Tag Archives: Verdanci Benta

More (Unnecessary) Wadadli Pen Trivia

I was curious to see which of the winning Wadadli Pen stories were proving to be most popular among visitors to the site. Thankfully, Wadadli Pen spits up info like that routinely. So, here they are, the Wadadli Pen Top 10:

The Legend of Banana Boy by Chatrisse Beazer (2011)

Road Trip to Paradise by Angelica (Ayoka) O’Donoghue (2006)

Sands and Butterflies by Devra Thomas (2011)

The Scary Night by Zuri Holder (2011)

Ma Belle by Kemal Osmel Nicholson (2006)

The Lost Coin by Orique Gordon (2011)

The Curse of the Kumina by Shakeema Edwards (2011)

Stray Dog Prepares for the Storm by Gemma George (2004)

Skin Deep by Shakeema Edwards (2010)

The Village Obeah Woman by Verdanci Benta (2006)


So, that’s the top 10 based on views and clearly 2011 is a popular year. Some years, like 2005, don’t even come close to the top 10… no indication, I assure you, of the quality of the stories. So check ‘em out. And it’s early days yet for 2012, but the winning story Smitten is gaining ground fast, only two spots away from the top 10 of most viewed winning Wadadli Pen stories.

And there you have it, your days’ installment of unnecessary Wadadli Pen trivia. As you were.

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Wadadli Pen Through the Years (2004 – 2010)

Cue Kenny Rogers’ Through the Years…as we launch the 5th installment of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (2004 – 2006, 2010 – present), let’s take a look back at moments from the programme’s six year run.

In 2004…

Verdanci Benta wowed the judges with her mature and accomplished entry, Shirley’s New Roommate. The then Golden Grove Primary School student won the ‘best under 12’ category and a spot in the top three overall; a reminder that it’s not about age, it’s about talent. Verdanci would show up in each subsequent competition, earning some form of recognition…most of the time.

Note the BWIA banner in the background? I have to give it up to corporate Antigua for stepping up to support, a new programme they knew little about. That year’s award ceremony was held at Heritage Hotel and a number of them showed up…so of course we had to get a group shot with Culture and Education officials, winners and/or their parents, and sponsor representatives (author S. E. James, front row left, Anicol and Caribbean Star, front row right).

As I look at the pic, I’m reminded how much I loved the stories that first year like, from far left standing, Siena Hunte’s Nuclear Familiy Explosion, Liscia Lawrence’s The Day I saw Evil, Gemma George’s Stray Dog Prepares for the Storm (the winning entry), Lia Nicholson’s Tekin Ahn Day (that’s her mom in the picture), and Damani Tabor’s Irate Beggar. The prizes that first year were well deserved. Here’s Gemma collecting her computer from Gerard Shoul of Comnett:

In 2005…

For all the times I’ve wished I could pursue programmes under Wadadli Pen as a full time paying job, it remains a volunteer gig. But in 2005, it felt like a full time job. There were writing workshops with the kids…

There was prize solicitation…here I am pictured with Paula Lee of Cable and Wireless at a media handover of their 2005 contribution:

There were in-school writing workshops like this one at Buckley’s Primary (which that year submitted the most entries):


There was media promotion, winner recordings, web site development, judging, and, of course, the prize giving ceremony (all of which required a lot of back ground prep from the partners which, at the time, included Young Explorer, D. Gisele Isaac, and Alstyne Allen). It cut into work time, to be sure, but paid off in other ways as this was our best year yet in terms of participation.

 The kids were beaming; the Youth Minister stopped by, Heather Doram, the then Culture Director, dropped some wisdom…

and later that year, three of the kids (Rilys Adams, Sarah Ann Li, and Sandrena Martin) won literary awards recognition from the Optimists. All in all, a good year.

In 2006…

We started not with the actual awards but with a joint literary showcase and fundraiser (Word Up!) with the Musuem of Antigua and Barbuda which attracted support from new and established writers (including Wadadli Pen finalists like Sandrena ; and which, as this Jermilla Kirwan image by Laura Hall shows, was highly entertaining .

