Tag Archives: Read Caribbean

What (Caribbean) Writers Want

June is #readCaribbean and #CaribAThon which are two #CaribbeanHeritageMonth social media book reading challenges. I’ve been letting those challenges drive, if not guide, my reading this month and journalling about it over on my Jhohadli blog.

With #readCaribbeanwriters on online minds though, it seems a good time to revisit a thread posted last June to the Caribbean Writers group on facebook; specifically for the answers and what they reveal about the landscape for writers in the Caribbean. The questions from Barbara Arrindell, Wadadli Pen team member, who was crowd sourcing responses for a presentation, were what do Caribbean writers most need, and what is the state of the writing and book production industry in the Caribbean.

Caribbean Reads, indie publisher out of St Kitts-Nevis and the US, at the Brooklyn Book Festival, maybe around 2018. Caribbean Reads was started by US based Nevisian writer Carol Mitchell as an avenue to publish her own books and books by other authors (including some of mine). Its listing includes award winning and critically acclaimed Caribbean books.

Responses –

Cut and condensed for length (with insertions primarily in parentheses for clarity) and, while there was a fair amount of conversation between respondents, keeping to answers to the original questions. Where ideas are repeated, limiting to one or two versions. Also, while I’ve gotten permission from group admin Sandra Sealy to share the thread, I don’t have individual author permission. However, if I recognize the respondent as a public figure, I will name and, where possible, link them (if anyone wants their name removed, they can let me know). The reason for naming and linking is to encourage you to check them out and especially their books and/or services (mine linked here). Ordered and re-arranged in to sub-heads because this is a blog not a facebook thread. Finally, these are not absolutes; each island/country is different and some have more resources and initiatives than others. But the point is there could always be more, a lot more.

Olive Senior, Jamaican writer and current poet laureate, at the Best of Books (Antigua-Barbuda bookstore) table at the Alliougana literary festival in Montserrat, 2019. Olive, also a Wadadli Youth Pen Prize patron, has mentored writers like me in the Caribbean and likely Canada, where she lives, won major awards, achieved international success and local acclaim, and is on record (a few years ago now, so things may have changed) criticizing the lack of availability of her books/books by Jamaican authors in Jamaican bookstores and spaces where books are sold (like the airport).

– Development & Opportunities –

“More support for libraries which, in turn, can serve as centers of support for local writers – hosting readings, writers groups, workshops, etc. Two of the Caribbean countries where I’ve lived have no national libraries since at least 2014.”

“Continued spaces for aspiring writers to nurture their abilities. Most are limited to writing competitions which don’t come with any ongoing support.” (Nerissa Golden)

“I taught a few novels for almost ten years in the lower forms or secondary schools. There should be a faster turn over so other writers could get an opportunity.”

“Regular changing of the CXC books and recommended books for all Language Arts courses. Transparency around when submissions are due, what criteria given selection. A mix of veteran and young blood authors. Writers in schools program. Supported by governments.” (A-dZiko Simba Gegele)

Andre Warner, pictured here at the Best of Books collecting his prizes, has been a finalist for several years and in 2020 was co-winner of the main prize for the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, a project I started in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. In 2021, Wadadli Pen became a legal non-profit. Also in 2021, Andre started interning with me, assisting me while trying to learn more.

– Finance & Institutional Support –

“More self-published authors. Still not where it needs to be. Established systems such as education ministries, CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council) aren’t encouraging using more modern stories in their curriculums.” (Nerissa Golden)

“We need governments to support and promote local books and to encourage and equip their writers to produce work at an international standard. And we need MOEs (Ministries of Education) to incorporate recent local work in the education system and also invite ongoing production of new material for our students.”

“•Arts grants systems to support working writers.•Publishers need incentives to produce fiction, poetry and drama because those are not typically as lucrative as text books.•Support for audio book production, marketing and distribution. This is an emerging market the region could really “ramajay” in because we have great stories, great voices and great producers.” (Lisa Allen-Agostini)

“Grants definitely. Self publishing improved. Printer.”

“When we get books published, we then need to be BUYING them to stock in our libraries, using the books in our curriculum, reducing the inertia in the CXC book list, using our books to promote our islands as more than sea and sand, and so on. With that endorsement and exposure, we might change local public attitudes towards our books and generate demand that will support the industry, increase output, and bring book prices down. Separately, if we value the art then we have to put dollars behind it. Not just a one time handout every now and then but a long term PLAN with real money for ongoing training, opportunities for exposure, writer community building, and institutionalization of Caribbean books. If we do that we’ll get more output from all of the islands.” (Carol Mitchell)

“Little (publishing) houses need something like the Arts Council of England.”

“Government support for the writing industry, through a regional/national writing council that treats writing as an export product. Government should behave as if telling local stories is an investment in cultural positioning, because, writing is excellent public relations for any country. A literature council whose goal is to produce books written by nationals about your culture has been a strategy of developed countries to make their way of life almost seductive for the rest of the world. We need nothing less than a change of perspective in the industry, there is so much potential for growth.” (Marsha Gomes-Mckie)

“Taxation and customs is a real problem when it comes to bringing in books. It drives the prices sky high, higher than any international distributor. It’s what will make a 90-page poetry book cost more than $100. Not related, but even obtaining royalties and advance money is a pain. It will take months to get through to BIR (Board of Inland Revenue) for you to get through to stamp duty to avoid double taxation from some territories.” (Kevin Hosein)

Students in Antigua and Barbuda browsing books. This looks to be a table set up by a local bookstore in-school.

– Publishing avenues & Infrastructure –

“With regards to works of fiction, we definitely need two strong areas. 1) a strong marketing department and 2) literary agents. Both of them working hand in hand. In addition, and this is one is a slow process. Writers to succeed need readers. You can have the best books and no readers and the books will not succeed.”

“Reactivate the Caribbean YA (young adult) Lit Prize that Bocas ran. It published over two dozen books in the time it was active, got markets for those books and put them in children’s hands. That was a successful programme for all the parties involved: publisher, author, reader.” (Lisa Allen-Agostini)

“Distribution in the region is a massive problem. At the production end and the retail end getting books printed in region may be rendered more expensive when you try to get the books to different territories. That’s one of the advantages of a publisher. All authors aren’t necessarily marketers nor should they have to be and a publicity and distribution network that was as seamless as possible would go a long way.” (Ayesha Gibson)

“…and effective ways of receiving payment.” (A-dZiko Simba Gegele)

“Self-publishing is hard. Most of the time that should be spent creating is spent on publishing. Our governments want us to write, edit, print and shop our books entirely by ourselves just so they can boast that we have a “creative industry”. Only in books and media are we expected to build a car and sell it; every other industry is given tax breaks, concessions and loads of cash. A writer can’t be a writer. We have to be business people. That might sound empowering but it is not. It is enervating and deprives us of the needed creative energy to push against boundaries. But more than that, we need to make readers of our people, particularly our children. So if the system won’t give us an imprint to which we can submit manuscripts and will support our work, then at least create a love for reading, writing and appreciation for books. Not reading for CXC but reading for pleasure, provocative thought, preservation of memory, experimentation, self-expression, self-esteem and sheer variety.” (Julius Gittens)

A book table display, likely belonging to a local bookstore, which would have the books of participating authors available for sale, at the 2015 US Virgin Islands book fair.

