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Bocas’ Best: the Winner

 I get behind on the blogging (and everything) sometimes, blame the creative/freelance juggling life, so I’m late with the news of the winner of the biggest Caribbean based literary prize which would have been announced at the Bocas Literary Festival in late April. It feels like I should, anyway, since I shared both the 2018 long list and short list here, as I do.

So, shout out to Trinidad and Tobago’s Jennifer Rahim.


‘In a press release, Bocas stated that the judges’ choice was between Rahim’s collection of short stories, Curfew Chronicles, and Madwoman by Jamaican Shara McCallum. As poetry winner, McCallum received an award of US$3,000.

It said Curfew Chronicles was a series of linked short stories featuring characters from all levels of society, unfolding over a 24 hour period during a fictionalised version of the 2011 state of emergency.

“This must surely rank as one of the most ambitious books ever attempted by a Caribbean writer. The philosophical, moral and religious themes and ideas put forward about community in all its many manifestations are lightly, deftly handled… Readers are rewarded by moments of sheer grace; and numinous revelations at every turn,” said Lorna Goodison, chief judge of the prize.

Rahim is a widely published poet, fiction writer, and literary critic.” Read the full report.

This book sounds interesting; I’m adding it to my to-read list (yes, that long thing which increased by two this past week thanks to review copies of Wartime at Woolworths and The Nakedness of New received in the mail from authors Elaine Everest and Althea Romeo-Mark, respectively – but, hey, I finally finished Marlon James A Brief History of Seven Killings, so yay).

Congrats to Jennifer!

And if you’re keeping track, that’s the fourth win for Trinidad & Tobago in the Bocas prize’s eight years. Past winners are (in order) Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott (St. Lucia) – now deceased, Earl Lovelace (Trinidad & Tobago), Monique Roffey (Trinidad & Tobago), Robert Antoni (Trinidad & Tobago), Vladimir Lucien (St. Lucia), Olive Senior (Jamaica), and Kei Miller (Jamaica).

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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Kyle Christian Wins Wadadli Pen


Kyle is pictured, back row standing, second from right, with five honourable mentions (Back, left to right: Rosie Pickering, Andre Warner, and Andrecia Lewis; and front, left to right: Chloe Martin and Ava Ralph) and Wadadli Pen founder Joanne C. Hillhouse (back, centre) holding the Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque. (photo by Glen Toussaint)

Kyle Christian, 28, author of ‘Creak’, is the winner of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Winner Take All Historical Fiction/Poetry 2018 Challenge. He’s pocketed almost EC$3000 – thanks to contributions from Art. Culture. Antigua, Carol Mitchell, Frank B. Armstrong, International Women’s Club of Antigua-Barbuda, Juneth Webson, Pam Arthurton, and one other donor who prefers not to be named. His takeaways, during the April 21st award ceremony at the Best of Books, also included gifts and gift certificates contributed by Barbara Arrindell, Brenda Lee Browne, Cedric Holder for the Cushion Club, Danz’s Sweet Dreams, Jane Seagull, Joanne C. Hillhouse and the Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Workshop Series, and Monique S. Simon and the Caribbean Folklore Project.

‘Creak’ which tells of a young local woman in a sexual ‘relationship’ with an officer from the US army base in Antigua in the early part of the 20th century was found to encompass the theme “perfectly” in addition to being “well written”.

Kyle, in his winners’ response during the awards, said he first entered the Challenge in 2004; this is his first trip to the finals though he noted that after the 2006 awards Wadadli Pen founder/coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse told him “I really enjoyed your story…keep on writing” and so he has.

The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, started in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, has always been about giving young people the opportunity to explore stories and ideas of interest to them, while telling tales from a specifically Caribbean space, and challenging them to grapple with the craft of writing as much as appreciating the art of it. Twenty eighteen, a year in which almost 70 entries were received, was a rare year for Wadadli Pen in that a specific sub-genre (historical fiction/poetry) was put in place and rather than winners/prizes broken down by age or other categories, it was ‘Winner Take All’.

