Photo Fiction Challenge #21: Sad Clown

sad clown

No one knows how hard it is. How hard it is to keep from jumping. When the truth is whether I come to this bridge or not. I’m here. On this ledge. Every day. And every day I turn away. Praying for courage. And it’s true. That some days. I don’t know if it would take more courage to leap or stay. But I do know that all roads lead here. And each day I turn away. Some days in triumph. Some days feeling the weight of my cowardice. Like clothes drenched in rain. Make up running down my face. Some days it is this pathetic image that pulls me from the edge. I do not want my death to be a cliché. I will not be your tragic artist. Is defiance enough of a reason to stay? Today it will have to do.

In response to prompt posted by Random Michelle

See response to prompt #20 here

This prompt response didn’t come via Michelle but I thought I’d share it any way – Pieces of the Past



Words Travel redux

I wrote a whole blog about this, first thing ….something about how words travel or something (hence the title)… and then it disappeared. I’m going to take that as a sign that I was revealing too much and the blog gods intervened. So I’ll just let you know that my poem Under Pressure is included in Volume 4 of this series, coming in March 2016. I look forward to receiving my copy. Words travel, indeed.

A River of Stories

See links to previously published poems, fiction, non fiction, and books.
Also client projects.

Wadadli Pen work-in-progress

Wadadli Pen

There’s always a sliver of doubt, even now, 12 years in, whether anybody even wants this; and so it’s always with some relief and joy that I receive the first submission to the 2016 Wadadli Pen Challenge. At this point, I don’t know yet, if it’s a good season or a season as bad as the year we received only about 20 entries (most of them for the art prize). It’s still all just possibility at that point – like the moment after pulling the ribbon on a brightly wrapped package before the present inside is actually revealed. At that point it could be anything and so your heart is alight with expectation – no disappointment yet, no elation, no nothing except…wonderful possibility. So that’s what this time is like in the cycle of Wadadli Pen. That and the work of… well, tonight, in between work-work, I’m…

clearing the inbox…

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Back from Guyana

“Part of the literary ecosystem are the editors who work with writers.”
– Nicholas Laughlin

I spent the week of January 17th 2016 in Guyana, one of nine participants selected for a Carib Lit workshop on fiction editing.

group photo

Pictured, front from left are Peepal Tree publisher Jeremy Poynting, and writers/workshop participants Shivanee Ramlochan, Nailah Imoja, Jane King, and Felene Cayetano; and back from right Johnny Temple of Akashic Books, Kim Dismont Robinson, Ruel Johnson, Tanya Batson-Savage, Richard Georges, and me (in red).

The workshop was held in partnership with Commonwealth Writers, with support from the British Council and CODE (which you may remember are also the sponsors of the Burt Award for which I was a finalist in 2014 and which in 2015 sponsored a workshop that I facilitated here in Antigua). It was facilitated by Jeremy Poynting of Peepal Tree Press (UK based, publishing since 1986) and Johnny Temple of Akashic Press (that’s former rock bassist Johnny Temple! of Akashic books – US based, publishing since 1997). My fellow travelers were from Jamaica (independent publisher and media person Tanya Batson-Savage), Belize (librarian and writer Felene Cateyano), Tortola in the BVI (poeting professor and doctoral candidate Richard Georges), Barbados (hey, Nailah Imoja… writer-teacher, and more), Guyana-which-technically-means-he-didn’t-travel-there-but-whatever (Ruel Johnson, writer and activist-cum-cultural advisor), St. Lucia (Jane King…poet and more), Trinidad and Tobago (critic and poet Shivanee Ramlochan), and Bermuda (Kim Dismont Robinson…folklife officer and more). You’ll notice with Caribbean writers there’s always a lot of and more, because in building and/or contributing to a literary culture in our own countries, we often have to work, as, I think, Lucian poet (author of Sounding Ground) Vladimir Lucien once said to create the environment we need.

