The Whimsical Project: the Interview

So, Joanne, Musical Youth…What is your book about?

Okay, the book is about a girl who is a loner, a girl who plays guitar, a girl who doesn’t believe in herself, who kind of wants to disappear, it’s about how she flowers during a summer of musical theatre. The book is also about a boy who knows his ability and unlike the girl feels part of a family, traditional and non-traditional, a boy who also has his own journey of discovery during that summer. It’s about this boy and girl bonding over a shared love of music, and it’s about the ways they are connected that they don’t even know. It’s about these kids, the boy and the girl, and others who learn what they can do.

What was your inspiration for it?

I run a writing programme in Antigua and Barbuda, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, designed to nurture the literary and visual arts, these kids in Musical Youth are involved in the performing arts, and since they write, some of them, also the literary arts, but there’s a similar belief in the power of the arts to help young people find their voice, that runs through both that programme and this novel. As for the specific inspiration, I don’t know. These kids just started telling me their story one foreday morning; they were insistent about it, and I did what I always try to do when characters show up, I listen, I write, and when the tale is told, the haunting is over, and they leave.

Read the full interview at M. J. Fievre’s blog The Whimsical ProjectReading

Burt Works

So I have several things going on with the Burt Award people right now – notably the workshop I’ll be facilitating this weekend and serving as a judge for the 2015 prize, plus the reading this Friday (7 p.m. at the Best of Books), also under the banner of CODE sponsors of the Burt Award, from my new book Musical Youth, which exists as a published book thanks to placing second for the Burt Award earlier this year.

Collecting the second place Burt Award trophy, 2014, in Trinidad.

Collecting the second place Burt Award trophy, 2014, in Trinidad.

I held the physical book for the first time in my hands yesterday. WIN_20141119_164653 WIN_20141119_164553 WIN_20141119_164548And there’s just so much good and surprising behind the scenes amidst the bumps and hurdles (yes, they’re still there). it’s a weird time and I’m kind of all over the emotional map right now and, as a result, weirdly numb. I have no idea how it’ll feel to collect the Leonard Tim Hector Memorial Award later tonight for instance, because it’s kind of an odd and unexpected position to be in. it’s a blessing and a curse that I don’t have a lot of time right now for ruminating (which also means, unfortunately, not a lot of time to take it in) as I’m supposed to be running a two-day workshop this weekend and I have lots of books to read for the prize and I have my own reading to prepare for…and all the other stuff that has not been getting the attention it needs (if I’ve dropped the ball on something, please bear with me…). Anyway, I did want to take a minute to share with you the work of the Burt Award people, CODE, because they are a big part of everything that’s happening right now with me, and also because what they’re doing is potentially transformative work. So, please read on.

Burt Award Writing Workshops

The Burt Award

The Burt Award is a unique global literary award and readership initiative aiming to provide youth everywhere with access to books they will want to read. Established by CODE and made possible by the generosity of William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation, the Award addresses an ongoing shortage of relevant, quality books for young people, while at the same time promoting a love of reading and learning at the middle and secondary school levels.

The Burt Award is offered in four African countries, Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya, and has now also expanded to Canada and the Caribbean.

The intent of the prize is to champion literacy, build language skills and foster the love and habit of reading amongst youth and young adults.

Specific objectives are:

  • to recognize excellence in literature for young people;
  • to support and motivate the development of and access to high quality, culturally relevant reading materials at a critical stage of learning;
  • to support the development and acquisition of language skills  and to help foster  enthusiasm for and a love of reading;
  • to stimulate and support local publishing industries and celebrate the rich literary heritage of the countries and regions where we work;
  • to increase the stock of locally produced, English-language literature in libraries, schools, and community centres throughout the countries and regions where we work.

Burt Award Writing Workshops

Burt Award writing workshops are intended to help emerging or established writers of books for children or young adults, or writers interested in learning more about writing for young adults, develop their skills, deepen their understanding of writing strategies appropriate for this age group, and encourage them to submit their work for consideration for the Burt Award. CODE engages local in-country organizations and local facilitators to help host and lead the writing workshops. CODE also enlists the help of prominent and well-respected Canadian writers and publishers who volunteer to travel to co-facilitate the workshops.

