Connections

…the neck bone’s connected to the back bone and the back bone’s connected to the …

with students at the Anguilla Lit Fest (photo by Barbara Arrindell)

with students at the Anguilla Lit Fest (photo by Barbara Arrindell)

Figuring out how this moment connects to that is not always that easy though in the world of writing and publishing. As I prepare for my fourth day here in Anguilla – as a guest of the Anguilla Lit Fest – some connections are clear. I know the invitation to be here came through the publicist at Strebor/Atria/Simon & Schuster, publishers of my book Oh Gad! and that thanks to that I was billed here as a first time novelist – a quirk of publishing I had to explain to the audience of my first panel who were like wait our kids have been reading your earlier book The Boy from Willow Bend for a while. And it’s Willow Bend, marketed when first published just over 10 years ago, as a teen/young adult novella not the full length adult novel that is Oh Gad! making the latter my debut in that category), that has me thinking this early morning about connections. The chair of my panel recollected reading about Willow Bend on the LIAT inflight magazine and how from that awareness sprung interest in bringing the book into schools in Anguilla and how from that interest the book is now part of the secondary schools’ syllabus, required reading for first formers, and how from that requirement came a genuine response to the book by students and, according to one teacher,

with a teacher and library staffer at the Anguilla lit fest. (photo courtesy Barbara Arrindell)

with a teacher and library staffer at the Anguilla lit fest. (photo courtesy Barbara Arrindell)

boy students in particular, boys who had to have their arms twisted to read in the past who were now finishing the book before the start of the school year, and evidence of that genuine response in the young people gathered for my panel, asking me questions about the novel – e.g. how do you explain the bond between characters June and Vere for instance after the boy realized she was his aunt? – and from that genuine response an autograph (and selfie) line where in lieu of their books they asked me to sign slips of paper that they could stick in the books because… I can hardly process it all, all these connections. Meeting these young ones (first during a presentation earlier at the public library and earlier today (yesterday?) during my first of two panels here) has been a highlight of my participation in the Anguilla Lit Fest, which this year has also attracted the participation of the likes of Zane, Elizabeth Nunez, Benilde Little and a number of others including…me, because, connections.

budding novelists?

budding novelists?

The night of my panel, there was a reception and soca music dance party during which I was approached by a mother, her daughter, and her daughter’s friend who, the previous night, had won the island’s spelling bee, I was informed. Both girls informed me that they were not only avid readers – one read about a book a day, the other had read both The Boy from Willow Bend and Musical Youth and wasn’t shy about sharing her favourite and why – but also novelists…not budding novelists, novelists. They’d both written books…and someday, if they keep on that track, we may be seeing those books in print someday and maybe more books from them. Go, girls! Did I mention one of the boys in the audience of the earlier panel mentioned that he was seven chapters into writing and sharing his own book on WattPad? As getting young people to read and write is a big part of what I try to encourage at home in Antigua and Barbuda, especially through my involvement in the Cushion Club reading club for kids and the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and its annual writing challenge, and professionally through the workshops I offer and other programmes like the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project, this filled my heart.

When asked during a TV interview that night about how the government can support a literary culture, part of what I said was about continuing on that track – exposing young people to books that make them want to read, encouraging them to write, giving writers a platform to share their work and learn from each other, giving these young people opportunities to move among living, breathing authors from their world and beyond, and tangibly supporting the arts so that artistes can thrive.
The light in these young people’s eyes, their articulate presentation of their ideas, the fact that they have a perspective, are a reminder to me why it matters to back up our support for the literary arts in these and other ways.

…because the neck bone’s connected to the back bone, and the back bone’s connected to the…

Man of Her Dreams (excerpt)

“Violet,” leaning in close, “If you tell me we can’t, we can’t. But I’m telling you, we need to. The community needs this.  You sure you can’t find a little extra five cents under the cushion. I was raised by a woman and I know you all always have money set aside for a rainy day. Stop holding out on me.” And he’d have her smiling and blushing, and wanting to move, hell, even Mount Obama for him.

This is an excerpt from The Man of Her Dreams, originally published in In the Black: New African Canadian Literature,  and now available in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (full name Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, which as the name suggests includes other writing – previously published and unpublished – in addition to the original Dancing novella).

Dancing cover 2

Upcoming. Anguilla Lit Fest.