– Bookstores & Book Promotion –
“Encourage the book shops to display West Indian writers’ books in vantage positions in their shops. Too often the books are hidden away, tucked away in some deep dark corner. We need them at the front so as soon as you enter the shops you see them.” (Vishnu Gosine)

“Now with the internet we should improve marketing of our work maybe under one banner.”

“Authors should not be expected to be their own marketing machine, and that is sadly the case in the Caribbean…Real money has to be put in, in the form of grants or awards or angel investors. This has been seen in the Burt Award for Young Adult Caribbean Literature, which in my own experience, was quite successful in what it set out to do. The prize money was like a neat little advance and then you had tours with schools and libraries in the region, getting reviews from Bookstagrammers, Goodreads and NetGalley, and could easily get books featured in stores …And some of the books were even picked up by other presses, such as Diana McCaulay‘s and Lisa Allen-Agostini’s. It provided visibility and opportunity to connect with an audience.” (Kevin Hosein)

Periodically, long time Wadadli Pen patron, the Best of Books bookstore, hosts local authors, not just for launches or readings, but sidewalk showcases like this one from 2020 i.e. as the country began to loosen pandemic restrictions.

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I will end by sharing a wish list I posted here back in 2017 and the Wadadli Pen R & D page – work done completely voluntarily; though there have been calls to the government of Antigua and Barbuda for the appointment of someone specifically tasked with lit arts development, who could, we would hope, access the resources to do this and more, more consistently. What has been captured on the R & D pages, and built on this blog over the years, consistent with what sparked Wadadli Pen in the first place, is providing what was not and is still not available. There is a RESOURCES page, a page of Caribbean Resources, a listing of professional services, writing and publishing frequently asked questions, two opportunities pages (one with pending deadlines and one with market, including publisher links), links to writer web pages locally and regionally, listings of published short pieces and books by Antiguan and Barbudan writers, a bibliography of Caribbean writing, a reading room and gallery series sharing writing and art and art conversations, links to literary festivals of the Caribbean, and more (including regular lit postings).

Started during the pandemic, Ten Pages bookstore in Antigua and Barbuda, owned by Glen Toussaint, who also has a lengthy relationship with Wadadli Pen, and continuing, can also be found around St. John’s City and online.

One of my pet peeves is to hear people within the formal infrastructure say that artists should not sit and depend on government, they should do things for themselves, because our feet are tired, that’s primarily what we’ve had to do (build what we need) given the lack of an enabling environment. And though it seems obvious to me that some in the region are doing more and better than others, it’s clear there are some common grievances and needs and avenues and opportunities, as writers mentioned hail from various islands (big and small).

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.

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#CaribAThon Is Back — RUN WRIGHT

June is the celebration of Caribbean heritage here in the USA and 3 years ago, I thought it would be apropos to use my little space on the internet to promote Caribbean literature. Hence, the CaribAThon readathon was born. Our 3rd iteration of CaribAThon is currently underway and my excitement has been heightened by the […]

#CaribAThon Is Back — RUN WRIGHT

FYI I’ve been mixing my #CaribAThon with #readCaribbean and upding via a reading journal on my Jhohadli blog.

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.

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The Three Ws of Reading

This is a Three Ws Wednesday, Black History Month and Caribbean Edition. Three W’s Wednesday is a book blog meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I thought it’d be interesting for Wadadli Pen to get some of that action – if you’re reading this, maybe you’ll find something to add to your reading list.

The Three Ws are –

What are you currently reading?

Victoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde (translated by Richard Philcox)

From the winner of the New Academy Prize in Literature (the alternative to the Nobel Prize) and critically acclaimed author of the classic historical novel Segu, Maryse Condé has pieced together the life of her maternal grandmother to create a moving and profound novel.

Maryse Condé’s personal journey of discovery and revelation becomes ours as we learn of Victoire, her white-skinned mestiza grandmother who worked as a cook for the Walbergs, a family of white Creoles, in the French Antilles.

Victoire was spurred by Condé’s desire to learn of her family history, resolving to begin her quest by researching the life of her grandmother.

Creating a work that takes you into a time and place populated with unforgettable characters that inspire and amaze, Condé’s blending of memoir and imagination, detective work and storytelling artistry, is a literary gem that you won’t soon forget.

ETA: Finished! Read review here.

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What did you recently finish reading?

Yemoja’s Anansi: A Short Story by Christal Clashing

It is its own new myth with its casting of Anansi as a young girl from an African village raided during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and water goddess Yemoja as characters, the latter gifting the former transmogrification as a means of surviving her capture. – This is from my Blogger on Books on the this first book, a photo illustrated work of fiction by the Antiguan and Barbudan Olympic swimmer and Atlantic rower. Read also my CREATIVE SPACE on Reimagining Anansi, featuring Yemoja’s Anansi.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m already reading it. Forthcoming book by Barbados based Jamaican writer Sharma Taylor What a Mother’s Love Won’t Teach You. It goes on sale in July 2022.

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Dance on the Moon

Floree Williams Whyte has published her fourth book, second children’s picture book, and the second from her independent press Moondancer Books, Dance on the Moon.

Whyte, as you know if you’re a regular here, is a Wadadli Pen team member. I will be interviewing her about this book for my CREATIVE SPACE series but until then, here’s a recent interview with ABS TV, in which she discusses, of writing, how she fell in to it and fell in love with it; the inspiration for the book, where and how readers can get the book, and her future in writing and publishing.

Antiguan Author Floree Williams Whyte releases 4th book

[St. John’s Antigua —December 7th, 2021] Author and publisher Floree Williams Whyte has released her 4th book – Dance On The Moon, right in time for the Christmas season.

Dance On The Moon, Whyte’s first fully illustrated book is set in Antigua and targeted at children ages 3 – 7. The story book features main character Lula, a 7 year old, who has big, overwhelming emotions which often make her want to stay at home. Lula learns to overcome her strong feelings of anxiety, nervousness and shyness by taking some special advice from her Antiguan grandmother.

