#BookPartyChat

@BookPartyChat on Twitter, hosted by UK author Madeline Dyer, hosted me for a live today. Whew, I had no idea how fast those whizzed by. Kept me on my toes, within 280 characters or less.

It was roughly an hour, 2-3 AST on September 2nd 2021. Thought I’d transcribe it here for archiving on my Media page but be sure to head over to #BookPartyChat and @jhohadli on Twitter (follow me while you’re there) and like or comment or share. Thanks, in advance.

@BookPartyChat:

Hi Joanne! Thanks so much for joining us today for #BookPartyChat to talk about The Jungle Outside! Firstly, can you introduce yourself?
@jhohadli

@Jhohadli:

Hi, I’m a writer in Antigua and Barbuda in the heart of the Caribbean. Happy to be here.

@BookPartyChat:

Great to have you! How long have you been writing and what made you want to be a writer? #bookpartychat

@Jhohadli:

All my life. But my first book a coming of age novella The Boy from Willow Bend was first published in 2002. https://jhohadli.wordpress.com/books

I write to breathe. It is how I process life.

@BookPartyChat:

“I write to breathe.” — I love that answer. #bookpartychat

What is The Jungle Outside about?
@jhohadli
#BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

The Jungle Outside is a children’s picture book about the wonder of looking up, stepping outside and wandering; about overcoming fear and in so doing, tasting the fruits of life. It’s also about a boy and his mango tree climbing grandma.

@BookPartyChat:

What inspired this book?
@jhohadli
#BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

@BookPartyChat
Dante was inspired by one of my nephews and his grandmother by my own mother. Of course, fictionalized versions of them. Their dynamic and the way he would shadow her when he was younger. #Bookpartychat Also my love of #mangoes

@BookPartyChat:

And The Jungle Outside is your 7th book! @jhohadli can you tell us about your other books, and why with your last three picture books you’ve moved toward a children’s readership? #bookpartychat

@Jhohadli:

I go where the characters take me. I’m actually working on some more adult fare at the moment. But I’ve enjoyed this space from the Caribbean faerie tale (With Grace) to the undersea world (Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure) to The Jungle Outside. I also have a teen/YA novel that @KirkusReviews called one of its top indies of 2020, Musical Youth, and two adult novels Oh Gad! and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight in addition to the first book The Boy from Willow Bend.

@BookPartyChat:

The book is very much about the relationship between Dante and his grandmother? Why did you decide to focus the story around this relationship?
@jhohadli
#BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

The people who inspired it (mom, nephew) but also just an interest in that connection across generations, the interaction of knowledge w/ curiosity, experience w/discovery, the tension between opposites, and the love and familial bond that ties it together.

@BookPartyChat:

What was the writing process like? Did the story change much from initial concept to final draft?
@jhohadli
#BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

Not really. It was always about the bond and about exploration. In revision, I fleshed it out, made the ‘jungle’ more #Caribbean rich but the heart of it was always there.

I will say this, when I wrote it, I didn’t know it was a book. It was just something I wrote just for so…

But it meant that when Harper Collins was looking for stories for their new Caribbean series within the Big Cat series of children’s book, I had something to submit.

@BookPartyChat:

Tell us a bit about the publication process. @jhohadli #BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

Because of my previous children’s books, and general publishing history, I was actually approached by the publisher. Which is rare. I pitched some ideas and this story (the only finished potential children’s story I had). They liked it. We made a deal. It was very unusual from my usual chasing the bone publishing experience lol. They chose @DBoodooFortune – a Trinidad artist-poet from the illustrators I recommended and we worked through character concept art until we got Tanty and Dante, and the landscape right. The back and forth of working with the editor and one of the things I like, working on some emotional takeaways for the reader. Then holding this beautiful book in my hand. Joy.

@BookPartyChat:

And what was the collaboration with illustrator Danielle Boodoo-Fortune like? How much say in the illustrations did you get? What was it like seeing your story brought to life in this way? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

It was amazing. Danielle was also hired by @CaribReads to illustrate Lost! and in both cases she reached in to my imagination and brought the world to life, not a carbon copy but an imaginative rendering that both affirmed and surprised. Our main back and forth was ‘Tanty’ (the grandmother). It was important to me that she be dark-skinned with full natural hair and looked like someone who would be wandering & playing outdoors with her grandson. After a couple of tries we got it. Communicating mostly through the publisher who would send me images for feedback. So a lot of input. More than some other projects. Also, seeing your story brought to life never gets old. Indescribable. Especially when the images are this striking.

@BookPartyChat:

What are you working on now? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

What am I not working on? lol My pandemic project has been a short story collection. Fingers crossed I’ll wrap it up soon.

@BookPartyChat:

What’s your top advice for new writers? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

The same thing I tell myself everyday #BookPartyChat write, and when you doubt or get knocked down, persevere and write some more. I submit a lot and get rejected a lot but every now and again there is a parting in the clouds. And sometimes, as with The Jungle Outside, opportunities come to you. But when it does, you won’t have anything to show if you haven’t been putting in the work. So, write.

@BookPartyChat:

Impossible question but I’m going to say #readCaribbean Maybe start with Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid. She’s a writer from Antigua and the discovery of this book made me know that a #gyalfromOttosAntigua could write her world.

Beyond that, I blog books so check Book Chat/Blogger on Books at https://jhohadli.wordpress.com and always keep up with what I’m reading.

Beyond which two of my favourite books on writing are Stephen King’s On Writing and Edwidge Dandicat’s Create Dangerously.

@BookPartyChat:

Do you have any writing routines? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

Not as such. I never leave home without a book to read and something to write in or on. When I’m blocked I walk. I try to make space every day for the creative to happen; I don’t always fill that space but I schedule it like other priorities & stay open. Also music. I need music. No wonder I wrote #MusicalYouthbook

@BookPartyChat:

Where can we find you online? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

I am @jhohadli here, on insta, facebook etc. #Antiguanwriter on YouTube and have two blogs https://jhohadli.wordpress.com

The other is the online platform of a project I started to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua-Barbuda http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com Lots re #Caribarts generally to be found there.

@BookPartyChat:

And please share some buy-links for The Jungle Outside! @jhohadli #BookPartyChat

@Jhohadli:

Publisher links etc for all my books can be found here https://jhohadli.wordpress.com/books The Jungle Outside is pub’d by @HarperCollins & is on all online retailers, indiebound to Amazon, and wherever books are sold.

(shared several online retailer links)

I could go on lol It is everywhere and I hope everyone will support and leave a reader review (much appreciated).

(Aside – the above review is by Diaspora Kids Lit which subsequently interviewed me. You can watch that interview below)

And to wrap the party…

@Jhohadli:

Thanks so much for hosting me @BookPartyChat for the #BookPartyChat Kept me on my toes & always fun to talk books. Thx for sharing your platform & encouraging people to #readCaribbean

@BookPartyChat:

So great chatting with you! #bookpartychat

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