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.

Processing Questions

This blog post is in response to two recent questions, one posted in the comments section of this blog and one messaged to me on my facebook page. In reality, these are both variations of questions I’ve gotten since publishing my first book The Boy from Willow Bend. The answers continue to evolve as I continue to learn. What I decided to do, though, and I hope the questioners and others who may come after are prepared to do some reading, is to share some of what I’ve said in the past over various blog musings and interviews because collectively, it’s as complete an answer as I can give to questions that really aren’t as simple as they seem. Besides, why re-invent the wheel.

First, the questions,

  • “Would love to hear more about your writing process…are you one of those fiction writers who uses strict outlines and knows the plot from the get go or do you discover the story as you write?”
  • “I have started to give the whole publishing idea some serious thought. What I would like to know is where do I start? How do I start? How did you get started? Any guidance or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Second, the answers,
The Waiting Game or the Scraps of Things is a blog posting that touches on my discovery of how Musical Youth, a 2014 Burt award finalist and forthcoming book, came to be. In it can be found, I think, some insights to how I write/my process.

This one can be filed under dialogue notes; it’s titled, it begins with listening.

While we’re on the subject of dialogue, check out this one as well.

This one, It all comes back to Story, is very stream of consciousness and is about as close as you’ll get to watching my brain connect and tie threads together as part of the creative process.

This one, a report from a writing workshop, may provide some insights on how those connections are made during the writing process as well.

In this one I begin to talk about the tension between writing and publishing.

In this interview with Trini writer Danielle Boodoo Fortune, I de-construct, or attempt to, aspects of my writing or writing process.

This is me musing on that place where writing begins, the imagination.

And this on how imagining led to my first children’s picture book.

In There is No Spoon, a presentation I did in Guadeloupe at the Caribbean Congress of Writers, I talk about the use of actual spaces in my fiction and, specifically, Oh Gad! and the short story Amelia at Devil’s Bridge featured in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean. By so doing, I believe, I talk a bit about process; so I’ll just rest that one here as well.

Included in these ‘5 Questions’ is advice to writers, such as it is.

Always a Work in Progress is a bit about a story’s journey and a bit about mine as a writer.

But I hate Rules – self-explanatory.

In this interview with the British Council ahead of participating in the Aye Write! Festival in Scotland, I talk about writing, inspiration to writing dialogue.

Author N’Tyse touched on both my writing and publishing journey in this interview.

This Susumba interview covers some of the same territory.

This Frugal Feminista interview talks a bit about Oh Gad! and a lot more about the realities of publishing.

This interview with Bajan writer Sandra Sealy explores publishing and writing as well.

This is an interview specifically on how I became a writer.

My StyleThis interview with online magazine Your Style one of the first interviews I did after Oh Gad! came out. My Style It too speaks about the journey.

Some years ago, some students interviewed me about my writing. Don’t think they went easy on me. As with other interviews, they challenged me to think about what I do, why I do it, and how I’m able to do it. Which is interesting because I’d rather be writing than talking about writing.

All of the above notwithstanding, I really believe you’ve got to do what works for you. No two journeys are the same. And I’ve never been one for routine, myself, so at every stage of the journey, I’m re-learning and experimenting and discovering, and that’s just how I like it.

Hope this helps.

Post Note: I also encourage any one specifically interested in writing practice to search ‘workshop’ over at Wadadli Pen and put those into practice, or find some other something like Leone Ross’ 10 Day Challenge t0 help you not only get inspired but practice, good writing takes practice. If you’re ready to publish and are looking for ‘opportunities’ search for that on the Wadadli Pen blog as well – I keep adding  workshops, markets, publishers, and other opportunities of interest to writers.

Where craft and poetry meet

I’ve been writing everyday since completing the 10 day Challenge. The greatest effect of that, so far, I think apart from the new writing itself is how much I’m looking forward to writing time; writing is fun again. And usually the new writing is connected to works in progress. Today I decided to seek out a poetry prompt. This one, from Poets and Writers, in the spirit of the Dadaists instructed me to cut words from an article and then pick those words at random from a bag. What emerges is supposed to reflect you. What I found is that as random as it is, your brain (or maybe that’s just my brain) gives meaning to the order. My article was about animal rescue so there were references to dogs and puppies but in the poem, given my concerns about our modern Caribbean and the politics of development, concerns touched on in Oh Gad! – my novel – my puppies and dog were of the less cuddly variety. I’m copying it below with no editing (except tossing out the word some for sum which is cheating but…). It might look like gibberish to you but to me it makes perfect sense. Writers you should try it; if nothing else it makes for a good and relaxing craft project.

Park. Apartment. Occurrence.

However, dog is for

Who walks

Complex Caribbean

Question the puppies

Opportunity. Advertise. Sum.

America.

Themselves.

 

My favourite line, by the way, is “question the puppies”.