That said, there were some honourable mentions – one very creative and singled out as the best example of creative fiction but edged out by the winner due to the quality of the writing, others thought to be thought-provoking, creative, or compelling but falling short due to clichés or other flaws. The honourable mentions received certificates and books from the Best of Books, and a two-hour training session (Presenting: Telling Your Story Orally) sponsored by Barbara Arrindell & Associates. The named honourable mentions were Andre Warner, 20, Rosie Pickering, 14, Andrecia Lewis, 18, Chloe Martin, 14, and Ava Ralph, 17 – a mix of past finalists (Ralph and Lewis) and totally new voices.

Wadadli Pen remains committed to unearthing those new voices and, as such, also gave a prize to St. Andrew’s Primary School for its efforts to encourage student participation and, as a result, having the most grouped submissions from any educational institution. Educator Marissa Walter accepted the prizes on behalf of the school. The prizes are books and other gifts contributed by authors Barbara Arrindell, Floree Whyte and Moondancer Books, and Joanne C. Hillhouse, and by the Best of Books bookstore.

The Best of Books also sponsored all certificates plus the emblazoning of the winner’s name on the Alstyne Allen Memorial Challenge Plaque.

The Wadadli Pen team expressed thanks to all participants and patrons both of whom have made this Challenge possible for 14 years. For more on Wadadli Pen and to find out how you can support its efforts, visit https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com or contact wadadlipen@gmail.com

See also Who Won What in 2018? and Creak by Kyle Christian

This release has also been disseminated to Antiguan and Barbudan media.

Also, no timeline (or promises) but stories by the honourable mentions in the 2018 Challenge may be added; so check back.

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Creak by Kyle Christian (Wadadli Pen Winning Story, 2018)

kyleCreak, creak, creak.

The small, wooden bed, in the small bedroom at the back of the Lenny’s Bar, rocked back and forth. As Agnes lay there, Bobby on top of her, her mind wandered. It was her little escape to make the task easier.

“What am I doing here, lord?” she asked herself. “I young. I don’t have no pickney to feed. At least other woman have their reasons.”

Agnes thought of her mother now and her disapproving eyes surveying Agnes’s body as she left the house this afternoon.

“Wey you a go?” Mrs Margaret George asked.

“Mother, I tell you already, I get a little work at the shop over dey by the army base.”

“Hmmm,” her mother made that judgmental sound birthed from the base of her throat. Margaret was not one to vocalise her thoughts. She was confrontation-averse but knew how to make her displeasure known.

Agnes knew her mother knew what she was doing. Ever since the American bases opened, bars popped up to service the needs of the servicemen; and women who worked at the bars were seen as suspect.

But Agnes, at 21 years, needed to make her own money. She told herself she would only do it for a short time.

“Mommy cut cane, daddy cut cane, granny cut cane. Everybody cutting blasted cane! Well not me,” she said. It was how she stayed motivated when doubt crept in.

When the Bendals sugar factory closed in 1940 both of Agnes’ parents lost their jobs. Things got harder in Antigua and her father had considered migrating to Cuba to cut more “blasted cane” to support the family.

The two American bases opened up at Crabbes and Coolidge and things changed. People got new, different jobs which paid better than the sugar factory ever did. Even her brother Tinny got carpentry work to build barracks at the base.

Thump, thump, thump.

The sound brought Agnes back to the present.

“He nuh done yet?” she thought to herself. Lost in her thoughts, she had almost forgotten he was there.

Robert Weismann from Crawford, Alabama was a private at the base. Agnes had hoped for a higher ranked officer, like a Colonel, who would have had the privilege to take her back to his quarters. She had never been on the base and wondered what it looked like. It would have meant that she didn’t have to suffer the indignity of the rackety bed.

Bobby, as Robert liked to be called, was nice enough. He was kind to Agnes and maybe even a little shy. They met two weeks ago when Agnes, and the other girls, wearing pretty dresses and lipstick, sat at the bar waiting for the rowdy army officers to approach them.

“How d’you do, missy?” Bobby asked her. She smiled at him and allowed him to buy her a drink. That’s was how it started.

Creak, Creak, Creak!

“Arrrhh,” with one long breath Bobby exhaled. He was spent. He rolled over, pulled a Raleigh cigarette from his shirt pocket and lit it.

“Thanks,” he said.

Agnes smiled, barely; amused that he would thank her. She slid down to the edge of the bed and began dressing herself. She picked up the folded dollar bills on the side table and walked towards the door.

