I’m also confirmed to present at the Antigua and Barbuda Conference on October 15th during a panel on Antiguan and Barbudan fiction and its interpretations.
I’m also finalizing a couple of other things, one for October, one for November and will drop them in Appearances once I do. As the Bookings information at the top of that page explains if you with to book me for a book club, school, or other event, feel free to Contact me with your offer including event purpose, date, time, and appearance and/or facilitator fee and/or book bulk purchase (including virtual – actually pretty much only virtual at the moment).
“The book is wonderfully written. I love it very, very much and so does (my son). We read it quite often. We’re going to be going back and making a few more purchases very soon, and I just wanted to say thank you so much for this. It’s really cool what you’re doing and I really hope that you don’t stop and I’m looking forward to reading all of your books with (my son).”
Speaking of showing books love, I am a reader before I am a writer and my Book Chat/Blogger on Books series allows me to shout out the books I’ve read and loved and/or have something to say about. These are less reviews and more conversations because that’s what I’m always seeking to have.
I’ve blogged about this before and obviously lots of other writers have as well BUT I’ve gotten this question a couple of times lately – from memory, in my conversation with the Abeng Book Club of New York (alas I don’t have video) and with Diaspora Kid Lit in the UK (writers supporting writers, yes, and supporting writers generally). The main impetus for this post was an email from the Hurston Wright Foundation about supporting Black Women Writers specifically – which makes sense if you understand that the Hurston Wright Foundation founded by African-American author Marita Golden honours the legacy of one of my faves Zora Neale Hurston and another classic Black author Richard Wright. Who, sidebar, were polar opposites. Oh and the post went out in Women’s History Month. Though, of course, the advice is an all-year-round kind of thing.
Their tips –
Spread the word – via email, social media, word of mouth, or other means. Tell people about it (yep, this is one of my tips too plus subscribe to our newsletters, our blogs, follow and share our social media)
Support black literary organizations (you know, like HW and my own Wadadli Pen and through projects like my own Jhohadli Writing Project, one model of which has been to invite people of means to support participation of others, e.g. young people, via a scholarship)
Buy their books and buy from Black and/or locally owned brick and mortar stories (an extension of this obviously is supporting their patrons, if they have them, and other enterprises – help put money in their pocket because writers have bills too – and, my add-on, if you do get a free copy of a book, post a review or book rec telling people about the book; I mean, do that either way but especially do that if you get a promo or author copy)
Amplify their voices through whatever group or institution you belong to and by whatever means (talk up each other even and especially when the other is not around, attend and boost their events, and remember invites to speak or teach, facilitate, are good, and as an independent working writer, let me tell you, paying invites are even better)
@BookPartyChat on Twitter, hosted by UK author Madeline Dyer, hosted me for a live today. Whew, I had no idea how fast those whizzed by. Kept me on my toes, within 280 characters or less.
It was roughly an hour, 2-3 AST on September 2nd 2021. Thought I’d transcribe it here for archiving on my Media page but be sure to head over to #BookPartyChat and @jhohadli on Twitter (follow me while you’re there) and like or comment or share. Thanks, in advance.
Hi Joanne! Thanks so much for joining us today for #BookPartyChat to talk about The Jungle Outside! Firstly, can you introduce yourself? @jhohadli
Hi, I’m a writer in Antigua and Barbuda in the heart of the Caribbean. Happy to be here.
Great to have you! How long have you been writing and what made you want to be a writer? #bookpartychat
“I write to breathe.” — I love that answer. #bookpartychat
What is The Jungle Outside about? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat
The Jungle Outside is a children’s picture book about the wonder of looking up, stepping outside and wandering; about overcoming fear and in so doing, tasting the fruits of life. It’s also about a boy and his mango tree climbing grandma.
What inspired this book? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat
@BookPartyChat Dante was inspired by one of my nephews and his grandmother by my own mother. Of course, fictionalized versions of them. Their dynamic and the way he would shadow her when he was younger. #Bookpartychat Also my love of #mangoes
And The Jungle Outside is your 7th book! @jhohadli can you tell us about your other books, and why with your last three picture books you’ve moved toward a children’s readership? #bookpartychat
I go where the characters take me. I’m actually working on some more adult fare at the moment. But I’ve enjoyed this space from the Caribbean faerie tale (With Grace) to the undersea world (Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure) to The Jungle Outside. I also have a teen/YA novel that @KirkusReviews called one of its top indies of 2020, Musical Youth, and two adult novels Oh Gad! and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight in addition to the first book The Boy from Willow Bend.
