Wadadli Pen – Just about a week left to get your submissions in


Can I submit previously published works?
No. Entries must be original and previously unpublished as with previous years.

Is it too late to submit?
Nope. You have until February 17th 2016 to submit.

What’s creative non-fiction? Does it have to be true?
This is actually covered in Writing Tips below (see hint #2) but short answer, yes, it has to be true (hence, the non-fiction) but it should definitely be creative with its truth telling – i.e. employ a lot of the same literary devices poets and fiction writers use.

Where do I submit? and what’s the submission deadline?
Well, it’s all there in the release but quick answer – wadadlipen@yahoo.com, by February 17th 2016



Mission Possible: Read

This summer, in Antigua and Barbuda, we (meaning me and Cedric of Wadadli Pen and the Cushion Club, respectively, with some overlap in between) decided to challenge our young constituency to spend part of their summer reading. Now, obviously, Cedric who volunteers his Saturdays with the reading Club and I who have done the same with less frequency (and not at all, lately) and who also run the annual Wadadli Pen writing challenge, believe that reading is its own reward. But we got ahead of ourselves and before long were offering a prize to the child who reads the most from an extensive reading list we came up with with the help of the Map Shop and the Best of Books (two local book stores). Cedric’s already collected the first of those prizes from a generous donor at which point we were like well, I guess we’re doing this and we put the word out to the media and on social media. Next thing Best of Books and Cindy’s Bookstore were offering discounts to anyone shopping at their stores and taking the Challenge. Then my publisher CaribbeanReads was getting in on the action with a Musical Youth Challenge within the larger Challenge (more on that in another post, another time). The reason for this post, on realizing that I’ve been blogging about this over at my other blog but have been so busy pushing my Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project over here that I forgot to mention it here – crossed wires. But then I came across this picture of me reading to children at the Public Library Summer camp in …I wanna say 2013 (?)…DSC_0344and it seemed a good time to mention it.

Parents, read with your children, go sign them up at the library – the public library (they can’t take out books just yet unfortunately but they could pass the day or part of it reading) or other community libraries, buy them the books (take advantage of those discounts), or trade or borrow books as I used to do back in the day, some of these books may already be in your family’s personal library (and make family there as extensive as you need it to be). Take the challenge, not just for the prize, but for the discovery, the adventure, the joy of reading. Details here.

Wadadli Pen at 11

Winners of the 2015 Wadadli Pen flanked by guest presenter Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau (whose new CD is I am Speaking)and co-founder/coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (whose latest books are Musical Youth and the Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Stories). Pictured between them are Olsfred James, Melicia McCalmon, Judah Christian, Avriel Walters, Margaret Irish and Ondrej Austin-Josiah. Photo by Glen Toussaint/Best of Books.

Winners of the 2015 Wadadli Pen flanked by guest presenter Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau (whose new CD is I am Speaking)and co-founder/coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (whose latest books are Musical Youth and the Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Stories). Pictured between them are Olsfred James, Melicia McCalmon, Judah Christian, Avriel Walters, Margaret Irish and Ondrej Austin-Josiah. Photo by Glen Toussaint/Best of Books.

When I started the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize in 2004 (hopelessly dewy-eyed I was), I couldn’t see 11 years down the road. But time flies and here we are and remarkably, Wadadli Pen is still alive (it’s been touch and go a few times). I want to keep it going, I do. I’m working on grant funding applications (again), hopefully learning from past mistakes and hopefully able to harness the resources needed to deliver what this programme can deliver…when I dream of it. Fingers crossed. And if you’ve got ideas or support (money or time to give to these grand ambitions for this little project that could, email wadadlipen@yahoo.com)

Meanwhile, this is a link to the outcome of the 2015 Challenge, and here are some visual highlights from the most recent awards ceremony held last Saturday (April 11th 2015)…and look, we made the front page of one of the local daily papers:


FLOW rep, Gavinia Michael, assisted with gift presentation to Wadadli Pen 2015 winner Margaret Irish (right). Photo by Glen Toussaint/Best of Books.

FLOW rep, Gavinia Michael, assisted with gift presentation to Wadadli Pen 2015 winner Margaret Irish (right). Photo by Glen Toussaint/Best of Books.

