Omolola Anne Famuyiwa is a media and public relations specialist, relationship coach, child rights advocate, public speaker and author. In addition to consulting for public relations, media and nongovernmental organisations, she serves as the Project Director of Cares Global Network (CGN), and the Publisher of Divine Connection for mature singles and Willows Magazine (WM) for young people. At CGN, the goal is in the tagline - impacting lives, one mind at a time. The DC goal is to make networking purposeful, while WM promotes the youth's right to write; so the slogan is "we live to write and write to live".
Omolola's collection of poetry has recently been published in Nigeria and is titled, Uncut. The Book Launch is 2PM-5PM and reviewer is Mrs. Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, OON. Address: AHI Residence, 19 Lawal Str., Off Oweh, Jibowu Lagos. “UNCUT is a book straight from the author’s heart. It is drama, hymn, lyric, song, rhythm, melody, satire, soliloquy… It is a fusion of thoughts and experiences. It mirrors raw imagery from the author’s mind”. The author was kind enough to agree to an interview with me. Enjoy...
Describe the special qualities of some of the poems?
UNCUT, under the pen name Abike Muyiwa, is written in simple language. Words or slangs that apply to my home country are explained. The spice of the poem remains diversity; it covers a wide range of issues. For instance while some poems speak the language of romance, others speak to global issues. Everyone who reads will come across lines that speak directly to the you in you.
What was your publishing journey like, from thinking of the book idea to holding it in your hands?
My publishing journey started way back as a student at Federal Government College Odogbolu. Then, I had a handwritten book – Teenage Blunders – which others came to my corner to read. That vision birthed Willows Magazine and went on to give life to Dear JB (about John Brown, the abolitionist). That same vision saw me writing for or to a number of newspapers including Punch (NG) and Athens News (US). The vision even led to published articles in journals and generated press releases across the media locally and internationally.
You see, as long as you feed your vision, it remains alive and can even outlive you. It was with so much joy that I published What is wrong with us? Nuggets About Mature Singles last year and now UNCUT. I feel a kind of elation about UNCUT mainly because it is poetry; different from all I have previously written. For years I yearned to put together a poetic piece. It took years of hard work and late nights now I’m glad it’s birthed. One of the poems even came from my Teenage Blunders. This was one long challenging pregnancy!
Are the poems divided into sections, what are some of them?
They are not divided into sections; just 100 poems with very diverse and versatile slant. I actually posted some of them in Anne Muyiwa’s Note on Facebook. When I was completing the manuscript, I kept trying to pick a favourite one but after I asked my dear friend, Funke Treasure Durodola, to read this and that and that, and again another; I gave up on choosing. You may have to read and email me your favourite but here goes two of the 100 poems:
Wetin you carry?
Wives have blank cheques
They should draw as they please
Girlfriends, concubines, mistresses…
They have promissory notes
Girlfriends draw as the need arise
Subject to validation
Concubines draw as demand is placed
Leading to settlement
Mistresses wait long enough
To place public demand
Leading to a lump sum
That may terminate the account
What do you have?
It doesn’t have to be sex
It doesn’t have to be romance
It can be served plain
What books have most influenced your life the most?
I have read wide and deep. It is very hard to pick out one book and give it credit for influencing my entire life. What I can say is that I have allowed God’s wiring of me to turn out right through the great influence of my parents, teachers, mentors, pastors, colleagues, friends, my sweetheart and strangely critics. The fact that you know your critics (some call them enemies) have taken a bet that you can’t make it, kind of put you on your toes so much that you start believing in your innate ability to excel beyond all odds.
That said, I must confess that I have been greatly affected by my interpretation of Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” and the writings of Dele Giwa; so much so that my first love was to become a detective journalist. I guess that dream died with his gruesome murder.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I read Wole Soyinka, I read Achebe, I read Osofisan, I read Osundare, I read Ofeimun, I read Ola Rotimi, I read Pastor Adeboye, Pastor Adegboye, Rick Warren, Bernard Shaw, Hemingway, Eliot, Keats, Aristotle, Twain, Wordsworth, Orwell, Dickens, Milton, Sophocles, Shakespeare… I listened to noteworthy speakers across the globe. Honestly they all mentored me.
But one mentor I am honoured to have is not even considered a writer. But, directly and indirectly, her words, said to me in person since we met through a divine connection made possible by FATE Foundation or watched years ago on Winds Against My Soul, are written indelibly in my mind.
I bet you know Mrs. Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, I call her Mama TAL. I am honoured to be working on her biography. Another noteworthy mentor is Ms. Nkem Oselloka-Orakwue. Way back when she anchored Tales By Moonlight, I watched and envisioned doing what Aunty Nkem did and meeting her. That vision came alive and we have continued to work together on issues relating to child rights and media.