Workshops can last from 1-3 days, and typically serve groups of 20-25 writers. The format is workshop style, with some lecture, some discussion, and lots of opportunity for writers to practice their craft.
You can learn more about Burt Award by clicking here:

About CODE

If you can read and write, you can learn to do, and be, anything. That’s the idea behind CODE. A Canadian NGO with over 50 years of experience, CODE supports literacy and learning in Canada and around the world. CODE works in partnership with local organizations to expand literacy in Africa and the Caribbean by providing children and youth with access to quality reading materials, supporting professional development for teachers and librarians, and strengthening national and local book publishing. In Canada, CODE has worked for over twenty-five years to engage Canadian teachers and students on literacy and global issues, and has established partnerships with Canadian educators, writers, and publishing industry.

Caribbean Reads Announces New Christmas Collection

From the Caribbean Reads website:

ChristmasCaribbeanReads is pleased to announce the availability of ‘Round My Christmas Tree, an Anthology of Caribbean Christmas Stories.

Have you ever:
Tried stilt-walking?
Eaten green carrot cake?
Picked sorrel ‘til your fingers turned red?

In ‘Round My Christmas Tree you’ll find a little bit of everything that makes Christmas…well…Christmas in the Caribbean. Twenty-seven stories, poems, recipes, and artwork that range from the sacred to irreverent and from heart-warming to just down-right funny.

Contributors (in alphabetical order) include:

Nadia Ali Trinidad and Tobago
Valarie Belgrave Trinidad and Tobago
Olga Buckley Aruba
Rosey Cameron St. Kitts and Nevis
Desiree Correa Aruba
Danica David St. Croix
Beverly Donovan Tortola
Kathryn Duncan Trinidad and Tobago
Nneka Edwards Trinidad and Tobago
Jamie Gangoo Trinidad and Tobago
Roland L. Gayle Jamaica
Nerissa Golden Montserrat
Judy Hanel St. Kitts and Nevis
Joanne C. Hillhouse Antigua and Barbuda
Carel Hodge Antigua and Barbuda
Sharon Lake Anguilla
Reuel Lewi Guyana
Carmen Ottley Jamaica
Peter Providence St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Sayada Ramdial Trinidad and Tobago
Jo-annah Richards Montserrat
Sandra Sealy Barbados
Jermaine Sheriffe Tortola
Aprille L. Thomas Barbados
Sheila Werleman Aruba

Some stuff happening this week

Lots happening this week; send lots of positive energy and support where you can. Thanks. What’s happening: On November 20th – 8 p.m. – Multipurpose Centre (Perry Bay, Antigua), I have been informed, I will be receiving the Leonard Tim Hector Memorial Award for my contributions in the areas of journalism, literary arts and youth development. The award, I am further informed, will be presented on the night of the Leonard Tim Hector Memorial Annual Lecture. The lecture will be delivered by Professor the Honourable Errol Morrison, OJ image003– president of the University of Technology, Jamaica. His topic will be ‘STEAM and I for Caribbean Development.’


On November 21st – 7 p.m. – The Best of Books (St. Mary’s Street, Antigua), I will be reading excerpts from my new book Musical Youth, and (I’m so excited about this) a select group of 2014 Wadadli Pen finalists will be reading as well. Reading ***

On November 22nd and 23rd – Heritage Hotel, I will be conducting two full day workshops sponsored by CODE. Registration is now closed.


While I have your attention, I would like to remind you that still happening this week and a few more, is the rollout of the Antigua and Barbuda edition of Tongues of the Ocean, which I had the privilege of editing. Please go check it out and show the writers and artists some love by leaving a comment about what you think of their work.

Summer One by Glenroy Aaron. Tongues cover image.

Summer One by Glenroy Aaron. Tongues cover image.

Also, Caribbean Reads Publishing has released Round My Christmas Tree, a new seasonal collection with content from two Antiguan and Barbudan writers, me and Carel Hodge.

Antiguan Author Releases Award-Winning Novel, Musical Youth

“This is an important book,” comments a representative of the publisher, CaribbeanReads Publishing, “because Caribbean teens will be able to see themselves in the young people in the story and relate to it. There are few books that achieve this goal and that’s why we are so excited to be a part of this and of Joanne’s success.”




In a small place you can feel squeezed, in a vast world overlooked…no woman is an island but on this patch of soil on which I stand, I am happy to have dared, to be daring still in spite of the odds, to do the thing I love through bad weather and good. This dream is sometimes a nightmare. But I’m living it.

