Tag Archives: students

Let’s Talk about a Writer’s Time

I came across this 2015 article (Celeste Ng is right: authors shouldn’t feel forced to respond to readers) recently and it made me think of 2017.

The article said, “Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You, which won Amazon’s book of the year award, simply tweeted a request to teachers not to assign emails to authors. In a series of explanatory tweets to angry users, who tweeted to chide her for being ‘selfish’ and tell her that students should stop reading her book, Ng patiently explained that a teacher required students to obtain a quote from her in order to receive full credit. Other authors quickly came to Ng’s defense, noting that responding to upwards of 30 emails from students would constitute hours of unpaid labor. ‘We’re not robots,’ author Roxane Gay tweeted. ‘We do what we can.'” (See also ‘A Case of Charity‘ by Christine Mager Wevik)

In 2017, I went in to the hospital for surgery and during my recovery period when I (a freelancer who found it impossible to stop entirely but slowed way the hell down, doing what I could from my bed) was suddenly hit with a number (what felt like a lot) of DMs and emails from students and parents alike. This wasn’t new (and is usually in Independence and Black History Month season). And I have made myself available many times in the past to visit schools and answer questions. But from my bed, with a healing incision, in 2017, it was too much. There were some standard questions that they had , about me and aspects of my life, some of which I don’t consider public. There is always parent info, for instance – I should point out that while one of my parents doesn’t care, another has explicitly requested that I not give out information about them. And for myself, there is some tension in myself about how much to share because of my socialization but I’ve learned to let some of that go. In 2017, or maybe just before (I can’t remember), I updated my bio page and created a media page which I felt would provide answers to all the questions for anyone willing to do the research and dig through the links. Most of the people who contacted me weren’t willing to do the research and dig through the links. They, a fairly steady stream of them, just wanted answers to the questions they’d been tasked to ask. One in particular, reaching out via my public facebook page‘s DMs, led off with don’t send me no link just give me the information (I guess she had been warned that I was providing a link in response to requests). Her tone and entitlement were the last straw for me. I am aware that I am not a superstar and need every reader I can get. I know that without readers and reader interest my books would be that proverbial tree falling in the woods. I share reader reviews as readily as any critical review. I am grateful. But I am also human and I was hurting and I had had enough. So I told the person that they were being rude and entitled, and cautioned them to stop, and they basically said, sorry, but give me what I asked for. And continued the harassment every few minutes. I closed off my public facebook DMs and it’s remained closed since. At that point I needed to protect my peace. I hope this site (notably the resources and databases links, and the Wadadli Pen project itself) is evidence of the fact that I do try to give back and pay it forward and all that, sometimes at cost to myself, my time, time lost, and because I am freelance not salaried, money lost, but especially at cost to writing time and other things I need to do and guard in order to create. Do I, does any writer owe anyone that? Does a writer owe more than the book they sweat blood and tears to create? How do you make space for the people who feel entitled to your time when you can barely find time for yourself – or the people who don’t feel entitled but are just trying to figure ish out (talking of aspiring and emerging writers here). You make time when you can, of course, and, if you’re me, you offer workshops, you provide links, you create study guides for students, you organize school tours in a way that aligns with your time (if not your budget) and hope that teachers will respect the schedule you propose (some do, some don’t), and hope that people understand. So, yeah, Celeste is not wrong nor selfish for saying teachers should not hinge a grade on getting a quote from an author nor feel entitled to a writers’ time. And to students (and anyone else really), do your secondary research (especially when your subject takes the time to build links you can use) so that if you do get a bit of the author’s time (because there are windows of time when you will) you’re prepared and it’s meaningful.

I try to make the time (we love our readers and appreciate any interest in our books), but I am not always able to make the time; and I don’t think I am unique in that regard. Just a bit of understanding of that point is all that’s asked.

See also Author Invites – a Checklist.

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

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Shout out to St. Andrew’s (almost the school with the most submissions)

We want to shout out St. Andrew’s. No, St. Andrew’s won’t be winning the prize for the school with the most submissions. That prize will go to Island Academy which put in a hell of a strong numerical showing in this year’s Wadadli Pen Challenge, with one of its students making the long list.  Together, they account for roughly one-third of this year’s entries.

