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.
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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.
“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
“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
‘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.
“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
“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
“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.
Jamaica Kincaid reading her short story ‘Girl’
“‘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
“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
“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.
“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
“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.
‘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
“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:
“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 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.
A reminder that the process with these Carib Lit Plus Caribbean arts bulletins is to do a front and back half of the month, updating as time allows as new information comes in; so, come back, or, if looking for an earlier installment, use the search window. (in brackets, as much as I can remember, I’ll add a note re how I sourced the information – it is understood that this is the original sourcing and additional research would have been done by me to build the information shared here)
While Antigua and Barbuda is not specifically named, Antiguan and Barbudan writer Jamaica Kincaid is on this USA Today list of 100 Black novelists and fiction writers you should read… (that includes other Caribbean writers like Marlon James of Jamaica and Edwidge Dandicat of Haiti). Read the full list.
The Wadadli Pen patrons list continues to grow in spite of challenging times – the latest pledges come from former Wadadli Pen finalist cum award winning writer Rilys Adams, Cedric Holder of the Cushion Club, and Diana McCaulay with her publisher Peepal Tree Press. They join celebrated Jamaican author Olive Senior, another past Wadadli Pen finalist Daryl George, new local writer Patricia Tully; plus Moondancer Books and the Best of Books. Additional books have also arrived from the year biggest donor to date Harper Collins UK. The Wadadli Pen Challenge gives writers and artists in Antigua and Barbuda until March 26th 2021 to respond to the Challenge to reflect and create. Readers also have to this time to #readAntiguaBarbuda and vote for their favourite books. Details here.
For more opportunities with pending deadlines check this link, and, because I’ve recently received requests for information re publishing, here too are links to the main Opportunities and Resources pages.
I want to thank Trinidad filmmaker (Banyan Ltd.) Christopher Laid for giving permission to share the following Zee Edgell interview from the Second Conference of Caribbean Women Writers (1990). Access it by clicking the image below and using the password ‘zee’.
I also wanted to share an announcement from her daughter Holly, received via email from St. Lucian writer John Robert Lee (excerpted): ‘ST. LOUIS, Missouri — Zee Edgell, Belize’s foremost author of fiction, has died at the age of 80. She passed away on December 20, in her home after a battle with cancer. Born in Belize City, British Honduras in 1940, Mrs. Edgell was the daughter of the late Clive Tucker and Veronica Tucker (nee Walker). She was married to the late Alvin Edgell for 52 years. Together they raised two children: journalist Holly Edgell, 51, and physician Randall Edgell, 45. …Mrs. Edgell authored four novels and five short stories set in Belize, the only Belizean writer of fiction to do so. Her first book, Beka Lamb (Heineman 1982), is beloved in Belize and throughout the Caribbean. It has been part of school and examination curricula in the region and in other parts of the world since its publication. Mrs. Edgell received an honorary doctorate in literature from the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados in 2009. She holds a Master of Liberal Studies degree from Kent State University and earned a diploma in journalism from Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster). In 2007, she received an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II, for her services to literature and the community. Among Mrs. Edgell’s many services to Belize was her founding of the “The Reporter” newspaper in 1967. In addition, she served as director of the Women’s Bureau (later the Women’s Department) under the People’s United Party and the United Democratic Party in the 1980s. Later, she was a lecturer at the University College of Belize (now the University of Belize). …After retiring from Kent State University as a tenured English professor in 2009, Mrs. Edgell moved to St. Louis, Missouri with her husband.’ (Source – re additional content – John Robert Lee via email)
The Caribbean Literature in Transition series from Cambridge University Press has dropped – electronically in December 2020 and hard copy in January 2021. Its authors are:
Evelyn O’Callaghan, professor of West Indian Literature, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, and author of writings on women’s writing, early Caribbean narratives and more recently, ecocritical readings of Caribbean landscapes in visual and scribal texts. She has edited early Caribbean novels such as Antiguan and Barbudan writer Frieda Cassin’s With Silent Tread. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of West Indian Literature.
Curdella Forbes, professor of Caribbean Literature at Howard University and award winning fiction and non-fiction writer. She serves on the editorial advisory board of JWIL and Anthurium. Her most recent work of fiction is A Tall History of Sugar (Akashic 2019, Canongate 2020).
Tim Watson, professor of English at the University of Miami and author of several books on Caribbean culture and writing.
Raphael Dalleo, professor of English at Bucknell University whose most recent book, American Imperialism’s Undead: The Occupation of Haiti and the Rise of Caribbean Anticolonialism (2016), won the Caribbean Studies Association’s 2017 Gordon K. and Sibyl Lewis Award for best book about the Caribbean. He serves on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of West Indian Literature.
Ronald Cummings, associate professor of Postcolonial Studies in the Department of English Language and Literature at Brock University. He is co-editor of the Literature Encyclopedia volume on Anglophone Writing and Culture of Central America and the Caribbean.
Alison Donnell, professor of Modern Literatures in English and Head of School of Literature, Creative Writing and Drama at the University of East Anglia, who has published widely on Caribbean and Black British writings, with a particular emphasis on challenging orthodox literary histories and recovering women’s voices. She is the author of Twentieth Century Caribbean Literature (2006) and Caribbean Queer: Creolized Sexualities and the Literary Imagination in the Anglo-Caribbean (2021), as well as co-editor (with Michael A. Bucknor) of The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature (2011). She leads a major project funded by the Leverhulme Trust: ‘Caribbean Literary Heritage: recovering the lost past and safeguarding the future’.
Some people got creative and busy during the pandemic; Jamaican writer Olive Senior got so busy and so creative she got a whole book of Pandemic Poems: First Wave out of it.
“Early in the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Olive Senior began posting her series of Pandemic Poems on social media. The project was a way of bearing witness to the strangeness of it all and forging a reassuring connection with readers. Each poem is a riff on a word or phrase trending in the first wave of the pandemic – an A to Z of the lexicon newly coined or quickly repurposed for our historic moment. By presenting these words and phrases in sequence, Senior offers a timeline of the way events unfolded and how the language and preoccupations kept changing in response. In this accessible collection, Senior captures the zeitgeist of 2020.” (Repeating Islands) (Source – posting by another author on facebook)
p.s. Olive is a Wadadli Pen 2021 patron. So, buy her book!
Visual artist Heather Doram has turned her talents to publishing with a new series of colouring books.
A variety of Heather Doram merch can also be found exclusively at her online store. (Source – Heather Doram, artist, on instagram and/or facebook)
The latest release from Caribbean Reads, its first book of 2021, is The Talking Mango Tree by A. H. Benjamin of the UK with illustrator Daniel J. O’Brien of Trinidad. The mango tree, so says the plot, begins demanding a performance from each animals who wants its fruits and as one child reader reveals below Papa Bois is not happy.
This link includes various Caribbean booksellers that carry Caribbean Reads books but also see online and wherever books are sold. (Source – Caribbean Reads on instagram)
I previously posted this book in 2020 – not sure if pub was delayed or if I got the date wrong but I just learned that it was actually published this year, January 28th 2021, by Peepal Tree Press. So I did something I don’t normally do (deleted it from that 2020 Carib Plus Lit to re-post here). Shout out to Jacqueline Bishop whose The Gift of Music and Song: Interviews with Jamaican Women Writers has been described as a “beautiful collection of interviews, conducted by journalist, poet, novelist and artist Jacqueline Bishop, features insightful and entertaining conversations with many of Jamaica’s most significant writers including Olive Senior, Lorna Goodison, Marcia Douglas and many more.” A Peepal Tree press release, also, said, “Beginning at childhood, each interviewee narrates their fond memories of the Caribbean country with a nostalgia and yearning for a place that is complex and freighted with political, social and racial difficulties. The Gift of Music & Song is a space for these writers to talk deeply about writing back to their homeland; about being female voices from Jamaica, how one should represent the country, its rhythms and cadences, and what it means to be a female writer in the world today.” (Source – update via email from John Robert Lee)
Observer Media Group (Antigua and Barbuda) reporter Shermain Bique-Charles has published a romance novel, Jasmine: SheddingMy Skin. According to the Daily Observer newspaper, “the story follows the life of a young woman who is teased in school and considered to be unpopular. In a series of intriguing developments, a young man teams up with his friends planning to violate her. Instead he falls in love with her, putting aside all his wealth, pride and ego to gain her trust and love.” The veteran journalist is originally from Dominica. (Source – Daily Observer newspaper)
Shedding My Skin is just outside the publication window for the #readAntiguaBarbuda 2021 initiative (which closed in January 2021) but remember to vote for your favourite among the books that are in contention. (Source – the Daily Observer newspaper)
Congrats Due To…
Eric Barry of Trinidad and Tobago, regional winner of the International Playwriting Competition of 2020 with ‘Delisa Brings Home the Rainbow’. The full list of winners here.
Richards Georges. Don’t remember if I mentioned this but, hey, it’s worth mentioning twice or thrice…Richard Georges is settling in to his role, announced late last year, as the first poet laureate of the Virgin Islands. Richard, who has Antiguan and Trinidadian roots, is a BVI author, most recently celebrated for his Bocas best book win. Speaking of Bocas, Georges is, at this writing, participating in a celebration of Black Britain that’s a collaboration between Bocas and Penguin Books UK. “Linking current voices with their past influencers, the partnership will criss-cross the Atlantic to celebrate the re-publication of six previously out-of-print works by Black British authors, including James’s fictional masterpiece, and newly-commissioned work by a younger generation of Black British poets and writers, including Malika Booker, Richard Georges, Keith Jarrett, Hannah Lowe, Maureen Roberts and Roger Robinson.” – Trinidad and Tobago Newsday (Source – email, various)
Aishah Roberts on her appointment to director of film development – Europe & UK at Fandomodo Films. Aishah is from Antigua and is the daughter of another film vet Conrad Roberts. Sidebar – Conrad Roberts‘ name was familiar to me as someone growing up in Antigua and Barbuda in the 1980s as he was maybe the only local working in Hollywood (e.g. Mosquito Coast, Miami Vice) I was aware of at the time.
Edward Baugh and Mervyn Morris, joint announced recipients of Bocas’ Henry Swanzy Award.
