Tag Archives: writing

Arts in the News (Unfortunately)

Usually we’re happy here at Wadadli Pen about arts and the youth being in the news and try to keep you updated. Sometimes, not so much.

First up is this back and forth between Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister and a member of the calypso fraternity in response to criticism (or questioning?) of cultural ambassador designation being given to the British-based Kanneh-Masons (Antigua-descended family of classical musicians). The Kanneh-Masons are dope. Their Playing to Inspire series of concerts to raise funds for the national youth symphony orchestra (I believe) is a worthy pursuit and one of them has distinguished himself internationally as a soloist, notably performing at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. No shade against them AT ALL. That said, these appointments can seem arbitrary and questioning how these things are decided is fair (and forwards transparency).  It’s inevitable for some to wonder why some people get to be at the front of the line, (AGAIN) without any shade on them, and why some we would consider worthy artists who work and sometimes die overlooked despite accomplishments locally, regionally, and globally stay at the back. Disappointing then that, instead of engaging on that level, the conversation (as reported) seemingly descended into broadsides against Antigua and Barbuda’s calypso artistes because their lyrics are perceived as being too local (you can read the articles for yourself above – click on them to get a full sized view). I have personally found in the calypso I grew up listening to, including the music of the artistes both sides seem to agree represent the best of us, that the local/the specific can connect to the universal thematically and emotionally (especially if the music sweet – not necessarily always jumpy but melodic and soul touching in some way) without diluting itself and thus losing both its poetry and its potency. There are lots of reasons why something might be underdeveloped (and some of our arts is) and reasons why it might not travel that do not necessarily have anything to do with the lyrics or narrative – among those reasons, opportunity.

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This one is not unfortunate per se, correcting the record – as Pledge writer Stanley Humphreys and singer Short Shirt did with these letters to the editor in response to an article (not the first one I might add from personal experience) crediting someone else with writing this particular song (I can think of a book with a similar claim and another book that actually went a long way in correcting the record on a whole lot of songs) – is always a good thing. The credit is correct in our song lyrics data base by the way though the past confusion is addressed in the actual Pledge link (above). I do wish to take this opportunity to underscore that one of the challenges for those seeking to get the record right is the sparseness of documented information – one of the ways to fix this is through comprehensive liner notes, the kind often lacking from local music CDs. Some liner notes include not only production credits but song lyrics. As someone who has long covered the local art scene and who has for several years on this site worked to build a data base of our songwriters and their songs for some time, it’s easy to get things wrong due to lack of available, accurate information (oftentimes, even when you ask).

huh

Okay, this one isn’t related to the arts but it is related to the youth which is the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize constituency. I don’t want to get too deep into this one – it’s too easy for the message to be missed for reasons that have nothing to do with the message itself – but I am disappointed not only with the delay in turning this facility over to the youth of the Grays Green (and I would add Ottos community and beyond) but that the optics for me say, the youth can wait, which is not a good look. The work of the Magistrate’s Court is important but I wish we had gone with an alternate site on this one, and proceeded with opening this facility post haste with all the fan fair our youth deserve. I can’t help feeling that whenever they get it now, it won’t be the same.

Let’s end on an upbeat note. I haven’t seen this in the paper – doesn’t mean it wasn’t there as admittedly I am a few days behind on the papers – or on my social media (apart from posts by individual winners) but it is one of my favourite events (celebrating our youth); I always take the time to make nominations (not just in lit arts) and I like to share the outcome here on the blog (click here to see who won what this year). Shout out to lit awards winner and Wadadli Pen 2018 Challenge winner Kyle Christian and to Latisha Browne of the Cushion Club (pictured below with her award).

latisha.jpg

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!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). 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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Good News for Six Caribbean Writers, Bad News for the Burt Award

Six shortlisted writers have been named though dampened by the concurrent announcement that the CODE sponsored Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean literature is coming to an end. The award was first bestowed in 2014 but with the death of its founder Canadian philanthropist Bill Burt in 2017 has come a shift in priorities – reportedly to environmental matters, which is a pressing concern in these perilous times. The Caribbean leg of the award has been administered these five years by the Bocas Literary Festival in Trinidad and Tobago  in partnership with the Canadian non-profit CODE which runs similar programmes in Africa and among the indigenous community in Canada – all of which will need alternative funding if they are to continue. The purpose and effect of the award has been to generate and distribute new writing from typically marginalized communities with the youth population as a specific target.

