Sunday, 31 December 2017

The making of a Literary Matriarch

Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo – Life and Literature (University Press Plc; Ibadan, 2017) by Ezechi Onyerionwu is an epitome of an intellectual biography that compels the interest of the avid reader, especially with a literary background. In Nigeria, of course, biographical writing culture is not novel given that over the years the literary landscape has been replete with interesting books on accomplished literary stars. In this regard, Ezenwa Ohaeto’s Chinua Achebe: A Biography is a detailed panoramic chronicle of Achebe’s literary and mundane accomplishments in diverse areas.

So also is the more recent Christopher Okigbo, 1930-67: Thirsting for Sunlight by Obi Nwakanma, a work of in-depth account of Africa’s foremost enthralling poet. There are many other works written in this vein. But Life and Literature (for short) has an uncommon ring not just because the subject of the biography is an accomplished female literary artist and scholar but also because the scintillating life of the protagonist, as it were, parallels with some intriguing exactitude the quality of the writing, a style that is describable as a strong, fetching prose that is unencumbered with infelicities of grammar or ideas.

A book of twelve interwoven chapters with salient ideas serving as the linchpin of the narrative, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Life and Literature makes its departure from earlier works in this genre by magisterially establishing biographical literature as an engaging, no-less intellectual, discipline. The author does not just chronicle the achievements of Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo as a versatile writer who has won laurels both in Nigeria and overseas but he concretizes these varied feats by laying everything bare, as it were, on the table. In a comparative streak, he admirably juxtaposes Akachi’s bold and intelligent postulations and those of her precursors in the literary vocation.

Through his adept strokes, Akachi comes across as a courageous and confident writer who is not so enamoured of the towering feats of the earlier writers that she cannot ventilate her disapproval of the seemingly prejudicial slant of their fiction. Thus in chapter 10, “The Muse Emancipist”, the rationale of Akachi’s first published novel The Last of the Strong Ones is underscored. The incursion of the white man into Africa where he maintained a strangle hold on the continent through colonialism is the main subject thematized by older writers like Achebe in some of his earlier novels like Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease and Arrow of God in fictive traditional Igbo society.

However, beyond Akachi’s manifest influence by Achebe in her narration as exemplified by the overlay of local texture, she detected a loophole – it is only male characters like Okonkwo, Obi Okonkwo, Ezeulu, etc. that are imbued with some degree of gallantry in the fight against colonialism and its negative concomitants in Africa. Female characters are barely hinted at as mere footnotes in the struggle, who at best act according to the caprices of their men folk. For Akachi, if Achebe drew from the pristine pool of history and mythology in his creative world so also will she extract from that inexhaustible repertoire from her own corner of the Igbo society, Uga, where none of the genders – men and women- was marginalized but both in a complementary streak fought the white man to finish, as it were. Interestingly, this is the major feature of most of Akachi’s works, ranging from some of her children’s fiction like The Buried Treasure, Rituals and Departures, and My Cousin Sammy to her riveting trilogy, The Last of the Strong Ones, Children of the Eagle and House of Symbols.

Onyerionwu, the author of Life and Literature displayed remarkable dexterity in pivoting the various strands of Akachi’s intellectual achievements- whether in scholarly essays, creative outputs given that she has published in virtually all the genres of literature- prose, drama, poetry, children’s literature, short story, etc.- or even journalistic articles as an editorial member of some significant newspapers and magazines- on her eyes for detail, especially in privileging the narrative favourable to women and the underdogs generally in her various literary endeavours. Her penchant for recovering part of the vital heirloom of the people occasioned by the traumatic aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War of 1967- 1970 accounts for her keen interest in working on Facts and Fiction in the Nigerian Civil War Literature as a doctoral dissertation which she obtained with accolades at the University of Ibadan. This was the impetus for her consistent scholarly interest as demonstrated in her journal articles beginning during her time as a young academic at the University of Lagos, dovetailing into her life-long academic preoccupation as seen in her books, conference and seminar papers and culminating in her earning a professorial position at the nation’s renowned citadel of learning, UNILAG.

The book is an unvarnished testament of a woman achiever on diverse fronts, much of which culminates in chapter 11“The Intellectual as Stateswoman.” Perhaps what the author of the book may not know is that through his honest account of the life of the subject captured in the tapestry of his taut narrative, he has unearthed the philosophy behind Akachi’s simple carriage and demeanour and peaceable disposition despite the towering heights she has attained in her pursuits. Through her poignant portraiture in the book and as evidenced by her numerous works, there is no disconnect between Akachi’s theories and her practical lifestyle. Most renowned critics of African literature such as Charles Nnolim, Simon Gikande, Chinyere Nwahunanya, Femi Osofisan, among others have validated this perspective in their different critical essays, a synthesis that is also reflected in this book. Her life coheres with the theory of Feminism that she invented- Snail-sense Feminism.

This is unlike some of the outrageous brands that are noticeable basically in the West. In this regard, Akachi leans more towards the innocuous sensibility that informed the ‘acommodationist’ (womanism) feminism as propounded by writers like Alice Walker. This is dexterously realized in her fiction where she deliberately forges positive binaries in the characterization of Obiatu and Ejimnkonye, in The Last of the Strong Ones, among other memorable characters, as good examples of complementary marriage partners. Also, in her latest novel Roses and Bullets, until Ginika became a pathetic victim of the lust and prodigality of the rampaging soldiers during the Civil War, her marriage to Eloka was a model of inspiration. From the illuminating backdrop in the earlier chapters which foregrounds the biography, much of Akachi’s distaste for subjugation of either partner in marriage is traceable to her own parents and grandparents.

Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo- Life and Literature has justifiably been creating positive ripples in different circles of the literati. This is perhaps because it is an unprecedented biography of a truly outstanding woman achiever to receive an unbiased assessment by an otherwise patriarchal system.

The Importance Of An Author Website

Maybe you’re just starting out on your writing path. Or maybe you’re a prolific writer that’s been around for years. No matter who you are or where you are on your publishing path, a website can benefit any writer. How can it help you?

Let People See You.
If your website is well organized and clean, it gives visitors a way to learn all about you and your writing quickly and painlessly. People like easy, so make it easy for your audience to find you and get to know you.

This is where most writers make mistake. If you aren’t a huge blogger / tweeter/ poster, then a website will still allow you to connect with your readers or anyone who is interested in you. It's important your website has features that allow people to comment about your book. It will help build buzz, and also attract more readers to the author. Your website should also give them a way to contact you directly, either by an online form or via an e-mail address.

You Are A Business. Act Like One.
Have you ever googled a business to discover it didn’t have a website? Did you wonder if the company was even legit? Did you reconsider giving them your business? Why should you be any different as a writer? Writing is your business. If you have a weak or absent presence on the web, how are your customers supposed to take you seriously? A website is just another strong way to create that presence. It sends the message that you are legit and you’re not going anywhere. And mostly importantly, your author website shouldn't be used for any other purpose. Some authors after seeing they are getting traffic to their websites, they try to make money of the website by placing ads on it. This move usually leads to drop in traffic, because the main purpose of the site has been replaced with ads that has nothing to do with the author or their writing.

