June Sessions: Writing is Your Business

“I think I have improved. I now look at my weak areas when writing.”

“The overall training was good and I’ve learned how to structure my ideas.”

“English is one of the most difficult languages. Everyone makes mistakes in writing; the aim is to be diligent in revision. I love Ms. Hillhouse’s approach to the lessons.”

“Overall it was a productive course; I have learned a lot.”

These comments were lifted from the blind evaluation sheets submitted by participants in Cycle 1 Level 1 of my written communication course, Writing is Your Business.

Cycle 2 (the re-boot) will start June 7th (level 1) and June 9th (level 2) – one evening each week for four weeks.

The cost: EC$150 for the entire four weeks.

The location: the Best of Books, St. Mary’s Street, Antigua.

The participants: That’s you – if you’re an adult employee or entrepreneur interested in professional development.

The partner: Barbara Arrindell & Associates (which offers parallel courses in public speaking)

The goal: confident and effective written communication.

You can sponsor a staff member.

Invest in yourself.

Pass this on to someone you think could benefit from this course.

If you have questions or wish to register, contact me.

Registration forms here:
registration Written communication level 2
registration-written-communication level 1

Signed,

Joanne C. Hillhouse

Author, Freelance Writer & Editor, Writing Coach andWorkshop Facilitator, Developer and instructor of Writing is Your Business

p.s. I still/also offer creative writing classes and coaching and recently offered my first creative writing workshop for children; contact me know if you want to be added to the mailing list for future offerings.

It’s not a competition!

It shouldn’t need to be said, but…

Rebirth of Lisa

Recently I had a social media encounter with a high school classmate that caused me to pause and take notice. I posted a quote from one of my favorite writers, Maya Angelou, on my page. Here’s the quote:

“There is a kind of strength that is almost frightening in black women. It’s as if a steel rod runs right through the head down to the feet.”

Apparently this was offensive to my classmate who is a white female living in Oregon with a degree from Duke University. Though she usually displays an open mind, this quote caused her to react defensively. She wanted me to know that she knows plenty of white women who are strong. This raised my cockles a little and I took a deep breath before responding. Hey, I didn’t need to come off as ‘The Angry Black Woman’ in this instance. Once I breathed the appropriate…

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Jamaica Observer Bookends Children of the Spider, Musical Youth

Bookends, the Jamaica Observer literary supplement has always been kind to me. You can see previous coverage of my writing and books on my media page. Give thanks. I am delighted to be featured, this time around for Child Month, with an excerpt from Musical Youth, published alongside the newest winning book to emerge from the Burt Award contest to unearth new teen/young adult literature (this book, incidentally, won the Burt prize the year I served as a judge; my own book Musical Youth was runner-up for the prize the previous year).

Bookends

“In the land of the Spider gods, a
girl counted the stars and waited.
The hillside where she crouched
was exposed to the eyes of the
enemy, with just a few mossy and
pungent boulders for cover, but
their heads bent in prayer around
the fountain below, the men never
looked up from under their hoods.
They lit flambeaus and put them
out again in an order only they
understood. Seven of the Brothers
wore black robes. The eighth
wore red and carried a spear.
In the land of her mother’s
grave and her father’s memory, a
girl waited.”

Hmmm, a girl is giving me Aria Stark vibes. In all seriousness though, that isn’t that far off; Children of the Spider is a fantasy with a young girl’s heroic and complicated journey and loss at its centre; she makes alliances along the way and encounters the most unlikely mythical creatures, danger at her heels the entire time. The only difference between this and other books in the genre, typically, is that this one is set in Guyana, drawing on the location to add something fresh to this popular sub-category. If the teen/young adult in your life likes adventure and fantasy, they’ll like this, I believe.

‘At the last lick of her pick, she opened her watery eyes
to find his face inches from hers. She hadn’t heard or
felt him come closer. Thinking he might kiss her then,
she held her breath; but he merely smiled.
“How you feel?”
She searched her heart.
“Happy,” she said.
Her fingers were still tingling, and the electricity of it
travelled up the rest of her body until she felt like she
had to move, or scratch, or dance or something. She
leaned forward and kissed him. And just like that the
spell was broken.’

