UPDATE! June 15th 2017-Some more tweaking; 2017 is as tied off as it can be at this point (we’ve tried to address the loose ends as much as we’re able to on our end). We’re taking a deep breath before diving in to the continued work of building Wadadli Pen in to a year round, sustainable non-profit, and, of course, planning for 2018. You would have seen in the previous update that the May 13th 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). You would have read, too, 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). We hope you’ve been reading  the uploaded stories and giving  the writers some feedback (actually, we would appreciate if more of you would do this; constructively).  Thanks to anyone – partners to patrons, participants to media, to you – who helped us make it mostly successfully through another Challenge season.

As a reminder, Wadadli Pen (read up on us at About Wadadli Pen if you’re not familiar with our work ) 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 wadadlipen@gmail.com



Alstyne Allen Memorial Plaque sponsored by the Best of Books, and the now retired original plaque also sponsored by the Best of Books.



A Wadadli Pen internship was launched in 2016. Pictured is Wadadli Pen founder-coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse during an orientation session with intern/volunteer Michaela Harris .

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.


Founding partner and subsequent judge and patron D. Gisele Isaac presents a prize to Chammaiah Ambrose, a 2014 finalist.

Here are the results of the 2017 cycle of the Wadadli Pen Challenge – the final press release, an awards picture post, and the breakdown of who won what

Wadadli Pen Patrons of 2017
Wadadli Pen – FAQs
Wadadli Pen Writing Tips
Wadadli Pen photo gallery
About Wadadli Pen
Wadadli Pen Home


Wadadli Pen founder-coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse speaking at the 2005 awards ceremony held at the National Museum.


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 wadadlipen@gmail.com) 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?


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 wadadlipen@gmail.com (new email address, take note!)


Margaret Irish

In 2014, Wadadli Pen had a special Lead by Example Teacher’s Prize, open to all age groups within the profession; it was won by Margaret Irish, pictured left. She also won the 2015 open winner takes all Flash Fiction prize and has since volunteered with and been an advocate for Wadadli Pen.



Floree Whyte, left, author and judge, with Wadadli Pen founder/coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse at the 2015 awards ceremony.


Asha and Barbara

Best of Books manager Barbara Arrindell is pictured with two time Wadadli Pen winner (2013, 2014) Asha Graham during an awards ceremony at the book store. (Photo courtesy antiguachronicle.net)

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.



2015 finalist Avriel Walters collects a certificate and prize from guest speaker and past judge, poet Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau.

Wadadli Pen – 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 #4 – watch your tenses:
“Be careful to stay consistently in one verb tense unless your narrator is a person who might switch tenses.” – Crawford Killian

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.


Wadadli Pen Photo Gallery



First winner, Gemma George, collecting her main prize of a computer from Gerard Shoul of Comnett in 2004.



The teddy bear wasn’t the main prize but it was a nice touch. That’s 2005 winner Sandrena Martin claiming her cuddle bunny from then Culture Director Heather Doram.



2006 winner Angelica O’Donoghue, back row left, is now publisher of Antigua Chronicle, an online news platform; here she’s pictured with other finalists Verdanci Benta, Rilys Adams, Rosalie Richards, and Blair Rose. Of this group, Rilys Adams, now a lawyer, continues to write having produced a spoken word CD and several self-published ebooks.


Wadadli Pen art winner

2010 Art winner Shem Alexander is now a working artist. Here he is collecting his prizes from Michelle Henry, who manages the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda where the awards ceremony was held that year.


Devra with Challenge plaque

2011 was the year Best of Books started hosting the awards ceremony – here’s Best of Books owner E. M. Grimes-Graeme with that year’s winner Vanessa Thomas. Both Thomas and Best of Books continue to be part of the Wadadli Pen team, one as a volunteer partner and one as a patron.



Here’s Rosalie again. She’s only entered twice but both times she’s made the finals. Here she is collecting her prizes at the Best of Books, as the 2012 overall winner and teen category winner.


Asha Zuri Daryl

This is the 2013 top three – Asha Graham, Zuri Holder, and Daryl George. Asha would win again in 2014 and cop a National Youth Award for literary arts in the process. Daryl, who freelances as a writer when he’s not working in youth development, would go on to take the main prize in 2016.


alvin livingstone with d gisele isaac

The art prize was back in 2014 and Alvin Livingstone claimed it. That’s founding partner D. Gisele Isaac presenting to him.


The Wadadli Pen Awards ceremony photo call: pictured, from left guest presenter and poet Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau, Olsfred James, Melicia McCalmon, Margaret Irish, Ondrej Austin-McDonald, and founder/coordinator of Wadadli Pen Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of Musical Youth and other books). Front are the two youngest prize recipients of 2015 Judah Christian, 8, and Avriel Walters, 10.

The 2015 Wadadli Pen Awards ceremony photo call: pictured, from left guest presenter and poet Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau, Olsfred James, Melicia McCalmon, Margaret Irish, Ondrej Austin-McDonald, and founder/coordinator of Wadadli Pen Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of Musical Youth and other books). Front are the two youngest prize recipients of 2015 Judah Christian, 8, and Avriel Walters, 10.



Seven Seas/Frank B. Armstrong rep Akeilah Hillhouse assisting with the prize giving to the 12 and younger winning writers – Chammaiah Ambrose, Zion Ebony Williams, and Judah Christian.



