The Caribbean Writer is a 32 year old literary peer-reviewed literary journal out of the University of the Virgin Islands. I’ve always felt that the journal is a good resource for people interested in new Caribbean literature – as every year it presents new voices and fresh writing from not so new voices; its selection process is rigorous (which bodes well for the quality of the writing); and it covers a wide swath of the Caribbean. I’ve always remarked on how many years it took me to get in to The Caribbean Writer – submitting being rejected, rinse spit repeat from at least 1998 – but doing so felt like an essential initiation into the canon of Caribbean writing. I’m happy to be here again (having been published in Volume 18/2004, Volume 24/2010, Volume 26/2012, Volume 27/2013, Volume 29/2015; and having won two prizes 2011 and 2015).
Remarkably, the call for submissions for volume 32 went out not long after the Virgin Islands had been knocked about by hurricane Irma, while the islands were in the early stages of recovery. They announced as their theme Rough Tides, Rough Times: Reflections and Transitions. And as my own Antigua and Barbuda was in the throes of its own post-Irma rough times, I found inspiration and in a rush of writing produced something – The Night the World Ended – that found favour with the editors.
The other Antiguan and Barbudan in the issue is Paget Henry who heads the line-up with a tribute to the late Guyanese literary giant Wilson Harris.
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!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). 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.
Literary journals (and anthologies) are a way to get your feet wet in the world of publishing (before unleashing your masterpiece), and a way to reach a wider audience even if you already have books of your own in the marketplace. Plus, they are a way of sharing your writing, period.
To date, in addition to writing my own books, I have been published in: Akashic Books Mondays are Murder online series (my first attempt at noir) Anansesem Artemis BIM: Arts for the 21st Century Calabash: a Journal of Caribbean Arts and Letters
Cover artist: Heather Doram
Carnival is All We Know: the Daily Observer’s 50th Anniversary of Carnival’s Literary and Artistic Anthology (which I also edited) Collective Soul ( a local collection) The Columbia Review Ma Comère: Journal of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars (this very brief poem was my first publication outside of Antigua-it even got me a mention in the paper) The Missing Slate Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters Munyori (an African journal) Mythium: the Journal of Contemporary Literature The PEN America Journal The PEN World Voices Online Anthology (this was to coincide with me participating in the literary safari of the PEN World Voices festival) Poui (the UWI Cave Hill lit journal) The Sea Breeze Journal (a Liberian-American journal) St. Somewhere The Sunday Observer Literary Arts in Jamaica Susumba’s Book Bag SX Salon (this was poetry but I’ve also had two pieces of fiction short listed for the Small Axe Fiction Prize) Theorizing Homophobias in the Caribbean: Complexities of Place, Desire, and Belonging Tongues of the Ocean (I was later invited to edit a special Antigua & Barbuda issue of this online journal of Bahamian origin)
Caribbean Writer Volume 24 (2010)
The University of the Virgin Island’s Caribbean Writer (which has also awarded me the David Hough Literary Prize for a writer working in the Caribbean and the CW Flash Fiction Prize) Womanspeak Women Writers ezine (on the subject of regrets, contributors to this particular issue had the opportunity to present at a conference in New Orleans – I wish I’d found a way to go – though thankfully I’ve since been to the city who knows what other doors may have been opened)
& a story I submitted to the Desi Writers’ Lounge Short Story Contest (a story which earned honourable mention, my first attempt at a faerie tale) was selected for publication as a children’s picture book (coming soon!)
Links to published fiction and published poetry.
I’ve also been published in the following anthologies: A River of Stories (Volume 4 – Fire) For Women: in Tribute to Nina Simone In the Black: New African Canadian Literature Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean (after a story I submitted to the Commonwealth Prize, a story that was also short listed for the Small Axe Prize was selected for the collection; most recently I was contacted by a student at La Guardia Community College who is now studying that story as part of her course) Round My Christmas Tree She Sex, Prose and Poetry, Sex and the Caribbean Woman So the Nailhead Bend, So the Story End: an Anthology of Antiguan and Barbudan Writing Book, including anthology, listings.
N.B. as well while some of these publications are by request, most are a result of submitting and crossing my fingers; some, like the Caribbean Writer, I’ve been published in several times…after several years of rejections; yep, for every accepted poem or story, there are countless more that have been rejected over the years.
