UPDATE! as of May 15th 2017 – The Wadadli Stories Book Fair was a success (kids enjoying reading, teens and young adults enjoying dressing up as their favourite characters, adults discussing genres, spelling comps just for fun all in the heart of St. John’s City so that passers-by were wondering what’s going on, that looks like fun). As part of that, the 2017 Challenge Awards was most fun for us here at Wadadli Pen (and by fun we mean the pay-off of hard work and the opportunity to see young writers from Antigua and Barbuda step in to their spotlight and hopefully be emboldened to either keep writing or keep using their voice, maybe both). The stories are uploaded, so read and give the writers some feedback (be constructive though). For us, we still have some loose ends to tie off because more time did not translate in to everything falling in to place as smoothly as we would have hoped; but we’re nothing if not adaptable here at Wadadli Pen. We’re all volunteers so it might take a minute but we’ll close the door on 2017 shortly, take a breather, and then move on to not only planning the next cycle but the future of Wadadli Pen. We have a core team – Barbara Arrindell, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Margaret Irish, Devra Thomas, and Floree Whyte – committed to the project; and we were fortunate to have an intern in Michaela Harris who was as committed to the project as she could be while juggling exams and what not and who has offered to stay on to finish up whatever projects lagged when other duties called her away. She didn’t have to do that and we are thankful, and hope she can truly call this not only a successful volunteer activity but a professional development activity as well. As a reminder, Wadadli Pen always needs more support (time, pledges to not just the Challenge but developmental projects, etc.) Want to find out what you can do to support us? Reach out at email@example.com
Remember, the Wadadli Pen Challenge exists not just for a prize but to nurture and showcase the literary arts, to stoke your creativity- so, for the ways it can help illuminate your world and invigorate your spirit, keep writing, keep drawing, painting, dreaming…creating.
What are the Challenge rules?
You must be a resident in or national of Antigua and Barbuda – we’ve had a few off island finalists (e.g. nationals away at school) and that’s fine (as long as you’re a national and/or official resident of Antigua and Barbuda), as long as there’s someone on island to collect on your behalf; we don’t ship prizes off island.
You must be 35 or younger – We’ve had finalists as young as 8, as old as 35; and give prizes in the 12 and younger, 13 to 17, and 18 to 35 age categories.
600 words – maximum; if it goes over, edit.
Caribbean aesthetic – it’s essential that no matter where or in what ever reality your story is set, it feel like a Caribbean story – like something that sprung from your uniquely Caribbean-bred imagination. Do not mistake this for peppering your work with Caribbean clichés; be an original.
Any genre – go wild.
Original – break with the clichés.
Previously unpublished – even your blog.
It must be yours – do not steal someone else’s story or poem, and try to pass it off as your own. If this is discovered, your work will be disqualified.
This is not a rule but please edit your stories (don’t just write and submit; look it over, make sure it makes sense, make sure it flows, make sure it is the best version of itself that it can be).
When’s the Wadadli Pen Launch Date & Submission Deadline?
Wadadli Pen typically launches in January with a submission time of roughly one month. Follow the blog or ask (via email at firstname.lastname@example.org) to be added to the mailing list for future calls for submission.
To where do I submit?
How many pieces may I submit?
Typically up to three pieces. N.B. You don’t have to submit 3 pieces but you can.
Do I have to write something new?
If you write regularly or wrote something in class that you’d like to submit, as long as it’s written by you and hasn’t been published anywhere else, that’s fine. You don’t have to write something new – but you do have to write it, from scratch, your imagination, your words. You are encouraged to review and edit what you’ve written before submitting.
Can I co-write with someone else?
Of course, but be sure to give them joint credit; and do not plagiarize (do not try to pass someone else’s writing off as your own – that’s stealing – we do check and you will be disqualified).
Can my parents or teacher or other adult help me?
Sure. But we’re more interested in your voice, so use them the way writers use an editor – to review and provide guidance re improving what you’ve written, not to write or improve it for you.
Can I submit entries on behalf of my students?
We encourage this. We know that some students may not have the computer skills or access to submit (and we do wish we could continue to accept hand written pieces at a drop point or through the mail but it’s just not practical for us) so your help helping them get their entries in, helps. We are a very small team, however, so please ensure that entries meet the submission guidelines to avoid disqualification.
What do you mean when you say the entry has to have a Caribbean aesthetic?
