Sunday, May 17, 2009

'Talent is Cheaper than Table Salt': Nnamdi Osondu Awaraka

Three adjectives that best describe you
Friendly, hardworking and approachable.

Your house is on fire; what will you take with you?
All my important documents – certificates, ID’s and my many scribble notebooks

What would a story about your life be called?
If it's an autobiography, it will be called Writing my own Stories.
Who are your favourite writers?
Chimamanda Adichie, Chinua Achebe, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, Arundhati Roy, Buchi Emecheta, Sidney Sheldon, John Grisham, Stephen King and V. C Andrews are a couple of them.

How do you relax?
I listen to music, watch TV shows and movies that make me laugh. Laughter always helps me relax.

When book are you reading now?
Beloved by Toni Morrison

Why do you blog/write?

Writing comes naturally. There’s always a story I want to tell, it’s that simple.

I began blogging because I wanted to get feedback from a much larger and diverse audience. Every writer likes to get peoples reaction to his/her work. Blogging is one of the easiest ways to show the world what you can do as a writer. It’s easy to set up, all you need is money to spend in the cafĂ© updating (laugh).

Biggest wish/dream
To be a successful, internationally recognized author. Is that too much to wish for?

Solution to a better reading culture in Nigeria
I’ve wondered how we can do that. I don’t have a solution but I have suggestions. I suggest we make books more available and try as much as we can to work on people's attitude. We need to build large libraries and stock them well. At least if people can’t afford to buy books, they should be able to borrow. Knowledge is power. Books provide knowledge. If we’re a nation deprived of books, we are a nation deprived of knowledge and the power it brings.

Let’s face it; reading a book is less attractive when compared to watching TV or playing video games. Even the “aje-butter” children who have huge collections of books in their houses still prefer to play video games and watch television for hours on end, rather than pick up Enid Blyton to read. Anything else but books. There has to be a way of attacking the mindset that books are for academic purposes alone, not for entertainment and people who read novels are 'un-cool.' We can’t force people to read, but we can encourage them to give it a shot.

Why do you read?
Because I enjoy it. It’s been my favourite form of entertainment. Every time you read a novel, you don’t come away from the pages the same. Usually I remember parts of the dialogues from the books I read, the good ones.

What is your most treasured possession?
For now, it’s the book I scribble in. If it gets lost a second time…

What is the book that changed your life?
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Before I read it, my stories were set outside Nigeria – not that that’s bad in itself. But after reading it, I realized there’s so much more I can do with my prose if I bring them home. I also realized that my dreams are not so far-fetched. I had been saving clippings of Nigerian authors published home and abroad before I read her book (I’ve got old newspaper pages of her and Helen Oyeyemi somewhere). She came to me as a girl next door, who did “it”. Nothing’s impossible.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d like to possess the ability to affect people with words. Written and spoken.

Who are your literary heroes?

JK Rowlings and Chimamanda Adichie
J.K Rowlings' book was rejected many times. She was poor and on the dole (a government program where the unemployed are given money for upkeep). She couldn’t buy toys for her daughter as a struggling single parent but she kept her protagonist alive, rejection after rejection. It was her first big book, she could have decided to abandon Harry Potter, perhaps start another novel or abandon writing entirely to focus on more conventional ways of earning a living, like people usually suggest to those who struggle to make it in the arts. She’s a hero because she did not relent. Her books have got millions of children, young adults and adults reading avidly again. Look where she is today – richer than the Queen, meeting Michelle Obama in the company of the Queen… Not everyone will be that successful, but it’s a real life Cinderella tale that can inspire those searching for encouragement.

Chimamanda left Nigeria for America and found huge success on foreign shores. What I find interesting however is the fact that she doesn’t hop into the country, publicize her book, do book signings then fly out. She divides her time between the U.S and Nigeria. Most importantly, she returns to conduct workshops, to help the fledgling writers in her country who are stuck in an uninspiring and unsupportive environment, hone their skills. Most of the time, our best and brightest leave our shores and don’t return to “give back” in any way. They don’t try to help their fatherland develop. I know it’s difficult to make a change under the conditions present, but it’s still sad when that happens. What she does is praiseworthy, more power to her elbows.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The lowest depth is when you begin to consider taking your life. I don’t think misery can get any lower than wanting to end it all…yourself.

What book are you longing to lay your hands on?
Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger, winner of 2008’s Man Booker Prize for fiction. I’ve been longing for it for a while now. It’s on its way to me, I’m sure.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh?
Buchi Emecheta’s Second-class Citizen. Buchi is hilarious. The hilarity in her narration comes off as effortless and unintended. Or maybe it’s my sense of humour… The Joys of Motherhood has lots of funny bits in the narrative too.

What will your next blog post be about?
It will most probably be a book review. I’m expecting two novels from the library and I have two books on my desk waiting to be touched. Three are by Indian authors.

Best blog post ever?
I like my short story, “An Uneventful Bus Ride" very much, but I like “New Neighbours” because I got the most comments ever on it.

Philosophy of life

These words of Stephen King – “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” I dwell on it a lot. It’s something everyone should bear in mind too. If you like be bustling with talent in an area of life, if you do not take the necessary steps and do the hard work needed to hone it, to show the world what you’ve got, if you do not struggle to rise up from the mass of people in your field, someone else – perhaps less talented, but a hundred times more determined to rise above the odds, will succeed.

Nnamdi Osondu Awaraka blogs here

In our bid to bring you voices of people from all over (in the arts of course), we begin the Bookaholic Blogger of the Month series; every month we will feature an interview with a blogger.


  1. Very enjoyable and educative interview! Nnamdi, Dalu. Keep it up and you will certainly go far.

  2. Nice! You really hit the nail on the head. Keep it on the go.