Short On Time.
Ultimately, the most important thing for a writer to do is write. A website allows you to maintain a presence without sacrificing what little time you might have to dedicate to your art. How would you rather spend your time? Remember. Write, write, write. And if you’ve finished your novel, the best way to promote yourself is to write another one. Let your website speak for you.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Atogun explains the African folk narrative voice in his work

When the 9mobile Prize for African Literature longlist was recently released, Odafe Atogun was one of four Nigerian authors on it on account of his debut fiction work, Taduno’s Song and he expresses how exciting it felt to arrive at that junction: “It is like getting a present I have waited for all my life. I feel encouraged to write more and that in itself makes me feel fulfilled.”

With a new book already published in the United Kingdom and due out soon in Nigeria titled, Wake Me When I’m Gone, it seems Atogun is already living his dream as a published writer.
“Yes, these are exciting times,” he acknowledges. “When you are speaking to a global audience it does not matter where you are based. As long as your voice carries across oceans, the world is your home. Of course, when you dream you reach for the sky. You cannot fulfill your dream if you do not believe in it. And if you believe, then you will settle for nothing but the very best.”

Atogun’s style is allegory and fantasy with which he has masterfully woven his tales in the two books. Not by chance, he says, but a deliberate invention to carve a creative niche for himself.
Rather than a shift from the prevailing narrative form, Atogun asserts that his style is borne out of the need to be original and distinct as a writer.

He notes, “Deliberate invention, I must say. In the beginning, I noticed a consistency in my voice, which I felt comfortable with. So, it was a question of developing that voice over the years. Originality is the key word for any artist. The need to express myself in my own unique way has always been very important to me. So, it is not so much the desire to shift from the norm, as the tendency to be original as an artist.
“Artists are not bound by rigid styles. The beauty of creative works lies in the diverse ways in which they are presented. So, I wouldn’t say my style is different; I would prefer to say original.”

For the originality of Atogun’s style to manifest, he has had to stay close to his African roots from which he draws inspiration from the folk narrative form. He acknowledges the debt he owes African oral narratives in his works, noting, “Each time I write, I imagine that I’m telling a story to an audience gathered around a fire under a starlit sky and I naturally deploy the tone of a folklorist in presenting my story. So, I would say that African folklore has helped to develop my style in no small way.” 

Atogun’s work appropriates protest themes and he says readers should best determine how he should be read, saying, “Maybe it is just the way my mind works. We all have different approaches to dealing with issues or presenting them. As for protest, as a potent tool for social change, I think it is something that we have always deployed, but maybe not well enough. Most essential for me is to write timeless and universal stories.”

A discernable partern in Atogun’s work is his focus on the past even in an Internet age. He, however, cannot say for certain when he would write new media-compliant book, asserting, “Sometimes, some of the answers we seek are hidden in our past. When we visit our past, it helps us to understand our present and shape the future, to achieve a more promising perspective. Writing a book for the age is all about the inspiration I receive. I cannot flow counter to it. I drift with the flow of my creativity, and each work I produce will always reflect that.”

34 Writing Tips From 34 Writers

A couple of weeks ago we asked our readers to share their writing tips. The response was far beyond the initial expectations, and the quality of the tips included was amazing. Thanks for everyone who contributed.
Now, without further delay, the 34 writing tips that will make you a better writer!
Image result for writing tips 
1. Daniel
Pay attention to punctuation, especially to the correct use of commas and periods. These two punctuation marks regulate the flow of your thoughts, and they can make your text confusing even if the words are clear.

2. Thomas
Participate in NaNoWriMo, which challenges you to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I noticed that my writing has definitely improved over the course of the book — and it’s not even finished yet.

3. Bill Harper
Try not to edit while you’re creating your first draft. Creating and editing are two separate processes using different sides of the brain, and if you try doing both at once you’ll lose. Make a deal with your internal editor that it will get the chance to rip your piece to shreds; it will just need to wait some time.
A really nice trick is to switch off your monitor when you’re typing. You can’t edit what you can’t see.

4. Jacinta
In a sentence: write daily for 30 minutes minimum! It’s easy to notice the difference in a short time. Suddenly, ideas come to you and you think of other things to write. You experiment with styles and voices and words and the language becomes more familiar…

5. Ane Mulligan
Learn the rules of good writing… then learn when and how to break them.

6. Pete Bollini
I sometimes write out 8 to 10 pages from the book of my favorite writer… in longhand. This helps me to get started and swing into the style I wish to write in.

7. Nilima Bhadbhade
Be a good reader first.

8. Douglas Davis
While spell-checking programs serve as a good tool, they should not be relied
upon to detect all mistakes. Regardless of the length of the article, always read and review what you have written.

9. Kukusha
Learn to take criticism and seek it out at every opportunity. Don’t get upset even if you think the criticism is harsh, don’t be offended even if you think it’s wrong, and always thank those who take the time to offer it.

10. John England
Right click on a word to use the thesaurus. Do it again on the new word and make the best use of your vocabulary.

11. Lillie Ammann
After editing the work on screen or in print, I like to read the text aloud. Awkward sentences and errors that slipped through earlier edits show up readily when reading out loud.

12. H Devaraja Rao
Avoid wordiness. Professor Strunk put it well: “a sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

13. David
Write as if you’re on deadline and have 500 words to make your point. Then do it again. And again.

14. Yvette
Sometimes I type in a large font to have the words and sentences bold before me.
Sometimes, in the middle of a document I will start a new topic on a fresh sheet to have that clean feeling. Then, I’ll cut and insert it into the larger document.
I wait until my paper is done before I examine my word usage and vocabulary choices. (And reading this column it has reminded me that no two words are ever exactly alike.) So at the end, I take time to examine my choice of words. I have a lot of fun selecting the exact words to pinpoint my thoughts or points.

15. Amit Goyal
To be a good writer is to start writing everyday. As Mark Twain said, “the secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
Try using new words. i.e avoid repeating words. this way we learn the usage of different words.
Do edit your previous articles.
Start with small paragraphs like writing an article for a Newspaper, and proceed from there.

16. John Dodds
Remove as many adjectives as possible. Read Jack Finney’s tale, Cousin Len’s Wonderful Adjective Cellar for a fantastical tale about how a hack becomes a successful author with the help of a magical salt cellar that removes adjectives from his work.

17. John Ireland
I set my writing aside and edit a day or two later with the aim of making it terse. It has trained me to be more conscious of brevity when writing for immediate distribution.

18. Jai
Try to write in simple way. Express your views with most appropriate words.

19. Mark
Read great writers for inspiration. If you read them enough, their excellent writing style will rub off onto your dazzling blog.
YOU ARE what you read (and write!).

20. Caroline
I watch my action tense and wordiness in sentences when I am writing my technical diddley.
For example, in a sentence where you say …”you will have to…” I replace it with “…you must…”, or “Click on the Go button to…” can be replaced with “Click Go to…”.
Think of words such as “enables”, instead of “allows you to” or “helps you to”.
If one word will work where three are, replace it! I always find these, where I slip into conversational as I am writing quickly, then go back and purge, purge, purge.

21. Akhil Tandulwadikar
Don’t shy away from adopting the good habits that other writers use.
Do not worry about the length of the article as long as it conveys the point. Of course, the fewer words you use, the better.

22. Julie Martinenza
Instead of adding tags (he said/she said) to every bit of dialogue, learn to identify the speaker by showing him/her in action. Example: “Pass that sweet-smelling turkey this way.” With knife in one hand and fork in the other, Sam looked eager to pounce.