N.B. well well well submitting to journals will not make you rich, I repeat it will not make you rich, but for my money, it’s still worth it if you’re a writer looking to not only cop a cheque but be a part of the canon (the literary canon). But don’t get me wrong, writers – all artistes – still need to live (so deserve and should push to be paid) but money (alone) is not what gets us up in the morning. Is it?
Some things to consider (knowledge paid for by hard earned experience):
We want to be paidfor our work (I firmly believe we ought to be paid; everybody else is). However, especially in instances where payment is nothing more than a contributor copy (and even that can sometimes be hard to get), we need to consider if the publishing credit is one with some other currency behind its name. Is it respected, does it have a reach into areas you have not been able to get to before, are literary prizes or consideration for literary prizes and critical engagement attached; that sort of thing. Only we can decide if the trade-off is worth it but to do so we need to do our research.
Being active in online groups dedicated to writing is one way I’ve found to stay informedabout new contests and journal submission deadlines (and you can too by for instance following Wadadli Pen where I regularly update re Opportunities). Then there are sites like Poets and Writers that have a handy submission schedule for your convenience. We can also look up where writers we like and/or respect have been published or ask other writers for ideas on places to submit.
Aim beyond the moon. By which I mean, let’s not limit ourselves. We should take advantage of the accessibility of niche publications. The niche ones may make it possible for us to get our foot wedged in the publishing door due to us/our work fitting the publication’s gender, race, cultural, or geographical niche, but let’s not mistake them for inferior – the best ones have standards just as exacting as our so-called dream publications. But the dream publications are so called because their status (and market reach) is such that they can really open up the world of possibilities. Plus, unlike some of the smaller publications, the prestige they bring may come with a sizable payday. I say try for both, all the time, and let’s submit as many days a week as we can to as many (targeted) publications as we can: dream and find the niches. Besides, given the response time of most publications, it’s best not to limit ourselves or put all our eggs in one basket; we can grow old waiting.
We can’t let rejection (soul crushing as it can be, creating all kinds of doubt and internal crises) slow us down. As much as we can stand to hear it, we need to remind ourselves that rejection does not necessarily mean not good, not worthy, you suck!!! It may mean that the submission needs more work, it may mean that it’s not the right market or maybe the right time for it – we’ve all had instances where just as we’re re-working a rejected piece another publication accepts it just as it was. Serendipity and Murphy like to dance a tango all over our hopes and dreams, hard work and try. So we should try, as much as possible, to use the rejections as incentive to keep trying (do you think that’s enough repetition of try to make it stick in our heads?); the moment when a piece finally gets accepted by that publication we’ve been trying (guess not) to get into forever will feel like orbiting the moon (or some other more accurate simile related to flying…and trying). In the meantime, we do the best we can with the piece (we will not send our first effort); then let it fly.
Sometimes rejections aren’t particularly kind but where they take the time to give a detailed response – here’s why your story sucked or whatever – we should take the time to read it and maybe learn from it. Anything beyond a form rejection (of the your writing is too bad and/or bland to merit my personal scrutiny variety) is unusual. So when we send you edit notes after you make the Wadadli Pen short list, that’s a good thing. And as writers ourselves, we send it knowing it may be hard to hear. We may not be able to read the feedback right away, or all at once (reading edit notes isn’t like ripping off a sticking plaster). But read it dammit! Have some bobby treats at our elbow if we need to to reward ourselves for being good writers swallowing bitter medicine (bobby makes everything better).
Getting an informed perspective can be illuminating; we may decide that they’re dead wrong and we may be perfectly right, or we may see something we hadn’t considered in their assessment, something that can only make the writing stronger. But how will we know if we don’t at least read it…as they took the time to do?
That said, if our writing is accepted but they propose changes to what’s written, consider it …with care. It’s never easy to edit (especially when those edit notes are coming from someone other than us), but maybe that last line does need strengthening or maybe that bit of character motivation is too ambiguous. So, while we should be willing to fight for the work if we need to, we shouldn’t enter the review process fighting, but listening. If, in the end, we’re not comfortable, if it feels like the changes are transforming the writing in to something other than it was (this is a tricky one because sometimes transformation is a good thing and sometimes it’s pandering), we may need to walk awayto write and submit another day. We just need to make sure we’re doing so in the best interest of the work, and not because we’re all in our feelings about being asked to consider cutting an “and” when our writing is genius (genius!). We’ve all been that diva, if only in our minds, at some point or other – but it’s not about us, it’s about what best serves the story/poem and that can be a hard distinction to make sometimes.