“Baugh and Morris are widely considered pioneers of the study of West Indian literature, over careers that each span half a century. …
The Award, established in 2013, is named for the late BBC radio producer Henry Swanzy. Irish by birth, Swanzy worked as producer of the influential Caribbean Voices radio programme — originally founded by Jamaican Una Marson — from 1946 to 1954, becoming an essential figure in the development of modern West Indian literature.
The Bocas Lit Fest founded the award to honour and celebrate the contributions of the editors, broadcasters, publishers, critics, and others who have shaped the evolution of Caribbean literature behind the scenes.” (Repeating Islands) Personal congrats to my former mentor, Mervyn Morris. Well deserved. (Source – Facebook)
Sharma Taylor whose debut novel, What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You, has been acquired Virago at auction, part of a two-book deal. Via this March 1st 2021 article on thebookseller.com, ‘Described as “a powerful story of belonging, identity and inheritance”, the novel brings together a host of voices to evoke 80s Jamaica’s ghetto, dance halls, criminal underworld and corrupt politics, and at its heart, a mother’s unshakeable love for her son.’ About the book: “At 18 years old, Dinah, a Jamaican maid, gave away her baby son to the rich American couple she worked for before they left Jamaica. They never returned. She never forgot him. Eighteen years later, a young man comes from the US to Kingston. From the moment she sees him, Dinah never doubts—this is her son. What happens next will make everyone question what they know and where they belong.” The first of Taylor’s books are to be published in July 2022. Use the search feature to find the other times Sharma Taylor has shown up here on the blog (and there’s this exclusive interview on my other blog); it’s a lot as she’s been having breakthrough after breakthrough in recent years. I first met the Jamaica-born, Barbados-resident lawyer and writer when she participated in a 2016 workshop I co-facilitated at the BIM Literary Festival (we were co-participants in a 2018 Commonwealth workshop in Barbados). In the time I’ve known her, it’s been a meteoric rise including being shortlisted twice for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (in 2018 and 2020) and winning the 2020 Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Prize and 2019 Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize for emerging writers. Her short story “How You Make Jamaican Coconut Oil” won the 2020 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize. In 2020, ‘The Story of Stony’ (which I wrote the author was “heartbreaking”) was longlisted for the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival Elizabeth Nunez Award for Writers in the Caribbean. An earlier version of What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You was awarded second prize in the 2020 First Novel Competition (organized by Daniel Goldsmith Associates). “I wrote this book to showcase Jamaican culture and to explore the relationship between mothers and their children. I was captivated by Dinah’s voice the moment she came to me in the kitchen of my apartment in Barbados.” (via email and social media – from the author)
Nissa Butler emerged winner of the first NIA Mentor Award. The initiative, launched and funded by NIA Comms founder Marcella Andre and media relations specialist at the Ayre Group Jamilla Kirwan, is intended to invest in and boost an Antiguan and Barbudan female entrepreneur – providing her money ($7,000) and mentorship (from seven women in business) for a year. Nissa’s business is Butler Inscriptions and Butler Graveside Concierge service. Novel (and creative) ideas to be sure. In her publicly posted thank you, Nissa pledged to do just what the NIA Mentor Award is poised to do for her. “I will continue my efforts to pay it forward and I await, with pleasure, the bringing about positive development and opportunities for my personal growth, business and for you, my fellow female entrepreneurs.” We share this because we recognize and applaud creativity and in an environment starved for opportunity, Marcella got creative. (Source – Observer newspaper, Antigua and further research via facebook)
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, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and The Jungle Outside). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.
This picks up where the previous installments of Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed pages left off (use the search feature to the right to dig them up). As with those earlier pages, it features reviews about A & B writings that I come across as I dig through my archives or surf the web. You’re welcome to send any credible/professional reviews that you come across as well. They’re not in any particular order, I just add them as I add them; some will be old, some will be new. It’s all shared in an effort to underscore, emphasize, and insist on Antigua and Barbuda’s presence in the Caribbean literary canon.
“Dancing Nude in the Moonlight also explores themes of racial and ethnic intolerance, however, the spirit of this narrative is more in the nature of a true love story. Hillhouse cleverly crafts the tale through the eyes of Selena and Michael, alternating each chapter between these two characters…This style provides the reader with both a male and female perspective highlighting how the genders can perceive the same situation so differently…Michael is presented as a determined but sensitive man struggling with the vulnerabilities life has dealt him. This is a rare opportunity for the reader to be exposed to raw Caribbean emotions and feelings…Dancing Nude in the Moonlight is lyrical, sensual and gentle…(it) provide(s) a valuable glimpse of the Caribbean female.” – The Caribbean Writer, 2005
“(Jamaica) Kincaid is a lucid writer who uses precise, economical prose to present a sharp and moving perspective on adolescence and British colonialism. I’m so glad this project brought Lucy into my life and I’m looking forward to reading more of Kincaid’s writing.” – Bookmarked
‘Here are poems that reward several concentrated readings to mine their full, harrowing flavour: in this world, men fly through the air on the demolished doors of their houses, like a nightmarish scene from a game no one wants to play in reality. Children ask questions of adults who ask the same things of the dispassionate heavens. Answers are slow, and hard to read when so much is crumbling or has been swept into the sea. Instructions for survival often read more like stolen bits of catechism, monuments to prayer: “Find your bearings in the darkness / by the light in the channel. / The light in the channel is a warship . . . Use anything you can to collect the rain. / Cup your hands to your ears if you must. / They must clear the mounds of coral from the road first. / The coral are not bones. / They are bright flowers.”’ – Epiphaneia by Richard Georges (Richard is a BVI author with Trinidad roots who also has roots in Antigua and Barbuda). This review is by Shivanee Ramlochan in Caribbean Beat.
“From the first pages, we get to witness the mental havoc that colorism creates. Colorism feeds on the perception we have of ourselves. It feeds on our perception of other people and on the perception other people have of us. Joanne Hillhouse is subtle in the way she approaches this theme with several points of view by highlighting different elements about the character involved. … Zahara finds confidence in herself and in her music. The apparent confidence Shaka showed at the beginning becomes real as he defines his identity as an artist. There’s nothing they can do about colorism, but they hold themselves accountable for their own prejudices before trying to let go of them. They knowingly choose each other. … What resonated with me was the discourse on what being Black is, on what being a young Caribbean girl/boy is in the 21st century. …I want it to become a Caribbean classic for the upcoming generations. And why not even get a film and/or TV adaptation to turn it into a time capsule and immortalize our era?” – Karukerament re Musical Youth
“The coming of age story is well crafted, lively and absolutely believable.” – Mickel Brann, on The Boy from Willow Bend in Daily Observer, 2003
“…amazingly true characters…weaves a tapestry of village life in the Caribbean…captures the importance of women in social hierarchy of Caribbean households and the everyday issues that these same women have to deal with. She explores their sexuality, their love, their hate and their desperation to escape a life that seemingly goes nowhere – a dead end. Hillhouse also exhibits an incredible understanding of social issues in the Caribbean – child abandonment, abuse, promiscuity. She touches the problems of classism and the gulf that separates the ‘privileged’ and ‘not-so-privileged’…Quick, tight and thought provoking writing holds the reader in its grip…A lovely and engaging book that, in my opinion, is destined for the classrooms of Antigua, if not the entire Caribbean. This is a great and insightful look at Caribbean life and the future of our children.” – Karen Walwyn writing about The Boy from Willow Bend in the Expand Your World, Daily Observer, 2003
“The book stands out as an example of self-redemption, self-motivation, and self-preservation…” – D. Gisele Isaac writing on The Boy from Willow Bend in She Caribbean, 2004
“In the tradition of the best YA stories, Hillhouse’s characters are convincing because they’re unfailingly realistic in their interactions, interests, and struggles. Her players sound like actual people, and specifically like Antiguan teens. Through their personal journeys, readers learn about issues that affect young people in Antigua and across the globe, including internalized racism, colorism, economic inequality, generational trauma, and old-fashioned teenage angst. This is not to say that the book is heavy or maudlin in tone; on the contrary, Hillhouse’s writing is overwhelmingly joyful and explicitly invested in the power of Black joy, Black excellence, and Black self-love….A charming and edifying work with a romance that will make YA fans swoon.” – Musical Youth reviewed by Kirkus Reviews
Richard Georges of the British Virgin Islands is the 2020 winner of the OCM (One Caribbean Media) Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for his poetry collection Epiphaneia. This is his third collection after Make us all Islands, which was shortlisted for the UK’s Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and Giant, which was long listed for the OCM Bocas Prize and highly commended by the Forward Prizes. He is a founding editor of the online regional literary journal Moko. The BVI writer is born in Trinidad and, fun fact, has Antiguan roots (so much so I’ve actually debated putting him in the local book bibliography as I have, for instance, Guyanese writer with Antiguan roots, Ian McDonald, but I didn’t want to appropriate). His grandfather is from the BVI but went to school here and married a local girl before migrating (Scotland, BVI, Guyana, Trinidad). The OCM Bocas Prize, which has a US$10,000 main prize, is one of if not the major prize for literature from the English speaking Caribbean. Previous winners are St. Lucia-born Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott (2011, White Egrets), venerated Trinidad born literary elder Earl Lovelace (2012, Just a Movie), another multi-award winner, another Trini, first female Monique Roffey (2013, Archipelago), Trini Robert Antoni (2014, As Flies to Whatless Boys), St. Lucian Vladimir Lucein for his first publication (2015, Sounding Ground), Jamaican Commonwealth award winning literary icon Olive Senior (2016, The Pain Tree), Jamaican Kei Miller, also critically acclaimed and award winning (2017, Augustown), Trinidadian writers Jennifer Rahim (2018, Curfew Chronicles) and Kevin Adonis Browne (2019, High Mas).
The win was formally announced by chief judge Earl Lovelace during a live broadcast on May 2nd, which also included a presentation by Amanda Choo Quan, 2020 winner of the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize (a developmental prize for emerging writers – this year going to a writer of non-fiction).
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize field has been narrowed from 5000+ to these few:
Sharma Taylor of Jamaica and resident in Barbados is one of three Caribbean writers (along with Jamaica’s Brian Heap, Brandon McIvor of Trinidad and Tobago) short listed for the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story prize. I caught up with her for an interview about her writing journey (with tips for other writers) which can be read in full on my blog. Here she discusses her short listed story: “On the Commonwealth Writers’ website when they announced last year’s shortlist, I saw a photo of one of the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlisted writers and was fascinated with his prominent nose. I then wondered what my face would look like if I had his nose and how I would deal with it in the most awkward time of life when appearances matter: the teenage years.”