23. Aaron Stroud
Write often and to completion by following a realistic writing schedule.

24. Joanna Young
One that works for me every time is to focus on the positive intention behind my writing. What is it that I want to communicate, express, convey? By focusing on that, by getting into the state that I’m trying to express, I find that I stop worrying about the words – just let them tumble out of their own accord.
It’s a great strategy for beating writer’s block, or overcoming anxiety about a particular piece of writing, whether that’s composing a formal business letter, writing a piece from the heart, or guest blogging somewhere ‘big’…

25. Shelley Rodrigo
Use others writer’s sentences and paragraphs as models and then emulate the syntactic structure with your own content. I’ve learned more about grammar and punctuation that way.

26. Sylvia
Avoid long sentences.

27. Mike Feeney
Learn the difference between me, myself and I. For example: “Contact Bob or myself if you have any questions.” I hear this very often!

28. Richard Scott
When doing a long project, a novel, for instance, shut off your internal editor and just write.
Think of your first draft as a complex outline waiting to be expanded upon, and let the words flow.

29. David
Careful with unnecessary expressions. “At this point in time” came along during the Nixon congressional hearings. Too bad it didn’t go out with him. What about “on a daily basis?”

30. E. I. Sanchez
For large documents, I use Word’s Speech feature to have the computer read the article back. This allows me to catch errors I have missed – especially missing words or words that ’sort of sound the same’ but are spelled differently (e.g. Front me instead of ‘From me’).

31. Cat
Either read the book, then join a writing group, or hire a writing coach.

32. Suemagoo
Write the first draft spontaneously. Switch off your internal editor until it is time to review your first draft.

33. Lydia
If you’re writing fiction, it’s a great idea to have a plot. It will coordinate your thoughts and add consistency to the text.

34. Pedro
Edit your older articles and pieces. You will notice that great part of it will be crap, and it will allow you to refine your style and avoid mistakes that you used to make.

Monday, 18 December 2017

How A Self-Published Author Sold 10,000 Books Online

Last year, I self-published my first science fiction novel, Where the Hell is Tesla?, and sold 10,000 copies in the first twelve months. How the heck did that happen? Was it luck? Because if it wasn’t, how on earth did that many people find out about it and buy it? Did I know something — or someone — special that could influence the outcome?
Nope. It wasn’t luck. And it wasn’t influence. I mean, a few unexpected things turned in my favor for sure, but I strongly believe that if you’ve got a good book inside you, and you do your homework, and you put that learning to work, that you can successfully self-publish your own book and sell thousands of copies.
Here are five things I learned how to do on the road to my first 10,000 copies:
Write your best book
It sounds obvious, I know. But there’s an entire world of badly-written, poorly-edited self-published work out there. Because the tools have become so easy to use, there’s a temptation to get anything out there, without going through the rigors of research and editing, in hopes of quick discovery and viral success. Don’t give in to that temptation. I spent over a year writing my first novel, and almost a year writing my second. If you don’t know someone who can competently edit your writing, hire someone. End readers will know the difference. Here’s a small example: I released the first two parts of my novel, Where the Hell is Tesla? as serial stories, like Hugh Howey originally did with the Wool series. And though the feedback I got was largely positive, I got ripped for little editing errors. So I learned a huge lesson before selling even one copy of the full novel – the product has to be bulletproof. Editing, spell-checking, formatting, consistency, characters’ motivations, plot holes, everything. I don’t think all the marketing in the world will help a product that’s not ready to launch.

Build your “platform”
Book marketing consultant Tim Grahl defines your platform as whatever plan and methods you use to connect with readers and sell books. In my case, considering the nature of my full-time job, I couldn’t consider touring, and frankly didn’t have the patience to find a publicist that would actually respond to me as a first-time author, so I chose the online-only path: website, social media, Amazon author pages, and an email list.

• Website: Yes, it’s common sense, but if you’re going to self-publish a book, you need a website to spread the word and keep the conversation going. It’s a place for fans to contact you and a way to build your email list. You’ll start with zero traffic, as I did, but after a while (be patient!), if you’ve got some engaging content and good keywords, you’ll see the clicks and the email signups start to come in.

• Social media: I’ve heard many people advise this and I’ll tell you the same thing: don’t overdo it. With a full-time job and writing and publishing on the side, this book promotion thing at times tests my productivity limits. So, I stick with just Facebook and Twitter, and I’d say go with the one or two that feel right for you. For example, if you’re creating a graphic novel — very visual — maybe Facebook and Pinterest would be your thing. Journalist writing non-fiction? Twitter. Try them all out and see what feels right for you.
One stand-out example for me is John Scalzi (@scalzi). He’s a very successful sci-fi writer with a huge Twitter following. He uses Twitter as a sort-of ever-present sounding board, every single day, many times a day, showcasing his wry sense of humor and insistence on being himself. It’s awesome.

• Amazon author and book pages: I could get very detailed, but here’s the quick rundown: If you self-publish on Amazon, use every space they give you. Don’t leave things blank. Put plenty of key phrases in your book description and keywords list on your book sales page on Amazon. Hook up your author page to show your latest blog posts and tweets. I’ve talked to many people who can’t seem to sell copies of their books, and after looking, I find that they’re simply not taking advantage of simple features that can help them get discovered.
• Email list: Okay, this one is an uphill battle, but worth the effort. As a new author, getting people interested enough to take the ride with you through emails is tough. But since I’ve started blogging, posting, tweeting and emailing, and my list is slowly growing. I use MailChimp to manage the email list and campaigns. It’s an excellent tool at an excellent price: free.

Relentlessly pursue book reviews and exposure
I think the single biggest thing that helped sell all those books, beyond the quality of the work itself, was reviews. And here’s what I did to get them:
• Prior to launch, I contacted 75 people who agreed to be advanced reviewers, keeping in touch with them over the next several weeks, ultimately launching with 25 reviews on my Amazon sales page on day one. Enough reviews will trigger Amazon to begin recommending it to others. Your book also gains quite a bit of credibility in readers’ minds when they see more than a handful of thoughtful reviews.
• At the end of the ebook, paperback, and audiobook, I have a prominent, clear call to action asking specifically for a review on Amazon or Audible, noting that it’s the best way for independent authors and authors with small publishers to gain exposure and help sales. More people than you’d think have told me that my simply asking them to leave a review led them to write their very first review ever. Ask clearly. Readers like to help!
• I looked up reviewers on Amazon, Goodreads and Audible on an ongoing basis, and actively reached out to these individuals to provide a review in exchange for a complimentary copy of the book. Many people took me up on this offer. This is tough, tedious work, but well worth the effort.
• I’ve also run free giveaways of book copies, and engaged members of Goodreads for free copies in exchange for honest reviews.
Regarding exposure: I could write a full article just on this topic, but in brief, spend time networking with whoever you can, and investigate genre websites, and reach out as much as possible to offer guest postings, interviews, book reviews, or whatever you think that site might find interesting, or live readings at physical locations like libraries. To date, for my first novel, I’ve probably landed ten of these opportunities, which aren’t a lot, but have certainly helped me sell books.