This release was posted to the website of the Anguilla Tourist Board. I’m posting it in full here because I’m scheduled to be there. Pictures inserted by me. Here’s the festival website where you can find more details:

THE VALLEY, Anguilla – April 20, 2015 – Anguilla will host the fourth annual Anguilla Lit Fest: A Literary Jollification at the Paradise Cove Resort from May 21-24, 2015. This year’s distinguished panel of authors includes

Zane – award-winning celebrity novelist, (Zane’s Total Eclipse of the Heart: A Novel; Zane’s Addicted: A Novel by Zane (2001) Paperback; Zane’s Infinite Words: A Comprehensive Guide to Writing and Publishing);
Kate White – award-winning author and former Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine, (So Pretty It Hurts: A Bailey Weggins Mystery (Bailey Weggins Mysteries); The Sixes: A Novel; Eyes on You: A Novel of Suspense);
Elizabeth Nunez – award-winning, best-selling author, lecturer and philanthropist,(Boundaries; Not for Everyday Use: A Memoir);
Benilde Little world-renowned, best-selling author (Good Hair: A Novel ; Welcome to My Breakdown: A Memoir);
J. Ivy – Grammy-award-winning performance poet, author and motivational speaker, (Here I am; Here I Am: Then and Now; Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain
);
Joanne C. Hillhouse, award-winning debut author, from the island of Antigua ( Oh Gad!: A Novel (Zane Presents)
; The Boy from Willow Bend
; EDITED TO ADD: Musical Youth
and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight
);
Krista Bremer – award-winning author and associate publisher of The Sun magazine, (A Tender Struggle: Story of a Marriage);
Colin Channer – celebrated award-winning author, professor of Creative Writing, and co-founder of the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica, (The Girl with The Golden Shoes; Iron Balloons: Fiction from Jamaica’s Calabash Writer’s Workshop
)
The publishing panel features
Leigh Haber, Books Editor of O: The Oprah Magazine;
Jessica Strawser, Editor-in-Chief of Writers’ Digest;
Yona Deshommes, Senior Publicity Manager of Atria Books/Simon & Shuster; and
Dr Rhoda Arrindell – critically-acclaimed author and educator, (Language, Culture, and Identity in St. Martin).

The Pride of Anguilla writers and poets include:
Phillip Arnell – debut author, “Fortunate Member of a Caribbean Diaspora”
Marilyn Hodge – author and Host of Positive Living – The Series
Alexis Gumbs – poet
Timmie Webster – performance poet

This year’s event will also celebrate the 2015 Malliouhana Poetry Competition winners, under the theme, Jollification in the 21st century, which is coordinated by the Anguilla Community College and the Department of Youth and Culture in memory of cultural activist, the late Linda Lake; as well as presentations by poets of Anguilla’s soon-to-be-released foundational anthology of poetry, “Where I See the Sun – Contemporary Poetry in Anguilla”, which includes more than 90 poems from 42 seasoned poets and up and coming writers from Anguilla. A selection of books of the featured guest authors, poets and publishers will be available for purchase on site from The Anguilla Lit Fest Book Table, which is coordinated by the Anguilla Library Service.

The Anguilla Lit Fest: A Literary Jollification pays homage to Anguilla’s literary heritage and offers yet another great reason for visitors to come to the island during the early summer period for the event. A registration fee of US$150.00 includes a welcome cocktail party, breakfast and lunch presentations, special sessions with the authors and fun-filled evening soirees. The program includes a free day on Sunday to ensure that participants will have the opportunity to experience the best of all Anguilla has to offer. As in previous years, arrangements are being made for a cross- section of students from the Primary Schools to interact with the visiting authors, and for students from the Secondary School to attend the presentation of the event headliner as specially invited guests. The organizers have also added a special session for children and young writers on the afternoon of Saturday 23rd May.

Residents of Anguilla will pay a special price of US$100.00 for participation in Lit Fest 2015, subject to presentation of proof of residency. A special offer of US$50.00 per day will also be extended to those persons registering for either day of the event before May 15th, 2015. After May 15th, one day registration reverts to US$85.00 per day. Registration is available on line, and tickets can be purchased at The Anguilla Tourist Board and the Anguilla Public Library.

The name of the festival speaks to a very important facet of Anguilla’s cultural heritage–The Jollification. Rhona Richardson-Roydon, a member of the Anguilla Community Foundation, explains the concept of the Jollification as “a getting together of people to share and help neighbors.” This was done through the plowing and planting of ground (fields), all against the backdrop of men working together, women cooking, and children playing, while the work was carried out free of cost, with much laughter, singing and “jollification.” Noted economist, historian, author and playwright, Marcel Fahie writes that through the Jollification, “We helped each other with the construction of our homes. Mutual aid and assistance in the form of free labor was also employed to build community facilities, access roads to and from isolated parts of villages, church buildings, community halls and playing fields. The spirit and elements of the jollification survive to this day in various forms. Most notable is the contribution of our time and effort to furthering the programs of our religious and charitable organizations.”

“The Anguilla Lit Fest would not have been possible without the jollification approach,” notes Director of Tourism, Mrs. Candis Niles. “The spirit of community upon which Jollification is founded is an integral part of our psyche as Anguillians. It is this spirit of community that defines the interaction with our authors, speakers and presenters. For the short time we are together we form a literary community that is vibrant, dynamic and engaging. Like the Jollification itself, the Lit Fest inspires you to look deep within yourself and discover and give expression to the creative force that lies within each one of us, for in so doing we enrich and enlarge the experiences of all of us.”

