The Queen is Dead

“No regrets. I wouldn’t be doing anything else than what I’m doing right now. I love what I do. That’s it.” – Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, 1942-2018

ETA: Check my Joanne’s Picks for an Aretha themed update and enjoy the music.


Book Reading Update

My latest book reviewed is Althea Romeo-Mark’s The Nakedness of New – ”The Nakedness of New deals heavily with the timely issue of immigration, and the title refers specifically to the vulnerability of being new/in a new place without the resources, network, and comfort that would make you feel at home. The collection covers place/displacement and moves across the Caribbean, Africa, the US/USVI, and Europe. It explores the rhythms of life, the violence we visit upon each other, the ins and outs of immigration (e.g. “we come in waves./Our boats, tiny specks/ on dark, fathomless oceans” in At The Mercy Of Gods) – particularly potent in this time when immigration is headline news (from the packed boats entering Europe with people from Africa and the Middle East, some lost at sea or to slavery, to the separation of families, some children lost forever to their parents, at the US Southern border to discourage immigrants from certain “shithole” countries). This book sits in that conversation in a deeply empathetic way.’ with Althea Romeo Mark and Brenda Lee Browne

That’s a picture of me (right, in purple) when I met the author (centre) here in Antigua in 2015 (that’s London Rocks author Brenda Lee Browne to the left); and this is a picture of her book: nakedness

Read the full review at the Blogger on Books Vl where it has replaced previous featured book The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

I’ll share the first line of my most active current reads – paperback books unless otherwise mentioned. (in order of how long I’ve been reading them – longest to shortest time)

“No one had seen a car like it” from The Black Rose by Tananarive Due (currently on page 270)

“Jane, Lady Vincent could never be considered a beauty, but possessed of a loving husband and admirable talent, had live thirty years in the world with only a few events to cause her any true distress or vexation” from Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal (currently on page 110)

“THEIR BMW RENTAL car sped down the Italian autostrada, and the autumn breeze chased clouds around the soft blue sky” in Marie Ohanesian Nardin’s Beneath the Lion’s Wings (reading this as an ebook, starting over as I’ve lost the thread)

“I paint because I am still able to do so” from Straight into Darkness by Faye Kellerman (currently on page 300)

“It was a solitary voice, saying Allah-hu-akbar and other familiar but incomprehensible syllables” from Freedom Song by Amit Chaudhuri (currently on page 34)

“That sound; that burbling, bubbling sound” from Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini (currently on page 8)

“Estate Grange is an important piece of St. Croix’s history that is not known to many Crucians, let alone Virgin Islanders” from Hidden Secrets of St. Croix by Clarice C. Clarke (this is a hard cover picture book with historical notes; currently on page 22)

“In those weeks in Barcelona in November 1975 as General Franco lay dying, you could be forgiven for believing that things were ordinary” from On the Edge by Colm Toibin in PEN America A Journal for Writers and Readers #18 In Transit (currently on page 16)

Also started listening to audio books of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr,
How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston, The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, and
Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman – I have no idea which ones of these I’ll finish when but the audio book experiment continues.

I read according to mood and usually when I’m on the move (there’s not a lot of space for dedicated reading time) so read multiple books at the same time; it works for me.

I’ve completed 11 books so far this year – 3 of which are audio books, 9 of which I’ve reviewed; and abandoned one book without being able to finish it. You can read reviews of all books read this year here.

This post is linked up with the WWW Wednesdays meme, This Week in Books, Shelf Control,  and Wondrous Words Wednesday.





“In those weeks in Barcelona in November 1975, as General Franco lay dying, you could be forgiven for thinking that things were ordinary.” – Colm Toibin’s On the Edge in PEN AMERICA #18 #whatimreading

I experienced a shock of recognition reading this this morning and also felt the newness and power of the words. The former because I was in the audience that night (as a guest of the PEN World Voices literary safari, 2014, Writing on the Edge), the latter because that’s just a great opening line.

I thought I’d share it here.