Promote your book
Here’s where a little bit of investment can go a long way. There are all kinds of ways to use paid promotion to spread the word about your book, but here’s one example that worked for me: if you’re publishing on Amazon, you’re offered KDP Select, an incentive to sell the digital version of your book exclusively through Amazon. In exchange for this exclusivity, you’re allowed to run something called Countdown Deals. I chose this route for my novel, and here’s how I made it work:
• KDP Select: Every three months, your agreement renews, allowing you one Countdown Deal during that term. So within this first year of my first novel, I was able to run four of them. Each time, I took my normal price, $3.99, and discounted it to $0.99. (Amazon puts a timer on your book page, thus the “countdown.”)
• Email promotions: Coinciding with these Countdown Deals, I ran paid ebook promotions through book promotion sites that list discount deals, and send out daily emails to their subscribers. (Some post to social media as well.)
• Online advertising: All the major online services offer paid advertising. At one point or another during these countdown promotions, I’ve tried all of them. Overall? I’d say if you’ve got the stomach to spend money that isn’t returning as high a value as the email blast promotions listed above, but want to boost your exposure temporarily, then go for it. For each of these, you can set a daily budget not to exceed, a start and end date, and live monitoring of response. I set my daily budgets at between $5 and $20 per day for a week. I’ve run Facebook/Instagram ads, Google ads, Amazon ads, Twitter ads, and more. (I’m constantly experimenting, with varying degrees of success).
• Social Media: As a matter of course, during each of these promotions, I got the word out as much as possible through Facebook and Twitter.
The result? The four promotion periods, unsurprisingly, showed the largest spikes in sales.
Record an audiobook
Okay, this one’s a little tougher. I happen to have lots of audio recording experience, so the process was straightforward for me. The reason I include this as one of the main five things to explore when self-publishing? Because audiobooks continue to be on the rise, in a big way, with148 per cent sales growth from 2010 to 2015, and audiobooks read by their authors are also on the rise. And personally, I can attest: audiobooks account for a significant percentage of my sales.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Ace Columnist, Alfred releases new book

THISDAY columnist, Lanre Alfred, has released a new book titled: ‘The Titans: Amazing Exploits of Nigeria’s Greatest Achievers.’
The book which is the fifth of Alfred’s publishing endeavours, chronicles the exploits and attainments of Nigeria’s finest brains and leaders in different fields of endeavour.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Steve Ayorinde, graced the public presentation of the book in Lagos, on behalf of the state government, a major supporter of the author’s factual initiative.
Ayorinde commended the writer’s depth and the painstaking research that heralded the factual and inspiring narrative. Other dignitaries at the presentation enthused about the finesse and brilliant craft of the author.
According to Alfred, the book detailed the matchless and valuable contributions to the socio-economic development of Nigeria by individuals who have turned an idea into an industry and attained in the process, remarkable prosperity and renown.
“It is about the wunderkinds from the slums of Ajegunle, Bariga and Surulere, Agege, Amokoko, Ijora, among other places that have parlayed their creativity into a flourishing enterprise and are not only financially liberated but are accorded global respect,” he said.
The literature is dedicated to Capt. Idahosa Okunbo for profound reasons: chief among them is the rarity of his persona, according to the author. Alfred stressed that the Chairman of Ocean Marine Solutions flaunted the same fundamental psychology as the artist, inventor, or statesman.
“He has set himself at a certain work and the work absorbs and becomes him. It is the expression of his personality; he lives in its growth and perfection according to his plans,” he said.
According to him, Okunbo became worthy of the honour by account of his sterling industry, humanity and unpretentious modesty manifests positively on all of his acquaintances, the author inclusive.
Okunbo is a patriot whose commitment to national and economic stability are beyond doubt.
Alfred’s new book is widely commended as a product of meticulous research spanning the last decade.
“The book mirrors the outstanding resilience and perseverance of outstanding Nigerians in their ambitious dash for honour and progress and in the face of daunting political and socio-economic odds,” he said.
Some of the chapters in the book include: ‘The Forbears, Their Imperial Majesties, Like Burnished Stones, Thrill Merchants, Gods of Industry, among others.
“Essentially, I have documented in pristine prose and pictures, the inspiring exploits and attainments of Nigeria’s finest breed of magnates, politicians, scientists, academics, technocrats and entertainers who are transforming the world and inspiring others to do likewise,” said Alfred.

Thus, as he recalls his subjects’ storied trajectory and records it for posterity and historians, Alfred projects his book as an inspirational mini-biography of the exploits of Nigeria’s finest.
In commemoration of Lagos’ golden jubilee, Alfred noted that, “A section of the book has been devoted to the contributions and achievements of some Lagosians whose industry and initiatives have contributed to making Lagos the fifth largest economy in Africa and a primus inter pares in Nigeria. Their contributions to the growth of Lagos would be put into proper historical perspectives for the benefit of posterity and researchers.”

How Halimafactor Initiative illuminated Gombe Day of Literature

The Gombe Day of Literature started in 2014 under the Halimafactor Community Initiative in collaboration with the Gombe State University, and the National Orientation Agency (NOA). It has since become an annual event.
This year’s edition, which is the 4th in the series, was held at the College of Nursing and Midwifery, Gombe, and witnessed a large turnout of schools and individuals who participated in a poetry competition, poems recitation by Mohammed Adamu Baraya and Khadija Lawal Kwargana as well as drawing on the spot competition and many other scintillating activities.
Objective of the program, according to the organiser, Mrs Halima Usman, is helping the youth to find a sense of belonging and also by extension, a means of livelihood.
This, she said could be achieved through the discovery and effective use of their innate creative abilities, creating wealth for themselves and for the state and nation at large.
Mrs Usman, a renowned poet and public speaker, said the initiative would in the long run curtail violence and the menace of poverty and unemployment.
“The event is strategically designed to showcase the great literary and artistic potential of the Gombe and indeed Nigerian children and youths.
“It is a programme that seeks to discover and bring to limelight the northern child not as a lesser being but as an intelligent, resourceful, innovative and talented individual and expose them on the right platform,” she said.
Mrs Usman, who said the programme gives participants the chance to become great leaders, noted that the event was born out of “desperate need to save our children from violence, insurgency and all forms of crimes due to unemployment, poverty and despondency.”
At the programme, Governor of Gombe state, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, who hailed Mrs. Halima for the wonderful platform she has created for the youth.
The governor said the initiative was really showing to the world that Gombe state has a lot of talents that are untapped in the literary world and pledged his continued support to the program.
On his part, Director General, NOA, who was also represented by a director in the agency, spoke on support the agency was giving to the programmes from both the state and the national levels as well as the fruits the programme was yielding.
He said was a veritable platform that is helping them do some of the duties they were created for re-orientation of the people on the core values of the society.
Also speaking, the Yariman Gombe, who is also the Senior District Head of Gombe, commended Mrs Usman for showing concern to the state, adding that it is a good development despite the numerous challenges the northeast is faced with.
He said: “Halima is giving hope to the region and the state that there is much more hidden in the state that has not yet been seen and she is bringing them out to the world to see what Gombe has.”
The Head, Department of English at Gombe State University, Prof Neirus Taidi, who was the guest lecturer, spoke on the theme: ‘Truth, Politics And Nationhood: The Role Of Literary Art In National Integration.’
He emphasized on how literary works can go a long way in helping to create unity among the many ethnic groups in the country, and also help in making restless youth, who are used as vanguards in any unrest, self-reliant and through this peace is achieved.
Other dignitaries present include Permanent Secretary Special Duties, Government House, Hajiya Maryam Isa Mele; Special Adviser to the Governor/Focal Person on Social Investment; representative of the Commandant 301 Army Division; representative of the Gombe State Commissioner of Police; and Commandant, Nigerian Prison Services.
Others include: Gombe state, Commandant Nigerian Immigrations;n President, Association of Nigerian Authors, Gombe state; Provost, College of Nursing and Midwifery, Gombe state President, National Association of Students of English and Literary Studies (NASELS).
Others are: President of Jama’atur Nasir Islam, Gombe; President, CAN, Gombe state; ANA Chairmen and members from Bauchi state.
These dignitaries also gave their goodwill messages as a mark of support for the initiative as well as appreciating the initiator for a job well-done.
The media was also in attendance in their numbers.