Floree was inspired to write this book based on her mantra ‘Never let fear stop you from dancing on the moon’, to help encourage children who already experience anxiety and fear at a young age.

Dance on the Moon is her 2nd book to be published under her own imprint Moondancer Books. Whyte hopes to be able to expand her publishing company to include other children’s book authors in the near future.

Books can be purchased worldwide on Amazon, or locally from The Best of Books and Ten Pages Bookstore. Whyte will also be selling and signing copies at the Antiguan Artisans Christmas Market on December 11th at The Vineyard Restaurant.

Floree Whyte is an Author, Publisher, Marketing & Communications professional, wife, mother and dreamer. In 2017 she founded Moondancer Books a local book publishing company focusing on Antiguan children’s books. Whyte has published four books ranging from children’s books to a young adult novel. She credits her educational background as one of the main reasons she got into book writing and publishing.

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, 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.

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Reading Room and Gallery 42

Things I read or view or listen to that you might like too. Things will be added – up to about 20 or so – before this installment in the Reading Room and Gallery series is archived. For previous and future installments in this series, use the search feature to the right. Possible warning for adult language and themes.

NON-FICTION

“Not enough genre peeps are being published writing in, for lack of a better word, non-Eurocentric dialects/vernacular.” – Dialog, Patois: If It’s Good Enough for Anthony Burgess, It’s Good Enough For You by Tonya Liburd

MISC.

The 2021 Virgin Islands Lit Fest was virtual. Here are all the panels, in case you missed it.

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“If you’re a regular here, you know I’m a Caribbean author, reader, and blogger, and I stay reading Caribbean, but I could stand to read a lot more and I’d bet you could too (so consider yourself recc’d).” – from my blog, Top Ten Tuesday #ReadCaribbean

REPORTING

“Although not the traditional form of storytelling, video games, like any other game reflect the culture in which it was forged. Video games, however, get a bad rap, because the associations we give to them such as encouraging antisocial and sedentary behaviours and lifestyles. However, video games provide a particularly unique opportunity to incorporate elements of Caribbean culture through their unique method of interactive narrative during gameplay.” – The Creolisation of Video Games. ‘If We are to preserve Culture, We must continue to create It.’ by Christal Clashing

POETRY

Ann-Margaret Lim

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‘and the takeoff/when the body comes fully in to play/is the throwing off of shackles” – ‘Dear Phibba’ by Ann Margaret Lim

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It’s work, it’s work, my cousins told me
when I complained about too many yachts in the sea,

how I didn’t feel safe swimming anymore.

It’s work, it’s work, I tell myself when I clock
in my time for the day.” – from ‘Solastalgia‘ by Catherine-Esther Cowie

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“The day her practised palm cracked my cheekbone,
I crawled into grief.” – from ‘Mother suffered from Memories‘ by Juleus Ghunta

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I say, Mr. Jno Baptiste
Maybe you’re just not crazy about this world anymore
Maybe you’re just mad, mad, mad about something
But what do I know

-from ‘What do I know’ in Guabancex by Celia Sorhaindo

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“Run.
You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house is next.” – Running Orders by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

FILM + OTHER VISUAL ART

Isolation‘ by Carl Augustus of Antigua and Barbuda is a hybrid water colour and poem about mental health, published to the Intersect Antigua-Barbuda platform.

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CONVERSATIONS

“We don’t like the word misogyny. We don’t like the word sexism and we don’t like the word misogyny (in the Caribbean)…there’s all this talk about gender based violence…this is misogyny…this is directed at women.” – Jamaican writer Jacqueline Bishop on the Rippling Pages podcast.

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Two iconic producers discussing how they did it from teenhood to an epic music catalogue.

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“…we don’t mind but it’s the parents of the other girls who might mind.” – Margaret Busby, first Black UK publisher, editor of Daughters of Africa and New Daughters of Africa, whose parents are Caribbean and who spent her earliest years in Ghana, about the responses her partents received when registering she and her siblings in British boarding schools. In conversation re Desert Island Discs with the BBC, in which she gives iconic song picks mixed in with personal history.

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“I had started it as a young adult fantasy book, there was a whole fantasy element to this.” – Trinidad and Tobagonian author N. G. Peltier discussing her romance novel Sweethand on the Tim Tim Bwa Fik Caribbean romance podcast. Scroll and click the playlist for conversations with various Caribbean writers of romance.

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“I’ve loved poetry for many years, reading and listening to it. I’ve always found it a powerful and connecting literary form, but I was relatively new to writing it.” – Celia Sorhaindo interviewed by Kahini

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“One night, I felt this feeling I’d been having my whole life: wake up, can’t see, can’t breathe.” – Courttia Newland in conversation with Johnny Temple of Akashic about out of body experiences, his new book, and the award winning Small Axe anthology series on which he was co-writer.

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“My mother being from the Caribbean and my father being from the South, and me having a huge need to fit in and low self-esteem, I lost my identity very quickly, trying to fit in, to go under the radar…the disconnect from getting to know who Michael was…and the ability to chameleon myself…that also started very early…I got addicted to fantasy very quick.” – Michael K. Williams (RIP) in one of his last interviews discussing his craft, his addiction, his background (which is part Caribbean on his mother’s side – she was an immigrant from the Bahamas), his love of cooking and trying new things, and more. Michael K. came to fame first as a back-up dancer and choreographer and later playing iconic roles like Omar in The Wire, and as a strong character actor in films like Bessie and When They See Us.

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“The Federal Art Project was part of something called Federal One, which had projects not just for the fine arts but also for theater, for writing, for music. There was a design index. It was one aspect of a really diverse and wide-ranging kind of project…the government saw it as an obligation, part of its duty, to provide artists in need with economic support. So they commissioned them to produce public art…The arts, for Roosevelt and the New Dealers, were seen as a fundamental component of a truly democratic society. A democracy could not call itself as such without art, music, theater, poetry, writing, design, photography, film.” – Alison Wilkinson in conversation with Jody Patterson for Vox

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“In the same ways that women were expected and didn’t slip in high school in reading Shakespeare and be expected to get all sorts of things from Shakespeare and from Walcott and from Brathwaite – men can get enormous things from this book and from reading these women as well and that’s what I’ll say to that. There is a stance that, “oh we have to think about the men’s feelings here, and whatnot,” but we don’t think about that when it comes to women reading male writers, right? Male writers, they have achieved, it seems, a kind of universality that “women have not”… Bullshit. I cry bullshit to that. Women, too, are universal. Right? So if you want good writing, if you want good interviews, if you want all of that, women can provide it as well. So male writers will get the exact same things and male readers will get the exact same things here that they would get from any good book.” – Jacqueline Bishop in conversation with Jamaica Creates

FICTION

‘I just thought we’d be in a better position,’ she said. ‘You know. By this stage in our lives. I thought we’d have made more of ourselves.’ – from ‘Attention‘ by Catherine Chidgey; it was shortlisted for the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story prize.

