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Monday 28th March 2011

As we enter the homestretch for Best of Books Wadadli Pen Challenge 2011, we thought we’d use the opportunity to address some of your Frequently Asked Questions. Hopefully, by taking the opportunity to address these, we’ll be addressing any lingering hesitation and prompt you to make your submission before the March 31st deadline.

So, here goes.

Why only people under age 35?

This goes back to the original impetus. I had the idea to start the programme in 2003 while attending a lit expo where one author bemoaned the lack of a nurturing environment for young literary talent in the Caribbean. Considering my own struggles, I agreed. Keep in mind that this was before the avalanche of literary festivals, and domestically before even the revival of the Independence Literary Arts Competition. I resolved to do something to help young writers develop and share their talent, and hopefully come to believe in it and in their own potential. The competition began as the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize in 2004 with an age cap of 18. At various times during the original 2004 to 2006 run, we considered shifting the age up but never did – intent on maintaining the youth focus. The age window for the National Youth Awards, 35 and under, ultimately guided us in opening it up a bit. One thing about this project though is it has continued to evolve, so who knows?

Will writers lose their copyright?

No, no, and no. Terms vary journal to journal as I discover each time I submit to an international journal. But with Wadadli Pen, writers have and will continue to retain the right to do with their work as they will. We do request non-exclusive right to continue to showcase the work (as we have in not-for-profit recordings and publications – especially during our time with Young Explorer – and via the postings at http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com). We hope Wadadli Pen will continue to grow, of course, perhaps in time producing audio and print books to assist with giving the writers a platform while enabling the programme to become self-sustaining. But we’re nowhere near that and once we get there it will be with complete respect for the authors’ copyright.

Cover of Marcel Marshall’s All That Glitters.

Why Caribbean?

Indeed, we do desire that the submissions have a Caribbean sensibility or be Caribbean in spirit, but that need not be a limit on creativity. In fact the writing is required to serve no other purpose than allowing the imagination to fly. The call for a Caribbean spirit, however, grows out of our desire to change the idea that great writing takes place in other places, involves other people; it grows out of a need to reinforce the idea that our lives can be the stuff of great stories. It is a prompt to stand in this Caribbean space and use that as the springboard, realizing that Caribbean literature does not have to be a single thing – in fact the less of the clichés of Caribbean literature the better. It also comes of reading and judging competitions where so often our young writers are looking out instead of reinterpreting and reimaging the very space they occupy. Whatever your genre, we want you to explore it, from this Caribbean space and make it authentic.

I’m interested in the art competition, what do I need to do?

This year’s art competition is all about creating illustrations for the top stories. So, once the top stories have been selected, excerpts will go out to registered artists for them to interpret particular scenes with supporting visuals. All you need to do between now and that time is submit your name, age, school or work place, and contact information to wadadlipen@yahoo.com expressing your interest in participating in the art competition. We will then be in touch in due course with guidelines. And, yes, top artists get prizes, too.

Joanne C. Hillhouse, signing copies of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight at AGHS; copies of the book will form part of the prize package courtesy the Best of Books.

The other thing, we hear is …but I was going toor I’m not ready… what to say to that?

Sharing your work publicly is a choice only you can make as an individual; believe me, I have pieces that will probably never see the light of day because they’re just not ready and it was a long time before I was ready to step out of my shell as a writer. Frankly, it’s still a challenge. But if fear is what’s stopping you, allow me to reference the mantra of Antiguan writer and one of our prize sponsors this year, Floree Williams, “never let fear stop you from dancing on the moon.”

Floree Williams at the launch of her book Through the Window. (Photo by ZIA Photography)

So, take a shot; you never know. For entry guidelines, writing tips and more on the competition, go to http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com

OK, so this last one isn’t an FAQ but I couldn’t end without bigging up the sponsors – and inviting other prospective sponsors to get back to us at their earliest convenience – the Best of Books (there from the beginning and now so much more of a partner than a sponsor, hence the marquee credit), ABI Insurance, the International Women’s Club of Antigua and Barbuda, Seven Seas/Frank B. Armstrong, the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival, D. Gisele Isaac, Floree Williams, Marcel Marshall, Edison Arts, Jennifer Meranto, and Antiguanice.com And if you visit http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com you’ll even find a complete listing of our very generous past sponsors.

So the only question remaining young writer and young artist is, what are you waiting for?

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