Tag Archives: Verna Wilkins

Classic: in Conversation with three Caribbean Authors (2010)

I actually just found (re-found?) this one. It’s one of the interviews I did in 2010 in the lead-up to the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival (remember when we had one of those?). It’s a bit dated – and given that the literary festival is now defunct, some of the commentary is sadly ironic – but I thought I’d share it for your reading pleasure.

Exif JPEG

This is a photo from the first Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival in 2006. I don’t believe this ran with the original piece but it includes two of the interviewed authors – Elizabeth Nunez and Verna Wilkins, 2nd and 3rd from left. I am at the far right.

One-on-one with three regional authors
November 3, 2010   Joanne C. Hillhouse  Arts and Culture, Specials

Daily OBSERVER caught up recently with three authors slated for this year’s literary festival, November 4 to 7.

All esteemed award recipients, they are: Belizean Zee Edgell, author of Beka Lamb, In Times Like These, The Festival of San Joaquin, and Time and the River; Trinidadian Elizabeth Nunez, author of Anna In-Between, Prospero’s Daughter, Bruised Hibiscus, Grace, Discretion, When Rocks Dance, and Beyond the Limbo Silence; and Grenadian Verna Wilkins, founder of Tamarind Books in the UK and a children’s.

Each was asked the same questions; here are their answers.

Daily OBSERVER What can people expect from you for the 2010 literary festival?

Zee Edgell: I hope to participate in workshops, the panel discussions, do readings, meet with students and the general public and do book signings.

Elizabeth Nunez: Reading and discussion of my latest novel, Anna In-Between, as well as the story of my development as a writer. I will also talk a little about the state of publishing fiction today and directions for the future.

Verna Wilkins: People can expect (me) to share 23 years of my experience in the UK both as founder and publisher of the well respected multicultural Tamarind Books list and as an author of 35 children’s books.

DO: …what, if anything, in your view sets the lit fest in Antigua apart?

ZE: Visiting schools, and meeting with students in Antigua were the outstanding features…

EN: What sets this Festival apart is the easy accessibility to writers and the informal atmosphere that encourages interaction between emerging and established writers.

VW: What sets ABILF apart for me is the fact that it makes contacts with schools and teachers possible. The discussion forums are enlightening and meaningful.

DO: …has it evolved, in your view?

ZE: I’ve attended one literary festival in Antigua, so I’m not able to comment on this evolution.

EN: What is extraordinary is that the organizers have managed to continue this festival in spite of the financial challenges of the times. The festival continues to seek out popular writers but at the same time is committed to giving voice to new writers as well as literary writers who have not enjoyed a wide reading audience. Participants get introduced to books that they would not ordinarily have known.

DO: Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to this year?

ZE: I am looking forward to the activities listed…also to seeing more of Antigua.

EN: I am looking forward to hearing Lorna Goodison, whose poetry touches the heart and opens windows to the Caribbean world both known and unknown.

VW: I am looking forward this year to discussing ‘The Reluctant Reader’ with teachers and carers with a view to putting in place strategies for re-engaging with books.

DO: You’ve seen the festival line up, is there anyone in particular you’re hoping to engage – and why?

ZE: I am hoping to engage as many participants as possible.

EN: I love the line up and can’t wait to hear all the writers.

VW: I am looking forward to engaging with the writers who do grown-up books in various genres; hopefully an enabling process to write for adults and to get started on my autobiography.

DO: …Can you speak to why festivals of this nature should persist in these tough economic times?

ZE: I am not able to answer this question, especially as so many people are in economic difficulties.

EN: All the major movements in the world have been propelled by books. The great works of writers such as CLR James and George Lamming set the foundation for independence in the Caribbean, and writers such as (James) Baldwin, (Richard) Wright and (Zora Neale) Hurston helped usher in the civil rights movement in the U.S. We need writers not only to entertain us with stories, but also to mirror our societies, give us a sense of who we are and who we can be.

VW: Festivals should persist through these financial times so that we can continue to share ideas which might take us to a brighter future.

DO: What do you think of the lit fest’s emphasis on youth?

ZE: I think, where possible, a love of reading should be encouraged from the cradle. A literary festival focused (on) Caribbean youth is a great contribution to the present and future development of the Caribbean.

EN: This is an excellent idea. Young people need models so that they have living proof of what is possible for them to attain.

