New Sessions Alert – Writing is Your Business

UPDATE! New start date June 22nd 2017 & New Participant comment.

Writing is Your Business is the course I offer under the umbrella of Barbara Arrindell & Associates. This isn’t one of my creative writing workshops but a much more fundamental written communication course for working people. I first offered this course in 2016, and finished the most recent sessions last week. Some participants indicated in the oral evaluations (written evaluations to come) that they learned new concepts, while others indicated that it reinforced some things they already knew in addition to showing them some weak spots.

Participant evaluation: “I would recommend this course to someone else because it is educational and our tutor is very knowledgeable and likes to be challenged.”

Participant evaluation: “I would recommend this course because it was fun and interesting. Of course I learnt stuff, that was the point, but the manner of the learning was most important. The conversational aspect, and the classes had an organic feel pulling from not only our experiences but from what was happening in during the class.”

I’m happy that our once a week Thursday sessions over four weeks proved useful, and happier still to report that we’ll be offering new sessions beginning mid-June. If you’re a working person in Antigua who wants to boost his/her written communication skills this is a time and cost efficient way to do so. Barbara Arrindell’s persuasive speaking sessions will run concurrently.

The (new) start date is June 22nd 2017; the start time, 5:30 p.m. As B A & A says, “Invest in Yourself. You’re worth it.” I’ll only add that for companies interested in professional development, this is an opportunity to invest in your staff as well. Registration is capped; so act sooner rather than later.

Here’s the registration form: B A & A registration both 2017 

 

The Rejection Files

Stephen King, if I’m remembering correctly, kept his rejection letters on a nail/hook hanging from his wall and noted that eventually the rejections became too many for the nail/hook to stay up. Stephen-King-Quotes-Rejection (not sure how this holds up now that I’m reminded he was only 14 then but…) Of course, Stephen King eventually had his massive breakthrough (if memory serves, with Carrie,  his first published novel which his wife had to pluck out of the garbage when it was still in unfinished short story form) and never looked back.

While I’ve been published – six books deep

Books 2017

Yes, I can count! One is currently out of print and the other is working its way back in to print as I write this.

– I’m still a journeying writer out here – still trying to tell my stories while using my pen to hustle a living, and rejections still cut deep. The fact that I’m still out here still doing means that I’m not defeated, not by far, but I sure feel defeated sometimes. The Writing Life is hard on a writer’s spirit and sense of worth.

And writers are nothing if not masochists who hoard those rejections – even if we’ve burnt the letter or deleted the email, we still have it, stored somewhere to remind us that we ain’t sh*t. On the one hand, it feeds the hunger, on the other hand who needs that kind of negativity in their life.

Most rejections are robotic, form rejections. And we always say we want more (something to encourage us on this journey – I certainly felt that way when I learned that though it didn’t win the Commonwealth Short Story prize to which it had been submitted, Amelia at Devil’s Bridge had been plucked from the also-rans for publication in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean Pepperpot1-524x800and when I saw that the story that became With Grace may not have won the prize for which it was submitted but it grabbed the judges attention enough for them to give it a detailed honourable mention…both stories went on to do quite well for mewith-grace). But sometimes I think the worst kind of rejection is the one that hints, hey you almost had it kid. I mean, sure, yay encouragement, but what do you do with that (especially if it’s something you don’t quite know how to work on). A recent residency rejection of mine read in part, ‘Your application has been carefully considered and received very positive reviews: “an excellent project from a vibrant writer”. The work samples were deeply appreciated. However, there were other outstanding applications in the pool with more convincing reasons to be at (name of residency redacted).’

Guess which part my writer’s brain fixates on (up to today, hence this post). The good showing, good going, Joanne can write part (appreciating that they took the time to provide such a detailed and kind rejection) or the damn, well, how do I overcome those odds part? I mean what could I have done to be more “convincing”? Because I can pull stuff up, just tell me what!

