Tag Archives: writing

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

winners2b

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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Writing Triumphs (Yay!)

Gerty Dambury writes in an article headlined ’10 Female Caribbean Authors You Should Know (And Add To Your American Lit Syllabus)’ and published at Lit Hub, “When I was studying English and American literature, I was struck by the fact that not one black woman—American, English or Caribbean—was included on any of the syllabi. It seemed as if such a category of writers did not exist. This is why I’ve listed below Caribbean women authors who, I think, deserve more attention. Some of them are contemporary, some older, but all are worthy of your time. I’m personally interested in the way these authors address issues of both racism and feminism.”

So, there I was scrolling through this list which kicked off with Una Marson (Jamaica), who I’ve written about here before as the first producer of Caribbean Voices, a programme instrumental in the development of the Caribbean literary canon. Through names I recognize – like Alecia McKenzie (Jamaica), Afua Cooper (Jamaica), Marion Bethel (the Bahamas), Marcia Douglas (Jamaica) and names I don’t – Elma Napier (Dominica by way of Scotland), Mahadai Das (Guyana), a list that rounds out with Myriam J. A Chancy (Haiti) and Velma Pollard (Jamaica) – other well-known Caribbean literary artists, when my name (and by extension Antigua and Barbuda) showed up. What?!

She wrote about my book Oh Gad! Oh Gad cover“With this book, Joanne Hillhouse tells a well-known story: how does it feel to return home when it is no longer truly home? Nikki, the main character, was born in Antigua but raised in the USA. When she comes back to Antigua for her mother’s funeral, she decides to remain on the island. Turmoil and chaos ensue. Joanne Hillhouse is a powerful writer, raising questions directly and with great energy.”

What?!

Humbled to be in such company. Give thanks. #gyalfromOttosAntigua

p.s. is it weird that I’m almost equally excited that today the nephew I wrote about in Boys DO Read …this kid–>boy reading … got an A on his writing assignment and got called to the front of the class to read his story; I don’t blame the teacher, I like reading his stories too.

p.p.s. if you’re reading this and resident in Antigua and Barbuda, remember to help your own little storytellers get their stories in to the Wadadli Pen 2018 Challenge on time.

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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Tips to Help You Concentrate While Writing — A Writer’s Path

“There are two kinds of writers: those who depend on background noise to concentrate, and those who will shave off your eyebrows while you’re sleeping if you so much as sneeze in their presence mid-creative burst.”

I was talking to another writer about this just the other day. She finds music distracting. I can’t concentrate without it (or without some kind of noise)… but it depends on the noise…the noise can’t be spiking or jumping all over the place; that’s distracting. The ringing phone, people trying to talk to me…that’s distracting. Music. Well, as the saying goes, when it hits you you feel no pain.

by Meg Dowell Are you an easily distracted writer? I could make this post very short and sweet and tell you to get off the internet and just write already, but that doesn’t always solve your problem. I’ve greatly improved my ability to concentrate over the past few months, which has made me […]

via Tips to Help You Concentrate While Writing — A Writer’s Path

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