Tag Archives: reading

So, What are You reading?

I think I have a deal with my youngest for a weekly library date over the summer. We’ll see…

It’s a delicate dance getting them to read when reading is so booooring… but got him to admit that there are some books he likes and when he realized that the library has all the books (don’t let me down, library), his eyes lit up a little bit. We’ll see how it goes.

Of course, one of the best ways to get young ones reading, is by modeling the behaviour you want to see, making reading a part of your casual day to day. So what are you reading?

Linking up with It’s Monday, what are you reading?, my weekend reading (after an addition to Blogger on Books and a DNF) has included the following…

Small Island by Andrea Levy – sis-in-law, little one’s mom, finally realized that I borrowed her copy. It’s been on my TBR for a while. What? I’ll return it. I’m only up to page 68 though, through no fault of the book, just my abysmal reading pace (time, time) of late. I saw a stage play of this Woman’s Prize winning new Caribbean classic – which has also been adapted for television. Engaging as the adaptation I saw was, the book is adding a lot of texture and I’m enjoying it so far.

Speak Out! Issue 4 – this is a literary journal on the Adda platform, the last in a series of four which you too can read online.

Nightmare Island by Shakirah Bourne – your reluctant reader may love this horror novel for young readers – with a spunky young aspiring filmmaker protagonist and a possibly haunted island.

Dangerous Freedom by Lawrence Scott – which is historical fiction re-imagining the life of Dido Belle, a real life Black aristocrat in England during slavery and colonial times, and best believe that unlike a Jane Austen novel that background is foreground.

The full horror of her own danger of capture long ago came back to fill the parlour where she and her husband had been in a huddle with their sons, in a communion of whispers trying to protect them from the fear that had taken hold of their parents when they were children.

p. 41, Dangerous Freedom by Lawrence Scott

Best part is these books are all by Caribbean writers, as I continue to make up for the ironic deficit of Caribbean literature in my childhood.

You know, when I was at the library last week during a film shoot, I asked around for my books which I know they have and they mentioned that they were not in fiction (as I had hoped) but in the West Indian lit section. That section was a cabinet when I was a child and it felt off-limits. I hope my books are and feel a bit more accessible…as accessible as Diary of a Wimpy Kid (one of the books mentioned by my nephew).

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, The Jungle Outside, and To be a Cheetah – the latter scheduled for July 2023 release and available for pre-order wherever you buy books at this writing). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Top Selling Caribbean Books

This is for March 2023 (only) and (only) as recorded at one Trinidad bookstore but given that I’ve been trying to get our own bestseller lists going, I’m sharing it, and still hoping to get a list of this type going here on Wadadli Pen – Antigua-Barbuda/Caribbean bookstores, wey yuh?

This list was published in the Trinidad Daily Express’ Bocas Book Bulletin

1. Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein

2. Love the Dark Days by Ira Mathur

3. The Stranger Who Was Myself by Barbara Jenkins

4. Breaking Free — a Journey from Trauma to Empowerment by Angela Laquis-Sobrian

5. Sonnets for Albert by Anthony Joseph

Since I’m just grabbing this list, I thought I’d sew in some trivia you can find right here on Wadadli Pen, like:

Anthony Joseph, British based of Trinidad and Tobago, winning the T S Eliot Prize, previously reported in Carib Lit Plus (Mid to Late January 2023), & winning the Bocas poetry prize and being in the running for the main prize, reported in Carib Lit Plus (Early to Mid April 2023)

Barbara Jenkins, at home in Trinidad and Tobago, showing up in Bookends’ #InConversation series in the Jamaica Observer, linked in Reading Room and Gallery 48

Ira Mathur, India born Trinidad based, also made the Bocas short list, as the non-fiction winner, now in the running for the main prize; which means she was on the long list linked in Carib Lit Plus (Mid to Late March 2023)

& “Another Caribbean Author Making Waves Across the Water” was all about Kevin Jared Hosein and his book roll out.

We don’t have an on site mention of Angela Laquis-Sobrian but the beautiful thing about bestseller lists is it’s an opportunity to discover authors you might not know about. So, go seek.

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, The Jungle Outside, and To be a Cheetah). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Antiguan Writer Poll

I am the Antiguan Writer referenced.