The book is very much about the relationship between Dante and his grandmother? Why did you decide to focus the story around this relationship? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat
The people who inspired it (mom, nephew) but also just an interest in that connection across generations, the interaction of knowledge w/ curiosity, experience w/discovery, the tension between opposites, and the love and familial bond that ties it together.
What was the writing process like? Did the story change much from initial concept to final draft? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat
Not really. It was always about the bond and about exploration. In revision, I fleshed it out, made the ‘jungle’ more #Caribbean rich but the heart of it was always there.
I will say this, when I wrote it, I didn’t know it was a book. It was just something I wrote just for so…
But it meant that when Harper Collins was looking for stories for their new Caribbean series within the Big Cat series of children’s book, I had something to submit.
Tell us a bit about the publication process. @jhohadli #BookPartyChat
Because of my previous children’s books, and general publishing history, I was actually approached by the publisher. Which is rare. I pitched some ideas and this story (the only finished potential children’s story I had). They liked it. We made a deal. It was very unusual from my usual chasing the bone publishing experience lol. They chose @DBoodooFortune – a Trinidad artist-poet from the illustrators I recommended and we worked through character concept art until we got Tanty and Dante, and the landscape right. The back and forth of working with the editor and one of the things I like, working on some emotional takeaways for the reader. Then holding this beautiful book in my hand. Joy.
And what was the collaboration with illustrator Danielle Boodoo-Fortune like? How much say in the illustrations did you get? What was it like seeing your story brought to life in this way? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat
It was amazing. Danielle was also hired by @CaribReads to illustrate Lost! and in both cases she reached in to my imagination and brought the world to life, not a carbon copy but an imaginative rendering that both affirmed and surprised. Our main back and forth was ‘Tanty’ (the grandmother). It was important to me that she be dark-skinned with full natural hair and looked like someone who would be wandering & playing outdoors with her grandson. After a couple of tries we got it. Communicating mostly through the publisher who would send me images for feedback. So a lot of input. More than some other projects. Also, seeing your story brought to life never gets old. Indescribable. Especially when the images are this striking.
What are you working on now? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat
What am I not working on? lol My pandemic project has been a short story collection. Fingers crossed I’ll wrap it up soon.
What’s your top advice for new writers? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat
The same thing I tell myself everyday #BookPartyChat write, and when you doubt or get knocked down, persevere and write some more. I submit a lot and get rejected a lot but every now and again there is a parting in the clouds. And sometimes, as with The Jungle Outside, opportunities come to you. But when it does, you won’t have anything to show if you haven’t been putting in the work. So, write.
Impossible question but I’m going to say #readCaribbean Maybe start with Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid. She’s a writer from Antigua and the discovery of this book made me know that a #gyalfromOttosAntigua could write her world.
Beyond which two of my favourite books on writing are Stephen King’s On Writing and Edwidge Dandicat’s Create Dangerously.
Do you have any writing routines? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat
Not as such. I never leave home without a book to read and something to write in or on. When I’m blocked I walk. I try to make space every day for the creative to happen; I don’t always fill that space but I schedule it like other priorities & stay open. Also music. I need music. No wonder I wrote #MusicalYouthbook
Where can we find you online? @jhohadli #BookPartyChat
Am I participating in Bookish Friday in lieu of doing a new reading journal? Jury’s out.
But, real quick, today (the only day I’ve done any reading this week, really) I’ve read from Windrush (up to p. 50), The Mermaid of Black Conch (up to p. 35), The Old Guard (number 4 in the anthology series) (the ‘whole’ 28 pages), and Americanah (up to p. 229). And thanks to reading Accidental Moments, I’ve decided to participate in Bookish Fridays, though it’s not quite Friday yet here in the Caribbean as I start this.
For Friday 56, I’ll share something from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
“He did not attend, but many of his generals did, and one of them asked his ADC to call Aunty Uju, to ask her to come to his car in the parking lot after the reception, and when she went to the dark peugeot with a small flag flying from its front, and said, “Good afternoon, sir,” to the man in the back, he told her, “I like you. I want to take care of you.”
I’m enjoying all of the above; I only wish I had more time to read.
The new writing is a short story I shared in the latest edition of my arts and culture column CREATIVE SPACE. Let me know what you think.
Alice felt tension in her belly. She was an Empath. She could feel the casual malice coming off the one with the long gun, he wanted to use it, even if just to butt something with the heavy end. The others had a general godlike sense of power. It was a thick musty scent, like unwashed bodies.