Dami Ajayi profiles Lola Shoneyin: The cultural activist promoting African literature

Lola Shoneyin is a Nigerian poet, novelist and cultural activist. One of the most influential women of our time, she is the Director of Book Buzz Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation founded in 2012 dedicated to the promotion of Arts and Culture within local and global spaces.

Born Titilola Atinuke Alexandrah Shoneyin on February 26, 1974, in the ancient city of Ibadan, Lola Shoneyin, the only girl child, and last of six children of her parents, Chief Tinuoye Shoneyin and Mrs Yetunde Shoneyin, who hail from Remo in Ogun State.

She spent her formative years attending a boarding school from age six in Edinburgh. In 1984, following the unjust imprisonment of her government contractor father by the then military regime, she returned to Nigeria where she completed her secondary education at Abadina College. She then proceeded to Ogun State University where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in Literature.

Her poetry is defiant, playful and exuding sexual audacity. Her first book, So All This Time I was Sitting on an Egg, a volume of poems, was released by Ovalonian House in 1998. To borrow the words of scholar Tosin Gbogi, the collection was “a signature work for the gynocentric strategy that is to become the most popular in the 21st-century Nigerian literature”, in other words, a foretaste of what is now characteristic of Shoneyin’s writings.

Her second volume of poems, Songs of a Riverbird, published in 2002, was described by critics as “a conspicuous and conscious attempt by Shoneyin to return or validate her poetry with elements of oral tradition from her Yoruba worldview.”

Between publishing her first two volume of poems, Shoneyin attended the renowned International Writing Program at Iowa and was also a Distinguished Scholar of the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota. She obtained a postgraduate teaching degree in English, Drama and Media Studies at the Metropolitan University, United Kingdom in 2005.

Her third collection, For the Love of Flight, dispels any doubt about Shoneyin’s avian obsession. Published by Cassava Republic Press in 2010, fellow poet and novelist Toni Kan said (of the book) “Lola Shoneyin’s poetry evinces the makings of a sensitive and accomplished poet who tackles serious domestic and issues of the day with literary aplomb.”

Blessed with the ability to work in different disciplines, Lola Shoneyin also writes prose. A stickler for both artistic excellence and ambition, her first two novels have remained in manuscript form. However, her third novel, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, was critically and commercially acclaimed both locally and internationally; it has been translated into several languages and adapted for the stage.

Longlisted for the prestigious Orange Prize in 2011 and eventual winner of PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, The Secret Lives tells the story of a polygamous household that falls apart when an educated and young new wife arrives. This novel has been praised for its multi-layered characters, the diversity of narratives, its effortless humour and graphic details.

In April 2014, Lola Shoneyin was named on the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature. Her short story was also included in the anthology Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara.

Shoneyin has always been interested in showcasing cultural and artistic production. While living in Ibadan at the turn of the millennium, she began a cultural gathering called Ibadan Arts Renaissance. When she relocated to Abuja, she co-founded Infusion, a popular monthly gathering for music, art and culture.
Lola Shoneyin took a quantum leap in 2013 and organised the hugely successful Ake Arts and Book Festival, an annual gathering of creatives in music, film, books and visual arts now in its fifth year. Currently, this festival ranks as one of the best book festivals in Africa, having celebrated notable writers like Marlon James, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Niyi Osundare, Ama Ata Aidoo and Wole Soyinka.

In 2017, Book Buzz Foundation in partnership with Kaduna State organised the inaugural Kaduna Book and Arts Festival (KABAFEST). The Foundation, in alliance with the European Union, is running The Right to Write initiative, a mentorship programme that equips writers from Northern Nigeria with facilities, know-how as well as opportunities to find their voices and become established.

In the light of her accomplishments, one would think Lola Shoneyin will take a breather, but her restless creative spirit has nudged her into starting a publishing imprint, Ouida Books, which has published titles by notable names like Nnedi Okorafor, Ayobami Adebayo, Odafe Atogun, Tade Thompson, Dami Ajayi and Hadiza El-Rufai. Lola Shoneyin insists on producing entirely in when most of the competition print abroad. Recently, Lola Shoneyin was announced as one of the 2018 Judges for the Caine Prize of African Writing.
It is important, at this point, to state that Lola Shoneyin is an incurable cynophilist who has also written and published children’s books. She has dabbled into journalism, having writing opinion pieces in the Guardian UK. She also ran a column in the now-rested NEXT Newspaper

Thursday, 16 November 2017

How Oke won $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature

The Prof Ernest Emenyonu-led four-man panel of judges – Dr Razinatu Mohammed, Tade Ipadeola and Prof Abena Busia – has disclosed why it recommended Ikeogu Oke’s The Heresaid, as winner of this year’s The Nigeria Prize for Literature. Last Monday, Oke was announced winner of the $100,000 prize, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports. 

This year’s Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Literary Prize attracted 184 poetry collections. Of these, 101 entries were disqualified at the initial weeding carried out by the board of assessors.
But, at the final phase, the panel examined the strengths of each of the three books: Ogaga Ifowodo’s
Good Mourning, Tanure Ojaide’s Songs of Myself: Quartet and Ikeogu Oke’s The Heresaid.
To choose the winner was not come easy for the panel. According to the panel, the decision was made after diligent considerations and objective application of the guidelines and criteria. The decision, the panel said, is based on “its apt topicality, relevance, artistic heft and the pursuit of artistic provenance. In a world increasingly threatened by encroaching totalitarianism and even bare-faced tyranny and intolerance, the wit, wisdom and message of the The Heresaid are infinitely crucial.
“It is our hope and goal that the kind of vibrancy which we have found in the collections of poetry submitted is a vital evidence that NLNG is making unprecedented difference in the intellectual development of Nigeria and Nigerian today,” it added.

International consultant Abena P. A. Busia, in his report, said: “This has been a surprisingly difficult decision as each collection has very strong merits to recommend it for this prestigious prize. The three volumes, though very different, are the work of three extremely accomplished poets who, in fact, have significant aspects in common. I single out as the most salient of these traits a firm belief in the place of poetry in the service of social justice, and the desire, shared by each of them, to forge a poetic form that can contain the often difficult subject matter of the worlds they interrogate, within their structures. I discuss them here in alphabetical order by author.”

