In the Race

I’m on this list nomsof 2018 nominees for the Astrid Lindgren prize.

First, happy dance!

charlie

(no I’m not a redheaded white girl but Charlie is a Supernatural fave plus I couldn’t find the Jessica James dancing gif)

Okay, reality check, I’m one of 235 candidates from 60 countries nominated …but a long shot is still a shot, right? Can’t win if you’re not even in the race and I am. Here’s a downloadable version of the nominated candidates: nomi_2018_web

Thanks to my nominator for taking the time to read the work (With Grace) and fill out the forms (I know it was a pain); you didn’t have to and I appreciate that you did.

FYI: The The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) – named for the beloved Swedish author of Pippi Longstocking, Mio, and other great characters – and administered by the Swedish Arts Council, is the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature. Authors, illustrators, oral storytellers, and reading promoters are eligible for the award (I am nominated as both an author and reading promoter). An expert jury selects the laureate(s) from candidates nominated by institutions and organizations all over the world. Seriously, there are nominees from the US to the UAE. The winner will be announced on March 27th 2018 and, in the tradition of also-rans everywhere, it is an honour just to be nominated.

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Yes-I, Reader Reviews, Keep ‘m Coming

This one from children’s author and publisher Carol Mitchell, shared to her blog and goodreads is much appreciated and has been added to the With Grace reviews page.

“Written in Hillhouse’s strong poetic voice, With Grace spins a magic-laden story of the universal battle between good and evil. But it is far from ordinary. An involved tale, With Grace takes the reader on a series of twists and turns as Hillhouse explores the limits of human capacity for tolerance and meanness.
Hillhouse skilfully evokes her Caribbean setting and the illustrations, beautifully painted by Barbadian illustrator Cherise Harris, complete the illusion.
Readers, children and adults alike, will be swept away into this fairy-tale and hold their breaths in anticipation of where the story will take them next.”

Out Dey!

Some days you just need to go back to your happy place (yes, there were bumps in the making and showcasing of Grace’s Merrymakers; but playing mas is still one of the purest pleasures there is because when the music hits you, you feel no pain).

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on the road 2

on the road

This is me and a couple of friends playing the mango tree faerie from my children’s picture book for the 60th anniversary of Antigua’s Carnival.

Video taken by my niece (who was one of my banner holders) 20706223_1678542355489442_804926424_oduring our appearance on the stage – first ones on the stage (no warm up) – Carnival Monday, pictures plucked from the Antigua Carnival’s Facebook – Carnival Tuesday album. The song in the video is Out Dey by Claudette ‘CP’ Peters which went on to earn her the distinction of being the first female soca artiste to win the Antigua Road March title (i.e. most played song on the road for the 60th anniversary of Antigua’s Carnival).

For the back story go to the making of Grace’s Merrymakers and for the back story to that (i.e. the book itself) go to the With Grace first page and reviews page.

Yep, it may have been released in December 2016 but between being picked as one of the US Virgin Islands’ Governor’s Summer Reads and the tree faerie being Out Dey in de Carnival, it’s been the summer of Grace.

ETA: I’m also making this my Sunday Post (a meme run by the Caffeinated Reviewer) because, yay, I finished and blogged about Wide Sargasso Sea this Sunday. Read the review here. That means that I can add another book to my active reading pile and that book is – ta-dah! – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Don’t judge me. Okay, judge, whatever but another blogger decided to mail it to me after I told her how much the movie sucked – either this is a case of the book being better than the movie or she’s trying to prank me. Either way, there’s a hurricane coming and I need the distraction. You know how this post opens with needing to go to my happy place, well…there you have it.

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.

 

 

 

 

It’s Sunday Somewhere

I’ve never done one of these Sunday Posts before and as I write this it’s actually Saturday, so I’m probably doing this all wrong. Plus, there hasn’t been a lot new on the blog this past week (life gets in the way). But I figure I’ll give it a go anyway.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer through which participant bloggers (book bloggers especially) share news of the past and coming week by my understanding of it.

So, What’s New?

Fair warning, this is a little more than the past week because, well, I haven’t been here much this past week (life gets in the way).

This gives me the opportunity to go back a little and I’m thrilled since I am still in book promo mode for my children’s book With Grace. with_graceThis is a post I did on where the book can fit in to the conversation on diversity in children’s lit and especially fairytales.

When life gets in the way, movies can be a good distraction from stir craziness – ironic that one of the movies that’s stuck with me is about a boy and his mom stuck in a room but as you can tell from this blog, I really liked Room.

This next one won’t mean much to anyone outside of Antigua and Barbuda, where I am, but the annual writing Challenge I run here wrapped this past week and while this post is about the patrons, I have to give thanks for the partners (the volunteers without whom I would not have been able to do this…especially this year).