Winner, Margaret Irish, posed up with the Challenge trophy sponsored by the Best of Books. Gavinia Michael of FLOW assists with the presentation. Photo by Glen Toussaint/Best of Books.

Winner, Margaret Irish, posed up with the Challenge trophy sponsored by the Best of Books. Gavinia Michael of FLOW assists with the presentation. Photo by Glen Toussaint/Best of Books.

Gavinia Michael of FLOW presents the cable company's gift of a EC$500 gift certificate for books at the Best of Books to winner Margaret Irish. Photo by Barbara Arrindell/Best of Books.

Gavinia Michael of FLOW presents the cable company’s gift of a EC$500 gift certificate for books at the Best of Books to winner Margaret Irish. Photo by Barbara Arrindell/Best of Books.

One of the Best of Books picks, Melicia McCalmon, collects her gifts from Best of Books and the Burt Award sponsors CODE.

One of the Best of Books picks, Melicia McCalmon, collects her gifts from Best of Books and the Burt Award sponsors CODE. Presenting is Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau who performed pieces from her spoken word CD I am Speaking during the awards ceremony – and another piece during the Wadadli Pen Open Mic that followed. FYI, the Wadadli Pen Open Mic takes place the second Saturday of every month at the Best of Books bookstore on St. Mary’s Street.

Margaret Irish reading her story, Justice.

Margaret Irish reading her story, Justice.

Every year at the awards, we are reminded why it’s all worth it. And then there are letters like this the day after:

“I write to express appreciation to you and your team for allowing young writers like [my son] to explore their writing potential. He was quite reluctant to enter at first, but warmed up to the challenge. Excited, elated and ecstatic are just a few of the words that could explain how he felt, by being able to share his story and be rewarded for his effort.”


Both Sides

I should have posted this already but better late than never, I suppose. The delay is not a reflection of anything but not enough hours in the day. Something this Burt Award judging process reminded me of. I’ve judged writing contests, locally, before, but it was my first experience judging a book prize, and a regional one at that. I would learn that reading that many books on a schedule can have even a book lover whimpering, with no intended aspersions to the books themselves, please, no more. Interestingly, as the process narrows to the top contenders, you get a shot of adrenaline again as you spar with the other judges making a case for this choice over that until you arrive at as close to consensus as you can get with something as subjective as art. I’ve been on both sides of this process now and have intimate knowledge of how vulnerable you feel when you leap into this kind of thing, hoping they’ll pick you, steeling yourself for the probability that they won’t; and, as well, the grave responsibility you feel to give each writer a fair reading, to consider and re-consider. Hopeful on both sides of being surprised.

I remember receiving word a year ago around this time that my unpublished manuscript Musical Youth had been selected for the Burt short list; I remember it was maybe 3 in the morning and I called perhaps the only friend I can call at 3 in the morning without there being a life or death emergency. And the next time we fight, and we will, I have to remember that not only didn’t she immediately hang up the phone on me but she was right there with me, as awake as I was at the news. Musical Youth has been good to me and good for me as a writer, and I continued to do all I can to make sure it fulfills its potential as a book by reaching as many readers as it can. Books are meant to be read, right?
And these second set of Burt winners deserve an audience as well. In the end, I think all four judges agree on that. What’s more I think the core target audience, teens and young adults of the Caribbean, will enjoy the adventures these books take them on both in the moment, and later, on reflection. The top three haven’t been announced as yet (I know something you don’t know LOL) but you’ll see what I mean when they are and when, ultimately, you have the opportunity to read them. Meantime, big up to all who dared, big up to those on the short list, big up to the finalists and ultimate winners. To my fellow judges, it’s been real…seriously.
On the list are:
– Children of the Spider by Imam Baksh, Guyana (manuscript to be published)
– Putting Up a Resistance by Michael Cozier, Trinidad and Tobago (self-published book)
– Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph, Trinidad and Tobago (manuscript to be published)
– Prayer to the Motivator by Kamau Mahakoe, Jamaica (manuscript to be published)
– The Dolphin Catchers by Diana McCaulay, Jamaica (manuscript to be published)
For more, go here.