Roger Robinson’s vision of Trinidad as a “portable paradise” of “white sands, green hills and fresh fish”, has won the British-Trinidadian poet the Royal Society of Literature’s £10,000 Ondaatje prize, which goes to a work that best evokes “the spirit of a place”. – read more (via Repeating Islands via The Guardian)
The Caribbean theatre community is still mourning the passing of Trinidad and Tobago iconic playwright, producer, and more Tony Hall who died in April at 72, only 3 days after retiring according to this TnT media report and reflection:
Also while they have no Caribbbean ties that I know of, I have to mention the passing of two Black musical giants – a founding father of Rock n Roll Little Richard who was in his 80s when he died on May 9 and one of the men who shaped modern RnB, hip hop, and culture generally as founder of Uptown Records and head of labels like Motown Andre Harrell who was just 59 when he died on May 8.
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, 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.
The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 27th one which means there are 26 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one. – JCH
“I am a black woman writer from Trinidad and Tobago. I was born here to Trinidadian parents. I have lived here all my life. I do not have an escape route to Elsewhere, whether the route is through money, family connections or non-TT citizenship.” – Lisa Allen-Agostini, A Black Female Writer’s Story
Read the winning Wadadli Pen Challenge entries through the years and across several genres here.
this too is disputed – not the flowers – rather, the origin
of bananas; they may have come here with Columbus on
a ship that in 1502 slipped into Orcabessa the way grief
sometimes slips into a room. …” – Place Name: Oracabessa by Kei Miller
“Which is to say, it wasn’t easy for me. And it wasn’t easy for the professors, agents, editors, publicists and publishers who each took a risk and supported my work in first getting published. But fucking miracles of miracles—it happened. I deserved it, for sure. But so do a shitload of others for whom the miracle hasn’t happened as yet. We’ve got to try and do right by those writers and those books. And even those of us who have one or three books published—we have to keep proving ourselves and the industry has to keep taking a chance on us.” – Tiphanie Yanique
“We don’t see you. The future is not you. The future is not your story. And the future is not black sci fi. So if we don’t exist in the future, where do we exist? Only in the past.” – Canadian film director Sharon Lewis on her film Brown Girl Begins, based on Nalo Hopkins’ Brown Girl in the Ring
“Sometimes I listen outside closed doors, a thing I never would have done in the time before. I don’t listen long, because I don’t want to be caught doing it. Once, though, I heard Rita say to Cora that she wouldn’t debase herself like that.” – excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale
(Audio reading by Ali Smith of Grace Paley’s A Conversation with My Father) “Story here is a matter of life and death; the father is old, ill and dying; they both know it, and so does the reader. But this breathtaking, breathgiving short story, which never compromises on this truth or the admittance of inevitable tragedy, is profoundly, comically generous in its open-endedness, and leaves you both shaken and renewed by the heart, the fight and the life in it.” – link for full listen
“I sharpened the knife on the bottom of a saucer and quartered the potatoes, and then fried them with the garlic and a fistful of coriander. My mother returned from the garden holding a cluster of beets, her hands black and her feet black, and she asked why we never had any napkins and she must always wipe her hands on the pages of English grammar books.” – from Waiting for the Electricity by Christina Nichol
“Swami did not listen to the naysayers. He continued to sit and fast on his pulpit while the highway took shape around him and stretched further and further into the west. The road shone just like when Charlton Heston parted the sea to rescue the Jewish people and lead them to the Promised Land. Swami continued to chant while Friendship Village slowly disappeared. One by one, families succumbed to the generous compensation offered by the government for their feeble acres. Some agreed to relocate to more affluent areas in the west, to houses blessed with running water and electricity. Others even moved overseas to start a new life. Many bought second hand Japanese cars. The children who sat in the backseat often waved at Swami as they passed him on their way to the Promised Land of cineplexes, shopping malls, American chain restaurants and coffee shops.” – “How the Professor Made History” by Suzanne Bhagan
“That was the day I learned you should never try to pull your fingers out of an eel’s mouth, not a live one or a dead one. Not if you want to have any skin left to carry him home with, and especially not if it’s a twenty-pound silver-belly.” – Eel by Stefanie Seddon
“Still, he shut up and drank the tea, the sweet-milk making it go down more easily. Sweet milk was his favourite thing next to an ice-cold soursop suckabubby. As with the suckabubby, he would clamp his mouth to the opening and coax out the thick liquid when Tanty wasn’t looking. Tanty preferred to buy the sweet-milk since it lasted longer un-refrigerated than the evaporated sort, and their fridge did little more than take up space.” – excerpt from The Boy from Willow Bend by Joanne C. Hillhouse
“When I tell you, I could only love you in England, I also mean that you could only love me here, as well, but I cannot say this because you would not understand, you would argue, and tell me that love conquers all. We speak in English, and I cannot tell you that I know this is not true.” – I am a Bird by Kathrina Haji Mohd Daud
“Jules Poitevin is 54, he has three children, two sons of 17 and 14 and a nine-year-old daughter. He had felt that two children were more than enough, but his wife really wanted a little girl.
“But he did not touch her. Instead, as he watched her check the soup, he felt sadness for her, too. He felt awful that she had to make this soup base every Tuesday. He knew that years ago, she had a miscarriage. He knew that the daughter she did give birth to, the one who survived the pregnancy, didn’t call home often enough and that her son could only call collect from jail. Touching her breasts would make her less important than what she was, and she wasn’t important at all.” – DeMisty D. Bellinger’s French Fry Soup
CREATIVES ON CREATING
‘When I arrived at the gallery, I found other unsure-looking writers waiting for the salon to start. Unless we’re behind a desk and a mountain books, we writers often look lost. We spend much of our writing lives isolated, and we forget what it’s like to be surrounded by others who speak the same creative language…. When the salon ended, I walked up to the Great Hall where an opera singer gave “the gift of song” to visitors who accepted her offering. Her voice filled the vast hall as she sang to a little girl who sat on her mother’s lap. Afterward, I poured over images and artifacts from the “One Life: Sylvia Plath” exhibit. I might have missed it all had I decided to stay home that day.
Sometimes we must force ourselves into different environments and open ourselves to art outside of the modes we work in. I’ve written before about visual work that inspires my own craft, but I must continually remind myself to resist spending day after day in front of a computer screen. When we open a channel of inspiration, we enrich and broaden our work.
As spring (finally) arrives for many of us, let’s force ourselves into the sunshine, into worlds outside our usual routines to shift our perspectives, even when we don’t particularly feel like it. There is never a perfect time. To wait for a perfect time is to risk running out of time altogether, and that would be truly missing out.” – Dorothy Bendel, managing editor, Atticus Review (from their e-newsletter)
“I wasn’t keeping it simple. By keeping it simple I don’t mean abandoning any intricate details of what I envisioned. I simply mean that I was leaving out some fundamental basic things that would strengthen the work I was doing. I had to revise my approach to these fundamental aspects of how I was working and keep it simple. In this case, keeping it simple meant, for me, not to overlook the fundamentals.” – from Levi King’s Emerging Director Residency – Week 2 Blog Post
“The poem stalled here. I went back to my journal later and edited a few times, and you can see the lines I crossed out as well as how the final draft came to be. I think it is important for the poet to trust that first voice that a poem appears in, insomuch as that first voice often contains a several different possibilities that cannot all be explored. Now, I may try to split that voice and discover more than one poem, but more often than not, it is a process of whittling away and discarding to find the right direction and emotion that I need to capture.” – British Virgin Islands’ poet Richard Georges
The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 26th one which means there are 25 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one. – JCH
“When the blackness of winter descends, small signs of ordinary life are especially pleasing. People use the decorative rituals of Christmas as if to wave at their neighbors and call out, “We are still here!” The human race resists obliteration; our spirits are not so easily destroyed.” – Leslie Kendall Dye
“So he argues that it was natural for Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was farsighted, to create poems that themselves capture a wide scope, with their far-off vistas, mountain ranges, and expansive landscapes. Nearsighted Keats, on the other hand, favored images that are self-limiting, close-up, and auditory rather than visual. The sense of hearing, Trevor-Roper suggests, is intensified in Keats’s work for neurological reasons: when the sense of sight is damaged or limited, the other senses develop greater sensitivity in order to compensate for the loss.” – Myopic Keats by Ann Townsend
“The place where someone grows up molds a person. So does an era. Fiction is no different; setting is deeply embedded in the history of a character, and therefore integral to the story’s development and the character’s journey.” – Lorena Hughes
– “I ain’t one of you all peers/I’m the sum of all fears” – Black Thought of The Roots, planting his boot in the Greatest Of All Time debate #topfive
– Black Thought, “who is he?”
“They don’t see creative industries as serious. We dissuade young people from pursuing the arts as careers. We dissuade them from studying literature, we dissuade them from studying film, or art. We shepherd them in to industries that we think are more conducive to the two main revenue streams that we see in our budget – financial services and tourism…they don’t see the economic value to the country; what do we benefit by having theatre, books…” – Richards Georges’ TEDx in the BVI
“If it’s that serious . . . ,” said the younger woman. She paused a moment. “Then you’ll have to make some concessions.” – from The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi, translated from Arabic by Jonathan Wright.
“The child she was carrying seemed to grow twice as heavy, and the sky, whose clear blue had been such a welcome contrast to the gray clouds of the past few days, began to stir with an unseasonal southerly wind. As they turned out of the alley where the clothes shop was situated, the contrast could not have been greater: from a lonely place where gusts of wind pursued fallen leaves and scraps of plastic lay idle in the gutter, to the vast expanse of the central road.
There, where the mass celebrations would soon be taking place, the street looked like some fierce wild beast, shaking its mane and roaring. Bristling with posters and placards, strong sharp lines of red writing that made the eye wince to look at them; lined on both sides with innumerable flags, their fabric snapping taut in the wind; pierced by shrill whistles, underlining each new announcement or command; rent down the middle by a dark blue broadcast car, blaring slogans through its loudspeaker, again and again so that the whole street rang with them. Punctuated every so often by a plane looming low in the city’s skies, rising from takeoff or coming onto land; even their engines seemed to explode into an unprecedented roar, agitating the figures who moved below, causing them unconsciously to quicken their step.” – A short story smuggled out of North Korea. From Bandi’s (aka ‘Firefly’) Newly Translated Collection of Fiction.
