Where We Stand (Book Blog Meme for 01/06/20)

Life

Well, this is our new/current reality isn’t it

Masks and lines and distance. The pandemic continues, even as economic anxiety increases (prompting hard decisions re border and business re-openings), and turmoil fueled by racism (at the root) bubbles up to the surface (in America). I am over here in the Caribbean, but not removed from these concerns – not removed at all. The world truly is a village and, as a history I blogged about recently (an uprising of enslaved Africans in Antigua brutally put down)  reminds, the roots of anti-Blackness were planted all across the colonized world. It’s dug in deep. And like any nourished root, it spreads. Even when and where we can’t see it, it spreads. And we must continue the work of weeding it out, in ourselves, and out of the ground where we stand.

Work

Client edits and interviews for content creation projects on the freelance side, and edits for one of my forthcoming book projects on my writing side are just some of what I’ve been up to work wise this week.

Books

Only one novel finished for May but that’s one more than all of April. Thanks in part to it being an audio book and the readathon (which I posted to booktube – *spoiler alert* for the vid) I decided to give a go , I managed to finish N. K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season which I really liked, as I noted in my Blogger on Books series. Review excerpt: ‘The book handles its shifting tones well – a certain sex scene comes to mind. It really works because of how well the characters have been defined. Oh and the writing is delicious. “And what do they even call this? It’s not a threesome, or a love triangle. It’s a two-and-a-half-some, an affection dihedron (and, well, maybe it’s love).”’ I also read about three chapters during the readathon of Death on the Danube – a travelogue/murder mystery (?) which I received in ebook form from the author.

This post is my Mailbox Monday though there are no new books in my mailbox – maybe parts 2 and 3 of the Jemison trilogy will be in my mailbox sometime in the future though…? It’s also my It’s Monday, What are you reading? which reminds me, this past week, I also started reading Apple Gidley’s Fireburn, Fireburna based on real events historical fic set in St. Croix, or, so far, en route to St. Croix from England by ship. This, too, was sent to me by the author, this time as a physical copy.

Movies

I just today watched ’93 Days’, a Nigerian film about the ebola outbreak a few years ago in that African country. It hits close to home for obvious reasons. Not a technically perfect film but relevant – and one in which you will care about the characters and the outcome.

That’s it. Now, let’s get to weeding.

 

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.

Site Update (Ms. Hill…and Some Other Stuff)

Well, my favourite Spike Lee films have been scrubbed from Joanne’s Picks and replaced with my favourite Lauryn Hill rap performances. I argue that Hill is without question part of any legit Top 5 conversation. Check out the rhymes that I picked to make my case.

Remember this page changes so hurry up.

No new Blogger on Books but FYI this week I’ve mainly been reading Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis (with whom I shared the stage back in 2014 when her book and mine were top three for the inaugural Burt Award in Trinidad – she eventually placed third while my manuscript Musical Youth placed second). I’m liking the main character so far and the authentic sounding detail re her life in a Kingston, Jamaica ghetto. I’ve also been reading, plucked from that active reading pile, Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal. I like that these characters have now become so familiar to me that I can pick up their lives without missing a beat notwithstanding how long ago I put it down- but makes sense considering that I’ve already read two other books in the Glamourist series – which is Regency era romance-adventure; three if you count the one I co-edited.

The only other site update, since the last updates post, has been on the reviews page for my other writing – journaled or anthologized poems or fictional stories. Check it out.

That’s it. Oh! My guest post at Women Writers, Women Books, Are Children’s Books Real Books, went live this week.  And photographer Beowulf Sheehan’s book Authors – which has me in it among some true marquee writers – drops this week and the author did an article about the process of photographing authors over at Lit Hub. It’s worth checking out. As for the week that is…some disappointments, some challenges, some fears, but also writing (well, mostly editing) and living and, mostly, working (workshop prep, editing assignments, acceptance, disappointments, follow ups – you know, the jigsaw).

If you’re here for the first time, my name is Joanne C. Hillhouse. I’ve authored some books – I hope you’ll check them out (and if you already have, I encourage you to post a reader review to Amazon or Goodreads, or even here); and I offer freelance services – look me up if you need any of the listed services. Thanks!