Given that I’m sharing an opening, I’ll link this as my contribution to the First Chapters First Paragraph Tuesday Intros Meme (hosted by I’d Rather Be At the Beach). Though if I’m being honest, it’s a bit difficult just now to focus on reading (reality bites) but I did finish The Nakedness of New by Althea Romeo-Mark (review pending). Which is how I came to finally pick up my contributor copy of PEN America #18 In Transit. My poem Ah Write! is published in it. I was really thrilled when asked to submit it, but there were some issues with the final edit. Yada yada yada I am finally reading the journal four years, give or take, later. That this powerful piece is the opening inclines me to keep reading. Apart from that, most actively, and mostly in transit I’ve been reading Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini, Straight into Darkness by Faye Kellerman, and Hidden Secrets of St. Croix (a photo book) by Clarice C. Clarke this past week or so.

In other blog news, I posted the last Carnival-themed CREATIVE SPACE this past week. I thought about posting about Love, Simon (the movie; I haven’t read the book) which I didn’t love mostly because for a film so much about accepting differentness (which I celebrate) it  felt fairly judgmental of other types of differentness and awkwardness (but high school clique-ishness, I guess). And as for my own misfit musical theatre kids. I shared a new Musical Youth goodreads review by author of The Protector’s Pledge, another winning Burt teen/young adult Caribbean novel, Danielle McClean, who wrote: “Musical Youth is the first book that I have read by Joanne C. Hillhouse, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! She captured the excitement, insecurities, and elation of being part of something bigger than oneself for the first time and the extraordinary growth that comes from the experience.” I thank her for that bit of insight.

That’s it for now; here’s hoping we get up, go forward, find away around, through, or over the challenges of #adulting, make some sense of the journey…and get to the beach now and then.


Recent, Popular

From my other blog – the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize platform…a teaser…opening sentences…of recent and/or popular posts…click the link to read the full post…

Home – “The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize is a programme designed to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda.”

Reflection on In the Trees Writers’ Retreat, Belize by Ivory Kelly – ‘They were not exaggerating when they said that the Writers’ Retreat at Ixcanan Farm in western Belize would be “in the trees.”’

Wadadli Pen 2018 – “Winner has been decided – it’s winner take all from nearly 70 entries – and that person is… Kyle Christian with his story ‘Creak’ “


Book Notes – To Shoot Hard Labour – “The first murder I witness at North Sound was when Harty Bab get killed.”

JSYWP promotional flyer 2

Register for the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project Pre/Teen Creative Writing Workshop – “As with all of my workshops, the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project is demand-driven.”

Bestselling Black Caribbean Picture Books – “Shout out to Jamaican-Canadian author Olive Senior and Antiguan-Barbudan-American illustrator Laura James on making the African American Literary Club’s Top 133 African American Children’s Books as determined by authors, industry professionals, and readers with both Bounounous Hair and Anna Carries Water.”

Roses – “I ran in to Barbara Mason this week.”



August 8th 2018JSYWP promotional flyer 2

Antiguan and Barbudan author Joanne C. Hillhouse has announced a week of creative writing workshops for teens and pre-teens. This is the latest installment of her Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project – first held in 2013.

The workshop will be held in the afternoons August 20th to 24th at the Antigua Public Library, 1 – 4:30 Monday to Thursday, 1 – 2:30 on Friday. In the past, participation in the JSYWP has been sponsored but this time around there is a fee; however, participants registering by August 13th 2018 will receive a discount.

This workshop is about stoking creativity and building writing skills in a fun and interactive environment, with a facilitator who is a published author of books for all ages and seasoned deliverer of workshop activities for all age groups. Hillhouse has also run the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize since 2004.

Just a couple of participant reviews:

“It gave me the opportunity to identify my strengths and weaknesses as a writer”

“The activities we did were very helpful in developing writing, reading , observational skills, and more”

The JSYWP is demand-driven; so if there is sufficient interest (minimum registration 5 people), Hillhouse is committed to proceeding. She noted that she enjoys the opportunity this and other workshop activities she organizes provides to share what she loves which is writing, but also to help anyone find confidence in and willingness to use their voice to express themselves. As we shake off the summer haze, Hillhouse also sees this as an ideal back to school activity, stimulating the brain but in a fun, interactive, explorative, and creative environment.