“Hyacinth Ike wanted to kill himself because he had lived a fulfilled, successful life and couldn’t think of anything else he was loitering in the world for.” – By Way of a Life Plot by Kelechi Njoku
‘People think they are interested in women who don’t play by society’s rules, but when they see it in action, it is too disturbing. A question I kept getting was why is she “like that”? My question was “like what?” After all, in my view, Celestial is a person who wants the same things that anyone wants—to live her life in a way that fulfills her. This emotional limbo of being married but not really, of having one foot in her life as an artist and one foot emotionally serving the needs of her husband—it was too much.’ – Tayari Jones
“I wanted to include self-published works because it can be hard for those authors to get readers to discover their work. A lot of authors who are self-published have reached out to me in hopes that We Read Too can be a place for them to get more reader discovery for their work. I know that for authors of color it can be hard to get into the publishing world, so I want to support those who haven’t gone through the traditional routes. I want all authors of color to have their work highlighted in We Read Too, regardless of how they got their work out there.” – We Read Books Too app founder Kaya Thomas
‘I have a beanbag chair in my office, and there are days when I am sitting in it, looking from my window overlooking Central Park from the 36th floor of the Hearst Building and thinking, “They’re paying me to read?”’ – Leigh Haber
“CaribbeanReads …How did that day dreaming influence your illustrations, Danielle.
“Always close to home, it has been a delight seeing a private student, a little girl of eight whom I tutor, experiencing the antics of Anansi for the first time through Philip M. Sherlock’s Anansi the Spider Man. She had never before read or been read the stories. An essential primer, the book can be enjoyed either way. I was told by Ayesha Gibson-Gill, the National Cultural Foundation’s literary arts officer, that the Bajan book stall at Carifesta XI in Suriname couldn’t stock enough Anansi titles by our authors: everyone was after the trickster. One of the other books I have on Anansi is actually a Dutch title purchased in 2003 at Carifesta VIII, also in Suriname.” – Robert Edison Sandiford on Carifesta Xlll
“The IndyList, as we like to call it, is a selection of 12 Barbadian books to make friends with over the coming year.” Check them out.
The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 23rd one which means there are 22 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one.
‘We must never for a moment doubt that it is absolutely vital that a nation should foster and honour its writers. The good writer devotes his energy to searching for truth. And in the love of truth, straight and unvarnished, lies not only the hope but the safety of a nation. “The people need poetry,” the great Russian Poet, Osip Mandelstam, wrote, “to keep them awake forever.” The good writer, the true writer, as Cyril Connolly said in Enemies of Promise, “helps to unmask those pretenders which distract all human plans for improvement: the love of power and money, the short-sighted acquisitive passions, the legacies of injustice and ignorance, a tiger instinct for fighting, the ape-like desire to go with the crowd. A writer must be a lie-detector who exposes fallacies in words and ideals before half the world is killed for them.”’ – Ian McDonald
FROM THE BLOGS
“People think writing children’s stories is some simple, easy thing. You’ve heard that, right? It is not; children deserve that as much attention be taken with their stories as would be taken with an adult novel. The child doesn’t need to recognize the many layers in a story. The layers of meaning will come later, or not, but the layers create the finished picture. The child just needs needs to enjoy the story, just needs that satisfying feeling of reading a story where the ending spreads like joy from the tips of the toes to the tips of the fingers and creates a bubbling-up-joy in the heart and mind.” – Caribbean Children’s Literature Diane Browne
“Being a migrant is like living in a limboland where you never fully belong anywhere, the positive perspective being it also gives you a wider and deeper empathy and universality.” – Maggie Harris interview
“In the lateness of the night, she rises from the table. After these many years, she has become attuned to the restaurant, and to her beloved. They work in tandem. She can hear the eaves sigh in the wind, feel the dining room chairs sag with relief as the frenetic energy of the day finally draws to a close.” – The Woman Who Lived in the Restaurant by Leone Ross
“Across a field of short, sparse grass, she spied another group of aliens, facing each other in silence as usual, with their silver-stones piled in the center. Some were young—short with thick fur. Others were old—their scaly skin showing where hair had fallen out in patches about their body. She wondered if they considered this planet theirs. The family parrot, Rupert, considered the bell on his cage to be his property and pecked anyone who tried to move it. And the aliens of this world were certainly smarter than Rupert. Clara remembered her father’s stories about Columbus invading the Caribbean a thousand years before and declaring himself its discoverer. Maybe Clara and her family were the invaders now.” – from Clara in the New World, 2492 A.D. by Imam Baksh – See more here.
“Placing one slender, manicured tip on the backspace key, she erased every word, every trace of what she’d been feeling. It was four in the afternoon, and Laurie was beginning to feel suffocated. She needed this meeting to end. The only consolation was that she’d chosen a seat with her back against the wall, so her screen was not easily seen. Today was not her day to present, nor did she have the energy to rebut the statements being made, so she blindly allowed her mind to wander – a dangerous pastime.” – The Looking Glass by Zahra Airall (also posted to A & B Writings in Journals and Contests)
“I would say to young writers be true to yourself and go for what is deeply meaningful for you, ask yourself over and over: What do I want to say? Be as authentic to yourself and your subject as you can be. Write every day.” – Lawrence Scott
“My mantra is definitely slow and steady wins the race. I apply this mantra to a lot of things, but I think in terms of my business I really avoid the sensation of being overwhelmed.” – Holly Wren Spaulding
Several Caribbean writers sharing their work and insights, including Jamaica’s Tanya Shirley – “Matter of fact which women really needs a head unless she’s proficient in giving head and keeping her mouth shut when she’s not”; St. Lucia’s Vladimir Lucien – “…no land, not enough last name to get the loan…”; and Barbados’ Karen Lord – “It appears that war, when deprived of one reason, simply seeks out another; we are still a people divided.” – listen to the full thing at the BBC.
“…if you have just finished writing your first story, you may want to take some time honing it and your craft and ensuring that it is truly ready for publication before approaching publishers. Completing a draft for most writers is the first step in a long journey of becoming a published author.” – advice from agent Anna Ghosh
“I had this image of a woman grieving the illness of her lover, but yes, the lover is not-quite-human. He’s a construction or a creation or a person who has been made in our own image. I was thinking of love as a double helix between attraction to the other, the opposite; and attraction to some unarticulated part of ourselves that we recognize in another. And then, out of the blue, I could see Jin and Naomi dancing together, and the perspective was that of child, a neighbor, watching this love affair unfold, and interpreting that otherness, that not-quite-humanness, in a very different way. So that was the beginning.” – Five Questions for Madeleine Thien
“The reason an inciting moment matters is that it determines what the story is about. It’s like a snowball that is pushed down a hill. It will gather it’s own momentum, and direct the story to its conclusion unless you put obstacles in the way (like a rock) to throw it off track and into another direction. If you don’t want your story about Cinderella to hinge on the prince’s ball, you might not want to include the invitation in the plot in the first place.” – Andrea Lundgren
Solange Knowles jam sessions and creative process for Seat at the Table.
“When I sat down to write Ashael Rising, I knew very little about KalaDene. In fact, it didn’t even have a name until the third draft or so. My world-building was all done as I went along. I once heard an excellent description of the process; it explains just what it feels like to me so I’m going to share it here. World-building is like walking through a tunnel (the world) with a torch (the story) so I can see as much of the world as the story shines a light on and a little bit around the edges but everything else is just fuzzy shapes in the darkness, with maybe a puff of cool air indicating that there might be a door to somewhere else off to the left.” – Shona Kinsella talks world building
“Here’s the catch: More than one type of character arc exists. Our characters can change for better or worse. Or, perhaps they might not change much, except in strength of resolve. So, how do writers determine what kind of arc a character is following, or which arc fits our story best?” – Fantasy writer Sara Letourneau blogging on character arcs
“People think writing children’s stories is some simple, easy thing. You’ve heard that, right? It is not; children deserve that as much attention be taken with their stories as would be taken with an adult novel. The child doesn’t need to recognize the many layers in a story. The layers of meaning will come later, or not, but the layers create the finished picture. The child just needs needs to enjoy the story, just needs that satisfying feeling of reading a story where the ending spreads like joy from the tips of the toes to the tips of the fingers and creates a bubbling-up-joy in the heart and mind.” – Jamaican author Diane Browne blogging Children as Heroes/Heroines of Their Own Stories
Primarily, in this space, I’ll be sharing discussions, in Question and Answer format, of craft, and insights to not only the author/artist’s journey but the story of the arts in Antigua and Barbuda. This is a Work in Progress. The main criteria, so far, for inclusion, apart from the Q & A structure and the arts/art history focus, is that these are interviews not conducted by someone who is part of the artistes’ publishing and/or promotional team, and are interviews that are in the public sphere on a platform independent of the artistes and/or their publishing and promotional team. Beyond that, it’s what I come across and you can also link me interviews that fit the very broad stated criteria by emailing wadadipen at gmail dot com
Barbara Arrindell in Cacique magazine – January 2023
“We speak of this orange (creative) economy quite a bit these days, and we need a greater investment in the arts so that creatives and those involved in the craft can continue to create without worrying about being able to sustain themselves.”
