Tag Archives: supporting the arts

Built on Faith

Updated (April 19th 2018)

“Lots of little bits is still a lot.” – from Antigua & Barbuda (gift cards, The Caribbean Folklore Project by Monique S. Simon)


A set of these gift cards were the first contribution I received from a patron for the 2018 Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge season. It seems like a good lead-off for a post on this year’s patrons, not just because this card is one of the gift items to be taken home by our winner when the winner is announced on April 21st, but also because this likkle likkle full basket approach has been the Wadadli Pen model since we first launched in 2004. We didn’t – and don’t – have big bank and as we are still a project, not a non-profit with the infrastructure to do our own fundraising and bank the profits. Our prize packages have always been about pulling together whatever we get (sometimes a little, sometimes a lot) in to something that can tangibly serve as a satisfying incentive and reward for those who dared. We are still very much dependent on the generousity of people I’ve come to think of as Friends of Wadadli Pen – new friends, old friends, friends we haven’t met yet…

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Of course, in 2004, all I had when I stepped out to ask people to give was faith – faith that my community would support this fledgling project, faith that our newness wouldn’t make them think twice, faith that they would trust that their money would be used for its intended purposes. One of the ways I sought to reassure them and myself, a practice that continues to this day, is that no cheque is written to Wadadli Pen or to me (or any of the other partners I’ve drawn to the project over the years). What I’ve always sought from our patrons before each launch is the promise to give – a pledge. So, I have to have faith that when time comes they’ll deliver exactly what they promised (and for the most part they have). Once the winner has been determined, the patrons who’ve pledged money are supplied with the name so that they can prepare the cheque specifically for and to the intended recipient. Only more recently have we from time to time received (and accepted) cash which we then pass on to the intended recipient. But I think by this point – 14 years on  – they have some confidence that we are who we say we are and will do what we say we will do. Evidence of that, I think is the way patrons have come through with pledges in 2018, in spite of us not having our ducks in a row before the launch (that’s right, for the first time ever we launched with a set of gift cards and no other confirmed pledges…stepping out on faith) because for a protracted period of time we debated doing a Challenge this year at all or taking the time to put our energies in to getting our status together.

SIDEBAR One of the reasons I am and have been concerned about our non-status is my desire to create continuity long term and to expand what we do in the medium term. For example, if our status was solidified, we could – whether through seeking grants or through fundraising projects – raise money that belongs to Wadadli Pen to do more: development projects such as workshops year-round, projects showcasing the arts – such as short films inspired by one or more of our winning shorts, and more. But that is still in the dreamscape. I tell you what I’d like right now is a lawyer who does pro bono work for non-profits to assist us with getting set up – I feel like I’ve been reading through the legalese for some time now and am still turned around; up is down (lol). Also, I feel like I need a break and (if I’m being honest) Wadadli Pen might be due for another hiatus until I can get myself sorted out. SIDEBAR OVER

But with a date (April 21st), time (6:30 p.m.), and venue (the Best of Books on St. Mary’s Street) set for the awards, we are pressing on for this year at least and the finish line is in sight. And so we pause to give a shout out to the people who continue to act on faith by pledging to support our project and who, by so doing, are (along with the young writers who dare each year) the wind behind our backs. Much love and respect to them (and to any business or individual) who continues to bet on the arts and our young people.



Challenge Plaque/Certificates

  • The Best of Books

Art_Culture_Antigua-logo fa

Cash  (EC$2900+)

  • Pamela Arthurton (EC$500)
  • Art. Culture. Antigua (EC$300)
  • Carol Mitchell (EC$100)
  • *Unnamed (EC$500)
  • Frank B. Armstrong (EC$500)
  • International Women’s Club of Antigua (EC$500)
  • Juneth Webson (US$200 = EC$537.65)