(oh just me trying to take a picture of my inked voting finger post election in Antigua and Barbuda)

This is my YouTube channel which has hit 100 subs prompting a celebratory benchmark activity of your choosing. Vote here for:

An Ask Me Anything Live

A reading from a work in progress

A reading from a published work (taking requests)

A reading from something I’m reading or recently read

I’m also, per today’s Journaling Writing on my Jhohadli blog considering a February/Black History Month reading series of my journaled short stories (apparently I have 28 of those). I usually use that month (Black History Month in the US and US adjacent Caribbean) to boost writing by other (especially but not exclusively Caribbean) writers but am thinking this time around charity begins at home…my home…with me…my stories. If I do that, it might be as 1 minute reads as YouTube shorts and I’ll be companioning it with putting in work to (hopefully) wrap up my short story collection in progress:: content in, content out.

(me, journaling writing)

If you have any interest in either of the above activities, it would be good to subscribe to the Antiguan Writer YouTube channel, click the community tab and vote in the poll before the end of January, and let me know in the comments below if there’s any interest in my February/Black History Month project – if there is connect with my social media to ensure you don’t miss out.

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 blog, 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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The Three W’s of Reading 2

I tacked on a 2 to this as I’ve done this meme before on this blog, back in February as a Black History Month, Caribbean Edition. I really haven’t done a lot of reading this year, not as much as I’d like, but I’ll share again because these memes are a good literary diversion and it’s an opportunity to boost Caribbean books I may have been reading.

It’s Three W’s Wednesday (shout out to Kristin Kraves Books) and the questions are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Be sure to share your answers in the comments (even if you’re not reading Caribbean books). It’s all about sharing a love of books and reading.

Currently reading

Songs of Silence by Curdella Forbes. I actually mentioned this in September in the End of the Year Book tag (Caribbean edition), listing it as a book I’d like to finish before the end of the year. I’m getting there. I’m up to page 108 of 150in this slim and engaging montage style coming of age tale that is as much a showcase of place as it is character – multiple characters. The way the language loops instead of walking a straight line is one of the things that I find charming about the writing style. Example: “She was short and squat and bull-headed like her father; in fact as my sister Everette would have said if she was born then and the time was now, Cudjoe Man’s daughter looked so much like her father, it was like she had Xeroxed him.” (p. 105-106) There is a shorter and straighter route to that sentence’s point but like the winding country roads in Jamaica, where the book is set, why walk straight when you can wend your way there. Better view.

Recently finished reading

Not a book but in October and November, I finished issues 1 and 2 of the online journal Speak Out! <–click to read my reviews (really I just share my favourite poems and stories from each issue). As this site, I’ll mention that among those faves were Caribbean pieces by Jamaican fiction writer Lloyd D’Aguilar’s (Things must Change), Dominican fiction writer Lisa Latouche (“Atiya Firewood“), and Jamaican poet Topher Allen (“Fish“). I have two more journals in the series, published on the Commonwealth Writers Adda platform, to go.

Reading next

Several but because it’s the one I’m trying to finish ahead of Book of Cinz’s next book club at the end of November, Irish Trinidad author Amanda Smyth’s historical epic (at least it so far feels like a historical epic) Fortune.

It is another book I listed as one I’d like to finish before the end of the year and maybe this is just the push I needed.

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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I wasn’t going to write about Banned Books but…

YouTube pushed this at me (because they know I enjoy Roy Wood Jr’s Beyond the Scenes segments).

This PEN America report about book bannings for banned books week showed up in my inbox. But what does book bannings in America have to do with me, more to the point what does it have to do with Wadadli Pen? After all, it’s not like I have Caribbean book ban numbers to share. In fact, a quick google (cause that’s all I had time for) turned up only a 2018 twitter thread by Rebel Women Lit about the time the former eduction minister and current PM of Jamaica launched a campaign to ban books containing bad words, books like late Belizean writer Zee Edgell’s classic Beka Lamb. The same thread mentioned bans in the 1960s against books related to socialism and Black power, books like Alex Haley’s Malcolm X biography and Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.

Yes, book bannings can get ridiculous (let’s face it, they’re always ridiculous) but they also come at a cost – imprisonment, fines, law suits, and other financial and societal costs. Of course, the greatest cost is how it diminishes free thought and choice – underpinnings of democracy, and the opportunity books provide to expand your world.

When I was a kid coming of age in Antigua and Barbuda, it was calypsonian Latumba singing “culture must be free/they can’t muzzle me” in response to the banning of controversial songs from the airwaves – “they don’t even bound to play my songs on none of them two radio station”.

