Tag Archives: writing

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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REMINDER

Promo Flyer corrected

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January 3, 2018 · 3:55 pm

WADADLI PEN Challenge – Who won what in 2017?

As always, we couldn’t do this without support. In 2017, this has meant partners Barbara Arrindell, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Margaret Irish, Devra Thomas, Floree Whyte – along with intern Michaela Harris and judges Glen Toussaint and Sharifa George – volunteering, working together, and playing our roles. We, especially, couldn’t do it without our patrons; without them, we would have no rewards to offer our deserving writers. So, we pause to say thank you. Thank you for coming through (mostly). Thank you for making it possible for us to encourage and reward the cream of Wadadli Pen Challenge’s 2017 crop as decided by our judging team. Thank you for your tangible contribution to the arts and youth development in our twin island state, Antigua and Barbuda. To anyone reading this, we encourage you to support the businesses (also the individuals and organizations) that support the arts.

Here’s how the prizes break down – in addition to certificates for each winner from Wadadli Pen, sponsored by the Best of Books:

School with the Most Submissions Island Academy International School (22 out of 93 eligible submissions)

  • Writing workshop with facilitator fee and miscellaneous expenses to be covered by a patron who wishes to remain anonymous
  • EC$500 gift certificate toward the purchase of books, sponsored by the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank
  • CAPE and CSEC books across several subject areas, contributed by Harper Collins logo
12 and younger

12 and Younger category winners (from left Ashley, Zion, Shadiael, and Emma) at the May 13th award ceremony. Photo by Linisa George/Art. Culture. Antigua

12 and Younger

Finalists in the 12 and Younger category receive gifts sponsored by US-based Antiguan and Barbudan Juneth Webson and books contributed by Harper Collins logoplus:

Honourable MentionAshley Francis (11, student at St. Andrew’s School; author of ‘Our Caribbean’)

3rdShadiael Simmons (11, student at Baptist Academy; author of ‘Brave Eleven-year-old saved Two Months Baby’)

  • EC$75 contributed byArt_Culture_Antigua-logo
  • With Grace, a book by Joanne C. Hillhouse, contributed by publisher Little Bell Caribbean

2ndEmma Belizaire (11, student at St. Andrew’s school; author of ‘Cricket is My Life’)

1stZion Ebony Williams (11, student at Baptist Academy; author of ‘Those who don’t hear, will feel’)

  • EC$125 contributed byArt_Culture_Antigua-logo
  • With Grace, a book by Joanne C. Hillhouse, contributed by publisher Little Bell Caribbean
  • EC$50 gift certificate for books, contributed by the Cushion Club
13 to 17

13 to 17 category winners (from left Francis, Devon, and Andrecia) at the May 13th award ceremony. Photo by Linisa George/Art. Culture. Antigua

13 to 17

3rd (tie) – Andrecia Lewis (17, student at Antigua State College; author of ‘Strange’)

3rd (tie) – Francis Yankey (16, student at Antigua Grammar School; author of ‘And She sang Fire’)

2ndAva C. Ralph (16, student at Antigua Girls’ High School; author of ‘Non Fiction?’)

1stDevon Wuilliez (16, student at Island Academy International School; author of ‘The Great Big Dumz’)

18 to 35

18 to 35 winners (from left Lucia, Kaeiron, and Fayola) with the Best of Books sponsored Alstyne Allen Memorial Plaque at the May 13th awards ceremony. Photo by Linisa George/Art. Culture. Antigua

18 to 35

3rdFayola Jardine (author of ‘Shakiyah and the Mango Hater’)

  • EC$100 contributed by Caribbean Reads Publishing
  • Books on writing – 3 A M Epiphany by Brian Kitely and This Year You write Your Novel by Walter Mosely, and Just Write Writers’ retreat scholarship, contributed by Brenda Lee Browne
  • Books contributed by Harper Collins logo