 

A Tuesday Meme (a Brand New One for Me)

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post on Rainy Day Ramblings where the Meme-mother discusses a wide range of topics from books to blogging and invites others to weigh in and join the conversation .

So, okay, the conversation seems to be about horror movies as America-land gears up for Halloween. I’m in the Caribbean and though Halloween seems to be catching on here, it’s not exactly my bag. I mean, the last three movies I sorta-mostly watched are

Quincy – love Quincy Jones’ music, read his autobiography years ago, so (his recent health scares aside) not a lot new here for me…but point of view adds something, and with his daughter, Rashida, in the director’s chair and sometimes behind the lens, it is a more personal and touching portrait of an admittedly flawed and undeniably talented human being. The man who from his jazz days to his Sinatra days to The Wiz to Sanford and Son and other TV and movie themes to Michael Jacksons’ Off the Wall, Thriller,michael-jackson-thriller-e1535549330442-700x355and Bad, to The Colour Purple to We are the World to Back on the Block to the Fresh Prince of Belair to Vibe … is responsible for some of the most enduring musical and pop culture moments of our lives. I know Netflix is presumptuous (and racially stereotypical) with those algorithms so you may not even be aware of this one but it’s worth a viewing.

Nappily Ever After (also on Netflix and based on this book I haven’t yet read 41osWiEC9sL__SX322_BO1,204,203,200_)- the latest Sanaa Lathan starrer – with a side of Lynn Whitfield. These two women were staples of ‘Black’ film throughout the 90s and aughts (The Women of Brewster Place, The Josephine Baker Story, Stompin at the Savoy, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Eve’s Bayou etc. in the case of Whitfield; The Best Man, Disappearing Acts, Love and Basketball,  Brown Sugar, Something New etc. in the case of Sanaa) and honestly I was going to watch for the two of them alone. Throw in some social commentary vis-à-vis Black women and our complicated relationship with our hair  in world where Eurocentric beauty standards (including straight hair) are the default (for more and deeper takes on this topic read Althea Prince’s The Politics of Black Women’s Hair 41fcMlIvaVLor watch Chris Rock’s Good Hair51D76G05XQL__SY445_), and what’s not to watch. I saw a lot of criticism of this one before I actually saw it. Folks felt it was light fare and too cliché from what I’m gathering, and they’re not wrong. But it’s also a romantic comedry (sic) and they do that – see every Meg Ryan film ever. So I take it for what it is and enjoy it as such (and it was entertaining) and hope that we get more and more opportunities to tell a wide range of films so that one film won’t be expected to carry the burden of telling our many stories (especially when it’s not exactly the genre for it).

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That first big chop can be scary…scary liberating…as Sanaa will find out when the tears dry (still from Nappily Ever After)

Leave no Trace – the last film I managed to see (mostly) beginning to end. I saw the trailer sometime ago on youtube and it seemed interesting so when I needed to give my brain a rest, I thought, why not. It’s the story of a father who has opted out with his daughter into the wilds of…some wet, cold part of America…until they are drawn back in to life because it turns out you’re not allowed to opt out of life with your teenage daughter. He tries to play along so he won’t lose her but in the end the restlessness gets him; the heartbreaking part coming when she discovers she wants to stay while he can’t quit moving.

I liked all three in different ways for different reasons (but didn’t love any of them…probably taking the most joy and insight from Quincy). But, obviously, no horror here. I did catch the season 9 premiere of The Walking Dead which jumped the story forward a couple of years to something approximating what passes for normal in a zombie apocalypse, walkingdead-season9-blogroll-1538446518768_400wand it did have some scary moments – not the zombies but the death that’s always imminent. I said a while ago that I was over The Walking Dead (and did check out for a while) but I can’t seem to quit it (though it isn’t appointment TV for me like it used to be). Ezekiel almost falling in to a pit of zombies is about as horrific as it got (and with a couple of near death experiences last season in the face of his insistent optimism), it did feel like the leader of the Kingdom was on borrowed time and that that rope might snap. But… *spoiler alert* it didn’t. Though I do know due to casting news that we can look forward to two major character deaths this season…I mean, “we” assuming I keep watching. The freelancing life is hectic is as hectic does, and I’m still about a season behind on every other show I’m remotely interested in – Atlanta to The Americans…but someday!