Believe it or not, I actually have some personal experience with books of mine being challenged if not banned.

With students who came out for my panel at the Anguilla Lit Fest, 2015. These are among students there studying my first book The Boy from Willow Bend which is on the schools’ reading list in Anguilla.

The Boy from Willow Bend was already on school reading lists when I was asked if I would consider cutting what was deemed to be sexual content – that request came through the publisher (from a school in another Caribbean country, not Anguilla) and, though grateful for the interest in my book, my answer was no. It’s a coming of age tale and as the main character moved from childhood to young adulthood feelings of attraction for the opposite sex and not quite knowing what to do with those feelings was a natural part of his journey. This character also experiences physical abuse and grief, loss and depression, poverty and abandonment etc. Ironically, the (admittedly off page but referenced) sexual abuse of a female character didn’t seem to raise any red flags. I was also once invited by the then language arts coordinator to the Ministry of Education here in Antigua to discuss some of the challenged content in the book. I remember being bemused (Jamaica Kincaid would never) at the whole scenario as she took me through the challenged areas underlined or circled in pencil. One challenge was for a bad word – the kind of bad words we said in conversation with each other as children and hoped no adult overheard or nobody told on us, and the other was for the same sexual feelings (but no actual sex) scene. In fairness, there is a physical reaction but I actually think you would have to know what’s happening to know what happened in that scene but maybe not; either way it’s a thing that happens. I couldn’t figure what I was expected to do. The book was several years published by then, nothing could be done to change that fact, and even if I could run a special censored version of the book, I wouldn’t. It was for them to decide to put (or in this case, keep it on the list) or not and I hope they would have vetted it before including it (its inclusion, again, meaning the world to me which is why I prepared this study guide). There is one other challenge-y thing, but it’s hearsay from a parent-teacher meeting where some parents allegedly objected to my book’s inclusion because of the use of the local vernacular. But, of course, that’s not all nor I hope the majority of parents.

I think literature and the arts provides opportunities for discovery and conversations, and in the controlled environment of a classroom an opportunity for context. In a world where young ones are exposed through their phones to more than we’ll ever know, having conversations about issues arising from reading a work of art together with the opportunity to guide said conversation seems a better option to me than the wild wild west of the internet.

I’ve told the story before of the parent at a medical lab who was taking my blood when she realized I had written the book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight. She related that a teacher at her daughter’s school was teaching it, which I knew as I had been invited to answer their questions (I don’t believe it was on the official schools reading list though).

It was a great session with enthusiastic and engaged students with great questions…and hugs.

She said some parents had contacted her to see what she thought about the book being taught, so she read it and told me (as she had them) that she had no issue with it, she thought her daughter could handle it. Dancing is a drama framed in a romance, which at the same time deals with societal issues. When I was her daughter’s age I was reading books like The Tempest and To Kill a Mockingbird in school – talk about societal issues. I believe it was important to the teacher who introduced Dancing to her students to introduce them to local and Caribbean authors (not to put words in her mouth but we know that’s an issue), to imagine their world (the kind of work I try to do here with Wadadli Pen) but eventually, as I understand it, it was a losing battle, her efforts were cancelled – and Dancing has since gone out of print.

I wanted to end though on a positive note; action – what can readers do to support books and take the air out of book bans. The American Library Association has a whole list of which, I would say, relevant to us here in the Caribbean…

read the books they don’t want you to read and the books they do want you to read, read and boost the books that you do read, and if you’re concerned about the books your children are reading, maybe read with them and have conversations about it, and advocate for books that are challenged at your children’s schools because, sure, books are dangerous but in the best way, they open up your mind, your empathy, your awareness of worlds beyond your world, your imagination, you don’t have to agree with them or even like them, but a book that challenges how you see the world is sometimes the best book reading experience, and the impact is not a fixed thing, it can change you or it can reaffirm you, or it can do nothing more than entertain you, and that’s okay too

…books are powerful things as are the various arts (and media generally), and that’s why autocracies try to silence artists (and burn books) because heaven forbid people think and feel other than what a strongman wants them to think and feel…

So, that’s why the universe moved me to take a minute (!) and blog about banned books because this might not be as topical in the Caribbean as it is in the US but don’t sleep.