On Oke, he said: “This is a bold and wonderful experiment whose great strength also could have been its great weakness. That Oke manages to create a poem that keeps quite strictly over 100 pages to the lyric pentameter and still holds the attention of the reader is a singular achievement. The experiment in lesser hands could have led to a deadening of the senses. The volume itself is structured on a great conceit; a bold venture in defence of the art of poetry itself. The narrator is a griot narrating a great battle between supporters and detractors in defence of the humanities, and has succeeded in creating a modern epic. The mastery of form is a tour de force exemplary of the dedication to the craft the poem is inscribed to defend. It would have been wonderful if this work had not only been published in print, but had been released with an audio version because, indeed, its singular achievement is its sustaining of narrative that displays the arguments of the contending parties, and yet at the same time keeps so clear the voice of the griot. And we can indeed hear the musicality in the rigor of the lines, and the absoluteness of the rhyming scheme of heroic couplets sustained throughout the work.  In the end, if there must be a choice, my selection goes with this collection for the technical feat it performs. The deciding factor was the inclusion of the music, which I attempted playing and in doing that it brought home to me how very carefully the performativity of this work has been thought through; Oke has made ancient forms new again.”

The other finalists are Ifowodo and  Ojaide.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has since 2004 rewarded eminent writers, such as Gabriel Okara (co-winner, 2005, poetry), Prof Ezenwa Ohaeto (co-winner, 2005, poetry); Ahmed Yerima (2006, drama) for his classic, Hard Ground;  Mabel Segun (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) for her collection of short plays Reader’s Theatre; Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) with her book, My Cousin Sammy; Kaine Agary (2008, prose); Esiaba Irobi (2010, drama) who clinched the prize posthumously with his book Cemetery Road; Adeleke Adeyemi (2011, children’s literature) with his book The Missing Clock; Chika Unigwe (2012 – prose), with her novel, On Black Sister’s Street; Tade Ipadeola (2013; Poetry) with his collection of poems, Sahara Testaments; Sam Ukala (2014; drama) with Iredi War; and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (2016, Prose) with Season of Crimson Blossoms.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly among four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature.

Chinua Achebe: Why the Nigerian author is one of the world's most important modern writers

The late Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has been honoured in a Google Doodle, underscoring his status as a towering figure of 20th century literature.

By creating a doodle marking what would have been Achebe’s 87th birthday, the tech giant is celebrating a writer many consider to be father of modern African literature.

Writing amid a post-colonial movement that saw African nations cast off decades of foreign rule and seek political sovereignty, Mr Achebe lent a voice to a generation of Africans who refused to be defined solely through the lenses of European thought.

Part of that work involved telling distinctly African stories from the perspective of African characters, helping to forge a literature that — like newly created countries — was independent from Europe.

Mr Achebe did so across dozens of novels and books of poetry and essays, leading many to refer to him as “the father of modern African literature”. He died in March of 2013 at the age of 82, having collected accolades that included the Man Booker International Prize.

His oeuvre stood in deliberate opposition to works of European literature that cast Africa as a setting and its people as bit players in the central affairs of Western characters. He denounced novelist Joseph Conrad as a “bloody racist” and called Mr Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness”, in which a European explorer plunges into a threatening and unfathomable Africa, as “a totally deplorable book”.

In contrast to European works that allowed Africans only minor or one-dimensional roles, Mr Achebe wrote novels that showed Nigerians as complex characters endowed with agency.

His best-known work, “Things Fall Apart,” remains a staple of school curricula. It tells the story of Okonkwo, the proud leader of his village.

The novel depicts the complex customs of the Igbo people, one of multiple ethnic groups in Nigeria with a distinct culture and language. The book portrays how Okonkwo’s world is upended by the appearance of Christian missionaries, and its closing paragraph — written from the perspective of a recently arrived colonial leader — functions as a haunting allusion to how European observers reduce and dismiss complex African cultures:

“He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.”

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Importance of Editing and Reviewing a Manuscript

One of the most common questions I receive is, “Why isn’t my book selling?”  The answer is usually painful to hear.  Avoiding that question altogether lies in tackling another question early in the publishing process, “What will prevent my book from selling?”

Editing is one of the absolute factors that will influence your book sales. The degree to which you personally edit your thoughts and writing, combined with the degree to which you invest in professional editing will ultimately play a large role in developing reader comfort.  A great edit will not ensure your book sells, but it will definitely eliminate one of the largest potential detractors that might prevent book sales.

Some authors decide against getting their books edited.  It takes time, can be expensive, and can be emotionally invasive.  After putting your heart and soul into something, it can be very difficult to hear what needs to be fixed.  By definition, editing is critical, so it’s not at all uncommon to see authors avoid it like the plague.  When I wrote my first book I did not initially have it professionally edited, and it was one of the larger mistakes I made in my first foray into publishing.  I thought that I was saving money and time, but in the end I was mistaken on both counts.  It did not save me time and ended up costing me more in the long run.

The truth of the matter is that even extremely experienced writers have their works professionally edited.   Traditional publishing houses put every book through a minimum of two edits.

Professional editors, like the ones we work with at Black Tower Publishers , are trained to put their own personal feelings aside and focus on enhancing your work.  There is a significant difference between having a professional do the job and letting a friend edit your book.  Friends have a tendency to be less critical than is helpful.  Although they may have the best intentions, their ability to ensure the essence of your book is conveyed properly generally falls short.

The two questions that are probably on your mind at this point are, “How much editing do I need”, and  “How much is it going to cost?”   Every manuscript is different.  Fortunately there is an inexpensive way to address both questions: a Manuscript Review Analysis.  Black Tower Publishers offers this professional service; designed to help authors know the type of manuscript editing they would need for their manuscript, and they will also review the manuscript and give tips on how to better the manuscript. The last time I checked, they charge about N4,500 for that service. Manuscript Review will help you know what you are doing. They will let you know if your manuscript is ready to be edited and published, or if you have to revisit the manuscript and do some more work on it.

So whether you’re just starting your work or wondering why it isn’t selling the way you would like, it’s always a good time to think about editing.

Happy Publishing!