Speaking of Someday, I did mention that I have a new story Evening Ritual in The New Daughters of Africa and here’s a meme-ish-related tidbit, it actually began as a sorta ‘ghost story” (or an attempt at historical fiction, or something) inspired by women in a  photo I saw at a lecture I attended on the old sugar factory transport system (the locos). For the longest while I tried to make these two stories which existed in two different times fit together but they didn’t, and when I untangled them I discovered I had one story that with some work (and some helpful feedback), an editor thought worthy of publication in this seminal publication – and as for the original story, in that other time, I may find a way to dig that out yet. The other-other story I mentioned The Night the World Ended was inspired by last hurricane season in the Caribbean which was its own horror show. As I mentioned that’s forthcoming in The Caribbean Writer. Another tidbit, that story was one of those out of body writing experiences, so much so that when they sent word that they’d be publishing it and even as I was re-reading it, I couldn’t remember writing it, though I remember that I wrote it…if that makes any sense.

Most recent book finished is Faye Kellerman’s historical murder mystery Straight into Darkness which didn’t scare me (well, not in the way intended but given that it’s set at the pre-birth of the Third Reich more in the this is what can happen to a democracy if we don’t pay attention way) but did hold my interest.

I feel like I should end with favourite horror films or something to play this game right…but I’m not sure I have any. Does Michael Jackson’s Thriller count? No? Okay free associating off the top of my head, I’m going with Rosemary’s Baby, Cujo, and The Omen – none of which I’ll be watching this October – and leave it at that.

If you’re here for the first time, my name is Joanne C. Hillhouse. I’ve authored some books – I hope you’ll check them out (and if you already have, I encourage you to post a reader review to Amazon or Goodreads, or even here); and I offer freelance services – look me up if you need any of the listed services. Thanks!

 

Writers – What Not To Say

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received, when nervously entering the media and publicity fray as a published writer, was from my friend Gisele Isaac (who never nervously did anything). She said (and, yes, she wasn’t the first to say this but right then I needed to hear it) just tell the truth, then you won’t have to remember what you said. And she was right. But I don’t think these were the truths she had in mind. My morning chuckle.

Evie Gaughan

celebration-3301738_1920 Top Tip: You can do a practice run with some old teddy bears

When you write books, people are gonna want to ask you stuff.  It is very important that you LIE when answering these questions.  Lie through your teeth and don’t ever let them find out the truth.  As a helpful resource, I’ve put together a mock interview, a mockterview if you will, to guide you through  it.

  • Do you have a writing routine?

Yes. I like to see how long I can spend not writing before the guilt kicks in.  Then I simply distract myself with the kind of housework I wouldn’t normally do if my life depended on it… like cleaning the oven, descaling the kettle, washing my make-up brushes or, worst of all, clearing out THE DRAWER OF NO RETURN.

  • Where do you get your ideas from?

Right at the back of THE DRAWER OF NO…

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JHOHADLI – That’s What’s Hot

Gotta stay up on those stats to see what’s trending and what’s not, so you can blog better. So here’re my top posts for the past day, week, month, quarter and of all time. You can consider this your in case you missed it post. It’s a good mix of what I offer here on this site – dope! Tell a friend.

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Day Week Month Quarter All time
Student Exchange re Amelia at Devil’s Bridge Home Page Home Page Home Page Home Page
Home Page Student Exchange re Amelia at Devil’s Bridge Student Exchange re Amelia at Devil’s Bridge Student Exchange re Amelia at Devil’s Bridge BOOKS
Antigua and Barbuda Page 11 CREATIVE SPACE CREATIVE SPACE Tata and the Big Bad Bull by Juleus Ghunta (Monday Meme-ing) Island Living: a Response
CREATIVE SPACE Antigua and Barbuda Page 11 Speaking Intention BOOKS Writing, Editing, Workshop/Course Facilitation, and Coaching Services
Reviews – Musical Youth Performance Reviews Performance Reviews Queen of Katwe – *spoiler alert* – I loved it! BiO

A Book Back

books 2018My novel Oh Gad! will be six years published this year. If a book was a child, she’d be a first grader. Damn. I had high hopes when it came out too. It was my second act and my first full length novel after two earlier releases. My first to crack the US market. Hell, yeah I had high hopes. You would think I’ve since learned to manage my expectations, right? Nah, son, I still have high hopes. Against the odds. I’m hard-headed like that. #TheWritingLife ETA: Shortly after I wrote this, this happened (the author specifically referencing Oh Gad!) – 10 Female Caribbean Authors You Should Know And Add To Your American Lit Syllabus – life (and publishing) is full of suprrises.