2ndLucia Murray (student, St. Anthony’s Secondary School; author of ‘Mr. Duppy’)

1stKaeiron Saunders (teacher, St. Anthony’s Secondary School; author of ‘Not Another Island Story; as told by Auntie Gah’)

  • EC$300 contributed by Juneth Webson
  • Gift basket/bag of products contributed by Raw Island
  • Book on writing – Unleash the Poem by Wendy Nyemaster, contributed by Brenda Lee Browne
  • Books contributed by Harper Collins logo
Winner K S

At the awards: Kaeiron Saunders, overall winner, with the Best of Books sponsored Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque which bears the names of all the winners since Wadadli Pen started in 2004. Photo by Linisa George/Art. Culture. Antigua

Top Three Overall

3rd – Zion Ebony Williams Zion

2nd – Devon Wuilliez Devon W for posting

Winner! Winner! Winner! – Kaeiron Saunders Saunders cropped

Featured image and some of the included images by Linisa George/Art_Culture_Antigua-logo Thanks to them. Thanks as well to the media who helped us get the word out including Antigua Nice, where Wadadli Pen has a year-round presence as their contribution to our project; and media who shared our notices and releases, or who hosted us for interviews (primarily ABS and Observer media). Thanks all; any oversights are not intentional.

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Shout out to St. Andrew’s (almost the school with the most submissions)

We want to shout out St. Andrew’s. No, St. Andrew’s won’t be winning the prize for the school with the most submissions. That prize will go to Island Academy which put in a hell of a strong numerical showing in this year’s Wadadli Pen Challenge, with one of its students making the long list.  Together, they account for roughly one-third of this year’s entries.

To be clear, we prefer when young people submit of their own volition, because they love to write, because they have something to say, because they want to challenge themselves, not because they’re pressed to do so by a teacher. But we do reach out to teachers because they have access that we don’t have to young people, and can help us not only spread the word but identify and encourage young writers in their orbit of influence to write. And so, we appreciate the teachers who help us access and motivate these young people. We appreciate even more the teachers who go the extra mile and assist young people with getting their submissions in – because maybe not everyone has a computer, or maybe some don’t understand the submission requirements, or maybe, more troubling still, that one young person lacks the confidence to even try.

Given that the Challenge’s age range is 35 years and younger, not all entrants are attached to educational institutions. But, for those who are, this year, we had submissions from students at Antigua Girls High, Antigua Grammar, Baptist Academy, Christ the King High, Five Islands Primary, Glanvilles Secondary, Island Academy, Ottos Comprehensive, St. Andrew’s, St. Anthony’s Secondary, St. Nicholas, Sunnyside, and Vibrant Faith Ministries schools; and Antigua State College and the University of the West Indies. Clearly, we need to figure out ways to attract more public school participation – one way we try to do so is with the prize for the school with the most submissions, a prize which has been won by public schools like Buckley’s Primary and T N Kirnon in the past, but which hasn’t seemed to translate to continuity on the part of those schools nor served to inspire other public schools at the levels of consistency we would like.

The work continues.

But, in the meantime, we big up those where teacher influence clearly helped boost the numbers – notably St. Andrew’s and Island Academy. Island Academy will, of course, be getting its props and prizes at the May 13th awards, 5:30 p.m., during the Wadadli Stories Book Fair.17854813_10154497215021188_8497364273538347535_oBut we want to give some you-go-you (!) to St. Andrew’s in this platform for collecting and submitting more than 10 entries on behalf of its students. Yes, and yet, that the entries were collected, scanned, and submitted, put them at risk of elimination since entries were to be typed and submitted in Word so that they could be easily formatted for blind submission to judges (the judges can’t know who wrote what story). We never want to eliminate an entry if we can help it. Still, and this is why we emphasize submitting per guidelines, we won’t always have the time and resources to assist entries that don’t follow said guidelines (and we shouldn’t, because there’s a lesson to be learned there). That said, we should be tougher on this point than we are. But as a development programme, we have, in the past, rather than  discard incomplete or incorrectly formatted submissions, given the submitters an opportunity to correct and re-submit. We can’t underscore enough that this is not something folks should count on; rather read the guidelines and submit accordingly, at risk of elimination. As is, despite us bending over backwards, something like five 2017 entries had to be cut for a range of reasons including late submissions, notwithstanding a built in grace period.