Barbara Arrindell and Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing creative writing on ABS TV’s Antigua Today –
– (January 12th 2022)
Barbara Arrindell in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE –
“One of the early writings I did was a play called Dreams…Faces…Reality…and that play was actually performed over 25 times in Antigua and Barbuda… it was used as a tool to help students in the schools understand everything concerning HIV/AIDS.” – Barbara Arrindell with ABS TV (2020)
“Nellie Robinson, Dame Nellie Robinson is listed somewhere in our history as being the first chairperson of the artists association of Antigua and Barbuda, but so is a lady named Elizabeth Pickney…back in 17something… I found one in the 18th century too… we’ve had an artists association here many times and it’s been so far apart that each person thinks of themselves as the first chairperson of… in terms of history, there’s a book called A Brief History of Antigua written by Brian Dyde. Brian Dyde wrote brief histories for about four or five islands around the Caribbean, if it was five, four of them are still in print, guess which one is not in print, the other four were taken on and used in the school systems in the other islands, guess which one they couldn’t even sell one print run for…?” – Barbara Arrindell in conversation with Dorbrene O’Marde, Heather Doram, and Joanne C. Hillhouse on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
“I don’t really have a routine, I just take advantage of times when I don’t have anything to distract me, when I can get stuck into writing for as long as I want. I like to write with my feet cocked up on a comfortable sofa, and a good view in front of me. We have a small apartment in the old walled city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, which looks out onto a plaza with trees, a few birds singing, passing salsa music, and sounds of people chatting and relaxing. That’s my spot. When I am researching, of course, it’s different: if I’m not working online on the above-mentioned sofa, I’m usually sitting at a table in a research library somewhere in the Caribbean, or in Cornwall.” – Sue Appleby, author of The Cornish in the Caribbean (2019)
“If I was to specify what path I’m on and what matters to me the most I think it would be inspiring people…I have a reservoir of information that I could then pass on.” –
‘I was literally born into the theatre. My parents met each other through the Antiguan drama company “Harambee Open Air Theatre”… and since then they have both always nurtured the love and appreciation for the arts, exposing me to varying types of performances, including visiting ensembles to the island, and performances whenever I traveled. I remember my father taking me to see Cats on Broadway at a young age…it was exciting, and just cemented the fact that that was what I wanted to do with my life … perform and create productions that would make people feel the way I felt as a child sitting in that theatre. My mom then enrolled me in a drama programme called Child’s Play, under renowned Jamaican dramatist and storyteller Amina Blackwood-Meeks.’ – Zahra Airall talking to The Uncaged Phoenix (2018)
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Rilzy Adams part 2 (2022) – “When writing, where this was concerned, the one thing that I really wanted it to feel like and be like was Antiguan… I was very intentional with everything from the food choices to the music…but I also wanted them for the most part to be not necessarily heartwarming but …my general brand, for everything I write…Antiguan, full of love, and spicy.”
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Rilzy Adams part 1 (2022) – “I started writing epic fantasy. I think that’s what I wrote for a very long time…but eventually I said to myself, well, this is what I like to read so I’m really confused as to why I’m not writng it and that’s when I started to segueing into trying my hand at writing romance novels.”
Glenroy Aaron participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Emile Hill, Mark Brown, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “To be honest, I have learned a lot more about the Antiguan aesthetic from this conversation than from my years of observing art in Antigua. I say this because there is so little indigenous Antiguan art to observe, and historic recording of it is also quiet faint. My art is basically an attempt to capture the beauty around me and the moments in which they occur. My techniques and methods continue to evolve as exploring New continues to excite. Forays outside my comfort zone to explore deeper emotions have produced interesting results; with some apprehension as to the commercial viability of such ventures. The balance between creativity and viability is tricky but can be done, as others have found ways to make it work. Themes and scenes indigenous to an artist’s place of birth will ultimately make its way onto an artist’s canvas but considering the fusion of influences and cultures that have existed on the islands for some time now, an Antiguan aesthetic may be a bit difficult to define. Further, holding that many view art as a visual expression of the artist’s thoughts and emotions, we can appreciate that some of these ideas and emotions may not be “local” in scope.” Read in full.
“When I was growing up there was the WPA…a programme the government set up for free schools in art and music for all the communities throughout the United States and my parents with six children…sent us all out to the free classes, so we were all painting and drawing and playing the piano… I was not able to get a scholarship (to art school) because they said it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a black person.” – Ashley Bryan talking to BBC Sounds about his early development as an artist.
Tammi Browne Bannister talking to David DaCosta (December 28th 2016):
“When I was little, I loved reading Aesop’s Fables and was attracted to the humor, the lessons, and the tragedies and of course the way these tales made me think about the characters long after reading. I’ve written a few.” Full interview.
Mark Brown participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “I view art making as a human activity which cannot be defined as mine or yours, and this is based on the type of work which I engage in. My work, in my mind, is about responding to stimuli, that act of engaging with my feelings about my environment, religion, identity, sexuality, all of which most, if not every human being faces at some point in life. As a result, for me Antiguan Art, like Art elsewhere, is individual voices singing their own tune. Of course we may use objects specific to our culture [that have] distinct meaning but many times these same objects may have a different name in another culture and [be] used in different contexts, but then it is also specific then to that locale. How else do we explain lending your voice in paint or any other medium to a specific issue in a way that you deem visceral and then later on somewhere else, Google for instance, you discover another artist on the opposite side of the globe exploring the very same idea in very similar ways. To me it is just the act of discovering, in visual format, that which is buried deep within with the ultimate aim of finding out the real reason for my being “here” and at this time.” Read the full discussion here.
Mark Brown (2015) on Popreel, Swedish TV: “The main aim of the Angel in Crisis series was to bring a sort of humanness to people like her (the nun), priests, people who have to bear that burden of conforming to what society expects of them.” Interview begins at 7:35.
Jazzie B. talking with Chris Williams for Wax Poetics (May 14th 2014): “’Keep On Movin’ actually came about lyrically because we were at the Africa Center in Covent Gardens, and we were being put under a lot of pressure by the police. It was due to the fact that other clubs in the area were empty and ours kept being full. Every so often, we would get the squeeze put on us. At one particular moment, they threatened to close us down. The whole concept of this song came from there.” Full interview.
“We shot this at Half Moon Bay and this was supposed to embody just light and sand and turqouise waters, and just playfulness and joy, like there was supposed to be an innocence to it because this is where you meet the Yemoja character and so this was really just about having fun and just playing with my body and the dress under the water and trying to imagine what Yemoja wuld have felt just being in clear chrystal blue waters.” – Christal Clashing discussing Yemoja’s Anansi in a February 2022 CREATIVE SPACE art and culture column
“Sometimes I try to have this hope that we have reached a stage where black people are not being treated unfairly and [this news] just dropped me into a rabbit hole again.” – Heather Doram (Daily Observer, 2021)
“In my current creative phase, I feel so invigorated, so inspired, so playful, and so expressive. As both an artist and a woman, I am exploring new spaces, taking on new challenges, transcending my past, and shaping my future.” – Heather Doram (2020 interview with findyello.com)
Heather Doram on Observer Radio in a discussion which also included Joanne C. Hillhouse, Barbara Arrindell, and Dorbrene O’Marde (October 2017): “My feeling is that I have lived under several administrations and I really do not get the feeling that there is that widespread support for the visual and performing arts…you just use them when you need them…we do not even have a national gallery in Antigua and Barbuda so we the artists are there producing work in sort of isolation. I’ve seen it in many other countries where the national gallery would commission work; this sort of spurs the whole generation and activity of work and then the artists start to feel that sense of involvement and that their art work can actually support them…the same thing I’m sure applies to the literary artist…something like the cultural development division should be that nexus of that sort of leadership, this is where the cradle is…I would really like to see more support for the arts generally.” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Heather Doram participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Mark Brown, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “They were reactive and passionate. They were not satisfied with the realistic interpretation of the Antiguan landscape. They wanted to push boundaries, they wanted to produce work with the visual language of engagement with their audience. Many of their works responded to and explored social, political, gender issues and self. The younger generation sought to explore their roles as messengers in their visual language. I think artists like Mark [Brown], Emile [Hill], and Zavian [Archibald] can be included in this group. They are much more open to expressing themselves and exploring a range of media and techniques in their work.” Read the full discussion here.
Cray Francis talking with Good Morning Antigua Barbuda (April 5th 2016):
“I felt like I had to write my own stories.”
Claudia Ruth Francis talking with Italy’s Conoscere TV about her book Six Steps: An African-Barbudan-Caribbean Story (2022):
“I was very surprised when I realized that I was only six steps away from my ancestor who was on the slave registry in Barbuda.”
“It’s always a burning passion but it’s not a fruitful burning passion. You do the arts cause you love it and you have something you want to say.” – Gayle Gonsalves (2020) on ABS TV
“I’m a Caribbean poet foremost, I was not born in the BVI. I was born in Trinidad to a BVIslander father and a Trinidadian mother. His mother is Antiguan, her mother is Grenadian. He grew up in Guyana, and I grew up in the BVI. Because of that chain of connections, I think that the vibrations that drive my work are deep in the currents of this sea, those currents that touch each island – I would invoke that famous image of Brathwaite’s from ‘Calypso’, ‘the stone had skidded arc’d and bloomed into islands’.” – Richard Georges in Pree. 2018.
“As far as my poetic horizons go, I try to let the tides tug me along, and trust that they will take me where I’m meant to go. I thought I’d write a book of poems and then move on to spend some time experimenting with fiction, but poems seem to keep coming. I think I have to trust that.” – Richard Georges in Caribbean Beat. 2017.
Linisa George reads and talks about ‘In the Closet’, which was the Antigua and Barbuda Poetry Postcard for the UK series featuring works from the Commonwealth in time for the 2012 Commonwealth Games. “I’ve always been a poet…” she says, then explains the journey toward stepping in to that power. Link.
Joanne C. Hillhouse interviewed by Jacqueline Bishop for Jamaica Observer Bookends #InConversation series –
“Your books are all exceptionally written, and the stories pull the reader in. Once you start reading, it is very hard to stop. What specific techniques do you find yourself employing in your writing to hold the perspective of young audiences?
I would probably say character, curiousity, detail, surrender. I think those elements are there no matter what I’m writing. It’s all story. And when I’m writing, I’m discovreing the story. Character leads me in; when it’s flowing, they walk around with me, even when I’m not engaged with the page. When writing Lost! , for example, one reference point was the school playground; those early days when some children cry every day, like the world is ending, while other children look around in excitement, and new friendships are formed. That feeling is what I remember trying to capture when Coral and Dolphin first meet – not a jellyfish and seal, two kids in a foreign land (the playground, the sea) feeling each other out. The fact that my writing is typically visual and detailed is a plus in this genre. I lean into details – in terms of language, taste, all the senses, all the ways we are specific, and I don’t try to manage the writing. I fall into the flow of it. Then with each writing session, rip up some of the thread and begin to crochet again to find the pattern. Because writing is revisions and rewrites and tweaks and fiddling and every bit of uncertainty and playfulness that comes with that.”