I kid but only partly. I’ve been at this since at least my teens (the writing part and the submission-acceptance undulating with the submission-rejection part) long enough to know that such is the cycle when you’re a writer out here trying. And I am a writer out here trying. This is why when a journal which published one of my stories in the past year referred to me as a veteran writer, I had to look over my shoulder to see who they were talking about – my spirit rejected it. Because (among other reasons) veteran writers don’t get thanks but no thanks, don’t call us, we’ll call you emails. They get please come and here’s your bag of money emails. I kid, but again only partly. I am not a veteran in my mind but it’s hardly the beginning is it (in age or experience). I don’t take any of my hard earned lessons or accomplishments for granted, I’m still out here not  only trying to crest the next mountain but looking for a little steadying of the earth beneath my feet.

But I don’t want to be ungrateful. I think of the parable of the talents, and this is what I was given, and as fortune would have it, it’s also what I love, so I’m doomed or blessed (depending on the day) to get up and write, pitch, submit, work-the-hustle, work-to-get-better, celebrate the breakthroughs, dust my self off from the rejections, only to do it all again.

writer

Like this…but with different hands… and fewer glasses.

Every now and again though…

 

Divas (or a bit of fluff)

It’s storytime!

I have no book news, apart from this blogged reminder to vote for your favourite black author, and this link at the other blog to a delightful and insightful interview with Lawrence Scott, though you can feel free to check out my books and/or my reviews of books by others. But just so I’m not posting empty, I thought I’d share this story (which is just me getting some practice in and having a bit of fun outside of my usual sandbox), actually the fourth draft of a writing exercise which I have no plans to submit anywhere for publication.  I’m linking it as my Sunday Post and my Post to the Sunday Salon.

Books 2017

Some of my books.

 

Any warnings? Hmmm a bit of language. Enjoy?

Divas

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

“Well, is she coming?”
“She said she would.”
Belle doesn’t respond but her lips purse into a moue that distorts her pretty face without making it unpretty. Kaykay wonders, not for the first time, if Belle practices her faces in the mirror.
What’s she thinking – she’s been knowing Belle since age 10 when they both joined the Divas; of course, she does.
The name, Divas, an ambitious name for a quartet of tweens, had proved self-fulfilling prophecy as they ascended into super-pop-stardom. Inevitably, they did what all groups do, of course, combust. Now at the ripe old middle age of 25, they are poised for a reunion performance, at the Grammys; heaven help them, Kaykay can’t help thinking as she watches Belle get more agitated.
Ever the peacemaker, “She said she would,” she repeats.
“We’ll see,” Belle sings. So much shade in a single note, and Kaykay is reminded that Belle and Divas’ lead singer Queen were always the nexus of the trouble. “Two pretty girls in an all-female group are a recipe for disaster,” one gossip blog had declared at the height of the trouble; and though not thrilled at being dismissed as ugly, Kaykay has to admit that the eye is naturally drawn to Belle and Queen, and that the rivalry between the two had been the group’s undoing.
Queen (who still goes by the entire Queen of Hearts moniker she’d given herself at 10, like she’s spitting rhymes instead of crooning treacly love-lines) will make them wait; it’s her way. And Belle will bitch. That’s her way.
Kaykay sighs and turns her attention to the fourth member of their group, Luce. Luce is over in the corner crooning to her baby, the baby’s nanny off to the side idling, and Kaykay suspects this is typical of their household. Luce had wasted no time getting to marriage and baby making once Divas had performed its farewell concert before a packed Apollo Theatre – finishing right where the four tweens had started. While Luce hadn’t entirely retreated from the spotlight, it was impossible when you were as famous as they’d become, she hadn’t sought it with some tacky reality show either. Kaykay envies her. She isn’t proud of her own short run on Love and Hip Hop, nor of the fact that her individual brand hadn’t been strong enough to carry a show of her own. But she still wants this. Luce has obviously found something else.
Just as melancholy starts to take her, Kaykay recognizes the song Luce is crooning to her baby. She smiles. This isn’t ‘rock-a-bye, baby’. It’s ‘better be a betta man’. Maybe Luce hasn’t entirely detached.
Kaykay dips her voice in, a shade below and behind Luce’s, instinctively creating the harmony that is as familiar to her as her own breath.
“Wash the dishes
Take out the trash
Be home at night
All night clubbing ain’t right
Do right
Do right
Do do do
riiiight
be better
Better be a betta man
Beetttter be a betta man”