To be clear, we prefer when young people submit of their own volition, because they love to write, because they have something to say, because they want to challenge themselves, not because they’re pressed to do so by a teacher. But we do reach out to teachers because they have access that we don’t have to young people, and can help us not only spread the word but identify and encourage young writers in their orbit of influence to write. And so, we appreciate the teachers who help us access and motivate these young people. We appreciate even more the teachers who go the extra mile and assist young people with getting their submissions in – because maybe not everyone has a computer, or maybe some don’t understand the submission requirements, or maybe, more troubling still, that one young person lacks the confidence to even try.

Given that the Challenge’s age range is 35 years and younger, not all entrants are attached to educational institutions. But, for those who are, this year, we had submissions from students at Antigua Girls High, Antigua Grammar, Baptist Academy, Christ the King High, Five Islands Primary, Glanvilles Secondary, Island Academy, Ottos Comprehensive, St. Andrew’s, St. Anthony’s Secondary, St. Nicholas, Sunnyside, and Vibrant Faith Ministries schools; and Antigua State College and the University of the West Indies. Clearly, we need to figure out ways to attract more public school participation – one way we try to do so is with the prize for the school with the most submissions, a prize which has been won by public schools like Buckley’s Primary and T N Kirnon in the past, but which hasn’t seemed to translate to continuity on the part of those schools nor served to inspire other public schools at the levels of consistency we would like.

The work continues.

But, in the meantime, we big up those where teacher influence clearly helped boost the numbers – notably St. Andrew’s and Island Academy. Island Academy will, of course, be getting its props and prizes at the May 13th awards, 5:30 p.m., during the Wadadli Stories Book Fair.17854813_10154497215021188_8497364273538347535_oBut we want to give some you-go-you (!) to St. Andrew’s in this platform for collecting and submitting more than 10 entries on behalf of its students. Yes, and yet, that the entries were collected, scanned, and submitted, put them at risk of elimination since entries were to be typed and submitted in Word so that they could be easily formatted for blind submission to judges (the judges can’t know who wrote what story). We never want to eliminate an entry if we can help it. Still, and this is why we emphasize submitting per guidelines, we won’t always have the time and resources to assist entries that don’t follow said guidelines (and we shouldn’t, because there’s a lesson to be learned there). That said, we should be tougher on this point than we are. But as a development programme, we have, in the past, rather than  discard incomplete or incorrectly formatted submissions, given the submitters an opportunity to correct and re-submit. We can’t underscore enough that this is not something folks should count on; rather read the guidelines and submit accordingly, at risk of elimination. As is, despite us bending over backwards, something like five 2017 entries had to be cut for a range of reasons including late submissions, notwithstanding a built in grace period.

So, thanks to the staff at the Best of Books for making the effort to type the St. Andrew’s bulk submission which enabled us to give these young writers a chance, and thanks to the St. Andrew’s staff for making the effort to get the entries in in the first place – efforts which paid off with two students from St. Andrew’s ending up on the long list.

We want to encourage more teachers to encourage their children to get involved and to assist them with submitting per guidelines. Wadadli Pen’s Challenge is more than a competition, it is an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to develop your writing skills, an opportunity to express yourself, and, yes, an opportunity to shine. At Wadadli Pen, we remain committed to nurturing and showcasing the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, but we don’t do this alone.

So, shout out to St. Andrew’s.

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Wadadli Pen Challenge 2017 – the Long List

PLEASE NOTE: There have been some updates made to this post.

The judges have finished all rounds of judging and have culled the submissions to 11 – all set to receive category prizes with three claiming the top three slots. As we do, the stories/poems were returned to the initial long list of writers for editing before the second round of judging to determine the top three. We return the top entries to the writers with edit notes from the judges so that said entries go through at least one round of the kind of editing they would go through before publishing if submitted to a journal, anthology, or imprint for publishing. We do this because Wadadli Pen is developmental in intent, and we want the writers to focus not just on the prizes but on improving their craft. There was also a third round of judging which resulted in some adjustments to the initial long list.

As a reminder, the judges don’t  receive any names or other identifying information; they evaluate the entries blind, strictly on merit. And, of course, the judges’ decisions are final. If you’re not on the list, use the disappointment to fuel your motivation to come even better next year; if you are on the list, CONGRATULATIONS.

