Sunday, November 29, 2009

How do I know if I'm a writer?

I was trying to upload pictures from the WordSlam event yesterday but sometimes it's really naughty with pictures here. Had this on my mind for a very long time, so I thought that I should ask from you. Yes, you and you. It's called Letter from a Young Frustrated Writer. Enjoy!

Dear Reader,

Hope this meets you well (Isn't that how to start emails formally?).

Let me introduce myself. Do you need my name? Not sure. But I am a young writer who has always loved to write but who is about to forget about the writing game all together. And I have my reasons.

First, it looks sometimes that everyone writes. Yes, to some extent. everyone can pick up a pen and paper and scribble something, even if it makes sense to only them. Isn't a writer anyone that writes? That said, I am even more than all that because I write stories. Well, transfer them from what I see around me into my head then onto the paper or my computer when I tap my keyboard.

So I've been scribbling 'stuff' for years now. Sometimes, my teachers read it and felt that I had real talent. They made me the head of the Creative Writing Group in School. Since then, I've written about five books, none has been published. Is it not publishing that validates my talent and puts my name out there as author? Don't get me wrong I've been making submissions but I always get the decline letters "Thank you for your submission, we will pass on it now" or the milder version "We regret to tell you that we can't publish your story..." I've given up on those publishing houses now. I even considered self publishing at a stage but got scared off because of the expenses. Where on earth will I get that much to invest in something I am not sure will make me money? The banks--they are angry at the moment. My friends--they don't care about what I write. My parents--there are other things to focus on. And hello credit crunch is here!

Sometimes, I enter for these competitions (I do the free ones!) and they don't even acknowledge receipt let alone tell me whether I made a shortlist. Sometimes, I just stopped trying them because I felt it was just sham just like the other awards around (and observers of the Nigerian literary scene understand better!) or was it just my vexation expressed as depression? I don't know.

What's it with this writing thing? Sometimes, I feel I'm not talented. Am I living a mirage or maybe I am really not talented. Maybe I am not a writer. Maybe I should stop wasting my time and do something 'positive', well 'professional' with my life as my mother says.

Do you feel like this too? Am I some strange human being forced to this ugly fate?

I'm sorry for boring you with my rant but please help me! How do I know if I'm a writer?


Young Frustrated Writer

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Meet Ogo Akubue-Ogbata: "A Writer Should Have A Voice--A Loud One"

Who is Ogo Akubue-Ogbata? An African woman with humble beginnings who’s using her gifts to inspire and empower others to live with purpose, passion and authenticity.  

Tell us a little about Creativity and Sense You know how a lot of creative people shy away from business activities in the name of being ‘artistic’? Well, Creativity and Sense LLC is a company I set up not just to help people find their talents and discover real purpose but to help them marry their creativity with solid business skills in order to take their vision further. We offer training, coaching and consulting programs and have worked with organisations such as Business Link and the University of Northampton Business School - both in the UK.      

Which talent would you most like to have? I wish that I could play a few musical instruments.

What do you think of Nigerian literature? It’s definitely exciting, the beautiful ones are being born.  

What was growing up like? Very interesting. Ours was a big family – four girls and three boys so there was lots of activity. I was a bit of a bookworm, to be honest with you.

How do you balance work and writing? I set specific goals and make the most of my time. When I remember that life is precious and I won’t be here forever, I’m motivated to no end.

This is your debut, how does it feel? Amazing! I had an enjoyable time writing this novel and hope that people will be inspired and empowered by it.

Why did you write Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman? I was inspired (by the ongoing debate over Nigeria’s validity and survival prospects) to create an intimate portrait of a woman who defies all odds economically, emotionally and socially - a woman who is sculpted by the unpleasant circumstances of life into a breathing work of art.   Egg­-Larva-­Pupa-­Woman shows that obstacles can be surmounted with faith and 'inspired action', that family and nationhood are sacred and that love triumphs over fear.  Of recent, there have not been many dynamic, high achieving, female characters in African fiction and we need those iconic, fully fleshed-out characters to inspire us as a people. The protagonist, Nkiru, meets the need for such a character. She is kind, witty, enterprising and beautiful but most of all she is a survivor. This determined disposition is what Africa and the world needs now.  

How did you research the story? I researched the book intensely by raiding historical archives, talking to people and examining photographs. Reading works set in the colonial era helped me capture the tempo of the times. The Nigerian High Commission in London was helpful. Imagination filled in the gaps.    

What book are you reading now? Blonde Roots by Bernadine Evaristo.

What will a book about your life be called? I say Live a little then write a little. A book about my life will be ‘untitled’ at the moment and not finished anytime soon.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Losing loved ones and having to live with the knowledge that you’ll never see them walk the face of the earth again.

Who is your perfect audience? An honest yet respectful audience. Honesty stretches a writer’s growth whilst respect nurtures confidence and creativity.

How does being a Nigerian influence your writing? It makes me write about Nigeria and the issues that affect Nigerians with a style and energy that is uniquely Nigerian yet universally accessible.

What is your most treasured possession? My soul.

What inspires your writing? Life.

Favourite book of all time: The bible.

What’s the role of a writer in a society? In my humble opinion, a writer's role is not merely showcasing chaos and leaving people wondering what to make of it but creating stories that inspire change and provoke positive aspiration.

What part of writing do you enjoy most? I love it all. Crafting the plot, breathing life into the characters, researching the facts, editing... even post-press activities like networking and public speaking are enjoyable to me. That’s what creativity and sense is all about.

Who are your favorite writers? How much time have we got? I don’t have any favourites in particular. I admire a huge host of writers for all different reasons.

What is the last thing you read that made you cry? I don’t recall ever reading anything that’s actually made me cry - it’s movies that sometimes do that to me. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt) and The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold) were pretty sad though.  

What is the strangest research you’ve done? I haven’t done anything strange but watch this space.  