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“I arrived with kosher tacos, made from scratch with chicken liver and mole, and by the end of the night, all sixteen of them sat untouched in the pan, the sauce congealing beneath the foil.” – from ‘The Orphan Disease‘ by Jake Wolff in Kenyon Review

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“The sun hot like it beating your skin with a rubber strap.” – from ‘Cash and Carry‘ by Sharma Taylor, shortlisted for the 2020 Commonwealth short story prize

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“This is how you discover that you fall into that select category of People For Whom Ganja Is Useless.” – from ‘Hunger‘ by Andre Bagoo. This story was shortlisted for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. It is posted on the Commonwealth Writers Adda platform.

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Jamaica Kincaid reading her short story ‘Girl’

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“‘I sit down waiting on the bed, and I hear he start to cry. And I know I in for lash. But he come quiet quiet in the room, lie down and say, “Aditi, I sorry.” I wanted to walk out that house then and there, but I ask him for what. He say everything. He say he sorry for everything. The word so stink and nasty after all he do, but he bawling sorrysorrysorry like he feel it go fix something. Like he feel I go start feeling sorry myself.’” – English at the End of Time by Rashad Hosein, shortlisted for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

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“Don’t get me wrong: Long Island boys look good. When the Anglican Diocese host Jamboree here, all the girls from Exuma and Eleuthera drool over our boys like they ain’t got none back where they come from. But I ain’t never seen nothing like Demetri before. Brown sugar kiss his gilded skin. The sun blink at the golden glint of his hair. I almost drown in the cerulean waters that rise up to meet me when he look over. He got them eyes that shift with the light. Sometimes they so clear you could see right down to the bottom. Other times they froth with the Lusca’s rage.” – Granma’s Porch by Alexia Tolas

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“We meet our friends for happy hour, hand a twenty-dollar bill to the bartender, double-take when he quips, Still whiskey and Coke after all these years? We peer at him, recognize the brown boy we wrapped our arms around in a basement in Richmond Hill. While Aaliyah crooned on the radio.” – Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades, 2019 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest Winner

CREATIVES ON CREATING

The Daily Show has been doing a series ‘Beyond the Scenes’ – a how the sausage gets made series on the topical comedy segments on the show.

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“It looks as if I’ve been very prolific but actually there have been breaks” – Monique Roffey in conversation with Malika Booker for New Caribbean Voices – Books and Writers podcast

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“I spent a couple of summers as a kid in Barbados, but probably eight or nine summers in Antigua; so I actually spent a lot more time in Antigua with my dad’s family. So it’s a bit ironic that I spent so much time writing about Barbados ’cause I actually know a lot less about it and I’m less connected to my family there. But I think that actually opened up a space for me imaginatively to write about Barbados that wasn’t there for Antigua.” – Naomi Jackson on Writing Home: American Voices from the Caribbean

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“With all its horrors, the pandemic has led to a host of online workshops, open mics, events like poetry readings and literary festivals, virtual spaces to share, discuss and connect with other writers and writing communities, and a host of other opportunities. All of these have helped to improve my craft and my confidence. I have also been reading poetry voraciously from a diverse range of poets, and other articles that catch my interest, not just literary ones, from quantum physics to the amazing life and anatomy of an octopus. I assume it’s the same for everyone.” – Bocas longlisted poet (Guabancex) Celia Sorhaindo in conversation with US based Jamaican writer Geoffrey Philp on his blog.

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‘I’d had workshop earlier that day, and my professor, Elissa Schappell, said two pieces of advice that lodged in my brain: Don’t be afraid to take risks in your writing, and Write what only you could say. It was advice I needed to hear at that point in time; I’d been pursing art in an academic setting—the MFA—and the program had, ironically (or perhaps not-so-ironically), left me feeling creatively stifled. Elissa’s words reminded me of the thematic and formal risks I wanted, and absolutely needed, to take in my art. What she said helped me feel the freedom I needed to feel to begin “Brown Girls.”’ – Daphne Palasi Andreades, KR Conversations

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“Seabirds are a constant in my daily life. Along my daily commute frigates are flying overhead while pelicans rest on the waterside rocks. Just now, in the empty lot next to my apartment a lonely heron wanders about. When I ride the ferry over to the outer islands or over to St. Thomas, brown boobies chase the boat’s work. Sometimes I feel like my outstretched fingers may just graze their bellies.” – British Virgin Islands poet laureate and OCM Bocas prize winner Richard Georges in conversation with acclaimed and award winning Jamaican writer Jacqueline Bishop for her series in the Jamaica Observer Bookends supplement. Read the interview:

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“She changed the requirement that actresses in the movies being invariably likeable or attractive. She lifted the veil of appropriate behaviour in women to expose what was scary, unexpected, or ugly; in other words, to do what was appropriate for the character” – Meryl Streep on Bette Davis for Turner Classic Movies

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on AmazonWordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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When You’re a Caribbean Gyal in a Big Book World

This is an article I started shopping a little too late, a little over a month ago (hoping it would find fertile ground with June being Caribbean American Heritage Month). Give thanks for blogging. Sharing here with minor edits to the original draft. Share your thoughts.

If you were on #bookstagram or book twitter during the month of June, Caribbean American Heritage Month in the US, you might have happened upon a little hashtag catching fire, #readCaribbean. It’s the brainchild of Cindy, BookofCinz on instagram, Caribbean Girl Reading the World on twitter; also in June, June 9th to 18th in 2020, on booktube and bookstagram, is the Caribathon, run by Jamaica-born ComfyCozyUp and RunWright Reads.

Why all this Caribbean book love, you may ask.

“I love sharing my culture as well as other cultures in the Caribbean,” ComfyCozyUp said in the 2021 Caribathon announcement on YouTube.

Cindy has given her purpose as creating awareness about Caribbean literature, Caribbean authors, Caribbean heritage, and showcasing the Caribbean voice while maintaining how unique each island is. Of course, the challenge is to find Caribbean books, read them, chat about them, hashtag them, but Cindy also directs the reading with challenges within the challenge to #readCaribbean that include instructions to read Caribbean poetry, queer lit, folklore, women, indies, and various islands (my response to Cindy’s challenge here).

I wanted to write, as a Caribbean reader and writer, why these initiatives not only matter but why they excite me so much.

It is primarily because I am a Caribbean reader and writer from a 108 square mile island, a dot on the map, we may joke, even while our national ethos is “we bigger dan dem” because, while not small in our own minds, we are keenly aware of our place in the global scheme of things.