Which brings me to why I was there. The workshop was part of the larger mission to “build on the tradition of great Caribbean literature by supporting a vibrant literary community and a profitable, sustainable publishing industry within our region…strengthening literary publishing through more training and development opportunities for writers, (building) stronger technical skills, and (supporting) focused promotion and distribution initiatives to help overcome geographical challenges.”

I applied because, well, as an author and a freelance writer and editor, as a writer journeying, as someone who lives by “picking up this and picking up that”, here and there, I’m always on the lookout for (no not jobs but) opportunities. And this seemed like a good opportunity to polish my editing skills – take some of the dull off of it, and shine. It also goes without saying that my network grows, often in ways I can’t foresee, each time I step off my island and in to the larger community of writers and people in publishing. Engagement and opportunities can grow from that.  Here’s the thing though, it’s also about community. As part of my application, I was required to submit a proposal and in drafting that proposal, I saw linkages (however tenuous) between my volunteerism with Wadadli Pen, my journeying as a writer from a small place, and the need for small voices rich with imagination and their own stories to be heard.

Getting there was bumpy, not the flight but things having nothing (or very little) to do with the organization and execution of the activity (which was well managed). But as with much else, I’m finding that if I hadn’t done it, I would have regretted that. Instead I feel happy; happy that I went (my first trip to Guyana), happy I was there (nothing is perfect, not when so many different energies are involved, but, still), happy to be home (and all that comes with that).

We had homework – before we even got started, we had stories (plus a book) we needed to read in advance for critiquing purposes (these instructions came in only a few days before I was set to travel and while I was busy trying to wrap up life and projects to be gone for a week so it was a bit of a test but I think I passed).

We did practical assignments – for example, preparing a book cover blurb and design brief for a forthcoming book (a challenging but fun and interesting exercise); editorial meetings to select authors to publish (and to be able to justify and defend those choices per criteria used by publishers when deciding such things); and while we didn’t get deep into the weeds with line-by-line editing, we stepped on the grass.

We had food for thought – what factors can help or hinder your publishing journey (perception sometimes becomes reality and all that), how can we be a part of the development of Peekash, which is itself developmental as the hybrid (Peepal + Akashic, get it?) publishing house committed to showcasing regional artists, how to unpack these and other questions piled in to this week that in the end just seemed to fly by.

reading in Guyana

Reading from The Boy from Willow Bend at Moray House.

We did a reading at Moray House to a full house. This was perhaps my favourite activity – kicking back and hearing the unique voices of writers usually scattered across the Caribbean, gathered in one place. As it was my first time hearing them read, my first time in some cases ‘reading’ their words, it was a delightful night of discovery for the literature lover in me.

I must say a word or two about Moray House (located at the intersection of Camp and Quamina), a former residence (of the de Caires family) which (under the stewardship of a trust) now serves as a cultural space. Something about this idea appeals to me, reminding me of visiting the Louisa May Alcott house in Massachusetts, though this was more of a living, breathing, and, especially on the night of our readings, artistically vibrant space than a museum. Both speak to a respect for literature and culture that warms me a-kinda-how. Sitting in the Moray House meeting room – a former living room? den? dining room? – not even the persistent beeping of car horns, as vehicles shouldered their way aggressively along Georgetown’s speedways, popped the bubble of words and literary exploration we found there. As these things do, it stirred a yearning for such oases (not to be confused with the coffee bar/restaurant frequented by some during our time there, and the site of our farewell-Guyana dinner): spaces where the arts matter at home, and in our region.

As I said on our last day, my favourite-favourite aspect was connecting with the other writers; and I am thankful for having had the opportunity to be in the room with them, learning from and with them, and from our very able and engaging facilitators over those five days.

What else, well, part of the process of these types of things is the what-next; I think it’s fair to say that a door has been opened (especially for those who might have felt shut out before), and the challenge (as we return to our lives) is keeping it open, opening it wider so others can pass through, and filling the space/s on both sides of that door with people networking, doing projects, making things happen; truly reflecting and respecting spaces big and small in our richly diverse part of the world. The organizers have articulated a desire to create relationships with national projects with regional reverberations; and we, the workshop participants, and you, reading this, I suppose, if you’re part of our Caribbean, are to consider how we can be a part of this, if we want to.