And given that it’s awards season, I’ll also mention that the Hollick Arvon long list has been announced, and the Bocas long and short list – special congratulations to Dorbrene O’Marde who’s Short Shirt biography Nobody Go Run Me made the long list of the latter. And let’s not forget the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, with four Caribbean writers claiming a spot.
All but one of these will be announced during the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad. Wishing all contenders success.

And since we’re talking prizes, I should mention that I have already been announced as one of the winners of the Caribbean Writer’s Flash Fiction Prize; and on April 11th, I will be announcing, during the awards ceremony at the Best of Books, the winner takes all winner of the Wadadli Pen 2015 challenge which I coordinate.

Gratitude for both – the opportunity to reap and to plant, the opportunity to see things from both sides. And to all who dare to leap, including myself, continue as Zora Neale Hurston’s mother said to her children to “’jump at the sun. We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.’”

Schools Tour and Wadadli Pen Teaser

Just sent off confirmations to three schools which responded positively to my invitation to register for this mini-schools tour I’m doing in February. The purpose is two-fold: to promote Musical Youth DSC_0349and to give some time. On the latter point, I get requests to visits schools periodically. This is a form of community service as schools here don’t exactly have a budget for author visits. I’ve done many of these visits over the years, stmarys2 but the last year or so I’ve turned down a lot more than I’ve accepted (time, life… you know). When I came up with the idea to team up with Best of Books to visit some of these schools it was with the intention of consolidating some of these requests into a manageable time frame. I told them when I was available and asked them to book if they were interested. I explained that I would be reading from Musical Youth and since so many of these requests are about inspiring in students a love of the written word and perhaps giving them some pointers to improve their own writing, I will be doing at least one smaller interactive session each visit.

I won’t say where-I’ll-be-when until I receive their acknowledgment of my confirmation but I will say there is still one date available so if you’re a teacher attached to a secondary school in Antigua and you would like a visit, you can Contact me to try to book that date. I won’t be scheduling any other school visits at this time unfortunately.

Of course, one thing I hope will come out of this is regular engagement with the schools as part of the Jhohadli Writing Project (as I’ve written here before the intention is for this project to have different streams including adult workshops like the one I’ll be having later this month and teen streams like I’d like to activate in the schools, if there’s interest…then if there is interest, the challenge is to figure out how to fund that, especially if schools and students don’t have a budget for those types of programmes. Perhaps there are philanthropists out there who would like to fund such a programme – perhaps not. Time will tell.

In the meantime I’m looking forward to the confirmed school stops. It’s a small thing but I am happy that I’m able to do it and that Best of Books will be partnering with me on it.

The stops will also give me an opportunity to plug the Wadadli Pen 2015 Challenge. Yes, after much hemming and hawing there will be a Challenge, a much more streamlined Challenge in deference to the time and resources challenge that almost made 2015 a gap year. Follow the page or check back for details. I’ll do my best to launch it before the end of the month. So that’s your teaser…

Until later.

New Writing and Art from Antigua and Barbuda

The entire Antigua and Barbuda issue of Tongues of the Ocean is now up. The poetry, stories, essays, lyrics, and art have been uploaded at a rate of two per week (and, believe it or not, there was some method to the madness of the pairings) since September, and before that it was months of selection, editing, ordering, back-and-forthing, and perhaps a little hair-pulling. Now, it is done, just before the end of the year, and I am happy to have been asked to bring a sampling of Antiguan and Barbudan arts to this platform (Here is my introduction to the issue). Hopefully, it will serve as confirmation that our arts are very much alive (to paraphrase that M & M commercial “we do exist!”), and an impetus to discover more of it. With thanks to managing editor Nicoletette Bethel for the invitation and to the various creatives who responded to my invitation to submit and trusted me with their work. Now that it’s all up I wanted to take the opportunity to point you in that direction, share some of the reader responses, and maybe some of my own why she chose it moments as well.

Cover Image – Summer One by Glenroy Aaron

Summer One by Glenroy Aaron. Tongues cover image.

Summer One by Glenroy Aaron. Tongues cover image.

[note: this was created specifically for this issue; a sort of creative dialogue between me and the artist Glenroy Aaron. I had written a poem in response to one of his paintings and essentially he was doing the same, painting an image in response to one of my poems. That poem, as it turns out, was the only piece of mine selected for the issue. Glenroy’s art work was well-liked when shared on social media. And as Glenroy went on to be selected to do the cover art for my book Musical Youth, clearly that creative conversation continued.]

