Today I'm really excited to host Joanne C. Hillhouse on the blog for the first time! Joanne is the author of two Caribbean YA books, The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight both published by Macmillan Caribbean and both on the secondary school reading list in Antigua and Barbuda. She lives in Antigua where she works as a freelance writer and editor. Another side of the Willow Bend author that some people may not know is that she is the founder/co-ordinator of the annual Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and its accompanying workshops for young writers in Antigua and Barbuda.
Through the Wadadli Pen movement, Joanne and her team are making a ground-breaking effort to change the culture of writing in the Caribbean by providing incentives and training for promising child and teen writers, thereby setting them along the path to rewarding literary careers. The launching, this year, in Trinidad and Tobago of a similar youth writing award-program, the Allen Prize for Young Writers, gives me hope that youth activism surrounding writing and literature is a trend that is catching on in the Caribbean. I almost weep to think that there could have been opportunities and prizes like these around when I was growing up in Trinidad! Or maybe there were and I just didn't know about them...which is a whole other topic. Anyway, today Joanne is here on the blog to talk about Wadadli Pen. Without further ado, let's here what she had to say.
Wadadli Pen – Nurturing another generation of Antiguan and Barbudan Writers
When, earlier in 2010, I started the Wadadli Pen blog – intent on uploading the best of the best from the annual competition which dates back to 2004 – I had no idea it would consume so much of my time. Nor did I know that I would feel so energized by the process.
I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading the stories; and was newly impressed with the young authors who crafted them, and the way their storytelling prods at social issues while revealing a literary maturity I didn’t necessarily have at their age.
So it was, for instance, that I was seeing, with new clarity, the parallels between inaugural winner Gemma George’s 'Stray Dog Prepares for the Storm' and Damani Tabor’s 'Irate Beggar,' one with a dog and the other with a human at their center but both really speaking to the way society recoils from its responsibility to the less fortunate. And when, during a Wadadli Pen Open Mic, hosted monthly by the Best of Books bookstore in Antigua, I read Kemal Nicholson’s 'Ma Belle,' one listener commented on his effective use of irony, I felt proud of all the young writers who’ve been touched by the Pen. It strengthened my resolve to keep the programme alive.
Interestingly, as I prepped the author notes to accompany the story postings, I realized that none of these youngsters, to the best of my knowledge, were bee-lining towards a literary career. Still, I felt fairly certain of two things – they’ll continue writing in some way/shape/form, and their ability to express themselves in this way will be an asset wherever they find themselves.
|Where in the world is Antigua and Barbuda?|
One feature of note on the Wadadli Pen blog, in addition to the expanding list of links to literary resources, is the ever expanding list of Antiguan and Barbudan writers – and thanks to John R. Lee of St. Lucia, Caribbean writers. These lists are never done. And that’s a good thing. In fact, as far as the Antigua and Barbuda list is concerned, I’m a little proud that here on this 108 square miles (170, counting Barbuda), we’ve produced such a wealth of publications (alas, very little children’s fiction).
This list is particularly an eye opener because growing up I really wasn’t exposed to/aware of much of what we had created, literally, and, frankly, the output then was paltry compared to the level of activity in the past decade or so. This high level of literary activity makes me fairly confident that young people dreaming of a career in writing will, find inspiration, and dare to believe in the dream.
I hope, therefore, that Wadadli Pen will continue to stir imagination, engender hope, and get young people writing.
As my tanty, bless her soul, would say, God spare life.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on MySpace
Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Blog
Joanne C. Hillhouse's Main Website
Joanne C. Hillhouse's Amazon.com page (Check out her books!)