The Museum (thanks, as always, to Michelle) was once again the venue, later that year, when we staged the Awards ceremony:

Sapped, I shelved Wadadli Pen for a couple of years, but returned …

In 2010 (still pressed for time but even more determined to keep it going) with new partners, an art component, and a theme driven approach (it was part of our Black History Month programme of activities). In that spirit, the awards ceremony  was part of a special BHM edition of Word Up (directed by Zahra Airall) which included dancing (Antigua Dance Academy) , drumming  (Zucan Bandele and friends), calypso (King Zacari), performance art (Argent), and poetry (Linisa George, ZIA, and Zee’s Youth Theatre channelling various Antiguan writers ).

Wadadli Pen was back…and here to stay (2011 launched just this week!), whatever it takes.

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Shirley’s New Roommate by Verdanci Benta

[2004 Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Third Placed Overall and Best Under 12 Writer]

Verdanci accepts her prize package from Wadadli Pen coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse

Shirley was a short, fat, dark-skinned young woman in her early twenties. The thing about Shirley was that she was the village gossip. Shirley knew everybody’s private business such as where so and so was last night and who slept with whom last night. Shirley could also tell who borrowed their best friend’s tights to wear at the party last night.

But what really made Shirley the talk of the village was the fact that she always seemed to move from rented house to rented house. My grandmother used to say, “That girl Shirley for Daphne, God bless her soul, is like a rolling stone.” But Shirley never stopped moving.

I used to think that my grandmother and other villagers painted Shirley black because every time I saw Shirley she was in a jolly mood, always joking with the men and the bus-drivers. She seemed to have a lot of male friends and they all always seemed to have a message for her every time they saw her.

I used to think that since Shirley came to live in our neighbourhood that it had become much livelier. Her frequent arguments with her lovers, her quarrelling with her roommates and her cursing with her landlord, Mr. Harvey, gave me something exciting to look forward to.

Sometimes she would ask my mother to let her little son, Gavin, come to play wit me or sometimes she would ask me to stay on the gallery with Gavin when she went to town. On her return from town, she would give me sweet treats like cookies and toffees.

My mother and the other neighbours always said nasty things about Shirley behind her back. They usually remarked about the way she earned her living. Well, Shirley never went out to look for work as most of the other young women in the village. She seemed content staying home and she seemed to do well. They said that she had the habit of getting money from foolish men.

When things got hard, she would get a young woman, usually a desperate one who was in need of shelter, to live with her in order to share the rent. But when things got well with her, she would do all in her power to get her roommates out so that she could get her privacy.

So, when the Jamaican young woman, Bev, came to live with Shirley, the neighbours knew that it would not be for too long. It was nearing Christmas and Mr. Harvey, the landlord, was threatening to put Shirley out of the house because she owed him three months’ rent.

Bev moved in one Sunday night. Bev was a tall, sexy-looking, fair-skinned woman, also in her early twenties. Her hair was a good length, but I was not sure it was real or natural. Bev immediately made friends with everyone in the neighbourhood and became the focus of attention of the young men. Not long after Bev arrived, she put up a sign that said, “Get your tastee Jamaican Jerk pork and bar-b-q chicken.” From that time the Rosy Alley no longer was a quiet place, especially on Saturday evenings when Bev set up her barbecue grill. Bev sometimes teased Shirley by saying, “The way to a man’s pocket is through his belly!”

The men who used to be friendly with Shirley had now befriended Bev. My mother told my grandmother one evening, “I wonder how long that friendship going to last.”

My grandmother answered, “As long as Shirley can get money to pay her rent!”

But my mother was not too sure about that because she said that Bev was competing with Shirley for boyfriends. Everyone waited eagerly for a grand showdown between Shirley and Bev. But that did not happen soon enough. Instead, one day, Shirley put up a sign on the house that said, “Hair braiding done hair.” Nobody had expected anything like that because Shirley was not known to have done any such work before. Well, according to my grandmother, “Trouble make water go uphill.” And Shirley did not let Bev keep her down. The news of Shirley’s new job spread like wildfire and in no time, men, boys, women and children all came to Shirley to have their hair done.

So, on one house there were two signs advertising two different types of services offered by two different women who lived in that same house. Rosy Alley was a centre of activity both nigh and day as cars lined both sides of the road as clients went in and out of Shirley’s yard.

Meanwhile, Bev started behaving strangely. She stopped greeting Shirley when she woke up in the mornings and she stopped walking on Shirley’s side of the house. She started telling people that Shirley was lazy.