For registration details email <—Submit the registration form (this: JSYWP 2018 Registration Form version 2) to this email address. business-card

An Ode to the Pan Man

By Joanne C Hillhouse

This one is for the pan man
The beating his pan all night
At the pan yard man

Working overtime
In the engine room, an’
Keeping the rhythm tight
While the wiry bass man
Bend like a rubber band

This one is for the pan man
The beating his pan all night
At the pan yard man

An’ the woman
Can’t forget the pan sistren
tek dem ‘tick tu’n tune
Create a musical meal
De people can feast pan

This one is for the pan man
The beating his pan all night
At the pan yard man

The yout’ man ‘strumming’ the guitar
While the tenor carry
Ah melody the people can ride pan
‘Cause nutten sweeter
Than de Antigua Benna rhythm

This one is for the pan man
The beating his pan all night
At the pan yard man

Because he’s a kind of magician
A oil drum, a pair of sticks
Produce music like this?
Music with symphonic range
Even the elite can hang on pan?

This one is for the pan man
The beating his pan all night
At the pan yard man

Den cum ah stage
An’ tear ‘um dung
With swagger an’ bounce
Fu trounce all comers
And re-proclaim demself champion

This one is for the pan man
The beating his pan all night
At the pan yard man

He stick an’ dem mek man cry, man,
Musical licks as the notes soar
High, man, then tumble down to rest
In the heart ah man
Where it drum drum drum a new rhythm



1, this poem is mine; do not re-use without permission.
2, it has been published; in The Caribbean Writer, Volume 27 (2013)
3, reading it, I see so many things I would change (the writer’s dilemma) but
4, I have performed it a couple of times (it plays well) – most recently during my reading (2018) at Celebrating Ourselves
5, and I felt like sharing it now in celebration of our pan/panorama (congrats to the 2018 winners Panache (amazing!) tied with Hell’s Gate (solid), and second runner-up Halcyon playing Burning Flames’ A Rudeness Mek Me)
6, which, if you played the clip above you’ll realize as the song in the clip
7, snatched during the pan crawl/s I went on while hyping up for panorama this Carnival season (p.s. if you’re non-Caribbean and reading this, this is Carnival)
8, but held for posting until after (and posted only in joyful appreciation)
9, as you can tell, I was joyfully appreciating the rehearsal
10, no apologies – music is the food of life, play on – Happy Carnival!


Site Updates

FROM The latest in the CREATIVE SPACE series – Watch Night: “My personal highlights of Watch Night 2018 include Dr. Lightfoot’s speech, singing along to Rivers of Babylon with the Nyabinghi Drummers, King Frank I calling out the names of the martyred heroes of the aborted 1736 revolt in Antigua as he does every year, King Zacari’s performance of his classic hit calypso Guilty of Being Black, and Kiyode Erasto rap-singing the reggae-tinged Strength and Power which, to my mind, has become the official theme song of Watch Night.”

Need to know: This series is an opportunity for businesses operating in Antigua and Barbuda to boost their brand while boosting local art and culture. Contact me about sponsoring a future post.


FROM The latest update to the Blogger on Books series – The Hate U Give: ‘When the main character and her boy-friend are pulled over on their way home from a party (“get on the ground, hands behind your back”), if you’re a Black reader, you know what’s going to happen even as you hope you’re wrong, and there’s a part of you that is as frustrated with and worried about her boy-friend for not acting right as Starr is because you know he’s going to get himself killed because ‘not acting right’ has different consequences if you’re a black teen boy.  Of course, even this instinctive way of thinking about it is wrong as he didn’t get himself killed. He was killed due to someone else’s implicit bias and escalation of a situation that didn’t need to be a situation at all. It’s a moment that challenges you to challenge the way you think about these situations, and maybe think differently.’

Need to know: I’m still reading Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal, The Black Rose by Tananarive Due, Straight into Darkness by Faye Kellerman, Freedom Song by Amit Chaudhuri, and The Nakedness of New by Althea Romeo-Mark. Just started reading Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini. Will let you know how it turns out.


FYI: The Jhohadli Writing Project continues on August 4th 2018 and registration is open for the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project which begins August 13th 2018 in Antigua.

Need to know: Both are creative writing programmes JWP for adults and JSYWP for teens and pre-teens. Contact information is jhohadli at gmail dot com

JSYWP promotional flyer