Author Dream Series: Joanne C. Hillhouse

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To close out our summer for the Author Dream Series, here’s amazing Antiguan and Barbudan author Joanne C. Hillhouse’s contribution! Welcome and thank you, Joanne!

I have this #Situationrightnow hashtag I sometimes use on my facebook author page (http://www.facebook.com/JoanneCHillhouse). It’s a quick way to let followers of the page know what’s up. But truth be told, I don’t write it for them. Typically it happens when I’m having a pure feeling (of sadness, of enjoyment, of something); in other words, when I’m having a moment.

#Situationrightnow One of my characters lashing her tongue on another one… e sweet me too bad #whencharactersamuse #TheWritingLife

I was reviewing some writing from a work in progress, and the conflict between the characters was so hype it felt like I was witnessing something, not like I’d written it. I found myself breathing deep and because I’ve been struggling to write these characters for so long, it was exhilarating to feel them finally come alive on the page; I also found myself laughing out loud because they weren’t holding back.

My #Situationrightnow hashtag also allows me to take a moment and check in with myself while concurrently giving fans of the page a window to the writing and freelancing life (because working writers still have to pay those bills and writing-and-editing-and-coaching-and… is both my day and my night job).

#Situationrightnow field work for a client project this morning, facilitating a session on written communication this afternoon, and tonight planning the launch of #WithGrace – my new children’s picture book/first fairytale… #onthehustle #TheWritingLife

Situationrightnow …last editing assignment, a children’s book; current editing assignment, an academic research document; and coming up… #feelingstimulated #neveradullmoment #onthehustle #TheWritingLife #Espysinthebackground

There was a smiley face at the end of that one as if to let the readers and myself know that I was happy, because I love what I do and when it’s flowing, I am happy.

Am I where I want to be as a writer? No. Some days #situationrightnow is the struggle is real; the #situationrightnow can be dread and I don’t want to pretend otherwise.

But the #situationrightnow is, also, that I am a writer with six books to my name and that will never get old. Because there was a time I couldn’t even dream much less speak it. Writers came from other places, places more interesting than my 108 square mile island in the Caribbean; every book I read – up until Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John in my teens said as much. And yet the #Situationrightnow is that I may not be on any body’s bestseller list – not yet! – but I have been in print since 2002 – my books have been taught in schools, read in universities , and travelled to Italy before I did. Me, #gyalfromOttosAntigua

The Caribbean/West Indian books at my small local library were in a locked glass shelf, like the dishes no one was allowed to even look at in the wood and glass cabinets in many homes on the island. They were removed and untouchable. Except in school, where at least one was compulsory. I delight in the fact that my books are dog-eared and used, that some – so readers have confessed – have been tossed across the room in frustration at this or that character (specifically Nikki in Oh Gad! and Selena in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight).

I remember in university when the idea that I could dream this possibility into probability started to take root, my biggest dream – beyond just being a writer and writing my (so little seen) world – was to write books people wanted to read, not books they felt they had to – i.e. school books. I would learn in time that you could have both, because my reader encounters, even with the readers who came to me through their school reading lists, suggests as much. Of course, I also have other kind of reader encounters.

#Situationrightnow reflecting with amusement on the way people feel the need to say something… “I read one of your books but I can’t remember which one” looking to you to remind them and then when you can’t (or can’t be bothered to), teasing you for not being a good salesperson …also up there in the questionably fun and definitely awkward category “when’s your next book coming out?” … it’s really okay to say nothing at all. Writers don’t mind. #TheWritingLife

I am a writer from Antigua. I have written six books – The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (and its second edition Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings), Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and With Grace, a Caribbean fairytale – across genres ranging from coming of age drama to romantic drama to family drama with history and socio-political issues roped in to teen/young adult fiction to children’s picture book fiction including, did I mention, a fairytale (!). Willow Bend is on reading lists in a couple of Caribbean islands, Oh Gad! has been recommended on NPR, Musical Youth was runner-up for the Burt award for best teen/young adult Caribbean fiction and is beginning to make making its way on to schools reading lists, and I have written my first fairytale (!). I have had poetry and fiction published in journals and anthologies including one – Amelia at Devil’s Bridge – that though it lost a contest won at being one of my most travelled stories ever (short listed for fiction prize, published in a best of anthology, taught in two universities that I’m aware of, and now excerpted in a schools revision guide). I’m saying all of that to say that #situationrightnow I might not be where I want to be but I’m not where I started and I am a writer. And tomorrow, as long as my body allows, I will continue to write, to pitch, to promote, to hustle, to dream. But first I’m going to sit here and watch this sun set. #situationrightnow my office is my back porch and sunset is my favourite time of day.

Cover artist for book covers: Barbadian artist Cherise Harris for With Grace and Antiguan artist Glenroy Aaron for Musical Youth.

About the Author

Joanne Hillhouse Auth Photo

Joanne C. Hillhouse’s writing has been described as “honest”, “real”, “poetic”, “lyrical”, and “unapologetically Caribbean”. Joanne is from Antigua and Barbuda, a twin island nation in the Eastern Caribbean, but as her participation in the PEN World Voices Festival literary safari, Brooklyn Book Fair, Aye Write! festival in Scotland, and elsewhere, and publication in Essence magazine, Writer’s Digest, and other publications have demonstrated she is determined that neither she nor her books will be limited by geography. Joanne freelances as a writer, editing, writing coach, and workshop facilitator, and her main voluntary project is the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize which she founded in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda.

Musical Youth Book Cover   With Grace Book Cover

Connect with Joanne Hillhouse

Websites: Jhohadli  and Wadadli Pen

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