Site Updates (18-2-21)

What’s new?

A quick stop to share the latest CREATIVE SPACE which is gardening themed – which is in keeping with the local art and culture theme of the column, backyard gardening having taken off in Antigua and Barbuda this past year. How about where you are?

The image to the right is from my latest picture book The Jungle Outside. If you’re in Antigua and Barbuda, it’s available here as of this week at the Best of Books bookstore. It’s been available in the United Kingdom since January, and will be available in the United States and other markets (where it is available for pre-order) as of March. I hope you buy it for the children in your life and share a review when done.

In other book news, I have been sharing #abookaday across my social media and I did a round up of the books shared up to mid-month on my YouTube channel, AntiguanWriter. I hope you’re following and I hope you are subscribed.

Finally, what am I reading this week?

A bit of this, a bit of that – I’ve dipped back in to Beneath Lion’s Wings, a romance sent to me by the author, Marie Ohanesian Nardin, some time ago; and Zee Edgell’s Festival of San Joaquin, which is my first book purchase in a while (because of a self-imposed embargo).

Mostly though, I’ve been listening to Sheena Rose’s new audio book release of her older self-published short story collection In Time of Need.

What are you reading?

And how are you doing. I’ve felt particularly “modie” as we say in Antigua-Barbuda – emotions all over the place but mostly hitting a personal wall with these unevenly applied COVID restrictions and just this treading water we’ve been doing this past year in general. But praying the world turns a corner soon.

CREATIVE SPACE (updates)

I wanted to do a post to make sure you’re not missing out on any of the new content under the CREATIVE SPACE tab. The drop down menu includes every article since I revived the series here on the blog in (wow) 2018. The current cycle, running in the Daily Observer newspaper and here on the blog, with video installments now on my YouTube channel, launched February 2020 which makes this my montheversary. I’m glad I’ve persisted with this series, and I hope you’re enjoying keeping up with my arts and culture coverage, profiles, commentary, reviews, interviews, and more.

Articles so far for 2021 have spotlighted Antiguan and Barbudan domestic bestselling books,

the Catapult Arts Grant which supported hundreds of Caribbean artists in 2020, including me with a grant that allowed me to showcase my work (vid below), plus other initiatives that walked the talk,

and an interview and coverage of fashion designer Miranda Askie Designs and how the last year has re-shaped her brand while she continues to make fly clothes.

If you missed any of the 2020 editions, here you go.

What’s Good, Joanne (2020-2021)

Joining the bandwagon of celebrating the celebration-worthy moves and moments of 2020, despite it being one of the worst years in my lifetime (that’s not just me talking – at one point, the whole world shut down!). Because, per the theme song to one of my childhood shows, “you take the good, you take the bad, you take em both and there you have, the ‘Facts of Life’ – a reflection:

Hard to believe this was 2020 but early in the year I received a literary award, nominated and voted by the people of Antigua and Barbuda (wow) as one of the inaugural Women of Wadadli awardees. Highlights for me included having my dad with me at the event and my fabulous skirt (a Miranda Askie original – look for her in a future CREATIVE SPACE), and being in the company of so many women I admire. (national TV station ABS interviewed me about the prize here).

Another nice surprise was making the longlist of the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Competition for Writers in the Caribbean for my story ‘Vincent’.

Musical Youth made Kirkus’ top 100 indie books of 2020 list and its lists of top teen/young adult and top romance indie books, after receiving a starred review for its second edition earlier in the year. It was featured in the Kirkus year end print magazine. One of my more joyful moments was that December call from my publisher at Caribbean Reads informing me of the book’s Kirkus selection. File this under things I didn’t expect but absolutely am happy to receive. As illustrated above, the local press picked it up as well. (Link) I also want to add my gratitude not just for this but for the readers especially who keep amping my books up across social media. I can’t share each one (which is a good problem to have – thanks especially to bookstagram for the love) but I do try to share the ones I find on the reviews and endorsement pages, in the reader reviews section of each page. You can check those out starting here.

Rebel Women Lit book club out of Jamaica launched the the Caribbean Readers’ Awards, inviting readers to nominate and vote for their faves; Antigua and Barbuda made out pretty good when the winners were announced on January 3rd 2020. Specifically 2020 Wadadli Pen winner, Andre, won the best single short fiction award, and I was the honoree in the category of critic. Not a prize I ever expected but thanks to every voter who thought I deserved it. My non-fiction piece for Caribbean Literary Heritage also earned a nomination in the individual short fiction writing category but that prize deservedly went to Queen Olive (Olive Senior) for writing about the writing of her pandemic poems, delivering a master class on writing through a pandemic in the process.

