Grace’s Merrymakers

It’s funny how quickly Carnival goes by. It’s like this two week alternate reality where everything else ceases to exist, and then, in a blink, back to reality. Within those two weeks there is pageantry, soca, calypso, pan, controversy, and, of course, mas including the epic Carnival Tuesday parade (all 10,000 plus steps of it). Carnival is mas, and mas is  an opportunity to showcase our creativity and that, the opportunity it provides to showcase our creativity, is the purpose of this post.

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With Grace – a Caribbean fairytale…and our pattern book.

See, I wrote a children’s picture book called With Grace (released last December), and the world of that story became the pattern that we drew from in crafting our mas – in great part because I wanted to see the tree faerie come to life.

tree faerie

The page I sent my friend before she even had a copy of the book to see if she thought we could do this. She did.

We had more elaborate plans to start but adjusted to our reality and are grateful that with the help of sponsors (shout out to Titi Rent-a-Car, Townhouse Mega Store, and Pink Mongoose), we were able to bring the tree faerie to Carnival City.

 

Graces Merry Makers

Grace’s Merrymakers.

In production

I’m not going to pretend that I had any hand in the actual building – I am rather lucky that my friends (Helena Jeffery Brown and Augusta Scotland Samuel) who do have experience with costume building were interested in taking on this project.

Material was bought 20170623_180341,

Wire was bent 20170610_17453520170610_135409,

Shapes were drawn 20170604_20525720170604_205301,

Fabric was cut 20170604_21191820170701_134735,

& Details were added 20170802_12502820170802_125822 (these are for the headpieces and standards – because we might not have had a mango tree like we’d hoped but the standards made for a good stand-in).

In their skilled hands (plus seamstress, Ms. Blaize, who sewed the tops they then decorated), it all came together20170802_125004.20170802_125037.

We had to do a product description for the stage and here’s some of what we said – “The fairy’s bodice is the colour of tree bark crisscrossed in green. Her skirt consists of green leaves, with stripes of gold, hanging from her body like leaves from a tree. Look closely, you’ll also see mango blossoms – between the fairy’s wings, pinned into her hair, and along the leaves making up her hand pieces. The fairy’s wings spread wide as she wakes, the orange pink hue of a ripening mango, made of bent wire in the tradition of Antiguan mas. Another feature of local mas, the standards – poles wrapped in leaves, in hues of green and gold – are the trees waving in the breeze. It’s mango season, Carnival season, a season of creativity in full bloom.”

On the Road

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After all that, we were only on the road on Carnival Tuesday (shout out to Just Friends, for being so welcoming to us on the road); on Carnival Monday, given our size, we  only crossed the stage. Shout out to our banner holders 20170807_155130…and our back-up banner holders.

With Grace

We were happy to have the opportunity to showcase what mas is about to us – not just fun (though it is always that), but the colour, spirit, and creative energy of our Antiguan and Barbudan people. As a writer, it made me happy to see a character I imagined (a character then illustrated by Cherise Harris and re-imagined by Jeffery) come to life as a part of one of my favourite events, Carnival, mas, Tuesday, the biggest live theatre event (for that’s how I’ve thought of our mas since I first witnessed it as a child). This year I also spied a smurfette and a mermaid (dope); so why not the mango tree faerie, a 100 Wadadli character. Again, thanks to our sponsors (Titi Rent-a-Car, Pink Mongoose, and Townhouse Mega Store) for supporting our vision – remember, support the businesses that support the arts.

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ABOUT THE BOOK: Grace, of Grace’s Peak, loves her hill, and her home above the village, above the whole island. All her trees are lush and full of ripe fruits, except for the one at the far end of her orchard.  She hates that tree.  So when the smiling, barefoot, girl from the village asks Grace if she can pick fruits to sell at the market, it is from that sad, bare tree that Grace “generously” allows her to pick. Little does Grace know that the young girl’s kind, generous heart and her sweet special song will make the impossible happen, and change life at Grace’s Peak forever.  Published by Little Bell Caribbean.

Also, for news on Antigua’s Carnival, go here.

ETA: Video and more pictures here.

 

 

 

 

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People are reading…

people-are-reading-dawnThanks for sharing, Dawn.

Do you have a picture of you and your little one reading With Grace? Would you like to share it? Send to jhohadli at gmail dot com if you don’t mind me sharing. – signed thankful writer

p.s. Don’t forget to post a reader review

p.p.s. Thanks to the sites who’ve been sharing information on my new children’s picture book, Caribbean fairytale.