Here’s an excerpt:

Before Nikki was a motley crew – curious expats mixed in with home-grown Rastafarians, academics mixed in with area farmers, grey heads and chinee bumps, and the odd politician. It was not only a larger, but a more diverse crowd than she had anticipated.

A part of her dared hope, as she glimpsed some of the Blackman’s Ridge project’s staunchest opponents in the crowd, that this could be the bridge between the warring factions. That was the goal, anyway. She’d tried to get Cam to come, but he’d scoffed at the very idea. “Make mosquito nyam me up all night,” he’d laughed. “For what? I don’t hold to all that ancestors crap.  Black people hang on to slavery too much, if you ask me. Is that keeping them down. I’m a practical man. I live in today. Anybody who know me, know that. For me to go up there would be a bold faced lie; and I never lie.”

The night’s programme consisted of a drum call and dub poetry. At midnight, the dawning of Emancipation Day, August Monday, when Antigua’s enslaved Africans got their first taste of freedom back in 1834, plastic cups were passed around, and libations sipped and poured out ritualistically in honour of these survivors and the many more non-survivors. Tanty had insisted on that and mixed up the “bebbridge” herself.

Everyone got a chance to enter the dungeon, in pairs and threes; some emerged quickly and unscathed, others were visibly moved by the experience of being stooped and confined in the small space.

As Sadie began her oral history of the dungeon, of slaves imprisoned for infractions, imagined or real, a reporter from one of the local stations, ignoring the mean look she shot him, stuck a recorder in her face.

“…many died here sick with their own fear as it come through their skin and full up the air ‘round them ‘til they were breathing their own stink,” Sadie said. “Not a lot of new air could get in ‘round the heavy door they had barring the entrance. Only tiny cracks leave back for insects to crawl through and torment them to the last. As for them that survive, there was madness or relief, relief that sucked at their fight and spirit…”

Nikki found herself seduced by Sadie’s words and her voice, as she spoke with previously unheard serenity and authority.

A noise cut through the night: A bone deep, belly full moan. It was Tanty, swaying, eyes tightly shut. Nikki reached an arm toward her, then hesitated.

Tanty’s moan cut through her. Not like a knife. Like waves, curling beautifully in and into her, relentlessly. Nikki sighed and even cried a little; the moment, the long moments, overwhelming her, filling her with both sadness and joy. She felt like she was being filled and emptied at the same time, like she’d eaten too much and yet not enough.

The scent of roasting cashews, which Tanty had insisted on, perfumed the night air.

Nikki had been concerned about fire spreading but then Audrey had, unexpectedly, donated a couple of coal pots which allowed them to contain the fire. And as the scent now wafted out, the moaning swelled, continuing to fill the gaps; a chorus for Sadie’s chronicle which ended with a roll call of Antiguan martyrs and heroes from King Court to V.C. Bird. Here and there, there were tears. As Sadie’s voice, hoarse now, faded, the drums once again took over, taking on the timbre of Tanty’s unabashed moaning.  The drum talk took them into fore day morning, as the Antiguans called those hours just before day break. It was then, in that in-between time, that Nikki came back to herself as if from a blissful dream. She caught snatches of it, of being inside the dungeon, of not being afraid, though shadows and light, ancestral spirits, danced across the jewel-like stones along the cave wall, Tanty’s voice reminding her that she was from their blood and they wouldn’t do her no harm. As even memory faded, Nikki opened her eyes to the sight of pale light now spreading across the sky, and discovered that she was leaning against Belle’s shoulder as her sister sat still as a rock.

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Related Oh Gad! posts

Launch gallery
First pages
What the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books had to say about Oh Gad!
Oh Gad! Presents a Compelling Slice of Island Life (NPR)
Reviews
Antigua and Barbuda historical spaces in Oh Gad!
(Another) Oh Gad! excerpt
All Joanne C. Hillhouse Books