REGISTER Now for October Writing Workshop

JHOHADLI WRITING PROJECT for 2022 has emphasized focus on providing feedback on participant writing and play/experimentation towards evoking new writing. At the same time, it has covered topics like sparking new writing especially when feeling unmotivated, dialogue (tips and how to know if dialogue is not working), and tone, mood, and atmosphere. Topics requested in session evaluations include

The Craft of Short Story Writing

Developing Memorable Characters and Interesting Plots

Scene Breaks and Manuscript Formatting

Combatting Writer’s Block and Doubt   

The Business of Writing  

When you register, you’re encouraged to indicate your priority topic and any specific questions related to that topic (which I will answer as much as I am able to) so that the remaining sessions of 2022 can emphasize participant priorities.

Register via antiguanwriter@gmail.com

Antiguan Writer on YouTube – What’s Trending

I last did one of these What’s Trending posts at the end of July. Feels about time for another one, leading off with trending videos this time. As before, tracking roughly the last month of audience engagement.

The number one video is enjoying easily one of, if not the, fastest rise to the top. Who knew a CREATIVE SPACE conversation on headwrapping would prove to be this popular.

This is a viewer comment: “Beautiful and educational discussion! Big up to Ovals/Ottos people! Know your roots.” Which this #gyalfromOttosAntigua appreciates.

Number 2 is one of the promo clips I circulated when the column debuted last Wednesday. The fungee one.

And third, albeit with considerably less views, is another promo clip from my interview with Celene Senhouse. In this one, she discusses technique because, believe me, this is not as easy as it looks.

My previous video CREATIVE SPACE with poet Dotsie Isaac is number four.

So I guess it’s safe to say the video format of the column is catching on.

To that point, the videos are currently a CREATIVE SPACE Extra and not on a set schedule like the actual column which runs every other Wednesday in the Daily Observer newspaper in Antigua and Barbuda with an extended edition here on the blog. When I made the decision to continue CREATIVE SPACE only if it could pay for itself which resulted in me pitching and landing the Observer deal, I had an eye on continuing to find other ways to monetize it – because I genuinely enjoy doing it and want to be able to keep doing so. Sponsored posts and video content (i.e. ads) are options I will continue to explore; if our brand seems a good match for you or a brand you represent, contact me. If you think you can help me build, reach out as well.

Number five is my latest book tag – really appreciate people checking that one out as it was very impromptu and I love geeking out about books with other book lovers. If you do the tag, tag me back.

Real quick…

Trending on the Jhohadli blog are my Blogger on Books on the anthology Closure (this is from 2016-2017 and I’m not quite sure what’s driving new interest but thanks); the The Boy from Willow Bend Study Guide (Author Edition) which I did for all the students reading my first book and in gratitude for it being on my national schools reading list as well as other Caribbean islands; CREATIVE SPACE #19 OF 2022 – THE “HEADKERCHIEF”: HERITAGE, FASHION, CELEBRATION, AND RESISTANCE (as the vids have shown, this post has been very popular, in great part due to Celene embracing and boosting it, which is always appreciated); with Reviews and Endorsements The Boy from Willow Bend and BOOKS rounding out the top 5 trending posts here on the blog over the last month or so. The Boy from Willow Bend love is heartwarming and given the love it is still getting, I can’t help but wish it had gotten the support it needed from the very beginning but appreciate that like the little engine that could, it’s still chugging along.

What’s trending in your spaces?

Sketches

I recently came across some sketches and wanted to share; so I asked the artist, Debbie Eckert, if it would be okay to do so and she said yes.

I’ve published four children’s picture books so far (technically three given that one, Fish/Lost, is a re-issue with a different publisher but four given that the whole process, including art, had to be re-done)

and watching the evolution of the art is always so exciting. I’ve been going through it again with another book in development. I’m like a kid in a candy store as the images show up in my inbox. The Debbie Eckert images shared in this post give me that same feeling though they never really evolved past these sample sketches. As, before the publication process had even really begun, Debbie (whom I had suggested as a good match for the project) indicated that she was not at that time able to commit. I appreciated her being upfront about that. Plus in my experience, different artist options are considered before a match is made. And honestly, I believe the book, With Grace, found its perfect match in Cherise Harris.

But Debbie is so good at portraits (she captures faces and the life in them so well) and children especially (see my post on her in CREATIVE SPACE) and it shows in these images.

The artistic process is so style and perspective specific, and so dynamic as a result. Also, the illustrations really can shape how people see the characters (for instance, there’s something so ‘mo-dee’ about the purse of the lips, something at once defiant and vulnerable in the eyes in the female’s face in image 4 that gives me a whole different vibe, on a character I wrote). Fascinating.

I Scared Myself

I’m not big on horror but I saw a question recently about favourite horror films of the 2020s and thought, sure, I’ll play. It’s just three years right?