As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and The Jungle Outside). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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A & B Arts Round up – March 5th 2020 –>

Remember to always check the Opportunities Too page for the latest upcoming deadlines re arts opportunities locally, regionally, and internationally. This series of pages is re upcoming arts and culture events (speaking of be sure to check out my CREATIVE SPACE series – running every other Wednesday in the Daily Observer and online with extras at my Jhohadli blog). As with most things, information for the round up is pulled from several sources including personal interaction or reporting, social media, regular media, and other where, and written or re-written for listing here under fair use terms.

March 13th 2020 – Read with Your Fan is a National Public Library activity for Education Month. It will feature local celebs reading to and engaging with students.

March 29th 2020 – 83771754_806511696523566_4051648323415703552_n

July 23rd – August 4th 2020 –

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, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.




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Wadadli Pen Diary – 2020 Season Reflections

When I started Wadadli Pen in 2004, it was purely fiction. The most obvious reason is that I am myself a fiction writer and I wanted to promote the art/craft of storytelling/creating fictions. It’s also possible that this is the genre in which I felt most comfortable. It’s possible as well that I observed that many when wading in to writing seemed to see poetry as more accessible, easier even. It isn’t.
Reading this article in Lit Hub about eco-fiction reminds me that my unspoken hope with the Imagine a Future climate change themed component of the 2020 Wadadli Pen Challenge was to get people telling stories – as in I was more interested in world building and what that world would look like if climate change beat us or if we beat it. I enjoy experimenting with short story and have been trying my hand at speculative fiction; so that interest may have been a factor. Plus I was curious – spurred by a blend of recent real world stories, from hurricane Irma and the ghosts of hurricanes past (which inspired my own as yet unpublished short story Frig It! and partially inspired The Night the World Ended, published in The Caribbean Writer) to teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg crossing the world in a wind-powered vessel to take the leaders of the world to task to the teen climate strike that she inspired to a story I read about a little boy very afraid of the future in a world where climate change is an already unraveling certainty. I wanted to give that little boy (and all the children of Barbuda so traumatized by Irma) an opportunity to tell his/their story, to Imagine a Future. That was my goal.

I haven’t read any of the entries – 57 of them – yet. But I have noted that poetry entries have edged out fiction 29 to 23 with 2 creative non-fiction and 2 genre unspecified entries, and 1 art entry. Only 5 of the 57 entries clearly indicated on their entry forms that they wished to be considered for the Imagine a Future prize – 3 of those poems, 1 the art entry, and only 1 fiction. Could be that there are more climate change themed entries in the lot – and I’ll leave identifying those to the judges’ discretion – but if I’m going by those numbers, I have literally one Imagine a Future fiction to read. And I’ll admit to being a little disappointed by that – I was looking forward to reading those futures. I’ve been wondering how I could have more enthusiastically communicated that (and should I have insisted that writers imagine a future without using those words to better emphasize that they were to lift the idea not the actual words). I don’t know.

I’m not disappointed with this year’s crop of submissions overall though – the total number is roughly our usual average, and is more than I thought we’d be getting when up to the submission deadline there were almost literally no submissions. Then they all came in at once (because why make our lives easier lol). It took a week with two of us on duty to get the entries processed and out to the judges. But they are out. And if you’re getting ready to ask when’s the awards ceremony, not for a minute. Wadadli Pen, you may remember, has two rounds of judging, roughly two-to-three weeks on each side – and the in-between is where we post the short list and get the short listed entries out to the writers/artists with the judges’ edit notes so that the writers can review, consider the edit notes if they wish, improve their pieces, and re-submit. We do this to satisfy our goal for Wadadli Pen to be developmental – helping budding writers become stronger writers, and to give some sense of what it is to work with an editor as one would if submitting a piece for publication. It’s an extra speed bump but though we do reach out to patrons to attract the best prizes we can, this was never meant to be just a competition.

So, there’s that. It’s inconvenient work – we’re all pretty stretched (understatement) – but necessary if we are to do what we set out to do fully, which is to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda.

We’re happy to see some returning writers (and past finalists) but especially happy that first time entrants dominated, that there was at least one collaboration – we haven’t had that since season 1 (and that was not a joint submission), that a number of schools that hadn’t shown up before in our listings responded this time, that a couple of church and youth groups worked with their young people to submit, that the young ones remain the MVPs on interesting takes on life. Their writing may not be as disciplined (?) as the older ones (who have a better sense of story structure and a more evolved sense of language) but they are almost always more interesting (less weighted by clichéd language and overly familiar tropes). Challenge dropped, older writers! Think the impossible and write that! Anyway, there is a lot to be happy about with this year’s response and always room for improvement.