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Also check out Shivanee Ramlochan’s blog on the experience at Commonwealth Writers.

Look what came in the mail todaaay!

magazines in

“It’s been a pleasure working with you—I look forward to having your voice in Writer’s Digest.” – Writer’s Digest editor. Look for my article on Caribbean literary festivals in the January 2016 issue.

“Thank you so much for sharing your story in the pages of Essence. You are a pleasure to work with and I hope to collaborate again soon.” – Essence features editor. Look for my article on identity, self-acceptance, colourism, and a childhood doll in their February 2016 issue. Especially thrilled to be featured in an issue that’s all about #blackgirlmagic

Thankful for both these opportunities both as a freelance writer #onthehustle and an author picking my way through #TheWritingLife Thankful to the Anguilla Lit Fest where I made these connections. Plan to keep pushing through creatively and as far as freelancing is concerned. Big up to everyone who’s stopped by my facebook to post and share their best wishes. Feeling the love, loving the feel.




Lessons from My Father

I worry sometimes that, busy chasing my own dreams, and working to make my ends meet, I have not delivered to my parents their well-earned rest and reward. After all, my siblings and I would be nothing without their sacrifice. And so it was that on my father’s birthday (he’s a January born like me, though a different sign), a milestone birthday, I asked my father what he would like, and he answered, nothing…whatever. Suspecting that he was worried I wouldn’t be able to treat him, I played a hypothetical, isn’t there anything you really, really want game by asking what he would do if he won the lottery…(after all, he and my mother were the example to me of working hard for what you want in life, and yet knowing that the hard work doesn’t guarantee anything, and in his retirement he lives humbly and contentedly for the most part…when radio chatter doesn’t have him in a state)…and after a pause, he said, if he won the lottery, he would help people poorer than himself, people who needed help. And I realized then that even as I was trying to give him things, he was still giving me so much more, lessons about the true value and purpose of life, a reminder that it is not about acquiring things, but about being at peace with yourself and being there for others in whatever way you can. That in the end it matters less what you have than who you have been and what you have done in service to those, like you, walking this earth. He doesn’t hold grudges with his parents for what they weren’t able to give him and wishes only that his children and grandchildren could go a little further down the road than he has. I stay learning.

Just Write

Just Write Writers Retreat

Thanks to Brenda Lee Browne (front, second from left) and the Just Write Writers Retreat for having me (back, middle) back each year so far as a paid facilitator; thanks as well for the sponsorship each year of a spot for the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge winner (go here for more on this year’s Wadadli Pen Challenge and here for more on my services as a writing coach, workshop facilitator, editor and more). Interesting side note, a week after leading the Just Write session on editing, I was a student in the Carib Lit workshop on fiction editing (more on that in another post, but meantime more on Carib Lit here) – because I remain both a student and a teacher (and I hope that never changes). Here’s the Just Write post-retreat release for 2016:

“Awesome”, “learnt a lot” are just two comments coming out of this year’s Just Write Writers’ Retreat, held January 08 – 10 at the Mount Tabor Retreat in John Hughes, Antigua.

Seven writers joined facilitators Brenda Lee Browne, Chadd Cumberbatch and Joanne C. Hillhouse for two days of workshops, writing and discussions.

The retreat’s organiser, Brenda Lee Browne is very happy: “This is the third Just Write Writers’ Retreat in Antigua and it is growing. It was a packed two days in a great setting and I cannot thank Joanne C. Hillhouse and Chadd Cumberbatch enough for being so generous with their time and sharing their vast knowledge with an eager group of writers.”

Joanne C. Hillhouse adds that: “Artists need space to create; not just physical space but mental space – a retreat like Mount Tabor provides both. It has the potential because of this to attract not only local writers but with proper support and promotion writers from other places. I’m thrilled to have been a part of it over the years and feel myself growing as a facilitator even as those I tutor grow in their strengths as writers.” READ MORE.

Also, see recent updates to my jobs and media page – Essence, baby!