What is the worth of a book? Depends on who’s written the book plus why and how they’ve written it. Some books are worthless. A great book however, is priceless.

Philosophy of life Do unto others as you want done to you. Speak for those who have no voice. Do what you do best and do it with creativity and sense.

What does it mean to be a writer? Having a voice- a loud one.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Writing Competitions...

One way to test the waters of the literary world is by entering for competitions. Here are two quite interesting ones. And of course, there are entry fees. Read instructions carefully--they are important on the road to success or failure! 

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Short Story Competition has been introduced to encourage and reward quality short fiction writing, create and sustain awareness about the publication and if by any chance a small financial margin is achieved at the end of each competition, that will go back into producing the magazine and help keep it a free-to-read publication.

 Competition Details 

  • Subject: Short Stories may be on any subject.
  • Length: Maximum 1,500 words per story
  • Entry Fees: £5.00 per story, £9.00 for 2 stories and £12.00 for 3 stories.
  • Prizes--First Prize: £100.00, Second Prize: £60.00, Third Prize: £40.00. More information here.

Ambit Magazine 200 Words Prose and Poetry Competition
To celebrate their 200th issue Ambit invites you to enter their 200 WORDS COMPETITION! Send in poems or prose of 200 words for a chance to win any of these: 1st prize: £500, 2nd prize: £200, 3rd prize: £75. More information here.

To have a feel of the world of Ambit, read a PDF Copy here. And if you are thinking about their general submissions guidelines, take a look at this.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The International Literary Quarterly...

Came across this very interesting project, thanks to some friends who are more literary than we are. So we thought that we should share with you.

The International Literary Quarterly is an anthology of poems that celebrates multilingualism and diversity. It consists of seventy-five poems in seventy-five contemporary languages. Each of these poems is a translation of a single poem "Volta".

And trust, Nigerian languages are massively represented (Click on links to read PDF Copies)--Yoruba translation by Kola TubosunHausa translation by Ismail Balapidgin translation by Wilson OrhiunuIgbo translation by Obododinma Oha,  Ibibio translation by Ofonime InyangEbira translation by Sunday (Sunnie) Enessi Ododo.

For me who only understands Yoruba (among the other translations) reading the Yoruba translation (with the tonal marks) made the appreciate the amount of work that went into it. Anyway for those who want to know more about contributing to the International Literary Quarterly, check here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When Words Slam...

You need to be at these two events to discover what happens when words slam. You need to figure out how you'll make the two of them (as their time kinda overlap). We will try to bring you pictures from both. Away from my rant, details below:

DADA books, publishers of I am memory- a moving poetry collection by Jumoke Verissimo and The Abyssinian Boy- an ambitious and thought provoking novel by Onyeka Nwelue are proud to present – A Fistful of Tales, an exciting short story collection by Ayodele Arigbabu (now that's true...I've read it. An autographed copy too. One of the perks of being a Bookaholic is reading the books before everyone does :))

Meet the Writer
Ayodele Arigbabu studied Architecture at the University of Lagos, where he was the Librarian and then President of the Pen Circle, an association of young writers. He writes weekly on design and environment for The Guardian Life, writes occasionally for other magazines, dabbles into poetry and fiction as the muse inspires and writes scripts for theatre, film, television and comic books.

His short story titled "You live to die once" was the winning entry at the 2001 Liberty Bank Short Stories Competition. His poem titled "Livelihood" received honourable mention, at the 2003 Muson Poetry competition while his first short story collection titled Blues Tones (published in The Three Kobo Book) was nominated for the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) / Lantern Books 2005 Prize for Short Stories.

The Book
What does the book cover tell you? Liz Jensen, (author of The Paper Eater) Ayo Arigbabu's mentor on Crossing Borders had this to say about the book: “Ayo’s muscular, playful language is assured, versatile, and stuffed to the gills with energy and joie-de-vivre....his subjects and voices range over a wide field – but never lose their grip, or their power to entertain. A Fistful of Tales is a small collection but it packs a mighty punch. Ayodele Arigbabu is a writer to watch.”

The Launch 
A Fistful of Tales will be presented to the public on Saturday the 28th of November 2009 at the British Council, 20 Thompson Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos form 4pm till 6pm. The author will read from his collection with support from soul diva- Yinka Davies, maverick theatre director- Segun Adefila and the city’s favourite fiction writer and poet- Toni Kan. It will sure be a memorable evening, with these names.

Here Comes Wordslam...
Wordslam is here again. Yours Truly was there last year and it was a blast. This year's edition promises to be better. So mark your diary...

Ade Bantu’s vibes – a mixture of hip-hop, reggae and afrofunk, which he calls “the sound of fufu” - will turn what started as a poetry performance into an exciting live concert in the evening. Come and explore the transitions between spoken and sung words and to be part of a unique rhythmic experience. And yes, snacks and Refreshments will be offered.

Concert Evening: Sat, Nov 28. Time: 3:00pm
Venue: Goethe-Institut Nigeria, 10 Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, opp. 1004 Flats, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Calling the Poets...

We find these projects interesting. Performance poets should try to participate. Really there's a revolution brewing, you are either a part of it or not...

Badilisha! Poetry X-Change introduces a brand new dimension to the live poetry project--the Badilisha!, an online poetry radio station which will produce weekly podcasts of poets from Africa and the Diaspora. Our blog will also facilitate relevant poetry discussions and open the way for continued conversation amongst poets featured on the podcasts, greater exposure of the work of African poets to the world and to each other. Weekly shows will be presented by South African writer and performance poet Malika Ndlovu. aims to encourage, expose and celebrate the work of African and Diaspora poets, answering to the need for an Africa-centred platform where these African voices and works from all over the globe can be accessed and enjoyed, as well as serving as a networking space for these artists within and beyond the literary arena. More info here.