ba  Moondancer



  • Barbara Arrindell (Books: Antigua My Antigua & The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Other Stories -1 each)   bat's cave best-of-books-colouring-book-1
  • Barbara Arrindell & Associates (Two hour training session to a group of the top writers – session will focus on “Presenting: Telling your story orally”)
  • The Best of Books (Books)
  • Brenda Lee Browne (Books: Just Write Writers’ Journal and London Rocks)
  • Cedric Holder for the Cushion Club (Gift certificate for books valued at EC$100)
  • Danz’s Sweet Dreams (Gift Certificate valued at EC$225)
  • Floree Whyte/Moondancer Books (Book: The Wonderful World of Yohan -1)  Yohan book
  • Jane Seagull (personalized writer’s journal)
  • Joanne C. Hillhouse (Books: With Grace – 3; Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure – 2 & scholarship to participate in the Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Series – series 3)    with_grace-3d-standingLost Cover Front 4
  • Monique S. Simon (Gift cards from her Caribbean Folklore Project)

*Patron unnamed, by choice.

To all, for stepping out with us on faith, we say thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!

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.

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Arts in Development

I just came across a note to self about pitching a writer’s residency programme to the powers that be. I stared at it for a good minute because was this déjà vu – haven’t I been there, done that? Must be an old note. How many proposals submitted to both public and private sector interests over the years about supporting a programme where the writer and/or writers could plan and execute writing programmes in the schools and community on an ongoing basis? How many non-responses?schoolvisitsAnd yet, if the invitations to speak and do workshops at various schools are any indication, the interest/need is there. I and other writers have done many of these

Students at Trinity Academy pictured with Joy Lawrence who took our message to the schools inviting entries...here's hoping it bears fruit in terms of strong response from both teachers and students.

Students at Trinity Academy pictured with Joy Lawrence who took our message to the schools inviting entries…here’s hoping it bears fruit in terms of strong response from both teachers and students.

…gratis …even at those time when we could not afford the time or much else. The reality for me, at least, is that increasingly I’ve had to turn these down, doing one here and there but not as much as I used to , certainly not as much as I’d like to. With passion projects like Wadadli Pen taking away from business (because, you know, bills have to be paid) and writing time (which is, after all, the point, if you’re a writer), it means less time to give to other voluntary activities. Heart willing, resources lacking.

Last summer, I’m happy to say, I was able to get a handful of businesses to patronize a weeklong workshop series targeting young people. But what could really have a profound impact is year round intervention. The purpose not just to create writers but to give young people an outlet, to do the work of building interest and skills in the literary arts outside of the shadow of homework and exams – where reading and writing is not a chore but an adventure; and if there are future writers in the midst, all the better.

Because here’s the thing, as the Wadadli Pen entries come in, and I skim them, I see the potential; sometimes I see the pain behind what is written (and this recent note by a past finalist reinforces that I’m not just seeing things) and while I’m glad that these young people have that outlet, are using the opportunity to express themselves, there’s a honing of that potential that I’m not able to do within the limitations of  an underfinanced Wadadli Pen or even on my own steam as a freelance writer and editor. One of the reasons I want to get Wadadli Pen legitimized is so that it can raise funds and do more than an annual Challenge.

Bottom line, I want to do more than I’m doing now but I have to juggle those ambitions with the need to make a living, and the need to balance all of that with the oft neglected need to create my own writing. There are only 24 hours in a day and each day the list of things undone seems longer.

Would a writer’s residency programme make this easier? It could, with an income stream to support these writing programmes I (assuming I was the resident, which, of course, is a not a given) could let some of the other projects go to focus on not just my own writing but writing development programmes in the community. Developmental programmes are what’s really needed – it’s why  beyond giving out prizes, Wadadli Pen via its Challenge tries to mentor the promising writers that come across our path, providing editorial notes on short listed pieces, sourcing workshop or one on one sessions to help build their knowledge of craft.  Until we can do more, we do what we can. (Two of this year’s patrons are a writer and artist contributing time and access to their hard earned knowledge to two of our finalists; the past two years scholarships to the Just Write Writers Retreat have been earned as well).