See Why Every Writer Should Publish Online In Nigeria

Most Nigerian authors have been searching for publishing companies to help them publish their books. They expect the publishing houses to review their manuscripts and then offer them publishing contracts where the publishing house handles the cost of publishing the book. Well, as long as it’s in Nigeria, that might never happen because most publishing houses in Nigeria don’t operate that way. They can only offer contracts to well established writers like Chimamanda, Wole Soyinka or promising up and coming writers like Charles Umerie. These are people they think they can make profit off their books even if it didn’t sell well. Nobody wants to invest their money into an unknown author; and not just that, Nigerian literary business isn’t as hot as that for unknown authors to break the market just like unknown music artists do all the time. That’s the simple truth.
A lot of young authors have figured that too, and they don’t depend on publishing houses to give them contracts. Rather they resort to printing their own books. That’s a totally brave move, but very unwise. Unless you have people requesting your book before you print it, and also have a perfect channel to distribute it after publication, you shouldn’t think of wasting money by printing it.
Well don’t be discouraged by this post because I have an amazing solution on how you can achieve your literary dreams. Have you heard of online publishing? Most people have, but if you haven’t, I think you should really pay attention.
Online publishing can be the answer to the problem young Nigerian authors face today. With online publishing, your book would be available for purchase worldwide! That’s one thing printing your book can’t give you. You can’t distribute it worldwide.
We live in an advanced age, and if you look around, you will notice that printed books are starting to lose value. Everything is read digitally these days. If you go to church, pastors are using iPad as bible. Even newspapers don’t sell that much again! Why purchase bulky papers when you can read them online- for FREE?!
That’s the world we live in, and young writers should adapt too. My advice to them should be they should publish online first. When you publish online, and maybe you are lucky enough to break the internet with your online published work, you will notice how publishing houses would be calling day and night to publish your work because you have proved that your work worth the risk.
Now let’s talk about how you can publish online.
Publishing online is just like printing the book. Both of them are still read. That’s what most online publishers forget. They think since it’s mostly free to publish online, they can treat their work anyhow and put it out for people to see; and still at the same time expecting to sell thousands of it. If you don’t prepare your online work professionally, it will never get anywhere. It would be available to the world, but only to be rejected by the world too.
With my research, it costs about N200,000 to print about 500 copies of your book, and still, most people won’t sell about 50 copies of that book. But do you realize that with just.. let’s say N50,000, you can have your book professionally published online? If you can handle the processes of publishing it yourself, starting from editing the manuscript, formatting it to kindle format or epub, designing the book cover and uploading it online, then you do it yourself. But if you can’t, I suggest you meet a professional to help you do it. There are a few publishing houses that help people publish online at a very cheap rate. Check BLACK TOWER PUBLISHERS NIG and contact them.
After your work is available to the world, all you have to do then is promote. As a person, you have friends and families. Share the link to your book to them through Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, and also ask them to share with their friends and relatives too. Then connect with them and build yourself some fanbase.
There are many platforms to publish your book online. They include Createspace, Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Lulu, etc. Createspace offers you a chance to publish your work, but it cannot be downloaded and read digitally. What they do is print-on-demand. That is when people order a copy or copies of your book, they print the book and ship to the person. Amazon Kindle can be downloaded digitally, but that is mostly for international sellers. Most African countries (including Nigeria) can’t purchase kindle books on Amazon. But you can still publish there if you still wish sell to international audience that reads mostly kindle books. Then the best one for Nigerians is Okadabooks and Lulu. Okadabooks is easier, and it has over 100,000 readers on their site. Readers can easily purchase your eBook just by recharging their Okadabooks account with airtime. The minimum withdrawal limit on Okadabooks is N10,000, and you can withdraw straight to your local bank account. Lulu offers two options. You can publish it as Print-on-demand or just as ebook.. or even both for the same book! People can easily buy your book with their ATM cards, download the book and then read it on the phone with an ePub reader!
You can visit these sites and find which is best for you! Or contact Black Tower Publishers and request how they can help you publish online.  Good luck!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

INTERVIEW: Miriam Walker on her debut novel, Overthrown

Some time ago, we had an exclusive interview with Miriam Walker about her upcoming book titled Overthrown. But today, we are proud to announce the book is finally out!

Miriam Walker has a lot to say about Overthrown and has granted many interviews to discuss her inspirations, thought process, and takeaways from the book. By reading this interview, you might be able to get to know Miriam and the book a little more from the interview.


We interview Miriam Walker and discuss her debut novel, Overthrown.

On ourprevious interview with you, you promised us Overthrown would be ready this year; and you surely delivered. Now this is your debut novel. How does it feel?

Miriam:  I feel happy and fulfilled; it’s my debut novel after all. After dreaming about it and surmounting all hurdles, it’s finally here!

Some of our readers might not know much about Overthrown. Are you able to tell us a bit about it?

Miriam: Overthrown is a story that delves into the past; it takes readers back in time. It talks about ancient rulers, kingdoms and how people probably lived their lives then. Many events unfold in the book but ultimately, the story revolves round the protagonist, Oroma – who she was and the series of events that played a part in shaping who she became. But I would stop here, it’s up to readers to discover what lies within the book. (*winks and smiles*)

The book is written from the perspective of your narrator, Oroma. Had you always planned to write the novel in this way? 

Miriam: Yes, I had always wanted it to be from her perspective. I did that because I wanted my readers and I to be able to relate with the main character, to see from her perspective, to feel the way she felt. I wanted it to feel like the protagonist was talking to the reader.

Once the decision had been made to use this style, was it a challenge to maintain it, or was it just something you adapted to?

Miriam: Once I decided to write the story from her perspective, it began to flow naturally and easily. So yes, I adapted to it.

Some readers would suggest Wami should have ended up with Oroma after everything. But do you feel he had a bigger role to play as an independent chief than just ending up as Oroma’s husband?

Miriam: Right from the beginning, I always knew Wami and Oroma would not end up together because Oroma had always seen him as a friend and brother, even if he had feelings for her. As some people would say, he had been ‘friend-zoned’. I just knew I wanted him to play a different role aside from marrying her. What I didn’t know initially, was what he would finally be and do in the end.

Let’s not get into the book that much and spoil the fun for future readers. Tell readers what they would expect from Overthrown.

Miriam: Readers should expect some African history and culture, that we may not be too familiar with. And of course, there would be that blend of adventure, action, romance and suspense.

After this, what next? Any plans for another book?

Miriam: Yes, I hope to publish more books after this one but that may be much later. Hopefully one day, Overthrown could be made into a film. For now, I just want people to read it and for as long as possible, ‘reign’.

Final question; do you have any advice for the yet-to-be-published writers on how to get published?

Miriam: First, writers who want to have their works published someday, should write. They should keep on practicing to become better writers without relenting. They should have that passion and desire to write.Secondly, they should always have that dream of having their books published without giving up on it no matter how long it takes. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and publish my book ever since I was a child. Thirdly, they should look out for publishers. The internet has made this easier. In fact, that was how I discovered Black Tower Publishers. After finding publishing companies, they should contact them and send those publishing companies their manuscripts. It doesn’t matter if they are rejected; they should keep on trying until at least one ‘clicks’. Finally, have mentors and role models. Such people are important because they have been on that same road before, so the advice they give could help them in becoming better writers and getting published one day. If they know a published writer personally, it would be a great advantage to them. If not, they could take on a role model that would inspire them. Personally, writers like Elechi Amadi, Chibundu Onuzo and Chimamanda Adichie always inspire me and make me believe that this dream of telling my story and publishing a book really is possible.

That was our interview with young talented Miriam Walker. Her book, Overthrown, was published by Black Tower Publishers, and you can order your copies for schools, libraries, prisons, and other public places. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

We have sacrificed much for Nigerian writers – BM Dzukogi

BM Dzukogi, writer and literary activist, has again thrown his hat in the race to be elected president of the Association of Nigerian Authors at Next weekend’s convention in Makurdi, Benue State. In this interview, he speaks about what derailed his chances in the last elections, his scathing assessment of the present administration and what he intends to bring to the table and lots more.
So, I take it that the ANA house is not ready yet for our practical contribution to the Nigerian literary space at that level. You know how Nigeria works, especially when it comes to elective offices. So much retreat to little enclaves. So many considerations for material, and so little for evident results. Otherwise, how could we have been beaten with our enormous contributions to the development of literature in Nigeria?

You are again contesting for president this year. What makes you think the outcome will be different this time?
You are always hopeful that the result will favour you. If you win, you win. If you lose, you lose. What is important is that, there is always a next time. The next time is here. For me, losing or wining is the same from a sportsman perspective. Our loss, last two years, didn’t affect our productivity. We returned to our Art Centre and did great things that even the national ANA didn’t do. The impact of our initiatives, programmes and book development are evident.

You had a comprehensive manifesto last time. Has this manifesto been updated, what changes have there been in your plans for ANA?
Not much has changed. The only addition is that we now have a national festival of teen authors called NIFESTEENA. Seven or so states participated in the maiden edition this year. We hope to stage the next one in Kaduna. We hope the wife of the governor will take up the challenge of hosting it. If I become the president of ANA, like we exported the Nigerian Writers Series and the national Teen Authorship Scheme there, we shall take this one there too. There is also a programme called Naija Book Hunt and Harvest which is a national book collection activity for onward distribution to schools. Our state chapters should be able to adopt these programmes for a holistic national book development plan we hope to launch in conjunction with state governments.