It means that it should feel like a Caribbean story – not a nowhere, anywhere story. That’s not to say that the story has to be set in the Caribbean but it should clearly come from a Caribbean imagination…i.e. not be a soulless generic story or a story that feels North American or British as opposed to Caribbean…for instance, you can write fairy tales and fantasies and space odysseys which obviously wouldn’t be set specifically in the Caribbean (or a Caribbean reality as we know it) but when we read them shouldn’t feel like a Harry Potter knock off. At the same time, be original and authentic, and try to avoid weighing down your story with Caribbean clichés. Surprise us. Surprise yourself.
How should my entry be formatted?
Send in as a Word attachment. Font size should be 11 or 12 point – no particular font type, though it’s best to keep it simple (Calibri and Times New Roman are preferred). No embellishments or decorations on the actual entry; keep the copy clean. No identity markers on the actual story/poem. Judging is blind (i.e. the judges don’t know who the writer is when judging the entries). Title, contact information, About the entry and About the author on a separate introductory page. About the entry and About the author should be no more than 3 lines. If longlisted, you will be asked to submit a picture (ideally a head shot) of yourself.
What’s the submission subject line?
“YOURNAME WADADLI PEN2017” (e.g. JOANNE C. HILLHOUSE WADADLI PEN2017)
Our mailbox can be a crowded place and our hands are few. This is important in ensuring that your submission doesn’t get lost in the crowd.
Who holds the copyright to my story/poem?
You do. With your submission you give us permission to post and share your story but not for profit (where for profit opportunities come up, we will pass that information on to you). You can publish and profit from your story as you wish after the contest, though we do request that you mention if it was a Wadadli Pen finalist with a link back to our site (https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com).
What’s creative non-fiction? Does it have to be true?
We’ve expanded the categories of writing to include not just fiction as was the case when Wadadli Pen was started in 2004, nor just poetry which was later added, but also creative non-fiction. This is actually covered in Writing Tips below (see hint #2) but short answer, yes, it has to be true (hence, the non-fiction) but it should definitely be creative with its truth telling – i.e. employ a lot of the same literary devices poets and fiction writers use.
Can teachers enter?
Of course, as long as they are 35 years and younger. We’re not promising a Teachers’ Prize as offered for our 10 year anniversary season in 2014, but you are a model for your students and think how cool it would be if you could share your winning story with your class.
What are the prizes?
Prizes vary year to year, and are a mix of cash and gifts based on our contributions in any given year. Also, Wadadli Pen is designed to be a developmental programme and while the prizes act as incentive, it is not the main purpose of the project (rather encouraging young people to use their voice, helping young writers to develop their craft, and showcasing the best of the literary potential on the island). But we will have prizes. Search ‘who won’ in any given year for a look at past prizes and ‘patrons’ for a look at past patrons.
Do the schools get a prize?
We typically have a prize for the school with the most submissions as incentive to encourage schools to encourage their students to participate. This, as with all additional prize categories, is dependent on the level of patronage in any given year.
I want to support this, how can I help?
Wadadli Pen is dependent on the relationship with the community – not just businesses. Whether you wish to volunteer or pledge a prize, we welcome it. No prize is too small and, of course, no prize is too big. Contact us to pledge your support by emailing email@example.com (new email address, take note!)
Thanks to all the media – traditional and otherwise – who help us spread the word; with special thanks to Antigua Nice which for several years has given up some of its online real estate to Wadadli Pen. Thanks, finally, to everyone who’s had Wadadli Pen’s back through the years – that means you, too, participating writers – we wouldn’t be more than 13 years strong without you.
Wadadli Pen 2016 – Writing Tips
This section is only intended to give you some guidance, some guided encouragement; please understand that part of being a writer-submitting is doing your own research. That said, this section will be updated as we’re able, so keep coming back.
