For those in Lagos, Nigeria...

Abuja, Enugu and other dates coming up soon.

Join Author Myne Whitman as she unveils the Lagos winners of her book raffle. She will also read from A Heart to Mend and her WIP and answer questions from the audience. If you have bought the book, please come with your raffle tickets, prizes include - Starcomms Modem, Camera Battery, SD Cards, Flash Drives and Picture Frames. There will be signed pictures of the author, bookmarks and stickers for every guest. Entrance is FREE!

Date : Sunday 5th December 2010
Time : 2pm - 4pm
Venue : The Hub Media Store, Palms Shopping Mall, Lekki Lagos

Edith Ezeji - Bleeding Heart ... Guest Author

My name is Edith Ezeji, I am a Nigerian from Imo state, though I grew up in Ogun state Nigeria. I am the second of four children. I was born in 1983, went to Sango Otta High school in Ogun state after which I came to England and did a secretarial course at Newham College.

1. First off—when did you start writing?
I started writing 4 years ago but I never got the courage to publish a book.

2. What type of book is this, is it an autobiography?
It is a romantic novel, a very emotional novel.

3. Do you intend to write more books?
Yes, of course. If this one is successful, I will.

4. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
It all started when I gave birth to my daughter, I tried to write something emotional, just because of the way I was feeling at that particular time. It helped me to put more emotion to it.

5. How long did it take you to write?
Well, it took just two to three weeks to write the book.

6. What project or projects are you working on now?
I am really trying hard to get it out there for people to read, I know that a lot of people will learn from this book, especially women.

7. Tell us a bit about the book?
This book is about a young lady whose life was full of pains and frustration. It tells how Angela managed to survive in Greece, being forced to do prostitution and how she refused to do what they expected her to do. She was betrayed and humiliated by everyone she trusted; all she ever thought about was to commit suicide. However, she managed to pull through the agony of a bleeding heart.

8 Which of your characters do you most relate with?
The character that is most attached to me is Angela, who is the main character. In the book, she met Nick and got pregnant. It was almost completely true to my life.

9. What’s in a name? How did you decide on the title of yours?
You know when you are in pains and you find it difficult to breath, it will be like you have been stabbed in your heart. I put myself in Angela’s shoes. I felt the way she was feeling at that moment, and that was when the title Bleeding Heart came to my mind.

10. How do you “get in the zone” when writing? Do you listen to music? What is your writing environment like?
It will sound funny but I write when I am upset or feel let down, that's why I am always writing emotional stories (laugh)

11. Tell us about the journey from writing your book, the editing process, and so on.
It wasn't easy at all but I thank God almighty for seeing me through the whole process.
A friend of mine gave me my publisher's number and I called them to try my luck then they asked me to send the story which I did. Later, they called me back to tell me that they liked the story.

12. What’s your favorite part of being a writer?
My favorite part of being a writer is that I get to tell the story as if it is real. I don’t just write, I want people to learn from any story I tell.

13. Most people write part time. What do you do when you aren’t writing?
I work part time as a sales assistant.

14. What are your favorite books? Authors? Movies? Songs?
My favorite book is a book written by Philippa Gregory, titled The Queen's fool. It is a very interesting story. I mostly watch American movies like Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I love P square and other artistes as well.

15. Where can we buy Bleeding Heart by Edith Ezeji? What’s your web presence?
The book will be out 1st of November and it is going to be in Amazon. I am also on Facebook.

Picture weekend - Send-off Winter Style

I was complaining that I would miss snow since I was spending Christmas in Nigeria. Well what do you know? I got a winter-style send off from our weather over here. From Monday through to Tuesday morning, it kept on snowing. Even when it stopped, the weather was in the low 20s for most of Wednesday and the inches of snow lay thick on the ground. A lot of places were closed, including schools, libraries, etc. Well I am in Nigeria now and enjoying the heat, so take that winter, lol...