One correction: On the second page where it says “where the lick”, it should say “were the lick” (from the Antiguan-Barbudan vernacular). Pointed out as the error changes the meaning of the sentence.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on ABS TV’s Good Morning Antigua Babuda for March 8th 2023 International Women’s Day –
“It actually started as a conversation between me and my nephew and his mother that became this sort of bedtime story.” (speaking of To be a Cheetah)
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Joanne C. Hillhouse part 2 (2022) – “Part of it is that I knew that world: I was the girl with the guitar slung over her shoulder, going to practice, playing in the choir, being shy about it, being self-conscious about walking with the guitar..for me the interesting things were the kids discovering their love of art, and discovering their potential within the art space, and connecting with each other through art…and the instinctive urge to explore colourism in that space because it exists in our spaces, our Black spaces, our people of colour spaces, it exists, so all of those things were interesting to me; the romance, yes, but all of those other things as well.”
Barbara Arrindell and Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing creative writing on ABS TV’s Antigua Today (January 12th 2022) – “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It is not for you to judge what you’re creating as you’re creating it. Let it be. Let it breathe. But part of what I’m doing in my current stream of workshops is now when you come back to the work, how do you begin to edit it, how do you being to redraft it? Because if you are serious about putting your work out in to the world, that is going to be a part of the process. And one of the things I always encourage budding writers to do is to begin to think of putting their work out in to the world. Whether it’s submitting to journals, or contests, or beginning the process of starting to query longer works that they wish to publish. But before you get to that point, once you get past the ‘just write’, once you get past the ‘let it breathe’, is beginning to dig in to the work and refine it, and begin to put it out in to the world.”
“One of the things that you grow up hearing in the Caribbean is girls shouldn’t climb trees because they going blight the tree, meaning that the tree not goin’ grow or not goin’ bear, so I wanted to put a girl in a tree; we need to break those sort of stereotypes. One of the magical things about children’s picture books is that they are what begins that process of socializing children in to who they are and who other people are.” – presentation by Joanne C. Hillhouse at Write the Vision’s Aspiring Authors and Writers Virtual Literary Event
“Even the idea of taking on an internship as a writer, because he’s an aspiring writer, is a luxury…you have to be able to support yourself in order to do an internship that can help you figure out this writing thing sometimes; so all of the things you need to feed the life that will allow you to do the creative thing is sometimes the biggest challenge.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse on taking on her first personal intern; just one of the things discussed in this conversation with Diaspora Kids Lit
Joanne C. Hillhousein conversation with Andy Caul of ACalabash: “To write those kids in Musical Youth, I reached back to my own teen-hood when I had my group of friends and I used to play the guitar. I used to go to guitar lessons, to play guitar in the choir. We went to fetes, Carnival, talent shows, walk-a-thons, the beach, we walked from school together. We had our clique. We had shared experiences. And I know in the reviews, they particularly commented on the Black joy in Musical Youth. And I appreciated that because that, in a way, was a joyful existence. The thing that people misunderstand about Caribbean life and Caribbean people is that while it can be very hard, marked by poverty and other things, it’s not just that. It is just life. It is love and laughter and we have some of the most inappropriate sense of humor when it comes to some of the darkness and the things that we joke about and the things that we find funny. So, yes, there’s poverty. Yes, there is political victimization. Yes, there is all the narratives but there’s also friendship, laughter, fun, music and all that stuff. I did not feel like I was writing against anything. It felt like I was just writing what was true.” (2021)
“I wanted her to be blacker, I wanted her to be on the dark-skinned side of the spectrum and I wanted her to be natural, have natural (hair) …because part of it for me …in the world of children’s picture books we don’t see enough people at the darker end of the spectrum, especially as characters that children can feel affection for and love and recognize themselves in.”
–Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Trinidad writer-artist Danielle Boodoo Fortune in a World Book Day chat (2021) that involved audience questions.
“The Boy from Willow Bend is by any measure growing up in abject poverty and in an abusive situation, and yet there is laughter and yet there is love and yet there is hope and yet there is dreaming and fancifulness because that is life. Life is not just one thing. It’s a myriad of things, and so that’s what I try to capture of this young boy coming of age in Antigua in this particular time.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse is the first National Public Library Author of the Month in January 2021
“For me they were people first and, of course, I had to research just how the world of the underwater would move, what I would need to know about arctic seals, what I would need to know about jellyfish, what I would need to know about sea turtles. So there was a lot of research in that regard. But in terms of the voices of the characters, they were children. They wanted to play and explore the ship, and, of course, Dolphin the Arctic Seal wants to get back home so he can tell his own adventuring grandmother about his own Caribbean sea adventure.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse in 2020 self-made video on her own platform but with audience submitted questions for the #Catapultartsgrant (specifically a Catapult Caribbean Creative Arts Online grant). She answered questions submitted via social media about story, craft, theme in Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and all her books
“Songs are universal and you don’t even have to know the lyrics sometimes to feel it.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing Musical Youth with gender advocacy group Intersect (2020)
“The first storytellers I knew were the calypso writers the Shelly Tobitts of the world,these were the people that taught me how to tell a story and how to tell Antiguan stories in particular.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse, ABS TV (2020)
Joanne C. Hillhouse interview on Caribbean Literary Heritage (June 2018): “Honestly, the first thing that flashed in to my mind is Antiguan and Barbudan calypso and Paul Keens Douglas – especially Tanty and Slim at the Oval – on the radio. Neither of which qualify as reading but which were foundational to my introduction to Caribbean literature. It’s there in Antigua and Barbuda’s King Obstinate’s Wet You Hand – a song which was fun and funny to me as a children and which I’ve used as an example of scene building and character description in my workshops, or in the way he knits the story of Anansi stealing the birds’ feathers into another of his songs – songs that did what Calypso did which was be bold-faced and satirical and reflective of our lives and our truth (especially the truths we didn’t dare speak) while bearing our unique brand of humour and matter of factness about life’s tragedies. It’s there in the writings of Shelly Tobitt – named for Romantic era poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; though I wouldn’t see the connection until college. A romantic idealist in his own right, or so his lyrics would suggest, as a child Shelly, the calypso writer and frequent collaborator of Antigua and Barbuda’s best calypsonian and inarguably one of the best the region has ever produced the Monarch King Short Shirt (who Dorbrene O’Marde writes about in his Bocas longlisted biography Nobody Go Run Me), was to me a poet who used the frustrations of the people to comment on economic, social, and political issues in a way that was deeply and enduringly philosophical, with melodies that captivated. So, the calypsonians and the oral tradition (including the jumbie stories) would have been my first reading of Caribbean writing.” Full interview.
“When Heather was culture director…I remember her starting a national collection where she commissioned pieces featuring Antiguan and Barbudan icons…what has become of that? What has been the continuity with respect to that national collection?… things like that, like you can have someone with a good idea start something… but there was no continuity, so if there’s no continuity it’s like you’re starting from scratch every time someone gets fired up and passionate about something so that’s the whole point…if you have that continuity then this person’s efforts will connect with that person’s efforts and we’ll have progression instead of starting from scratch every time…one of the things I do on the Wadadli Pen website is I have a project where I record the books that are put out and the plays and the songs that are put out by Antiguan and Barbudan creatives and there’s no shortage of stuff in the last 10 or so years, there’s a lot of people just feeling inspired and doing their own thing… there is stuff happening independently by artistes who feel inspired and creative but not by any system that’s giving them foundation or supporting their efforts.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Heather Doram, Dorbrene O’Marde, and Barbara Arrindell on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to The Culture Trip (July 2017): “in The Boy from Willow Bend, Vere’s mother leaves Antigua for better economic and personal opportunities in the U.S., and Vere himself leaves at the end; in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Selena and her sisters move to Antigua from the Dominican Republic for better opportunities, and at some point one of the sisters moves away from there as well; in the story, ‘The Other Daughter’, the title character moves to the US for educational purposes. I don’t know if it holds significance to me (there are many stories in which people don’t leave) so much as being a reflection of the reality that movement is a part of the Caribbean existence—whether it’s to seek higher education, economic opportunities, or a different kind of life—the Caribbean diaspora (i.e. the number of Caribbean people no longer resident in here or in the Caribbean country of their birth) is significant. We are a region of small islands with intelligent and talented people, sometimes the desired opportunities to recognize our full potential or even the cover needed to brave the economic storms stirred up in bigger places isn’t there. So, it’s just a reflection of the reality, I think (but just one part of the reality that I write).” Full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse in the Meet the Writer series at Grab Life by the Lapels: “I just enjoy experimenting within the story writing form, short and long. Much of what I write is character driven and distinctively Caribbean with (I like to believe) universal resonance – because I do believe the stories that are about the human condition can cross over without having to be diluted.” Full interview. 2016.
Joanne Hillhouse in conversation with book blogger Geosi Gyasi (2015): “I don’t think about it like that. I just tell the story. Sometimes the protagonist is a child, sometimes a teen, sometimes an adult, sometimes an old person, sometimes a jelly fish named Coral. The writing is always character first, not audience. During the editing process that’s when I’m challenged, often by the assigned editor, to think about things like can the target age group for this picture book understand abstract thinking, do I maybe need to be more literal, more detailed, more specific, provide clearer resolution, like that.” Read the full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on Popreel, Swedish TV (2015): “The characters come to me; they don’t always reveal their stories fully, so for me writing is a journey of discovery. I can’t always see where it’s going but I’m kind of wandering my way through it and trying to figure out what is it all about.” Interview starts here at 8:50.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t know any writers from here, from Antigua, until I discovered Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid; the writers from here that I knew, and I have great respect for them, were the calypso writers, people like Shelly Tobitt and Marcus Christopher, because when I was coming up, calypso was the literature that I would hear that had some relevance to my community, the other literature that we read was mostly from America or from Britain. So it was a while before I could wrap my mind around this idea that this was what I was called to do.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse (2015) on Bookworm, Swedish radio
Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to M. J. Fievre at the Whimsical Project (November 21st 2014): “Calypso, the calypso at that time, sang the things people were afraid to say and reflected the concerns and reality of the folk, authentically, in their voice, in a way that stirred spirits. I think there’s a part of me that strives for that in my writing.” Full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to Commonwealthwriters.org (2014): “I use a lot of detail, a lot of specificity in rendering the world, and I write from a very character-driven place – Who are they? What do they want? What is their truth (don’t compromise on telling their truth)? Why should we care?” Full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse is interviewed by Jamaican publisher-writer for Susumba (2013): “Honestly, I think it comes down to the material. I see publishing as the end game not the first step. Develop your craft, read a lot, experience life, write; these are more important. And when you’re ready do your research… take your shot, and don’t give up.” Full interview.