I was able to pitch and negotiate terms that brought CREATIVE SPACE, a series spotlighting local art and culture, to the pages of the Daily Observer newspaper every other Wednesday (returning January 6th 2021). The last installment of the year occasioned the launch of its video component (above). While the series is now paying for itself (a 2020 glow up), I’m still trying to crack the code to further monetize especially the online content (anyone interested in banner ads, sponsored posts, or even product reviews should contact me). However, I’ve been working on this project for a while and I’m happy with how it blossomed in 2020. The extended edition with extras runs here on the blog, just one of an increasing amount of original content (which in addition to my regular books posts have included a number of author interviews, film reviews, cultural commentary, and other fun stuff).

The #CatapultArtsGrant was a timely gift, and, as a recipient specifically of a Caribbean Creative Online Grant, an opportunity to share my work. I was one of three Antiguan-Barbudan people and of many Caribbean people who applied and got grant money specifically available to artists in the challenging year that was. From salons (which I have been particularly enjoying listening in on) to residencies this was the kind of intervention we needed (and not just in a crisis year). Props to the entities that made it happen. And check out my video (above) – it took many hours to produce.

Cover reveal day is always a big day and so it was with The Jungle Outside, my forthcoming children’s picture book (with Harper Collins, UK), inspired by my mother and one of my nephews. My words are again being illustrated by Trinbagonian artist Danielle Boodoo-Fortune. It drops early 2021, and is available for pre-order; buy early, boost sales. (Link re the Caribbean titles in the Big Cat international series of children’s book of which this is a part)

New Daughters of Africa netted an NAACP Image award nomination for best fiction, which, as my story Evening Ritual is a part of it, feels like me netting an Image award nomination for best fiction alongside 200 of the best women writers in the world; late in the year the release of the book’s print edition was announced.

Another group of Caribbean artivists with whom I had the opportunity to interact was Intersect. I had a thoughtful engagement (via an instagram live interview) on themes in my book Musical Youth (video above) and had a piece, Carnival Hangover, re-published with them – a highlight for me was listening to their audio recording of that story.

2013, not 2020. Photo from Jhohadli Writing Project 2013, courtesy workshop participant Kurne. My major workshop activity in 2020 while adhering to COVID-19 protocols was also with young people.

Editing work (including several children’s book and novels, short stories and essays, artist statements and commercial projects) made up the bulk of my freelance activity in 2020; plus some workshop activity (really one major workshop activity which necessitated for the first time, contractual COVID-19 protocols), some writing assignments, like this article for Publishers Weekly (off of this series) – both also highlights! There’ve been many bumps, not enough rest, and various financial and logistical challenges (the freelance high wire act), but in a year when the world stopped, I have been fortunate to be too busy to bake bread. (Link to my services)

Also not 2020 but turns out writers don’t have a lot of pictures of them writing.

I struggled all year with time and energy to create; short story collection inching along, finishing stage draft of With Grace. Then, in December, as the sky fell, I filled pages of a blank book with possibly the beginnings of …something; happy to be writing again, though needing time and the money to take time to create… and buy a new laptop. All of which is to say, patronage to support the work is welcomed – something I wouldn’t have been so bold in declaring before but philanthropy is part of the arts ecosystem, none of us can do this alone and there’s no shame in that (look at me growing). (Link to my published Writing)

I became more active in the authortube and booktube communities, and various such communities across social media. There’s a mix of networking, brand building, and revenue earning goals but also, talking books and creativity is fun (though not as much fun as reading and creating). There’s a learning curve troubleshooting tech issues and such, but growth is good. That said, I am hoping to handoff management of the new Wadadli Pen YouTube channel I set up (and which I encourage to go like) to a tech savvy intern.

The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize awards happened during lockdown and, as such, was my first virtual event of the year – and only my second live (like I said, learning curve), and getting the prizes to the winners was a challenge in a climate where everyone was afraid to o out. It was imperfect, but it happened. We got it done and blog activity continued (with increasing attention to wider Caribbean arts content while keeping local literary arts as a priority). Speaking of, I think that I can hint that the book of the year initiative will be back in 2021 plus, of course, the Wadadli Pen Challenge. Plus the process of making us legal is in progress. Hopefully announcements re any or all of this soon – progress has been affected by there only being 24 hours in the day and the team being made up of five women with very busy and full lives.