What are you Thankful for this Thanksgiving?

HAPPY THANKSGIVING in advance to everyone, especially those in America.

I love the spirit of the thanksgiving day here in the states because apart from its history and the turkey and all, it is good to have a thankful heart and give thanks always. As it is, this is also the period when most churches in Nigeria do their various major thanksgivings, you know the ones that have the bazaar at the end. I remember as a child, looking forward to that day because of the variety of food that would be on offer. There were games too though I rarely won at those try-your-luck. Still it was the closest thing to a town fair and we got to meet most of our friends and family friends.

This year, God has been especially good to me and my heart is glad as I prepare to travel back to Nigeria. I am so thankful for life, love, health, but especially for my family. We had some crisis with my Dad and my sister, both around the same time in the middle of the year. But God proved faithful and answered our prayers. God is good and I thank him for EVERYTHING.

I also thank my SO, he's the most wonderful, supportive and loving man to me. Someone said to me, "What has got into you in the past two years? I didn't know you had so much in you." And I replied, it's all in the person who has become my husband and more importantly, my partner within this time. It couldn't have been the same without him. Thank you so much darling, I love you.

I am also thankful to you all, my readers, commenters, reviewers and supporters. Your words keep encouraging me and I am very grateful.

So what are you thankful for today?

Picture Weekend - At the Art Museum

Hello everyone, hope your weekends are going well so far? We visited our local Art Museum recently to see an art fair and the Guild sale of some art work. We managed to get a big old painting and some other vintage stuff at very good prices. Wishing us all the best as we enter into the new week.

A speaking event at the Garden City Literary Festival

Some of you may already know that I will be visiting Nigeria soon. The first part of my visit will be to promote A Heart to Mend in the country. I am very grateful for the wonderful reception the book has received there and it will be awesome to meet some of the people who have read AHTM. For the first few weeks of my visit, I'll be taking part in various book events in Lagos, Abuja and some other cities. The one I'm most excited about is the Garden City Literary Festival in Port Harcourt. I've been selected as a speaker on one of the interactive sessions and I also look forward to meeting Wole Soyinka, JM Le Clezio and a galaxy of 50 other writers and authors in Nigeria including Reuben Abati, Adaobi Nwaubani, Helon Habila, among others.

The festival's latest press release is below. You can see the programme HERE

Garden City Festival Reveals Exciting Line-up of Events.

With just a month to go before the third annual Garden City Literary Festival gets underway, the organisers have revealed a line-up of events that promises to offer something exciting for all lovers of books and literature.

The highlight of the four-day event is a historic meeting of two Nobel Laureates – Professor Wole Soyinka and Mr J.M.G Le Clezio. Fans are being invited to send questions in advance for a special interactive conversation with these two great writers.

In keeping with the festival’s tradition of creating a forum for learning, improvement and debate, a special seminar will be held which focuses on the use of social media and how that impacts on Nigeria’s book industry. This topical seminar will be facilitated by Myne Whitman, a refreshing new writer who has used the popular medium of the internet to promote her own writing as well as the work of other Nigerian writers.

And that’s only a small part of what’s in store for visitors to the festival. The ever-popular writers’ workshops will make a welcome return with the celebrated Guardian columnist Reuben Abati taking a class on non-fiction writing, while acclaimed young authors Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and Helon Habila present sessions on prose and novel writing. Poet and playwright Zainabu Jallo will be imparting her knowledge on drama and poetry.

Add to this a book fair, an exciting photo exhibition and special children’s events, plus a rounding off of the festival with an awards gala dinner, where 50 writers from the past 50 years will be honoured for their contribution to Nigerian literature and you have a literary festival that is definitely not to be missed.

The Garden City Literary Festival is a collaboration of the Rivers State Government and the Rainbow Book Club. It will take place from the 8th till the 11th of December at Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt. To find out more or suggest questions for the Nobel Laureates, visit

Debate Tuesday - The Orator and his Audience

Who is to blame when bad things happen?

