My Favourite Subject in School

I haven’t tried this particular meme before so let me dip just my little toe in. It’s a Favourites meme that focuses on a particular theme as indicated by the person hosting the meme, Bookishly Rebecca.

This week’s theme, favourite subject. Literature …duh.


(my favourite literature book in secondary school and still an all time favourite)

(some others from secondary school days – not all;  just the ones to pop in to my head – and I might be wrong about Ways of Sunlight – it may have been A Brighter Sun – what I can say for sure is Selvon’s Lonely Londoners was one of my favourites from the tertiary leg of my literature journey and remains a book  I think of with great affection – not like the ones, pictured or not, that still make me shudder at the tedium…not saying which ones)

I might not have been able to articulate during my school days (primary, secondary, college, university, take your pick) that I wanted to be a writer but I always loved to read. The books assigned for literature were just more books to consume. So reading them was rarely a chore. I say rarely because there are few books that I struggled with either because I wasn’t ready for the material or didn’t feel stimulated and engaged by the teaching style. But mostly I was the one who read the book over the summer (sometimes my sibs literature books that happened to be lying around too) – and one time even got to first term to find that the book I’d read ahead of time had been changed.  I was disappointed because I had so looked forward to digging in and to the conversation around the book. I’ve always enjoyed discussing the art I consume – something that’s not always played well with the people in my life (but people who get that about me get a lot). And this isn’t just limited to books. Just this week I watched And Breathe Normally and Seeking a Friend at the End of the World – one an Icelandic indie on immigration, poverty,  and unlikely friendships (which I especially recommend); the other a quiet American film in which the rom-com stakes are increased by the imminent end of the world. Right away I wanted to discuss them but who could I bore with these conversations (lol).  *shrug* this is me. Book arts nerd then, book arts nerd now.

I did like other subjects – but I think you’ll see a trend. I liked social studies in primary school, I liked history and debate in secondary school, I liked history and drama in college, I liked sociology, marketing, drama/theatre, and political theory (plus most of my arts and communication courses) in university – and, of course, I took my first fiction writing course in university and the rest, as they say…

So, well, here we are. I am a writer and I started several series here on the blog that build on those school days passions – from my CREATIVE SPACE local arts series, to my Blogger on Books review series, to limited series like She’s Royal which is historical re-telling. Dig around the blog and you’ll find other examples.

Circling back to the original question, I have to say it’s dope that some secondary school student in Antigua and Barbuda, possibly Anguilla, possibly Trinidad, possibly other parts of the Caribbean, and, as I recently learned New York, who has literature as a favourite subject may come upon either The Boy from Willow Bend or Musical Youth – two of my books which have found their way on to secondary schools’ literature reading lists. I don’t take such developments for granted and it is in the interest of feeding their love of literature and demystifying the books that I did what I hope are fun study guides for both The Boy from Willow Bend and Musical Youth – the former, my first book, originally issued with Macmillan and, after going out print, re-issued with Hansib and still in print; the latter, a Burt award winning title issued in 2014 and as of 2019 rolled in to its second edition with an announcement from publisher Caribbean Reads.

Without the stories I grew up on – informally in the fables and parables that were a standard part of my home life, the Anansi stories and the calypsos and the calypsos with Anansi stories, and the jumbie stories one teacher liked to tell, and more formally in the literature we studied Selvon to Shakespeare, without the literature teachers who critiqued and encouraged my writing (especially at the college and university level) – I wouldn’t be a writer.  So, yes, surprising no one, literature was my favourite subject in school.

Business notes

coffee mug

I need this mug.

I just got off the phone with a prospective client and followed up with her via email re an estimate on her project, and I’m using her as an entry point to this post because of her apologetically insisting that she knew I was busy but wanted to know if I was available to edit her project. Yes. The schedule is what it is when you’re juggling the creative and the commercial. Things slip through the cracks, are sometimes deferred, or have to be turned down, and projects I take on have to be queued up. But I’m always open to at least consider opportunities. I am a working writer (which in my particular case means that beyond my own writing); I make my living as a freelance provider of writing and writing related services. Writing is my passion but it’s also the work. So by all means hit me up.

Two emails re my editing services on two very different projects received this past week – and now excerpted in my performance reviews – are quoted below:

“I thought you worked very well to help her strengthen the character development and it was certainly a much stronger novel when you were through… I will happily recommend you to anyone who comes to me looking for an editor.” – publisher who recently contracted my book editing services.

“As I begin to review and apply your edits, I want to compliment and thank you for the fine job you have done with my text. As someone who reads a lot, I now understand why many authors are so effusive in thanking their editors in the acknowledgements. I found your suggestions to be thoughtful, and accurate. Your rearrangement of the sentences in my [redacted] segment is a good example. You significantly improved the impact of my own words by skillfully, as a writer, applying your objective, yet appreciative grasp what I was trying to express.” – amateur writer who reached out to me to edit a longform essay. now , from an amateur writer who reached out to me to edit a longform essay.