VW: The emphasis on youth is dear to me. I write children’s books because I firmly believe that children who engage with books in the early year, the years in which the personality takes shape and attitudes are formed, tend to achieve academically. They also acquire a good vocabulary and can tap into various types of reading…for study or for pleasure…(also) the interaction with published authors gives them invaluable opportunities to speak with role models for success.

DO: Who would be on your wish list for a future ABILF?

ZE: My wish list would include reading and writing workshops for small groups of interested students.

EN: More Caribbean writers from the region and the diaspora.

DO: …in what directions would you like to see (the festival) grow and how do you think it could begin to do so?

ZE: I think a greater emphasis should be placed on obtaining funding for the festival. In general, most writers do not earn very much from their writing. Although airfares and accommodation are provided to writers, attending a festival without honorariums or fees is quite expensive for most writers, at any time. Funding for fees and/or adequate honorariums would assist writers to more easily participate in the Festival. Perhaps experts who may be economically able to volunteer could be recruited to write grant proposals to funding agencies, the business and professional communities, and individuals who might wish to contribute as partners …

DO: …what’s your favourite memory (from past ABILFs)?

ZE: I enjoyed meeting the students, fellow participants, including the Festival organizers, and seeing something of Antigua.

VW: My favourite memory of the festivals is meeting other black authors from the US and sharing their wide range of writing. I learned a lot and my confidence as a writer grew.

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!, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, Musical Youth and With Grace). 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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READING ROOM Vlll

Like the title says, this is the eighth reading room. Use the search feature to your right and the term ‘reading room’ to find the others. Seven came before, pack-full-0 good reading: poetry, fiction, non fiction, and some visuals too. Good reading makes for good writing. So use the reading rooms like your personal library and enjoy. And remember, keep coming back; they’re never finished. As I discover things, things get added. And don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts re not only what you read here but also possible additions to the reading room.

This one is uncategorizable (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that’s not a word; not the point). It’s the PEN World Voices
online anthology 2014 and I’m sharing the whole thing because I still can’t believe that I got a chance to be a part of this wonderful and prestigious activity. For me a highlight will just be sitting in the audience and listening to the greats read and discuss; but getting the chance to do my own salon style reading was pretty damn cool too. I want you to get the chance to experience some of what I did by sharing some of the other writers who participated via these anthology excerpts. It covers poetry, fiction and non-fiction and includes a piece of my Amelia and all of my Ah Write! as well as, from other Caribbean writers, who I’m happy to say I got along really well with, Barbara Jenkins and Sharon Leach.

INTERVIEWS

Elizabeth Nunez being interviewed on NPR about my book Oh Gad!

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Elizabeth Nunez being interviewed about her book, the memoir Not for Everyday Use.

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What is the last book you read?
“The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. – Jus Bus. Read more of this Texas born, Antiguan-Barbudan raised producer-artiste’s interview with Luxury Locations. And just a reminder about this interview with him right here on Wadadli Pen.

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Opal Palmer interviews Jacqueline Bishop in Moko.

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Jack Neely interviews Nikki Giovanni for New Millennium Writings.

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“This was my main problem when I was just starting out: I was trying to say something. When I began to write, I was deeply self-conscious. I was writing stories hoping they would say something thematic, or address something that I was wrestling with philosophically. I’ve learned, for me at least, it’s a dead road. It’s writing from the outside in instead of the inside out.
But during my very early writing, certainly before I’d published, I began to learn characters will come alive if you back the f*ck off. It was exciting, and even a little terrifying. If you allow them to do what they’re going to do, think and feel what they’re going to think and feel, things start to happen on their own. It’s a beautiful and exciting alchemy. And all these years later, that’s the thrill I write to get: to feel things start to happen on their own.
So I’ve learned over the years to free-fall into what’s happening. What happens then is, you start writing something you don’t even really want to write about. Things start to happen under your pencil that you don’t want to happen, or don’t understand. But that’s when the work starts to have a beating heart.” – read more of this Andre Dubus lll interview.

