The Situation Right Now

UPDATE! This was actually the situation last week Sunday night…since then, the storm blew through, knocked out the power and as a result my ability to get much work done (since my computer is my office) …but thank God for life and minimal damage (Bermuda’s not been so fortunate so keep them in your prayers). I read a lot more this week than I have in  while…primarily advancing the slow going Mansfield Park, finishing the Artemis journal (the one with my poem Civ-I-li-zation in it), and picking Night Rising Vampire Babylon by Chris Marie Green from my shelf of books unread because everything else I’m reading right now feels so damn heavy and measured and I wanted something fast paced and fun…I’m actually close to halfway through. Reading’s slowed now that I have my power back though.

Weather: They say there’s a tropical storm coming. How serious is it? Well, the airport’s closed and flights have been cancelled. No weather yet though. Praying this is one of those times the meteorologists got it wrong.

Cue the Music: Hmmm…not a lot of music today… but it’s MC Lyte’s after-birthday and I was recently missing diversity in female hip hop, so how about this:

UPDATE! You know I had to add this one (that’s more like it):

Women’s Retreat: I had a retreat of one this weekend (needed it after completing a grueling edit review)…me and a Walking Dead marathon leading up to the season premiere. I am prepping for an actual retreat next month at which I am a presenter. It’s an empowerment seminar and my presentation will be on, what else, writing.

School: Nothing to report here except I’m still trying to make my Jhohadli Writing project happen…and I’ll have news shortly on a workshop I’m helping to put together…and I continue to learn from the school of life.

Currently reading: I feel like I’ve been reading the same five books for ever…I used to be able to read faster than this. I’m going to have to pick up the pace if I expect to get through and do justice to the Burt Award submissions (which I really want to…do justice, that is). I’m starting to feel bad for the other unread books on my shelf. Anyway, I’m still reading…

Paradise by Toni Morrison

Artemis Volume XXl

Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On  by Stormie Omartian

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

The Other Tongues

Finished this week: Nothing recreational…but, yay, finally got through that grueling book edit review though.

Prayers this week: Well, it’s starting to rain here so I guess no storm is out of the question…but keep us safe while it passes and don’t let the damage be more than we can bear is still on the table. Please, God, and thanks.

This post was inspired by this post over at My Head is Full of Books and modelled on it except for things not at all applicable to my life like wash-the-dog.

List Surprise

from as list

If you’re on facebook, you likely got tapped at some point to name your 10 favourite books. I have, too. What was unexpected was seeing my books on a couple (literally 1, 2, but I’ll take it) of those lists – Oh Gad! (see above) and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight specifically. Go figure. Gyal from Ottos, Antigua, gobsmacked.

Speaking in Tongues

Tongues of the Ocean is an online Caribbean literary platform originating in the Bahamas under the stewardship of managing editor Nicolette Bethel. The current issue is guest edited by me and features literature and art from and about Antigua and Barbuda. I hope you’ll check it out. Here are some excerpts…it will be updated at a pace of about two new additions per week until the entire issue is live. Be sure to let the creators know what you think about their work. Thanks.

summer one

As I posted on social media about this piece, art inspires art. I remember writing my poem ‘One’ (published in the She Sex anthology out of Trinidad) in response to a painting by Glenroy Aaron. I told him how his painting had inspired me when I sent him my poem ‘Summer 1’ (which had been published in The Missing Slate) simply because I was curious to see what it would look like visually and *hint hint* hoped it would inspire him. Aaron readily embraced the spirit of what I was suggesting, and captured the vibe of the poem without re-creating it in a literal sense. ‘Summer 1’ (the poem) will be republished in this special Antigua and Barbuda edition of the Tongues of the Ocean. Summer One by Glenroy Aaron is the cover image for the issue.

“I think that artists are essential catalysts of change; we have the power to raise consciousness, stimulate debate and promote change.” – Heather Doram during the roundtable discussion of Antiguan and Barbudan artists - this roundtable also includes Mark Brown, Emile Hill, and Glenroy Aaron, with art work by Aaron, Hill, Doram, and X-Saphair King.