FINALLY, this is what you came here for…

From 93 96 eligible entries! (a single year record), here’s the revised long list (in alphabetical order):

The Schools which will receive the prize as the school prize with most submissions – Island Academy

Authors who are winners in their age category and still in the running for the main prize –

Emma Belizaire (St. Andrew’s Primary School, student) – entry ‘Cricket is my Life’

Ashley Francis (St. Andrew’s Primary School, student) – entry ‘Our Caribbean’

Fayola Jardine – entry ‘Mango Picking Interruption’

Andrecia Lewis (Antigua State College, student) – entry ‘Strange’

Lucia Murray (St. Anthony’s Secondary, student) – entry ‘Mr Duppy’

Ava C. Ralph (Antigua Girls High School, student) – entry ‘Non fiction?’

Kaeiron Saunders (St. Anthony’s Secondary School, lecturer) – entry ‘Not Another Island Story; as told by Aunty Gah’

Shadieal Simmons (Baptist Academy, student) – entry ‘Brave Eleven-year-old saved two months Baby’

Zion Ebony Williams (Baptist Academy, student) – entry ‘Who don’t hear, will feel’

Devon Wuilliez (Island Academy, student) – entry ‘The Great Big Dumz’

Francis Yankey (Antigua Grammar School, student) – entry ‘And She Sang Fire’

Once again, congrats to the finalists; and good luck!


Some thanks:

To the teachers, principals, parents, and others who helped students/young writers get their entries in. Processing posed some challenges for us because, frankly, everyone did not follow the submission guidelines (and that’s an understatement) but, though this has delayed final processing, we do appreciate the effort; and will work to make submitting more user-friendly.

To the team – including past winner Devra Thomas who’s helping deal with communication with patrons so that we can properly reward these writers; past finalist and our first ever intern Michaela Harris who has assisted with media and administrative tasks; returning chief judge and author (Pink Teacups and Blue Dresses, Through the Window) Floree Whyte and her team for doing the Difficult; and past winner Margaret Irish who did not know what she was walking in to when she offered to take processing of entries and communicating with entrants off of my hands (but I appreciate it).

You may have noticed, if you’ve followed our pattern over these 13 years of Wadadli Pen, that we are behind schedule-wise. Some of you have already started querying (what gives?). Well, what gives is that we have decided to open up the schedule and announce the winners during the May 13th Wadadli Stories Book Fair; call it circumstance, call it fortune but we think it’s a good blend of brands. Plus another team member Barbara Arrindell is involved with both projects – as is patron the Best of Books – so it just made sense. Though it means a longer wait for the final results. Be patient with us; we will do our best to make it worth your while.

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For more on the project, check:
About Wadadli Pen
Wadadli Pen 2017
Wadadli Pen 2017 Challenge Patrons

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, and With Grace; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). Excerpting, reblogging, linking etc. is fine, but PLEASE do not lift ANY content (images or text) wholesale from this site without asking first and crediting the creator of that work and/or copyright holder. All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.


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Voices from the Lagoon

Voices from the Lagoon is a publication of student writings put out by the Holy Trinity School on Antigua’s sister island, Barbuda. There are 27 pieces in all built around themes like camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, crab catching, snorkeling, and life in Barbuda. “We know it is young writing,” indicated reading specialist attached to HTS, Fransene Massiah-Headley, in a Daily Observer article ahead of the book’s November 2010 release, “but the great sycamore tree begins with a seed.” School principal, Charlene Harris, meanwhile, said, “My thing is, as you write, you will get better at it; just as, as you read, you will develop the skills that are necessary.” The book project grew out of journaling exercises initiated at the school, a process very much enjoyed by the students, who the teacher indicated were also quite responsive to having an audience for their work.  The school did a limited run of the books and hopes to print more. Here are some images from the book launch.









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An artistic note

Mark Brown and his students, some of whom were finalists in the visual arts component of the Wadadli Pen, 2010, competition have pieces on display at the national hospital. The pieces, all themed Good Samaritan, were donated to the Mount St. John Medical Centre in Antigua, where they hung on display collectively, with plans to subsequently distribute them throughout the hospital bringing comfort to the patients there. The project continued Brown’s efforts to help get his students’ art out into the community; much like he did when he strongly encouraged them to enter the Wadadli Pen competition. He was quoted in Antigua’s Observer newspaper as saying, “I want to get them involved or to get them out of this mindset that you can only paint for the tourist market…art is life.” Brown, who coordinated the judging of the visual arts component of the Wadadli Pen competition, has been teaching at the Antigua State College since October 2009, and is working on a follow up to his critically acclaimed and award winning collection Angel in Crisis (seen here http://www.markbrownart.com) .

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