Sometimes an editor will make a change without consulting us; I’m not talking minor proofing for punctuation (though where form is a part of the function this can be a big deal too). No, I’m talking dropping aspects of the narrative that they perhaps find offensive in some way (language, language). As someone who’s had her voice muted (one of those credits above, for which the editor apologized profusely when confronted …but, still, print lives on), That’s a big no, no (oh, hell, no!) in my book. It’s their right to determine that the piece isn’t right for them, but it’s not their right to change it without our consent. To avoid this kind of conflict of the spirit, we should make sure we read the submission criteria carefully before submitting and consider the context – would an academic or religious journal appreciate us using the C word in making a bold point about gender politics? It would be nice if they could be so open-minded but chances are they’re not and we should be guided accordingly. In the personal instance referenced however where they had requested the work as is but then published it with significant unapproved cuts, the only thing that could have helped is anticipating that and asking to see the proof before it went to print. Not always possible but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Finally, we shouldn’t not try because we’re afraid to. One of the biggest hurdles we’ll have to overcome time and again as writers, apart from the flagging of the spirit and the block, is the fear. A journal asks you to submit a piece for a special issue but you’ve never written about that or this or then (this happened to me with Sea Breeze), consider it a challenge, a prompt if you will, and give it a whirl (Friday Night Fish Fry , which I went on to read at Breadloaf and of which former Stanford Stegner fellow Austin Smith wrote, “it’s an absolutely beautiful piece of prose. The characters are so patiently and vividly and sympathetically wrought”, exists because I said yes, I’ll give it a whirl). We may not like it but we live to be pushed out of our comfort zone. On a related point, we should not let the potential of societal censure or assumptions – and you know people will make them – stop us from writing our truth, our characters’ truth, stop us from submitting. If we change our mind that’s one thing, but if we let someone else change our mind for us then we’re really giving them too much power. Write, let your spirit breathe, be as complex as you are (even if you’re mocked for not fitting the mold), dare– we may need to repeat this to ourselves everyday but that’s okay. Someday, we may not need to, and some day our breakthrough may come. Here’s a simple truth I continue to learn, however, there is no such thing as a single breakthrough. Rather a million opportunities to do what we do, and if we stay alert to them, keep writing, keep believing, keep trying, stay ready, we will keep moving in the right direction – sometimes with a tired shuffle, sometimes with a flying leap. But moving.
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, Fish Outta Water, 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, my books and writing, and/or my writing-and-editing services. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.
Over time, Wadadli Pen has added a fair amount of writing and publishing information – from interviews with authors and publishers, to the reading rooms, to the opportunities pages (technically posts not pages). This post-not-page is something slightly different, though there’ll probably be a bit of overlap. Like the reading room, and opportunities and opportunities too page/post with pending deadlines (which you can use the search box to find if the links don’t work), it will be updated from time to time; its purpose is to gather and share information related to publishing that writers need to know – information that too many of us have to learn the hard way. Hope you find it useful on your writing and publishing journey. Also visit the Writer’s Toolbox. Disclaimer: We don’t take responsibility for the information provided on any of the linked sites. Remember, do your own due diligence and seek the advice of an agent and/or lawyer if you can.
Publishing Paid Me – the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag trended on twitter in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter uprising as what many people of colour (and, as a Caribbean writer, people otherwise off the map) hoped would be a moment of reckoning in the publishing industry related to disparities vis-a-vis access, advances, and everything else (see publicity/promotion etc). Has there been significant shift? Jury’s out. Meantime, we have a databse of advances received by different groups (broken down by race, gender, and sexual orientation) which can at minimum save as a guide re the kind of advances being paid out by the publishing industry and who’s profiting. Here’s a link and here’s a pdf:
“One thing to keep in mind: Once you’ve been published …, it is almost always worth sending them more ideas, even if they don’t ask for them. You’ve already started the relationship with them, and they know you as a writer, so they are more likely to give your queries consideration.” – How to Write and Get Paid: 11 Cases of Freelance Writing Success edited by Jacob Jans (don’t have a link but worth sharing)
7 Things You Must Do To Survive A Recession As A Freelancer including 1. Prioritize adding income over cutting expenses Your first reaction to a big drop in income may be to cut back your expenses. That’s not wrong, but it’s more important to focus on bringing in more work. If you already live frugally, as many freelancers do, there’s only so much you can eliminate from your budget. Earn more and you won’t have to cut as much. When you have a good month—and you will, even in a downturn—save as much as you can to improve your cash flow for the next month. We could devote an entire article to getting more work. But a few ways to expand your roster of clients is to ask your current editors to connect you with their colleagues, update your online portfolios and social media pages, scour freelance job boards, and keep an eye on social media for calls for pitches.