In fact, the list is bound to be so short, I’m going to list all the ones I’ve seen in order of least to most liked.

Nope (Jordan Peele for the win!)

The Invisible Man (the one with Aldis Hodge and Elizabeth Moss)

Army of the Dead (the second best Zach Snyder zombie movie, signed Dawn of the Dead stan)

These aren’t horror-horror though, right? I mean, I didn’t have to turn on the light to watch them; in fact, Army of the Dead was low-key funny. Maybe I need to go back a bit further? The 2010s? Ordering based not on cinematic greatness but personal enjoyment.

Love you, Jordan Peele, but Us will not be on this list.

Get Out (A classic; what a debut for director Jordan Peele)

Constantine (Keanu, that is all)

Train to Busan (Best zombie movie ever. I said what I said)

Dawn of the Dead (Second best)

Shaun of the Dead (Ooop, forgot this one…horror comedy counts, right?)

Zombieland (Of course horror comedy counts)

28 Weeks Later (look, I like zombie stories, okay- in fact, see my story, “Zombie Island“)

A Quiet Place (conceptually good and narratively consistent; character-driven; novel idea)

It Follows (this was unsettling)

It comes at Night (the ‘It’ movies for the horror win)

28 Days Later (The opening images of abandoned London alone makes it stand apart and it popularized the sprinting zombies which was a game changer)

Upgrade (sentient evil AI? My nightmare)

The Invitation (I mean I would have left the dinner but…)

World War Z (love a good zombie fic and really loved this when it came out but I’ve read the book since and the book was better)

#Alive (Dope)

The Girl with all the Gifts (The ending threw me especially as I’m obviously team human)

Shutter Island (sad)

The Others (great twist)

Bird Box (A lot of things don’t make sense but interesting premise and a fun watch)

The Purge: Anarchy (I’ve seen two Purges and the plot to this might be one)

The Purge (I saw this after Anarchy so)

The Crazies (I saw a movie recently that this reminded me of, an old black and white. Is this a re-make?)

Annihilation (It had a few super creepy moments but ulitimately felt underdeveloped)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (honestly, I got what I expected)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (The book was better)

Land of the Dead (I think this is the one with the talking zombies and fireworks)

Goosebumps (don’t really remember a lot about this one but I know I saw it)

Resident Evil: Extinction (video game level horde of zombies….zombies)

Scream 3 or 4 or both (I’m actually unsure about this one; after the OG Scream, they all blur together)

Prometheus (yes, I hated this more than the movie I’m not sure I saw…didn’t think of it as horror but Wikepedia says)

Okay, that’s enough (I think that’s everything), I’ve spooked myself writing this. How about you? Do you have favourite horror flicks of the 2000s, 2010s, 2020s?

New CREATIVE SPACE Alert – It’s a Wrap

This is a clip from the full video interview for this week’s CREATIVE SPACE (CREATIVE SPACE #19 OF 2022: THE “HEADKERCHIEF”; HERITAGE, FASHION, CELEBRATION, AND RESISTANCE). CREATIVE SPACE is my art and culture column. It runs every other Wednesday in Antigua and Barbuda’s Daily Observer newspaper and the extended edition with EXTRAS runs here on my blog (because you know newspapers have their word and column limits).

This entry uses fashion (headwrapping) to explore African-Caribbean traditions – honestly, it touches on food, dress, language, hair, the whole head – our roots in Africa and how we were transformed by colonization. That the Black head and the Black body was legislated away from itself in ways big and small is part of the conversation. The cultural transformation of which this headwrapping tradition is a part, then becomes about reclaiming something that was lost… while looking fly.

This particular clip raises the question of who gets to decide what’s appropriately professional when so much of what’s considered appropriately professional is seeped in western standards of what’s appropriate. This sentiment actually made me think of an earlier CREATIVE SPACE (CREATIVE SPACE #2 OF 2022: THE CII™ OF PUBLIC SECTOR DRESS CODES) inspired by my difficulty getting in to the Transport Board building to renew my driver’s license with “arm sleeve” (bare arms).

This interview was not inspired by but certainly intersected with another sartorial taboo – a child was denied her place in kindergarten (?) because of loc’d hair setting off public conversation about rules and history, and for my part anti-Blackness and self-rejection and its roots in colonialism.

So, yeah, we’re talking about headwrapping and her headwraps are beautiful, and beautifully demonstrated in the video, but in doing so we’re talking about so much more. I hope you’ll check it out (share, comment, and all that good stuff).

ETA: Forgot to add, this is the 5th time CREATIVE SPACE has made the cover of the Daily Observer and the first for 2022. It’s always validating to see art and culture out front.