Tip #18 – Avoid clichés:
“Our ordinary conversations are dripping with comparisons: He’s crazy like a fox. The cat is as dead as a doornail. The team came on like gangbusters. That girl is a peach. When we make comparisons in words, we are creating figurative images. Figurative images are a bit like pieces of chipped rock. As they are used over and over, their rough edges become smoothed down and they lose their distinctive features. After a while, the power that figurative images had when they were fresh disappears. We call such worn out figurative images clichés. Avoid them at all costs, as through excessive use they have been sapped of their power to affect readers. Instead, we need to make fresh comparisons that will help our readers see (hear, taste, touch) whatever we are picturing. By being conscientious with our word choice, we can create dynamic, lasting images in the minds of readers.” – Barbara Baig, Writer’s Digest, January 2016
Tip #17 – Appeal to the senses:
“The best way to avoid ambiguity and to write with energy is to appeal to your reader’s senses. You can conjure images by using ‘concrete words’ or ‘sense words’ – words that refer to things that can be seen, smelled, heard, tasted, or touched.” – Stephen Wilbers, Writer’s Digest, January 2016
Tip #16 – Again, Revise:
“Revising is part of writing. Few writers are so expert that they can produce what they are after on the first try. Quite often you will discover, on examining the complete work, that there are serious flaws in the arrangements of the material…Remember, it is no sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery. This is a common occurrence in all writing, and among the best writers.” – William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White (from Elements of Style), in Writer’s Digest, 2016
Tip #15 – Character matters:
“A character in a particular situation will react in a variety of ways based on his personality and the relationship he may have to other characters and the setting. If the entire plot is worked out in advance and the author simply peoples it with characters to carry out the action, the characters will seem stiff and unreal.” – Regina Brooks in Writers Digest, January 2016
Tip #14 – The magic’s in the details:
“Belief and reader absorption come in the details: an overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighbourhood can stand for everything. Or a broken billboard. Or weeds growing in the cracks of a library’s steps. … The details are always the starting place in speculative or fantasy fiction. They must be clear and textured.” – Stephen King, Writer’s Digest, January 2016
Tip #13 – Let your characters guide you:
That is all: “Let your characters guide you” – Elizabeth Sims, Writer’s Digest, January 2016
Tip #12 – Edit:
“Be bold with your red pen and cut everything that is not integral to the story. A lengthy scene that serves mostly to establish setting? Halve it or remove it and challenge yourself to let us know more about setting in other ways. Exposition that helps clarify the exciting beginning, or sets us up for the thrilling finale? Throw it out and find a way to let action deliver the information the reader needs.” – Elizabeth Sims in Writer’s Digest, January 2016
Tip #11 – Ask yourself, what if:
“For each question, I imagined answers until the world of the story was filled with characters.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse (me), blogging on writing my first children’s picture book, Fish outta Water
Tip #10 – Remember, dialogue is not just idle chatter:
‘As you’re writing, rather than asking yourself, “what does this character need to say?”, ask “what does this character need to accomplish?”
A woman wants to confront her husband about his overspending; he wants to watch the game.
The cops are questioning a suspect; she’s being evasive:
In both of these instances, the mutually exclusive goals of the characters creates tension that affects how the conversation will play out.’ – Steven James in Writer’s Digest, January 2016
Tip #9– Figure out what your character wants:
“The yearning often defies definition, and yet must be at least in part recognized and gratified in the story.” – David Corbett writing in Writer’s Digest, January 2016
Tip #8 – remember, setting is specific:
“Even if setting, in the end, winds up deconstructed on the page, place and time are the building blocks to all other elements.” – Noah Lederman (from Writer’s Digest, January 2016)
Tip #7 – step outside your comfort zone:
“The other thing I would say is if you feel safe in the area that you’re working in you’re not working in the right area…go a little bit out of your depth…” – David Bowie
Tip #6 – get fresh eyes and a frank opinion:
“Get honest feedback, from people not too close to you.” Ezekiel Alan, Commonwealth Book Prize winner.
Tip #5 – show restraint:
“If your handsome, muscular, confident hero strides assertively and briskly into the dusty, spare, lamplit room, you’ve got a problem with excessive description—specifically, with the overuse of adjectives and adverbs.” – Joseph Bates writing in Writer’s Digest the Five Cardinal Sins of Description
Tip #3 – Keep it real (…but what is real?):
“This is how I know that the symbols we write and read about are as real as flesh, and are one of the only means of remembering ourselves and our personal and ancestral stories.” – Trinidadian writer and artist, and former Wadadli Pen judge, Danielle Boodoo-Fortune. Read more here and here.
Tip #2 -When writing creative non-fiction, be creative with the language not the facts:
“The words ‘creative’ and ‘nonﬁction’ describe the form. The word ‘creative’ refers to the use of literary craft, the techniques ﬁction writers, playwrights, and poets employ to present nonﬁction—factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner. The goal is to make nonﬁction stories read like ﬁction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy. ‘Creative’ doesn’t mean inventing what didn’t happen, reporting and describing what wasn’t there…’You can’t make this stuff up!'” – See more at here and here.
Tip #1 – Don’t just write, re-write:
“Everything you hear me saying on this record is at least the fourth or fifth draft. I would write a verse and then rewrite it and rewrite it. I don’t sit down and write a song, and then slam down the phone like, ‘We got another one!’ and pop some champagne. It’s like if someone’s writing a novel: You write a series of drafts.” – Black Thought, The Roots.