So, thanks to the staff at the Best of Books for making the effort to type the St. Andrew’s bulk submission which enabled us to give these young writers a chance, and thanks to the St. Andrew’s staff for making the effort to get the entries in in the first place – efforts which paid off with two students from St. Andrew’s ending up on the long list.

We want to encourage more teachers to encourage their children to get involved and to assist them with submitting per guidelines. Wadadli Pen’s Challenge is more than a competition, it is an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to develop your writing skills, an opportunity to express yourself, and, yes, an opportunity to shine. At Wadadli Pen, we remain committed to nurturing and showcasing the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, but we don’t do this alone.

So, shout out to St. Andrew’s.

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Writing is Your Business Returns

A moment during cycle one level oneThis one is for folks based in Antigua. It’s an adult education class I first offered in 2016 for working people seeking to improve their facility with written communication in the workplace. This isn’t about learning to write like a pro, but learning to write with more confidence and communicate effectively.

This course was offered under the banner of Barbara Arrindell & Associates and will be again.

flyer

I try to create an environment where participants don’t feel intimidated by the process of writing. I operate from the premise that writing can be made accessible to everyone. This is especially so for people willing to invest in themselves and putting in the work. The 2016 course reviews suggest I succeeded – by which I mean the participants succeeded in meeting their goals.

“I think I have improved. I now look at my weak areas when writing.”

“I accomplished my goal of learning proper grammar usage and some proper sentence construction.”

“The overall training was good and I’ve learned how to structure my ideas.”

“Overall it was a productive course” … “It was worth the sacrifice.”

“I  am more aware of common mistakes.”

Convinced, yet?

Think about it.

Once you’ve made up your mind, see the flyer above for registration details.

-posted by Joanne C. Hillhouse, who, when she’s not being the Wadadli Pen coordinator and blog manager, or writing books, offers several writing and editing services in Antigua and Barbuda and beyond, including creative writing courses and non-creative writing courses like this one.

 

 

 

 

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Four Caribbeans out of 21: the Commonwealth Short Story Long List

‘Twenty-one outstanding stories have been selected by an international judging panel out of almost 6000 entries from 49 Commonwealth countries. This was a record number of submissions, an increase of almost 50% from 2016. Now in its sixth year the Prize is for the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English.

Chair of the judges, novelist Kamila Shamsie, said of this year’s shortlist:

“The extraordinary ability of the short story to plunge you into places, perspectives and emotions and inhabit them fully in the space of only a few pages is on dazzling display in this shortlist. The judges weren’t looking for particular themes or styles, but rather for stories that live and breathe. That they do so with such an impressive range of subject matter and tone has been a particular pleasure of re-reading the shortlisted stories. The geographic spread of the entries is, of course, in good part responsible for this range – all credit to Commonwealth Writers for structuring this prize so that its shortlists never seem parochial. ”

The Prize is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth. The 2017 judges are Zukiswa Wanner (Africa), Mahesh Rao (Asia), Jacqueline Baker (Canada and Europe), Jacob Ross (Caribbean) and Vilsoni Hereniko (Pacific).’

There are four Caribbean writers on the long list. They are Roland Watson-Grant (Jamaica), Jon Lewis-Katz (U.S. based, Trinidad origins), Caroline Mackenzie (Trinidad), and Ingrid Persaud (Barbados based, of Trinidad).

Congrats to them.

Read about all the finalists and sample their entries, here.