“Near twenty years ago, my delight upon recognizing an intimate self in Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John was equal to my delight a few years prior when I re-discovered the Antiguan kaisonian, after years of a staple diet of Trinidadian kaisos. These two moments have plotted my trajectory to this current moment in which I am fresh from defending a doctoral thesis that intervened into the traditional obscuration of Antiguan and other ‘small-island’ narratives.” – Dr. Hazra Medica in an essay entitled Discretely Antiguan and Distinctly Caribbean

Here’s my introduction to the issue. Still to come, poetry, fiction, and art by… me, more from Aaron, King and Doram, also Marcus Christopher, Dorbrene O’Marde, Brenda Lee Browne, Gayle Gonsalves, Barbara Arrindell, Kimolisa Mings, Tameka Jarvis-George, Charles Langley, Tammi Browne-Bannister, Linisa George, and past Wadadli Pen finalists Shakeema Edwards, Devra Thomas, Rosalie Richards, Vega Armstrong, and Zion Ebony Williams – a WP selection, by the way, which spans  the singled-out submission of our youngest contributor to date to new writing by our oldest winner to date. As satisfied as I am with the issue, I am especially pleased with the present and past Wadadli Pen voices in the mix because that feels like Wadadli Pen has played a part, however small, in developing new literary voices out of Antigua and Barbuda. We are here – Arwe Yah!

BURT UPDATE

October 24th 2014 is the submission deadline for the 2015 Burt Award for Young Adult Caribbean Literature. Last year around this time…hmm…I hadn’t even started work on my entry…again, not proud of that…just a statement of fact that some serious binge writing followed by a rush to get it off took place in the Hillhouse household in October 2013. Hopefully, this year’s entries are already well advanced if not off already.

Placing second for this prize has been one of the highlights of my writing life to date. In fact, it felt like a win, a moment, a breakthrough for this journeying writer, as you can tell from the picture.

MJ_Bocas-Lit-Fest_NALIS_20140425371

As I type this, I’m waist deep in edit notes trying to get the book, Musical Youth, to press with publisher CaribbeanReads, I’m working with the Burt Award organizers, CODE, to try to bring a writing workshop here to Antigua *fingerscrossed*, and I’ve just been announced as one of the judges for the 2015 Burt Awards alongside Debbie Jacob, Verna Wilkins, and Richard Scrimger – read all about my co-panelists here.

Each of these developments has me feeling both daunted and excited, by turns overwhelmed and expectant. Whatever the ups and downs of editing, I’m being reminded how much I love these musical teens, I’m glad that an opportunity may be coming to other talented Antiguans and Barbudans (and possibly others in the Eastern Caribbean) through this programme, and I do not take lightly the opportunity to be a part of selecting the next winners.

Beyond all of that, that this prize is bringing fresh and modern literature to Caribbean teens and young adults is a good thing. I hope more Antiguan and Barbudan and really Caribbean writers take up the opportunity, and when those books hit the market as they will thanks to the arrangement between CODE and the publishers (yes, I’ve also been involved in trying to identify groups in Antigua and Barbuda which can make sure those books get into the hands of our teens and young adults), I hope teens across the Caribbean nyam dem up like good food.

Behind the Story – At Sea

I’m starting this new series on the blog ‘behind the story’ inspired by what St. Lucian artist Donna Grandin does on her blog – providing the back story, re inspiration, technique, challenges involved in creating some of her paintings. It’s not something I’m comfortable with, I have to admit. I like to let the story speak for itself. But I’m also kind of moved to re-visit some of my short stories (in part because of a retreat presentation I’m preparing in which I’ll have to talk about how therapeutic and cathartic writing  has been in my life, in part because a question to this blog stirred things up in me and inspired this post… the 10 Day Challenge I recently did on facebook in which we were encouraged to post not only the creative piece but also the experience of creating it probably has something to do with it as well) so I think I’ll try it, at least with some of the journalled pieces,  and just stop if ish gets too real.

At Sea – can’t find it online anymore but this short (very short, only about 600 words or so) story was initially completed in 2005 and published after numerous revisions in 2011 in Munyori, a Zimbabwean-American online platform:

The first thing I was trying to do with At Sea was to create an image, a moment, that was sort of like a faded, runny watercolour; something weathered, which also felt like it was waiting for change to blow in. So this story was very much written from a visual part of my mind (stoked by a certain longing) and might not have happened if I’d had the skills to paint it. I consciously borrowed two other things from real life – two men – I’m not saying who, one whose accent I found alluring and one whose eyes and energy draw you in. Everything else is complete invention including the location though I did have a physical space in Antigua as a reference point in my mind (that I then added to). There’s been a lot of adding and subtracting throughout the life of At Sea. If I opened it up right now I’d probably fiddle with it. I was never quite satisfied, even after it had been published. But I do hope it paints a picture:

He had once been the adventurous Captain of their little seaside village; braving storm, hauling fish pots and telling the best at-sea fables while roasting fish over a grill made from a steel drum in the ‘Shack’s’ backyard, under a blanket of stars.

As a child, Rita had sat on the sand, breathing the smoke and sweet aroma, face turned to the stars, wishing for romance and adventure of her own.

