Tag Archives: story

Good News for Six Caribbean Writers, Bad News for the Burt Award

Six shortlisted writers have been named though dampened by the concurrent announcement that the CODE sponsored Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean literature is coming to an end. The award was first bestowed in 2014 but with the death of its founder Canadian philanthropist Bill Burt in 2017 has come a shift in priorities – reportedly to environmental matters, which is a pressing concern in these perilous times. The Caribbean leg of the award has been administered these five years by the Bocas Literary Festival in Trinidad and Tobago  in partnership with the Canadian non-profit CODE which runs similar programmes in Africa and among the indigenous community in Canada – all of which will need alternative funding if they are to continue. The purpose and effect of the award has been to generate and distribute new writing from typically marginalized communities with the youth population as a specific target.

This year’s short list from a field of 46 consists of:

Jomo’s Story by Nastassian Brandon (Jamaica)

The Unmarked Girl by Jeanelle Frontin (Trinidad and Tobago)

The Accidental Prize by Tamika Gibson (Trinidad and Tobago)

The Mermaid Pools by Rehannah Azeeyah Khan (Trinidad and Tobago)

Daylight Come by Diana McCaulay (Jamaica)

Rise Of The Clearrock by Celia Sankar/ S.P. Claret (Trinidad and Tobago)

McCaulay and Gibson are repeat Burt finalists – Gibson placed first in 2016 for Dreams Beyond the Shore, subsequently published by Jamaica’s Blue Banyan Books, and McCaulay’s Gone to Drift was second placed in 2015 and subsequently published by Papillote Press of Dominica and the UK. The list of past Burt finalists can be found here.

From a 2019 Burt/Bocas email: ‘Action, adventure, fantasy, myth, and forbidden love are some of the themes that feature in the shortlist. The judges were effusive in their praise for the quality of the writing, the credibility of the characters and the effectiveness of the plots in these six titles. Their comments on the entries range from “haunting” and “dark” to “enjoyable, fun, educational” and “ground breaking”.’

The winner and up to two finalists will be announced during the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, May 1st to 5th in Trinidad, with $10,000 CDN going to the winning book and $2,000 CDN each to two finalists. A distinctive feature of the Burt award which accepts both published and unpublished manuscripts is that it invites regional publishers to bid for the opportunity to publish one of the winning titles, and purchases and distributes copies of the finished product – the former helping to build the publishing infrastructure in the region, the latter ensuring that the books get in to the hands of their target readership.

Personal note: I am sorry to see this competition die (potentially, if it doesn’t find new funding – though Bocas has done a good job of sourcing alternative funding for, for instance, the Hollick Arvon prize which is now the the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize). I think Burt has been good in terms of generating fresh content and creating renewed enthusiasm among secondary schoolers especially for Caribbean writing to which they feel they can relate. That’s certainly been my experience with Musical Youth, my second placed Burt title, published by Caribbean Reads Publishing, in its inaugural year, 2014, and now on schools reading lists in two Caribbean islands (but more than that the word of mouth enthusiasm from teenage readers). I am happy to have had the opportunity to serve as a Burt Award workshop leader here in Antigua, as a judge of the Caribbean leg of the award, as a mentor of the Africa leg, and as a Burt title editor; I have also enthusiastically promoted the programme – whether reviewing books like All over Again, Gone to Drift, Home Home, and Inner City Girl, which are unsurprisingly of high quality, or encouraging people to enter the competition. I only wish more of us, small islanders, had made it to the winners’ circle – to date (not including 2019) winning books have hailed from Trinidad and Tobago (5), Jamaica (3), Guyana (2), Bermuda (2), Barbados (1),  Puerto Rico (1), and Antigua and Barbuda (1). I want to thank Mr. Bill Burt for this initiative; he did a good thing.

I hope that some other philanthropist or philanthropists sees that arts funding is also a priority – especially in such perilous times.

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


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

Who made the short list?

UPDATE – for an open letter to Wadadli Pen finalists (and all budding writers), go here.