I added a new (or a few new) writing credits, all in Interviewing the Caribbean which published two of my poems Election Season and the Bamboo Raft, and the Zombie Story I wrote when I was feeling in an experimental mode. Reading through the issue which is really quite deep and rich, it tickles me that my zombie story found a place in a proper literary journal.

The other thing you do when life gets in the way is read. So I finished the second book in the Glamourist Histories, Glamour in Glass, and posted my review. That’s my only really new post of the past week.

I received a new book just last night – a friend of mine was doing a huge book purge and I was happy to have a book that’s been on my to read list for a while jump the line. So, I’m about to start Edward P. Jones’ The Known World. And I’m still actively reading a few other books including The Black Rose by Tananarive Due, The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly, and All the Joy You can Stand by Debrena Jackson Gandy.

Can’t say what’s coming up specifically this week for the blog because I don’t blog like that, but I promise to try to keep it interesting.

 

Why With Grace

The Anansi tales which travelled with the Ashanti to the Caribbean remind us that it’s not always about who’s biggest but can be about who’s wiliest. I remember a grandmother chastising me for reading Anansi to kids at the reading club with which I volunteered. He was a bad influence, she said. I’d never thought of it that way. Sure, Anansi, the spider, was a trickster who danced around hard work, played his friends, and always looked out for number one, but what had registered with me since childhood was how creative his thinking was, how he used his wits to best those stronger than him. Besides, his comeuppance every now and again were reminders that while craftiness could be rewarded, badness nuh play. Plus, beyond his indisputable entertainment appeal, I could see why my people with the system – from slavery to colonialism to post colonialism – on their necks responded to the idea that small axe could cut down big tree (or little Anansi could best Snake and Tiger).untitled4

Anansi had become my go-to for presentations to classrooms too young for my other books. Children were always entertained by him and there were always new variations of the old stories. I most recently used him in a workshop with teachers as an example of a way to engage young readers.

Fairytales, among which Anansi can be counted, are how young readers first engage with the world of Imagination. And they come from all over. Disney’s Bambi is based on a German tale by Felix Salten. Other famous German fairytales – Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White – come to us via the Brothers Grimm. Alice went on her Adventures in Wonderland by way of Lewis Carroll and England; Goldilocks and the Three Bears by way of Robert Southy. Frenchman Charles Perrault brought us Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping beauty. From Aesop (Greek), we have the Goose that laid the Golden Eggs and the Boy who Cried Wolf. I remember using Perrault’s Cinderella when conducting a story telling workshop at a local high school and, as I expected, it provided a short hand because it was one of those tales most if not all knew. Fairytales travel – The Little Mermaid swam in to our imaginations by way of Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson who also brought us The Princess and the Pea.

There are a lot of Princesses and Princess-like characters in fairytales aren’t there; fair maidens often in need of saving.


When I wrote my fairytale I was drawn to the universal appeal of this genre – the way fairytales travel not only from one culture to the next but also through time. They are, in their way, timeless. Your grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother read or told these tales to her grandchild.

Coming from the Caribbean, Anansi, who remains part of our oral folk tradition, aside, so many of these tales of childhood and magic and the imagination are from other places.

Still.

I’ve long felt that this can be harmful to our self of our own worth in the world. That’s one of the reasons that when I launched Wadadli Pen, a writing programme to encourage would-be-writers in Antigua, I insisted that submissions to our annual Challenge have a Caribbean aesthetic. I wanted to encourage our young writers to centre themselves in their stories, realize that they too are worthy of great literary adventures, know that they matter.

When I wrote With Grace, my very own Caribbean fairytale, I wanted to acknowledge the tropes of the genre but buck some of them at the same time. From the main character, a dark-skinned black girl, joyful in her #blackgirlmagic and natural single plaits, to the plot in which she is effectively her own rescuer by use of her own wits and grace.

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A teacher commented about With Grace on social media, “we neglect to realize that validation and realization are steeped in the subliminal of what we allow our children to read and watch…and I continue to celebrate books and images that look like me and my own.”

Why With Grace? Because for girls and boys of colour everywhere, not just in the Caribbean, the opportunity to see self is still too rare.

People are reading…

If you’re somewhere else (other than Antigua where we did the local launch of With Grace this past December), you’ll be happy to know that you can now buy With Grace, my new picture book, a Caribbean fairytale online. Here’s a link.

Will you and your child be reading? If you do, don’t forget to post a reader review so that other potential readers can know what you think.

jhohadli

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
Writers and Authors

Also radio programme Youthology on Observer Radio for hosting me

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