Chief judge Floree Whyte with a representative from Island Academy, the school with the most submissions. (Photo by Jon Whyte).




13 responses to “WADADLI PEN 2017

  1. You are such an inspiration Joanne. Great pics!

  2. Michel

    Fabulous!! Congratulations Joanne on this and your other catalytic activities – promoting literacy, culture and the pleasures of the imagination. So pleased to encounter such refined infusions of literary sensibility on the local scene.

    Was strolling by and serendipitously discovered your blogs, which I’m reading with interest & pleasure. You seem blessed by the muses, obviously a gifted writer, soulful & accomplished …Personally, I’ve just made landfall (Feb 2014) on this bucolic isle, after many years abroad as a consultant. Am an unconventional, cosmopolitan bon vivant & lover of the arts, disguised as a French-Canadian physician – with an adventurous spirit that has carried me to many points on the compass in an international career.

    My interests are eclectic, embracing everything wonderful life has offer. Am eager to meet like-minded individuals such as yourself here in Antigua, and share passions – literature, music, film, photography et al – with other sentient beings.

    I’d be grateful for any suggestions (eg, are there any local book clubs?). Thank you in advance, and warm best wishes!
    – Michel (micheludique@gmail.com)

    • Hi Michel…thanks for your generous words…the best way to connect with others on the literary scene is perhaps by going out to some of the local open mics…the most regular ones are the Wadadli Pen Open Mic at the Best of Books on the evening of the second Saturday of every month and the Expressions Open Mic, the second and fourth Tuesday night of every month at Heavenly Java in Redcliffe Quay…I’ve been personally too busy to make it to either in too long but both are good spaces for sharing your writing and connecting with others…if you’re looking for volunteer activities, I recommend the Cushion Club reading club for kids which meets Saturdays between 10:30 a.m. and midday. Right now I’m busy with the Wadadli Pen Challenge which is now into its first round of judging. I’ll be posting here when the awards ceremony is coming up…you can come out to that as well. Oh, Expressions has a facebook group as well if you want to connect online. There are book clubs but maybe best to ask at one of the book stores for details on that. Hope this helps. And thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      • Michel

        Thank you Joanne for your reply & informative comments …will definitely drop by those Open Mics and enjoy the offerings of the local literati …all the best with the Wadadli Pen Challenge … and I trust our paths will cross sometime under these smiling Caribbean constellations! Merci, Michel

  3. Barbara Arrindell

    I don’t understand the question mark at the end of sentence that shouldn’t be a question. Best of books will continue to donate time and other resources.

  4. Rozel J. Carbon

    Hello. I have just completed writhing a book, and would really like to publish it and have it copyrighted and ready for sales. I’m so lost as to how to go about with it….can you please help me?…………Rozel J. Carbon

    • Hi Rozel

      Congratulations on your book. Wadadli Pen doesn’t provide a publishing service so we can’t help you in that way. But for what it’s worth, here’s some advice. Get the book edited, or if you can’t afford an editor, get some readers to give you critical feedback which you can use during the review (and possible redrafting, as necessary) of the manuscript. Re copyright and publishing options, there are some links on this site that you can check out – please use the search feature to the right (consider terms like “publishing”, “copyright”, “opportunities” etc.). As a writer myself, I’ve had to research a lot of this stuff on my road to publication and I’ve tried to archive much of what I’ve discovered here on the site. My journey really involved writing, editing, research, submissions, rejection, submissions, rejection… to final acceptance (and then the work begins) but some go the independent publication route and there’s information about that here on the site if you need it (as well as information to help you decide which route is better for you). Please use the search feature and dig around. Re copyright services, options really depend on where you are; re publishing options it’s a matter of finding the right outlet for your book…which you’ll need to do research (followed by pitches and/or planning) as necessary to determine. But the most important thing at this stage is to make sure you have a manuscript that’s market ready, which is why I mention editing as a necessary step. I am the site admin and I provide coaching and editing services to writers, you can read about what I offer at my author site http://jhohadli.wordpress.com But as my services are for a fee, if you have people within your circle who can given you solid feedback that might be the more budget-friendly way to go. I hope you find the information you need. If you have more specific questions, best as I can, I will try to answer them. – Joanne

  5. Neejah Crump

    How do I sign uup? ?

    • With respect to the Challenge, there’s no signing up. (from above) “Imagine and write a story, poem or piece of creative non-fiction in 600 words or fewer, and submit to wadadlipen@yahoo.com on or before February 17th 2016. If you live in Antigua and/or Barbuda, and are younger than 12, a teenager, or a young adult who has not yet passed age 35…”

  6. Latoya


    I totally missed the submission date. However, is it too late to submit? My students have been hard at work. 🙂

    • Yes, Latoya, sorry the submission deadline was in February and the judges have already turned in their results. We are prepping for the awards now; it will be May 13th 2017 during the Wadadli Stories Book Fair. I am really sorry your group missed the deadline. Are you on the teachers’ mailing list; I believe you are. In addition to posting here and circulating the information via media and social media, I did at least two direct mailings to teachers, youth workers etc. Maybe three – one before the official launch, one right after, and one when the deadline was approaching if memory serves. Again, really sorry; it will have to be next year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s