International Poetry Competition Castello Di Duino - Under 30 Poetry
Deadline:  December 31st, 2009 (For schools 2010 January 15th)
Rules of participation:

  • The competition is open to young people under 30 years of age.
  • The participation is free.
  • Participants have to send only one unpublished , never prized poem (maximum 50 lines).
  • The general theme of the Edition 2008 is: Lights/shadows (for instance : the natural alternation of times, the colours of the reality and  soul, the metaphers of the life,  thinking,  doubts. The topic can be worked out very free 
  • Poems will be accepted in the mother tongue of the authors. A translation into English and /or Italian is required.
  • A jury composed by poets and literary critics with different linguistic competences will evaluate the poems as much as possible in their original language.
More information here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"I Need to See Africa in The Future"--Nnedi Okorafor

Who is Nnedi Okorafor?
Nnedi Okorafor is a biological construct fused from the DNA of history’s and the future’s greatest witches and literary despots.

How and when did you develop the love for stories?
I loved stories even before I could read. I was born with a very big active imagination- I could do anything, see anything, make anything happen. Whenever I think back to my early childhood, it’s impossible to differentiate the magical stuff I made up in my head from the "real" stuff. On top of this, my father  who was a heart surgeon told tons of stories, and he told them really well with drama, suspense, characters, setting, and sensory details in place.

How does your upbringing affect your writing?
Despite my dealings with racism and many other “isms”, I had a very very happy childhood. And I think that “happiness” often comes out in my fiction. My father was obsessed with understanding how things worked. He made even the mundane (like a door knob) exciting by showing you how it worked. He loved science, math and animals and he moved through the world with a constant sense of wonder, even as he got older. I see in the same way and that comes out in my work too, especially when I ":world build". My mother has a PhD in health administration, is a registered nurse, midwife and a thousand other things. She’s brilliant and very strong. She taught me what it is to BE a feminist as opposed to having to proclaim it. And she was made the strong woman she is by her mother AND father.  Important lessons. On top of this, my father adored her strength and smarts, as opposed to feeling threatened by it. Another crucial lesson. I deal with issues of gender a lot in my work and the complexity of it. It all comes from my upbringing.

What was the first story you wrote about?
The first story I wrote was a short story titled “The House of Deformities”. It was set in Nigeria and based on something that really happened to my two sisters and me when we were kids. It involved bulldog puppies, a wizened old woman with a cleaver, fly-covered meat, vultures and pink ducklings (yep, all this was true). I added a deep black hole full of demons…to flesh out the story. So, from the start my stories were speculative. It’s the way I see the world.

What informs your fascination with Science Fiction?
Now you do you mean science fiction or fantasy? Those are two different things. Science fiction is when the strange things in the story happen because of science. SF involves things like time machines, robotics, nanotechnology, aliens, cyborgs, etc. Advanced technology and science. Fantasy is when the strange things that happen are due to magic, the mystical, the unexplained. Fantasy involves things like fairies, witches, ghosts, magical systems, etc.  For me, sf and fantasy are practically one of the same. As I said, I tend to see the world as a magical place. Nature is amazing. It’s earth’s greatest scientist. Also, I NEED to see Africa in the future. Too often, when I read about Africa in American fiction, it's an Africa of the past. It was often the place African Americans were forced to leave. Or it was “the pre-colonial place”. These representations didn’t fit well with my own experience of Nigeria. To me, Nigeria was very futuristic, and in a bizarre way. No plumbing in the house but you’ve got cell phones, for example. I was fascinated by that and no one was writing about it. Technology is consumed by and affects Africans in a unique way. Then I just took it further in my work and that’s when my fiction became science fiction.

What do you call your kind of writing? Unique.

You’ve won a couple of awards, how do you feel? I feel great. It’s always nice to be recognized.

Best advice you got as a writer
Keep writing. Writers write. And check your ego at the door. Few people are born awesome writers. And no great work is created 100 percent alone. The best writers are writers who know how to listen to criticism, feedback and direction when necessary.

How do you manage to write science fiction with images drawn from Nigerian folk and superstitious culture without playing to the stereotypes that give ‘us’ a bad image in the West? Simple answer: I’m Nigerian and I have a deep unconditional love for Nigeria. Some of the worst things in my life have happened to me in Nigeria. I have experienced true terror while there, terror that probably took days from my life. So don’t think I have some rosy view of the country. But some of the most wonderful things in my life have happened there, too. Most of my family is there.  And it’s beautiful. My parents have been taking my siblings and I back there since we were young. We also make the effort to stay connected, by any means necessary. I’m doing the same with my six year old daughter. She’s been back twice already.

Mind you, I’m very independent and many Igbo traditions just turn my stomach. You won’t see me adhering to certain traditions. And I’m not afraid to say that I won’t. This is me and always will be me. All the kidnappings, oil wars, fraud, theft, corrupt government shenanigans, family issues, among others will not keep me away. I always go back.  All these come out in my work. This is why I don’t fall into the stereotypes. I’m sincere.

Worst comment you heard about your work
Hmm, that’s a hard one. I did see someone say on his blog say that he wouldn’t read my two novels because they didn’t have any white people in it. Idiot.

Tell us more about Akata the Witch
Akata Witch is my third young adult novel (my forthcoming adult novel is titled Who Fears Death is scheduled for release in June 2010). It’s set in present day Nigeria. The main character is a 12 year old girl who confuses people. Her name is Sunny. She was born in New York to two Nigerian immigrant parents. When she was nine, she and her family moved back to Nigeria. She also happens to be albino. So she’s an American by birth and a Nigerian by blood, living in Nigeria, with skin and hair lighter than Caucasian skin but sensitive to the sun. Sunny's character is actually based on a family friend. One of Sunny’s favorite things to do is to stare into candles. One day while staring into a candle she witnesses something terrible. This turns out to be the first step into an adventure that changes her life. This novel’s got real masquerades, a wrestling match to match no other, a most excellent soccer match, the real reason for the face on Zuma Rock, shape shifters, and some serious juju.