Most of my reading this year (in terms of public reading) has been from my bed (lol – seriously check my YouTube channel for some of the reading from my bed I did during lockdown – it won’t take long, there are like two). Most of my actual reading – only 18 books this year – has been listed in my Blogger on Books 2020 page (so you can check that out). But if we’re talking actual readings of my writing, I can think of only two (apart from the involvement of Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure in theread2me_TT bedtime readings) – The Caribbean Writer virtual event (video above). It was special to me (considering how hard it was for me to get in to TCW in the first place) to share two of the first pieces (Rhythms and Ode to the Pan Man) accepted for publication. Also special (if somewhat stressful given all the tech specifications) was the invitation by the St. Lucia Tourist Authority to read an excerpt from my work for their Caribcation Author Series. I read from Musical Youth (and re-watching it was a good reminder to slooow down).

I think we’re in to the miscellaneous category here, and this post has run much longer and taken more time to put together than anticipated. But this was a moment too, when the cover of my book With Grace (which has so far underperformed in terms of potential sales but which I still absolutely have faith in) was selected for the cover of volume 5 issue 2 of Opal Palmer Adisa’s Interviewing the Caribbean, with part 1 the first issue with the University of the West Indies Press (there’s also an interview with me inside of part 2 and a past Wadadli Pen winner interview and poem in part 1). This thick journal is in the mix of my active reading pile and is so far quite a good read. Full disclosure: technically the pub date for this is December 2019.

Other media highlights.

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Whoever needs to hear this, online life is a heavily curated version of real life. I try to be real online or off, but I’m not one to share my times of absolute collapse on the internet. But I have them -Trust! And we know 2020 has been a lot. This post is not a denial of any of that. Just, some good stuff.

In addition to all the end of year reflection running through my social media, an early motivator for this post was Trinidad and Tobago writer Lisa Allen-Agostini blogging the light in the shadows. So, shout out to her for reminding me to celebrate, and look out for the 2020 North American edition of her book Home Home.

For any of my books mentioned in this post, see my books page.

This is not a Test

I wanted to drop a quick note to share that CREATIVE SPACE continues to grow. This week I talked with graphic designer Sonalli Andrews about the art of storytelling via his visual medium. There is now a video component. Here it is.

That’s right, CREATIVE SPACE 22 of 2020 (as in the 22nd installment since the column found a new home in the Daily Observer every other Wednesday early in the year) also has a video component. I conducted the interview via Zoom and then I edited and uploaded it to my YouTube channel, Antiguan Writer. That’s three iterations of the column if you’re keeping count, the newspaper edition , the extended (i.e. with extras) online edition here on the blog, and now the video edition (my first attempt to take it on to this platform). It took a lot of doing but I’m excited and hoping you will check it out. Like, comment, share, subscribe.

My goal is to grow this and to do so I’ll need to build the audience and get some money coming in through branding and/or sponsorship and/or advertising. So that I can get some help and continue to pump out this content and do it better.

If you need added incentive to view the video, there’s a story, inspired by the video cover image, included in the conversation – beginning, middle, end? Not saying. Watch to find out; I believe you’ll find the whole conversation (and it is a conversation more than an interview) interesting.

Though this wasn’t a #Catapultartsgrant funded initiative, I daresay my experience troubleshooting the challenge I experienced creating the video I did for that emboldened me to tackle this project. I always planned to expand CREATIVE SPACE’s possibilities but this past week I decided to just do it, and I did. Let me know what you think.

Exploring GendArtivism

‘Good Hair’ by Rhonda Williams (Indira Wills) untangles the issues around Black women’s hair. Her subject’s larger than life ‘fro asserts, “Black hair of any texture is the embodiment of good hair. Black hair is beautiful, and we are intrinsically beautiful too.”

That’s right, a new CREATIVE SPACE. Read it here.

In Case You Missed It: CREATIVE SPACE

It occurs to me I haven’t done a CREATIVE SPACE round up post since this one in July, in which I explained the column had found a new home running every other Wednesday in the Daily Observer newspaper before being archived here on the blog. With Extras.

Since then, I’ve written on the book To Shoot Hard Labour and the history it captures, local food, clay and my family’s history in it (making the front page of the paper for the second time in the column’s run), popular local DJ Jime, anti-Blackness, and, most recently, a tale of two kings (one long dead, one recently deceased).