Links to my various published stories can be found here.

#SundaySalonInspired

This post is just for fun…or out of idleness. Sunday Salon inspired.

Time: // 2:53 a.m.

The scene: // On my couch, trying to wind down after a long day. Nothing on the TV boring enough to put me to sleep while being distracting enough for me not to be bored; so surfing the net, looking for nothing at all serious…and writing this. #theglamourouswritinglife

Reading: // Nothing at the moment as I’m lying in the dark. But was reading some Robert Burns poetry earlier – best laid plans…

Grateful for: // Getting some writing done today. The rain that fell. Feeling better and more thankful today than I did yesterday when it felt like everything was rolling down on top of me. Being in a much better place as I continued edits on my book. Chat earlier tonight with one of my niecees …seeing my kids-once-removed blossom and figure out what they want in life, even as I wish I had more in the way of resources to support their dreams. Finally getting to see Fruitvale Station…though it hurt so bad to finally see it.

Promoting: // Nothing in particular at the moment…but I did enjoy visiting poet and Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang’s reading last night; so check her out.

Now I’m off to: // Sleep hopefully…eventually …I really need to sleep more.

What are you up to today? What’s the last book that knocked your socks off? What are you grateful for?

A Wadadli Pen Showcase

I’m a writer on the hustle myself, eh…but through the Wadadli Pen programme and the related blog, I try to create opportunity for other Antiguan and Barbudan Creatives. Wadadli Pen, for perspective, is a youth writing programme I started here in 2004, shortly after the publication of my first book, The Boy from Willow Bend.

I keep a mailing list of past finalists, and sometimes opportunities will come up that I think this or that one is right for and I’ll reach out to them to let them know. That’s what prompted a recent exchange with Ariel Dunnah, who, though the window of opportunity had closed by the time she got back to me, wrote back and completely surprised me with her response:

“I would like to thank you for the opportunity and I appreciate your interest in me. You have been most helpful and gracious throughout this journey of recognizing my abilities and developing my potential. I am thankful for (your) continuous support.”

This filled my heart up, a reminder that the effort is not in vain, because helping young writers to recognize their abilities and develop their potential is what our efforts, not just mine but all the partners and patrons through time, is about. One other, Liscia Lawrence, wrote extensively on the impact of Wadadli Pen on her earlier this year, and just as I did with that one, I thought I’d share Ariel’s considerably shorter note, because, yay, it’s really good to know the programme is making a difference. The marketing and fundraising side of me also sees this as an opportunity to leverage the enthusiasm of the young people who have benefited from Wadadli Pen into more support for the programme to keep doing what we do. I’m not even going to pretend. The programme  needs help if it’s going to continue and Dunnah’s email is only the latest example of why it should.

Now, since the second part of Wadadli Pen’s mandate is showcasing the talent it discovers. Here’s Ariel Dunnah’s showcase:

Ariel Dunnah

A Grain of Salt (honourable mention in the 18 to 35 age category of the 2014 Wadadli Pen Challenge):

“Good Morning” he grumbled without opening his eyes or turning his head. The response was an irritating silence. He shifted in his seat to glare at the lack of manners that shared a bus seat with him and his eyes widened. His heart skipped a beat, and then slowed to a heavy thump landing somewhere in a pit in his gut. Donovan weighed the prospects of being greeted by an empty bus seat versus the vilest ugliest creature to ever walk earth. Read the whole story.

Angela’s Baby (second place in the 13 to 17 age category of the 2012 Wadadli Pen Challenge):

“It is me the islands’ feared ancient dread, but the blood is on your hands instead, I’m the reason you mourn this baby’s death, Girl as long as dey have woman giving birth, an ol’ higue like me can never dead.” Read the whole story.

Every Rose has its Thorn (first place in the 13 to 17 age category and second place overall of the 2012 Wadadli Pen Challenge):

I went to the bathroom, retrieved a glass of water from the kitchen and was about to return into my bed when I heard a floorboard creak in Rosheda’s room. I tiptoed to her door and slightly pushed it open. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next.  Read the whole story.

La Diablesse (second place in the 18 to 35 age category and third place overall of the 2014 Wadadli Pen Challenge):

Her sanity

She’d like to find it again but she doesn’t want to brave the dark anymore than is necessary

Every stir in this hollow is resounding

So she walks the lonely roads looking for wondering men willing to help the pretty lady  Read the full poem.

Love that this talented young lady also took a shot at the 2014 art challenge. You can see her art work here.

So thanks, Ariel, for your kind words and you’re welcome, reader, because I feel certain you’ll enjoy reading her  stories and poem, especially the poem, which is one of my Wadadli Pen favourites.