Talking Wadadli Pen

These are the Wadadli Pen 2021 post-Challenge (i.e. from the media arounds after the awards announcement) that attracted some comments and likes. Which is all the excuse I need to share them.

Wadadli Pen, if you’re new here, is a project I launched in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. Read more about it here. And if you want to watch more videos, check the channel, and like and subscribe.

Wadadli Pen Dreaming II

Weeks after Wadadli Pen I’m only getting started planning the Jhohadli Writing Project workshop I’m paid (by patron Garfield Linton) to deliver. It’s been between not being 100 and trying to stay on top of life and work ish, time spent doing all the uploads to the Wadadli Pen blog and YouTube channel, the logistics of …everything, and trying to clear a busy inbox (just one of several busy inboxes). BUT and this is why I’m here again writing about Wadadli Pen, it’s in the Wadadli Pen inbox that I came across one of my favourite outcomes…when a father wrote to say that not only had his daughter’s win emboldened her writing

She has been writing more poetry as she has been inspired by her win

, it had emboldened HER

Her self confidence was not the best and this has boosted it tremendously

. That does make it feel worthwhile. It’s not the first time a parent (or grandparent) or past participant has reached out to say what the programme has meant to or done for them but that doesn’t make it any less affirming.

I also want to thank the team member who assisted with media logistics – it was vital to us even being able to have this first ever Wadadli Pen post-season video gallery.

Check it out.

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 *edited for inserts* (a gift from my sister for the event, a Miranda Askie original – read about her in 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.


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.

Recent, Popular

From my other blog – the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize platform…a teaser…opening sentences…of recent and/or popular posts…click the link to read the full post…

Home – “The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize is a programme designed to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda.”

Reflection on In the Trees Writers’ Retreat, Belize by Ivory Kelly – ‘They were not exaggerating when they said that the Writers’ Retreat at Ixcanan Farm in western Belize would be “in the trees.”’

Wadadli Pen 2018 – “Winner has been decided – it’s winner take all from nearly 70 entries – and that person is… Kyle Christian with his story ‘Creak’ “


Book Notes – To Shoot Hard Labour – “The first murder I witness at North Sound was when Harty Bab get killed.”

JSYWP promotional flyer 2

Register for the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project Pre/Teen Creative Writing Workshop – “As with all of my workshops, the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project is demand-driven.”

Bestselling Black Caribbean Picture Books – “Shout out to Jamaican-Canadian author Olive Senior and Antiguan-Barbudan-American illustrator Laura James on making the African American Literary Club’s Top 133 African American Children’s Books as determined by authors, industry professionals, and readers with both Bounounous Hair and Anna Carries Water.”

Roses – “I ran in to Barbara Mason this week.”


Wadadli Pen 2018 Has Wrapped

Yes, it has and above are some visual highlights (photos with the winner and the honourable mentions – also pictured team members and patrons) and here are some links you can check out:

Media links – the only ones I’ve come across are Antigua Chronicle (which is published and edited by 2006 Wadadli Pen winner Angelica O’Donoghue) and Antigua Nice (which has donated space on its platform via a permanent page in addition to sharing our notices and releases). Observer Media Group did reach out with an invitation to appear on their Marketplace programme (91.1 FM, also streamed online), so listen in on Saturday 28th April 2018 at 8 a.m.

Site updates – Who Won What in 2018 (i.e. the prize breakdown; shout out to the patrons!), and the Media Release we sent out that …2 (?) ran–>ETA: Well, Actually

Stories – Winning story ‘Creak’ by Kyle Christian, which was supposed to the only story posted but there’s been a demand for the posting of the honourable mentions so I’m putting those up bit by bit as well; starting with A Song to Sing by Chloe Martin (more to come so follow Wadadli Pen or check back)

And for anyone still wondering, Wadadli Pen what’s that? I’ve updated our About page and the 2018 page.

Thanks for reading, thanks for supporting; fingers crossed for growth in the future.


Thanks to Glen Toussaint of the Best of Books (and also a past Wadadli Pen judge who organizes and hosts a Wadadli Pen open mic – a bookstore project) for the pictures.

Wadadli Stories

I am tired today, and as the week-ahead and its many demands loom, I kind of just want to pause the world for a while. Unfortunately, that’s not my superpower. So, I’ll just lie here a while longer and reflect on the yesterday that was. The book/lit nerd in me is very happy. Wadadli Pen came to an end (mostly, there are still some loose ends and, ugh, I HATE that but so it is) and the Wadadli Stories Book Fair was the bomb. Here are some visual highlights:


How committed was I  to my pseudo-pirate get-up? It was hot as a summumma and I was in all black. No the book I’m holding, my children’s picture book, With Grace isn’t about pirates…but I don’t have my tree faerie costume yet *wink*

At Wadadli Stories 3

Forming de fool as we say here ’bout. #WithGrace


At Wadadli Stories 6

Okay, one proper one, with my flag in the background.

Okay, enough of that. Wadadli Stories was a book fair organized as a community event by a team of volunteers and contributors, corporate and private/individual. It included readings, reading testing, spelling bees, panels on writing, cosplay, erotica, and more.

cushion club at wadadli stories

The Cushion Club, a project I’ve volunteered with (and a patron of my other major volunteer project, Wadadli Pen) was there to read to the kids in the person of our long time chief, Cedric.



Do you recognize any of your favourite comic characters? They came to play.


This tent used the event to give a visual history of Antiguan mas and to promote in particular the skellihoppers, who will be on the road this Carnival (late July-early August), our 60th anniversary of Carnival, during the opening parade and J’ouvert. The lady in the middle, meanwhile, is wearing a headwrap and trimming made of the madras that makes up our national dress. #local


Just some of the books on display including new author Claytine Nisbett’s Life as Josephine and my books Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, Oh Gad!, and With Grace. All available online by the way, so though you couldn’t be here with us, you can still get these and other Antiguan and Barbudan books wherever you’re reading this from.

I was busy much of the day with readings and sessions, and in the evening with the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize 2017 Challenge Awards Ceremony. Obviously, that was my highlight – it’s a project I started in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, and, in spite of the challenges, I am happy to say that it is not only still here but continues to grow.


2017 Challenge winners – prizes are across three age groups 12 and younger, 13 to 17, and 18 to 35, and then the top three. The person in the middle holding the Alstyne Allen Memorial Challenge plaque, sponsored by the Best of Books, is this year’s winner.

For more images from the Wadadli Stories book fair, check the the Best of Books on facebook. For the full breakdown of the 2017 Wadadli Pen Challenge results – who won what and to read the winning pieces, go to the Wadadli Pen blog (well, as I write this, everything isn’t yet uploaded but some of the stories are and more will be throughout the day or maybe the next couple of days; so check back::reasons for the delay? See opening lines of this blog).

This is my Sunday post. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

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 –, 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.