Get caught up.

Black Lives and Black Art (site updates)

It’s crazy busy right now so I’m only dropping in to point you to the latest CREATIVE SPACEs.

One takes in Antiguan and Barbudan artist Heather Doram’s Pandemic Series which touches on the particular vulnerabilities and the pain but also the resilience and beauty of Black lives.

The more recent revisits the post-slavery walk to freedom literally and figuratively of Black people in Antigua and Barbuda through a book called To Shoot Hard Labour – timely because for the millionth time chattel slavery in some of its most brutal forms existed in the Caribbean. So check the post and ultimately the book (which I haven’t written a review for as yet) if you want to learn more about the Caribbean beyond sun, sea, and sand.

Finally, a by the by that’s the very definition of burying the lead, I’ve been longlisted for a prize offered by the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival, the BCLF Elizabeth Nunez Prize for Writers in the Caribbean.

Til another time.

 

CREATIVE SPACE – What’s New and Building

The  CREATIVE SPACE column has been updated with new art work by top Antiguan and Barbudan artist Heather Doram. Here’s a sample…

“Heather also lets her women, these avatars of womanhood, be vulnerable, breaking with the superwoman trope. One woman, waterlilies floating around her face, sighs ‘Sometimes it hurts so much, I can’t breathe’.”

Read the full here.

CREATIVE SPACE found a new home at the Daily Observer newspaper in 2020. It runs every other Wednesday. It was a matter of seeking to monetize something I believe has value to my community so that it could pay for itself and as such could continue. I still archive the articles here on the blog but extended editions with extras, and the blog edition is still courting advertising and/or sponsored partnerships. I’ve been thinking what, if anything I want to say about the CREATIVE SPACE journey, and all I’ll say is if you believe in an idea find a way to begin and build, and then when you can, level up. Don’t labour for free indefinitely  (at a certain point, as much as I love doing it, I actually put the column on pause), be purposeful (but I never kept plotting), and when you feel you have something sellable, take your  shot (and then I pitched and negotiated). That’s advice for you and me both.

So far this year I’ve covered local film, musical artists, visual artists, literary arts, cultural conversations, and more; I have a whole list of possibilities but the process is also very organic, which means the list is not a straight line for me – as more timely things cross my path, as I come across things I’m inspired by or want to discuss, they will likely bump things down the list. The challenge is not what to write about but how to narrow the many things I want to cover and write about to one article every couple of weeks. Of course, with sponsorship, I could increase the frequency at least of the blog edition and/or build the video series. Dreaming and building.

In the meantime, if you’ve missed any of the 2020 editions of CREATIVE SPACE, go here; previous online editions are also archived on the site (scroll to the bottom of the linked posts); you can even read some of the earlier print magazine editions in my portfolio.

Okay, now back to work.

Books Aren’t Bread

I will get to the thesis of this post in a bit but first, what have I been reading? This will be linked up with The Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post, after all. You know the drill. I’ll also be sharing to The Sunday Salon for the first time in forever.

This section will be short as neither my lack of reading nor lack of writing fever have broken…with the exception of my CREATIVE SPACE column which this week features a conceptual artist you don’t have to be local to appreciate.

Stop Killing Us

I ‘read’

girl-cover

I finished listening to the abridged audio book version of the Booker Prize winning Girl, Woman, Other by British author Bernadine Evaristo and posted my thoughts (I did go back and add this to last week’s post as I finished it on Sunday after posting). It’s one of those books that’s worked its way in to my conversations because it’s one of those books.

I also watched a stage adaptation of the Caribbean modern literary classic and Orange Prize winner about the WWII and post-War period Small Island, set in Jamaica and the UK, written by Andrea Levy, who died in 2019. This book has been on my TBR for a while, long enough for it to have been adapted for TV/film and the stage – the latter having become freely available during the COVID-19 era. I will still read the book; I should have already. But the story as presented on stage is a revelation about the treatment of Black Caribbean soldiers during WWII – as with the Vietnam War and Black American GIs in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods recently reviewed on this site, I’m glad it’s being told in the mainstream (we’ve always known though perhaps not like this); and about the Windrush Generation (literally people from the British West Indies travelling on the ship ‘Windrush’) which went over to rebuild England post-war and build a new life for themselves and the racism that greeted them there; about culture clashes and the white woman (well meaning though she doesn’t always get it right) who took them in to her home – her life and dreams and one great love and sacrifice; about classism and colourism, and overt and polite racism. Frustration is a feeling you’ll have often as you watch (or read) this but you’ll also laugh and hope and dream with and for the characters – all very imperfect and sometimes unkind  and oblivious in their own ways. And as they delight and frustrate, their narratives speak to our intertwined history. Heavy as I make it sound, it’s a delight.

