ETA: Sharing via the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s Sunday Post, which is about the week that was and all things books.
In November 2019, I travelled to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates as an invited author to the Sharjah International Book Fair (which, btw, now has the Guinness record for largest simultaneous book signing – an activity so crowded I had to squeeze through it to get to my second panel). The SIBF is huge by the way – more than 170 programmed/guest authors, from almost 70 Arab and non-Arab countries over 11 days (only some of which I was there for). Though it’s impossible to capture everything I tasted, heard, saw etc., I shared a lot of the journey on social media (my instagram and facebook) in real time; plus there was some media there and here at home (see my media page for some of it) – and a lot of re-shares and likes and such (all deeply, deeply, deeply appreciated). But I still have to do something for the blog (because, obviously); #sorrynotsorry (lol) to anyone who’s over it already. I am a #gyalfromOttosAntigua and this is the farthest I’ve been from home; it is an example of the writing journey taking me somewhere I never expected to land (there’ve been a few such times) at imperfect times in my life. This time was no exception. I embrace all of it.
What got me there
Well, Emirates Air (lol)
and this book (New Daughters of Africa)
I was invited to be a part of the panel centering the 2019 publication New Daughters of Africa. The publication includes over 200 women writers from the motherland and the diaspora. I feel blessed to be a part of it and, because of it (shout out Myriad publishers) to have had the opportunity to be a part of this.
This is a gallery of some of my Sharjah tripping.
Gulf Model School in Dubai.
500 6 and 7 year olds… but thankfully some teachers there to help.
I introduced the students to one of my picture books, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure.
Look forward to being on their Book-o-Gram one day and to a review of my books being hung among other student reviews in the school library.
While I’ve read Anansi stories at schools in Antigua (my go-to before I’d written my own children’s picture books), this school visit was my first attempt – EVER – at telling an Anansi story.
A gift from the principal (Dr. S. Reshma) who is herself an author.
I had two.
The first panel (with Noura Al Noman, “the first celebrated Emirati science fiction writer”) with its focus on reading patterns among young people, and also use of national versus universal language in storytelling, among other things, was picked up on several news platforms. Shout out to moderator of the panel above Dr. Lamya Tawfik and moderator of the panel below Mr. Abdul Karim – thanks to them both for steering the conversation in interesting directions.
The second panel (with NDOA editor Margaret Busby and contributor Ellah Wakatama Allfrey). Clearly we had a good time.
This woman told me she is an aspiring writer while I signed copies of Lost!, Musical Youth, and NDOA.
Grabbing some dinner at the Sheraton, after my first panel with New Daughters editor Margaret Busby, contributor Yvonne Bailey Smith (Zadie Smith’s mom), and her friend.
I had several escorts to make sure I was where I needed to be; this young lady, Roaa, is originally from Syria and she came along with me for my school visit. Shout out as well to my escorts at the Fair location (Zayna, Mamu, and others); and to the help desk and others at the hotel who tried to keep me pointed in the right direction.
With African-American author (w/Barbadian roots) Bernice McFadden in the desert. We first met (and clicked) in 2016 in Barbados where we were both guests of the BIM Lit Fest and co-facilitators of a workshop – so I guess technically we first met via email when I wrote, so how do you want to do this? We ran in to each other again in 2018 at the Miami Book Fair where we both had sessions. I’ve blogged a couple of her books (Sugar, Glorious) btw if you want to check her out – I know I’m eager to read more (Book of Harlan and Praisesong for the Butterflies especially).
Some Sharjah scenes
-on the road-
took these while driving, walking, or simply sitting; that last one is the hotel I stayed at.
-at a museum-
Illustrating what pre-historic people in that part of the world knew about animal/horse anatomy.
Pottery. Always an area of interest for me given my family history (see Oh Gad!).
Spotted these signs in most buildings including the Museum.
-in the desert-
One of our social outings was to Mleiha. In fact some of the museum images above are actually the Mleiha Archeological Centre which we visited before taking a safari in to the desert for sunset, stargazing, and a barbeque dinner. I saw camels, sand, so much sand…and Jupiter.
Strike a pose.
Festivals or other platforms at which I’ve been invited to and had the opportunity to represent myself and Antigua and Barbuda literary arts have to date included Wadadli Stories, the National Literacy Festival, Independence (including one-time the A&B Independence celebrations in Canada), and the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival (among other community organized literary activities right here at home), the United States Virgin Islands Literary Festival and Book Fair, the Bocas Literary Festival (in Trinidad and Tobago), the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars conference (in Suriname), the opening of Greenlands Books and Things (in St. Kitts & Nevis), the St. Martin Book Fair (in Sint Maarten and Saint Martin), the Anguilla Lit Fest, the PEN World Voices Festival Literary Safari (in New York), the Miami Book Fair, the Caribbean Congress of Writers (in Guadeloupe), the Friends of Antigua Public Library Author in Residence series (in New York), the Nature Island Literary Festival (in Dominica), the BIM Literary Festival and Book Fair and the BIM Arts for the 21st Century Writers Symposium (in Barbados), the Brooklyn Book Fair, Aye Write! Festival (in Scotland) – plus readings that came out of workshops I participated in in Rhode Island, Barbados, Vermont, and Guyana. To this list I now add Sharjah. This writing life has been and remains bumpy but there are interesting stops on the journey; and I am grateful.
-by Joanne C. Hillhouse. If you haven’t checked any of my books as yet, I hope you do. If you have read my books, please consider posting a review here, at online retailers, or on book review sites like (but not exclusive to) Goodreads. Thanks! Also, as needed, be sure to check out my writing and editing services.