Tag Archives: The Boy from Willow Bend

A Blast from the Past

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Writer and academic, Ifeona Fulani, posted this blast from the past on facebook recently. Thankfully, this is largely a good memory and an opportunity to talk about the value of writing workshops. This one was my first (that’s me in black in the middle). Some of the other people pictured are workshop leader Olive Senior (seated), Sarah Pemberton Strong (far right) – who was not only with me (and another friend) when I got my first tattoo but suggested the design, and some others I’ve reconnected with all these years later via facebook (though I didn’t automatically make the connection) – Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, Donna Aza Weir-Soley, Ifeona Fulani (who I knew then as Faye), and Guichard Cadet…probably others and I just haven’t made the connection as yet.

As I explained during a recent (as yet unaired) TV interview, I participated in this workshop during an in-between period in my life. It was my first ever writing workshop and came at a time when I was struggling with the choices or, it felt at the time, lack of choices that lay before me as someone who wanted to be a writer but felt like she’d have to sacrifice that dream to what was practical. This workshop (the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute at the University of Miami) was a moment in time that allowed me to see another possibility. It was a transformative summer in many ways. But it wasn’t easy.

My memory is murky on this, so forgive any misspeaks, but the workshop was recommended to me and I recommended for the workshop by Mervyn Morris, currently Jamaica’s Poet Laureate, then, during my University of the West Indies days, my mentor. I submitted a sample of my writing and other required material, and earned a spot. I was among, if not the youngest in my group; scared but hopeful. I had only shown my work to a handful of people by that point and yet here I was in my first workshop where the writers were considerably more accomplished and certainly not shy about telling me all the ways what I had on the page didn’t work. There were tears that summer, tears and so much doubt. But there was also adventure (did I mention my first tattoo? … Well that was only a small part of it), new friendships, and so many growth opportunities. Not only didn’t I stop writing as you feel like doing sometimes after a drubbing but I went down new roads in my writing – one a vaguely familiar road, one so unfamiliar I had to wonder how I’d ended up there; two different manuscripts…and so much poetry. I read my writing before an audience for the first time that summer…and lived.

The familiar road referenced above was the dead end alley in The Boy from Willow Bend, which would become my first published manuscript.

After that first, bruising critique, Vere showed up; barefoot, running down a willow-tree-lined dead end alley. I knew that alley. It was my place of first knowing, a vague early memory. I revisited that space and – sitting there, cheered by my flat mate, the other half of my summer writing group of two, with whom I shared bits and pieces – built from it a world more fiction than fact but rooted in something solid enough to anchor me, and hopefully the reader. I got to know the boy, his character biography including many things that didn’t end up in the story but which certainly informed my understanding of him as I wrote the things that did.

Workshops are good for getting you out of your comfort zone, for challenging you, for allowing you to prove to yourself what you are made of as a writer.

At summer’s end, I stepped in to what-I-had-to-do-for-now knowing that I would never lose sight of who-I-truly-wanted-to-be. I returned to my world a writer, even if I was the only one who yet knew it. It (didn’t make me immune to but it) helped me overcome all of the petty nonsense you find on the job because I knew that that was not my life; my life existed in the moments outside of that space writing and living, and poking around for a way to make writing my life. It took some doing but that summer, the summer of ’95, was really the jump start for what came after, the bumps and scratches, the setbacks, knockdowns… and the breakthroughs.

One such breakthrough came when in January 2001, I signed the contract with Macmillan for the release of The Boy from Willow Bend. The book would be re-issued by Hansib in 2009, and has been taught in schools in Antigua and, I believe, Anguilla…and it will forever remain a highlight of my writing life, the moment a boy at a school I visited in February 2015 said to me that he played Vere, the boy in The Boy from Willow Bend, in an in-class dramatization.

The girl in this picture doesn’t know any of that; and if she did maybe she would have decided it was too hard – because it has been at times, too hard – but maybe she would decide, it was worth it and that she was strong enough…and that she was indeed a writer. Little did she know that the summer workshop she was participating in would begin to give her not only some of the tools but the drive to do just that.

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!  Fish Outta Water, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, and Burt Award finalist Musical Youth), founder and coordinator of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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Dis ‘n Dat

***DISCLAIMER: By definition, you’ll be linking to third party sites from these Links-We-Love pages. Linked sites are not, however, reviewed or controlled by Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize nor coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse); and Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse) disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to any linked sites and does not assume any responsibility for their contents. In other words, enter at your own risk.

Updating these links, it hits me how impermanent the web is (though we like to say the internet is forever): so many sites have gone altogether or gone stagnant since Wadadli Pen started and since I started keeping this list. We’re still here though; let’s have a party! But first, check out the links.

Antigua – history in pictures (archival photos)

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Antigua Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra

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Antiguan, Nadine has two interesting, I would say lifestyle blogs. One, Local Flavours Added, can be found here and the other, Antigua A La Carte, can be found here.

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http://www.antiguanice.com – Before Wadadli Pen ever had its own site, it had a page on Antigua Nice, the country’s local online hub, thanks to the generosity of Colin and Alison Sly-Adams.

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http://antiguamusic.com – Antiguan and Barbudan music.

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http://antiguastories.wordpress.com/about/ – The Friends of Antigua Public Library is interested in collecting oral histories; some of them are posted here. Do you have a story to share? I’m sure they’d like to hear it.

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The Antiguanization Project – here’s their facebook

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Virtual home of the Antigua and Barbuda Progressive Society based in New York.