“Mrs Queenie Bligh works out what’s for dinner during conjugal relations with her husband but this woman, this woman pants and thrusts and bites and yelps; this woman is far far gone.”

Watch it here.

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People looking for books to better understand why #BlackLivesMatter has become a primal scream, so loud and so necessary in this moment, American and yet global, is a thing. So much of a thing, it’s landed Black British author Reni Eddo-Lodge atop the UK book charts, a first (in a time, sidebar sort of, where another of the articles I read re-examined the legacy of white American writer Flannery O’Connor, in light of racist comments in her private letters, since released). Interesting times, even or especially for book lovers.

If anyone reading this is among the people looking for #ownvoices literature that speaks to the moment or at least provides context for it, there’s a books post I read this past week that I thought I’d share. It’s from grow.learn. connect and is the Schomberg Center’s recommendations of books on the African American experience. It includes many that I need to read and some that I have and would also recommend – the latter list including The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley (I understand there’s a new audio book or will be shortly narrated by Olivia Pope’s dad); The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (in fact, almost anything by Toni Morrison), who is a Nobel Prize winning author; A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, which I’ve reviewed here on the blog, and which is more about the Jamaican experience though America is certainly a huge part of it; The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemison the audio book of which I just finished listening to and highly recommend especially for lovers of fantasy fiction; The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, and again more Baldwin, including the Academy award nominated 2017 documentary I am not Your Negro; I know why the Caged Bird Sings by the great Maya Angelou, and there’s a film of this too, if you can find it, and a whole series of memoirs that follow; A Raisin in the Sun, a play by Lorraine Hansberry, of which there have been several adaptations of which the most notable stars young Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee; one of my all time favourite books by Harlem Renaissance legend Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes were watching God (this too has a movie, starring Halle Berry and Michael Ealy); and, by another Harlem Renaissance legend Langston Hughes, the story collection The Ways of White Folk, also do yourself a favour and check out his poetry; We should all be Feminists by the great Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, also check her Ted talk on the danger of a single story. Which is why we need a diversity of stories.

I feel like I should end this section with a father-themed rec; it is Father’s Day after all. There’s the father, both the fathers in their way, in Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage and father figures Uncle Wellie and Pappy in my books Dancing Nude in the Moonlight and Musical Youth, respectively.

“What you want, Boy?” Uncle Wellie griped.
Michael just stared at him, his stance a little tentative, and he saw Uncle Wellie’s eyes soften with a kind of resignation. “You need to find another sanctuary from your mother instead of intruding on people’s Sundays,” Uncle Wellie said, stepping aside to let Michael in.

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Annnd that’s all the segue I need to return to the thesis of this post – books are not bread. It’s something I say: books aren’t bread, they don’t go stale. It’s my (mostly to myself) response to the publishing industry and the anxiety it gives us writers about our books’ shelf life::Get Advance (though per the #publishingpaidme twitter hashtag not as big an advance as other, centered, groups of writers). Advance buzz if you’re lucky – ARCs to critics and tastemakers. Get picked by Oprah (a girl can dream). Open strong, sell well. Hey, why not, we’re in lala land territory anyway. Everything is on a clock to literary stardom or irrelevance, depending on the swing of the pendulum. The latter means being pulped, dropped, going out of print. Two of my books mentioned in this post (The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight ) have been out of print. A local book store bought up a bulk of the remainders after the publisher said they were going to pulp them – I remain grateful to them for keeping the book in circulation and for helping me make the connection with at least one of the publishers who helped me get one of the books back in print. Eventually, I was able to get both back in print after reclaiming the rights. One is on my local schools’ reading list and schools’ reading list in at least one other Caribbean country. It hasn’t been smooth sailing from there by far, there are things I would like to be better as far as the publishing experience is concerned, and neither book has become a bestseller. But in the year 2020 both continue to find new readers – publishing is what it is, but the stories haven’t become stale and moldy if recent reader reviews can be taken as an indicator.