(Past art winners – one by a child, one by an adult – just because; check out all past Wadadli Pen winners here – again, just because)

I’ll wait until the short list to tell you which schools are in the running for the prize with the most submissions but I will say that the entrants came from 18 primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions locally – and there was one off-island entry, though that institution isn’t eligible for the prize (sponsored by Caribbean Reads). We do appreciate the local educational institutions that stepped up and, as those that didn’t, we know we still have work to do. We have to figure out for instance why even with direct mailings to educators and connected people on our sister island, and a specially named prize Wa’oMani, and a unique story to tell we had, yet again, sigh, no Barbuda submissions. We’re not casting blame, it’s our challenge to figure out. Another challenge, how to get more boys writing! At last count, we were uncertain of the gender of 12 of our entrants, but among those who specified gender on the forms, we had only 12 submissions from males compared to 34 from females. Why? We’ve got to keep trying to motivate participation from all genders for all the reasons that self-expression and creative exploration can expand the inner and outer world of any person, and especially our young people. Writing, like reading, creating generally, is not just a girl thing.


(Since the launch of the Wadadli Pen Challenge in 2004, there have been 2 male main prize winners, and 9 female main prize winners in 12 challenges)

Another point of reflection, I have been feeling feelings about the fact that youth is privileged in the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge. It’s totally my doing. In fact, initially it was limited to age 16 and younger (using the school graduation age as our guide) before being expanded to 35 and younger (using the UN definition of youth). Over the years, this age-ism has come in for criticism but we had to be realistic about what we, a rag tag group of volunteers (a team with some solidness only since 2016; before that me and whomever I could corral for temporary duty), could reasonably take on – a national literary prize for the entire nation was not it. Even knowing that we are not the powers that be, whose duty literary arts development is, and are already stretched (such an understatement), I’ve been feeling bad about there not being a similar initiative for anyone over 35 in Antigua and Barbuda. As if your creativity dries up somewhere in your 30s. I know there are 48, 39, 69, and 98 year olds out there with their own stories to tell – where is their platform, right? Well, perhaps I shouldn’t have worried because the response from the older eligibles was loooow – like single digits low. Nine 18 to 35s; 15, maybe 16, 13 to 17 year olds; and (wowza!) 34 7 to 12 year olds…no 6 and younger, so maybe that was too ambitious (*shrug* it was a suggestion, we tried it).

Thanks for playing; we look forward to reading; and we’ll be back in time with the results. – Joanne C. Hillhouse, founder and coordinator of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize

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$600 Worth of Books to Go to a Local School…if you vote

mock logo

This is the press release we sent out re the prize for the #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda Readers Choice initiative with some updates to reflect developments since the release was issued.

Schools Prize to be Given in the Name of Winning Author/Book;
#readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda

While there is no Wadadli Pen Challenge in 2019, the Antigua and Barbuda Readers Choice #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda prize will benefit a school in Antigua and Barbuda thanks to two regular, generous patrons who have pledged a combined EC$600 to the initiative.

Anyone reading this can help a school in Antigua and Barbuda get some local and/or Caribbean books for its class/school library by voting. Students can vote too. The donated funds will be used to purchase books which will go to the winning author’s alma mater or a school of his/her choice. This contribution will be made in the author’s name on behalf of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, a project which has been nurturing and showcasing the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda since 2004.

The Book of the Year prize, covering books published 2017 to launch date 2018, is intended to boost not just the winning local author but the local literary arts in general. With the gift of books, it will also serve to encourage the reading of local and regional literature among our young people.

Anyone wishing to bump up the gift by adding a cash component to the already pledged patronage, email wadadlipen@gmail.com Everyone else is being reminded by Wadadli Pen to vote – Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator, author Joanne C. Hillhouse, has said that while they have the minimum number of votes to ensure that a winning author will be named, it has been disappointing that more people have not taken the time to vote. “You don’t’ have to have read all the books, but if you or your child has read even one of the books and liked it, it costs you nothing but a few moments, not even a minute, to vote,” she stressed. To vote, click the #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda link , and comment below the post with your choice of book and a reason why you think it should win.

