Wadadli Pen Turning 10

So my major non-profit activity is something I actually wouldn’t mind having the werewithal to do and develop full time; some days it already feels like a full time job. The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com) can be time-consuming but I’m grateful to all the patrons and partners for helping to lighten the load. I’m also grateful for notes like this facebook note from Lia Nicholson (the second placed writer in the first year of the annual Wadadli Pen Challenge for her story Tekin Ahn Dey!):

“Thank you Joanne for all your hard work over the years to inspire young writers and give confidence in creativity. The extent of my writing these days is limited to academic work as I study for my master’s, but I did get one blog up earlier this year: http://environment.yale.edu/envirocenter/wearing-two-hats-reflections-on-the-role-of-small-islands-at-cop-18-in/. Count me in for celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Wadadli Pen Challenge next year! It is a great asset to Antigua & Barbuda.”

This is the photo call for the first season of Wadadli Pen. Lia's actually not in this picture (she was a high school student in Vermont at the time) but that's her mom standing second from right.

This is the photo call for the first season of Wadadli Pen. Lia’s actually not in this picture (she was a high school student in Vermont at the time) but that’s her mom standing second from right.

As I said in response, writing is writing, and I’m glad that Lia is still hitting it for six; I’m also thankful for her and all the young writers who shared their writing because as a writer myself I know it’s not easy. And you know I reached out to see how she could come celebrate with us, right?

If you want to support Wadadli Pen in anyway, contact wadadlipen@yahoo.com

About that other blog

My other blog is Wadadli Pen and its focus is the youth writing programme I run in Antigua and Barbuda (it also includes updates on the local literary arts scene and often beyond). It occurs to me that much as I try to keep Wadadli Pen and my personal/literary pursuits separate, this is one of those times when they’ve just got to intersect because part of the reason I do Wadadli Pen is because I’m a writer who grew up in an environment that didn’t really nurture or encourage that writing. Wadadli Pen, started in 2004, is my effort to in some small way address that so that other young writers can begin to give voice to their own stories, receive some guidance re crafting their stories, and have a platform for sharing their stories. It’s an often draining process, this programme, and there are times when I contemplate packing it away for good this time. But this time of year right after the young writers are recognized for their successes in the annual Challenge, and feeling the glow of that, some of their glow passes to me:


A grandmother crossed the street in St. John’s City to thank me the other day; her granddaughter had been one of those awarded and she wanted to let me know that we were doing a good thing.


A teacher emailed to say “thank you for affording my students and me the opportunity to share our stories and drawings. We will definitely be looking out for the next Wadadli Pen competition and please believe you will have a lot more entries from our schools… Now that I’m exposed to what is expected (the stories that won were awesome!!!) I will definitely have to put in some extra work! Awesome job! You are a role model to aspiring writers. Shine on!!”

One of the young adult winners (the programme is for A & B writers 35 and younger) emailed to say: “Just want to let you know that I think that the Wadadli Pen Prize is a great initiative and hope to see it continue!”

Another teacher wrote on my facebook: “Congrats to Joanne C. Hillhouse and Barbara Arrindell  for keeping reading alive, and more importantly, for encouraging our young people to tell our own stories.” (Barbara is the manager of our partner book store the Best of Books)

Interesting side note, both teachers referenced are from the schools which will be collecting prizes (US$500 worth of books) from Hands Across the Sea for having the most submissions at the primary and secondary level in the 2013 Challenge; I don’t think it’s by accident that some of the strongest and also strongest number of entries come from schools where teachers are so engaged.

I don’t mention any of the above to pat myself on the back (I’m too tired and hardly agile enough to pull that off right now anyway). For one thing I didn’t do it alone. For another, it’s really not about me. It’s about people like this year’s winner 15 year old (sorry, 16 year old) Asha Graham who was visibly surprised and elated at the awards ceremony and in the way of teens giddily embraced her winnings as more gifts for her sweet 16. Asha, like all the writers in the Challenge have a long way to go, as do all writers journeying, toward hitting their stride as writers, but if Wadadli Pen makes her believe a little more and work harder toward her dream  of becoming a bestselling author, well, that’s what it’s about.

Anyway, as to what led me here. Not all patrons are like the two who insisted this year that they absolutely do not want to be named; most expect some mileage for their gift. Nothing wrong with that; I try to give it as much as I can with resources spread thin. Sometimes they’re not happy. Last night, more asleep than awake I found myself digging up links to prove to an unhappy patron that I had indeed done all I could to ensure that their gift to us was well publicized. Anyway, it occurred to me that I should not let that link-dig go to waste. Hence, this post, and these links for your reading/viewing pleasure:

There’s this in Antigua Chronicle and this at 365antigua.com, a social media partner – essentially it’s the press release I sent out but I’m thrilled that they actually came out to take pictures. Other media also picked it up, but I’m particularly thrilled to have there, in the case of Antigua Chronicle, past Wadadli Pen winner now Antigua Chronicle key player Angelica O’Donoghue and in the case of 365antigua, one of our actual 2013 partners Linisa George. Kind of brings everything full circle.

Here are some pictures

And here are the story links

Photos featured in this blog courtesy of Antigua Chronicle.