JWP #Onthehustle

The first of my workshop series for 2018 has wrapped and I’m getting ready for the second in early March. If you’re interested in being put on the mailing list or registering, or need more information, contact me.

March 2018 workshop
One of my favourite moments in my final of four sessions in the first series earlier this month was just watching a woman who had to fight her instincts to make the first draft perfect. During a writing assignment, she said, “I swear what I’m writing doesn’t make sense” and I replied, “It doesn’t have to make sense, just write forward”. This is the first draft, I reminded her; there is more drafting and editing to come; let go of the need for the first draft to be perfect; give over.

She put pen to paper again and I noted when she stopped over thinking it, when the pen was flowing because she was not trying to control and constrain it anymore. I felt happy and in my purpose in that moment – after our weeks of looking at the writing of others and how they explore and reveal setting (the focus of that first series); weeks of me testing her grasp of what I was trying to teach,  coaxing her writing out, nudging it forward.

When I called time on this last in-session writing exercise, in the groove, she didn’t stop right away. When she did stop so that we could share and discuss, it was clear she still had a lot of writing left in her. Considering that pushing past writers’ block was the main reason she gave in week 1 for taking the course, I’d call that progress.

I was keen to see her evaluation of the workshop series to see if she felt progress had been made.  She wrote that her favourite activity was “reading the assignments and the discussions which assisted with writing my own settings”. She wrote that she learned what she’d hoped to, how to create settings (the focus of the first series), why they matter, how to write them, how to evaluate their effectiveness as she tried to move her story along.  As for if she would recommend the Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Workshop series; yes, she would: “Yes, I would recommend this workshop. This course is designed specifically for anyone with an interest in creative writing.”

The next series begins on March 10th 2018 like I said. You can participate from anywhere (that’s right, you don’t have to be in Antigua and Barbuda to participate). Contact me to find out how. Moving forward.




What’s dope? When you’re named (unexpectedly) on an article on LitHub as one of 10 Female Caribbean Authors you should know (and add to your American Lit Syllabus).

Gerty Dambury writes in an article headlined ’10 Female Caribbean Authors You Should Know (And Add To Your American Lit Syllabus)’ and published at Lit Hub, “When I was studying English and American literature, I was struck by the fact that not one black woman—American, English or Caribbean—was included on any of the syllabi. It […]

via Writing Triumphs (Yay!) — Wadadli Pen

East Coast Sunset

On the West Coast, the sky explodes like a five alarm fire; all showy reds, oranges, and yellows parading across the sky. Like Revelers storming up Market Street Carnival Tuesday. You feel it in your chest. Beauty too; too beautiful to be true. And new every fucking time, like the Great Artist saying, hey, check me out. No cliché, no two Caribbean sunsets are the same. And Antigua westward facing sunsets, they’ll make a believer out of Bill Maher. Because as the sun dips toward the horizon, some contemplation on life – its endings, the tomorrows after the endings – is inevitable. Not always as conscious thought maybe but somewhere in your soul where truth lives.

Sunset as viewed from the East Coast though is hazy like movie magic. Unreal. The East Coast is the place of sunrises. So at twilight it enters its dreamy phase. First you notice the moon phasing in, an apparition, like new love. From Here to Eternity. The waves at Half Moon are a raucous riot, all urgent and loud. But the sky is quiet. Moon hanging there like a night light turned on too early. Colours slide in, soft; the shy side of all those showy reds and oranges and yellows. Moon might be full but you feel a half smile coming on. As the wild waves and the quiet night sidle up to each other and the world slows its spinning. Not ready to go to sleep yet, but heavy in its bones as the burden of being lifts.

Now how do you capture that?


Neither West Coast nor East, but an Antiguan Sunset.

Site Updates

The only reading I’m getting done right now is this book I’m editing for a client, so bear with me on reviews of books in progress. But I have updated Blogger on Books. I have archived the review of the last book read, See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid, and moved in to the main Blogger on Books page a throwback review (meaning a review I did years ago on a different platform), Like the Singing Coming off the Drums by Sonia Sanchez .


While I’m here, I can report that things are progressing toward the publication of my next children’s picture book (this past week I’ve been looking at the proofs with text and art work, and compiling lists for review copies – btw, if you review children’s lit Contact me and I’ll pass your information on to the publisher). That’s a genre I’ll admit I never saw myself working in though having The Boy from Willow Bend , a coming of age story, as my first published book had many branding me as a children’s book writer. I’m not. I am a writer who experiments in different genres and up until my first picture book (four books in) none of them had been specifically the children’s genre – and I only wrote that, initially, so I’d have something to read when I was invited to read to little kids; before that I leaned heavily on Anansi, because I had nothing but I didn’t want to blow people off. I’ve learned a lot since those days – about branding (define yourself for yourself or be painted in to a corner by others’ labelling of you…or, if you hate labels, as I do, just keep writing different kinds of things until the label refuses to stick), school visits (I had to take a step back to figure out how to better manage this but I think I have a workable model now, so Contact me if you want me to visit your school), and writing children’s stories (it’s not as easy as you think…way harder…and more of a collaborative process).