What Aesthetic – Antiguan and Barbudan Artists discuss the State of the Arts in Antigua and Barbuda

[note: artists have busy lives; the challenge here was keeping this virtual conversation going over the better part of a month or so. Not everyone I approached participated and not everyone who participated was as active as I would have liked – without a doubt veteran artist Heather Doram is the MVP of this roundtable for both the depth of her knowledge and the enthusiasm of her engagement – but it all came together quite conversationally in the end. And some of the response on social media hinted that this is something people might like to see more of]

Discretely Antiguan and Distinctly Caribbean by Dr. Hazra Medica

[note: I specifically solicited this piece from Hazra who was, at the time, on the cusp of becoming the country’s newest PhD and who I knew, because I had been one of her interview subjects, was going where no one had gone before in terms of her investigation into Antiguan and Barbudan literature. I thought something from her could bring this entire issue into focus, and it did. Plus, it attracted strong reader response: “It’s great to know that there’s some fresh scholarly work focused on Antiguan literature and music. Looking forward to reading this thesis when it becomes a book”…”This very informative and enlightening introduction shows that Antigua holds its own in its contribution to Caribbean Literature and cannot be ignored.”… “Medica holds up our mirror to show and to reflect our world, neither for acceptance nor recognition but as a simply statement of fact like the law of gravity. Dis we tings.” ]

Summer One by Joanne C. Hillhouse with art by Glenroy Aaron

Coconut Man by Glenroy Aaron

Coconut Man by Glenroy Aaron

Coconut Man by Glenroy Aaron

[viewer response: “Love the attention to details… A handsome coconut man portrayed by a talented artist.” ]

Marcus Christopher – a lyrical sampler

[note: I had to had to had to include calypso and Marcus was beyond generous in sharing his work. It hurt my heart when I then had to cut most of what I’d selected from his extensive catalogue to conform with Tongues’ formatting. In the end, after everything, I ended up being able to give only a taste of his work but hopefully just enough, with the quote from Dorbrene O’Mard to put him into context, to hint at his greatness as one of the building blocks of the art form in Antigua. reader response: “A well deserved tribute.” ]

Excerpt from Send out You Hand (a novel) by Dorbrene O’Marde

For My Father by Brenda Lee Browne

[note: it wasn’t timed that way, of course, but Brenda Lee lost her father right around the time this was published; making it all the more poignant. Reader response: “This heartfelt piece feels like the love language of the Caribbean”… “Beautifully stated. Felt the love reading it because many of us share a similar experience”. ]

 Untitled by Brenda Lee Browne

Heather Doram’s Moonlight on Butterflies

[note: this one was actually the strongest contender for alternate cover]

Heather Doram’s Serenity from her Strength of a Woman series

[note: I was keen to include something from this affirming and empowering series, though it was a few years ago now; the entire series, both feminist and feminine, with a clear point of view and her unique technique, is among my favourite things that Doram has done]

Ms. Ellie by Gayle Gonsalves

[note: if Glenroy Aaron’s Summer One was the most shared, this was easily the most commented on story, art work, or anything from this issue: “I enjoyed reading about Miss Ellie and the Reverend. I was disappointed to learn it was a short story”… “Wonderful heartwarming story”… “Wow! That was a wonderful story. I so enjoyed hearing about Miss Ellie. I’ve read Gayle’s short stories in her book ‘Painting Pictures and Other Stories’ and she continues to impress me” … “so engaging. I was surprised when it ended, I was expecting and wanting more”… “Gayle is such an amazing writer. I got so caught up in the story; at times becoming very emotional” … “Gayle continues to a special writer to me. I connect with her work. I read ‘Painting Pictures and Other Stories’ and was so inspired by her writing! She always impresses me” … “Wow!! You are talented my lady. Keep up the good work!!” … ” What an engaging piece of work! “Miss Ellie’s” visuals are vivid and the tone very soft and loving. Thank you for yet another lovely story, Gayle. I was just sad that the story had to end.”… “I really enjoyed this” … “love this story“]

Heather Doram’s Rightful Place

[viewer response: “absolutely stunning“]

X-Saphair King’s Turmoil Within

[note: I saw this in a local exhibition and specifically reached out to the artist; it’s nice to see some artists rebelling against the idea that art has to be ‘pretty’ as opposed to telling its own unique story. That divergence from the norm is creating interesting works like this one.]

