By Joanne C. Hillhouse
My first time attending the Cushion Club, I sat with one girl reading a favourite book from my childhood. I could have gone on for hours. When I joined the Club, a reading club for children in Antigua and Barbuda, it had already been in existence for a few years and moved location a couple of times. Around that same time, I was gearing up to launch my own community writing project – the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize. I became involved in two literary arts activities roughly around the same time but it was not by design. With the Cushion Club, I was looking for something to get involved with outside of work. Wadadli Pen was more purposeful.
I was in Canada, a newly published author (The Boy from Willow Bend), at a 2003 literary luncheon where a Caribbean writer spoke of the lack of nurseries for writers in the region. I reflected on my own writing sprouting from hard packed soil, undernourished, and launched the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda.
The Cushion Club and Wadadli Pen are different projects that have intersected a few times over the years – like when I held my first Wadadli Pen workshops at the Cushion Club meeting place or when we did a joint summer read challenge. Cushion Club sponsors a gift of books every year of the Wadadli Pen Challenge (Wadadli Pen’s main project, a writing and sometimes art competition for youths in Antigua and Barbuda).
Joanne C. Hillhouse has published six books of fiction (The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). Her creative writing has most recently been published in global anthology New Daughters of Africa. Her writing has appeared in Essence, Huffington Post, Caribbean Beat, Writers’ Digest, etc. She has edited books, magazines, web content, and more, and has written for a wide variety of projects in the Caribbean and beyond. She freelances from Antigua and Barbuda as writer, editor, writing coach, and writing and communication course and workshop facilitator. jhohadli.wordpress.com