You are Obama for a day, what will you do?
Hop on Air Force One and make a discreet visit to Nigeria to verbally brow beat the top government officials into treating their country with honor, respect and patriotism. Then later that day, I’d make a surprise visit to a few busy markets in Lagos, Jos, Abuja, Owerri, and yes Port Harcourt. Of course, my security would be air-tight.

What part of the process of writing do you enjoy most?
Editing. The “genesis” process is tough for me. This is when you create the initial story. But once I have a draft, ugly as it always is, I enjoy the polishing of it. I’ll edit a draft 15 to 20 times.

What book are you reading at the moment?
I’m always reading something. I just finished the latest installment in the Aya graphic novel series by Ivory Coast writer Marguerite Abouet and French illustrator Clement Oubrerie. This is an excellent series that shows Africa in a realistic and positive light for once.  Right now I’m rereading a science fiction novel set in South Africa called Otherland by American novelist Tad Williams. The main characters are Irene Sulaweyo and a Bushmen named !Xabbu (if you’re still sore about District 9, this novel is good therapy).I’m also reading Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol by Ugandan writer Okot p’Bitek.

Now Ginen is a land beautifully described that one feels it truly exists. How do you make your reader believe the reality of the world you create in your works? Ginen totally exists. It’s real place to me. Because I feel it’s real, I write about it as such. All my stories are real to me. If I didn’t believe they were real, how I could write them well?

Who are the writers that influence you?

  • Stephen King is the ultimate storyteller- the man is like one of Anansi’s sons. 
  • Octavia Butler’s sparse clean prose and realistic science fiction changed me forever. 
  • Ben Okri’s prose is haunted poetry and his Nigerian-flavored fantastical imagery is insane. 
  • Ngugi wa Thiongo wrote a Kenyan detective novel that was laced with some serious politics (Petals of Blood); utterly pioneering. 
  • Buchi Emecheta and Flora Nwapa’s “Kitchen Literature” was so necessary-these two writers reminded me that many (if not most) of life’s greatest battles are fought, won and lost on the domestic front.
Any plans to have your stories on the screen?
I always have plans. There are interests and possibilities. I have written a screenplay for Nollywood’s “ogbanje” director Tchidi Chikere. Right now it’s titled, “Wrapped in Magic”. He plans to shoot it soon. There was film interest in The Shadow Speaker but the production company, though they loved the book, found it too complex for film. That makes me laugh. Lastly, right now there are multiple film production companies interested in my forthcoming adult novel, Who Fears Death. We’ll see.

What do you think of the literary landscape in Nigeria?
It’s awesome, Diasporic and so alive. I’m proud of it: Chris Abani, Uwem Akpan, Sefi Atta, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helon Habila, Helen Oyeyemi, Uzodimma Iweala, Bayo Ojikutu, etc. Look at all the diversity and success within this limited list. The Nigerian tradition of great literature is very alive.

Any plans to get more of your books published in Nigeria?
Zahrah the Windseeker is already published in Nigeria by Kachifo Ltd. They also own the African rights to The Shadow Speaker. Hopefully they’ll be able to also bring Akata Witch and Who Fears Death to Nigeria. Having my work available in Nigeria is extremely important to me.

What does it mean to be a writer?
It means solitude, which often becomes loneliness. It means hard work with little initial reward. Discipline. Distorted nakedness. And it means that you have a place to channel your fury and a place to create your dreams.

Visit Nnedi's blog here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mark your Calendar...

P.A.G.E.S and CCA,Lagos continue their innovative programme of bringing the Visual and Literary Arts into dialogue. This Saturday (November 21) is going to be an interesting one at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos as Teju Cole  the author of Everyday is for the Thief - a novel set in Lagos, and Jumoke Verissimo, the author I am Memory - a poetry collection engage 12 artists in a video art exhibition at CCA,Lagos.

The writers' books will be available for sale at the CCA. This is equally an opportunity to see the current exhibition which is called Identity:An Imagined State, a video art exhibition featuring the works of Nigerian,African & South American artists. It was curated by Jude Anogwih and Oyinda Fakeye

Time: 2pm. 
So see you at CCA (9, McEwen Street, Sabo, Yaba, Lagos)

There's also Yoruba Romance
A new play titled Yoruba Romance by Tyrone Terrence-an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's A Marriage Proposal. 

Venue: The MUSON centre’s Agip Recital Hall
Date: Sunday, November 22
Time: 6pm
Gate: N5,000

Driver's Dexterity: an exhibition of photographs by George Osodi
The African Artists' Foundation (AAF) in collaboration with The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) presents: Driver's Dexterity an exhibition of photographs by George Osodi.
Venue: The Lagos Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Opp. 1004 Flats, Victoria Island, Lagos
Date and time: 26th November, 2009, 6pm

Who is George Oshodi?
George Osodi is a London-based photographer and artist who has spent most of his time traveling on Nigerian roads. He has captured images of the various landscapes and peoples living in different parts of Nigeria. George has also documented various social and topical issues using photography. Having trained as a photojournalist, George has an eye for a story. The story he tells now is one of intervention and faith. He captures the dramatic in an artistic, even romantic fashion. These are tales of hope and survival, bravery and bewildering actions, stereotypes and attitudes to life.

George explains: “Driver's Dexterity is a body of work, which takes on a more conceptual form than my previous documentary works. ...I explore the vulnerability of life as a contrast to the tragic beauty of the landscapes"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Introducing Sentinel Nigeria&Call for Submissions

Sentinel Nigeria is an online magazine of contemporray Nigerian writing. Sentinel Literary Movement of Nigeria was established on November 15, 2009 as the Nigerian chapter of Sentinel Poetry Movement which was founded in December 2002 by Nnorom Azuonye. Read more here.