Shaka and Zahara are wrapped up in the world of music and each other, their friendships and the summer musical production that will change both their lives. I wanted to create something that spoke to that time in your life when you’re just beginning to figure things out about your self and your friendships are the all-consuming relationships of your life. We’ve all lived that time and I drew on my own memories (and my teenage niece’s frank feedback) in connecting with these millennial 2.0 kids. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I really enjoyed hanging out with these kids and I know I (and, fingers crossed, your teen) haven’t seen the last of them.

Here’s the link to the Jamaica Observer Bookends May 2016 spotlighting both Children of the Spider and Musical Youth. Thanks to Ms. Sharon Leach for inviting me to submit. Hope you enjoy but not only that. Hope you support the authors, share the link, buy the books, encourage others to buy the book, suggest your libraries and schools add them to their stacks or reading lists, do what you can to make the teen/young adult readers these books are targeting reach their target. Support the literary arts.

Writing Short Fiction: More than a Sprint

I just finished a first edit of a story I wrote on a plane en route to Antigua from BIM.

with poster

Me in Barbados for the BIM Lit Fest, ’16.

I don’t recall ever writing on a plane before, certainly not a full draft of a story. I can’t recall why the urgency, but there it was. Correction: not so much an urgency but an openness, an unclutteredness. Which makes sense considering I’d just spent a few days immersed in the literary world – putting down all but one of my other professional deadlines, albeit unintentionally. Picking through it just now I was reminded that this is part of the unique pleasure of writing shorter pieces – it’s not about the destination. Often it’s an idea, an impulse, a certain something bite-sized though not necessarily small that you play with like a cat with a ball of yarn or even a dangling thread (mixed metaphors acknowledged but ah dey e dey).

I used to describe the difference between writing shorter and longer pieces as the difference between a sprint and a marathon but I realize now that that’s far off.

Run-like-the-wind

Nope it’s not a sprint! Shout out to pocket rocket Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce doing what she does – run like the wind – in this Reuters image.

Sure, novel writing still feels like a marathon but writing a shorter piece, the writer isn’t necessarily in a rush to get anywhere, nor is the story for that matter. And they can take as vigorous and lengthy a time to get right as any novel. I have novels I’ve written in mere weeks (yes, I’m looking at you Musical Youth) and stories that took years (including a workshop and writing partner input) to edit (Genevieve comes to mind). So, clearly, the process isn’t that easily boxed up and labelled. And part of the fun I take in writing short pieces is playing in but sometimes outside the sandbox. For one, writing shorter pieces has allowed me the freedom to experiment, just because, with different approaches to storytelling and genres – noir, fairytale, farce, fantasy, erotica, you name it, things I have not dared attempt to write in book form and don’t even know if I want to. It’s an opportunity to practice until you learn to use your tools with precision like a master surgeon – and I am, for the record, still practicing hashtag not a master surgeon – while remaining open to the story’s power to surprise. I don’t know about other writers but it can be fun when a story takes me off the course I thought we were on – that’s what I mean by le surprise. I like not knowing fully where we’re going (the not knowing is a big part of what drives me to write after all) but with practice being able to trust that I have the skills to get us there or get us out of there if needs be.

It’s all a reminder that writing isn’t always destination – something you can forget with deadlines and submission cycles – but also process and play.

CartoonKids(1)

This is supposed to be fun, too, remember?

Want to read some of my short fiction? See what’s been jounalled and anthologized here, see my response to different writing prompts right here on this site, or pick up a copy of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, the entire second part of which is those other writings you might not be familiar with if all you know of my writing is Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, The Boy from Willow Bend i.e. the books. In Dancing, I share some of the motivation and process behind some of the writing, which might be fun for readers who like to peel back the curtain (I am that type of reader, too; yes, I was the girl renting the DVD as much for the extras,including and especially the audio commentary,as the film itself).

As for the story on the plane, my novels may be stalled but I’m delighted that it and other stories are coming just now (one in a dream, recently) and I’m happy that they’re not in any particular hurry to go anywhere.