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Antiguan Writer – this is my current you tube channel

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Archeology Antigua with Dr. Reginald Murphy, director of Heritage Resources for the National Parks Antigua, president of the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology, affiliated Professor of the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, co-director on the Human Eco-dynamics Research Group CUNY Graduate Center, co-founder and President of the Museum of Antigua, and the Secretary General for the National Commission UNESCO Antigua and Barbuda. Dr. Murphy is, also, a “Restoration Ambassador to the St. John’s Cathedral, a trustee of the Clarence House Restoration Trust in the U.K., Chairman of the Betty’s Hope Estate Project, and a director of the Barbuda Research and Archaeological Center.

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Best of Books Antigua on facebook.

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Black Public Media.

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Need to get around by bus in Antigua but don’t know the routes? You’ll want to check out Bus Stop Antigua.

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A charity to aid Caribbean Children.

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The Caribbean Commons which primarily announces Caribbean Studies events and publications of interest.

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Caribbean Painters

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Create Caribbean – out of Dominica, a research institute allied with the Dominica State College.

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http://danielleboodoofortune.blogspot.com – I’ve been a fan of Trini Danielle Boodoo Fortune’s poetry since I met and shared a panel with her in Barbados in 2008. Who knew she was such a delightful artist as well?

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Danish West Indies – online searchable historical records.

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http://www.darienbookaid.org – In existence since 1949, Darien Book Aid is a non-profit, all volunteer organization that builds a foundation of peace, understanding, and friendship through the free distribution of books. Book Aid sends books in response to specific requests from Peace Corps volunteers,  libraries and schools all over the world   Books are also donated to libraries, prisons, hospitals, and Native American and Appalachian groups in the United States. Among the groups, Dariend Book Aid has donated to is the Cushion Club right here in Antigua.

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Daily Writing Tips – link of writing prompts.

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Frank Walter – a site dedicated posthumously to showcasing the life and work of the late Antiguan and Barbudan artist.

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http://freshmilkbarbados.com/ – Fresh Milk is a Caribbean non-profit, artist-led, inter-disciplinary organization that supports creatives and promotes wise social, economic, and environmental stewardship through creative engagement with society and by cultivating excellence in the arts.

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Antigua-based artist Gilly Gobinet has a website where she blogs on active projects; interesting for those interested in process.

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History of Antigua and Barbuda in Writings, Photographs, and Stories by Dr. Susan Lowes

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The History Makers

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http://islandstyle.typepad.com – Okay, so this site isn’t strictly literary but the blogger (an Antiguan) does have an engaging style and occasionally posts excerpts of fictions. But mostly it’s about fashion…and what’s wrong with that?

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Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology – I kind of wish Arts was in there but …

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The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda – Opened in 1985 and housed in one of the oldest and best preserved buildings on the island, this is, of course, one of the best spots for exploring Antigua and Barbuda’s history. See the old Museum site.

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Museum of Photography and Fine Arts – Photo museum showcasing the history of Antigua & Barbuda – a project of photographer and publisher Timothy Payne – located in the upstairs gallery at the Multipurpose Centre Perry Bay – the subject matter is mostly historical

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National Archives database – digitization of some of the material related to the history of Antigua and Barbuda.

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Nugents of Antigua – bumped across this bit of local history, thought I’d share it.

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Other Artists – a gallery page that includes bios of several Antiguan and Barbudan artists.

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Permit me to mention this other artist, Barbadian artist Sheena Rose, whom I had the opportunity to profile for my former Zing column Creative Space – http://sroseart.tumblr.com/

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I edited a book for this blogger, a delicious culinary book. It’s not in wide release yet; meantime, check out her blog: Sitting in a Mango Tree.

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It’s a little known secret that while I don’t cook (well), I do watch cooking shows and troll cooking sites like this one: Tastes Like Home.

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TED Talks like this one by Sir Ken Robinson on how schools as currently constructed kill creativity, Tracey Chevalier’s wonderful presentation on finding the story inside the painting, and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s powerful presentation the Danger of a Single Story

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Travelling Light – this site is on a mission to collect an object – physical or virtual – from every country in the world. And, yes, I sent them something from Antigua and Barbuda.

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I like the beauty of Van Gogh’s art and find his life so fascinating…fascinating like I’d like to see it on screen someday, with maybe Michael Fassbender in the title role…yeah, I’d go see that…in the meantime, check out the man and his work – Van Gogh, not Fassbender – here at the Van Gogh Gallery.

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Wadadli Short Film Festival – bringing films from all over the world to Antigua and Barbuda.

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Wadadli West USA – US based group connected to the Villa/Point community in Antigua.

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http://www.youtube.com/user/WayneBowen – Jamaican Wayne Bowen’s vid uploads

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White Creole Conversations –  a new dialogue privileging open and honest communication. Rather than asking ‘who am I?’ the question posed might be ‘who are you?’ The focus of the conversations pivot on issues to do with race and class in this small post-colonial island space and take place between the artist and the participant.

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http://womenspeak.tumblr.com/ – This is a space for women to share their stories, embrace their power, and celebrate their womanhood. It’s also a space of vulnerability and pain where the struggles and sacrifices are spotlighted. It’s an inclusive space, constantly updated with information and prompts designed to engage the reader in the process. Also, it’s 100 percent Caribbean. Check it out.

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WiWords – a user driven online dictionary of Caribbean terms.

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Hard to get printed historical material seems to be available through this site.

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Met Annie Paul at the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars conference in 2012. This is where she blogs on the literary arts and other things. Also had the opportunity to reconnect with well known author, literary scholar and former professor Carolyn Cooper and like Paul she is another thought provoking blogger out of Jamaica. Here’s where she stirs it up.

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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, 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.

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

Willow Bend Art Project

This gives me a kick: an art project done by a student at the National Technical and Training Centre featuring my first book The Boy from Willow Bend. Whodathunkit?

creative, nuh?

wait for it...

voila! I'm hanging on a wall next to Shakespeare!

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