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Loved so much about this interview, but, I’m biased, as I love all things Edwidge Dandicat…well, all things Edwidge Dandicat’s writing…don’t know her personally at all. Among the things I liked in this Guernica interview, the phrasing of the questions (How did you find her? – about Dandicat’s main character); the insight that Dandicat reads and re-reads to re-immerse herself in the world of the story and the sense she has of eavesdropping on her characters because I do that too; the judgments about certain writing choices e.g. English or Creole – I’m not an immigrant (she contextualizes it as a problem of immigrants writing in English) but I can relate to this: “people think it’s primarily a commercial choice. But for many of us, it’s a choice that rises out of the circumstances of our lives. These are the tools I have at my disposal, based on my experiences” – yep; her take on book reviews and categorizations and the burdens put upon fiction and her point that “fiction is not journalism or sociology or anthropology. Every story is singular. The way we get depth is by putting a bunch of singular stories together to tell larger more complex and sometimes even contradictory stories”… and more… I also find her description of her book as a hybrid between a story collection and a novel interesting and her references to books like it will be added to my reading list because one of my current writing projects seems to be veering into this hybrid territory. Anyway, reading interviews with great writers is always a master class for me, and Edwidge is one of the best in my opinion. Check out the full interview here.

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Michael Anthony, a Caribbean favourite, talks about his favourite meal, his favourite calypso, and more in this interview.

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New Orleans writer and journalist Missy Wilkinson about how being a journalist fuels her fiction and being a shape-shifter. Found this very relatable. Read the whole thing at Grab the Lapels.

VISUAL

Sandra Sealey talks about her journey as a writer.

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This Pinterest link is all visuals of Caribbean writers of fiction for children, teens, young adults. The clip, lifted from the site, features Tamarind publisher sharing in a very personal way why such diverse books are absolutely essential.

FICTION

“She breathes deep like she learned from the weekly yoga classes she paid for but eventually dropped. Deep breathing makes her dizzy. Too slow. Too many text messages buzz in the time it takes to exhale.” – from Empty by M. M. De Voe. More here.

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“And you!” Adele said “I raised my quivering arms on high; I laughed and laughed into the sky…. Edna St. Vincent Millet. You were so romantic!” – from Time Capsule by Carol J. Arnold. Read more.

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“We pushed north, praying for the aurora borealis, a whale breaching, something. An eagle dropped fish entrails on the deck. We studied the water’s flotsam for glass floats and fished out styrofoam cups.” – from The Famous Writer by Norma Shainin. Read more.

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“Najua had been in the room one night and Kate had asked Seth if people went to heaven when they died. Seth hadn’t hesitated to tell her yes, and to go on to say what he remembered from his childhood Sunday school lessons: heaven was a place of pure eternal happiness and joy, where no one suffered and no one got sick or hurt. He’d felt a twinge of guilt as he told his girl what he did not himself believe, but Najua smiled and nodded her reassurance that he was doing the right thing, her dark eyes moist and full of admiration. At the time, he’d taken it for more than that; he’d thought she might be falling for him too.” – Hush Little Baby by Vic Sizemore. Read the full.

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‘Cerberus closes both eyes, dreaming of the old man’s future, death waiting in the threshold to cradle him as it will never cradle Cerberus. He twitches in his sleep, wakes to the sound of Alma’s footsteps running through the front door, across the hardwood floor, out of breath, “Hi, Cerberus,” passing him like a warm, Aegean breeze.’ – from Cereus Sleeps by B. K. Loren. Read the full.

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“He is looking at her, has no wings to flick and she has none to fly off with and she knows from one moment to the next that nothing can get her out of the situation without leaving some sort of residue.” The tension is palpable and, unfortunately, if you’re a woman, all too relatable in Doro Boehme’s Thief Knot, Fastening at Canopic Jar.

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Coo Yah by Tammi Browne-Bannister, an Antiguan writer who now resident in Barbados, captures the shifting, dark poetry of a hurricane lashed landscape.

POETRY

Esther Phillips reppng for Barbados on the BBC’s Poetry Postcards.

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Alone by Maya Angelou. May she rest in peace.

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“Nothing understands the ecstatic wine
of this music like your body” – from Shostakovich: Five Pieces by Pamela Uschuk. Read also her poem Learning the Theremin.

NON FICTION

An interesting and important conversation and one of relevance to writers like us, far far far off the map of mainstream publishing. NPR’s To Achieve Diversity in Publishing, a Difficult Silence beats Silence.