I remember another (now multi-award winning Caribbean writer) lamenting that one of the downsides of publishing with online literary (or other) journals is sometimes they just disappear on you and the publication credit with them. It’s not the same as a print publication going out of print – because the issue that you were published in still tangibly exists. It hasn’t happened to me a lot but it has happened. Notably, ‘Carnival Hangover’ was originally placed with an online publication that’s since disappeared. I reposted the story on this site. Thankfully, though, I had the opportunity last year to submit it as well to intersectantigua.com which didn’t mind that it had a publishing history – plus they created an audio version of the story that’s now also available on my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel. This has happened to me again with The Machinery, a literary journal out of India, which, in 2017, published ‘Little Prissy Palmer’, a little fable about a loner girl finding unlikely kinship. It’s a little too visceral for me which makes me think it was probably inspired by my own canine encounters, some of which are not so friendly, when I go walking. But who can say for sure. Sharing a screen capture from the story on my twitter today (June 30th 2021), I decided to re-post the story here. In case anyone wants to read it. I wish I had a dogs and Black girl graphic to go with it, but try to imagine it – meanwhile this is the excerpt I shared (full story below that).
Little Prissy Palmer
By Joanne C. Hillhouse
Her father, Denfield Palmer, was to blame for her name. A fine sportsman, he approached football with precision, and was a star with the village-side. He wasn’t too literate though. That’s what came of scudding school religiously for the football field. Maybe he’d heard someone refer to another girl as prissy and taken it to mean pretty. Long and short of it, while her mother was still out of it, he gave his preferred name for the birth certificate and turned his child in to a pappyshow.
Red, that’s what they called the girl’s mother, a white woman, didn’t fuss; didn’t have as firm a hand as you needed to with someone like Denfield.
So, Prissy Palmer it was. Wasn’t need for a nick name or a grinding name to ridicule her with after that. Also setting her apart from the children in the village was the fact that she didn’t go to the village school, or the one in the next village, or the next or the next, not even any of the ones in town. No, her mother – who had abandoned her American father’s dreams but not her trust fund, sent Prissy all the way cross country every day, to Mountain High where the various expat and socie children went. Being from a village behind God back, Prissy didn’t have friends there either. The island was mostly black, the school was mostly white, and Prissy, with skin the dull shade of a peanut shell, was neither this nor that. Always a minority, and cursed with her daddy’s cast eye and the bully-bait name he’d burdened her with, school days were very long for little Prissy Palmer.
After-school was long too. Several bus rides and a long walk through to the back of the village where her parents farmed their plot, long. Long even for a healthy, young girl raised on ground provisions; long and tricky, especially the part where she had to walk past Stanlee’s dogs.
There was no fence and the dogs were never tied. Roaming dogs weren’t unusual in the village but Stanlee’s dogs were so fierce even other dogs feared them.
It was usually dusk by the time Prissy Palmer typically tiptoed past Stanlee’s plot. If she was lucky they’d still be sleeping, the draining island sun had that effect on dog and man – though usually only dog could indulge the pull of sleep high day. And little girls with only one route home tried to slip by without waking them.
But then there were evenings like this one when Prissy could feel the heat of their breaths on her calves, the sense, false or otherwise, of something sharp nipping at her, which is when she ran. The absolute last thing anyone should do when waylaid by dogs, let alone Stanlee’s dogs. Prissy Palmer had strong legs from all the walking she did, and she pumped them hard as the dogs followed their instinct and gave chase. Keeping pace, dancing in and out of her feet, like she was a play mate, instead of food. When she tripped, they approached, looking like jumbies in the dark. Panting jumbies with wagging tails. They didn’t bark or attack. And though Prissy’s bum and pride were bruised, and her breath hitched in fear, her small hand tentatively reached towards the closest one’s nozzle, petting it. She smiled when it practically swooned, its ha-ha-ha breathing blowing hot on her face. The others approached curiously, one butted its head against her side gently, the other pushed its way under her arm, jostling the first one out of position, as if to say, my turn. Another leaned heavily against her back. She could hear more of them in the dark. How many of them were there? She petted them all, whispering soothing things, “you’re not angry, you just want to be friends”. That was something she could understand. Little Prissy Palmer wanted friends, too.
She had lost hold of her book bag in the fall. One of the dogs brought it to her, straps between huge white teeth. It was damp when she took it. She wiped her hand on the pleats of her uniform jumper, and pulled herself to her feet. “See you then,” Prissy said, turning toward home. The dogs followed her. She tried to shoo them away but they were persistent. The pack of them set up camp right there in her parent’s yard, and didn’t budge no matter how much her father cursed and her mother fussed.
