My Favourite Thing

This post links up with the My Favourite Thing To Do Next To Reading Meme.

This is a bit of a cheat since this Favourite Thing intersects with things bookish. I’m just back from a writers’ workshop. DfItCrWWAAITc7VA full week at Ocean Spray Apartments in Barbados where each night I fell asleep to the sound of the waves bashing against the rocks of Bim’s south coast and each day I sat half the day, with the rest of the day for my own pursuits in between one-on-ones with our tutors, with other writers under a gazebo alongside those ocean waves immersed in writing related learning. As I said in the review at the end, a Commonwealth sponsored, writer/editor Jacob Ross and sci-fi writer Karen Lord facilitated opportunity to re-learn things I know, learn new things, and be a part of a community of writers from across the Caribbean (St. Lucia, Grenada, Bahamas, Bermuda, Jamaica, my own Antigua-Barbuda, and, of course, Barbados) – learning together, drawing strength from each others’ experience, reading (yes, we had a joint public reading at which I made the last minute decision to read from my children’s picture book With Grace, the three copies I took with me now on shelves in Barbados and the Bahamas), laughing and eating (the food at Ocean Spray was so good and fresh, a rare blend of healthy and tasty) and beachcombing (though like Antigua, Barbados is currently having sargassum troubles) and shopping/window shopping and dancing (soca music for we soul) and eating (there was also a pizza night at author Ingrid Persaud’s beautiful home that was muah) and hiking (my legs are still mad at me for this one but they did enjoy traipsing up and down Coco Hill Forest – lush and rich with diverse plant life, just beautiful; again a side of Barbados I’ve never really seen and it is one of the Caribbean islands I’ve visited quite a bit, comparatively speaking). As I always say with my own small islands, there is always more to discover; it will take a lifetime and then some.

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I return home feeling energized and motivated re my writing (having received specific feedback on works in progress, re-affirmation re my writing, and reminders that though it may often feel that way, re our experiences as writers/artists/creatives in the Caribbean region, we are not alone) – though already real life is starting to insist on my time (doesn’t it seem sometimes like life is trying to punish us for taking some us time?). I did take the day, on returning, to go to the beach with a friend – and there is no better way to recover from a sleepless  night and an early morning flight.  I will try to hold on as much as possible to the energy of the week that has been so far one of my favourite adventures of 2018.

This being a book blogging community, I will end by sharing that I finally finished Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers – what an interesting read. Check out my review.

Let’s try to stay positive, and pain free, motivated and energized. You and me both.

(re photos – I hope to have more soon – these were grabbed from various participants’ social media – one for sure is Nailah Imoja and the other I don’t remember, so apologies to them for that)

Haven’t checked out any of my books yet? Children’s picture book to teen/young adult fic to adult novels; read more.

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Booky Interview

I did this interview for a blog. It never ran to the best of my knowledge. I’m sharing it here. These answers have almost certainly changed already.

Name:  Joanne C. Hillhouse
books 2018
Author/Blogger/Reviewer: Author (The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight/Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings), Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure)/Blogger (Jhohadli and Wadadli Pen)/Reviewer (paid when I can find a market and just for fun in my blogger on books series)

What were your favourite books as a child?
Too numerous to mention BUT this post does cover some favourites among the literary heroines with whom I grew up.

What is your favourite book as an adult?
Oh, wow, this is HARD. I have all sorts of favourites and that well is too deep to draw from; so I’m going to pick, if you don’t mind, my favourite (so far) from among the books I’m reading now – A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (ETA: This was true at the time when I wrote these responses some months ago).

Who is your favourite author?
Why are these so hard!? … okay, I’ll pick one… Edwidge Dandicat…and Maeve Binchy; so, two.

Who is your favourite character from a book?
Probably Janie from Their Eyes were watching God…or Louis from Interview with the Vampire…or Vito Corleone from The Godfather… yeah, I think we’re entering too numerous to mention territory again.