It is primarily because I am a Caribbean reader and writer from a 108 square mile island which bigger-better-known Caribbean islands may unironically call “small island”. Our most famous writer (daughter of Ovals and one of my favourites) is named for one of those bigger islands Jamaica and wrote a really thought provoking book about home called A Small Place.

It is primarily because I am a Caribbean reader and writer from a 108 square mile island who five times out of 10 when I’m outside the region and say I’m from Antigua gets, in response, “Jamaica?”, “Montego Bay?”, or depending on how far I’ve travelled, a blank stare, that has me fishing around for some connective thread between their world and mine. Viv Richards usually works because most of the world, or at least the former British empire, which is to say Britain and her stolen common wealth (on which the sun never set), plays cricket and Sir Isaac Alexander Vivian Richards is the winningest captain of the West Indies Cricket Team and was named one of Wisden’s top 5 cricketers of the 20th century. He is from Ovals, Antigua.

It is primarily because I am a Caribbean reader and writer from a 108 square mile island I described, in my well-travelled piece on Writing off the Map, as being “far from the world where books are made and dreaming impossible dreams is encouraged” in describing my journey to becoming a published writer in a world where, with some very few exceptions, Caribbean writers don’t even have prominence in Caribbean bookstores, nor gallingly those bookstores in Caribbean airports.

I am a self-described #gyalfromOttosAntigua. Growing up in Antigua and Barbuda, which became politically independent from Britain in 1981 when I would have been eight years old, two years or so before cable TV saw us swarmed with content out of America, another type of colonization, most of the entertainment we all consumed, with the exception of two weeks of Carnival in the summer, was from, as we say, “overseas”. How pervasive was this? Well, I just wrote that Carnival was in the summer and I live in “the tropics” where it’s summer all year round. How many books, TV shows, movies, songs, advertisements do you think it took for a little girl from an island in the Caribbean to internalize the idea of seasons. I mean, we had seasons in the Caribbean – Carnival season, mango season, hurricane season etc., but the spring, summer, fall/autumn, winter thing is wholly imported. So, more recently, are concepts like Halloween and Black Friday which have become quite popular here as well, even as people of my generation bemoan that they’ve usurped Guy Fawkes, which I remember fondly because we lit starlights and fireworks, what we called “bombs”. Guy Fawkes was, of course, another imported observance, this one of a failed gunpowder plot in Britain back in the 1600s. As a child, I knew as much about that as about why we sang London Bridge or Ring-a-round a Rosey in schoolyard playgrounds.

We, in the Caribbean, like to think of ourselves as a pepperpot, creole, a mix up mix up of influences though primarily of African origin. African origin, British and more recently American cultural and institutional dominance (I would say American cultural dominance, especially in the age of streaming and social media, and British institutional dominance certainly in the structure and mindset of our public sector), and a mélange of other people and influences. My mother is from the English speaking French and English Creole island of Dominica and a lot of the Caribbean – Dominica, Jamaica, Indo-Guyana – meet in Antigua, where a sizable percentage of our population is from the Dominican Republic, and also Europe, the Middle East, and increasingly China. Variations of the same all across the Caribbean, the mixes and seasonings varying based on political and economic influence and the movement of people.

What does all of this have to do with the #Caribathon and #readCaribbean? Well, to a greater degree than we like to admit much of what we consumed – so many of the books we consumed in school and for leisure – were not written by Caribbean authors. We were an Enid Blyton, Archie comic, Judy Bloom, Trixie Belden, Mills and Boon, Wakefield Twins reading people, and the discovery of our own voices, and we are still discovering them, speaking for myself, had to be a deliberate act because the other stuff was so comparatively easily accessible. My dad used to bring home books and magazines left behind by tourists (which by default meant white people) at the resort – most Antiguans and Barbudans worked in resort tourism after the death of the sugar trade, before my time. The West Indian/Caribbean canon did exist but the image of those books in a glass cabinet locked with a key at the library, at the time a room above a storefront on the main road through St. John’s City, because, yes, even islands have distinctions between city/town and country, crosses my mind as an apt metaphor for our relationship to those books. You had to work to get to them, unlock something. For many in the Caribbean, the introduction to Caribbean literature was a school thing – the story of Millicent by Merle Hodge, later Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipauls’ A House for Mr. Biswas for which I wasn’t ready (a struggle). Shakespeare, too, but I had the opportunity to re-meet the Bard under more receptive circumstances in my college years. And then, of course, he was all across popular culture – Hollywood loves a Shakespeare adaptation almost as much as a Jane Austen, whom I also studied in college. So I was primed. For many a Caribbean child, though, I’d venture, our school-based introduction to Caribbean texts as texts, defined a relationship akin to healthy eating with these books.

Two of my books, The Boy from Willow Bend and Musical Youth have been and are on schools reading lists in the Caribbean. Of course, like any author, I hope the students who are introduced to them embrace them, and not just endure them.



The beauty of initiatives like #readCaribbean and Caribathon is the opportunity to discover the joy in the Caribbean canon, the reading of Caribbean books widely and plentifully, as Antiguan-Barbudan calypsonian Singing Althea once sang, just for fun. Because Caribbean reading is not just healthy eating, though it can be. It is bananas – tasty and rich, mangoes – too rich but so good, soursop – good and thick, gynep – it has layers, man; it is all the things you can eat – the things that give you running belly to the things that make you hopped up on endorphins. It is a varied and tasty buffet of bookish goodness, and as with a buffet, you’re sure to find something to sate your literary palette.

Little known fact, from erotica to romance to historical dramas to scholarly tomes, the Caribbean’s got you covered; and the discovery of that canon is the point of these hashtags.


That both initiatives got going in 2020. Actually #readCaribbean was coined in 2019, but 2020 was a year in which the Black Lives Matter social movements, among other shifts in thought and action, propelled people to consume content formerly at the margins, the Black story. Sure, they ran full pelt toward The Help, initially, but hopefully social media driven nudges toward #ownvoices content that include #readCaribbean and Caribathon, because our stories too are part of this conversation, will open up the reading experience of eyes that usually default to more mainstream material. All these euphemisms. White people, the white experience, the white gaze, western stories (not the old west, the western hemisphere); that’s the default, and as I’ve shown, not just in America, but in America, yes.