 After the first round of judging, these are the names of the writers tapped by one or more of the judges in this year’s Wadadli Pen Challenge. Each entry is evaluated blind by at least two judges in round one and then by the chief judge in round 2 after which they will be returned to the respective writers for final editing. Who’ll make the final cut? That’ll be decided in the second round of judging and revealed during the awards ceremony. These are the ones still in the running (you may notice some familiar names *see links* from previous Wadadli Pen Challenges).

12 and younger

Chammaiah Ambrose (Sunnyside)

Vega Armstrong (St. Nicholas)

Juliet Browne (Villa Primary)

Zuri Holder (Antigua Grammar School)

Rhea Watkins (St. John’s Catholic Primary)

13 to 17

Asha Graham (Antigua Girls High School)

Michaela Harris (Antigua Girls High School)

Isheba Simon (Antigua State College)

18 to 35

Danielle M. Benjamin

Daryl George

Latoya Aretha Honore

Arati Jagdeo

Jamila H. K. Salankey

Latisha Walker-Jacobs


Filed under Wadadli Pen 2013, Wadadli Pen News

Call for Submissions – BBC Short Story Award

For  the first time since it launched in 2006, the BBC Short Story  Award will see stories from home and abroad going head-to-head for the  £15,000 cheque for first place. For one year only authors from across  the globe will be eligible to enter alongside UK practitioners.

The winning story in 2011 was ‘The Dead Roads, by DW Wilson, who said ‘The BBC short story prize couldn’t have come at a better time in my career; it was the push I needed to get my work noticed. More than that, though, it was the little things that tagged along that made the whole experience so rewarding: hearing my story read on radio, pats on the back from authors whose work I’ve read and admired; and that very rare and quintessential gift for a writer – reassurance that we might just be doing something right.’

More here.

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The Creation by Rosalie Amelia Richards

[2006 – Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Second Runner Up]

It was a beautiful day. The dirt smelt freshly dug and the tunnels seemed like new. I made my way to the utility room with some friends to get our tool-making equipment, as it was time to start working. As we worked, we talked and laughed about the boys out hunting, wondering what they would bring back. Probably moles, agouties or dirt animals again.

I started to daydream and my sharpening tool dropped out of my hand and rolled down a narrow hallway. I snapped out of my dream and jumped up to catch it. I ran out of the room and followed it. I was amazed at how fast a pointy object could bounce away. Finally it stopped.

However, something was wrong. The sharpener was oddly lit up…I glanced upwards and I rubbed my eyes just to make sure I was awake. I saw light! I picked up my sharpener and made marks along the wall as I ran back, so that I could find my way back to the spot.

I got back to the main hallway; I shouted so that all the people could hear, “I have a huge EMERGENCY!”

People crowded out of the different tunnels and crowded around me. The elders came out. The speaker of the elders said, “What is the meaning of this, Tokomaka?”

I gulped. I was never good with crowds. “Sir, I, um, I have discovered something amazing. Please follow me.”

The elders looked at each other hesitantly and then followed me through the narrow passage in single file. The villagers followed them. We came to the spot and I pointed upwards. They gasped.

The elders decided to explore this new finding. As the hole was big enough to fit a person about my size, they boosted me and about three other people my size up through the hole out of the earth, on a strong man’s shoulders.

As we came through up the hole, we each ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ as we saw our surroundings. We were in a magical place with green things coming out from the ground and round colorful things hanging from what seemed to be a bush on a stick. We saw animals and trees of all sorts and colors and beautiful surroundings all around.

However, we had work to do. We picked up our tools and set to work making the hole wider so that the other people could come through. After about half and hour, we finished and the others came through with our help.

We went exploring the new land together, seeing wonderful and amazing things around us and our elders decided to name it Erth. On the horizon, we could see a blue watery looking substance and headed towards it. As we got closer, the smell of our surroundings changed and the ground beneath us grew sandy. We arrived at the beach, as it is now called, and stared in awe at the water. We decided to leave the adventure of going in[to] the water for a different day, probably on a special occasion, that is, if we were ever going to come back. When we headed back to the mainland, a few of our young men killed a wild animal and roasted it. Everyone found it delicious and liked the taste of the new meat. We also noticed that as the day wore on, it grew darker and darker. After the day’s goings-on, we made our way back to the hole.