Luce looks up and meets Kaykay’s soft eyes and sweet smile. The Alto is still Luce’s favourite of their drama-dom. She’s not quite the diva Queen or Belle or even Luce herself is when the mood hit her.  Kaykay really just wants everyone to get along. Luce remembers how angsty she’d get with every blow-up, and how Luce would distract her as they lay, side by side, collapsed on the studio floor, waiting the storm out.
Luce was always certain that Rajesh would sort them out. Privately, she and Kaykay joked that he was the Diva-whisperer, which was good since he had also been the group’s manager. He had a knack for calming even the over inflated egos of Divas. Soon enough, he’d have Belle and Queen, Kaykay and her giggling like teens at a slumber party; battles over who sang lead, who’d stepped on whose lines, who got too much face time in the last video shelved for at least another five minutes.
Rajesh had been her first crush and she has to admit she’s sort of looking forward to seeing him again. That’s not why she’s doing this, but she can’t help thinking fondly of him as she rocks and lullabyes her Wonder Baby. Wonder Baby could’ve been his. But they’d all lost him when Queen had gone solo, taking him with her. Luce can’t even be mad at him…who wouldn’t follow the money?
At first, they’d all been bitter, especially Belle, though she’s had the most post-group success, apart from Queen who had gone super nova. Belle could at least claim a solo Billboard top ten and a Minaj collabo; there had even been whispers of a perfume line at one point.  Not Queen-dom level success but not nothing. Poor Kaykay still just wants them to be like they were, even if the way they were is all made up in her head.
As for Luce, well, she has her little Wonder Baby. Daddy Wonder may not be the man of her dreams – he’s certainly no Rajesh with eyes as big as pools you want to swim in; eyes like her baby’s– but he is steady and she is comfortable. Sports management is lucrative in an era when high school graduates are being paid bonuses the size of the annual budgets of small countries to sign with NBA and NFL teams.

That man only married her because she’d been a Diva, that’s what Belle has to remind herself any time she feels even a little bit envious of Luce’s life. Even a fourth in the line-up is worth having courtside with you when she is fourth in a group as big as Divas had been. With every picture of her ballooning frame in the blogs and the tabs,  it was obvious to Belle that Luce was just bling, like the gaudy diamond ring she wears. Too tacky by Belle’s standards but then money can’t buy taste. Or sense: “can’t see that that wanna be sports Svengali is just using her”.
The brat is sleeping now and Luce hands her off to the nanny, a white woman of sturdy build. Belle cuts her eyes at the cliché-ness of it all, as if hiring white help is the way to prove you’ve arrived. She just hopes Luce has banked some of that Diva money for the inevitable divorce.
Kaykay jumps up.
“Should we warm up?”
Belle turns toward the mirror, dabs at invisible lipstick at the corner of her lips. “Just the three of us, what would be the point of that?” she snaps.
“We’d be warmed up,” Luce says, matter-of-factly. She is standing over her shoulder, looking at her in the mirror, and Belle finds herself laughing out loud.
“Girl, you got fat!”

The sharp hiss is Kaykay sucking in an air of shock.
Luce isn’t shocked or embarrassed. They haven’t been apart that long that she doesn’t remember the sharpness of Belle’s sting. She smiles benignly. “Carrying around a watermelon for nine months will do that to you,” she replies.
Unembarrassed by her own bitchiness, Belle continues, “but can’t the doctors suction everything back together right away…or is that too expensive?”
Kaykay with another suck of shock.
“Don’t choke, baby,” Belle teases.
Luce smiles, harder this time. “I feel healthy and the weight will drop in time, or it won’t; squeezing in to spanx is no longer my number one priority.”

Belle meets Luce’s steely eyes, and is reminded that she may be fourth-in-the-line-up but Luce is still a Diva.
She doesn’t feel any shame in being the first to lower her eyes. Luce isn’t her competition. She doesn’t want what Luce has.
Just then the door crashes open and the Queen herself strides in trailing fur, sycophants, and, oh yeah, the Traitor, Rajesh.
Belle almost laughs out loud at the ridiculousness of it all; that Saturday Night Live spoof of Queen – in which Maya Rudolph always has someone following her around with a mirror and whispering, “you’re so beautiful, my Queen, the prettiest Diva of all” isn’t far off.
Rajesh claps his hands together like old times.
“Okay, Divas, shall we warm up?”