As noted in a recent post, it’s Caribbean Heritage Month in the US and, as a result, around social media. On YouTube, activities include #CaribATHon, and, as I’ve mentioned, Musical Youth got a shout out there by #booktuber ComfyCozyUp, who said:

Musical Youth…Loved it…this is juicy. I love when you have young adult books that have a bit of romance, enough for the age group but has like a message of following your dream and doing things that might not be in your favour as far as your parents and everybody else around you, but you follow your guts and do what you want to do, and it’s musical. This was really good. Loved it.”

lalabear instashotAlso the #readCaribbean photo hashtag on Instagram is getting a workout and amidst the activity, a reader review by _lalabear, who also read and posted on The Boy from Willow Bend (see below), described it as “a sweet coming of age romance”.

Recent reader reactions to Willow Bend and Dancing Nude, as noted, have also surfaced on #bookstagram.

“I did finish reading ‘Dancing Nude in the Moonlight’. I love Joanne C. Hillhouse’s writing so much because she doesn’t shy away from talking about deep issues in our Caribbean societies.”

This was posted by ladyinsaeng, who also said on instagram that Musical Youth was her favourite read of 2019, with this image:
ladyinsaeng_20200613_001118_0

Dancing Nude in the Moonlight was also included in an instapoem. by Nadine Tomlinson:
insta poem

Dope.

Finally, as far as #bookstagram is concerned, there is this take (included with the image below) from _lalabear on  The Boy from Willow Bend which is my first book everrrr and this reviewer’s “first book for read Caribbean”. They described it as “a great read. …a relatable read about childhood experiences in Antigua. …Reading this book also brought some nostalgia of how life differs now.”

Finally-finally, there was this message to my email inbox (shared with permission):  “I’ve just read your book [The Boy from Willow Bend] this morning and was so extremely moved! I cried quite a few times throughout. It’s so moving and beautiful. I know it’s a book about an Antiguan boy, but some of the hardships and joys of Vere reminded me of my own childhood in a poor small mining town of East Ukraine. Great fiction is universal! And all the unique details about the Antiguan life were a joy to read. Thank you for this profound experience! I’m now very keen to read your Dancing Nude in the Moonlight …” – Vera Monotti Graziadei, actress and filmmaker

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What I’m reading today

I was just asked to lead a discussion, part of an upcoming radio series on To Shoot Hard Labour, an Antiguan and Barbudan book  (pictured right back row, below, in another _lalabear insta image). I won’t have time to re-read it in full but I’ve already begun revisiting it.

insta

I also hope to read more from my pile. It’s been there for a while, the pile. Good thing books aren’t bread and don’t go stale.

 

 

 

Another One of Those Round-up-y Posts

Promos

I received copies of the hard cover editions of my books Musical Youth and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and of the second edition of the former. So I did a giveaway on my facebook page to celebrate – shout out to winners Tiff Tyf, Sam Sam, and Merle Harris-Odlum. I did the announcement via my first facebook live which you can find on the page (click the screen capture for the link).

Also I was recently spotlighted at Ravishly.com in an interview discussing my book Musical Youth.

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On Being Read at Your Alma Mater

(me, with other 89ers)

Recently, I stopped by my secondary school alma mater and someone commented casually that my book Musical Youth is taught in the third form there (I know it’s on the national schools’ reading list but I somehow hadn’t considered that there were any more copies at the school than the ones I’d gifted to the library a handful of years ago when I was recruited to narrate the annual carol service). I was further informed that my first book The Boy from Willow Bend was (or had been) studied there as well (I know it’s on the national schools’ reading list but…). Since that day I’ve kind of fantasized a picture of me and the students all in our beige jumpers brandishing copies of Musical Youth and The Boy from Willow Bend. Short of that, when life unclouds (though I’ve had to cut way back on unfunded school visits) I may reach out to visit with the students reading my book in the same classrooms where I once read V. S. Naipaul’s House for Mr. Biswas, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Selvon, and Hardy, and Shakespeare. I just need a sponsor and a beige jumper.

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New article in APANA

APANA is a new Caribbean publication focused on sustainable development and social engagement. In the article I talk about the two major non-profits I’ve been involved with thanks to my passions for reading, writing, and creative expression.

Read the full issue here or visit their website.

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New or Updated Posts (In case You missed it), Plus Books I’m Reading

CREATIVE SPACE 14 – About a fresh staging of The Vagina Monologues in Antigua and Barbuda – has replaced CREATIVE SPACE 13 – Fashioning a Hit! Spotlight – Nicoya Henry which has been archived. For previous editions see CREATIVE SPACE 2018 an 2019. Some Blogger on Books updates via Quick Takes of two Scoular Anderson Big Cat books.