“See you next week?” Bobby asked.

She turned and looked at him. “I don’t think you will see me again. This is the last time I doing anything like this.”

With a look in his eye he said, “Okay missy.”

They both knew she was lying.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kyle Christian, 28, considers himself the consummate student and views life as a big university. A lover of words and language, Kyle is a writer and communicator. He has worked in media as a journalist and radio news presenter and currently works in public relations. With a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Finance, Kyle has a rare love of numbers and words. His favourite things to do on vacation are to cook and read. Kyle was a Wadadli Pen regular in the early years (between 2004-2006) and though he didn’t place in those early years, he recalled a word of encouragement that fuelled his determination to keep writing. Wadadli Pen founder, Joanne C. Hillhouse, he said, told him after the 2006 awards ceremony, “I really enjoyed your story…keep on writing.” He did and claims the main prize in 2018.


Kyle with Hillhouse and the Best of Books sponsored Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque which bears the name of every Wadadli Pen winner since 2004. (Photo by Glen Toussaint)


ABOUT THE STORY: “This story encompassed the theme perfectly and was well written.” – judge

The story is about the economic choices Antiguans (specifically women) were forced to make in the post-slavery era when sugar began to lose its dominance. It was inspired by slice-of-life literary works such as Fences, the Mighty Sparrow’s Jean & Dinah calypso classic, and the realization that American army bases had similar cultural and economic impacts on Antigua.

PRIZES WON: As the 2018 winner of the Wadadli Pen Challenge, a ‘winner take all’ year, Christian pockets EC$2,937.65 (from contributions by Pam Arthurton, International Women’s Club, Frank B. Armstrong, Juneth Webson, Art. Culture. Antigua, Carol Mitchell, and one other). His name will be on the annual Challenge plaque, sponsored by the Best of Books. His other prizes are books – Antigua My Antigua (1), The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Other Stories (1), With Grace (1), Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure (1), Just Write Writers Journal (1), London Rocks(1), and other books – Donors: Barbara Arrindell, Brenda Lee Browne, Joanne C. Hillhouse, and the Best of Books; a gift Certificate for books ($100) – Donor: Cedric Holder for the Cushion Club; a custom Journal – Donor: Jane Seagull; custom gift cards – Donor: Monique S. Simon; scholarship Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Workshop Series  (EC$300) – Donor: Joanne C. Hillhouse; and a gift certificate (EC$225) – Donor: Danz’s Sweet Dreams. His name has also been emblazoned on the Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque and he takes home a winner’s certificate sponsored by the Best of Books.

ABOUT WADADLI PEN 2018: The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize launched in 2004 with a writing Challenge that continues 14 years later. The project was launched by Joanne C. Hillhouse with D. Gisele Isaac and the Young Explorer publication. Today, its core team is Hillhouse with past finalists Devra Thomas and Margaret Irish, and writers and long time patrons and partners Floree Whyte and Barbara Arrindell. The name of each winner is emblazoned on the Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque, named for one of the project’s earliest volunteers (and sister-friend of founder, Joanne C. Hillhouse) who died in 2015. The Challenge is Wadadli Pen’s pilot project, in keeping with its mandate to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. The Challenge has encouraged young writers in Antigua and Barbuda (35 years and younger) to write on any topic, within a Caribbean aesthetic. It doesn’t often prescribe other limitations, but this year it did request specifically historical fiction/poetry. Normally, prizes are broken down by age categories but this year it’s winner take all with only one winner and a handful of honourable mentions (Andre Warner, Rosie Pickering, Andrecia Lewis, Chloe Martin, and Ava Ralph). Congratulations to them all. Thanks to the patrons and to partners – Floree Whyte, Barbara Arrindell, Devra Thomas, and Margaret Irish. To find out how you can continue to support the work of Wadadli Pen contact wadadlipen@gmail.com

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.


Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Literary Gallery, Wadadli Pen 2018, Wadadli Pen News

Astrid Lindgren – the Winner

If you follow my author blog, you may remember me mentioning being a nominee for this prize last year.

Well, the winner has been announced and it is US author Jacqueline Woodson (who has been on my to-read list for a while). Here are some details via BBC:

“Her books include National Book Prize winner Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir of her childhood written in verse.