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Antiguan and Barbudan Plays/Screenplays

N.B. This is specific to items written for the stage or screen which have been published in book form (not including screen/plays excerpted in journals which will be posted to the journals list). It’s short but I decided to share it anyway. The list of produced plays and films is longer (though still comparatively short). Use the search feature to find it. This list is also cross-posted to the main list of Antiguan and Barbudan writing which I started building in 2005 for the Independence Literary Arts exhibition at the National Museum. Use the search feature to find that. For other genre specific listings , search for fiction, non fiction, poets, children’s literature, songwriters, or whatever else. This list is all books all the time, but you can also search this site for publications by Antiguans and Barbudans in journals, contest wins, and performances. Chances are it’s somewhere here on the site. Some listed books are traditionally published (i.e. the rights acquired by trade publishers for sale with writers receiving an advance and royalties per contract), published with a small or independent press (still traditional but on a different scale), published via a hybrid press (a mix of traditional publishing and self-publishing), or self-published (including vanity press or any mechanism through which the author pays to publish). If you’re looking for Wadadli Pen winners, use the drop down menu on the right or search Wadadli Pen by year, name, story or other feature. Do your own research re the quality of any books posted here (we even have some reviews posted to the site) and if you share, credit. Hope you find what you’re looking for.

PLAYS/SCREENPLAYS

Name: Zahra Airall

Book:

Over the Hill and Through the Wood in She SexShe SEX – Prose and Poetry: SEX and the Caribbean Woman. Bamboo Talk Press. Trinidad. 2013.

About the Book:

Sex, Prose and Poetry, SEX and the Caribbean Woman has been described as “an important gathering of women’s voices” (Tiphanie Yanique, author of How to Survive a Leper Colony). Airall’s story, “Over the Hill and Through the Wood” is about an older woman finding sexual gratification for the first time.

About the Author:

Zahra is an educator, photographer, spoken word artist, poet, and stage and TV writer, director, and producer. She is a part of the following teams: Women of Antigua (which brought The Vagina Monologues and When a Woman Moans to the Antiguan stage), August Rush (producer of the Expressions Poetry series), and the team that brought the first TEDx event to Antigua. She’s also put on several well-received productions under her Sugar Apple Theatre and Zee’s Youth Theatre banner, in Antigua and abroad, and has racked up several awards as writer-director in local and regional secondary schools theatre competitions. She is, also, a teacher, writer, and photographer.

Wadadli Pen connection: Zahra was part of a small grouping of Antiguans who organized a week of Black History Month activities culminating with the Wadadli Pen Challenge awards. This was the return of the Wadadli Pen Challenge after a three year break and the first year of the Wadadli Pen visual arts challenge. The Wadadli Pen/BHM week of activities included a national Museum exhibition of visual art by Antiguans and Barbudans including Zahra/byZIA Photography, who, also directed ‘Word Up! 2010’ (sequel to ‘Word Up! 2006’, a joint Museum-Wadadli Pen fundraiser and literary arts showcase) which was a mix of fashion, poetry, calypso, theatre, with Zee’s Youth Theatre headlining, and the Challenge awards. 2010.

***

Name: Edson Buntin

Book:

Anu Bantu: Treasure Island and Haunted Park. Antigua Printing and Publishing. Antigua. 2007.

About the Book:

“The format of this book is that of both a novel and a play rolled into one”–p.324.

About the Author:

Edson Buntin is a dramatist and an instructor in French at the Antigua State College. His contributions to theatre are both onstage and off, as an actor including serving as a cast member in the 1979 production of Dorbrene O’Marde’s Tangled Web and as founder of the Scaramouche Theatre and overseeing several productions at the College, such as Conjugal Bliss. Plays written by Buntin include Con Man Sun Sun, Mr. Valentine, and Wedlock. He has also acted in local films such as Once in an Island.

***

Name: David Edgecombe

Book:

Book-Front-Cover-Lady-of-Parham-300dpi-184x300Lady of Parham. Caribbean Reads Publishing (second edition). St. Kitts. 2014.