Special vacation packages for the event are being offered by Anguilla’s leading accommodation establishments, including the Host Hotel, Paradise Cove Resort and Sponsor Hotel, Cuisinart Golf Resort and Spa; Little Butterfly, Villa, Bird of Paradise Villa, Anguilla Great House Beach Resort and Nathan’s Cove. Flights can be arranged on American Airlines, Jet Blue, USAirways, United Airlines, Delta Airlines and Continental Airways through San Juan, Puerto Rico, connecting directly to Anguilla with Seaborne Airlines, or through St. Martin with onward connecting flights or ferry into Anguilla; or on regional carrier LIAT (www.liat.com). Travel from the Caribbean can also be done through Winair (www.fly-winair.com)

For more information on the Anguilla Lit Fest: A Literary Jollification, or to register for this year’s event, go to http://ivisitanguilla.com/register or call 305-444-4033 or 264-497-2759. You may also engage with the Lit Fest community on Twitter and Facebook at the address given below: https://www.facebook.com/groups/anguillalitfest.

ALSO Visit my Appearances page.

Premio Dardos

It’s a banner day, literally…and figuratively. Literally, because, see this image Dardos1(image, banner, po(tay)to, po(tah)to), it means my Jhohadli blog (this blog right here) has been nominated for the Premio Dardos award, an award meant to acknowledge bloggers’ efforts to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal value, promote fraternization between bloggers, and show affection and appreciation for blogs adding value to the web. Why, THANKS, REBIRTH OF LISA. It’s also a banner day because this blog has never been nominated for anything before. *Sally Field voice* “you like me! You (really) like me!” LOL.

In all seriousness, it’s always a little bit mind-blowing when I’m reminded that people actually read these ramblings. Sitting at home in front of your computer, it’s easy to forget that. And sometimes, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing with this blog which is principally about my journeying as a writer and all that that entails. You see the challenge, ALL is pretty broad. I have so much more clarity with the Wadadli Pen blog which is first and foremost a platform for Wadadli Pen (the writing programme I launched in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda). Everything it does is an extension of that; it’s much more tightly focussed.

I didn’t think I’d like blogging. But I’m getting the hang of it. I continue to try to strike a balance between promoting my books and services, keeping readers updated about my activities (such as my current effort to crowdfund this summer’s Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project), discussing my process, sharing my high (and low) lights as a writer, experimenting, and just having fun with it.

Thanks for all who continue to come by, comment, like, or lurk.

And now my nominees (wow, 15? Okay, here goes):

Handbags and Chocolate
Dat Bwoi for Jackie
Seawoman’s Caribbean Writing Opps.
Womanlution: Inside the Mind of Alexandra Caselle
The Wandering Bookmark
Chattinatti
The Next Chapter
Lia Nicholson
ph.d. in Creative Writing
Grab the Lapels
Bak2moi
Antigua A La Carte
Tastes like Home
Black Black and Beautiful
Red for Gender

Whew, that took some doing! Why didn’t anybody warn me? LOL. Glad I could tag some of the blogs I enjoy though (so you can discover and like them, too); so it’s all good.

JHOHADLI SUMMER YOUTH WRITING PROJECT 2015

This is a sort of do-it-yourself crowdfunding initiative in support of the Jhohadli Summer Youth Project 2015. Want to see it happen? This is all about how you can be a part of making it happen.

The Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project was first held in August 2013. Founded and facilitated by me, Antiguan and Barbudan author Joanne C. Hillhouse, it offered the opportunity to young writers (teens and pre-teens) in Antigua and Barbuda to participate free of cost in a weeklong writing camp. Participating campers were sponsored by members of the business community.

Rather than approach specific local businesses this time around, I’m putting out this open call to any individual or entity, local or beyond, who wants to support this project.

Full disclosure – unlike my other youth literary project, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project is not voluntary. The funds raised are meant to cover my time prepping and running the workshop, bringing my expertise as a professional writer and editor, workshop facilitator and writing coach to the process. They are also meant to cover any other expenses related to running the camp. In 2013, this included printing costs (for handouts), stationary purchases, snacks (meals were not provided), transportation and communication costs, and other incidentals – I was lucky, thanks to an arrangement with Silston Library, not to have to factor in venue and group transportation costs (our daily field trips around the city were on foot). I did everything I could to keep the cost down and in every way possible, including location,  ensured that anyone who was genuinely interested could participate irrespective of their financial means.

I would endeavor to make it as accessible this time around.

But at this point, whether or not the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing project 2015 edition comes to be is entirely dependent on if the necessary funds can be raised. In other words, it’s up to you.

I’m as nervous about posting this as I was about my first posting for the 2013 Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing project. But feel the fear, do it anyway, right? So, I’ll be promoting this crowdfunding invitation through May 31st 2015 after which I will make a decision either way.

For blogged reports of the 2013 camps, including participant reviews, go here.

For FAQs and my Contact information, go Here.