I also want to thank Dr. Valerie Combie, of the University of the Virgin Islands, who presented the first, to my knowledge, academic paper on my works during the annual Antigua Conference this August. The paper was entitled ‘Joanne Hillhouse’s Iconic Stance on Culture and Youth in Her Works’. I didn’t get to hear it (as I missed the conference this year) but I did get to read it (thanks to her for sharing it with me and for sharing her plans to publish an extended version of it). It’s easy enough to feel like you’re stagnating sometimes on your professional journey (I had a dream just last night in which I was engaged with a writer of note, one I actually met once in real life, but who actually gave me the time of day in this dream, and we talked about, among other things, this feeling of wading through water …and possibilities) – but just this simple act of my work being discussed at a literary conference is a far cry from the girl in Ottos, counting the stars and dreaming.

I can’t publish it (yet) but here’s a small excerpt from the publicly presented paper:

“As in her poetry and her prose, she uses realism to portray her characters.  In so doing, she creates credible characters who eat, dress, and speak Antiguan.  Characters with whom we can identify.”

I also wish I had been there to hear her read my poem Tongue Twista (published in 2010 in Volume 24 of the Caribbean Writer), with which she closed her presentation. Never heard one of my poems read by someone else before*…and that one is a tongue twister.

So, yes, I weather the storms and the droughts; I pray for more opportunities to grow as a writer and to sustain myself as a writer working; I hope for clear eyes and a spirit that ever craves travel and adventure (and, of course, feeds that craving as she can)… and to finish these books.

*Not true! Thanks, memory banks. I have had poems included in stagings of When a Woman Moans but obviously those weren’t about the centering of my writing, which perhaps accounts for the memory slip. I am grateful though to have been included in those presentations.


I’ve had a re-occurrence these past weeks of some painful episodes – physically and emotionally; and never let it be said that those two things are not intertwined. Well, in addition to physical interventions, I’m getting ready to mind over matter this bitch. Not as a distraction but as a way of getting positive energy to flow all through me.

So, my daily affirmations for the time being, my greeting of the day will come with rhythm and dance, the kind of wild dancing you do when no one else is looking even if they are. Because there’s no way to throw yourself bodily in to the dance without releasing whatever’s keeping you flat-footed. You have to move.

I love music. I can’t say this loudly enough. Even if I could never write again (heaven forbid), I wouldn’t want to live in a world without music. It would be too quiet and oppressive. Because music is movement and momentum, calling to us body, mind, and spirit. So, I’ll turn my affirmation in to a dance party, add that to my daily exercise, a song a day (at least!) to keep the pain at bay. And I’m going to let that music and that dance lead me to the page (writing time, baby, because writers write whatever the hell else is going on); yep, I’m re-orienting my day. You feel me.

Today’s selection:

What’s getting you moving today?

Writing is Your Business is Back – Register Now

ETA: Want to pitch Writing is Your Business l and Persuasive Public Speaking to your boss or HR manager, here’s a letter explaining what it’s all about: Letter to businesses April 2017

I first offered this course in 2016. Engagement was successful and reviews were positive. It’s been a minute, but it’s back, still under the banner of Barbara Arrindell & Associates .

If you’re a working person in Antigua and Barbuda who wants to improve her/his written (and/or oral) communication skills, here’s where you start:


To download registration form, right click above or download this: BA & A registration both 2017


Stimulating New Writing

Since completing the University of Iowa Massive Online Open Course in November 2016 I’ve been going over the course material, bird by bird so to speak: the transcripts and the readings (including the non-mandatory extra readings). I know, nerd. But just as the course itself, while it was live, was one of my favourite parts of the day, pouring over the course material is helping to keep me stimulated. No, I’m not writing as I was during the course, under the pressure of weekly assignments, but I’m still engaged – so I’m still counting this toward writing time. I’m still learning, still loving it. Hopefully, becoming a better writer in the process. Plus, I plan to do more work on the stories that came out of the course assignments too, maybe turn them in to something submittable.

Final Workshop RI 2012

No pictures of the online workshop, obviously, but …This is from another workshop, a physical one this time, the Callaloo Writers Workshop at Brown University in 2012. Another stimulating workshop experience.

So, was this course good for me? As with most things of this nature, you get out what you put in. And getting the opportunity to learn from the likes of Margot Livesy (she was the staple) and a rotating line up of esteemed writer/instructors through the renowned Iowa writing programme, being pushed to write every week, steeling myself to receive feedback on that writing every week, interacting with writers around the world on things writing related had me putting in energy that was about more than chasing those points needed to collect the course completion certificate I didn’t even send for.

Writing courses and workshops (I offer some of those, too) are learning opportunities obviously but they are also ways of pushing yourself to write instead of just thinking about writing. And they provide an environment where you and others in the workshop/courses can engage critically with what you produce (I’ve told the story before of how I slipped an early draft of With Grace, which is now my latest picture book, in among the works being reviewed by participants in my 2013 Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project for some honest feedback and how the work was better for it).


How are you feeding your writing?