The writer will receive five million Swedish krona ($600,000, £430,000) at a ceremony on 28 May in Stockholm.

Woodson is the 15th recipient of the prize, named after the Swedish creator of Pippi Longstocking.

Brown Girl Dreaming, published in 2014, describes her childhood in South Carolina and New York in the 1960s and ’70s, decades marked by civil rights marches, inequality and violence.

The author was also named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in the US in January.

She has written more than 30 books in total, most of which focus on teens making the transition from childhood to adult life.

The Lindgren jury said: “Jacqueline Woodson introduces us to resilient young people fighting to find a place where their lives can take root. In language as light as air, she tells stories of resounding richness and depth. ”

It was a formidable list of nominees from all over the world; congratulations to Ms. Woodson on separating from the pack and claiming the prize.

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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Mailbox – Congrats, Kei

With thanks to St. Lucian poet John Robert Lee for bringing this to my attention, congratulations to Jamaican-born, UK-based writer Kei Miller on his win of this year’s Ansa prize in Arts and Letters. The Trinidad and Tobago company continues to award distinguished Caribbean citizens in several areas. Kei – whose work I have written about on this blog before and am a fan of – “is a poet, writer, scholar and blogger whose work includes three novels, four poetry collections, a short story collection and a book of essays and prophesies. He holds a PhD from Glasgow University and is now a professor of creative writing at the University of Exeter. Miller’s work engages Caribbean themes of race, identity and immigration. His book Augustown won the 2017 Bocas Prize, and his short story collection The Fear of Stones was shortlisted for the 2007 Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize.”

Congrats to Kei and all the winners. Read more here.

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CRICKET IS MY LIFE by Emma Belizaire


Emma Belizaire

The author says: “I am 11 years old.  I am a 6th grader at St. Andrew’s School.   I have a love for all sports especially football and cricket.  My hero is Anisa Mohammed; the amazing female cricketer for the Women’s West Indies team.  Many people tell me I bowl like her, and so she and my love of cricket inspired this poem.”

Judges’ verdict: “Good poem.”

In the 2017 Wadadli Pen Challenge, the judges ranked Belizaire’s poem 2nd in the 12 and Younger age category.


Cricket ohh cricket
Cricket is my life
When I play cricket I feel free
So don’t try to beat me!

There is batting, there is fielding
There is also bowling
But when you see my team and I playing
We are unstoppable!

You are not going to beat me
You better take a seat,.. see
You see when I play cricket
I am in a zone, I am free
Cricket just calms me

I am in a zone that no one can take
Away from me
I am free…just free
I am free.
Don’t disturb me when I am playing,
I am in my zone

Cricket ohh cricket
Cricket is my life
Cricket just calms me
Don’t disturb me while I am playing, I am
In my zone. My cricket zone.

When you see me hitting the boundary
And knocking sixes with my eyes closed like
Sir Vivian Richards, I am in my zone.

When you see me breaking middle wickets
Like Anisa Mohammed, I am in my zone.
When you see my team catching them out
Like West Indies. We are in a zone.

When you see me wicket keeping like Ramdin
I am in my zone
When you see me bowling maidens like Stephanie Taylor
I am in my zone.

When I am playing with my team or even friends, I zone out.
Cricket just calms me
Cricket ohh cricket
Cricket is my life

When I’m looking like a tomato all red with rage
But then I’m playing cricket I just let go,
Cricket ohh cricket
Ohh cricket
Cricket is my life!!


Please respect the writer’s copyright. And while we welcome feedback, please be constructive.

With thanks to our patrons, see this writer’s total prize haul below (and remember, support the businesses/individuals who support the arts):

EC$100 cash/gift certificate (contributed by Art. Culture. Antigua)
Books – Street Child by Berlie Doherty, Dotty Detective by Clara Vulliamy, Spell like a Champion (contributed by Harper Collins)
With Grace by Joanne C. Hillhouse (contributed by Little Bell Caribbean)
Gifts (contributed by Juneth Webson)
Cricket gear (contributed by the West Indies Cricket Board)
Certificate (sponsored by the Best of Books)

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Youth Worker wins Youth Writing Prize

Youth worker Daryl George is the winner of the main prize in the 2016 Wadadli Pen Challenge, a writing contest first launched in 2004. The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize was started by local author Joanne C. Hillhouse, to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. Over the years she’s been working with various partners and patrons to do just that.