Submission Guidelines

  • Poems: Submit up to 6 poems on any subject of 60 lines or less, or a long poem up to 200 lines plus 2 shorter poems.
  •  Fiction: Submit Short Stories, or Excerpts from Novels on any subject or theme up to 8,000 words long.
  •  Essays: Academic essays may be up to 10,000 words long.
  •  Reviews and Interviews: These may be up to 3000 long.
  •  All materials submitted must be in English Language. We encourage poems written in Nigerian languages as long as they are sent together with appropriate translations.
  •  Previously Published Work:  Generally we discourage submissions of previously published work. If we feel strongly about a previously published work we may solicit it. If your work has been published elsewhere and you feel it has not been given the exposure it deserves, and you feel strongly about it, by all means submit it, but please mention where and when it was first published.

Read more here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Till Death By Eghosa Imasuen

We featured Eghosa Imasuen in October. Here's a short story from him. Warning: it's quite long. Enjoy! 
     He stood in the doorway. Out of the dank tree-lined culvert where it was just starting to drizzle outside. Beads of water ran in rivulets down his jacket – an equally expensive accompaniment to the slightly more faded trousers he shook as he stepped out of brown horse-leather shoes. He toed the shoes to the corner of the doormat and spoke, “Is she ready?”

     The undertaker was worried for the man. The things he had asked for on his first visit, they made no sense. But they did make sense. The more the undertaker had dwelt on them over the last week; the demands had become easier to understand.

     The man did not want his wife buried. He had said so in a quiet voice when the hearse had dropped the corpse off a week ago. He had repeated the demand after the undertaker asked him what he had just said.

     “But sir, this is most unusual,” the undertaker had said.

     “There must be something you can do, undertaker. There must be some chemical or machine or something.”

     “I don’t know . . .” The undertaker had felt uncomfortable under the glare of the man’s eyes. They were big and doe-like. The earnest stare irresistible.

     The man mistook the undertaker’s shiftiness for an imminent refusal, “See, mister. Her people will not know. She died four days ago and I have already insisted on a small ceremony. I don’t care what they say about burying their own in the village . . . So you see nothing can go wrong. This casket will be buried in a private mausoleum in my compound.”

     If it wasn’t so sad it would have been funny. Both men had circled each other around the coffin that first visit a week ago. As though the man wanted to touch the undertaker and as though the undertaker didn’t want to be touched. But watching their eyes you knew they were doing something different. They both stared at the figure in the open coffin. Only God knew what was going on in the man’s mind but on the undertaker’s was how beautiful she looked in repose. How her fair complexion made her look pale in death and not grey like . . . How much she reminded him of . . .

     “I will help you,” the undertaker said.

     The earnestness on the man’s face slowly cleared and morphed into, first, thankfulness, and then, incredulity. He looked up from his wife, the light reflected off her white lace dress making his big eyes look like they had disappeared into mammoth-sized sockets. “But how?” he asked. “You must know that what I want will not be easy to accomplish. I do not want my house stinking like in here . . .”

     While the man spoke, the undertaker allowed himself a moment of self-pride. About what he had achieved, about what he could do for the man. He interrupted the man in a slow and even voice that became more and more excited as he dove deeper into his exposition: “You do not understand, sir. I can help you. Everything you need, I can help you.”

     They slowly resumed their dance around the coffin, this time with their eyes never leaving the other.

     “You see, I have invented this chemical. It’s nothing new, just a new mix of the same old constituents. You might think the reason for this new mix is that it preserves better, no? Ah, but that’s not the reason. My new mix is slightly less efficient than the old one. You stare at me like I’ve gone mad. I’ll tell you, sir, the reason for this. The problems with keeping a body looking alive and fresh are not with the chemicals. It’s with getting the chemicals deep within the body. For that I have constructed a machine. A new machine that will make your wife forever young. Just like she looks now. That’s the reason why my new mix is so light. I do not need it concentrated.”

     He searched the man’s eyes for understanding that day, but only saw the big eyes unblinking under the glare of the overhead, dangling, swinging light bulb, the shadows of both cheekbones lit up from below by the sheen-like reflection off the wife’s dress.
     Is she ready?
    He searched the man’s eyes for understanding today and still came up blank. The honk-o-tonk of the raindrops on the roof’s corrugated sheets increased in tempo and became a blur, a constant drone that, intriguingly, receded into background silence like that of office air-conditioning. He wanted to tell the man not to bother taking his shoes off but instead replied the question, “Yes, she’s ready.”

     On the man’s second visit the undertaker had shown him the machine. It sat in his basement, a not-so-secret subterranean extension he had dug up when his wife, God rest her soul, complained that his business was making the neighbours uncomfortable. That just the other day Mrs. Ogbomo had smirked at her, asking what her husband prayed for during church service; whether they prayed for business to be good. He had to admit he had found it incredibly funny. On that visit he led the man down the short flight of steps, unconsciously sweeping at the now absent cobwebs he had swept soon after the man’s first visit.

     “There it is.”

     The man took a step forward and leaned into the upright, redlined box of gleaming masonia wood. “How does it work?”

     “It’s a pump. It pumps, through those needles you see at the bottom, my special chemical around the body constantly replenishing and changing the fluids. And that bottle of reddish goo, that’s the chemical mix. I’ve coloured it red so that the subject retains his, sorry, her complexion as it was in life.”

     “Have you ever tested it?” the man asked.

     “This is the second one I have built. The first was for my wife. After her suicide . . .”

     In grief it seemed both men understood themselves perfectly. The undertaker saw, or thought he saw, understanding in a slight movement of the man’s shoulders. He saw the man’s eyes turn away from the red inner lining of his brand new eterno-meter (yes, people, that’s the name of the machine) and flicker back at the machine. Yes, the man understood grief.

     Yes, she’s ready.