...Oratory exists above the ordinary; it is prepared with passion, infused with creativity, and masterfully crafted to offer a sublime experience. Read more on Oratory...

So we had some friends over during the weekend and this discussion cropped up.  One guy regaled us with anecdotes of competitions at a Toastmaster's conference and how those with good oratory skills - which according to all indices boils down to arousing emotion in your audience - won. The discussion led to other orators past and present, including Martin Luther King, Obama, and some of the pastors in Nigeria. It is no secret that the latter, most especially, Adeboye, Oyedepo, Oyakhilome, TB Joshua and Adefarasin, control millions of people in the country, maybe even up to half of the Christian population.  I was not happy about how these pastors misuse their power for personal gain, are unaware of their clout or simply ignore how they can use it for social gains for the whole country.Anyway, that is a topic for another day.

Today, I want us to talk about another part of the discussion. It is obvious that by it's very use, oratory or simply the gift of the gab, can be used for bad too. So when things go bad, who is to blame? The good speaker or the people who bought what he was selling? Some examples;

Hitler used his so-called sweet tongue to get most of the Germans to support him during World War 2 and the persecution of the Jews.

Rev. King, a self-styled Nigerian pastor used his charisma to do terrible things to his church members, including murder, rape and fraud, etc.

Jim Jones, an American preacher some decades ago, convinced all his members to move to a different country and while in the jungle, he led them to commit mass suicide.

Ade Demi, a fictitious person, convinced 5 women he was in love with them simultaneously. Not only did he leave 3 of them with babies and/or pregnancies, he also swindled all of them of their life savings. He is yet to be found by the British police.

What say ye? The orator or his audience?

Prince Adewale Oreshade - Sad Nectar (Guest Author)

I met prince Adewale on Facebook, one of those young people who are quite passionate about literary things. It turns out that he has a book of poetry under his belt and there's quite an interesting story about how he got his cover model for the book. Read on...

Kubiateno: The Pretty Face on my Front Page!

Well, to start with, I am the humble author of Sad Nectar; a collection of poems. Its a book that illustrates meticulously on life, love and death! I published and launched my book myself, two weeks to my final exams in the prestigious Faculty of Law; University of Lagos at the time. On the 27th of July, 2010. I found my self at the biggest mall on the Island. The Palms. And in it is the most exquisite bookshop I have seen in Nigeria. The Hub. With books of different genres, sizes and colours. I was there for a meeting with young Mr. Chux Ogene, the one who designed my book cover pro bono!

I first met Chux the Saturday before that week at a youth seminar and we agreed on how the front page should look. The mere fact that he understood my poetic insight into how the front page should look really convinced me that he was the man. Very creative, artistic and dynamic a young man. He was willing to do my work even to the extent that I had to cut his zeal down a little. He wanted to make all the pages glossy, he wanted all the poems to have an image adapted to it vis-a-vis its message. He really wanted it to be a master piece.

For the model, Chux said that the lady's face must be long, she must be dark, low cut would be preferable or loosened hair. That she must also be pretty with almond-like eyes. At that point, there was just one person I could think of, a Diploma in Law Student at the time, but she could not make it. But then, I said to myself, 'Wale, you are at The Palms', 'it is probably the biggest shopping mall in Lagos', 'Lagos; the heart of Africa! Every kind of person is here, Wale. Every kind.' So I took the challenge and walked down the aisle of the mall; of course with my nerd frames. I looked and looked.

Soon I found myself going into Shoprite; one of the shops in the mall. Immediately I stepped into Shoprite, one of the attendants caught my sight; she was very dark, as dark as her black shirt, she had white eye balls and she wasn't all that pretty and she had her hair all plaited. Making her a second choice, if a better option surfaced. In there that day, there were lot of ladies, from the fat to the slim. Africans to Non-Africans and so on. I tried my best and just when I was about to go and search for the attendant, I saw Kubiateno!