Where do you like to read?
I’d like to say something fancy like in a hammock between my two palm trees. But I don’t have a hammock, the palm trees have fallen ill to disease, and these days I mostly read in long lines; reading makes them move faster.

How often do you read?
I always have a book going; so any time there’s time.

Bookmarks or turn the page corner down?
Both.

Ebooks or real books?
Paperbacks.

Which three characters would you invite to dinner?
Hmmm maybe the four women from Waiting to Exhale could come catch me up on what they’ve been up to.

Are you a book hoarder or do you give your books away?
Both. I keep the ones that I can’t let go of… but I donate pretty regularly as well.

Moko Launches Its Latest Issue

Includes my essay ‘A Life in Mas’. #Carnival

Repeating Islands

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This edition contains a suite of work focused on and inspired by Carnival guest edited by Anu Lakhan. This giant issue features work from Raymond AntrobusJohn R. Lee, Nancy Anne Miller, Mario Alejandro Ariza, Colwyn Burchall Jr, Madari Pendas, Catherine Cowie, Jeremy Jacob Peretz, Kwasi Shade, Eugene Elira, Paris Weslyn, Wandeka Gayle, Johanna Gibson, Jerome Teelucksingh, KF Frank, Joe O’NeillLisa Allen-AgostiniGilberte O’Sullivan, Steve Whittaker, Barbara JenkinsPaula LindoSoy FordeJoanne C. Hillhouse, Gomo George, Maria NunesMark Ramsay & Danielle Blaize, and our incredible cover artist Shalini Seereeram.

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Resetting the Default

Writers need to be paid.

Can we accept that as the default.

Writers – in fact all artists – need to be paid.

So can we end the practice of paying everyone else and expecting  writers and artists to volunteer their time. Some can’t, some can, some can some of the times, some sometimes can’t, but that should always be their choice. My favourite invites to do anything are clear on what exactly is being asked and what’s being offered, without me first having to raise it. Then I can decide what I can give and what I can’t. Second best, that when I raise it, the conversation can proceed without the attitude.

The attitude that expects writers and artists to give, give, give, never taking in to account that they have to live, live, live.

exposure

There is often the expectation that writers will or should do it just because they’re asked, or for exposure perhaps. Volunteerism is good, yes, and, yes, exposure is necessary but at a certain point it’s not enough. You can’t give back what you don’t have. Writers, like everyone else, have to consider the practicalities of making a living. So the writer or artist isn’t an a-hole for asking what’s in it for me. Also, very often, the very thing we’re often too hesitant to insist on is that who and what we are has value, and it’s good when that value is acknowledged.

Of course, writers make their living in many ways but very few live in the rarefied space of being able to sit back and collect royalties on sales of their books. Royalties count sure but the hustle has many parts.

If you’re a freelance provider of writing related services, the hustle involves juggling what you can do with what you can’t, even when you want to. I actually don’t think that’s different to any working person – but a person working a job’s time is covered (think about that next time you’re inviting an artist/writer to a meeting, where your time is covered but theirs isn’t, in the interest of picking their brain…and remember every email isn’t a meeting).

And then there are live appearances. We do have books to promote and sell, and when opportunities to promote our books intersect with the opportunity to talk books and/or promote or advocate for the arts and community issues we are passionate about, we’re easy. Which is probably one reason authors who have it like that have booking agents and managers processing and negotiating invitations to speak or lead workshops whether at schools, festival, or other for profit AND not-for-profit events. But let’s be clear; not all authors have it like that – and too often we’re expected to do it just for the exposure. And maybe we can, for a time but maybe comes a time we assert the need to be paid for our time or at minimum that our expenses be covered. Much like free/promotional copies of books, unpaid appearances may be okay up to a point, but can, beyond that point be a strain on a working writer. Maybe comes a time when it moves beyond need to an understanding of your value.