One morning, when Shirley came home from shopping in town, she was met in the yard by Mr. Harvey, who told her that he had come to change the locks on Bev’s bedroom door. Shirley was surprised but she could not do anything about that because it was Mr. Harvey’s house and he had the right to do anything with his house. Later that same day Shirley was again surprised to find a new girl sitting in her living room. When asked who she was and what she was doing there, the girl rudely answered that it was no business of hers. Well, Shirley flew into a rage and called the police.

When the police arrived, they met Bev at the door and made some inquiries. Shirley was advised to get Bev out to avoid any further trouble because it was Bev who had invited the girl into the house. After the police left, an argument broke out between Bev and Shirley and Mr. Harvey was called in to settle the matter. He said that he had nothing to say because he had no power to tell Shirley whom to live with. The neighbours waited for more fireworks because Bev had told Shirley that she was not going to move out.

The following day, Shirley took down her hairbraiding sign and started packing her things into boxes and bags. Bev, in the meantime, was busy seasoning up her chicken and pork for the night’s sale. As Shirley was about to leave the yard, Mr. Harvey’s pickup was coming into Rosy Alley. He did not look at nor say hello to Shirley as he used to do before. When Shirley looked back, she saw Mr. Harvey’s pickup parked at Bev’s gap. On his shoulders was a bag of charcoals and he was heading for the barbecue grill.



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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Boysie’s Fixed Account by Verdanci Benta

[2005 Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Honourable Mention]

Verdanci Benta workshopped her story in the Wadadli Pen workshop before the competition; here she is hard at work.

Boysie was a regular jack-of-all-trades who was more often out of work than in.

In order to save his family from hunger he often ‘trusted’ goods from the ‘Wayside Grocery Shop’, the only shop in Dryriver village.

The ‘Wayside Grocery Shop’ was a wooden, old-fashioned grocery shop with a long counter that separated the goods from the customers. The shelves were neatly stacked. Hanging from a nail over the highest shelf was a clip-board crowded with bills and other valuable documents. On one far end of the counter was a large, heavy-looking scale for weighing goods like sugar and red herring. At the other far end of the counter was a cage-like compartment from which adult stuff such as rum and cigarettes were sold.

Boysie’s connection to the ‘Wayside Grocery Shop’ goes way back to his childhood and he seemed to have inherited the habit of taking goods on credit, but, unlike his mother, he was a bad debtor.

“See you next week, Miss Ruby,” he would say to the shop-keeper when reminded to pay.

Miss Ruby, hands akimbo, would always reply, “Boysie, if it wasn’t for your wife and children, I would let you starve.” But Boysie knew better and just kept on ‘trusting’ goods from Miss Ruby.

But Boysie was soon to find out another side of Miss Ruby that he had never seen before.

“Boysie, I hear that you working for big money now,” Miss Ruby shouted out to him one Friday night while the regular guys were under the mango tree building and breaking up law. Boysie’s voice had risen above the others because he felt that he knew everything about income tax.

Being the only shop in the village, in and around the ‘Wayside Grocery Shop’ was always teeming with activity. The age-old ‘lazy bench’ outside under the mango tree was where the villagers and passersby would sit and chat, and one of its frequent visitors was Boysie.

“Man, no country can run without income tax!” he told the group of men, the majority of whom were Labourites. But Boysie was so taken up with his argument that he did not hear Miss Ruby.

“Boysie, you cyarn’t hear Miss Ruby talking to you? You making big money now,” Sukie called out.

“Go in and pay your debt, man, and when you finish, go and pay up your income tax, too!” mused Jakie.

But Boysie did not like where the discussion was heading. News had obviously reached Miss Ruby that he had a construction job.

So, when he finally went into the shop to explain his position to Miss Ruby, he felt like a school-boy on his way to the principal’s office to explain why he did not do his homework.

“Miss Ruby, I have a fixed account at the bank. I can’t draw any money under six months. Please, give me a break ‘til next mont’,” he said as Miss Ruby, with deft fingers, sifted through her thick records for all his bills.

“Here. Pay up all or none, Sa!” she said as she handed over the bills to Boysie, who by then had had a look at the freshly written sign, over the top shelf, which read: “NO Credit Today, Come Tomorrow.”

“Boysie, as far as me can see, your account here is fixed at $450.00. It not goin’ to get any higher,” she said as she dug her hands into the two large pockets of her dress and turned her back at him to serve Gwen who had just come in to get her evening’s appetizer at the adult section.

Boysie glanced at the glass in Gwen’s hand, then looked out the window just in time to see a Migo-man delivering a brand new television set at his house.



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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