She was chocolate in colour and would pass for beautiful. Her eyes, were wide and milky and her face was quite long. Her hair wasn't plaited and her looks were just simple. Simplicity I must agree seduces me. She was just the breathing picture of the lady I had been searching for. As friendly as I could, I walked up to her and said that I would love to talk to her, she obliged. I explained my plight slowly to her. I explained who I was and how the book of poetry meant much to me. She agreed to do the photo shoot. 'Seriously?', I said. 'Yes', she said. Then I became afraid with all kind of thoughts rushing down my spine. But Kubiat's smile led me on.

As we walked back to Chux, 'Don't worry', she said, 'I will do it for you.' She informed me that she didn't stay or school in Lagos. She has lived all her life in Akwa-Ibom State and the only reason she was in Lagos was to attend an interview at the American Embassy. She was going to be in the United States in couple of week's time and here I am with her. Is this really happening? It seemed so much as if I was opening pages of a book of dreams! 'Yes, dreams'. It was a prayer answered, a miracle to behold!

As to what is now my cover page; I use this medium to dedicate it to her. The sweet nectar that dripped from the dewy flower. Miss Kubiateno Ekong.

The choice of black is intentional, not just because the title of the book has 'Sad' in it but also because I love black and I am black. Black was used to express the mood of the book. Black in modern times, is the colour you see at events like funerals, where sadness is being celebrated. But to tell of the Nectar which is something sweet; there had to be a colour that represents sweetness, peace or love. So the title was written in white, her eyeballs which tells of a dream un-achieved was also white. And her lips was faintly glossy with silveric white. There was also a play of yellow on the cover. The use of yellow is to elaborate a tale of a slithered heart. More or less what a yellow rose represents. The nectar from the yellow flower on her face was also yellow but softly swayed with a touch of black.

In fact, just by her sad expression, one could easily tell what Sad Nectar entails. The yellow flower etched on her face is a personification of sought, depicting the mood and aura of simply a pretty lady who has gone sad! Who is the lady? What does she represent? Is she a work of art or just a reportage? Is this another work of allegory? The lady or the Nectar could be said to be you and I! It could be said to belong to pessimistic or optimistic hearts! It could be said to be Africa or the world at large!

It should be noted that in interpreting works of art, everything matters, everything! In works of sculpture, even the material used matters, whether mud, gold or sticks. Iron could depict that the person or thing orchestrated is or was strong in a rough way. Diamond could represent that the thing was indestructible and precious. The fact that this black colour was on a paper is a sigh of optimism thus, soon enough the paper will wither and the blackness shall be no more! The sad times shall shiver and die! Death, in fact shall die! Sad Nectar tells of hope, peace, love, care, optimism and how to live life as it lay; good or bad. Read it slowly and calmly, for everything and anything is something!

Excerpts from the Book

1. SONG OF HOPES: Every day is the last/... Live your life to the height/... And remember to do it right/... For tomorrow might come to hunt

2. IS SHE HUMAN???: As she glowed so bright/... Sparkling like rainbows/... Drenched in silveric tint/... Radiating my lonely heart/... Behold the God of beaut/... You have created on this planet/... A perfect being with eyes/... So gorgeous and milkily wet/... You are too priceless to be owned/... Too valuable to be seen/... Too pretty to be touched/... And too angelic to be human/...

Where to Buy

Sad Nectar is available at The Hub in The Palms Shopping Mall, The Lifestyle Book Shop in the Silverbird Galleria and Terra Kulture!

Picture Weekend - As the Youth Corps leave Camp


Right now in Nigeria, those taking part in the National Youth Service Corps are leaving their training at the orientation camps and taking up their primary assignment. The NYSC programme is a  mandatory one year service for all university graduates. You get sent to a city or state different from yours to get some paramilitary training, help develop your new local community and get some work experience with companies or the government service. Hearing stories from corper bloggers sent me reminiscing about my own youth corp year. I enjoyed my time at the Abuja Kubwa camp and stayed on in Abuja for several years after the youth service.