Ideally, I’d like to have a major donor underwrite Wadadli Pen for, at least, one year and see how far we get. Beyond Wadadli Pen, though, and I feel more strongly about this after watching both sides speak and, frankly, come up short on the subject of the arts at the January National Youth Forum, I’d like the powers that be to do more than pay lip service to supporting the arts and actually reach beyond to those of us in the community and find ways to support what we’re doing. A writer’s residency might be too much to ask for in these economically tough times; literary arts is not a bread and butter issue after all.

Except don’t the arts kind of tie in with all the social and some of the other challenges we’re facing, I mean if we’re thinking about creative solutions?

I think about what Antigua Dance Academy founder Veronica Yearwood said in a recent interview with me about the importance of the arts in youth development, if only to distract the young people from other, less wholesome activities. I  think about things like what my friend Brenda Lee Browne does, on a volunteer basis, with her writers’ group in the prison

Me, standing right, alongside the programme's tireless volunteer facilitator Brenda Lee Browne, standing left, during my visit.

Me, standing right, alongside the programme’s tireless volunteer facilitator Brenda Lee Browne, standing left, during my visit.

– where she works with prisoners to channel their whatevers into words. I’ve visited with her group and I see the positive in what she’s doing. But where’s the backing? And then we talk about youth development and prison reform when instead of investing in the arts which can be preventative as far as youth delinquency is concerned, and instead of supporting initiatives like Brenda Lee’s which can increase rehabilitation, we look towards building a bigger prison to increase warehousing. I don’t know I just feel like we could be more creative and more visionary in realizing the transformative power of the arts; and give it and the artists (read: arts resource people in the community) the support needed to flourish.

Of course, these are not Antigua and Barbuda problems alone; though some countries like Barbados with its Writers in Schools and Education [WISE] programme,  a programme in which writers are contracted to provide support in the area of creative writing working along with and supporting the efforts of the language arts teachers in the primary and secondary schools, funded and organized through the Culture Department’s Literary Arts Desk, suggests that some are a little bit more ahead of the game than others. Still, this is a lament made by artists across the region.

A St.Lucian writer colleague recently posted on facebook a call for progressive and creative minded thinking in his country and in particular the formulation of short, medium, and long term artist residencies with support from the corporate sector.

Sounds a bit like what I’ve been saying.

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In 2007, I attended this superlative literary festival with a group of Antiguan and Barbudan writers.  Just Write Writers Retreat founder Brenda Lee Browne, Unburnable author Marie Elena John, S E James, author of Tragedy on Emerald Island and other books, author of two teen books including Living Life the Way I Like it Akilah Jardine, and me (author of several books none of which, at the time, included Oh Gad! which wouldn’t be released til 2012) journeyed to Jamaica for the adventure. We had an amazing time and I dream still of being part of the line-up, though I’d probably swallow my tongue if I ever got the call. I think to how long it took me to work up the nerves to do the things I did do such as read from the Boy from Willow Bend at the open mic, tell Colin Channer how much I liked Waiting in Vain and beg a picture off of him, chat with Caryl Philip about Dancing in the Dark and the origins of Bert Williams (Antiguans still say Antigua), and approach authors of books I bought for signatures. My favourite moments involved the time spent sitting in the audience soaking up the sun and the words, writing, liming and chatting with the others. We had a great time. And plan to get there and to all the literary festivals in the region, whether as a group of Antiguan and Barbudan artistes on a cultural mission or as a solo writer on a promotional tour, and I will, I will, I will, I will, I will …attracting patronage and/or raising funds for this kind of mission remains difficult; there’ve been disappointments…but if artistes and especially writers in Antigua and Barbuda know anything it’s how to lean on their own resources and reserves to make things happen. It will happen. Until then, check out these images from our trip…and mark the dates from the Calabash calendar above and plan your own trip.

Signing up for the open mic...yep, that's author extraordinaire, Marlon James, with the sign up sheet and clipboard.

Signing up for the open mic…yep, that’s author extraordinaire, Marlon James, with the sign up sheet and clipboard.

with Colin Channer...so nervous

with Colin Channer…so nervous

From left, S E James, me, Akilah, Brenda Lee, Caryl Philips, and Marie Elena John.

From left, S E James, me, Akilah, Brenda Lee, Caryl Philips, and Marie Elena John.

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