Monday, September 28, 2009

Meet Uche Umez

Who is Uche Umez?
A simple man trying to live simple in a simple world made complex and chaotic by other less simple men. (Aint this very poetic?)

Who is your perfect reader?
Someone who reads any story or poem and says, gosh, I wish I could write like that!

How many books do you read at once?
I read two not really at once, but in a comparative way, especially when I’m on a long distance trip.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh?

To St. Patrick by Eghosa Imaseun for its delicate smattering of wit. It tackles a serious theme in a somewhat amusing tone. (Expect an interview with Eghosa on Bookaholic soon!)

Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to remain unflustered at all times. I wouldn’t mind if I chance upon the gift of a magician, though.

How will you introduce your child to writing?
I’ve already started. I got her a small box of books last year while I was in US, picture books mostly, and hope she out-writes me.

What part of the process of writing do you enjoy most?
For me, the rewriting process because it’s more leisurely and paced-out and so you don’t suffer much headache and blues from it.

What would a story about your life be called?
The Convoluted Misadventures of an Aspiring Writer

Three favourite writers and why?
How do I choose? From which era? Classic or modernist writers? I like fiction writers and poets for different reasons. For instance, I like stories that deal with suffering and redemption. And poetry that is pithy and razor-sharp. But – I just can’t resist short stories of Nadine Gordimer and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

What lessons do you bring back from your journeys?
One, life is more complicated than any Homer’s tale. Two, people are more in conflict with themselves than with their situations. Three, we are all narcissist in varying degrees. Four, beauty is everywhere but greed is closer. Five, love is so delicate it seems immaterial.

How do you balance a 9-5 with writing?
What wouldn’t I give to write full-time? Actually, I work from 8a.m. to 6p.m in the office, and then manage to do my writings in the silence of predawn, of course with great strain.

Have you ever imitated another writer’s style?
I only imitated Shakespeare when I started learning how to write poetry. Then Katherine Mansfield and Ernest Hemingway when I started short stories. Now, I just write as expressively and uninhibited as possible.

What inspires your writing?
The minutiae and quirks of life and humanity

What story do you consider as your ‘hit’ story?
I’m not sure I have anyone yet. Sometimes, I look back at my early short stories and twist my lips in uhm-hmm. It only gets better, as they say.

What is the hardest thing to write about?
That should be sorrow, in its entirety such that it wrenches the reader’s heart.

What awards have you won? How does it feel?
A couple of awards. Not the ‘loud’ ones though, with a photograph of you trying a modest (masking that smug) smile on the front and back pages of dailies. Heck, after all those long miserable hours of writing and re-writing and gritting your teeth through the strain in your spine and crick in your neck, and you think the writer doesn’t deserve to get elated?

What is your advice to budding writers?
I’m still budding. Anyway, writing is like weightlifting, you soon get used to the dumbbells and barbells eventually, if you don’t quit.

What do you have to say about the literary landscape in Nigeria?
It gives me hope – that beneath the stagnant pool breathes life. There’s a renewed zest to be heard by established and upcoming writers: a regeneration. I think younger writers are becoming very daring. Take the ‘Abyssinian’ Onyeka Nwelue, for instance.

As a Nigerian writer, what is the greatest challenge you face?
The apathy of government to establish a solid institution or structure, which will nurture and promote a vibrant culture of arts and literature. Until the government shows some genuine interest in education/humanities, everything literature will continue at a slug’s pace – when compared to other literary societies of the world.

Who are your literary heroes?
Cyprian Ekwensi and Eddie Iroh, essentially because their children books tickled my imagination when I was in primary school and still echo in my mind.

What does it mean to be a writer?
It means euphoria – self-doubts + patience – sleeplessness + fortitude – boredom + fulfillment

Philosophy of life
Learn to be happy and immensely thankful – because there are others far more knowledgeable and diligent than me, yet they have not been that fortunate and blessed.


  1. What a nice interview but I never heard of Uche Umez.

  2. Nice to get to know you Mr. Umez. Particularly like your philosophy of life.

  3. I enjoyed reading your interview. It is insightful. thanks

  4. Ahhh, this was fun to read, Uche. Remember, we are still waiting for 'it'!