So far, the leading vote getters are The ABCs of the Black Panther Party by S. Khalilah Brann (with illustrator Chemay Morales-James), F.A.K.E. by Vivian Luke, How to Work Six Jobs on an Island: an Island Boy’s Dream by Shawn N. Maile, London Rocks by Brenda Lee Browne, and This Woman Can: the No Bullsh*t Guide for Women Who Lead by Janice Sutherland. Also on the board are Be with You: a Valentine’s Romance by Roxy Wilson, Friends to Forever by Roxy Wilson, The Gift (Falling like a Johnson Book 1) by Rilzy Adams, The Guardian Vampire by Roxy Wilson, and Dreamland Barbuda: A Study of the History and Development of Communal Land Ownership on the Island by Asha Frank, and Legend of Integrity and Courage by Nuffield J. Burnette. This means that there are 35 books with not even a single vote – this, in spite of Hillhouse stressing that authors can vote (just not for their own books) and their entire families and fan bases are also welcome to vote. “This is not science, it is a celebration of our literary arts,” she said. “If there’s a book you read and loved, show it some love, and if you haven’t read any of the books, pick one, buy it, read it, and, if you like it, vote for it before the end of March. This is Black History Month but how about we make it A & B literary month, and show a local author some love.”

“it really had me in the feels” 

“straightforward and relatable”



“A fantastic read”

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Back from Miami Book Fair

I wanted to post on my visit to the Miami Book Fair (held at the Miami Dade College).

Highlights included the writers I got to connect with, however, briefly. Writers like Katia D. Ulysse (author of Mouths Don’t Speak and other books), whom I first met when we were both on a late night food run and subsequently kept bumping into each other, which is not a given at a festival as large and populated as this one. Writers like Vermont based cartoonist Rachel Lindsay with whom I had one of those discussions that can only ever really happen over breakfast in one of these spaces where writers gather and intimacy is accelerated. Writers like M. J. Fievre, who, as Caribbean Reads programmer and a real one, was partly responsible for me being there; she is a Haitian-American writer with whom I’ve interacted so much over social media and via email, in addition to interacting with her work (one of which I used in one of my workshops), that I kinda felt like I sorta maybe knew her, only I didn’t, not really. Writers like other writers who easily fit in to that category of writers I felt like I knew already only I didn’t, not really, like this man right here JAmerican writer Geoffrey Philp;  with Geoffrey Philp I’ll remember Geoffrey always as one of the authors/bloggers who showed me grace when he didn’t know me from Eve and didn’t have to. Writers like Loretta Collins Klobah of the US and Puerto Rico whose poetry I’ve shared so much here on the blog and who has shared my work with her students – we were both looking forward to meeting each other and we did though it was all a bit of a whirlwind. Writers like her co-panelist USVI writer Tiphanie Yanique, whom I’ve gotten to know at other events where our paths have crossed and through our works over the years . Writers like, and this is a big one for me, if you know my fangirling ways when it comes to this writer, Edwidge Dandicat who, yes, I finally also got to meet and considering how much her writing means to me, which I told her, hopefully without embarrassing myself too much. She was on the panel with Tiphanie and Loretta, a panel about women writing hurricanes, such an essential discussion for these perilous times in which the vulnerability of each one of our island-nations has been exposed. Loretta’s reflections about how the Puerto Rico hurricane affected not just her life but challenged her to find spaces to continue her work was particularly poignant, and Tiphanie’s revelations re writer-editor Alscess Lewis-Brown ‘s hurriku (you know, like haiku) and other creative pathways to help people give voice to their trauma was particularly inspiring. Not writers but part of the scene, publisher Johnny Temple of Akashic, who co-facilitated an editing workshop I participated in a few years ago, and US literary publicist, Linda Duggins, whom I ran in to for the first time since meeting her right here at the literary festival in Antigua – because, yes, once upon a time we had a literary festival in Antigua and Barbuda that attracted top tier people in the business. Writers like, Donna Aza Weir-Soley, a US based Jamaican talent, our first time connecting in real time since my first writing workshop, also in Florida, back in the 1990s. Writers like  Bernice McFadden, an acclaimed and award winning African American writer I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since we jointly facilitated a workshop at the BIM Lit Fest in 2016 and whose books I’ve read and blogged (seeing her was oddly like seeing an old friend – something to do with seeing a friendly face in a crowd to be sure but also something to do with her spirit).

read Jamaica

I also hung out at the Read Jamaica tent where my publisher Carol Mitchell (Caribbean Reads Publishing) shared space with two of Jamaica’s hardworking independent publishers Tanya Batson-Savage (Blue Banyan Books) and Kellie Magnus (Jackmandora).