When I posted about #readCaribbean on my blog at the start of June 2021, a couple of positively encouraging responses (from white women, judging by their avatars though I can’t say which country) suggested that while they hadn’t thought (or thought much) about it before they were now. “I’ve read a couple of these authors, but that’s it. I really need to branch out in my reading, so thanks for the recs.” – one wrote. Another – “I didn’t know June was #ReadCaribbeanMonth! I’m bookmarking this post to see which of these books I can find at my local library.” The most interesting comment for me though was the one who said that while they’d read and found interesting two of the books I’d listed, two modern Caribbean classics by the way, they were hard to follow because of “all the stuff with the mongoose … and all the dreamy, surreal sequences.” I appreciated the candor. But I have to admit I ruminated over this comment quite a bit before responding, wondering if it was just a matter of taste or limited exposure, because surrealism, symbolism, and magical realism is such a normal part of Caribbean literature beginning with the Anansi tales and Jumbie stories so many children of my generation, children of the 70s and 80s, grew up on that not only weren’t these wrinkles in my reading of the named books, they were part of the beauty and poetry of them. I said as much. But this continued to turn over in my mind. (Allowing for personal preference, of course) Was it possible to be so used to story told a particular type of way that other ways felt off? Well, of course, that is part of the problem with a reading diet – not speaking to this individual commenter, who as a book blogger I suspect reads more widely than most, but to reading habits generally – largely limited to a single food group. It’s bland and a little pepper makes it taste over-seasoned; when that’s just flavour, baby.

Last year, in an online book group, I saw enthusiastic readers posting stacks of books as part of their mission to read Black for Black History Month. The stacks included The Help, again, and To Kill a Mockingbird which, while a personal favourite from secondary school, are not #ownvoices Black books – a la Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage, an Oprah’s Book Club pick which also deals with wrongful prosecution of a Black man (read my review).

It reminded me of how important it is to be as conscious in pushing books, as Oprah has to a degree (boosting authors like Toni Morrison and Edwidge Dandicat) written by Black and Caribbean writers, as I and others have had to be about deliberately seeking out and reading Black and Caribbean books. Even and ironically especially when we come from a predominantly Black country. Because, per the fine print, we are also former colonies of European countries and endured hundreds of years of being trafficked into the dehumanization of chattel slavery and post-slavery inequities that the labour movement of the 1930s, through the Independence and pan-African movements of the 1960s through 1980s, even to the reparations movement that gathered focus 20 or so years ago are still in the process of dismantling. We’re working through some ish. The #readCaribbean and Caribathon initiatives are as necessary for us, discovering and rediscovering and affirming ourselves, as for those who have been denied variety by a publishing and book industry that too often plays it safe by not publishing diversely nor properly promoting the diverse books that are published.


So, that’s why I was excited as a reader and as a writer, but most especially as a Caribbean person about initiatives like #readCaribbean and Caribathon.

Post-script: And this was my first #booktube reading wrap up (which is not exclusively #Caribathon and #readCaribbean related but does reference it).

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on AmazonWordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Reading Room and Gallery 40

Things I read that you might like too. Things will be added – up to about 20 or so – before this installment in the Reading Room and Gallery series is archived. For previous and future installments in this series, use the search feature to the right.

BLOGS

June was Caribbean American Heritage Month, prompting the return of the #readCaribbean and #CaribAthon hashtags around social media. Over on my other blog Jhohadli, I participated with some recommendations.

REPORTS

“Like any journalism, film criticism often displeases those being written about. And, like any journalists, film critics must have the support of their publications when that displeasure, usually coming from people far more powerful than any journalist, is made known — especially when that publication claims to report on the industry those powerful people inhabit,” the statement reads. “It is appalling that, in this instance, Variety chose to side with that power rather than supporting its writer.” – a report on the criticism of the response to criticism of criticism in The Wrap.

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“James uses vibrant colors and draws on Ethiopian Christian iconography in her work, an influence evident in the wide, almond-shaped eyes of the people she depicts.” – Antigua-descended, Bronx-artist Laura James work discussed in Fordham News’ Behind the Cover: Together We Rise by Laura James

“In an effort to fight conoravirus fears, Antigua-rooted artist Laura James posted a painting powered message of hope on Facebook …” – read more about it in the NY Daily News.

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“I knew I wanted magic and I knew I wanted magical realism.” – Leone Ross discusses her new book Popisho/This One Sky Day with Alicia O’Keeffe in The Bookseller. Read in full.

STORIES/SHORT FICTION

“He remembered a time before, when his mother’s breath smelled of almonds and her neck smelled of roses and cinnamon. She used to hold him in her arms and he used to breathe her in. A long time ago.” – from Cam and the Maskless by Lisa Allen-Agostini in About Place Journal Vol. II Issue II Pandemic Blues

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How to Marry an African President by Erica Sugo Anyadike – Wasafiri Magazine

“Your husband is no longer the authoritarian figure he was, tall, forbidding, back ramrod straight. His shoulders droop now, he falls asleep at the dinner table. Still he is respected and revered. What he says counts and he has crowned you his political heir.” – How to Marry an African President by Erica Sugo Anyadike

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“Carnival is much more than a show.” – Mario Picayo’s It Takes a Village read by Chef Julius Jackson

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“When she wakes up, she is alone on the back of a float, pieces of her costume missing and other pieces askew, and the mas yard is all but abandoned.”

This is an audio recording of my (Joanne C. Hillhouse) story Carnival Hangover as prepared for posting on the intersectantigua.com platform. It is read by Nneka Nicholas. Pay attention to the trigger warning.

INTERVIEWS/CONVERSATIONS

“I can’t think of any one favorite poem now. At present, I love the poetry of Dionne Brand, who is in many ways different from me politically. You know, she is an activist, LGBT, and we get on well, we talk well, I love her work. Somebody would want to know, how come I, kind of a conservative Christian, and this activist LGBT connect but we admire each other’s work. Our connection is the literature and writers we look to. I admire the vision and movements of her poetry.” – John Robert Lee in conversation with Andy Caul

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“I like to think of myself as a superhero.” – Ibtihaj Muhammad in conversation with Jewell Parker Rhodes (and vice versa)

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“I remember just really resenting how much my little body was policed as a child.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the birth of her feminism in this conversation on Bookshelfie.

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“I’m proud of this. I’m proud that I keep getting asked about the food… the challenge was to find different ways to make food beautiful, accessible, interesting, magical, multilayered.” – Leone Ross of Jamaica and Britain in conversation with American author Amber Sparks about her book Popisho/This One Sky Day.

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“I wasn’t able to kind of bring out those nuances enough but I hint at them. The idea that the urban gay person has access to a culture and support network that the rural Indian boy…does not have. …and it really does seem to spin on socio economic factors.” – Trinidad born author Ingrid Persaud in conversation with Grenada born author and editor Jacob Ross about her book Love After Love.