     The man came into the light. The centre of the room where they had first met eight days ago. He looked worse. The rivulets of rain slowly sunk into the fabric of his expensive wool jacket. What would have otherwise been his big hazel eyes had taken on an air of death, eyelids halfway down, the irises red-rimmed.

     “How was the funeral?” the undertaker asked.

     “Like I said, the family had no idea the casket was empty. The funeral went well.”

     A moment of silence passed. Both men stared at the unopened six foot long box in front of them.

     The man nodded and the undertaker understood. He opened the lid of the coffin.

     The man gasped. He leaned forward into the light and said, “She’s so beautiful . . .”

     She was. Her pale skin pulsed in time with the small droning pump just on the other side of the red lining. Imperceptible changes in colour that the unconscious human mind registers as signs of life. Her eyes were open and fixed. The whites impossibly white, the irises . . . A deeper shade of brown than they had been in life.

     “Did the chemical do that too?” the man asked.

     “No. I tried but preserving the eyes is extremely difficult. Those are glass. Actually it’s impossible to preserve the eyes to the standard you wanted. There’s a reason why market women pricing fresh fish always check the eyes for milkiness.” The undertaker had this irritating habit of rambling into trivia whenever he felt nervous. “I hope it is to your satisfaction.”

     The man nodded and replied with the question, “Was the money you received to yours?”

     “Very much so, sir. Thank you.”

     But the undertaker knew the man had stopped listening to him. The undertaker watched as the man leaned into the coffin.

     A kiss.

     A kiss on warm pulsating lips. The undertaker could hear the man gasp. For joy. It was good that the undertaker used the body as the heat dissipater – the radiator, so to speak – for the machine. The eterno-meter was a wonderful machine.

     A blur of motion.

     Warm goo splashing on the undertaker face, breaking his thoughts. He refocused his eyes and saw what the man was doing. What the man was saying.

     The man had a long suya knife in his right hand. And with each slash and each stab the man spoke.

     You think say you smart?
     You thought you could take this easy way out!
     Bitch. Whore. Twenty years of torment and then you die in you sleep?
     No, you’ll suffer every week, every visit, until I die.
     For what you did to me. For what you did to her.

     The undertaker screamed; for his work, and jumped at the man’s shoulders grabbing his right arm from behind.

     The man struck him across the face with the back of his left hand and threw the undertaker to the ground with such force that the poor grey-suited fellow slid across the floor on his wash-and-wear clad bottom and bumped his head against a wall.

     He came to exactly four seconds later. The man flashed the blade, dripping goo, across the undertaker face. The man’s eyes were dead now, sunken and dead. His breadth smelt like tobacco and a brothel’s spittoon.

     “You are going to fix her? Nod if you understand. Yes, you’re going to fix her every week. A visit a week. You’ll be paid well. Just like this time. Nod if you understand.”

     The undertaker felt his head shaking up and down. But he froze when he heard what the man said next.

     “You said you built the first machine for your wife. Take me to her, now.”

     The undertaker whimpered as he was pulled up and dragged down to the basement. He pointed at a corner to the man and slumped down when the man dropped him. His head hurt. He stared as the man went over to the box that contained his wife, the cream-lined one.

     The undertaker’s heart broke when he heard what the man whispered, what he said as he took the undertaker’s wife’s face in his hands, hands that were dripping with the red goo, “You should have waited. You should have waited. Now she’s dead and it’s too late. You should have told me about that phone call. What did she say to you, Martha? That I wouldn’t leave her because you were pregnant? (The man was crying uncontrollably now.) You should have waited, Martha. We would have left both of them together.”

"Till Death" was first published by African Writers here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Enthusiastic Copywriter Wanted

Karl Moore, CEO of The WCCL Network  is looking for a copywriter. Here is what he wrote in a popular writing blog's forum.

You will need to have a lot of initiative, and be able to go running with a very lightweight specification! We need around 90 promotional messages created (30 over three months), to be sent out to our various mailing lists -- containing special offers and other information. We will provide some of the basic information, and you will be required to fill in the blanks and produce a (short) work of art!

Required: Casual writing style, intelligence, initiative. Not required: Divas.

Drop me a line with samples at if you're interested!

For more info, click here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Invisible Borders...

“Invisible Borders” is a reference to the non-geographical demarcation, but rather that which could be easily missed especially if looking at the lines in the map, or flying over by air. The most essential aspect of the project is not the final destination, but the journey; therefore the participating photographers will produce works in form of photography and video while on the go which will be exhibited during the main events of the Festival in Bamako. The project was initiated by Emeka Okereke.

Participants include: Uche James Iroha, Lucy Azubuike, Emeka Okereke, Amaize Ojiekere, Uche Okpa Iroha, Ray Daniels Okeugo, Unoma Geise, Chris Nwobu, Nike Ojeikere and Charles Okereke.

Borders Involved: Nigeria/Benin (Seme), Benin/Togo (Hillacondji), Togo/Ghana (Aflao), Ghana /Burkina fasso (Hamele), Burkina Fasso/ Mali.

Follow the progress of the Travels here. Also join the Facebook group "Invisible Borders 2009" to have a glimpse of images.

Inspiration: project was Inspired by the 8th edition of the Bamako Photography Encounters 2009, 10 Nigerians made up of photographers and writers decided to make a road trip to Bamako from Lagos: in a black Volks Wagen Mini bus rented from Photo Garage in Lagos. This project arose as a result of an urgent need to address the notion of dividing borders between countries in the African continent. It might sound paradoxical that while travelling by air might seem a lot faster and much more stress-free, it indeed suggests a feeling of immense “distance” between places, given that one might call the singular borders suggested by the airport terminals as “virtual”, not tangible, providing a rather fictitious notion of displacement in real time; more so due to the absence of land scapes and other elements which serves as visual testimony to distance covered. Therefore this project is an attempt to acquire a much realistic sense of the similarities and difference between peoples suggested by cultural and geographical lines.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

11th Lagos Book and Art Festival

The 11th Lagos Book and Art Festival is holding November 13 – 15, 2009 at the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu Lagos.