Many people think otherwise, but I say, Viva NYSC!

One of those early mornings, singing the national anthem. No actually, I think this was at a more official parade. We didn't usually wear the ceremonial top otherwise.

My Platoon drill team, can't even remember whether it was 8 or 12. We had mad sun marching under the rain and in the sun. Our commander, we affectionately called, Banger-Banger. Everyone according to him was a banger.

During the endurance trek, this was at a top point around Gwarimpa, you can city part of the city below.

Camp fire night. My hair was a mess, I'd just been to the salon for a touch up which was done by a not so good stylist. I wore mufti but put on the Khaki when it became too cold.

Fresh faced graduate. I was feeling homesick that day. :)

Yeah, I tried some volleyball while on camp. Still the only sport I still play once in a while. my platoon came 2nd or 3rd place at the last competition.

Being punished what else? Luckily it wasn't too sunny that day because we sat there for hours.

Cooling down after a morning run. That month in camp must have been my fittest ever. We woke up by 5am each day for an hour's athletic run with warm-ups before and after. I think I was asking the photographer not to take the picture. 

I was one of the experienced marchers, I took part in those children's day marching both in primary and secondary school. 

Right at the front. And yeah, another day of plain clothes. Banger Banger was a friend, and sometimes I complained that the khaki trouser was too big to practice in.

More endurance trek, taking a pit stop to refuel on food and drinks. I think the endurance trek covers about 10 miles or so. It seemed like we walked for forever, but it was about 5 hours or so sha.

My friend had not been feeling well bu the commandant insisted she go too. I kept her company and walked at her pace. And we completed it too, yay!

Remembering Ken Saro Wiwa

On Friday, the 10th of November 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed. In his closing statement to the Nigerian military-appointed special tribunal, Ken Saro-Wiwa said;

"We all stand before history. I am a man of peace, of ideas. Appalled by the denigrating poverty of my people who live on a richly endowed land, distressed by their political marginalization and economic strangulation, angered by the devastation of their land, their ultimate heritage, anxious to preserve their right to life and to a decent living, and determined to usher to this country as a whole a fair and just democratic system which protects everyone and every ethnic group and gives us all a valid claim to human civilization, I have devoted my intellectual and material resources, my very life, to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I cannot be blackmailed or intimidated. I have no doubt at all about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Nor imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory."

I got to know of the social activist Ken Saro Wiwa, as a child, reading the opening credits of his long-running TV series, Basi and Company. Today for most Nigerians,, marks the 15th anniversary of the Military execution of the activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa. He was killed for speaking out against injustice and oppression of the minority ethnic groups in the Niger Delta Region by the Nigerian government and the multinational oil companies, including Shell.

Kenule Beeson Saro Wiwa, most known as Ken Saro-Wiwa, was born to a prominent Bori family in October 1941. He was a native of Ogoni, in todays Rivers State, South-South Nigeria. Previously an academic, Ken Saro Wiwa went into politics as the Civilian Administrator for the Port of Bonny, near his hometown of Ogoni during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war (1967-1970) and later as regional Commisioner of Education in the Rivers State cabinet. During the 1970s he built up his businesses in real estate and retail and in the 1980s concentrated on his writing, journalism and television production. In 1990, Ken Saro-Wiwa decided to concentrate his efforts to speaking and campaigning about the problems of the oil producing regions of the Niger Delta. He focused on his homeland, Ogoni, and launched the non-violent Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).

His popular soap opera whose satire may have often been too advanced for me, had some very engaging characters, with distinctive names, dressings and manners of speech. I thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue and often acted out some of the scenes with my siblings after the show had ended. As one with great imagination, and even then, the stirrings of a writing muse, I was inspired by writers, and as such, the name of the writer of this witty drama stuck with me. Several children's adventures later, I was working on a romance novella and waiting to take the entrance exams to university when the news of the execution broke. Ken Saro-Wiwa had been hanged, along with eight others (the Ogoni Nine), by the Nigerian military junta of the day.