This year’s short list from a field of 46 consists of:

Jomo’s Story by Nastassian Brandon (Jamaica)

The Unmarked Girl by Jeanelle Frontin (Trinidad and Tobago)

The Accidental Prize by Tamika Gibson (Trinidad and Tobago)

The Mermaid Pools by Rehannah Azeeyah Khan (Trinidad and Tobago)

Daylight Come by Diana McCaulay (Jamaica)

Rise Of The Clearrock by Celia Sankar/ S.P. Claret (Trinidad and Tobago)

McCaulay and Gibson are repeat Burt finalists – Gibson placed first in 2016 for Dreams Beyond the Shore, subsequently published by Jamaica’s Blue Banyan Books, and McCaulay’s Gone to Drift was second placed in 2015 and subsequently published by Papillote Press of Dominica and the UK. The list of past Burt finalists can be found here.

From a 2019 Burt/Bocas email: ‘Action, adventure, fantasy, myth, and forbidden love are some of the themes that feature in the shortlist. The judges were effusive in their praise for the quality of the writing, the credibility of the characters and the effectiveness of the plots in these six titles. Their comments on the entries range from “haunting” and “dark” to “enjoyable, fun, educational” and “ground breaking”.’

The winner and up to two finalists will be announced during the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, May 1st to 5th in Trinidad, with $10,000 CDN going to the winning book and $2,000 CDN each to two finalists. A distinctive feature of the Burt award which accepts both published and unpublished manuscripts is that it invites regional publishers to bid for the opportunity to publish one of the winning titles, and purchases and distributes copies of the finished product – the former helping to build the publishing infrastructure in the region, the latter ensuring that the books get in to the hands of their target readership.

Personal note: I am sorry to see this competition die (potentially, if it doesn’t find new funding – though Bocas has done a good job of sourcing alternative funding for, for instance, the Hollick Arvon prize which is now the the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize). I think Burt has been good in terms of generating fresh content and creating renewed enthusiasm among secondary schoolers especially for Caribbean writing to which they feel they can relate. That’s certainly been my experience with Musical Youth, my second placed Burt title, published by Caribbean Reads Publishing, in its inaugural year, 2014, and now on schools reading lists in two Caribbean islands (but more than that the word of mouth enthusiasm from teenage readers). I am happy to have had the opportunity to serve as a Burt Award workshop leader here in Antigua, as a judge of the Caribbean leg of the award, as a mentor of the Africa leg, and as a Burt title editor; I have also enthusiastically promoted the programme – whether reviewing books like All over Again, Gone to Drift, Home Home, and Inner City Girl, which are unsurprisingly of high quality, or encouraging people to enter the competition. I only wish more of us, small islanders, had made it to the winners’ circle – to date (not including 2019) winning books have hailed from Trinidad and Tobago (5), Jamaica (3), Guyana (2), Bermuda (2), Barbados (1),  Puerto Rico (1), and Antigua and Barbuda (1). I want to thank Mr. Bill Burt for this initiative; he did a good thing.

I hope that some other philanthropist or philanthropists sees that arts funding is also a priority – especially in such perilous times.

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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On becoming an author of children’s books (but not a children’s books author)

Below is an excerpt from my guest post at Women Writers, Women Books.

Ironically enough, when my first book

The Boy from Willow Bend (a story about a boy though not written as a children’s book) dropped, I got hung with the children’s author label (even after my second book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight

dropped).  It felt confining to my publishing brand and my creative spirit. Publishing loves its categories and I wrote everything, as my writing and publishing record since continues to illustrate. And yet I was excited to receive recently an invitation to participate in a children’s book panel at a major American book fair. The publishing gods have a sense of humor because here I am embracing a label I worked for years to shake.

Part of the reason I wrote my first children’s story

was so that I could have a story of my own to read when I attended events (‘children’s author’ Joanne C. Hillhouse had no age appropriate material) – it was a branding (or rather lack-of-branding) issue. Reading an early draft of that first children’s story to children (once during a school visit, once at the children’s reading club with which I volunteered) and editing it based on their reaction actually helped me get it to a pretty publishable place (children at that impulse st/age don’t know to be polite, they just react). So that when I saw a publisher call for material for new children’s books I had something to submit.