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‘The hit or miss nature of words is well suited to navigating in the dark, and this story proves that words have great power even if the speaker knows they only have a 50% chance of being true. And even when the speaker knows they are 100% untrue, pragmatic words get a person past the gatekeeper and into the circus. Or, words can be thrown out into unknown territory like hooks on a line. Our friend Judith, who spoke Hebrew and Dutch before learning English advised my husband, “If you want to find your way in a foreign language, you must guess a thousand times a day. Be bold—guess!” Words infused with longing and thrown like dice—left, right, or straight ahead—can get you home.’ – from The Resiliency Gene by Ellen Graf. Read the full.

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Martin Scorcese on the difference between plot and story. You know, I just finished watching his film Shutter Island before posting this and, though he references other filmmakers, it’s as illustrative as any of them of the point he makes in this short clip. Watch and learn.

BLOG

From Shakirah Bourne’s Get Write! – On Dialect: How Caribbean People Supposed Tuh Talk In A Story, Eh?

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So when did you begin falling in love with books? Read Kamy Wicoff’s blog here – and feel free to share your responses in the comments section below.

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One writer’s journey to publication. She Writes.

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Antiguan and Barbudan Leonard Tim Hector is one of the greats of Caribbean thought (i.e. among those who researched, observed, analyzed, and offered insight to our lives, in his case, various areas of our lives – politics to sports to the arts). JAmerican writer Geoffrey Philp acknowledges as much in his preamble to a re-posting of a Hector piece on Caribbean literature and why it matters. Read here.

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Writers Read by Jeff Goins.

*NEW* REVIEWS
A section for books I haven’t necessarily read as yet but, thanks to these reviews, now kind of want to.

Annie Paul reviews Jamaican writer, and fast Wadadli Pen patron, Diana McCaulay’s Huracan.

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,  Fish Outta Water, 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 WadadliPen and my books. 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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ABILF – Flashback

So, word is, there’s no Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival this year (2011). That’s really too bad considering the event’s potential, but perhaps not too surprising given its financial struggles since its debut in 2006. This post flashes back to the promise of that first year.

From left Elizabeth Nunez, Verna Wilkins, Althea Prince, Nalo Hopkinson, and Marie Elena John.

 

Althea Prince, Elizabeth Nunez, Verna Wilkins, Nalo Hopkinson, Marie Elena John, and me (Joanne C. Hillhouse)

 

Antiguan writers (standing) S E James, Marie Elena John, Rosalyn Simon, and me (Joanne C. Hillhouse); (seated) Althea Prince, Akilah Jardine, and Jamaica Kincaid.

Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of what was then the Caribbean International Literary Festival.

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What’s up for ABILF 2010? UPDATED!!!

The Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival is around the corner, back after a one year hiatus. The festival was held for the first time in 2006. It attracted numerous authors including

(Photo by Susan Noyce)

(pictured left to right) Dr. Althea Prince (author of Loving this Man), Elizabeth Nunez (author of Prospero’s Daughter), Verna Wilkins (founder of Tamarind publishers), Nalo Hopkinson (author of Brown Girl in the Ring), Marie Elena John (author of Unburnable), and me, Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend).

This year’s line-up includes John Agard, Jason Cole, Zee Edgell, Lorna Goodison, Bernice McFadden, Macka Diamond, Grace Nichols, Elizabeth Nunez, Verna Wilkins, and me. I believe I’m on a panel (and need to get to planning what I’m going to do or say 🙂 ) and I should be working the children’s tent with other members of the Cushion Club.

The festival headliner will be Pam Grier, star of Foxy Brown and author of the memoir, Foxy, which I had the opportunity to read and review for the Daily Observer newspaper. I’ll have lots to report, I’m sure, from the dinner and a movie fundraiser (looking forward to that…but what shall I wear :-))

Here’s the festival programme:

Program

Thursday, November 4, 2010

10 a.m.-Noon    Multipurpose Cultural Centre, St. John’s

Children’s Reading Convocation

With John Agard, Grace Nichols, Jason Cole, Dawne Allette, Verna Wilkins and other children’s authors

 2:30-4 p.m.   Multipurpose Cultural Centre, St. John’s

Workshop on Encouraging Young Children to Read

For primary school teachers, with Verna Wilkins

 8 p.m.  Halcyon Cove by Rex Resort

An Evening of Poetry

Featuring Esther Phillips, Lorna Goodison, Grace Nichols, John Agard, and Carolyn Matthew-Nation, in conjunction with the Antigua & Barbuda Young Poets Society

Friday, November 5, 2010

9 a.m-5 p.m.   Siboney Lounge, Halcyon Cove

Youth Day
Students selected from Antigua & Barbuda’s secondary schools meet with visiting authors 

3:00-3:30  p.m.   Halcyon Cove

Short Story Contest Award Presentation

Presented by the Friends of the Antigua Public Library 

3:00-5:00  p.m.   Halcyon Cove

The What, How, When and Why of Book Publishing

Publishing is a very mysterious industry, or is it? Be a part of the conversation with the people in the know.  This session will delve into the nuts and bolts of how to get your book published, and what to work towards once in it is in the marketplace.