Fiction. It challenges me and I fall in love with the characters and enjoy discovering the story. Poetry, because it’s my outlet; it’s not always about publishing, often it’s just about getting it out. This is the medium I use for that type of writing more than any other…for me, the most accessible, I guess. Though it is it’s own kind of challenge (technically). But I like all forms for different reasons.
Emile Hill participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Mark Brown, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): ‘Ok so I’m a bit of a texter (cell phone, social media etc.) and on more than one occasion I’ve found myself engaged in several conversations, all completely different subject matter and all requiring a different “Emile” to deal with each of them. And I think, in this day and age, this happens to most persons at some point in time. The series I’m working on presently deals with the “multi-sidedness” of human interaction and relationships. It’s caused me to ask myself some questions, looking at whether this is a means of masking the true self and why? Is Survival a reason? What makes us accommodate each other so, switching faces? Is the face we see real, fake (and sometimes, does it even matter)? With regards to the Antiguan and Barbudan aesthetic, I think that every artist’s contribution is one that continues to make up the grand tapestry of who we are and so I think it fits simply as a local artist’s perspective on things… another thread in the tapestry.’ Read in Full.
“There’s a piece that I did that I call ‘8-8-21’ that I wrote after teargas Sunday last year. I call it ‘Freedom 8-8-21’…it starts by saying, I think, ‘Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. When the youth are protest ready, they become revolutionary’. And it goes on from there and it just kind of encapsulates the entire Sunday, everything that happened that Sunday. Because I happened to be there. That was my personal experience. I was caught up in it. I was gassed as well… that piece means a lot to me not only because it was my experience but also it’s history, it’s chronicling what happened that day.” – Dotsie Isaac, in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE
“No it was not difficult getting started because I was always writing” – D. Gisele Isaac on ABS TV. 2020. Full interview below.
Foster Joseph, jazz vocalist and musician, in conversation in 2021 with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE –
Clifton Joseph in Never Apart: ‘…the first person to really encourage me into the writing/performing arts was an older man in my village of New Winthropes in Antigua, Mr. Murray, probably, visually, the most black, blackest person in “Blizzard” as we called our home on the northern coast of the island. I think I was around ten years old and in addition to singing the Antiguan calypso songs we heard on the radio, Mr. Murray would actually pay me a penny, or sometimes two-pence (we were still using the British colonial currency at the time) to make up my own “calypso” verses. The only snippet I remember from then are three lines: “in January they called me clinky, then in February they start to call me sebassie, and in June they start to call my cousin boone”…I have to give Mr. Murray maximum props for sparking that early interest in writing and performing.’ Full interview.
Clifton Joseph talking with Ian Ferrier (2007): “Hip Hop, Dub Poetry, Dancehall, Reggae all sort of come out of the same African inspired, Caribbean, American, emphasis on words, rhythm, repetition; all of those things pull from the same pool of stylistic influences.”
Tameka Jarvis-George interviewed about her comic series August by Jump magazine: “I wrote to escape everything I didn’t like and anything that made me uncomfortable. I love my fictitious world.” Full interview. 2018.
Naomi Jackson, a New Yorker of Antiguan and Barbadian descent, author of critically acclaimed novel The Star Side of Bird Hill, in conversation with Writing Home: American Voices from the Caribbean –
“The Caribbean was both this place of joy and possible exile.” Listen here.
Shabier Kirchner‘s Love Letter to Antigua, an interview with Penelope Bartlett on Criterion Collection: “We are very proud people and yet we are so underrepresented on-screen by ourselves. I think Ousmane Sembène said it best: If we continue consuming images solely from abroad, and telling the stories of other people or absorbing others’ perspective of us, we will eventually lose our identity—and I truly believe that. The Caribbean is my home. Our people are the most interesting to me, and I just want to share the truth of who we are through local eyes.” Full interview. 2020.
Shabier Kirchner talking to Caribbean Beat magazine about his film Dadli: “While I was shooting this test footage, there was no agenda. I wasn’t looking for a main character. We weren’t recording sound, so there weren’t any interviews. I was just walking around shooting things that were interesting. It wasn’t until many months later that we realised there was this boy who kept appearing in the footage. So Tiquan became the force behind the narrative. After we had an idea of what we wanted the film to be, we tracked him down and interviewed him.” Full interview. 2019.
“(Shabier) Kirchner: That’s Antigua’s old sugar factory. It’s been abandoned for many years; I used to go there as a kid. It was like Tarkovsky’s Stalker. You could completely lose yourself there, let the imagination would run wild. I always loved that place. Visually, I’ve been shooting it for years, and I knew I had to shoot it on 16. It’s a coincidence that Tiquan was talking about running away from home and finding a place where he could just let loose. It wasn’t that specific place for him, but I’m assuming it was similar. What he described was what the sugar factory was for me.” Full interview. 2018.
“I suppose that my work is always mourning something, the loss of a paradise—not the thing that comes after you die, but the thing that you had before. I often think of the time before my brothers were born—and this might sound very childish, but I don’t care—as this paradise of my mother and me always being together. There were times when my mother and I would go swimming and she would disappear for a second, and I would imagine the depths just rolling over her, that she’d go deeper and deeper and I’d never see her again . . . And then she would pop up somewhere else. Those memories are a constant source of some strange pleasure for me.” – Jamaica Kincaid conversation in the Paris Review, 2022
“Writing, it seems to me, depends primarily on a kind of chaos [so] that categorisation . . . only hinders the reader and the writer,” says Kincaid, explaining that she prefers to think in terms of “different forms” because “when I started to write, I just wrote”. – Jamaica Kincaid, from interview in the Financial Times, 2022
Jamaica Kincaid talking with the BBC (in an interview which also included Jacob Ross and Claire Adam, 2018): “I didn’t know I wanted to tell stories. I knew I wanted to write and I thought I wanted to write about my mother and me, and a lot of my writing is about mother and daughter. But really I could early on see before any critic, I may have pointed it out to critics, that I was really writing about imbalance of power. And the mother country and the domestic mother is quite intertwined. If you really give a cursory and then thoroughly investigation into colonialism, you will see how much the colonial world has to do with the domestic and the domestic is almost always the female domain.” Full programme.
Jamaica Kincaid talking with Mother Jones (January/February 2013): ‘I think I was trying to understand how, short of an accident—you know, you pick up the phone, he says, “Your mother is dead. Her car. The Earth fell”—I never expected the everyday to suddenly become an accident. Suddenly you go downstairs and the pine floor is a gravel pit. I was trying to understand how the everyday suddenly becomes the unexpected.’ Full interview.
Natasha Lightfoot talking with Renee Goldthree for Black Perspectives (April 4th 2016): “In the UWI archives, there was an almanac for the West Indies in the nineteenth century, and it contained an entry in the year 1858 for Antigua. The entry mentioned that there had been a riot and that the island’s jails were completely full, but it also claimed that the riot was nothing of any political significance. The entry suggested that the rioters were basically rabble in the streets causing trouble—and not at all political. That entry raised my antenna so to speak. I thought that the way the entry was written was a sign that whatever had occurred was very political: there had been a riot in the streets for several days and the jails were full of rioters. I wanted to figure out what happened and why.” Full interview.
Joy Lawrence in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for Wadadli Pen (2013): “The history books we are familiar with are usually written from the European or American perspective. I want people to understand our story from our perspective – how we feel, our likes and dislikes, our goals and aspirations. No outsider can tell our story the way we can.” Full interview.
Joy Lapps talking with Joanne C. Hillhouse (December 2nd 2012): “I think that my strengths lie in composition and writing lyrics for music composed by others and by myself. My inspiration comes from my lived experience and some things I read about or see on the news, my spirituality and love of God, falling in love with my husband, the everyday challenges of life…etc.” Full interview.
“That’s the direction I want to go with my writing, where I want it to be a small Caribbean island, I want it to be genre fiction, category romance, in the Caribbean, because sometimes those are the books you want to read, you know, you don’t want to be thinking of the heavier literary fiction or whatever – sometimes you just want ice-cream.”
– Kimolisa Mings, CREATIVE SPACE interview, February 2023
“I was the representative for the Clare Hall Secondary school, my alma mater… I fell on stage…the crowd’s reaction was a mixture of *gasps* and laughs, and at that point I had to make a decision, ‘hey, you go continue or you go stop.’ Cause you can either be poor thing and people laugh at you for the rest of your life or you can act the shit out of this and make it worth it. And I stayed on that floor and I continued my entire performance from the floor. The next day, I was the front page article: If at first you don’t succeed, you try and try again . The next year, I was the billboard for the website. I had my own billboard on the road…which is something that is not normally given to an unplaced contestant…that experience that you would think would have deterred me or broken me down in some kind of way was something that opened a whole big spectrum to me as a person in terms of confidence and being able to think on your feet, you know, ‘you need to get this done, wha you go do.'” – Kevon Moitt, designer
(the self-produced documentary series was released in 2021)
Jelani ‘J-Wyze’ Nias, author of Where Eagles Crawl and Men Fly, talking about following his path to publication: “The biggest wall I encountered, not that there weren’t others, but the biggest was my own fear. And once you get through that fear/feeling of will people understand this, will people accept this, are people gonna see my vision, once you go through that then everything else tends to be a lot more easy to deal with.” – Watch the video.
Dorbrene O’Marde about writing Nobody Go Run Me about King Short Shirt (2022):
Noting that he had written the first chapter five years before beginning the book – “Writing is interesting in that sense…you start, you put it down, and sometimes you just don’t get back to it for a long long time unless something prods you, and it was this celebration of the 50th anniversary, that says ‘wow, I have written this thing here’.”
Dorbrene O’Marde in conversation with Heather Doram, Joanne C. Hillhouse, and Barbara Arindell on Observer radio’s BigIssues (2017): “We’re definitely not doing enough…you talk to groups today and mention Tim Hector …in schools, the name is not know; what he does has not been heralded…my interactions with young people…points to this particular void…history clearly is the subject of interest here, that we know who we are…the decisions about where we’re going will be made on the basis of that knowledge…if you understand the history of how we came to own these lands…then we wouldn’t behave the way we’re behaving, for example, with our land…” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Dorbrene O’Marde talking with Judd Batchelor at Batchelor of Arts Theatre Online (2016): “And one of the comments I made -which seemed to rattle some of the young writers, was the total absence of socio political concerns in this region, at this particular point in time when there is so much need for concern and there is so much need for understanding the post-colonial independence bind that we find ourselves in, that our leaders find themselves in that we as persons trying to inform leadership have not really clarified for ourselves. And my view of the role of the artist is to help in that clarification.” Full interview.