About the Book:

Lady of Parham, set in Antigua, introduces the audience to five revelers who have come together to form a Carnival troupe but settle for dramatizing the tale of the Parham ghost. In the telling of the ghost legend, Justin, Tulip, Sauna, Kyle, and Mabel must confront the demons that threaten to derail their lives. Lady of Parham is based on a local Antiguan legend. The play has been staged, including an eight night run at the Little Theatre, University of the Virgin Islands.

About the Author:

Edgecombe’s inclusion on this list is due to the Antigua-specific nature of this play. He hails from neighbouring Montserrat where he was the founder of touring company, the Montserrat Theatre Group. He has written over a dozen plays which have been staged throughout the Caribbean, in Canada, and in Nigeria. He joined the faculty of the University of the Virgin Islands in 1990 to teach English and was artist-in-residence in 1991. He also taught Journalism, Speech Communication, and Theater before becoming Director of the Reichhold Center for the Arts. He went on to become a full-time professor in the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, University of the Virgin Islands. He has published several of his plays with Caribbean Reads Publishing; but, notably, Lady of Parham was shortlisted for the Guyana Prize for Literature Caribbean Award.

*****

Name: Gus Edwards

Books: gusThe Offering & Other Plays by Gus Edwards.

Black Heroes in Monologues (ed.). Heinemann. US. 2006.

50 African American Audition Monologues (ed.). Heinemann. US. 2002.

More Monologues on Black Life (ed.). Heinemann. US. 2000.

Monologues on Black Life (ed.). Heinemann. US. 1997.

Classic Plays from the Negro Ensemble Company (w/co-editor Paul Carter Harrison). University of Pittsburgh Press. US. 1995.

The Offering. Dramatists Play Service Inc. US. 1978.

Old Phantoms. Dramatists Play Service Inc. US. 1969.

About the Books:

Black Heroes in Monologues – What is a hero? How is one defined? When Gus Edwards discovered that the majority of the young actors, playwrights, and teachers he encountered didn’t know who Nat Turner was—nor many other key men and women in black history—he summoned the power of theatre to correct the situation. Black Heroes in Monologues brings these and other influential African Americans to life once again. As he did with Monologues on Black Life, Edwards offers black actors and actresses a host of new, original audition and performance pieces. Black Heroes in Monologues features twenty-seven monologues in the voices of heroes from every walk of African American life. From Civil Rights-era leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X to freedom fighters Harriet Tubman and Joseph Cinque; from Hall of Fame sports figures Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis to influential artists Paul Robeson, Mahalia Jackson, Hattie McDaniel, and Oscar Micheaux. Heroes come from all walks of life. Some we recognize easily; others are unknown or forgotten. With Black Heroes in Monologues, we can not only return them to our consciousness, but bring them to life for people of every color to cherish and enjoy.

50 African American Audition Monologues – Finding authentic African American material has never been easy for actors. Gus Edwards continues to remedy that situation with this third collection of powerful, original monologues for African American men and women. The pieces offer a refreshing alternative to recycled standards. And they showcase the language and frame of reference that are immediately recognizable, both emotionally and culturally, to the people who will perform or view them. Edwards has arranged the monologues by performance length, a key component in auditioning. Need a 30-second or a 3-minute piece? No problem. Just turn to these pages to find honest, vibrant material.