                Speaking of Books I’m reading, that’s expanded to a scary degree. I’ve recently received (and started reading) Another Mother by Ross Kenneth Urken and Death on the Danube by Jennifer S. Alderson and recently received (but haven’t started reading) Fireburn and Transfer by Apple Gidley. Of previously read books, I’ve updated my review of Inner City Girl (a Burt pick out of Jamaica), Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy which I found myself thinking about again after the section on female genital mutilation in The Vagina Monologues (Possessing goes in to excrutiating detail about this practice). Of the others, I’ve been actively reading (this past week or so) Marie Ohanesian Nardin’s Beneath Lion’s Wings which I received from the author some time ago, Greyborn Rising by Derry Sandy, a publisher arc I’m really enjoying but don’t have nearly enough time to read, and especially (finally!) Mary Robinette Kowal Antigua-set Of Noble Family (the last of the books I own in the Glamourist series and the one I worked on). I’m also listening to the audio book of Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage. Oh and I’m crocheting again for the first time since my grandmother taught me and my sister as children – I’m doing it mostly for anxiety relief but it is taking shape.

Also re updates and new posts, see my top Marvel films (and share yours), my updated media page, and  More November pics as well for some final Sharjah images (after my Scenes from Sharjah post) and pics of my long ago early mentor, famed Caribbean writer Olive Senior.


(Senior with my books The Boy from Willow Bend,  Musical Youth, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure)

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About the Golden Globes

Hm. They were announced on the day that I’m typing this and I have been known to write about films and awards here, but I may be too upset to be coherent just yet. LIke how the *&^&**^%U(^ does When They See Us get no nominations, none taaaarl. Make it make sense. I’m not going to do a breakdown. I don’t care. I won’t be watching. You can read my review of the Ava DuVernay mini-series here (it’s the best mini-series of the year as a work of art and as something that’s both classic and timely, and one of the few films I felt compelled to do a solo post about this year) though obviously not the only film or series I saw and liked (though honestly when it comes to series especially I’m behind on everything – so, no Watchmen spoilers). Two movies or series I did see were  Unbelievable and Dolemite is My Name on Netflix.  Both were great and I’m happy to see them in the awards conversation. Speaking of the awards conversation, it’s been dominated by The Irishman which… I think is overrated (OMG the hyperbole!…look, it was alright…it was alright) and the CGI’d de-aging was distracting. I am okay with the two acting noms especially Pacino who embodied Hoffa and good to see Joe Pesci again. I tried watching Once Upon a Time, the Tarantino film, and didn’t get through it. And I have liked films by Scorcese (e.g. Taxi Driver, The Departed) and Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, Django Uchained) in the past. Talking movies, I also watched American Son which felt a bit plodding in its execution but still landed its gut punch at the end, and a film about colourism called The Wedding (an old film based on an older book) starring Halle Berry who is also in this year’s John Wick 3  which I watched in recent weeks (don’t judge me, I am part of the #foreverKeanu crowd). Speaking of Keanu and the Globes, “I punched Keanu in the Face’ sung by Randall Park at the end of Always Be My Maybe should’ve been nominated for best song.

Right?

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Music

What other music can I share with you? How about No Name? Tyler the Creator? both?

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately because when it hits me I feel no pain (it’s great for anxiety) and because I’m trying to get caught up on all the Grammy nominees (you know, what the kids are listening to) – funny story, I asked my niece about some of them after listening (because we both love music, you know). Every Grammy nominated name I called, with the exception of Lizzo, she’d never heard of them, and started dropping names that the Grammys isn’t checking for… maybe she’d be as upset about the Grammys as I am about the Golden Globes. Anyway, I’ll leave my thoughts on the Grammy nominees for another day and until then, try to stay on my two feet. You too.

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Finally

Recent projects include a book edit and some athlete profiles. Thanks to Belizean author (Pengereng) Ivory Kelly for a recent shout out on her blog re my editing services – “I highly recommend a professional editor such as Joanne Hillhouse (jhohadli.wordpress.com/writing-editing-coaching-services/) or Virginia Hampton (hampton.virginia19@gmail.com) who have provided excellent service to me and other writers in Belize and abroad” – in a post on publishing.

Anyone needing my services, contact me via the link.