From left, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Douglas Allen (brother of the late Alstyne Allen), Chammaiah Ambrose, Daryl George (holding the Alstyne Allen Memorial Challenge plaque), patron Dr. Hazra Medica, and patron representative Frank B. Armstrong’s Akeilah  Hillhouse.


George -the first male winner of the overall literary prize – was the judges’ unanimous choice for his win in the 18 to 35 age category and for the main prize for a story, Tropical Moonlight Sonata, described as a “a beautifully written piece” – simple, but with vivid descriptions and great depth. In it, a character named Jamal discovers or rediscovers a baby grand piano in a pawn shop far from home and…

“For a split second the cobblestone floors turned into ceramic tiles, and the cold air warmed into the humid tropical heat. The musty air filled with the smell of hundreds of books chock-full of mildewing pages of notes, time signatures, and middle and bass clefs before fading back to the dimly lit pawn shop.”

You can read the full story, and, in fact, all the winning stories online right here at Wadadli Pen (use the search feature to the right or just click the linked story).

George’s name has joined former winners on the Challenge plaque which is sponsored by and hangs in the Best of Books bookstore on St. Mary’s Street. The plaque has been (re)named the Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque in memory of a recently deceased member of the Wadadli Pen family – Allen volunteered with the project during the critical first years 2004 to 2006. Douglas Allen, Allen’s brother and publisher of Young Explorer, a partner in the project’s early years, was on hand to assist with the prize giving.

Other winning entries include 13 to 17 winner and second placed overall Alyssa Charles’ Faded Glory, a story in which the 17-year-old Antigua State College student tackles young love and touch choices; and 12 and younger winner and third placed overall Chammaiah Ambrose’ Guilty, a poem in which the 11-year-old Antigua Girls High School student empathizes with the fish she catches. Both Ambrose and George are repeat Wadadli Pen finalists.

The winners’ circle was a mix of repeaters and first timers. Repeaters included past finalists 16-year-old Irene B. Williams student Zahra Emanuel, honourable mention in the 13 to 17 age category for her story My So Called Father; nine-year-old Judah Christian, a Sunnyside Student; and 10-year-old Zion Ebony Williams, a Baptist Academy student, second and third placed in the 12 and younger category, respectively, for their stories My Worst Day Ever and A Dinner to Remember; and 11-year-old Avriel Walters, honourable mention in the latter category for her story My Cousin. First timers included Barbuda teacher Jemelia Pratt, who was honourable mention in the 18 to 35 age category for her story of the Cuban revolution Les Trajó Aquí; 15-year-old Glanvilles Secondary student Diamond Wayne, runner up in the 13 to 17 age category for her poem Granny for Sale; 16-year-old Antigua Grammar School student Canice James, honourable mention in the same category for his story Heroic Night, and the 12 and younger honourable mentions – Denejah Browne, Rolanda Cuffy, Kya Matthew, Morgan Leah Simon, and Laila Tahir, all Christ the King High School students. Christ the King was rewarded as the school with the most submissions.

The prize haul was roughly EC$4,000, give or take, thanks to contributions of gifts and cash from individuals (Juneth Webson, Dr. Hazra Medica, Pamela Arthurton), businesses (Frank B. Armstrong, CaribbeanReads Publishing, Papillotte Press, Paperclips, Barbuda Express, Raw Island Products, and the Best of Books), and even other community projects (Cushion Club, CODE, the Just Write Writers’ Retreat).  Hillhouse kicked in copies of her books Musical Youth and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings as well. Hillhouse thanked the patrons and partners – which included this year’s judges Floree Whyte, Cedric Holder, and Glen Toussaint, Wadadli Pen media/school ambassador Margaret Irish, advisor Barbara Arrindell – without whom another successful year of the Wadadli Pen Challenge would not have been achieved.

Hillhouse expressed hope of sourcing funding to take writing workshops to schools in Antigua and Barbuda beginning with the winning school, where she could provide instruction in crafting stronger stories.

She maintains that the point of Wadadli Pen, completely voluntary over the years, is to help writers and non-writers alike develop confidence with and appreciation for the written word. As usual, she commends those who took the Challenge for daring.

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