More Monologues on Black Life – Gus Edwards returns with a second collection of probing and practical monologues on Black life. Whether you are an African American seeking audition and performance material written in contemporary language or an educator trying to offer students of color something more than tired, hand-me-down monologues, this collection presents fresh material written in a voice that reflects the modern African American experience. The collection offers the complete text of Gus Edwards’ remarkable Lifetimes on the Streets, in a volume with another collection of monologues entitled Reaching for the Dream. Together, these two sets of monologues are a vital resource for actors and actresses looking for honest, vibrant material. The characters in Lifetimes on the Streets range from a woman on her way to her hairdresser who enters into a strange relationship with a painter who invites her to have a cup of tea with him, to the Common Man, an old man carrying a bag who warns that Harlem is entering a new ice age, to a businessman who, on the death of a homosexual friend, wanders into a porn movie and is forced to confront his own discomfort and lack of confidence. The rest of this volume is a collection of monologues for men and women, ranging in age from 15 to 50. We meet Kiana, 15, who wonders why boys are such jerks, Jaims, 16, who wants to know why it’s so hard to talk to girls, Harold, 30, who has four wives and is about to cop an insanity plea, Lisata, in her 20s, who encounters a man with strange eyes on the subway, and a host of other people making their way as best they can in this last part of the 20th century.

Monologues on Black Life – In acting classes all over the country, African American students are routinely given monologues either from old Black plays like A Raisin in the Sun or contemporary Anglo plays, prompting them to ask, “Where are the new works aimed at us?” Students need material that is fresh and authentic, material that speaks in their language and to their concerns.

Classic Plays from the Negro Ensemble Company – This anthology celebrates more than twenty-five years of the Negro  Ensemble Company’s significant contribution to American theater.  Collected here are ten plays most representative of the eclectic nature of the Negro Ensemble Company repertoire. The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) was formed in New York City in 1967 with support from the Ford Foundation to aid in the establishment of an independent African-American theater institution.  Under the artistic directorship of Douglas Turner Ward, the NEC offered a nurturing environment to black playwrights and actors who could work autonomously, guaranteeing authenticity of voice, full freedom of expression, and exploration of thematic views specific to the African-American experience. Since its inception, the NEC has introduced audiences to more than 150 theatrical works.  Classic Plays from the Negro Ensemble Company allows scholars to review a diversity of styles which share common philosophical, mythic, and social ideals that can be traced to an African worldview.  A foreword by Douglas Turner Ward and an afterword by Paul Carter Harrison and Gus Edwards assess the literary and/or stylistic significance of the plays and place each work in its historical or chronological context.

The Offering – The scene is a shabby basement apartment on New York’s West Side, where Bob Tyrone, an aging black, lives with his young wife, Princess. Now on welfare, Tyrone spends most of his time dozing, or glass in hand, watching television. Unexpected visitors arrive in the form of Martin, an obviously prosperous young black man, and Ginny, his beautiful white girlfriend. Martin offers Tyrone a large sum of money, but Tyrone declines and invites his visitors to stay the night. In a series of highly atmospheric scenes, it develops that Martin, a hired killer, had known Tyrone when he too was a power in illegal activity, and he still regards him with awe. At first the action seems to be concerned with Martin’s desire to help his former mentor. But gradually, as the sense of menace deepens, we are aware that a struggle for sexual dominance has now become the focus of their relationship – as Tyrone seduces Ginny, and Martin, suddenly powerless, yields to the psychological battle of wits to which his now reinvigorated master has subjected him. Successfully produced by New York’s renowned Negro Ensemble Company, this arresting first play blends menace and humor, with unique stylistic originality, as it details the confrontation between a young man, his aging mentor and the women with whom they share their lives.

