written by
clifton Joseph

Wadadli Pen is back with a Challenge for writers in Antigua and Barbuda of all ages. Prizes will be broken down by age group; 12 and younger, 13 – 17, Adult (18+).

The organization has outlined its open call to wriers, welcoming

  • "All types of writing (e.g. story, poem, drama, creative non-fiction)
  • -Caribbean (AS ALWAYS THE WRITING SHOULD represent our ways, culture, and environment)
  • -Up to 500 words, max.

Submit, typed, in Word with a cover letter inclusive of name, short bio (50 words, max), short summary of entry inclusive of genre (50 words, max), school (if applicable), date of birth, and contact information (email, phone, address).

Teachers submitting on behalf of students can do bulk submissions listing the names and entries of all student writers, with a school contact (email, phone, address). There will also be a prize for the school with the most submissions.

Submit entries using the subject line WADADLI PEN 2023 SUBMISSION + INITIALS (of school or individual, as applicable) to wadadlipen@gmail.com by May 31st 2023. Submissions after this date will be deleted unopened."

Wadadli Pen describes its aims and ambitions on its website:

"The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize is, as of 2021, a registered non-profit which nurtures and showcases the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. Its flagship project, since its launch in 2004, has been the Wadadli Pen Challenge. Read about it here and read/view all winning entries here. Daryl George, 2012 – 2014 finalist and 2016 winner said, “Writing for the Wadadli Pen Challenge this year wasn’t easy: and that is precisely why it’s so beneficial, year in and year out.” Liscia Lawrence, 2004 – 2005 and 2014 finalist wrote, “Wadadli Pen opened the door to my creativity, it inspired me to let go of my fears and speak out, and most of all it helped me to channel all the energy I had by simply putting pen to paper.”

THE WADADLI PEN STORY  In 2003, Joanne C. Hillhouse, who had just published her first book The Boy from Willow Bend, hatched the idea of a literary prize for Antigua and Barbuda. She was inspired by a luncheon speech at the 2003 Caribbean Canadian Literary Expo in which Guyanese writer Ruel Johnson lamented the lack of nurseries for writers in the Caribbean – something she was able to relate to as a writer who came of age in Ottos, Antigua. She was motivated by the lack of systems in her community to encourage and support her own writing journey, the fact that such systems still did not exist, and a desire to provide such support for other young writers. Since the 2004 launch of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and its Wadadli Pen Challenge, there has been an intermittent Independence literary arts competition, periodic themed essay competitions, and intermittent community-driven lit arts initiatives but no sustained programmes, state or otherwise, focused on nurturing and showcasing the literary arts as Wadadli Pen has done, prioritizing arts development over a sustained period with consistency. There is also (to 2021) no national lit arts coordinator (or similar appointment e.g. laureate or writer-in-residence) as recommended by a former coordinator of the Independence lit arts competition.

Hillhouse initially pitched her idea – for a Caribbean-imagined fiction writing contest targeting teens and younger in Antigua and Barbuda – to the Young Explorer, a youth publication, and author (Considering Venus)/screenwriter (The Sweetest Mango, No Seed) D. Gisele Isaac. Both immediately came on board. And though neither remain active partners in the project (though Gisele has consistently been one of its many patrons through the years), their collaboration at the outset made it viable. Credit must also go to the late Alstyne Allen (1973-2015), for whom the Best of Books-sponsored Challenge plaque has been re-named as of 2016. Alstyne, sister-friend of founder Hillhouse as well as Young Explorer associate and sister of its owner Douglas Allen, was the key volunteer in the early years and remained a great support in the years after her active involvement.

In addition to its flagship project (the Wadadli Pen Challenge), the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize has engaged in a number of activities – from workshops to lit arts showcases to school visits to making nominations for awards like the National Youth Awards – over the years. This website and the resources and databases it has built is one of these activities.

Media has been vital; including the years ABS TV/radio sponsored  promotional ads and recordings of winning pieces plus numerous interviews, the year local TV/film production company HAMA assisted with producing several dramatized readings for radio broadcast (with the Optimist Club of St. John’s youth drama group), the year Daily Observer came on board as a patron in addition to publishing Wadadli Pen notices and winning pieces over the years, and the early years of partnering with Young Explorer for publication of the winning pieces. Credit must be given to Antiguanice.com (and online services like 365antigua.com and others) which made space for Wadadli Pen on its platform – the Antiguanice.com page, launched in 2006, ensured a constant online presence for Wadadli Pen before this blog even existed.