On stage, it is like old times, the way they fall in to place, and in to step with each other, voices harmonizing easily. Rajesh had even dangled the possibility of a Reunion album, like a post-Grammy carrot when he’d put this performance together.
As they shimmy, turn, shimmy, turn, and slide, Kaykay, buoyed by happiness, dares hope that it will be.
Luce worries that Baby Wonder is up for her next feeding. She’d pumped earlier, but she likes breast feeding, finds the soothing act makes her feel even closer, if that’s possible, to the baby she carried in her for the better part of a year.
Belle jostles with Queen as the other steps in to her frame, and she knows it has to be deliberate because they’ve done these routines enough times over the years to know them in their sleep, even with not performing together for over a year. The audience probably doesn’t notice a thing. Neither misses a step, and the side eye they give each other is softened by the pageant grins they wear, also with practice.
Queen has to admit it feels good to be out here with her girls again; a bit constricting, yes, but it gives her a giddy feeling like a high. The smile she throws Belle’s way is real.
Belle catches it, smiles back. It feels so good. She feels like she hasn’t hit a stage since the Divas parted. She’s hit many stages, she is still in the biz after all, but she’s missed this, this, exactly this. Maybe she’s up for the whole reunion drama. Drama can be fun, and God knows she needs the money. Keeping up appearances is expensive.
The roar of the crowd is thunderous. Others sing about blowing a roof off a muthafucka, Divas do that shit! The ovation is earned, not like those dime a dozen ovations that have become industry standard.
They smile at each other, distance melting. And is that tears in Queen’s eyes? “I knew it,” Kaykay’s heart sings, “she misses us as much as we miss her.” They are sisters first after all.
Family is family, and these girls are the only family any of them has; the only family that matters. Through their 15 years in the trenches of the entertainment industry, they might have fought with each other, but they are also the only ones who understand each other. They have been there through it all – first period, first heartbreak, first pregnancy scare. They are family and they are back together, and that’s what matters. Kaykay is sure this is just the beginning of their new beginning.
But the press of hugs and air kisses later, Queen is already heading for the exit, entourage in full train, Rajesh promising, “Call you.”
Luce, who has pointedly ignored him this whole time, is already holding her baby and Belle is ripping off her false lashes with such force Kaykay’s eyes are stinging.
Belle meets her wet eyes through the barrier of the mirror, annoyed.
“What the fuck did you expect, Kaykay? Once a diva, always a diva.”

####

That’s all she wrote. As for what she’s reading, my most active reads of the past week were the journals Interviewing the Caribbean 2016 edition and BIM Volume 8, and, in books, All the Joy You can Stand by Debrena Jackson and Black Rose by Tananarive Due. Still reading.

p.s. the story shared in this post is all mine; do not copy or use in any way without my permission.

What a writer wants, what a writer needs

If you have read Island in the Clouds or One Woman’s Island or That Last Summer (or all three!) and enjoyed reading them – but you haven’t yet posted any reviews online, I would appreciate you doing so now, on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, your library’s website, or your own blog. I’m hoping to build […]

Can’t emphasize what this writer says enough. I try to do it by blogging about the books I read, but you don’t have to be a writer to drop a line. Writers, especially writers without big PR machines behind them, need the word of mouth; and, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, give an honest review, that’s all we ask. So check out OP’s post and if you’ve read my books or hers, you know what to do.

via How valued Readers can become valued Reviewers!! — Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

Who’s Your Favourite Black Author

The African American Literature Book Club, which has featured me and my books in the past (thanks to them for that), has asked me to remind readers and fans in my network about the open poll (yes, remind, because I’ve plugged it before so I hope you’ve already voted. I have!).

The poll is for Your Favourite Black Author of the 21st Century. They noted in their email to me that so far it’s been pretty US-centric (and though I did remind them that we in the Caribbean claim Haitian-American writer Edwidge Dandicat and I think Nigeria would have something to say about America’s claim to Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie), I do think we could mix it up some more. That said, I can’t argue with the names currently in the lead; people like…

Bernice McFadden whom I met and co-facilitated a workshop with at the BIM Lit Fest in 2016 Bernice McFadden and whose book Sugar I reviewed in my Blogger on Books series. She’s cool people and a damn talented writer.