reading at the Miami Book Fair

My event was Read Caribbean presents Adventures for Kids and I was delighted to share the stage and do a signing afterwards with co-presenters Marjaun Canady, who was a tough act to follow, Paula-Anne Porter Jones, whom I remember actually, as I reminded her, from my UWI years, and Francie Latour. That’s Francie reading in the image below.

my panel at the Miami Book Fair

My only complaint really about my visit to the Miami Book Fair is there was so much to do, who could do it all…all I could do in the end was be in the moment (after all the prep and over-prep this is the most important thing – as I said to another writer who asked me for advice as it was her first experience of this type – be present and remind yourself that you have a right to be there i.e. your work got you there – I have to say I took my own advice this time and had a lot more fun than I normally do with all the stress of public speaking, as a result). My reading aside, my goal was to enjoy as much of it as I could, from the live reggae on The Porch to the many tempting book stalls of books and books and books and books, getting some much needed exercise with all the running about in the process, and somehow managing to split my time at one point between two panels I was eager to attend, and wandering into another panel that wasn’t even on my radar (fantasy young adult adventure fiction) but which I was reluctant to leave when the time came, because whatever you fancy from comics to serious politics to mysticism to fiction of all stripes, it was all covered. And though my trip was short, there was just time enough for music, nibbles, good conversation, and book themed drinks on one  of the many Miami waterfronts.

(The Spanish language edition of Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure made its debut at the MBF. If you’re in the Miami area, signed copies of both editions are available at Books & Books)
signing books 2

Apart from being a part of my journeying as a writer, whenever I find myself in spaces like this, I am mindful not just of being a writer, but a writer from Antigua, a #gyalfromOttosAntigua, stepping in to spaces where we are otherwise absent (or at best our numbers are small) and adding our voice/s to the conversation.

In such times, I am at least as nervous about the interactions/the socializing as I am the actual presentation – life of an introverted (oftentimes read as aloof), awkward, Caribbean girl-cum-woman –but I challenge myself every time to step up because I will not stand in my own way. You never know how it will go. Writers and writing spaces can (like any other space where people congregate) be as cliquey as a high school cafeteria in a John Hughes film, there are associations and hierarchies,  even at times when the space should feel familiar because you all bathed in the Caribbean Sea. One of the ways I calmed my fears was to remind myself not of the negative encounters (and there’ve been a few) but of the ones of generous laughter and communication and real bonding. I have to say the Miami Book Fair fell in to the latter category, not nearly enough time for real bonding but little in the way of posturing and offputtingness, and lots of joy in connecting for the first time or again with writers and others I’ve met along the way; in part, I have no doubt because I chose to stay open and in the moment, and quiet the negative self-talk. Let it be as the Beatles one time sang, and it was.

my books at the Fair

And so with thanks to everyone who made it possible for me to be there including my friends and family, and publisher and all the readers

(publisher Carol Mitchell with a reader)

and all the little ones who through the years gave this shy author lots of practice reading to little ones to prepare her for moments like this, and the MBF and anyone who’s ever shown me a little bit of grace.

The travels will hopefully continue (for a window to some past stops, see Appearances on my author blog).

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!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. You’re also invited to follow me on my author blog http://jhohadli.wordpress.com 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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On becoming an author of children’s books (but not a children’s books author)

Below is an excerpt from my guest post at Women Writers, Women Books.

Ironically enough, when my first book

The Boy from Willow Bend (a story about a boy though not written as a children’s book) dropped, I got hung with the children’s author label (even after my second book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight

dropped).  It felt confining to my publishing brand and my creative spirit. Publishing loves its categories and I wrote everything, as my writing and publishing record since continues to illustrate. And yet I was excited to receive recently an invitation to participate in a children’s book panel at a major American book fair. The publishing gods have a sense of humor because here I am embracing a label I worked for years to shake.

Part of the reason I wrote my first children’s story

was so that I could have a story of my own to read when I attended events (‘children’s author’ Joanne C. Hillhouse had no age appropriate material) – it was a branding (or rather lack-of-branding) issue. Reading an early draft of that first children’s story to children (once during a school visit, once at the children’s reading club with which I volunteered) and editing it based on their reaction actually helped me get it to a pretty publishable place (children at that impulse st/age don’t know to be polite, they just react). So that when I saw a publisher call for material for new children’s books I had something to submit.

To read the whole thing, go here.


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