Drawing out Creativity: Notes from my Children’s Creative Writing Workshop

WIN_20160522_11_18_08_ProI can’t draw. That much is obvious. That wasn’t the point. The point was putting coloured pencil or crayon to paper and letting your colours come through. Our model was an internet image of a Canadian tulip. No two of our images looked alike and none looked like the decidedly beautiful Canadian tulip – which both of the participants in my first children’s creative writing workshop were certain looked like a hibiscus. Note: it looks nothing like a hibiscus but we associate things with what we know in order to make sense of them and it had red highlights and delicate looking petals, which was enough to make them one and the same in the eyes of an eight year old and an almost nine year old.

This wasn’t an art class – obviously; this was my first children’s creative writing workshop for 6 to 11 year olds, a younger group than I normally work with so I was still experimenting to see what works. I wanted to jump right in getting them using their hands and their imagination and (for a kid who declares off the top, I hate writing) drawing and colouring, which is also storytelling, is a good way to ease them in to it. Or so I hoped.

Later, the flower drawing would come in handy as we began building characters which would fit in to a story in a world in which flowers feature prominently (no spoilers as this is drawn from a story and a world I am currently working with in my own writing). We didn’t get as far as I’d like because we had only an hour and because despite my years with the Cushion Club, my years as an aunt, my years visiting schools, I hadn’t sufficiently accounted for how easily distracted children  are: the million questions, the inability to wait and see, the ways they bounce off of each other. I was supposed to have four but in retrospect it’s a bit of a blessing that I started with just two so that if (when?) I do it again, I’ll be better prepared.

In between drawing and beginning to ‘draw’ their own characters, we did some reading (visual reading – for which Ashley Bryan’s Beautiful Blackbird picture book was a good match), and lastly we began to work with characterization (why did you choose that for your character etc.).

Children resist writing because it seems hard and because most of their interaction with it is regimented (are you marking this?) What I tried to do in this workshop – what I hope to do if I (when?) I continue is to show that it is just another form of expression, that it is storytelling, and that within them, the power to express and tell stories is already there. In different ways, my goal is to try to continue to pull it out.

And you better believe I hung one of my tulips on the fridge just to see what that felt like.

And you better believe I hung one of my tulips on the fridge just to see what that felt like.

As for this first session, they left with their signed interpretations of the Canadian tulip, the beginnings of an expression of their first character in picture (a combination of magazine clippings and drawings) and words (descriptions, vocalizations of choices made). Hopefully, they had some fun and hopefully they’ve begun to see that every new adventure doesn’t have to begin with can’t (at what age do we start talking ourselves out of things before trying them?). Focus was a challenge so we didn’t get as far as I had hoped – we both will continue to learn as (if) we go forward.

If you’d be interested in signing your child up for future Children’s Creative Workshops here in Antigua, email me at jhohadli at gmail dot com I’m (granted a little wilted but) game to continue if there’s interest.

38: our Meet-Cute

meet cuteI wanted to do more with the cracks but by the time I finished editing this down to 300 words, playtime was over. But such as it is, have a read of my latest response to a Random Michelle Photo Fiction Challenge.

The bullet hole is tattooed over the scar covering the left side of her chest. Anyone who sees its cracked lines up close, usually, sees their death. Don’t cry for them. She doesn’t go looking for trouble.

Being a factionless mutant in such times is dangerous. The scar on her chest is evidence that that danger’d nearly ended her. Few could survive a bullet through the heart. Self-healing is a part of her mutation but there was only so much her body could do against a bullet. It spit it out and a lot of her blood with it. It was after that that her skin took on its strange bluish-green tint, due to anemia; that light had unleashed another aspect of her mutation, a protective heat as deadly as radiation.

The night I met her I was bedded down in an alley with nothing but newspaper for cover. It had President Blowhard’s orange face on it. His mutation was a karizma that hypnotized many. Not me. I had resistance. I planned to wipe my ass with his face when I did my business in the morning.

I recognized her right away; her aura was bright like she was fresh from a fight. But she was shivering – it was her curse that the heat she emitted only made her colder. She stopped when she saw the alley was already occupied.

I didn’t see death. I saw a girl alone and drained of everything. I raised myself up slightly, silently offering her the questionable warmth of my newspaper blanket and the heat from my many days unwashed body. She looked at me for the longest while, aura wavering. My mouth dried. Then her light abruptly dimmed and she all but fell in to me.

We’ve been together ever since.