Everything in the former manifesto is alive. Even some of you who are wining prizes up and down, we shall persuade all of you to establish a national endowment fund for publishing teen authors. Win a prize, give the child-writer small. Simple. Annually, we shall select five states to benefit. By the end of two or four years, we should have introduced new little writers to the scene for which ANA can say, this is what we have done. With all sense of humility, I think we have the ideas that can work. We do not shy away from espousing them publicly because we have more, given the necessary resources. Our central focus shall be on young writers. Adults have their ways.

What is your assessment of ANA in the last two years? How do you think the administration has performed?
Because I think I can do better. I have not seen much from them other than trying to maintain the balance they met. We need adventures. Nobody grows in an atmosphere of mediocrity. We are not ANA president yet, but we have introduced NIFESTEENA that is gathering teen artists around the country for a festival. Who are the sponsors? ANA members and the Niger State government. Now, listen. Because of NIFESTEENA, Akpoveta and another girl from Bayelsa who attended the maiden edition and won trophies got a chance to meet Pa Gabriel Okara and the commissioner of education there. Can you quantify how much morale boosts it is for them, for their art? Our adventure led to that result. The same thing for kids from Kebbi State. This ANA leadership is not adventurous. They seem to be contented with the usual.

Development has begun on the ANA land finally. Is this something that has impressed you or do you think there could have been another way of going about it?
If development has started, that’s great. We all started it. I had to leave because of the book agency we got in Niger. I am happy to hear that it is on. All state chapters should seek to have theirs too. Niger has but left undeveloped.

One of the ANA projects you have been heavily involved with from inception was the Nigerian Writers’ Series. From publishing 10 books in the first series, the second has only three books. How do you think the project has fared?
That’s evidently a backward movement. You don’t need any serious mathematics to know that this is not progress. The first set of books came from the purse of Niger State government. There is no Nigerlite on the list because none qualified for it. We have sacrificed much for Nigerian writers. When the current leadership came on board, I thought they would be magnanimous enough to say Dzukogi, let’s go back to the Niger State government for the continuation of the series and teen authorship scheme. They didn’t. In fact, they sought to ban it. Even to visit Talba, who gave them the money, they didn’t. They should have gone to thank him in Abuja, they didn’t. To come to the current governor to say thank you, this is what the previous governor did, please, could you do the same? They didn’t. They just abandoned me because I contested against them. In Nigeria, an opposition is an enemy. Funny people. Now, they didn’t come to our governor and they didn’t get their governors to do the same. What has the president’s governor done for ANA, that Kogi State governor, since Denja became our leader, what has he done for ANA? It’s only Camilus. He is the one. The business of leading ANA is a bag of volunteerism in which any lack will retard the gains others have achieved in the past.

One of the major challenges of ANA has been funding. Do you think this administration has done enough to raise funding for the association or is there a better way of doing it?
Of course not! If they did, where are the tangible results? Where are the books facilitated? We published 11 books in 2016 alone at the art centre. No state chapter has ever done that. For the past two years that we lost the election, there are three unmatchable feats we have achieved with little funding: the 11 books; NIFESTEENA; and establishing branches of our foundation in states of the federation. Little money can do great things, especially if it is about young people.

Is there any plan you have for improving the Nigerian Writers’ Series?
Sure man! I am not only going back to the Niger State government, we shall position the programme at chapter levels. We shall pool money from organisations, individuals, governments and institutions to build capacities of writers and publish their works. Anything short of fifteen titles annually, forget it. That’s how my colleagues in ANA Niger were showing concern that I was carrying too many bags on my head. I told them that my head is not my head; my mind is my head.

What is it that the mind does not carry? We shall do more for teen authors and young writers. Mine shall be a heavy dose of publishing. Sorry, enough of the old guards. These boys and girls must move to the centre stage. You can only achieve that when you are publishing the good ones en masse. They too would have to bear with the little ones that are sprouting behind. This is growth and development. It’s a movement in the offing, man! A movement has sprouted from Niger State. The movement is unstoppable whether with ANA presidency or not.

You have been instrumental in capacity building for writers, especially among young ones in Niger State. You have mentioned how keen you are to take this to the national level. How do you propose to do this?
I just mentioned them. We shall revive all we did before and push them further. We have the credibility, we have the diplomacy, and we have the heart. What you love to do, what you have interest in, is not a burden. It is all about volunteerism. That’s the unmatchable spirit of our operation and existence. This spirit now lives with many children.

You are a key figure in ANA Niger, the state chapter has suffered serious political crisis recently, some of which, it was said, contributed to you losing the elections last time. What caused these divisions in ANA Niger?
Brother, I am tired of that mess. A stranger came and scattered us. They almost killed our peace. Recounting that s**** is not for me again. We are re-positioning the chapter. Only writing writers would be our members, henceforth. We are drawing up a bye-law. We are making progress. Alhaji Dangana is handling the situation. To be ANA president is not compulsory. It is only a means to accelerate your vision for the writers’ community and Nigeria. Otherwise, we are already achieving a lot in many directions.

Do you think that now you can fully count on the support of ANA Niger at the congress?

Speaking of Niger and one of your major achievements, the Niger State Book Development Agency has devolved from a great idea to a typical government agency that hasn’t delivered much in the last two years. What went wrong with that idea?
I think those who are there now lack ideas. They can’t even do a thing to get the attention of government. In fact, they are losing ground. Other agencies have come to snatch away the offices because of their idleness. They have no D.G who will probably talk to the governor directly or use other ways of creating impact. They are just there. They allocate funds annually to the agency but the complaints I get is that the ministry of finance doesn’t release the funds. I think it has more to do with uncreative leadership there. Why is the governor listening to the Art Centre?

Why is the chief of staff listening to our programmes? Why did the former commissioners of education, madam Madugu, and Ramatu of Investment listen to us? The leadership at the book agency must wake up because government has been supporting our adventurous programmes from the Art Centre. The agency is in the right position to get more support than us. Let the leadership of the agency become pro-active.

You mentioned before that you had plans to replicate the Book Development Agency across the states if you become president. How do you intend to achieve this and crucially, if done, how do you hope to sustain it so it doesn’t go the way of the one in Niger?
Through advocacy visits to the state governments and getting a commitment from governors. Katsina State government is planning one right now. If we get governments to do it, are there no writers in the state to sustain them? If you look at that of Niger, it is not that it is dead, it is only in coma. It means it can be revived. But what are the writers there, who are staff of the agency doing? Why are they allowing it to die? Everyone comes to build on what has been established, that’s how society grow. You say that it becomes my sole responsibility to initiate and give it life forever? All the chapters of ANA will have a duty to sustain what is theirs. Our duty shall be to convince governments to have it.

All things considered, what would you say are your chances at the forthcoming elections?
As always; hopeful! It is in their interest to elect me. They are the ones to benefit because we do the thing we say. I am a sportsman. The spirit is dynamic. There shall always be a next time if there is life. But for this one, the hope is even higher than 2015 for the fact that what we have done at the Art Centre in the past two years is an exemplification of the potency of our fertility to be agents of genuine development.