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“We have a governor who is attempting to sell the magic and again, they push it away; again, society says we will not have it.” – Jamaican writers Leone Ross and Marlon James in conversation about Ross’ new book – Popisho in the US; This One Sky Day in the UK.

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“My journey is my own and once I’m learning from it and growing from it, then it’s a success.” – Cherie Jones, Barbadian, author of How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, during the US Embassy celebrates World Book and Copyright Day with a Writers Book Chat featuring Cherie Jones ‘Inspiring Eastern Caribbean Female Writers’

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“The beautiful thing about the creative arts, isn’t it, if you’re doing the thing you’ve always done, then you’re not really creating. For me, as challenging as these new endeavours are, because I always like to experiment, you’re always trying to discover the boundaries not only of your talent, of the ideas that are in your mind, of your potential, of your ability to imagine the world…. as a writer, you don’t get to see the side work as much, but I feel that we do that as well…it’s always about challenging yourself, push your boundaries technically but also express, …for me the things that I’m trying to understand, or the things that I’m trying to explore.” – me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) in conversation for World Book and Copyright Day with artist and award winning poet Danielle Boodoo Fortune, of Trinidad and Tobago, who has illustrated my books Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and The Jungle Outside. We discuss the process of creating together.

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on AmazonWordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Reading from Musical Youth

From the St. Lucia Tourism Authority’s Caribbean Author Series #CaribCation.

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CARIB Plus Lit News (late June 2020)

Interviews

Your opportunity to interview me via my youtube channel, AntiguanWriter. I’ve promised to do a live AMA if I reach a certain number of subscribers. Check the channel’s discussion tab for the details.

Reading Recommendations 

pleasure Big up to Antiguan and Barbudan writing juggernaut Kimolisa Mings’ latest book, her 21st by my count, is a bestseller. Having climbed as high as 11th in the top 100 Amazon rankings, which is based on sales and updated hourly, The Pleasure is Mine (currently kindle only though I believe a print edition is pending) is, at this writing, 24th on the Amazon African American Erotica Bestsellers Books list and 28th on the Amazon African American Erotical Bestsellers Kindle list. The Pleasure is Mine is subtitled as A Caribbean BWWM Romance (Sapodilla Resort & Spa Romance Book 1). See the Antigua and Barbudan Writings and Fiction lists for Mings’ complete bibliography; she’s also listed in our data base of professional services.

I want to say thanks to the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority’s CaribCation Caribbean Author Series for tapping me for a spot in June 2020. You can view it on CaribCation’s social media and I’ve also uploaded it to my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel

I’m reading from Musical Youth, a Burt Award winning teen/young adult novel. I also encourage you to check out other authors featured in the series. I have been and I have added Dr. Tanya Destang Beaubrun’s Of Bubbles, Bhudda, and Butterflies to my TBR after listening to her reading.

New Daughters of Africa, published by UK’s Myriad press and by Harper Collins in the US NEW_DAUGHTERS_HIGH-RES-670x1024was recommended by Olivia Adams writing in Marie Claire about Books to Educate Yourself and Your Children about Racism: “Showcasing the work of more than 200 women writers of African descent, this major international collection celebrates their contributions to literature and international culture.”

At my author blog, where I blog on books among other things, my most recent recs are not really recs as I haven’t yet read the books (in full) but I recently listened to an audio abridged version of one Booker prize winner, watched a stage adaptation of an Orange prize winner, and read excerpts from a print edition of a book that includes Antigua and Barbuda, and specifically the Hillhouse family. If you want to see which books I’m talking about, go here.

Interviewing the Caribbean

We previously shared news of the publication of Volume 5 Issues 1 and 2 of the Opal Palmer Adisa and Juleus Ghunta edited ‘Interviewing the Caribbean’, an annual literary magazine. We wanted to update to let you know that both issues are available as ebooks through BookFusion. The UWI Press is also working to place the books – and these literary magazines are at least as thick as a short novel – with regional bookstores.  If you’re a bookseller looking to acquire the books, reach out to UWI Press. Issue 1 includes articles/art by and/or interviews with Polly Pattullo, Geoffrey Philp, Phillis Gershator, Oonya Kempadoo, Esther Phillips, Yolanda T. Marshall, Merle Hodge, Paul Keens Douglas, Diane Browne, Diana McCaulay, Tricia Allen, and from Antigua and Barbuda and Wadadli Pen specifically 2018 finalist Rosie Pickering and me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) – I’d been asked to rec some Caribbean books for the youth market, so I did. Pickering’s poem ‘Damarae’ is actually the same poem that earned her honourable mention in 2018 and, per the magazine’s format, she’s also interviewed about the poem. Issue 2 has as its cover image (above) the cover image of my book With Grace, art by Cherise Harris, used with permission of Little Bell Caribbean. It includes articles/art by and/or interviews with Summer Edward, Kei Miller, Tanya Batson-Savage, A-dZiko Simba Gegele, Tanya Shirley, Olive Senior, Pamela Mordecai, Linda M. Deane, Marsha Gomes-McKie, Carol Ottley-Mitchell, Yvonne Weekes, and from Antigua and Barbuda, and Wadadli Pen, Barbara Arrindell (Create Stories that Remind us of What We went Through) and me, again (an interview headlined Caribbean Children need as Many Stories as there are Tastes)

Paperwork

The Caribbean Development Bank’s Cultural and Creative Industries Innovation Fund is crowd sourcing for information towards building a “compendium of cultural policies, practices,, resources, and trends in the Caribbean.” Why? “To best support Creative and Cultural Industries across the region, we need the right data to make the right decisions. As such, CIIF is developing a series of Country Profiles that showcase data and information about the cultural landscape in each of our Borrowing Member Countries, in order to help cultural practitioners and policy-makers make data-driven choices.” The process will take 15 to 30 minutes; here’s the link.

Awards and Accolades

The winner of the inaugural Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry, awarded to a full length book of poetry published in 2019, will be announced in July 2020. The 13-person shortlist, announced in May, includes Jamaica Kei Miller (In Nearby Bushes) and Trinidadian Roger Robinson (A Portable Paradise) – the latter collection having already won several major prizes. The prize includes a $1,000 cash award, along with a reading at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, the publication of a limited-edition broadside by Arrowsmith Press, and a week-long residency at Derek Walcott’s home in either St. Lucia or in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Read more here.

Antigua and Barbuda’s acting culture director is also an award winning pan composer/arranger with Hell’s Gate and noted soloist in his own right. He proves his proficiency with his performance in Pan Ramajay, an international pan soloist competition started by Exodus Steel Orchestra since 1989, this year held virtually.104288255_1819636641493573_2262030051999680067_n

As you can see, he’s  the leading contender going in to the finals after the preliminary and semi-final rounds. The finals are Saturday 27th June 2020. If he wins, he’ll pocket $2000 (not sure which currency). ETA (290620): He did not win but he did place second overall.