I was stunned with disbelief. Saro-Wiwa was a thinker and activist who I had looked up to and aspired to be like. I had previously ignored the military regime of the now late Gen. Sani Abacha, but I was forced to consider how they stifled free speech, and how this might affect my own writing, my life. It was not an encouraging picture I saw. As it was, the hangings caused an international outcry and the immediate suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth - which lasted three years - as well as the calling back of many foreign diplomats. As the next few years dragged on, several writers, journalists and authors alike, were hounded and prosecuted, several went to jail or prison, and many left the country for asylum elsewhere.

In the years in between Ken Saro Wiwa's death and today, I read two more of his books of his experiences during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. Sozaboy: a Novel in Rotten English, of a naive village boy recruited into the army; and On a Darkling Plain, his personal diary. The first I read as a political university student, active in my faculty and department, an official in some groups and associations. The other I read as a young woman, living and working in Abuja, the new capital city of Nigeria. Both books and most of his others made references to the abuse he saw around him, as the oil companies took riches from beneath the soil of Ogoni land, and in return left them polluted and unusable. The fed into my world view of how the world worked, and why I needed to tell my own story however I could.

Today, 15 years later, I am more grown up and socially aware. I live in the United States by choice and will travel to Nigeria in the next couple of weeks. I am a full time writer, editor and author. My book, A Heart to Mend, has also been published and is doing very well in Nigeria. In March of this year, I established and currently serve as managing editor for a critique website for Nigerian writers called Naija Stories. The aim of the website is to provide a platform of opportunities to aspiring Nigerian writers and get them telling their stories on their own terms. In a press release yesterday by the Niger-Delta Restoration of Hope, two of Naija Stories members had won in a writing competition held to commemorate the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Their entries were appropriately titled "Road to Martyrdom" and "Life before Death”.

Ken Saro Wiwa had died for speaking out and making his voice relevant. I, and others, will continue speaking.


Image linked from

In the Public Eye - Toni Payne and Obasanjo (Debate Tuesday)

Let's get this straight, I do not support the public, through the press or as individuals, invading the privacy of celebrities or those in the public eye. They are still human beings like you and I and they deserve their privacy too. I do believe that celebs need publicity to remain in the public eye which is how they make their money, but it doesn't necessarily have to be negative. Toni Payne should not just be crucified for marrying/divorcing a famous musician, she's also a hard working woman, and an employer of labor. But while journalists who write about celebs should be rounded, reporting on the good and the bad about these celebrities, at the end of the day though, it's their choice and they're just doing their job.

Now I don't doubt that being in the public eye is a difficult thing. There is probably an invasion of privacy which some of us cannot understand. I had a talk with Atala about this after I found out that some of my comments on the Onyeka Onwenu/Toni Payne/Azuka Ogujiuba saga did not go down well with some people. I am of the opinion that once you enter the public domain, you should be prepared to give up some of your privacy. Sometimes even, it is the publicists of these celebs that push their personal lives to the journalists, all for publicity.

Below is an excerpt from the recent press release by Onyeka Onwenu in defense of Toni Payne, who she thinks is being negatively targeted by a particular journalist.

Ms Toni Payne is my publicist and a young woman who impresses me with her zeal for work and excellent knowledge of the Nigerian Entertainment terrain with regards to what she does, which is publicism. She is respectful and conducts herself with decorum. She handles assignments with a seriousness that belies her young age. Ever since I came in contact with her, for the publicity of my Legend CD early this year, I have not ceased to be amazed by her appetite for work and sincerity of purpose. To watch her pummelled on Azuka’s Saturday This Day column, week after week, and unnecessarily, has been a torture for me. Ms Payne has laughed off these obvious attacks but I am not prepared to do so.

