your characters well, you have to be a little bit in love with them, even the ones that aren’t lovable at all.” – from Nalo Hopkinson’s 5 Minute Interview on Date with a Book.

“There was an idea I wouldn’t have been able to conceive of [the narrator] Precious’s life unless I had lived it,” said Push writer Sapphire. Push, some of you may know is the book that birthed the academy award winning film, Precious. Read her full comments on fact/fiction and assumptions/labelling here. This struck me because I’ve actually gotten a lot of the same assumptions (or questions) about my books – The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight – that the stories were biographical when they are in fact fiction (and no more biographical than any other work of fiction, in fact less so I’d say). Never thought of it as racism though since most of the questioning came from my own community. Hm.

The Farming of Bones remains my favourite book by Edwidge Dandicat, one of my favourite contemporary writers. In this interview, she talks about the book (good reading).

This interview with Tiphanie Yanique is quite engaging and revealing, plus how many of us can say Maya Angelou read a poem of ours while we were still in high school.

http://maudnewton.com/blog/?p=9295 – as I post this, I haven’t yet read Marlon James’ books (though they’ve been recommended to me time and again, especially Book of Night Women) but I found this interview quite interesting. My favourite line comes in the section where he talks of his struggles writing a love scene: Someone once scared me by saying that love isn’t saying “I love you” but calling to say “did you eat?” (And then proceeded to ask me this for the next 6 months).    All that and he’s a Buffy fan; I think I’m going to have to book mark his blog (http://marlon-james.blogspot.com/index.html) and get to reading those books.

http://antiguaspeaks.com/news/?p=204 – Linisa George’s Brown Girl in the Ring – inspired by the children’s nursery rhyme and her experiences as a dark skinned sister growing up in a shade conscious society – is a staple of not only her When A Woman Moans productions but the local (i.e. Antiguan and Barbudan) performance poetry scene. In this article, she discusses the piece with her sister-friend and collaborator, ZIA.

http://sheroxlox.tumblr.com/post/1640248532/she-rox-tameka-jarvis-george– “Write from your heart. Write about your experiences good or bad. Everything in your life happens for a reason, so let those moments big or small be your inspiration to teach or help other people.” – excerpt from interview with Antiguan author of 2010 release Unexpected. Follow the link to read the rest.

http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol5no1/0501104.pdf – One of the interesting aspects of this Opal Palmer Adisa interview featured in Calabash was her insights on the Caribbean aesthetic.

VISUAL ART

http://afrolicious.com/2011/08/16/the-missing-peace-is-beautiful – This is a short film, The Missing Peace, by Rachel Benjamin; it’s based on a story by Haitian-American writer Edwidge Dandicat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymvk3HsocqQ – Motion in motion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-DWLzbPmcQ – She Rox Lox – Zahra Airall’s rendering of locked women who are just beautiful.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/06/crime – This Steven Burrows piece calls to mind for me the Bob Marley song ‘Johnny Was’: “woman hold her head and cry, ’cause her son has been shot down in the street and die”…a commentary on the unsettling state of affairs on our streets and in our homes.

http://wn.com/UNICEF_oneminutesjr__Dear_Dad – This is a winning piece in a UNICEF competition by Antiguan Carlon Knight; it’s entitled ‘Dear Dad’ and is quite touching.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/06/help-a-sistah-out-man – This was posted on Tongues of the Ocean, the Bahamian-Caribbean multi-media arts journal. The artist is Lindsay Braynen.

…AND HERE’S SOME OF MY STUFF

Excerpt from Oh Gad! (my new book due in 2012)

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

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

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

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

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

Off the Map (non fiction) @ Signifying Guyana –

http://signifyinguyana.typepad.com/signifyin_guyana/2010/12/guest-post-writing-off-the-map-by-joanne-c-hillhouse.html  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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