The Wadadli Pen Challenge Awards is the flagship of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, a project launched in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, and the reason this site, launched in 2010, exists. This year was a challenging year for Wadadli Pen as it has been and continues to be for all the world, due primarily to the global COVID-19 pandemic which literally shut down the world. We had to rethink how to do the awards – going in the end with a live announcement and efforts to connect the winners with the patrons directly so that they could make arrangements to collect their prizes. The latter has proved to be a drawn out process and I have had to find a way to make peace with not being able to really control any of it though I did my best to make the connections and follow up. One upside is that weeks out images like this one continues to trickle in – this is a picture from the mother of 7 to 12 honourable mention Sienna Harney-Barnes (A New World) who is shown collecting the contribution from the Cultural Development Division, a contribution volunteered during our live awards announcement by the director Khan Cordice who is shown delivering the prize to our young writer.

Two of our other writers, Cheyanne Darroux (Tom, the Ninja Crab), winner 7 to 12 and tied winner overall, and D’Chaiya Emmanuel (Two Worlds Collide), winner 13 to 17, made appearances to share their stories on ZDK radio – and we have video.


Caribbean Literary Heritage

June is Caribbean Heritage Month in the US. Online, this has sparked campaigns like the #CaribAThon on #booktube (youtube for bibliophiles) and #readCaribbean on #bookstagram (instagram for bookies). I’ve been happy to see some of my books (The Boy from Willow Bend, Musical Youth, and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight) show up in both challenges, and I jumped in as well, really to share (finally) my contribution to the #MyCaribbeanLibrary campaign that Bocas announced some time ago. But it all intersects.

The Caribbean literary love will continue if St. Martin’s House of Nehesi publishers, co-organizers of the St. Martin’s Book Fair, has its way. HNP used the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the Fair – largely virtual this year due to COVID-19 – to call for July 12th to be Caribbean Literature Day. “We envision this day as the first pan-Caribbean literature day, celebrating the roots, range, and excellence of writings and books across the language zones of our region. Celebrate the day by reading the works of your favorite Caribbean authors; buying Caribbean books, published in the Caribbean and beyond, and by Caribbean authors; and presenting Caribbean books as gifts. Celebrate the day with books, recitals, and with discussions about books, of poetry, fiction, drama, art, music, and all the other genres by Caribbean writers.” The date was chosen because it is the day in 1562 when the writings of the indigenous people were destroyed by their colonizers. (Full release here)

Goodbyes

Antigua and Barbuda said goodbye to two time Calypso monarch and one time road march winner (as lead singer of the Vision Band) Tyrone ‘Edimelo’ Thomas. He was laid to rest June 19th 2020 at St. John’s Cathedral. “Antigua and Barbuda has lost one of its brightest lights, and we are all the poorer for it. But his wonderful life and legacy lives on; none of it will be interred with his bones. Whenever we hear DON’T STOP THIS PARTY (a remix with the Mighty Swallow) or IN DE PAN YARD (an encomium to the joys of pan music), we will remember Edimelo,” said the June 20th Daily Observer newspaper editorial. We daresay, Carnival and party lovers will most remember him for the way the music made them “dress back” (the Road March winning tune) while Calypso lovers will surely pour out one every time they intone “the more things change/the more they remain the same” from arguably his best known calypso.

Caribbean Creatives Creating

I hope you’ve been keeping up with my CREATIVE SPACE series covering local art and culture. It continues to run in the Daily Observer newspaper every other Wednesday with an extended version on my site. Latest spotlights have included singer Arianne Whyte talking about her career and her Sip ‘n Stream online series and Chavel Thomas and his conceptual art which is about challenging and redefining gender, race, maybe even reality. It’s the first time the series has gotten the front cover since it switched platforms to the Daily Observer in 2020 – issue 9.

Cover Chav

In case you missed any of the previous installments in the series, including  on previous platforms, they are archived on the Jhohadli website.

Trinidadian Kamella Anthony’s Krea8ive Kids Show was spotlighted in T&T Newsday all the way back in the strictest part of COVID-19 curfew in the region. In it, the former librarian cum storyteller is quoted as saying, “Ultimately, I want to have creative centres locally, regionally and internationally. I have travelled and seen several types of centres and it’s been awesome. I like to see children learning and having fun. Not just from a book, but from nature, from people.” Here’s the link to her YouTube Channel.

This content is curated by Joanne C. Hillhouse. Additions may be made between now and the end of June 2020.  If used, please credit or link back.

 

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Children’s Books for Your Christmas Lists #WeNeedDiverseBooks

These lists, highlighting books by people of colour or otherwise outside of the mainstream will remain necessary as long as books by people of colour or otherwise outside of the mainstream (e.g. Caribbean books even in the Caribbean) remain in the margins. And I’ll keep sharing them even as I hope to see my books on those lists, as more people with the power to put them in the conversation become aware of them.

 

 

 

 

 

If those images and the title of this post haven’t given it away, this post is about children’s books specifically (i.e. the people not yet in double digits, give or take a pre-teen or two). And we return for that list to the greatest resource I’ve found online for Black books, the African American Literary Book Club which polled industry professionals for its 150 Recommended African American Children’s Books. I’m not sharing the full list, you can view that here, but I thought I’d pull out the Caribbean creatives I found on the list (apologies if  I missed anyone).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boonoonoonous Hair and Anna Carries Water by Canada-based Jamaican writer Olive Senior collaborating with Laura James, a US illustrator with Antiguan-Barbudan roots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am Loved for which he illustrated the words of Nikki Giovanni and his own written and illustrated Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan who is also American of Antiguan descent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am Mixed by Garcelle Beauvais, former star of the Jamie Foxx show, born in Haiti; Jamaica’s Cedella Marley, daughter of late reggae icon Bob Marley, doing a book inspired by his song One Love; US based Canadian born Zetta Elliott who has Kittitian roots and her book Bird; and Jamaican Kellie Magnus’ independent juggernaut Little Lion goes to School.

I want to also do some picks (a personal list) spotlighting Caribbean and Antiguan-Barbudan children’s books. For the Caribbean, I’ll mention 7 (3 I heard excerpted when I shared a panel with the authors from the Miami Book Fair last year, 3 read and liked previously, and 1 extra because I liked the cover and the author is always generously boosting other writers on her blog as I’m trying to do here).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And six from Antigua and Barbuda that I’ve read and liked or in the case of Jamaica Kincaid’s want to read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, the last one is Kittitian and Trinidadian not Antiguan but she does have Antigua connections.

 

 

 

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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