Take school invites. This can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you’re grateful for the interest in your books and your time and the opportunity to engage with students. on the other hand, doing this gratis can become a strain after a time due to the time commitment relative to the returns. In the Caribbean, unlike some other parts of the world, schools (and most events) typically don’t budget a fee for author appearances when making invitations and it can get uncomfortable when you raise the issue of even advance book orders and/or decline for practical reasons. This link – though specific to children’s writers and illustrators in the UK – provides some insights for schools anywhere thinking to have authors come in to a school or library. The first deals with considerations when inviting an author to participate in your event, the second with considerations when bringing an author in to your school and other educational institution.

Let me be clear that I write this mindful that all markets can’t support the same things. Some schools barely have budgets to do the work they’re supposed to be doing (here and other places), much less extras like bringing in authors. But some, understanding that visiting writers come at a cost troubleshoot with that understanding including partnerships with corporate sponsors, PTA fundraising, and pre-orders paid for by the parents. Whatever your school (or your event since this is hardly limited to schools) is able or not able to do, do not shame authors/artists for raising the issue of commerce because if I’ve said it before I’ll say it again, APUA does not accept thank yous.

If we at all value what writers/artists do, we need to re-think our default when it comes to a writer’s/artist’s time. Accept that that time and our artists have value…and bills, and take it from there. Writers/artists are often open to the discourse.

Fireworks

Tonight just as the reading event, Celebrating Ourselves (or, as I’m calling it, the barefoot readings because literally we were barefoot on the wooden floor which is often used for yoga) at the Shed (at Sugar Ridge, Antigua), an intimate open venue with views of both the sea and the hills, ended fireworks exploded across the night sky. It was as if we’d ordered it. Which of course we hadn’t. Good timing though.

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Earlier, the venue had provided a bird’s eye view of the sun as it did its slow slide down to the horizon – we didn’t actually see it hit the horizon nor catch sight of the elusive, mirage-y green flash due to cloud cover, but the haze was part of the show. Just beautiful. So beautiful we couldn’t help remarking as we mingled pre-reading on more deeply and frequently appreciating living where the world vacations.

This was the event

33403333_10155321700632633_3227424024636162048_n I was second in the line-up behind Kimolisa Mings who read from her collection She wanted a Love Poem. Sugar Ridge 2In addition to the readings she did from the book and her work in progress, she shared at my request the first chapter of her samurai narrative poem Dark Warrior. Her poems shared were moments in a relationship, moments we recognize or are seduced by because of their mood and flow, and her delivery was the easy, seductive warm tones to which Antiguan open mic regulars have become accustomed.

I read from all but two of my books plus one of my published poems using a musical theme to connect the readings. This included Ode to the Pan Man published in The Caribbean Writer, excerpts from Musical Youth, The Boy from Willow Bend (my first real reading of my first book if you can believe that), With Grace (complete with an audience sing-a-long) and one of the other writings from Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings (Soca Night). I think it went well…I hope the audience agrees.

The young lady that followed, Sherona, a teen and recent Christ the King High School Queen of the Form winner was a bold and new addition. Always great to hear young voices coming in to their own.

Sugar Ridge 4Brenda Lee Browne, a co-organizer of the event with Janis Hough, read from her debut novella London Rocks which I wrote about recently in my CREATIVE SPACE series and from the Althea Prince edited collection So the Nailhead Bend So the Story End – a strong end to the night’s presentations.

Post-intermission we had a brief Q & A.

… and then the fireworks.