X-Saphair King’s Strength through Pain

[viewer response: “Hauntingly inspiring“]

A LIFE, a Spirit…a Name by Barbara Arrindell

Little Red Hoodie by Kimolisa Mings

[note: pretty sure I asked for this one as well. Kim is better known locally as a poet than a story writer but I was familiar with this story, having edited an earlier draft for the author. It doesn’t have the lyricism of her poetic voice but it has a certain boldness and I appreciated the work she had put into the crafting and re-crafting of it so that she didn’t just have a good idea but a good idea well executed. I liked that it was at once paying homage to and subverting a popular children’s fairytale; I liked that it demonstrated that there were writers among us both honouring and breaking with the traditions of genre and narrative – acknowledging the foundations on which they stood but building their own, somewhat askew, wing. I also liked that though it took something from European lore, it was very much rooted in the modern Caribbean, to an unsettling degree, considering how dark it gets – though ironically in so doing it hews closer to the original version of the fairy tales than the romanticized Disney versions.]

Diaspora by Shakeema Edwards

[note: having seen this young woman come through the ranks of programmes like Wadadli Pen and the Independence literary arts competition, and other writing and arts programmes, I reiterate that she is one to watch. She’s always had a confidence and ease with language that gives her a good head start. I’ll always remember interviewing her about her winning submission to the Best of Books’ Dancing Nude in the Moonlight next chapter contest, in which fans of my book were asked to continue the story just one chapter more…surreal right? More so that when I asked her if it was challenging, she said no, not particularly. If my writer-self as author of the original work was mildly affronted that she found it that easy to match my style, the side of me that mentors other young writers, who has worked with Shakeema in at least two writing programmes, Great Young Minds and the Independence young writers retreat, was impressed with her handling of voice and style because it really was uncannily well-matched to the original work. You’ll read it for yourself when you read the new edition of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, forthcoming from Insomniac, with extras like Shakeema’s fan fic. Clearly as this and her other accepted submission to the Tongues issue demonstrates, she continues to grow in strength of voice and skill as a writer. Like I said, one to watch. Reader response: “Enjoyed this humorous take on how we try to fit into new environments and lose a part of our identity in the process.”]

Small Island Deprivations by Althea Romeo Mark

[reader response: “Althea Romeo-Mark can guide us through the forests and deserts of Africa, the mountains and lakes of Europe, the highest structures of North America, Asian rivers and streams, through magnificent Australian walkabouts, islands that thrive on the beauty of small things with equal facility and familiarity. No migrant is capable of such an awesome feat. Only a citizen of the world is so qualified.”]

Woman to Woman by Tameka Jarvis-George

Black Woman Cry by Charles Langley

Her Missing Fingers by Devra Thomas

[note: Devra is another Wadadli Pen alum. Happy to see her stretching herself creatively.]

Strange Fruit by Tammi Browne Bannister

[reader response: “Thought-provoking. My kind of read.”]

That Laugh by Shakeema Edwards

Smitten by Rosalie Richards

[note: and so begins the Wadadli Pen portion of the issue. I launched Wadadli Pen programme to encourage young writers back in 2004 and it continues to be a gateway for emerging talent of which the authors of Smitten, The Legend of the Sea Lords, and the Night I went to Cricket are only three recent examples]

The Legend of the Sea Lords by Vega Armstrong

The Night I went to Cricket by Zion Ebony Williams

Unwanted Visitors by Althea Romeo Mark

Brown Girl in the Ring by Linisa George

[note: this poem has become somewhat iconic locally, as a favourite through several stagings of When a Woman Moans, Antigua’s answer to the Vagina Monologues, which was also staged by the same group of which Linisa is a part, a quartet of theatrical activists – Women of Antigua. I requested it specifically for the issue, sure that it would be the perfect way to round things out. Most recently, it’s referenced during a pivotal arc in my book Musical Youth. Clearly, I’m a fan.] UPDATE: After being featured in this issue, this poem was selected as a performance piece for the 2015 Shakespeare in Paradise festival in the Bahamas.