I mention that the latter was a long form essay to underscore that I edit all types of projects big or small (for clients anywhere in the world) – because this is another thing a prospective client said, they thought their project might be too small or not the type of project I usually take on. Never know unless you ask – and my freelancing journey has been filled with many instances of, you never know until you try. That one was a recipe book by the way – and not my first one.

So, for an idea of my services and projects (so far), follow the links.

While we’re here and talking writing business, I spent a part of yesterday rebuilding my mailing list for the Jhohadli Writing Project as I begin teasing the 2019 edition of the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project. teaser flyer 2Pass this flyer on if you’re in Antigua and Barbuda – there will be a fee attached but I will try (as I always do) to keep it within reach and JSYWP has accepted funding in the past to be able to offer scholarships to those who can’t pay. Let’s make it happen. I have benefited from workshops over the years and I am working with a mentor right now – it is invaluable.

Finally, I have my latest CREATIVE SPACE outing scheduled for early this coming week. That said, the continuation of this series is dependent on dollar$ (coverage takes time and time is money) – so I continue to reach out to companies doing business in Antigua and Barbuda to advertise. This is an arts and culture platform and as news services continue to contract, we need to support independent reporting where we can.

Here’s where you’ll find my CV and portfolio.

Of course, you know I’m about that writing life, so here’s where you can find my books, my short fiction, and my poetry as well.

Finally, if you’re still reading, remember to #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda before the end of March (and you don’t have to be Antiguan and Barbudan to do so) – my book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure is in the runningLost Cover Front 4 – and it is being run by the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize project which I founded and coordinate so I’m really just encouraging you to vote for any of the books in the running. The winning author will have a prize of books up to EC$800 (thanks to donors) plus a thesaurus (thanks to another donor) gifted in their name by Wadadli Pen to either their alma mater here in Antigua and Barbuda or a school of their choice also in Antigua and Barbuda.

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I just remembered an interesting exchange with a writer-friend on a radio show this week promoting the Readers’ Choice Book of the Year initiative. I won’t recount the exchange but I will say this, circling back to the original purpose of this post, I’m still out here doing this, improbable as it is. Working writer; writer at work. If you need me (wherever you are; whatever the size of your project), contact me.

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!


Pub Day is Not Over Yet!

You might have heard (because I told you) that today (November 30th 2017) is publication day for my latest book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure. Stopped by my local bookstore to sign a copy for a buyer and found their first order had already (save the one) sold out – more on the way. I’m going to take that as an omen re international sales. My fingertips to God’s ears. Are you listening God? It’s me, Joanne.


Anyway, I just wanted to pop in to share my book trailer for Lost! – this is actually my first publisher produced book trailer (yay, me!). Big up to Caribbean Reads Publishing, a small independent press doing big things. This is my second book with them, the first was Musical Youth. Dem likkle but dem tallawah (yay, Caribbean Reads).

Trailer time.

Finally, I mentioned my interview re my Astrid Lindgren nomination on local radio, in this post, but I thought I’d direct link to the upload on my youtube channel as well.

The images used are mostly book covers and scenes from my writing life, and the featured image (random, not me, but I’m okay with it) is from Grace’s Merrymakers Carnival 2017 debut. You may remember that Grace’s Merrymakers was inspired by my other picture book With Grace which is a Caribbean fairytale. I recently received my author copies of the special paperback edition done for the US Virgin Islands Governor’s Summer Read Challenge (shout out to the VI, and wishing them all the support they need to recover post hurricane). More on that meet up with my other dope Caribbean independent publisher in another post. Today is all about Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure.

Read the advance reviews here.

Read the first page here.

Order online or anywhere books are sold. If your bookstore doesn’t carry it, be sure to encourage them to. Let’s make this one a bestseller.

Some Moments

This is random…literally…just, some moments.

Top left, first reception at the Anguilla Book Fair (lovely time, beautiful country)
Top right, promotional interview for Musical Youth on the teen edition of Good Morning Antigua Barbuda (cool kid)
Bottom left, my family family and my Cushion Club family at the launch of With Grace (love them)
Screen capture of my headline on The Culture Trip (because being there at all was kind of trippy)
Lunch at a Caribbean restaurant in New York after my panel at the Brooklyn Book Fair (three memories converge in this picture – the Fair itself, the delight at having been invited and my appreciation for how gracious my New York Antigua connections have been throughout my publishing journey; the grief at losing a sister-friend whose funeral I spoke at shortly before this trip; the anticipation of finally visiting New Orleans which I’d first fallen in love with between the pages of a book)

The journey’s the thing.

268 in the Global Anthology

My story The Other Daughter, which, you may remember was published earlier this year in Adda, an online literary platform by Commonwealth Writers, is now a selection for The Culture Trip’s “Global Anthology, an initiative that highlights a work of prose from every country on Earth, as well as many nations, states, sovereignties, territories, and flag-less regions.”