From the above press release, which must have been signed off by Toni Payne herself, being Onyeka Onwenu's publicist, I commend their camp. TP is obviously a consummate professional. She knows that she is a celeb, and she handles her business without getting into spats or fights with those who are writing about her. I think the release is a brilliant double whammy, it puts out a good word for TP and is also a publicity gimmick to bring Onyeka Onwenu (as we can see, half of it was about her and her music) to the young audience, by making her talk about what interests Naija youths today.

Moving on, another person that has also remained vilified in the public eye is former president Olusegun Obasanjo. And to think that the man has been out of office for the past several years. Obasanjo is not a saint, neither is he a devil. He did a few things people did not like, but he also moved Nigeria forward in many other ways. Now he is retired, a private citizen and yet, some keep hounding him. Do we wonder why our public officials amass money to buy private jets and secluded mansions, when we still stoop to this kind of barbaric behavior? Below is part of the Sahara Reporters news report on Obasanjo being assaulted in a Lagos airport

A police source told Saharareporters that when Obj assailant was brought into the police station and asked by interrogator, "are you crazy", the man replied, " if you say I am crazy what would you say about Obasanjo." The man then further asked the police interrogator, whether (he) the assailant was the one the looted the funds of Nigeria, rigged elections and slept with his son's wife" Police authorities are detaining the man claiming that they are investigating his state of mental health.

I think the man should be charged for assault and battery.

Oyindamola Affinnih - Two gone, Still Counting (Guest Author)

Tell us about yourself, a brief autobiography.

Oyindamola Halima Affinnih is a Lagosian. Born in 1982, Jan. 11. I started my schooling in Lagos State at Pampers Private School, then I went off to FGGC New-Bussa, Niger State, and got a degree in Mass communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye.

When and why did you begin writing?

I never thought I could be a writer. Yes I liked to read. I loved the feel of some great words strung together but for some reasons I was too lazy to be one. I saw writing notes as a complete bore and always had issues with my teachers cos I never kept notes. While doing a holiday job before getting into the college, sometime around 1999, I out of boredom put a short story together. I took it to True Tales Plaza {HINTS} and they felt it was good enough to publish. Somehow, I still felt it was a stroke of luck until I published another. And so I gave myself a chance. I did some other scripts for TV afterwards but never tried poetry {don’t think I’ll ever}. But I still love the power of prose more than any other aspect of literature.

What inspires you to write?

Deadlines! (Just joking). But I write very well when I’m under some kind of pressure. It flows faster when I’m pretty angry. But basically, the feedback I get from my previous works helps me to write better.

Tell us about two gone... still counting

I started writing it in 2008. Sometimes I have a theme and I build my story around it. Sometimes the theme unravels itself while writing the story. It’s amazing how different writers create their stories. Some do a chapter by chapter breakdown, some go with the flow. Of course, more often than not, I go with the flow. While writing two gone... still counting, the theme sprang up and I worked with it. I was so excited to see everything fall in place that I wrote half of the book in the space of two months and so I began submitting a query letter and the first three chapters to several agents. The rejection was huge, some polite, others, the standard rejection format. I guess that was what slowed the other half from coming. I left it for over a year before a friend inspired me to give self-publishing a shot. So there.

Do you have a major theme that runs through the book?

The theme of two gone... still counting centres on the veracity of our beliefs, how quick we are to condemn them as ‘superstitions’ when somehow we believe strongly in them. A lot of people in Nigeria believe when you trip on your left foot while going somewhere, it becomes some sort of ill luck as the whole day would be full of misfortune. I found it funny seeing religious people who clearly disregard such beliefs, flinch when such incidents occur. Some offer a sign of the cross while others whisper audhubillahi minashayta ni rajeem. To help them avert such evil. If you don’t believe tripping on your left foot means anything, why not let it just go?