Editing Tests (I’m not a fan of these but they can be part of the hustle – this article debates the value and cost of editing tests)
“Find your minimum…and charge no less than that. If someone comes to you and says ‘…can you go lower?’ just say no… If you’re getting a lot of low paying work, you just need to learn to say ‘no’ more…You are worth a certain rate as a writer and when you go below that you are undervaluing yourself and as a result that paints the wrong picture of you to your clients.” Very good webinar on navigating the freelancing life.
How to land higher paying assignments says, “Give your time and your work the value it deserves.” One way to do that: “The best way to filter out poor prospects is to ask point-blank: What is your budget? …Most freelancers are afraid to ask about money, but they should not be. Explain to the clients that you need to know their budget so you can tailor your service accordingly.”
‘While coaching me and my almost exclusively female classmates, Brodesser-Akner declared the following: “Always ask for more money!” It was a habit she’d developed after noticing that men did it all the time, without thinking twice about it. People respect you more for knowing what you’re worth, she told us.’ – How to negotiate your rate like a pro
“Most freelancers spend about 30 percent of their time completing non-billable work like pitching, researching, interviewing, responding to emails, marketing, networking, and invoicing…That means an eight-hour workday only leaves you with about five billable hours. So when finding your own rate, be realistic with what you can charge and how many hours in the week you can work.” – Rates
Rates (a sample of some freelance publication rates)
“So be bold. Go after the writing you want, keep yourself at the forefront of editors’ minds, ask for fair compensation, and see what happens!” – Reminder to Be Bold when pitching
Carly Watters – Literary Agent Blog – I’m sharing this here because I don’t really have an agents’ blog on this site but I find, just perusing her comments section that she’s quite responsive and has some insights about the industry that might be useful, whichever agent you pitch.
Caribbean Books Foundation has launched (as of summer 2021) a monthly book launch list for Caribbean writers. “On the 15th of every month we will release a list of to-be published works, both self-published and traditional, from Caribbean writers and authors that will be launching the next month. This list will be promoted on our platforms and allow readers and reviewers who wish to view or purchase these works a chance to do so.” Details of how you can get your book listed here.
“Consider the topic being more than about the book’s release, and instead more about the impact of the book, a strange intriguing fact about how the book came about, how the book meets an urgent need, how a famous/semi-famous person reviewed your book and what they thought. In other words, the book isn’t the news…something else amazing related to the book is.” – Press Releases: a Blast from the Past by Greta Burroughs
Dominican writer Lisa Latouche talks about the road to the MFA programme in one, two parts (inspiration)
About your e-signature and how to utilize it as a marketing tool
Guidance Sheet re Recording and Sharing Author Archives – Guidance sheet recordkeeping and transferring archives – “Authors should take time to ensure that they make the right choice of archive service for donation or deposit, and this may require a period of negotiation and discussion. It is important that there is sympathy and synergy between the author’s collection and the archival institution which will be responsible for its care and promotion. Seeking to change archive service once the process is underway can be a difficult process.”
How to Hire a Skilled Editor and What You’ll Pay (because some writers really do need to consider what’s involved before pushing back on the rates – negotiating is fine, disrespect and derision is not) – rates and reasons vary but this isn’t a bad guide
Illustration tips: “The main issue that we face with illustrators, however, is that many do not understand the difference between the art work that one does for sale at a gallery, for example, and the artwork that is placed in a children’s book, and no matter how talented an artist you may be, if you don’t understand this, the whole process of children’s book illustration can go south very quickly. This article discusses a few tips that will help the relationship between the illustrator and the commissioner.” From Caribbean Reads.
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 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, 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, my books, and my freelance writing-editing-coaching-workshop services. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.