Sunday Post and a Book Tag

Give thanks for another Sunday. We are in hurricane season and just coming through our first storm watch here in Antigua and Barbuda – and it was an oddly stressful one for me considering that it was a comparatively mild tropical storm watch and I have been through numerous high category hurricanes including David in Dominica at age 6 and in 1995 Luis here in Antigua as a young adult (look them up). Maybe this is some delayed post-Irma + Maria (horrible 2017 season), post-pandemic (though it’s not really past) anxiety, just the uncertainty of everything and the powerlessness of it all. Who knows. Anyway, books are my happy place, so let’s go there, shall we.

Linking up with the Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post.

The only book I’ve read this week is STILL New Daughters of Africa. When I agreed to present at the Antigua Conference in October, I felt like I had time but it’s past mid-September already and among the many things unfinished is this book!!! I’m up to page 752 which is closer to the 800 page finish line but it feels so far away still.

Also unfinished the culling of my book shelf which I began a couple of weeks ago when attempting the personal library book tag. I was trying to record that one for my youtube channel but it was a little too chaotic but I recorded the count to 10 book tag, so I thought I’d share. Give it a watch and count along.

Have you read any of the books mentioned?

A Great Actress and A Reminder

 “It will diminish you and your talent, if you have any, if you don’t let yourself feel the good things because, believe me, you really feel the bad things, and you take them to heart and you own them and they fester. So, then I knew you have to also allow yourself to feel the glory of a good thing.”

Reflecting on the Impact of Oprah’s Book Club (and my own book loving heart)

I’m probably not unique in being an author who dreams of being an Oprah’s Book Club Pick – I have many dreams as an author and it’s Oprah (!), her book club, an at once elite and popular club, has been proven to change a book and writer’s fortunes. I’m not too precious about my writing to admit that that would be nice. Nor to admit that that’s an understatement.

Literary Hub in a 2021 anniversary piece on Oprah’s Book Club looked at the numbers – as if I needed another reason to want in on “the most powerful force in American publishing”. That’s not an empty boast, books sold upward of 500,000 additional copies on being tapped for book club discussion among its 2,000,000 members. Taking LitHub’s word for it, since I’m not about to do any math, that’s 22 million copies sold.

How many and which ones have I read? (whether prompted by the book club or from earlier reading)

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Dandicat
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Sula by Toni Morrison
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Not as many as I’d thought (though I’ve seen movies of some of the others and have some others on my TBR)

Honestly, though, the reader in me loves that she made loving books cool again (and by again, I mean an unprecedented level of coolness). Yes, Oprah’s Book Club is not without its controversies, covered in the LitHub article and yes it has become a mini-industry of sorts, but I choose to believe it still comes, at its core, from a book loving heart. And my book loving heart (formerly of a non-Oprah book club right here in Antigua and Barbuda) appreciates that.

My youngest nephew recently tried to convince me that he loved video games more than I loved books, like 1000x more. His earnestness in communicating how much he loved video games was at once charming and alarming. I wonder if that’s how my parents felt about me always having my head in a book, because, honestly, slow as my reading goes now, me at his age, it’s no contest.

Musical Youth (a soundbite) + Reading Journal Update

How’s this for timing, I just finished updating the Musical Youth reviews page after coming across a new review (which I only got through with the sound off reading the captions because it’s cringe to listen to someone talk about you and your book if you’re me apparently but I appreciate the attention still being given to this book so don’t let that stop you; keep em coming) and look I have this to share.

The audio was done for local radio (not by me) and I decided to slap some reviews on it and upload to my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel. Which reminds me, are you subscribed?

*

This being a Sunday Post, here’s my reading update.

Since last Sunday’s post, I’ve covered 105 more pages of New Daughters of Africa (only 79 pages left to go!). Approaching it as research for this paper I’m supposed to be delivering in October is really pushing me to finish. The good thing is I enjoy most of what I’m reading. The alternative is unthinkable.

But since this is the only book I have to mention in this week’s reading journal, I thought I’d run through the authors covered in this reading block whose books are on or have been added to my reading list, so that you too can check them out.

Jesmyn Ward – New Daughters includes an excerpt from her book Sing, Unburied, Sing and now I have to read the rest.

Tiphanie Yanique – the book includes her story “Monster in the Middle” – which is also the name of her book Monster in the Middle; earlier books Land of Love and Drowning and How to Escape from a Leper Colony have been on my TBR for a while.

Me, far right, with, from left, Sharon Millar, Tiphanie Yanique, and Gillian Royes at the V I Lit Fest 2015.