But the hole was not there. Someone (or something) had filled it in, somehow, and made it look like all the other dirt around it, and no matter how hard we dug and searched, we never found it.

We are still looking and have not found it yet…and that is why when our dead die, we bury them so that they can find our lost underground city.


Copyright of the winning Wadadli Pen stories and/or art work featured on this site belongs to the creators of the individual works and are used here purely for promotional and educational purposes. Other blog content, except otherwise noted, is created and/or maintained by Joanne C. Hillhouse. Site content should not be copied, distributed, transmitted, used for commercial purposes, altered, transformed, or built upon without the consent of the copyright holders.

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Blue Mountain Hike by Debesha S. A. Grant

[2005 Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Honourable Mention]

An annual event, the three day Blue Mountain camping trip kept Tieka on a high for weeks. An event that only a select few were allowed to attend and she could not believe that she had been chosen!

When she arrived at the pickup area she saw that forty students were present, not including the coaches and other adults invited along for the excursion.

They arrived at Mavis Bank at five pm Friday evening, and Tieka, like all the other
newcomers, was bursting with the knowledge that she would finally experience
what she had heard about on numerous occasions. Next year she would be telling
the tales.
During the seven hour wait they were instructed by Sean to repack in order to
make space in their bags to carry food, evoking complaints from

As the time drew nearer to 12 midnight, the departure time, the feeling
of anxiety and excitement intensified. They were put in three groups, and, armed
with flashlights, their only protection against the dark of night, they set off on their estimated six hour journey.  They set off downhill and Tieka began to wonder if the
stories she had heard about the strenuous uphill climb had not been
exaggerated.  The atmosphere was festive, filled with the sound of
laughter and chatter.

Their first obstacle was a river with only a fallen tree stretching from bank to bank, sparse boulders within their only means of reaching the other side.  That hurdle
overcome, they began their journey uphill.  Uphill and uphill and uphill they went,
and uphill still.  The more they ascended the cooler the air got, cooling down their
tired, hot and weary bodies.

With each light Tieka saw, she hoped that they had reached. After the first
two hours, the realization set in that they still had a long way to go.

Leaving the houses and lights behind, the night sounds set in; the
rushing of a stream in the distance, the chirping of crickets, the rush of breeze
through the tall Willow and Spruce trees, the sound of dragging
feet – tired and weary.

After four hours, and without realizing it, Tieka began the climb of the famous Jacobs Ladder, a mini mountain in itself.  With the faint light of the approaching dawn, the first trees that make the world renowned Blue Mountain Coffee were seen, and also the first set of signs to campers. Tieka kicked into autopilot, walking only because she knew that she had to, and, if she did not, she would be left behind, feeling like each step would be her last.

Almost at the top, she caught up with the others who had stopped at a lookout/rest spot overlooking Kingston. The view was exquisitely breathtaking; Kingston, Papine and miles of green lush coffee and other trees laying below, with the first ray of dawn barely touching the towns.

After a fifteen minute rest and snack break, they were all refreshed and rearing to go.  Reaching the top of Jacobs Ladder, Breezy Gully was pointed out to them.  Upon hearing that they had about 45 minutes, an hour at most, to go Tieka began to walk faster, anticipation giving extra strength.

“WELCOME TO PORTLAND GAP, bunkhouses to the left.”

Tieka could not believe it. She read the sign twice.  With a burst of energy, all the previous
weariness was forgotten as she took off at a run.  Reaching the bunkhouse, she was told to take a bed and fall in, and, after finding an appropriate bunk, she settled in.

“I made it, I reached,” thought Tieka, right before she fell asleep.