What books are you reading now?
You’d be shocked; 5 books actually! My Bible (I try to read that every day), White House Diary by Jimmy Carter, How to Choose a Life Partner (lol, not that I need one) by Pastor Bimbo Odukoya. Keats – The Complete Poems (I wish I read this before UNCUT was published) and Joyce Meyer – A Leader in the Making.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
A number of authors have grasped my attention. Some new, some coming out with new genres… Chima Adichie, Tolu Ogunlesi, Lola Shoneyin, Adaobi Nwaubani. There’s one I’m trying to remember, he wrote this poetry piece about Ant-this and Ant-that; he worked or still works with Cadbury. I am also watching closely some of my mentees that have become authors and speakers in their own right, mentees like Adeleke Aladekoba and Dayo Israel; I’m proud to have been a part of their lives. Yes, I watch out for speakers too because sooner than later they become authors, if not already.
It is quite sad that a number of our great brains are seldom celebrated at home; so Chima’s praise like the praise of many others had to be sung abroad? I am looking forward to a home grown uprising icon. Well, we can rightly say a number of them are home grown because they had the benefit of having their formative years here in Nigeria but in this context I mean home grown, home nurtured, home discovered and home celebrated. That way we can celebrate such icons across the globe as our “undiluted” product.
What did you find particularly challenging when compiling this collection?
Honestly? Getting it to 100! And sectionalising it; which I eventually gave up. The themes were just so diverse that UNCUT became an apt title.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
A number of authors leave me awe struck especially in the way meaning have been given life through beautiful use of words. I respect the work of a number of people and give kudos to Pa Chinua Achebe. His use of words made the Igbo culture come alive so much so that I even take care to sing Igbo songs correctly. His lifestyle has been a book that has spoken deeper than his letters.
What do you think of the Nigerian publishing industry?
It is sad that I can’t say much. This should tell you that we need to do much more. It took me a while to publish my first book because I insisted it had to be printed in Nigeria. Having worked as a cultural consultant abroad and preached black is great; I just didn’t want to have to publish abroad. Though I found a good publisher eventually, the process and system was cumbersome. I look forward to a day when the publishing industry in Nigeria will thrive in an excellent, I mean quality, way. During a Book Launch, I received a well bound and nicely autographed book from a Pastor and was gearing up to have the publisher do my book but few months later, the book came apart. The binding that looked top notch only few months earlier fell apart like it was glued with gari. God help us.
I commend CORA, ANA… many initiatives to drum up support for literary works but we need more brains and money to be the life blood of the publishing industry. That way, we can tap into the immense resources locked up in the industry and give it the quality publicity it deserves. Unfortunately foreigners have gained more and are positioning themselves for the future but I hope Nigerians will rise up to the challenge. A case in point is Longman Nigeria. As you know, Pearson the part owners have pulled out, they signed out of Longman Nigeria so as to tap into the wealth of Nigeria directly. I can only hope that with the full transfer of ownership to Nigerians and change of name to Learn Africa will come more opportunities for expansion, excellence and global outlook.
What comments do you have about the reading culture in the country?
Thank God it is getting better but honestly the birth of social media has done more to contend with our effort of getting young people to read and feel the culture that run through pages. My dream is to impact the reading culture. We have done so much with Willows Magazine, Divine Connection Newsletters, numerous mails, messages, posts and articles in blogs, websites, newspapers... We have done much through projects especially ones that have taken us to remand homes in Minna and Lagos. Our most recent one is the Just One Book drive through which we donated books and magazines to the Girls Remand Home at Idi Araba.
We also work in the area of advocacy through documentaries, programmes on radio and television and of course through public speaking in local and international space. But I strongly believe that together, you + me can achieve much more! So we invite you to support WRITE Now! In our own little way, we at Willows Magazine have rolled out a writing contest through which, for a start, we would sign up a young writer for a publishing package worth N100, 000. So WRITE Now.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to those who buy your book?
Read it, share it (of course, I want to make money but I also want to be read; the more reviews I get, the earlier I can move to the next level) and support our drive to positively impact the reading culture of young Nigerians especially.
Do you have an online presence, Facebook, Blog, Twitter or a website?
Yes! How many can you take on? Facebook: Anne Muyiwa. Twitter: Anne Muyiwa. Blogspot: Willows Magazine, OU Journal, Cares Global. Wordpress: Cares Global, Nigeria Children, Orogojigo. Google Pages: Willows Online. Bet we have more, but that would do, abi?
Where can we buy the book, both in stores and online?
We haven’t closed any marketing deal yet. For now, email firstname.lastname@example.org and copies will be shipped to you wherever you are. T&A Applies. Lol!
Thank you, Anne
Thank you, Myne, for the opportunity to interact with your readers!