Antigua Chronicle
African American Literature Book Club & here
ITZ
Repeating Islands
Writers and Authors

Also radio programme Youthology on Observer Radio & Good Morning Antigua Barbuda on ABS TV for hosting me

Also, if you post vid of your child singing the song in the book, tag me at http://www.facebook.com/JoanneCHillhouse

With Grace is available online; also ask for it at your local bookstore wherever books are sold (if they don’t have it; encourage them to get it). Here’s a link to With Grace Reviews and First Page; and a link to all my Books.

 

With Grace Launches This Week In Antigua

The headline says it all. With Grace launches (in Antigua at least, for now; but soon to be available in the wider Caribbean and internationally) on Wednesday 21st December 2016, 6 p.m., at the Best of Books on St. Mary’s Street, Antigua.

It took some doing to get them here before Christmas, but Little Bell Caribbean, publisher of With Grace, pushed to do just that.

The Best of Books bookstore has hosted each of my launches through the years beginning with The Boy from Willow Bend (back when the launch amounted to a signing table set up at the book shop entrance at its then location in the Benjies/British American mall) atboyfromwillowbendlaunchto the Dancing Nude launch (moved indoors for this one) a year later dancingnudebooksigning5, to eight years later and the launch of Oh Gad! my attempt to mix things up with a midnight launch at the Best of Books Friars Hill Road branchlaunch-photo-eustace-samuel; my next book – the picture book Fish Outta Water didn’t get a launch (but more news to come on that soon; listen out); reading-me-2then there was Musical Youth launched on a rainy  evening at the St. Mary’s Street location where I’ll return this Wednesday 21st December for the launch of my sixth book, second children’s picture book, and first fairytale.

To say this journey has been surreal would be an understatement. To say each of these launch activities has been a blur would be #facts With Willow Bend, I didn’t know what to expect, didn’t know if anyone would come, and pretty much stood there and smiled and tried to be charming when people (mostly friends) came through. With Dancing, I was nervous because I had to read and because there were, amidst a pretty strong showing from my family and friends, people who were there just because they were readers looking for a good book (yikes). With Oh Gad! I was anxious because best laid plans and all that but there was wine and cake and, though Antiguans proved they’re not in to this midnight launch business, some who turned out like the late Marcus Christopher (a calypso writer whose music I would have grown up listening to) were a nice surprise and guess which picture made the paper observer-launch-coverage– nicer still, the personal call he made when he’d finished reading to tell me what he thought of the book. I remember feeling heady at the Musical Youth launch – there was so much going on then and I was so excited and all the usual nerves but also somewhat disconnected.

For a writer, a launch is and is and is not purely a celebration of an accomplishment; it’s also about sales and promotion – performing, and the success is not just the book you hold in your hand but did the media come out, will you get some good buzz from the event, how will the book perform. Six books in, still not on any one’s bestseller list but heartfully thankful for reader response to and support of my books to date, I want to try just enjoying this one.

Tall order – right now I’m in promotion mode, trying to make sure people know about the book and the launch (purpose of this post)- but on that night, I’m aiming to be so present, so joyful, so in my skin that none of it feels like performance, that all of it feels real.

If I never get a chance to write another book, I want to enjoy not just the launch of With Grace but that I’ve been fortunate to be a writer, to write these books; and the launch of a book about Grace seems a good time to bask in the gratitude I feel to live doing what I do, even on the roughest days of this journeying in the Writing Life. Give thanks for all the readers, for every publisher that made an investment in me, for the friendships and familial bonds that have strengthened and challenged me, for the ones who are always there for me, for all of the booksellers who have stocked my books and Best of Books for hosting me through six launches, for the ones who encourage and appreciate the effort, for God who blessed me with this talent, for every teacher who has helped me build the skill needed to become better and better and more confident in honing that talent. Whatever happens, I can’t say I didn’t get a chance to, didn’t claim my dream to be a writer. Am I tired right now? Yes…but I’m a tired writer. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be (definitely with a different adjective in front of writer).

With Grace is a fairytale and something about writing one of those has brought out my inner child, hopeful that it will fire the imagination of young readers as the fairytales I was exposed to as a child fired my imagination.

So, Wednesday, at 6…look forward to adding new pictures to the book launch collection, but, more than that, hope to relax and feel every moment joyfully in my bones. Hope you will come out if you can.

Media and bloggers, you can make use of the links below from the promotional package I’ve put together about the book, my other books, and me. I appreciate any and all courtesies, you have extended in the past and will again in future as I try to ripple the water; I don’t expect any of it as a right nor do I take any of it for granted.

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