To read the whole thing, go here.

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Register Now for the JWP Creative Writing Workshop Series

JWP Creative Writing Workshop Series – Back to BasicsOctober 2018

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Surveys for Caribbean Writers

I just spent some time filling out these two surveys targeted at Caribbean writers and I think you should too – because this kind of research if harnessed correctly can bring about the kind of growth we want to see in the industry.

This one is by Anansesem and is targeted at writers of children’s fiction and, I think, applies to writers of teen/young adult fiction as well.

This one is by the Caribbean Literary Heritage project and is targeted at all Caribbean writers, polling how much care and interest they put in to what happens to their papers.

Check them out.

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

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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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Craft Matters

I’ve held two workshop series (four weeks each) since the start of the year and I’m now planning the third (to begin later this month).

April 2018

I recently wrote this reflection on the last series.

The purpose is to jump start writing, enhance understanding of craft, get projects started, move projects forward, expand awareness of creative writing, yours and others, and to just write. I’ve tried to keep the price reasonable with several payment options, focused themes so that it doesn’t feel rushed and scattered, and avenues to participation for people resident in Antigua and Barbuda and elsewhere.

I’m hoping to keep this going all year long as long as there is even one person who’s interested. It gives me the opportunity to engage with the written word and, hopefully, also give writers or writers in the making or anyone who’s just looking for a creative outlet, even students looking to improve their understanding of literature or ability to express themselves, the opportunity to improve confidence and competence with the written word. The focus is on the creative (fiction, specifically) and on craft, each series focusing on a particular aspect (setting 1, plot 1 in the first two series; the third, by request, likely focusing on character – which is my favourite in to a story as a writer; so I look forward to it). A workshop on character should prove useful for those trying to write compelling characters or understand how characterization works. My approach is a mix of presentation, interaction, creation of your own, and examination of the works of others.

As I write this, I’m reminded of a running debate on whether craft matters – this or that critic might question its quality but if people like it, isn’t that what really matters? For my part, I won’t deny that reader engagement matters but I prefer to engage the reader with good writing (it’s why I’ve taken writing courses and workshops over the years). But isn’t ‘good writing’ subjective? What is ‘good writing’ meant to do if not engage? Job done.

I’m not the final word on any of this, but as creatives we want to grow and move, right? In my opinion – while like or dislike for something is subjective (with a few exceptions because some things are just objectively bad and some things are good whether or not they’re personally to your or my taste as a reader, listener, or viewer), there are deliberate choices you can make as a writer, if you understand what you’re doing, that can elevate the quality of the work. Can an untrained writer write a great book out of the gate? Of course. Can a writer with all the letters behind his/her name signaling accomplishment write a trash book? I think so. But as with anything, with writing, with art, while there is that je ne sais quoi, there are what Stephen King refers to (in his book On Writing) as the “toolbox” of skills from which a competent writer can draw. I don’t necessarily think you have to have those letters behind your name to have it – lots of independent study, reading, and practice practice practice can help a determined writer hone his/her skills. I think of creating as talent + inspiration + life (both observing and participating in it) + sitting and putting in the work + craft, and I think craft matters. It matters to me as a reader; sloppy writing will turn me off and may make me quit a book – even though my instinct is to fight through, finish what I start.

When the judge’s report for this year’s Wadadli Pen indicated that one story had edged out another “because of the quality of writing”, having read both stories, I understood the point.

I’ve had people tell me – more than once as it happens – that they felt like throwing my book – more than one of my books (!) – across a room, but, so far, it was because they were so caught up in this or that plot or character point; not, knock on wood (though I have had my share of bad, mixed, and lukewarm reviews), because they thought the writing was trash.

I remember when I knew I wanted to be a writer having a very clear thought at one  point that I wanted to write the kind of books that could be studied in a school, college, or university but that people would choose to read even if it was not on their assigned reading list in an institution. I mean I’d be lucky to have either right? #greedy Clearly I wanted my books to not only be subjectively popular but objectively (in as much as such things can be assessed objectively) good. I write because it is my passion and because the characters draw me in and because it is how I process life (how I breathe). But I also have a drive to keep improving; it’s the reason I read (well, I also read because I love how a good book can pull you in and take you away) and study other writers, and take workshops when I can. It’s the reason why I try to teach what I know.

Contact me to participate in this workshop if you, too, believe craft matters.

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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