ETA: It was technically Sunday (foreday morning as we say in Antigua) when I posted this so I’m going to go ahead and make it my Sunday Post (shout out to fellow coffee lover the Caffeinated Reviewer for hosting this meme). It’ll give me the opportunity to rec the books of my fellow authors from the barefoot reading Celebrating Ourselves. You can find all of their books listed in the bibliography of books by Antiguans and Barbudans I maintain at my other blog. But for our purposes here today I’m going to shout out Brenda Lee Browne’s London Rocks which is an immersive experience of London Afro-Caribbean life of the late 70s/early 80s through the experiences of a lost youth who finds his way through the dub culture of the day. Lovers Rock2I rooted for Dante all through this and appreciated the window to another world, plus for capturing the moody dark corners of life and the dance floor, London Rocks is a must. Also shouting out Kimolisa Mings’ She Wanted a Love Poem which as I wrote in my review here “moves through the stages and variations of love. The best pieces are the mini-stories; the details of mood and moments, character and plot, things observed and things unsaid laced through her seductive flow, helping to lift some of those stories above the easy clichés of love poetry.” ming DarkI also have to link up her narrative poem Dark Warrior Vol. 1 (Manga in verse) because it was the first part of this that I requested and now I need to read the rest. What else? Well obviously I hope you’ll check out my books as well. These are the ones I read from at the event The Boy from Willow Bend - COVER.p65 cover with-grace-cover Dancing cover 2. All listed books are available online and remember one of the ways to get a book in to your local brick and mortar bookstore is to put it on their radar by asking them for it (demand leads to supply).

Re blogs mine and others I wanted to share from the past week, there’s the review of Trinidad’s Lisa Allen-Agostini’s book Home Home at Did You Ever Stop To Think, Bookshelf Fantasies’ review of Stephen King’s The Outsider (Agostini’s was already on my radar but King’s sounds super interesting and as you might remember from my King post, I haven’t read him in a while though I reference him often in my workshops), and my review of the Rogue and Gambit comics mini-series…and it’s a hazy kind of sunny in Antigua today, the kind of Sunday where you just want to laze about. So in between reading prep for a workshop I’ll  be attending this coming week, I’m doing that – listening to music and reading. Today’s read Elaine Spires’ Singles Holiday which I think I have a shot at finishing today. Fingers crossed.

Event photos by Janis Hough.

New CREATIVE SPACE – Barbuda Homecoming

This post is about the latest update to my CREATIVE SPACE series. Non-Antiguans and Barbudans you are invited to read these too (I hope you do), but the primary audience is Antigua and Barbuda and our diaspora as it focuses specifically on things Antiguan and Barbudan (specifically our art and culture, interpreted fairly broadly) and Antiguan and Barbudan businesses (and businesses who see Antigua and Barbuda as part of their market) which I am inviting to sponsor future posts (BOOSTING your BRAND while boosting local art and culture) – wha yuh say? Contact me to find out more.

Since this series started several weeks ago, I’ve covered two book launches, a tennis tournament, an open mic, a symphony concert (starring Shaku Kanneh-Mason, the cellist who recently played at the Royal Wedding), and I’ve lined up other activities/events I’m interested in covering and received invitations to cover other activities/events. I look forward to doing it. This is dependent on the series being able to pay for itself, using as a model sponsored posts (the sponsors logo with a link to their website is advertised on the post they sponsor and acknowledged when the post is syndicated). Syndication simply means that the series posts are shared on other platforms – so far Antigua Nice which is one of Antigua and Barbuda’s oldest and largest online platforms, a hub especially for tourism (meaning that content is reaching locals and non-locals far and wide). Contact me to find out more.

This latest edition of CREATIVE SPACE – number 6 – is about the Barbuda Reunion coming up this summer.

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‘Few things have been as heartbreaking as Barbuda this past year. Heartbreak born of nature’s fury by way of September 6, 2017’s hurricane Irma which decimated the island, as well as the politically-driven fissure in the sisterhood shared between Antigua and Barbuda.

 

“Residents of Barbuda have recently survived a very traumatic, life altering series of events, and they still thrive,” she (Beverly George, part of the planning committee) said via our e-correspondence. “This speaks to their tremendous strength, resilience and resolve.  Many are still experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder…We ask our Antiguan brothers and sisters to be sensitive to these issues, and to continue to be supportive of our brothers and sisters.”

The Homecoming, she explained, is a coming together of the will of the some 30,000 Barbudans in the diaspora – across the United States of America, Canada, the UK, likely other places, and, of course, Antigua and Barbuda.’ READ THE FULL ARTICLE.

Then contact me to support more coverage of Antiguan and Barbudan art and culture.