With Linda Duggins from Hachette Books, Verna Wilkins from Tamarind Books, and Antiguan authors Floree Williams

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Friday, November 5, 2010
DINNER AND A MOVIE FUNDRAISER

Featuring Pam Grier and the film “Jackie Brown”
6-10 p.m.

Sandals Grande Antigua

Tickets: $250 EC per person,

includes movie, dinner, wine and a signed copy of Ms. Grier’s new book
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Saturday, November 6, 2010

9:00-11:00 a.m.  Festival Village, Anchorage Inn

Students’ and Teachers’ workshops with CXC curriculum authors Zee Edgell, Lorna Goodison and Joanne Hillhouse

 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Festival Village, Anchorage Inn

Workshops with Visiting Authors

  • 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.  Main Tent

Bringing Out the Poet in You

It is often said that poetry, more than any other writing, springs from the soul. Hear how some noted Caribbean poets opened their souls and gave rise to published works that inspire others.

With John Agard, Esther Phillips, Grace Nichols, Carolyn Matthew Nation 

  • 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.  Conference Room

Is Self Publishing the Way to Go?

The publishing world was always very limited, especially for Caribbean authors.  Now with the advent of electronic publishing, Kindle and e-books, and publishing on demand, it is easier for local authors to bring their words to print.  Hear how some authors successfully created their own books and brought them to market.

With Floree Williams and  Marcel Marshall

  • 1:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m.  Main Tent

Creating a Novel from an Idea

Intrigue, romance, interesting lifestyles, and day-to-day emotional conflicts create novels that readers enjoy. How do writers keep readers coming back again and again?  Where do they get their ideas and then how do they build a story around them?  Get insight into the writing process from these successful novelists.

With Bernice McFadden, Elizabeth Nunez, Macka Diamond, and Zee Edgell

  • 1:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m.  Conference Room

Writing for Children

You may be reading with your children, watching them play, or just having imaginings—and it occurs to you that maybe you could create a children’s book.  What goes into the process, and what makes the idea into a selling proposition?

With John Agard, Verna Wilkins and Jason Cole

  • 3:30-5:00 p.m.  Main Tent

Our Lives, Our Stories, Our Voices

What is that drive that makes one write about oneself and others? Does everyone have a story within waiting to be published? This panel invites us to the table for a heart-to-to heart on the art of telling our stories and the importance of getting them published.

With Pam Grier, Grace Nichols and  Macka Diamond

Children’s reading activities – Western Union Children’s Tent

  • 11:00 a.m.-12 noon  Joanne Hillhouse
  • 12 noon-1:00 p.m.  Jason Cole and magic
  • 1:00-2:00 p.m.  Sharon James
  • 2:00-3:00 p.m. 
  • 3:00-4:00 p.m.  John Agard and Grace Nichols

 Author readings and book signings –Anchorage Inn Lobby

  • 11:00 a.m.-12 noon —   Bernice McFadden
  • 12 noon-1:00 p.m.  —  Macka Diamond
  • 1:00-2:00 p.m. —  Grace Nichols
  • 2:00-3:00 p.m. – Floree Williams and Marcel Marshall
  • 3:00-4:00 p.m.  —  Elizabeth Nunez
  • 4:00-5:00 p.m. – Zee Edgell
  • 5 p.m.  – Pam Grier

Sunday, November 7, 2010

6-10 p.m.  Splash Antigua Events Centre

Literary Festival After Sunset Party

Featuring Jamaican artiste Macka Diamond and local performers

Admission: $35 in advance, $40 at the door

For more, visit the festival website http://antigualitfest.com

ABILF co-founder Joy Bramble, left, pictured with honoree Dame Gwendolyn Tonge, host of the long running ABS TV show Cooking Magic and related cook book, and government minister (and one helluva cook) Hilson Baptiste

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