The Festival will feature exhibition by Bookshops, Publishers, Libraries and "freelance" individual exhibitors; a huge Art Fair featuring a variety of works by galleries, art-dealers and individual artists; live music, dance, drama and live performances.

FRIDAY, November 13 will feature events such as Mentoring Kids by Eugenia Abu at 11 am, followed by Children Craft Workshops, Play Groups and Performances. The final stage of the Book Trek: the Quest for the Most Literate Student holds at 2pm and will involve the review and the discussion of various books.

SATURDAY, November 14 will kickoff with Conversation: Lagos in the Imagination (3) with extensive references to Isi Joy Bewaji’s Eko Dialogue, Tejo Cole’s One Day is For The Thief, Odia Ofeimun’s Lagos of the Poets and Sefi Atta’s Swallow. There will be a Publishers Roundtable: Why I Publish What I Publish from 2pm to 4pm. Festival Party celebrating Segun Sofowote@70, Frank Okonta@70, Sammy Olagbaju@70, Tunji Oyelana@70, Mahmoud Ali Balogun@50, Nobert Young@50, Afolabi Adesanya@50, George Uffot@50, Edmund Enaibe@50, Kunle Adeyemi@50 will start at 5pm with music by Fatai Rolling Dollar.

SUNDAY, November 15 will open with a Youth Conference: Creativity and Empowerment, featuring a panel of young creative artists and art managers; convened by Positive Development Foundation and Youth Bank. Art Stampede will come up at 1pm.

Telephone: Toyin Akinosho 08057622415 and Kafayat Quadri 07029025583


Click here and here for more information.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Manyika Reading&Debate

We were at the Sarah Ladipo Manyika's reading of her new book In Dependence published by Cassava Republic. Shame we will not be able to do you a proper review but something within me says that you don't want to be subjected to reading a two-paged piece about a reading. Instead, we decided to bring you words from the event and continue a debate that started there.

Here's little on the writer. She is half-Nigerian, half-British, now that's not by choice obviously. She is married to a Zimbabwean, so Nana Fred-Agyeman is right afterall. In Dependence is her first novel and it spans four decades. The book took her about seven years to write. She's a brilliant writer, beautiful woman and she reads very well; you can literally imagine the words coming from the characters right there on your seat.

And there was a young man that caught my attention. "Half British, half-Nigerian" he replied when asked for his age (apparently he didn't understand the question), and when he finally does, he answers 8,3/4 years old. "Was I attending readings at that age?" I asked myself. The crowd couldn't help but burst out in laughter. Then his question: why did you write this novel? And her response: "I wrote it for my son. To show him what Nigeria used to be." (paraphrased)

So here are some quotes from the reading, enjoy:
  • "There are stories in Nigeria; there are stories everywhere and we love to tell stories."
  • "People see and perceive you in different ways, there are always questions of belonging to answer."
  • "A writer needs to write a story they are passionate about. The writer's best works come from deep within"
  • "In the past, our leaders were readers and writers--Senghor, Nkrumah, Awolowo, you name them. (And Obama, she's a fan of course!)
  • "I am surprised when my son says he wants to be published in a year."
  • 'I love the continent of Africa."
Here's the debate: what's the role of a writer in the society? To portray the society or try to correct it? What's wrong with a writer writing a story about the 'Rebrand Nigeria' exercise for one? (Now, this is from us!) To what extent is the writer responsible to his/her society? Should literature be a manual to guide the society? When do you draw the line between literature and propaganda? These are some of the questions.

We have no answers, so let's talk about these issues.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What are you reading?

Do you ever feel like you are so busy as a writer that you don't have to read? Like there are so many articles, stories, poems and plays that are burning to be written down for yourself, blog, competition or even school?

Does you reading consist of online clicks between blogs, newspaper sites, emails, facebook and messenger? Does reading about a book or its review make you feel like you know the book?

If you have answered yes to any of the questions above, then you're not alone. I sometimes feel like that like I am too busy to read a proper book or even a full newspaper piece because of pressing deadlines of 21st century living.

That is one reason why I admire dediacated book club members like those that are featured in the Penguin newsletter. Remember sometime ago, I asked if you would all be interested and the general response was yes.

So starting from November, we will have our own online book club. Every month, wee'll try something new maybe a not so popular author or a different genre.

It is important to read as good writers as the greatest writers are the best readers.

I suggest we read a children's book this month to stir up memories of when we just discovered the joy of reading a real book.

Please leave your suggestions and comments as we will be deciding on the title by this Friday.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Freelance Writers Wanted

For the budding writers...seems everyone is writing these days!

UK based editorial specialists Wells Park Communications are always on the lookout for talented writers and journalists to join their team. They give work to individual freelancers on a regular basis. If you'd like to be considered for work, click here for details on how to apply.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This is for the Bookaholic Scholars...

Warning: Not the regular fun stuff but you can learn one or two things about Tess Onwueme, foremost Nigerian dramatist. Not too bad if you are just learning about her; dig in!

Theme: Osonye Tess Onwueme: Staging Women, Youth, Globalization, and Eco-literature

Venue: University of Abuja , Abuja , FCT, Nigeria(November 11 – 14, 2009)

A Little Background: Osonye Tess Onwueme, Distinguished Professor of Cultural Diversity and English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is currently, one of the best known and most prolific women playwrights of African descent .  She is a winner of several international awards, including a Ford Foundation research award.  She was recently appointed to the US State Department Public Diplomacy Specialist/Speaker Program for North, West, and East India. Onwueme has been compared to Nigerian dramatist Zulu Sofola, Femi Osofisan, and Wole Soyinka in her use of Nigerian performance structures and commitment to exploring the socio-political issues that affect the lives of the struggling masses, women, and youths in the global community today.

