The Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project is a writing camp I’ve been running on and off since 2013. This year, I’m doing two weeks, one in July (or pre-Carnival) and one in August (post-Carnival). The July week is done and, though original interest and even registration whittled itself down to three participants, it was a good week. You can check my facebook for my daily reflections between July 22nd – 26th 2019 (like the page while you’re there).
In this space, I’ll be sharing participant reflections on:
…their favourite activity…
“Visiting Fort Berkelee”
“Writing the poem ‘Antigua in Purple’”
“Writing on the slave dungeon at Orange Valley”
(Each day, we were exploring and writing in different locations. This included two days in the city and three days out of the city, including to the spaces named. The [Antigua in…] poem was a slow build during the week with each participant gathering items – mentally – based on their favourite colour and then weaving them in to a poem on Antigua [guided by the week’s literary lessons]. Hearing those poems come together was one of my favourite activities too.)
…their least favourite activity…
There were two no-answers and one indicated that their least favourite activity was “visiting the church”.
(The church in question is one of our historical churches but, yeah, the visit didn’t play out as I would have liked due to it being a rainy day – it was actually the longest day of the whole week as a result. As for the no answers, it could be they thought every thing was wonderful – doubtful – or were shy to voice their honest opinion – which I get. Needless to say I could pick up the times when their energy lagged and the interest wasn’t there, but overall I did my best to keep them engaged, interested, observing, and creating.)
…favourite place visited…
(This actually surprised me a little bit – pleasantly – because it means that one out of three got something out of each of the places visited. We did our last writing exercise and evaluations at Wallings Nature Reserve, so maybe that’s why it didn’t get picked – too soon. They did indicate that they found it peaceful, which is interesting because the birds and the trees and the leaves beneath our feet and the terrestrial and airborne creatures never shut up. Nature is its own kind of loud and Wallings is beautiful. Read about it in my CREATIVE SPACE series)
…thing I found out about my writing…
“I tend to reuse and revisit places.”
“I tend to say what is happening and rhyming.”
“I tend to use too much adverbs.”
(It’s important that we begin to know our writing, including our crutches – I remain a work in progress in this regard, and am happy that they come away from JSYWP 2019 beginning to look for what works and doesn’t work as they continue to discover their writing style and tell their stories…even if their path isn’t writing)
… would/would not recommend this writing camp and why?…
“I would because the constructive criticism helps you to reconstruct your poems and stories to make them pop.”
“I would recommend this writing programme to someone because it helps you to realize what you need to pick up on.”
“I would recommend this to anyone because it helps in awareness of your writing.”
(I have to say I have enjoyed these young people’s writing – especially the Antigua in [colour] poems which were all very different and, though in need of work, dope; and some of their writing from other places – the Museum, Fort Berkelee, and especially the slave dungeon [encounter with the ancestors]. I like that they were for the most part willing to listen, try, write, and share [which in any setting is a very brave act for a writer]. I appreciate the feedback.)
Some thanks from me to the participants and their parents for trusting me to give you a creative and enriching experience. To Mali Olatunji for volunteering to accompany us to the slave dungeon and share the oral history from his conversations with the late Papa Zackie (who lived to be almost 100 years and knew the area well). One of the things I learned was about the Barram people (sp?) who came down out of the hills post-Emancipation and who had actually retained a lot of African words and practices (much of which diluted over time as they assimilated). I appreciated having Desiree Edwards who joined us for the visit to this place of ancestral pain – the dungeon and the sugar mill both. Thanks to Barbara Arrindell who contributed two copies of her book The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Other Stories to the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project. From my library, I also pulled, for research purposes because we read up on everywhere we went and also let that inform our writing, Desmond Nicholson’s Heritage Treasures of Antigua and Barbuda, Keithlyn and Fernando Smith’s To Shoot Hard Labour, Paget Henry and Mali Olatunji’s The Art of Mali Olatunji, and for our reading fun (participant selection) Imam Baksh’s Children of the Spider – so I thank all of those authors as well for making my work easier. Sir Reginald Samuel whose sculpture – one of two he has in the city – we also engaged with (though its presence was a pointed reminder of how little public art there is in Antigua-Barbuda; never mind a national art gallery). The people who care for the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, Nelson’s Dockyard, the Rock Dungeon at Orange Valley, the St. John’s Cathedral churchyard, and the Wallings Nature Reserve who accommodated (mostly knowingly) our presence during the week. All of the public bus drivers who unknowingly were a part of our writing camp experience as we toured the island, and the management and staff at the Best of Books for use of the space and for your hospitality – thank you too. To my brother. Thanks, finally, to anyone who helped me spread the word about the JSYWP 2019, including people on my social media, media generally with a special shout out to Darren Matthew Ward for inviting me on to Observer AM to talk about it.
I do JSYWP because it’s something I can do independently to do the kind of work I love to do (and when/if they hire me to do this work, I’ll do that too) when I’m not doing my own writing. I’ll be doing more of this work, provided there’s interest, in August; so contact me if you are in Antigua-Barbuda, and your teen would like to participate in Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project (August 2019).