Copyright of the winning Wadadli Pen stories and/or art work featured on this site belongs to the creators of the individual works and are used here purely for promotional and educational purposes. Other blog content, except otherwise noted, is created and/or maintained by Joanne C. Hillhouse – coordinator of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, and author of The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight. Site content should not be copied, distributed, transmitted, used for commercial purposes, altered, transformed, or built upon without the consent of the copyright holders.

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The Village Obeah Woman by Verdanci Benta

[2006 Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Honourable Mention]

No sensible student from Bath Hope Estate dared to take the shortcut through Gigi’s yard to or from school. Any foolhardy student who defied that well-known unwritten village law would most certainly fall asleep during class, drop out of school or end up pregnant if it is a girl child.

As my granny told us, nobody knew Gigi’s village of origin or her age. Only that she had moved to the village when it was still a sugarcane plantation populated by wattle and daub houses with Massa Joe Moore’s Buff on the hill where the New Beginnings Church of Christ now stands.

However, Gigi’s strange behaviour, her frequent trip overseas reportedly to Guadeloupe, her early morning walk to her ground in the hills and her attraction to cats and little children earned her the reputation of being dark. 

So when John-Joe’s family moved in next to Gigi, Brawler, the village conduct-maker, took it upon herself to warn John-Joe’s mother about Gigi’s doings. It was a Sunday morning about ten when John-Joe’s mother stopped by the lone village shop to change a hundred dollar bill to make change for her church offering.

“Excuse me Misses, I notice you are new to the village so I am giving you a little warning about your next-door neighbour, Gigi. She dabble inna iniquity. Don’t let your son walk in her yard. She keep children down in school,” Brawler declared in her best English to impress the newcomer.

“Pardon, me,” replied John-Joe’s mother combatively, as she brandished like a sword from her handbag, a huge bible, “This has the remedy for any obeah!”

Brawler, mouth half opened, was for once, at a loss for words.

“OK, ahrrright…..mmmmee sarree fu badda you”, she stammered as she hurriedly left the shop without buying what she had come for. Every other newcomer had heeded the village’s warning but this one was different.

For the next few weeks the village watched and waited for something sinister to happen to either John-Joe or his mother, as they had befriended Gigi.

“Wha sweet inna goat mout’ sour in ee battom,” I overheard my Granny telling Miss Ruby as they spoke in hushed tones at the Sunday morning market at Moore’s Corner.

As the weeks turned into months strange things started happening in Bath Hope Estate.

First, Miss Ruby’s grandson, Bobo, broke his right arm during a school’s walkathon the week before he would have written his exams.

Not long after, Brawler caught a stroke, rendering her unable to speak properly. The rumour was that something terrified her on a late night rendezvous with a strange man, who had raised the alarm about her misfortune. 

Meanwhile the villagers watched Gigi’s every move. When she journeyed to her ground in the wee hours of the morning grown men and even children would deck the path with certain evil-warding plants and paraphernalia, laying in wait to witness her demise.

Gigi never even flinched, as she would routinely walk over those traps. 

John-Joe’s mother had by then gained a reputation for being a prayer warrior. She preached sermonettes at church and was called upon to pray for the sick and evil possessed souls. “ Fret not thy self of evildoers” was the scripture John-Joe’s mother quoted anywhere she went.

My grandmother, however, was not one to warm up too easily to anybody so she just listened when she heard the villagers talking about John-Joes’s mother’s performances.“Not all who say Lord, Lord will enter heaven” was one of my grandmother’s favourite religious sayings.

It happened that the day before the school exams, just about midnight, John-Joe’s mother was caught naked as she was born, spreading a strange substance on the path leading to the school.

The next day, there was no sign of her anywhere. Gigi told my grandmother that a strange man had taken John-Joe and his mother away in a black car fore day morning.


Copyright of the winning Wadadli Pen stories and/or art work featured on this site belongs to the creators of the individual works and are used here purely for promotional and educational purposes. Other blog content, except otherwise noted, is created and/or maintained by Joanne C. Hillhouse. Site content should not be copied, distributed, transmitted, used for commercial purposes, altered, transformed, or built upon without the consent of the copyright holders.

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