In over two decades,  Osonye Tess Onwueme has published over fifteen works including such influential plays  as What Mama Said (2003), Tell It to Women (1997), The Missing Face (2002) and Riot in Heaven (2006), Shakara (2006) to mention a few that have received international performances.  According to Ngugi wa Thiongo, Onwueme is “eminently a political dramatist . . . .  Her drama and theatre are a feast of music, dance, mime, proverbs, and story-telling.” Tanure Ojaide observes that she is the “most prolific and outstanding female dramatist of the new generation of African writers.”

As a writer who defines herself as pan-Africanist, Onwueme often creates plays which challenge her audiences and readers to critically investigate issues often neglected in the dramas of so many of her peers and predecessors. As Nina Adams asserts, “Through the voices of women, in Shakara and her other plays, Onwueme draws out universal themes of conflict––between rich and poor, modern and traditional–– and the conflict of the inner-self is a recurring motif” (BBC On Air, The BBC's World Service International Magazine, Sept. 2004).

The conference focuses on Tess Onwueme as a  playwright, scholar, activist, and producer whose works explore a wide range of social, political, historical, cultural and environmental concerns of Nigerians, specifically, women, youth, and people of the Niger Delta, as well as Africans on the continent and in the African diaspora.

Friday, November 6, 2009

MUSON Festival Jazz Nite

Get inspired with some jazz music over this weekend. I know I listen to music sometimes when I write, what about you?

After a two-year break, the MUSON Festival Jazz Nite returns tomorrow, November 6 and Saturday, November 7 at the Shell Nigeria Hall of MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.

The jazz component of the annual music festival was last held in 2006 when acclaimed Grammy award winning guitarist, Earl Klugh performed alongside Lagbaja.

South African master guitarist, Jimmy Dludlu will headline the two-day event starting by 7pm daily. He will be supported by six Nigerians including jazz trumpeter, Biodun Adebiyi and vocalist and guitarist, Beautiful Nubia.

Others are jazz contrabassist, Bright Gain, Mfon Umana, Pure and Simple (Ifiok Effanga and Nathan McDonald) and the 5 YZ Men, a group of five young musicians currently pursuing a diploma certificate in music at the MUSON School of Music.

Dludlu will be supported on Friday by Pure & Simple, Beautiful Nubia and Biodun & Batik while the 5 YZ Men, Mfon and Bright Gain will perform alongside him on Saturday. Popular radio personalities, Dan Foster and Tosyn Bucknor will anchor proceedings.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The New Writer Prose and Potery Prizes

Looks like you all enjoyed the newbie site, well here is another 'new' opportunity-Prose and Poetry competition just for you. Good luck!

Prizes: There is a total fund of £2000.

Poetry entree fee: £5 for up to two single poems or £12 for a collection of six to ten poems.

Short Story entry fee: £5 per story.

Serial/novella entry fee: £15 per entry.

Essay, article and interview entry fee: £5 per entry.

Payments should be made to The New Writer . Entries in the single poem section have a limit of 40 lines. Entries in the collection of poems section (6-10 poems) can be previously published and there is no line limit. Short stories up to 4,000 words and serials/novellas up to 20,000 words can be on any subject or theme, in any genre (not children's).Essays, articles and interviews should be up to 2,000 words covering any writing-related or literary theme in the widest sense.

Send a sae for an entry form to: The New Writer, P.O. Box 60, Cranbrook, Kent TN17 2 ZR.

Closing Date: 30th November 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Great Site for Newbies

Here is a great site for all up and coming and even established writers, I daresay. The newsletter is excellent and very resourceful. Here is the blurb on the opening page.

Welcome to, the site for new writers, would-be writers, aspiring writers and beginning writers of all genres and from all walks of life. Here you can learn all you need to know to start your new career as a writer today.

The Newbie Writers Resource Guide – a free 85 page ebook, emailed to you when you subscribe to our free bi-monthly newsletter. The only writing newsletter written specifically with new writers in mind.

The Newbie Writers Forum: Chat to other new writers from around the world, post work for feedback and review, ask writing related questions, or join in with our writing challenges.

Click here for more!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Season of Awards...

Sefi Atta Grabs the Noma
Sefi Atta showed through her debut Everything Good Will Come that she had no plans to leave the literary scene so soon. That book won the first Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature. Then came Swallow, a beautiful book that has led to many conversations. Her third book, Lawless and other short Stories, a collection of short stories just won her the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, 2009. The prize is worth US$10,000.

Toni Kan Wins the NDDC Prize
In the same vein, Toni Kan's Night of a Creaking Bed won the NDDC Ken Saro-Wiwa prize. Read more here.

Marie NDiaye also wins
French-born writer Marie NDiaye won France's top literary prize for Three Strong Women her captivating story about the struggles of women in Europe and Africa. NDiaye who has about over ten books under her pouch won France's Femina literary prize in 2001. NDiaye who lives in Berlin was born in 1967 to a French mother and a Senegalese father.

Congratulations People! There is indeed hope for African literature...even if we are crawling,we are moving. And that's not bad.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sarah Manyika reads from her new book In Dependence

Sarah Ladipo Manyika's debut novel In Dependence was published by Cassava Republic. Sarah, a resident of California, is visiting Nigeria this November to promote her book, which will be available nationwide from December.  Sarah spent much of her childhood in Jos, Plateau State, but has lived in Kenya, France, and England.

Visit her website here and read a review of the book here.

Readings: Lagos
Venue: Quintessence, Falomo Shopping Centre, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi
Time: 4.00pm
Date: Sat 7th November 2009

Venue: Pen & Pages
Time: 5.30pm
Date: Tues 10th November 2009
Plot 79, Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, White House, Wuse 11