Chimamanda, of course, who from her TED talks to books like The Thing Around Her Neck (also reviewed on Blogger on Books) and, sadly, still on my to-read list Americannah, stays being thoughtfully and fearlessly provocative.

Edwidge Dandicat whom I fear meeting for the ways I would embarrass myself gushing about The Farming of Bones and Create Dangerously (also reviewed in Blogger on Books) especially, but all of her writing, really, including her short stories, which I’ve blogged about in my series spotlighting female Caribbean writers of short fiction.

Eric Jerome Dickey, forever, a fAntiguan.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tananarive Due whose The Black Rose I’m currently reading (as I mentioned in my last Sunday Post) and whose short zombie film you should check out if you haven’t already. (which I mention, yes, because I love zombie stories so much I’ve even written my own – Zombie Island, published in Interviewing the Caribbean).

Terry McMillan, the goddess of contemporary African American lit with books like Waiting to Exhale (love) and my favourite Disappearing Acts.

Toni Morrison before whom we all bow down with our unworthiness (my personal recs are Jazz, Sula, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon…actually, read them all; she just stays being complex and challenging and interesting and essential).

And others; 12 in the lead so far…and much as I love these writers (respect to the ones I haven’t yet discovered), I agree with AALBC, let’s mix this up. So, here’s where you go to vote.

Do these lists matter? Who cares, go and show your faves some love. It’s a write-in vote so you get to push a writer you think everyone else should be reading, and that’s one way to show that writer some love.

My Week in Blogging

“Books finished

Yes, I’m leading with this because I finally have something to report… times two.

Finished

Closure

“Here be Monsters by Karen Onojaife is filled with both humour (including some genuine, take you by surprise, laugh out loud moments) and pathos. What’s interesting is the way the latter rides the back of the former like a haunting. Also the structure is very Bridget Jones –ish if Bridget Jones blogged instead of journaling.” (click the Closure link for my take on all the stories in this collection)

and Go de Rass to Sleep

“Read it out loud to yourself after taking too long to put the child to sleep; you’ll laugh and put down de stresses. Gift it to the child when dem get big an’ ha dem own child… as a gift, sure, but also as a reminder of all the blissful sleep they robbed you of – ‘less dem t’ink dem did easy.” (click de Rass link for my full review)

Yes, I’m counting a bedtime story in picture book form for adults. Why wouldn’t I? I finished it, didn’t I? (given the pace of my reading these years, I’ll take it; two in one week).

Current bedtime read black roseThe Black Rose by Tananarive Due. Started this a while ago then put it down for another while, though it’s okay…just time…and other books.

Not much in the way of new postings:

A link to the announcement re the Commonwealth Short Story Prize over at the other blog.

A new push re my writing and editing services.

The result of me falling down a Joss Stone sings the world youtube hole the other night (it’s a rainy Sunday here in Antigua and I’m finding that rain and Kanye go well together, but no, no Kanye post will be forthcoming).

That’s all she wrote…no, literally…thought I had the thread of a story this morning but like a spooked butterfly, it fluttered away never to return. Come back, little butterfly.

butterfly_top

This is my Sunday Salon, my Sunday Post… and maybe some other link-ups (e.g. It’s Monday what are you readingMailbox MondayStacking the Shelves) as the week progresses.

Joss in Africa

Joss Stone and sounds of Africa (she’s done these jam sessions with artistes from different parts of the world – I’m guessing where ever her world tour stopped in 2016/2017 – but I’m spotlighting the Africa ones because there’re too many for a single post and I bounced upon the Africa ones first – plus, you know, Caribbean person of African descent. Which reminds me, come to the Caribbean, Joss):

ETA Rwanda and Zimbabwe

 

Sudan

Cameroon

Malawi

Sierra Leone

Nigeria

Kenya

Djibouti

Equatorial Guinea

Tanzania

Burkina Faso

Mozambique

Gabon

Liberia