Where’s all this coming from. I did an interview this morning at ABS TV – the Good Morning Antigua and Barbuda show – promoting the  upcoming CODE workshops I’ll be facilitating. Near the end of the interview Dave Lester Payne – who said he loved the cover of new book Musical Youth by the way MUSICAL_YOUTH_Nov1– asked, so how many books have you done?

Now, if you’re a writer, you’ll understand that one book is plenty and when I was a kid dreaming, and through many years of rejection after that, I couldn’t even imagine that.

So you can understand why my mind blanked for a moment when he asked that.

How many books, the very idea that I had written and had published books, plural, was unfathomable to me, overwhelming for a moment – and none of these books are bestsellers mind you (I should be so lucky) but they exist, physical, tangible, real. Written.

The other reason for my pause – a pause that seemed to stretch to me but was probably no more than a millli milli milli second was….

(shamefaced) I don’t do numbers…not proud of that but numbers don’t stay in my head…so I almost said I don’t know (really as if I’d done so many books they couldn’t be counted *rolls eyes at self*)… instead I used my words and began listing, the first The Boy from Willow BendTheBoyfromWillowBendbookcover

, continued with Dancing Nude in the MoonlightDancingNudeintheMoonlightbookcover, the children’s picture book Fish Outta WaterCover, the novel Oh Gad! Oh Gad coverand now Musical YouthMUSICAL_YOUTH_Nov1. How many is that? What a pretentious sounding question though Jah know I genuinely couldn’t find the number in my addled brain on live television no less.

Later, sitting in my car (read: the loaner I had for the day), I was struck still for a moment by the very idea that dis gyal from Ottos, who struggled and still struggles to write, to make life writing, to make a living writing, in a space that too often doesn’t seem to have space for me, in a reality where the climb seems always uphill even as my legs get weary and I get short of breath (I’m not 20 anymore)…the very idea of that person having a list of books to her credit. And in spite of every bit of trouble and deprivation that insists on trying to steal my joy, I felt nothing but grateful in that moment.

So I wrote the little reflection that opened this post.

Then I hijacked my mother for a lunch date because life is much more than the worries and the stress we both sometimes give too much weight. Life is moments of gratitude and impossible things becoming real. Life is also curried goat, your drink of choice, and a beach side lime …with the woman who paid for your typing lessons …and bought you your first type writer …and then an electric one after that…

Award-Winning Writer Set to Delight Antigua as a part of Three-Island Tour

St. John’s, Antigua: Award-winning writer A-dZiko Simba Gegele is set to delight audiences in Antigua and Barbuda with her debut novel All Over Again, as a part of a three island tour. The author arrives on Antigua on November 9, 2014 when Best of Books Bookshop (St. Johns) will host a reading by the dynamic author, poet and storyteller ( starting at 6:30 p.m.). Simba Gegele is the first place winner of the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean literature and her tour is supported by the award’s organizer, CODE.

All Over Again is a hilarious coming of age story that has received rave reviews across the region and has already delighted audiences in Simba Gegele’s home island, Jamaica (Calabash International Book Festival), as well as Anguilla (Anguilla Literary Festival), and Trinidad and Tobago (Bocas Literary Festival). As a part of the current regional tour, Simba Gegele will go on to Montserrat for the Alliouagana Festival of the Word and later Barbados, where she will be engaging in a series of readings and workshops.

“All Over Again is for young adults and adults who are young at heart and still remember their own heady days of youth,” Simba Gegele said. “It’s like one of those animation movies that you take children to see because you want to see it yourself,” the author explained.

A celebrated storyteller, who is known for her energetic and engaging readings, Simba Gegele is also an internationally anthologized writer whose poetry and prose have appeared in several collections including: The Virago Book of Wicked Verse, Iron Balloons: Hit Fiction From Jamaica’s Calabash Writers Workshop, So Much Things to Say: 100 Calabash Poets, Jubilation!: Poems Celebrating 50 Years of Jamaican Independence, and Watchers and Seekers: Original Anthology of Creative Writing by Black Women Living in Britain.

All Over Again is published by Blouse and Skirt Books, an imprint of Blue Moon Publishing.

PLEASE NOTE The event start time is now 6:30 p.m.

PLEASE NOTE The event start time is now 6:30 p.m.

This link takes you to the CODE website for more information re upcoming readings and workshops involving this year’s finalists. For more information, their email link is