CREATIVE SPACE #7  of 2021 (uploaded April 1st 2021)

CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and ran to 2019 on Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It continues to expand across other media platforms (which can be viewed on AntiguanWriter on YouTube). CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean authorjournalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.

Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on March 31th 2021  in the Daily Observer:  CREATIVE SPACE Creating a Literary Space DO

Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with extras.

If you would like to be featured or to sponsor (i.e. advertise with) a future installment of the online edition of CREATIVE SPACE and/or CREATIVE SPACE on YouTube, BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne.

CREATIVE SPACE: Creating Space for Literary ExpressionZaniah 2

Thanks to bookstores like Best of Books and Ten Pages bookstores in 2021, and publishers, like Harper Collins and Peepal Tree, as well as individuals like Olive Senior, Sekou Luke, and Patricia Tully, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, which I founded and coordinate, gives books in our prize packages this year, as we do each year. It’s a particular thrill for me, considering what motivated all this, when I am able to gift copies of my books as I did With Grace and Musical Youth to 2020 finalist Zaniah Pigott.

The CREATIVE SPACE I’ve occupied these last few days has been the Wadadli Pen mailbox. So, not so much a creative space for me as the tedium of clearing the emails and processing submissions to the Wadadli Pen 2021 Challenge. Hopefully, though, the senders of said emails found that crafting and drafting their entries opened up a creative space in their lives. After all, that’s the point, the prizes and everything else are de brawta (a thick and tasty brawta, shout out to our patrons listed here, but brawta nonetheless).Wadadli Pen Logo

Wadadli Pen logo, designed by Ken Shipley.

Wadadli Pen was an idea that came to me while attending a literary luncheon in Canada in 2003. I had recently released The Boy from Willow Bend, my first book, and it was my debut international literary event as a published author. It was in many ways a thrilling experience; after so many years of doubt, here finally was a feeling of stepping in to my destiny. I almost wrote purpose there but purpose and destiny are two different things, and both have to contend with reality. I still think of writing as what I was meant to do even when I’m not getting much of it done. But I suppose I’ve come to think of purpose as something that serves others, and that’s Wadadli Pen.Exif JPEG

Over the years, Wadadli Pen has engaged in activities like workshops and school visits to promote creative writing; this year Barbara Arrindell volunteered to host a series of workshops by zoom. This is me during a 2005 creative writing workshop at Buckley’s Primary.

What I felt in that luncheon that day, as award winning Guyanese writer Ruel Johnson lamented the lack of (sufficient) nurseries for writers in the Caribbean region, was the resonance that happens when someone speaks to you a truth you recognize. You feel it all in your body because you have lived it – the not knowing where to turn for advice, mentorship, role modelling, opportunities, stepping stones; the fear and restlessness of spirit that comes of destiny denied. Little did I know that day that I was finding purpose because the work I do with Wadadli Pen, encouraging others to tell their stories, has come to mean as much to me as writing my own stories.

2020 co-winner, with Cheyanne Daroux, Andre Warner, whose story subsequently won a regional prize, holding the Alstyne Allen Memorial plaque, named for the woman who was a key volunteer in Wadadli Pen’s early years. The plaque is sponsored by the Best of Books. A second plaque for the 12 and younger winner will be added in the name of Zuri Holder, a former Wadadli Pen 2-time 12 and younger finalist. RIP to Alstyne and Zuri.

That first year, the first few years, was rough and perhaps I thought it was the teething pains all infant projects must go through. I was so frustrated and burnt out, that within three years I put it down and took a hiatus that would end with the project’s return in 2010. Seventeen years on from the launch of the first season of the Wadadli Pen Challenge in 2004 (and I can hardly believe I’m saying that), I realize that, as with life itself, every year has its growing of the year presentation 3

In 2019, when the Wadadli Pen Challenge was on a second hiatus, it filled the gap with a readers choice book of the year poll, with the winning author getting the opportunity to select a school to receive a cache of books – F. A. K. E. author Vivian Luke selected Foundation Mixed/Ms. Davis School and here they are collecting their books. A second readers choice initiative was held this year but did not receive needed reader response.

This year one of my frustrations bled over on to social media as I gave up my weekend – and continuing – to processing entries, a process slowed by a number of people not following the submission guidelines and me not wanting to eliminate on technicalities. I didn’t call anyone out but I did gripe a bit. And the truth is there are many gripable moments (along with plentiful gratitude) as you try to navigate the communication and logistics of securing patronage, promotion, and processing, and that’s before you even get to judging.sandrenaatwordup

Wadadli Pen gives finalists opportunities, where possible, to showcase their work, as with 2005 winner Sandrena Martin, seen reading at the Word Up! Showcase and fundraiser organized by Wadadli Pen and the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in 2006.

But there are reasons I still feel motivated to do this. It’s the stories I’ll eventually get to read, the reminder of what it takes to craft and send your work out with hope in your heart, the affirmation, per one note from a teacher, that what we’re doing is not just giving future writers a stepping stone, but giving any young person (any person of any age in 2021) who wishes it a space to express themselves on anything at all they have a mind to (and boy do we need it right now).2006WinnersatAwardsceremony2

This 2006 photo call of Wadadli Pen winners includes 2021 patron Rilys Adams, centre. Adams is now an author in her own right, and is one of two former winners, the other being Daryl George, who have stepped up to give to Wadadli Pen.

And since I still need some time to process the entries, anyone still holding a submission, consider this your extension. Get it in by the end of Friday this week and it will be counted.lucia2

In 2017, Juneth Webson, a repeat patron along with Frank B. Armstrong, whose product bag she is seen exchanging with finalist Lucia Murray, who is now advocacy group Intersect Antigua and Barbuda’s resident artist. Both Webson and Frank B. are back in 2021.

EXTRASChristopher Gittens

2014 finalist, Christopher Gittens, with author D. Gisele Isaac, who was one of Wadadli Pen’s original partners and who has been a presenter (as seen), patron and judge several times over over the years.

***Karenna Nicholson

2012 finalist Karenna Nicholson with presenter master photographer Mali Adelaja Olatunji.

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