What was your publishing journey like, from thinking of the book idea to holding it in your hands?

With a tricky theme like that, I believed- like every writer dreams- that publishing would be immediate, but dear me! It was either the theme wasn’t arresting enough, or there weren’t reading my queries because my spellings and my tenses were great. I didn’t think I would opt for self-publishing but I wanted more than anything to see my book in print and so I took a risk. I risk I believe will be worth it.

Before publishing, I put out snippets of the story on my secondary school website for two years, registering with a fake ID and email addy. I wanted an honest response on the story without anyone being biased. All of the comments I received gave me that push to publish. Even self-publishing was tougher, besides being the major investor. I enjoyed it because it felt good being my own boss. Getting everything right and to my approval before the next step. But trust me, it was tough! From begging and encouraging people to read my piece to getting a very careful editor, a fantastic graphic artiste and the general team I didn’t stop troubling until the final book came out. It was worth every effort. But tough! lol

What do you do to relax and when you're not writing?

Not quite sure if it can be called relaxing. I play. Not soccer, or other games. I love to run around. Sometimes just being troublesome other times just letting off steam. I can say I like to cook, depending on my mood. I also love to lounge when I can.

What books have most influenced your life? And if you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I don’t want to believe I have read any book that hasn’t influenced me. I cannot particularly choose at the moment but every book I’ve read has laid an impact on my life. But I always see myself returning to books written by John Updike, Salman Rushdie, Sandra Brown and Andrea Kane.

What books are you reading now and are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I’m reading a crime story by Andrea Kane, ‘I’ll be watching you’. On new authors? Oh sure. I joined a ‘class of 22’ in Sept 2009. New writers, smart people, brilliant ideas. We kind of bonded past the classroom and still exchange write-ups. Everything they have written has grasped my interest. You don’t want the names of all 22 of them, do you? ’Cos I have them. lol

What do you think of the Nigerian publishing industry?

I think it’s growing too slowly but sincerely, not one of us who complains about it is ready to invest in it. It’s pretty sad that books are the least things anyone wants to help make available. Perhaps when the reading culture gets better- which I’m certain it will- we’ll have more publishing outfits ready to pick up young writers that have something good to say. Until then, it remains a risk, investing in a book you are not sure would make good sales.

What comments do you have about the reading culture in the country?

Gradually it has become better than what it used to be. But there’s still a lot to be learnt. Sometimes when I tell people I’m going to shop for some books, they stare incredulously at me for the first few minutes and spend the remaining minutes discouraging me. Some even say... “You’ve not stopped this book thing.” As if it’s an unusual thing. Books are fun. They have contributed to everything I am today.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Every book, no matter how dry, will teach you at least one thing you didn’t know before. So why not read more?

Do you have an online presence, Facebook, Blog, Twitter or a website?

Sure. The book has a Facebook page. I’m on twitter and yes, I like to think I’ve got a blog too. Sisi Eko even though I’m a not very regular on it. My web site address is for now. I have a book documentary video for Two Gone on YOUTUBE

Where can we buy the book, both in stores and online?

Since it’s still new, we are just introducing it into the market. But in a few weeks, it would be safe to pick a copy everywhere books are sold.

So what next?

I’m working on a Creative writing course. I won’t pass an opportunity of being a better writer or miss attending workshops, seminars and other gatherings where writers meet to discuss. It’s always fun.

Picture Weekend - The Writing Circle

With my writing meetup group on one of our critique nights. I haven't met with them in a while as my WIP and more recently NanoWrimo have been taking most of my time. But they are awesome! I got the push to start a public blog from one of the members and I know I have improved a lot in my writing through feedback shared during our meetings, both for my writing and for others. One of us, present below, is also a tank of inspiration and I follow his blog for writing tips. The group has also been very supportive since A Heart to Mend came out. Let's just say, they're a big part of my writer's journey.

Thank you all so much!