About the Author: Gus Edwards was born 1939 in Antigua and raised in St. Thomas. He moved to New York in 1959. His plays have been showcased by the Negro Ensemble of NY among other companies across the US. Initially, a protégé of Stella Adler, he worked as an actor in films and on stage. But limited by his accent, he began writing his own material. These included The Offering (1977), Black Body Blues (1978), Old Phantoms (1979), These Fallen Angels (1980), Weep Not for Me (1981), Tenement (1983), Manhattan Made Me (1983), Ramona (1986), and Louie and Ophelia (1986). Most of his plays are reportedly set in “the slums and ghettoes of New York…his characters often exist outside of the boundaries of what is thought to be appropriate behavior in society.” (Notable Caribbeans and Caribbean Americans: a Biographical Dictionary, p. 157). His works for television include Aftermath (1979) and a TV adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel Go Tell It on the Mountain. He also wrote narration on the Negro Ensemble Company for PBS. Though self-taught, the critically acclaimed playwright has taught theatrical writing at several US colleges and became associate professor of theatre at Arizona State University, directing  where the multi-ethnic theatre and teaching in the film studies programme. In 2000, he was appointed artistic director to the Scottsdale Ensemble Theatre in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Gus Edwards is one of the first Caribbean writers  to contribute to American theatre.” (Notable Caribbean and Caribbean Americans: a Biographical Dictionary, p. 158)

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Name: Fransene Massiah-Headley

Books:

Pepperpot…A Caribbean Woman’s Story…Poems for the Stage. Dominica. 2008.

About the Books:

Pepperpot is a Look at the Antigua culture. It documents a  Caribbean woman’s life story while revealing some of Antigua’s rich history employing the Antiguan Nation Language to tell the story of the characters.

About the Author:

Fransene Massiah—Headley is an Antiguan educator, writer and dramatist. Writer and Dramatist.

****

Name: Ian McDonald

Books (select):

The Tramping Man (one-act play) in A Time and A Season (a collection of eight Caribbean plays). UWI’s School of Continuing Studies. 1976.

About the Books:

Tramping Man was performed in Guyana in 1969, broadcast by GBS in 1972, and published in A Time and A Season ed. Errol Hill, 1976. It is about a Dionysian carnivalesque figure, a spirit of unquenchable freedom who is seen by the state to challenge its power. The play has been frequently staged.

About the Author:

McDonald is the author of several books of fiction and poetry, including Caribbean Classic The Hummingbird Tree – which has been made in to a BBC production. He has described himself as “Antiguan by ancestry, Trinidadian by birth, Guyanese by adoption, and West Indian by conviction.” Ian McDonald’s Antigua connection is through his father (who is of Antiguan and Kittitian extraction, while his mother is Trinidadian). He himself was born in Trinidad in 1933 and went to Guyana in 1955. He has lived there ever since. From a white West Indian family, he worked in the sugar industry, pre-and-post retirement.  He wrote a weekly newspaper column and worked to revive the seminal literary journal Kyk-over-Al. His writing began in the 1950s with publications in BIM and New World. He has considerably more publications than mentioned here, including appearances in The Caribbean Writer, Poui, and the Caribbean Review of Books. He has received an honourary PhD from the University of the West Indies. Adept at sports – specifically tennis – he was Guyana’s 1957 Sportsman of the Year. His backstory includes a five times great-grandfather Edward Dacres Baynes, 1790 to 1863, who served as a soldier in Jamaica just after emancipation and after that a colonial civil servant in the Leeward Islands including the post of President of the Council of Montserrat, who eventually settled in Antigua with his wife and fifteen children. Baynes published a poetry collection entitled Child Harold in the Shades. His family line also includes a great-uncle Donald McDonald, an Antiguan trader, businessman and Assembly member who also wrote verse and published a volume in London in 1917. His grandmother, Hilda McDonald was the first female member of the Antiguan House of Assembly and author of a small booklet of verse, Sunflakes and Stardust.

***

Name: Motion

Books: 

Aneemah’s Spot (pg. 181 – pg. 207) in Give Voice: Ten Twenty Minute Plays from the Obsidian Theatre Company Playwright’s Unit (edited by Rita Shelton Deverell). Playwright’s Canada Press. 2011.

About the Books:

Aneemah’s Spot is a riveting dramatic duet set over one night in the Toronto mega-city. The real-time tale is a stealthy mix of dialogue, rhyme and spoken word that follows two childhood friends – Aneemah and Wan – left to deal with the fallout of a tragedy that comes too close to home. The murder of “G” brings them together to mourn and share histories as they are forced to let go of the past, and decide how they will navigate life from this moment on – apart or together. Written by Motion, the most recent award-winning production (up to this posting in 2018) was directed by Charles Officer, starred Amanda Parris and Shomari Downer, and featured an infectious sound-scape by DJ L’Oqenz.