Althea Prince talks about her research and her writing with A Different Booklist bookstore in Canada: “We need to hear from women about their experiences, their creative journeys, so The Black Notes brought together older and younger women. The contributors include some young girls who are just reaching the age of maturity. The book seeks to bring together the two generations. We have then the viewpoint – not a complete cross-section of those, but as far as I was able – of those women and girls from the African-Canadian community. So the same objectives: the same business of giving equity, giving voice, allowing space for these voices to express their creativity. Some of it is non-fiction, some of it is fiction and some of it is poetry.”
Rowan Ricardo Philips talking with Deadspin about his tennis themed book The Circuit: a Tennis Odyssey: “Carribeans love racket sports. My dad played a lot, so I started out going to his matches and serving as a terrible ballboy. The only thing we watched as a family on television was tennis, Breakfast at Wimbledon was big in my house. I had forgotten about those days, but I am fond of them. I never would’ve written the book without it. Here’s a good example: My dad rarely calls with breaking news, but one day he rang me up and said, ‘Turn on the TV, there’s a tennis poem being read on the air.’ It was Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated encapsulating his time at one of the big tournaments. Dad wanted to make sure I saw my personal Venn Diagram becoming one circle.” 2019.
Rupert Littleman Pelle, final interview, with the Cultural Development Division Research Department (2021): “I never believe I write a good song until I hear somebody criticize it. If I write a song and we can’t sit down in a group and discuss the song, and add and subtract, something wrong with the song, something definitely have to wrong with the song. And you can’t just change a line in a song like that. You write a song and somebody take it and they change a line can destroy the whole song. Because you na know what is leading up to the second verse or the third verse that have to do with the line in the first verse that you interfere with.”
Paul ‘King Obstinate’ Richards: “We’re prophets; a lot of things we write about comes true.” (King Obstinate on calypso, September 2013)
“…my little house is my own piece of paradise and it’s very conducive to creativity because it’s so peaceful and quiet. Singles’ Holiday and Sweet Lady are set on the island, and I’ve also developed a writing career over there. I wrote a TV series called Paradise View, which was shown on Antigua TV. When I last left the island, the people at the check-in desk were asking when they would get to see more. I’m now working on another show called Maisie and Em, which I describe as Golden Girls set in the Caribbean.” – UK writer Elaine Spires who made Antigua a home away from home speaking to Write’s Editing Services on the impact of island living on her writing
“They were great times – with the most amazing, talented, creative, strong, wonderful women. Their writing and innovative theatre pieces were daring and searingly truthful and just blew me away. I was honoured to be asked by Zahra Airall one of the founder members of Women of Antigua to write a piece for their show When A Woman Moans. I wrote the first Maisie and Em sketch which I performed as Em with my great pal Heather Doram taking the role of Maisie. Heather is an internationally famous artist and actress who has since become a TV host. The sketch brought the house down which was rewarding and humbling and so I was invited to write for them again the following year. It was a thrill and honour to be a part of it.” – Elaine Spiresspeaking with The Publish Hub
“One of our goals was to have the Cultural Division of Government fully support this organization and work alongside us and our artists. A fraction of that goal has been achieved as the Festivals Division recently came on board to sponsor our signature event, The Ink Project.” – Spilling Ink, for CREATIVE SPACE. 2020.
“When I was growing up as a boy, they had great man like Quarkoo. He was good but he was not really my influence, so to say, to bring me to this point; but quarkoo was a genius in his days. I can recall he would sing on the latest murder. Anything happen, in a matter of an hour he on the street with a piece of paper selling it and making it very popular.” – Short Shirt, The Making of the Monarch
“What I’d like to see really is, to be honest, is not just for Halcyon but steelband in general, especially at Carnival time apart from panorama, the bands, they not that important. …You know before time steelband used to dominate the road and be an integral part of the whole Carnival thing. Now apart from panorama, after panorama, nobody waan here no pan again. …steelband will have to move to a next level, they will have to amplify the bands an’ dem.” – George ‘Scenty’ Thomas, former captain of Halcyon Steel Orchestra, on the occasion of the Grays Green band’s 50th anniversary, 2021
Amber Williams-King talking to the Toronto Arts Foundation: “The reality is that the voices, experiences and identities of those who are not a part of the dominant culture are often erased and disappeared away. As a Black femme who grapples with suicidal ideation, disability and the medical industrial complex, imagining myself in the future has, at times, been almost impossible. Art offered me the space to name these parts of myself, connect with others, and help build a world that does not thrive on the absolute destruction of me and my people.”
“You send the draft to the editor and you sit nervously for the next two weeks or how ever long …waiting for that email or that call…then you take the feedback, you kind of sit with it for a while, you think about it, then you try to work on another draft. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you won’t agree…it should be a conversation…it’s a dance back and forth that you have to be patient with, and, once again, give it some space, read the review, and give it some space before you go and work on the redraft.”
PHOTO credits: Pictures of Joanne C. Hillhouse and Joy Lapps are from the 2011 event Telling our Stories at the University of Toronto – event photo; of Tameka Jarvis George is from the 2006 Wadadli Pen/Museum literary showcase Word Up! – event photo/Laura Hall; of Jamaica Kincaid is from the 2014 University of the Virgin Islands literary festival – event photo; of Jelani Nias is a screen grab from a televised interview; of Nicoya Henry – event photo (credit unknown). Barbara Arrindell, Foster Joseph, Sonalli Andrews, and Floree Williams-Whyte video links are to Joanne C. Hillhouse’s CREATIVE SPACE vlog. Video links also pulled from ABS TV, Words Aloud, the Dan David Prize, Novek Designs, edwin1030, Petra the Spectator – this is believed to be within the realm of fair use – no copyright infringement is intended. Some of my own appearances on platforms by Write the Vision, Diaspora Kids Lit, Badass Black Girl, ABS TV, National Public Library, Intersect Antigua, and some videos produced for my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel are also included.
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Please note that, except otherwise noted, images on this site also need to be cleared if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.
Links to artiste/writer pages (websites and/or blogs) from the Caribbean region – artistes listed here are either Caribbean born or Caribbean descended (in the latter case, they are listed under their country of lineage). I’ve opted to list per country of birth or origin, though the writer may have grown up elsewhere or claim multiple countries. If I am unsure of their country-designation I will list as N/A until corrected. Countries are listed alphabetically.
Please note, this page is a work in progress – links will be added over time – if you have a link you would like added, email email@example.com for consideration – if linked or if sharing this post, please link back.
This page does not link Antiguan and Barbudan writers, click link immediately below the picture for us.
From left, Antiguan and Barbudan writers S E James, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Brenda Lee Browne, AJ, Marie Elena John w/Kittitian author Caryl Phillips at the Calabash literary festival in Jamaica (2007).
This image is from a fiction editing workshop in Guyana and participants included some of the writers listed on this page – Joanne C. Hillhouse, first left back is listed among the Antiguan and Barbudan Writers on the Web; and below Shivaneee Ramlochan (Trinidad and Tobago), second from left, front; Richard Georges (BVI), second from left, back; Nailah Imoja (Barbados), third from left, front; Ruel Johnson (Guyana), third from right, back; Felene Cayetano (Belize), front, right. (2016)
Richard Georges, centre, in conversation with other Caribbean Writers during an editing workshop in Guyana. Also pictured are Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse, Bermudan writer Kim Dismont-Robinson, and from Commonwealth Writers Rukhsana Yasmin.
Ruel Johnson, second from left, in Guyana with Joanne C. Hillhouse, left, Jane King Hippolyte, Kim Dismont-Robinson, and in the back row, from left, Richard Georges, Tanya Batson-Savage, and Nailah Imoja; 2016.
This one is from 1995 in Miami at the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute. Pictured are participants in the fiction workshop led by Olive Senior, seated centre, including, standing centre, Joanne C. Hillhouse, and to her right, Ifeona Fulani, Donna Aza Weir-Soley, and Dalma Llanos, to her left Joanne Hippolyte, Sarah Pemberton Strong, and others.
Danielle Boodoo-Fortune is second from right, next to Curdella Forbes, right, and Joanne C. Hillhouse, centre, pictured with Caribbean writers Ramabai Espinet and Angela Barry, left and second from left at the BIM event in 2008.
The Caribbean Writer has announced its 2015 annual prize winners for Volume 29, which highlights contradictions and ambiguities in the Caribbean space.
Topping the list of prizes is The Marvin E. Williams Literary Prize ($500) for a new or emerging writer. This annual prize is donated by Marvin’s widow, Dasil Williams, in honor of her late husband who served as the editor of The Caribbean Writer from 2003 – 2008. This prize was awarded to Richard Georges, an up-and-coming Caribbean poet from the British Virgin Islands.
The Cecile de Jongh Literary Prize ($500) was awarded to Shona V. Jamadi-Jabang, a Jamaican-born writer now living in the UK. This prize is awarded to an author whose work best expresses the spirit of the Caribbean. It is donated by former Gov. John P. de Jongh, Jr. in honor of Cecile de Jongh’s abiding commitment to literacy in the territory, especially among the young Virgin Islanders.
The David Hough Literary Prize was awarded to Breanne Mc Ivor, a writer who currently lives in Trinidad where she teaches English, history, drama and citizenship at Rosewood Girls. This $500 prize is awarded to an author who is a resident of the Caribbean. It is donated by Sonja Hough, owner of Sonja’s Designs, the handmade jewelry designer in Christiansted, St. Croix, in memory of her late husband.
The Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for short fiction ($400) was awarded to Bibi Sabrina Donaie, a fiction writer born in Guyana, who currently resides on St. Croix, V.I.
The Charlotte and Isidor Paiewonsky Prize for first-time publication ($250) in The Caribbean Writer went to D’Yanirah Santiago, a writer from St. Croix, V.I.
The Marguerite Cobb-McKay Prize to an emerging Caribbean fiction writer ($200) went to Tammi Browne-Bannister, a writer from Barbados.
The biographies and photographs of these winners will be featured in the 30th anniversary issue of The Caribbean Writer.
For more information on The Caribbean Writer, visit www.thecaribbeanwriter.org