Candice Carty-Williams – the book includes her “Body Hair: Conversations and Conflict” and her Queenie is also on my TBR

Reni Eddo-Lodge – her essay “Women, Down your Tools!’ is here and her book Why I’m no longer talking to White People about Race has been on my TBR since I came across some videos featuring her sometime during the pandemic

Naomi Jackson – it excerpts her The Star Side of Bird Hill which I want to read even more now

Nadifa Mohamed – has a couple of poems (“A Lime Jewel”, “The Symphony”) in the collection and I’ve had her The Fortune of Men in my TBR

Irenosen Okojie – had “Synsepalum” and I have her Nudibranch on my TBR

Chinelo Okparanta – had “Trump in the Classroom” and my TBR has her Under the Udala Trees

I’ll get to them…eventually. Meanwhile, one of the authors in this reading block I have already gotten to is –

Summer Edward who has several poems (“Love in the Time of Nationalistic Fever”, “Old Year’s Melody”, “Forrest Psalmody”) in the collection; her children’s picture book, The Wonder of the World Leaf, is in my Blogger on Books series.

My International Literacy Day Diary

Keeping it real, I didn’t remember today was International Literacy Day but social media did its work alerting me.

Happy International Literacy Day.

It dates back to 1967, per UNESCO, and is meant to highlight literacy as “a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda towards more literate and sustainable society.” This year’s theme is “transforming literacy learning spaces”.

I’m thinking of three things in relation to this theme (or the day generally) –

1, making literacy places inclusive in all ways. This week, in Antigua, a kindergartner was reportedly sent home because of her loc’d hair (her neatly ribboned loc’d hair). In St. Lucia, a third former was sent home because his fro was considered too high (it wasn’t). It put me in mind of when my nephew started a local secondary school and was made to cut off his hair. It didn’t miss my nephew’s notice that the military cut required of Black boys didn’t apply to non-Black boys equally at his school.

Interestingly, because Black boys have been going through this ever since, there is a scene in my first book that is unfortunately resonant here.

He got into trouble on his first day because of his long hair.  He’d let his hair grow out over the summer and the school principal, Brother English, was having none of that.

            He bent Vere over a desk in his office and applied a couple of blows to his backside with a ruler.  He told Vere he’d get more of the same for each day he came back with his hair like that.  Brother English said he didn’t want any radicals or rastas or other such future bums in his school. 
          

from The Boy from Willow Bend by Joanne C. Hillhouse

And that’s one way Black children learn that their Black hair is bad. Parents want their children to learn, so they don’t fight – as parents used to say in my day “me cyaan teach you”; the school rules must be abided by (no matter if they were discriminatory). Some parents aren’t flexing like that any more though. The mother who reported that she was told by the school’s principal to shave her kindergartener’s locs and the parent of the twins who saw one discriminated against for a few inches of kinky hair posted their children’s pictures on social media drawing attention to the issue and, at least in Antigua, it resulted in much conversation and statements from the Cabinet and Ministry of Education, and all I can hope is that come the start of the next school year we won’t be adding another chapter to the stigmatizing of Black hair. This shouldn’t even be a conversation, your hair isn’t good or bad how it comes out of your head but historically – due, in our case to colonialism, and global anti-Blackness, including internalized anti-Blackness – it is still a thing. Even in majority Black countries.

#makeitmakesense

2, Financial literacy. I know this is about books and reading and that October is Financial Literacy month in the Eastern Caribbean, but if anything requires a start-early educational re-set. Where I come from, working class Antigua, the main form of savings and investments was Box – a number of people putting money in and getting their “hand” on a schedule. This and the GOAT level “cut and contrive” mentality of especially the women in our communities provided much of the education in an environment marked by lack and hope. Generational wealth isn’t just about handing down money but other kinds of intangible inheritances related to money – including a greater ease with money or finance. So, I do think that blank spots in terms of how money works and how to grow wealth exist, as well as emotions like uncertainty and shame around money issues. There is a foundation that needs to be built from very young especially for those who have not systemically benefited within the financial infrastructure.

3, a fun one. Today, I took New Daughters of Africa (hardcover edition) on my morning walk. You might remember that this book is 800+ pages so it’s thick-thick but since I committed to presenting on it at the Antigua and Barbuda Conference in October, like I said, the clock is ticking and so it’s become my walking around book. Literally. Which means I was literally walking with weights. Or one fairly hefty weight. And I got through two more of the book’s 200+ writers. How’s that for commitment to International Literacy Day?

That’s the paperback of New Daughters of Africa on the table next to my books Musical Youth and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure at the Sharjah International Book Fair in 2019.

What’s that you say? You want an excerpt?

“Dionne felt the door close on anything substantial between her and Trevor, but then also the urgency of their closeness in the moment. Dionne knew that any man whose life was already decided for him couldn’t be hers. But here, where her spirit felt only halfway home, anchorless without Avril, she wanted something familiar to be close to, somewhere to land.” – from “from The Star Side of Bird Hill” by Naomi Jackson in New Daughters of Africa.

Enjoy your day; read something and, if you can, gift someone (especially a child) a book. You can gift them one of mine if you wish.

And if you’re looking for something to read for free, there’s a new CREATIVE SPACE here on the blog.