About the Author: 

Motion is the daughter of an Antiguan mother. She is an award winning artist whose accolades began when she became the first female Hip Hop artist to be nominated for MuchMusic’s Best Rap Video. Her pioneering presence continued when her commentary on urban life and love in Toronto made her the winner of the CBC National Poetry Face-Off with her nationally acclaimed poem ‘Connect the T.Dots’. Motion is the first Hip Hop artist in Canada to publish a collection of writings, Motion in Poetry, with the companion album, the Audio Xperience. She’s performed at Russell Simmonds Def Poetry Jam on HBO and is a member of the Obsidian Theatre’s Playwrights Unit. She’s written for stage and screen.

Wadadli Pen connection: Motion and her publisher Women’s Press (Canada) contributed copies of her debut collection Motion in Poetry, a poetry book/CD combo, to the Wadadli Pen Challenge prize package. 2005.

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, Dancing Nude 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, 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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Mailbox – Advice to a Younger Writer

As I write this, the judges are reviewing the submissions to this year’s Wadadli Pen Challenge. This post is inspired by two emails from would-be Wadadli Pen contenders seeking to get better. Time does not allow me to give the desired response to every single message, but I did give some time to these two out of a desire to encourage their efforts to put in the work and improve.

The second emailer wanted to know how she could make her stories shorter. This is a struggle for her, she said, because she likes to include a lot of detail. This is a complaint I’ve heard before with the Wadadli Pen 600 word limit. I do wish that even those who think 600 words is too little would challenge themselves to try it anyway, and that’s the main reason I want to share my response (edited for length, flow, and to excise personal information).

Length does not necessarily translate to more detail. Often, there is a lot of unnecessary detail, or a bloated and meandering plot.

After writing, let it sit for a minute (an hour, a day, a week, a month…however long you need to come at it with fresh eyes). Then, ask yourself, what is the story? Re-read with an eye toward focusing on that – do we need all that backstory? do we need all those asides? what is the pivotal action? does this character really add anything to the telling?

With the short story, you don’t have a big canvas – you’re not telling the story of all the lives of all the people or even your central character’s entire life; just this one chapter in the much more expansive story of their life. You need to narrow (read: sharpen) your focus a bit more in the short story format but doing so is actually good practice for novel writing. Even with the bigger canvas that you have with a novel, you still have to tie off the loose plot threads, and hone in on the details that matter: details that help to reveal character, establish setting or context, enhance mood, or move the plot forward. Moving the plot forward should always be your goal.

In editing, you can see where your plot is stuck in quick sand and where there’s a limb you can use to dig yourself out.

If none of that makes any sense, remember this –

  • read a lot; read a lot of different types of stories, different lengths and genres and styles;
  • write a lot (some of it will not be fit for public consumption but that’s okay, you’re doing it to build your writing muscles);
  • allow yourself the freedom during the writing phase to write badly, to write unrestrictedly, to just write;
  • then learn to be honest with yourself so that you can be clear-eyed during the editing phase (get outside feedback if you can).

In time and with practice you will get better.

Write the stories only you can tell (the stories only you can imagine) – don’t be imitative. And don’t think (at this point) of writing a novel (etc.), think what are the stories I have dammed up in me that need to be told that only I can tell…tell those stories and zero in on why it is so essential that you tell them. That will help guide you.

reading and sharing by Kurne

Scene from my 2013 Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project.

 

Okay, I did that in under 600 words, so I still have time to add that if you want to be notified of future writing workshops, mine or, potentially, WadPen’s, say so in Comments with your email.

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, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, and forthcoming With Grace). 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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