It’ll be a lot of reading to get through but I look forward to anthology

Here’s what Michael Barron, the Culture Trip’s US literary editor said in his intro to the anthology:

“As with any project covering the entire world, assembling an anthology on this scale required a few allowances in its methods. Only three of its criteria are therefore invariable—every piece had to be written in or translated into English; every writer had to be native to the country represented (no expats); and all 193 member states of the United Nations had to be present. That we ended up with over 220 selections is a barometer of how fraught international ‘recognition’ can be, and even this number doesn’t recognize the entirety of Earth’s many human-made divisions.

The variety of prose and the political states of regions found here is an indicator of the many geo-socio-literary challenges that presented themselves as the Global Anthology developed. It was just as difficult, say, to find a writer from the Central African Republic, as it was to choose a single American author to represent the country. We sought to feature as many under-known and contemporary writers (to English and Western readers) as we could, often cold emailing people after hours of Google sleuthing. In cases where we were able to make contact and received permission to translate and publish their work, we would then conduct interviews with these writers for the site. Subsequently, much of this material marks the first appearance by, and introduction to, these writers (and in some special cases the first appearance from a country or region) in English. That they understood and contributed directly to the vision of this project was a huge encouragement for us to keep going. Thank you.”

With only one author per country, he acknowledged, “This isn’t a perfect anthology, but it is a sincere attempt to cast as wide a literary light on the world as we could for English readers. And it will be a living thing, its scope periodically updated and expanded until we’ve accounted for a voice from within every human border. We hope it spurs similar projects in other languages. There is no singular “voice” that one can give to the world; we let the type of writing represented be determined by what we encountered in a certain area: whether it be hospital stories from Andorra, or queer literature from Greenland, or postmodernism from Honduras, or black satire from Eritrea. Along the way we discovered the developing literature of some countries and the robust yet undiscovered oeuvres of others. Obscurity, however, is subjective: we can confirm that there is no place on Earth (not even Antarctica) that literature isn’t written.”

I am thrilled to be repping for the 268 (Antigua and Barbuda) in this anthology. If you haven’t read The Other Daughter Yet, I hope you’ll give it a read and also read the interview conducted with me by Mr. Barron.

‘Open’ the anthology here.

Pieces of the Past

There are pieces of paper stuffed in the holes. 12 of them, four to a row. At first it’s the paper that fascinates. The very idea of it. No one had seen paper since the last of the trees was uprooted for timber, 30 or so years ago. She’d been a little girl then, and her Tanty had still been alive. That’s how she knew what the thing with the holes was, a coal pot, for cooking, though only rarely used for cooking by then. At picnics and on Fridays when her Tanty turned cornmeal for the fungee. It nearly knocked her down, this vision, memory, of Tanty bent over the coal pot, bathed in sweat, rump doing a circular dance, like a wine, to a soca beat, as she ground the grains of corn meal into something at once soft and solid. She hadn’t had fungee since Tanty’s death but she could taste it now, the savouriness of it, the sliminess of the okroe mixed in, because fungee wasn’t fungee without okroe and though she detested okroe, she loved her Tanty’s fungee. She always told herself she had time to learn it; it was a fancy more than anything as she wasn’t much for cooking, even then, before cooking became obsolete and everything became pre-packaged and tasteless, and functional, like food wasn’t meant to be. The coal pot was at the old house, tucked under it with the electric typewriter, the blue water tank, and other useless things. The land was being reclaimed now that Future Tech had perfected the art of personal breathers allowing what was left of humanity to leave the domed living spaces sour with recycled air and make a go of recolonizing the earth. Nothing was as it had been, but her feet still took her home to the peach house, where improbably aloe and bougainvillea, and the Century plant her Tanty’s grandmother had planted when they’d first moved into the house on the hill, bloomed. There were no more trees, and, as such no more oxygen, but there were these plants defying everything and insisting on life. And there was the coal pot, under the house, with bits of paper stuffed into the holes where the pot would sit soaking up the heat from the coals below. The clay of the coal pot was cool to her touch, and at the touch of it, feelings surged up inside of her; tears, a lump, memories. Tanty, gone. When she pulled out the first of the papers, it was instinctive, a way of distracting herself from feelings she didn’t know what to do with, and then at the sight of what was written, the feelings pushed against her shaky resolve anyway. Tanty’s handwriting.

“Bring the slimy, okra water to a boil before adding the corn meal”

If the others in her scouting team thought it odd, the sight of her crying over a cracked coal pot and a badly scribbled note on scrap paper, they had the good sense to look away as they continued foraging among the remains.

Coal pot, or as it's referred to in my book of the same name, Oh Gad!

Coal pot, or as it’s referred to in my book of the same name, Oh Gad!

For today’s writing exercise, I decided for the first time to try one of these blog prompts; this one specifically:From the Collection of the Artist This is what became of that experiment.