Stanlee came looking for his dogs, of course, and when the dogs wouldn’t leave with him threatened to report Denfield and Red to police for animal theft, and when that had no effect threatened to throw poison meat in the yard because if he couldn’t have the dogs no one would. When that didn’t work, he returned with his cutlass and threatened to chop tout monde sam and baggai. That’s when the big black one that seemed to be the leader growled at him, the others advancing, until Prissy urged them to “settle”.
Stanlee backed off after that, stumbling down the road, grumbling; defeated.
After that little Prissy Palmer seemed happier, her canine friends making up for her lack of human ones, even though her father complained about all the howling they did at night, and her mother teasingly called her “crazy dog lady”.
Respect the author’s copyright. Reblog, don’t repost; and credit.
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.
“He blinked, distracted from his reading as a certain quality of the quietness set the parental super senses on high alert.”
This is from Barbadian writer Karen Lord’s ‘The Plague Doctors’ in the anthology Take us to a Better Place. Which is one of the things I’ve been reading for a while now. I’ll finish it because it’s interesting so far – with its climate themed future underpinnings focus. More people should read it actually. And you can download it free and legal at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Website.
Do you know the name James Berry? He is a Jamaican poet who went to England in the 1940s and can be classified as part of the Windrush generation. Appropriate then that I should come across his name in a collection entitled Windrush, curated by Heady Mix, the UK book box subscription service in which my story ‘The Other Daughter’, originally published on the Commonwealth Writers Adda site, was recently republished. I’m only 32 pages in and just finished the first essay and it was a good opener. I was so engaged, learning so much about the narrative and the facts, not necessarily the same thing, around the Windrush. It’s the name of a ship but it’s also come to define a movement of people from the then British West Indies to Britain between the 1940s and 1970s, people recruited from the colonies to assist with post-WW2 rebuilding, who then met with racial discrimination in law and practice. That these people had to fight to prove they belong as recently as a few years ago (and ongoing) is a reminder of the persistence of anti-Blackness and othering of all people of colour (i.e. the centering of whiteness) globally (colonialism and cultural imperialism did their jobs). I’ll save full thoughts for when I’m done reading and for my review but this is so far a very interesting read.
“Yes, the book is largely peopled with good hearted, small town people, some, like hardworking Bucket whose criminal son resents him, seeming almost quaint in their modernizing world. But their stories are full of bumps and bruises, bad choices and bad luck. And, as a reader, I do feel the emotional pull of their journeys – though I found myself often impatient or fed up with too many of them (even, or especially, the blindly goodhearted ones) this time around. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy reading the book; there is still always something warm and engaging about how Binchy writes her homeland that suggests that even when she is herself frustrated by the people she meets, she still loves them (I can relate). Her characters often have a charm that’s hard to resist (and it is perhaps because I cared for the people of Chestnut Street that I sometimes felt such anxiety or irritation on their behalf) – hardly comfort food stuff. But still alright.”
If I was to call it, I would say Windrush next based on how much it’s hooked me, though I’m only a few pages in.
That or Americannah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, though much as I’m digging that as well, the fact that I’m mostly listening to the audio book means a lot of rewinding and ‘rereading’ because, focus. I’m about three hours in.
This week, I also started the Shake Keane poetry collection, The Angel Horn. I was not familiar with the writing of this Vincentian poet, who lived between 1927 and 1997, but so far I’m liking it. I’m at 24 pages. If you’re looking for a poetry read for your #Caribathon, you can’t go wrong.
To wrap up, I’ve also dipped in to BIM Arts for the 21st Century (I’m up to page 5) – which contains the poem, ‘Antigua, at night’, for which I received a rejection from another publication a few days ago after the publication because, #thewritinglife; New Daughters of Africa (I’m up to page 390) – one more story down; Gayle Gonsalves’ My Stories have no Endings (I’m up to page 46) – started strong but waning a little; Monique Roffey’s Mermaid of Black Conch (I’m up to page 11) – and would be further along with more reading time because I’m in to it; Apple Gidley’s Fireburn (I’m up to page 76) – pushing; Lasana M. Sekou’s 37 Poems (I’m up to page 22) – but haven’t kept count re how many poems that is; Vol. 5 No. 1 of Interviewing the Caribbean (I’m up to page 9) – this is not to be confused with Vol. 5 No. 2 which I mentioned in the last journal; and Joan Underwood’s Manager’s First Aid Kit (I’m at page 11 or 29) – for real I’m not sure but I’m still finding value in reading it though I’m not necessarily the audience for it, so I’ll continue reading it.
The writing and writing journaling has fallen off and generally my confidence took a hard knock recently, but I’m on my way back. Reading helps. Fingers crossed.
I’ll end as usual with some things I’ve blogged (that’s writing too…right?)